Newfoundland National Convention, 11 September 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada



Begun and holden at St. John's in the said Island on Wednesday, the 11th day of September, Anno Domini nineteen hundred and forty-six, being in the tenth year of the Reign of His Majesty, our Sovereign Lord George, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.

September 11, 1946

Pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor, Sir Gordon Macdonald, K.C.M.G., issued on August 2, 1946, the members of the National Convention met at 1 1.45 am, September 11, 1946, and at noon, the Chairman, Hon. Mr. Justice Fox, K.C., met the assembled members in the former House of Assembly chambers, Colonial Building.
The proclamation was read by the Secretary, Captain W. Gordon Warren, RA. The commission of Hon. Mr. Justice Fox, KC. was read by the Secretary.
The Chairman then took the chair and addressed the members of the National Convention as follows:
Gentlemen of the National Convention: It is not my intention to address you at any length this morning, butI do wish to avail of this opportunity — an occasion unprecedented in the annals of this colony, of great, perhaps fateful, moment in all our lives, and as future generations may consider it, of equally great historic importance and of far reaching consequence in the national life of this beloved Newfoundland of ours — to express to you, and to publicly acknowledge my profound sense of appreciation of the honour conferred upon me in being appointed Chairman of this National Convention. In that spirit I solemnly and unreservedly affirm to you, with a single~minded purpose and deeply cherished hope, my fervent desire to serve you faithfully and well, and, to the utmost of my ability, to co-operate with you and to assist you in your all-important work and in the performance of the responsible duties — nay, sacred trust — which you have undertaken, in the name and on behalf of our country.
I cordially greet and welcome you, and most heartily congratulate you upon your election by the free voice of our people as their representatives to this Convention; and I unite with them in the confidence which you so well deserve and which they thus have manifested, in your capacity and competence successfully to accomplish the tasks which lie ahead, and in your integrity and honour worthily to uphold the lofty traditions of which you are today the proud custodians and I am sure always will be the fearless exponents, to the end that under Providence this dear land may prosper and progress, and her people find true peace and lasting happiness and contentment. May God assist and direct you in your deliberations and decisions.
The main purpose of our assembling here this morning, gentlemen, is to have the members sign the roll. As your names are called, will you please come to the desk, in twos, and sign your names.
In the following order the names were called by the Secretary and the members signed the roll:
Mr. Crummey, (District of Bay de Verde) Mr. Dawe (District of Bay Roberts) Mr. Jackman (District of Bell island) Mr. Smallwood (District of Bonavista Centre) Mr. Bradley (District of Bonavista East) Mr. Vincent (District of Bonavista North) Mr. Brown (District of Bonavista South) Mr. Figary (District of Burgeo) Mr. Reddy (District of Burin East) Mr. Hillier (District of Burin West) Mr. Penney (District of Carbonear) Mr. Goodridge (District of Ferryland) Mr. Watton (District of Pogo) Mr. Banfield (District of Fortune Bay) Mr. Hollett, M.A. (District of Grand Falls) Mr. MacDonald (District of Grand Falls) Mr. Starkes (District of Green Bay) 2 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 Mr. Jones (District of Harbour Grace) Mr. Kennedy (District of Harbour Main) Mr. Harmon (District of Harbour Main) Mr. Spencer (District of Hermitage) Mr. Fudge (District of Humber) Mr. Ballam (District of Humber) Mr. Northeott (District of Lewisporte) Mr. Miller (District of Placentia East) Mr. Ryan (District of Placentia West) Mr. McCarthy (District of Port-au~Port) Mr. Fowler (District of Port de Grave) Mr. Roberts (District of St. Barbe) Mr. Keough (District of St. George's) Mr. Fogwill (District of St. John's                   East Extem) Mr. Butt (District of St. John's                  West Extern) Mr. McCormack (District of St. Mary's) Mr. Higgins (District of St. John's City                  East) Mr. Hickman (District of St. John's City                      East) Mr. Job (District of St. John's City                 East) Mr. Crosbie (District of St. John's City               West) Mr. Cashin (District of St. John's City               West) Mr. Harrington (District of St. John's City              West) Mr. Cranford (District of Trinity Centre) Mr. Vardy (District of Trinity North) Mr. Bailey (District of Trinity South) Mr. Ashboume (District of Twillingate) Mr. Newell (District of White Bay) Rev. Burry (District of Labrador)
Hon. Mr. Justice Fox, K.C. signed as Chairman and was followed by Professor K.C. Wheare, Mr. W. Gordon Warren, as Secretary and Mr. Francis Ryan as Assistant Secretary.
Mr. Chairman Now, gentlemen, I wish to introduce the following officials: first, a distinguished scholar, Professor K.C. Wheare, Professor of Government at Oxford University, whose services have been made available as expert adviser to this Convention. Next, Captain W. Gordon Warren, R.A. Secretary of this Convention, and Mr. Francis Ryan, Assistant Secretary.
That concludes this morning's session, but I might briefly refer to the proposed procedure for this afternoon. The members will kindly assemble in this chamber at a quarter to three to await the arrival of His Excellency the Governor at 3' o'clock. His Excellency has graciously consented to open the Convention. That being done, following His Excellency's address, the Convention will remain seated until I return to the Chair; and then, possibly, we shall take an adjournment until tomorrow afternoon, or other such time as you desire, when an address of loyalty to His Majesty the King, and thanks to His Excellency the Governor, will be proposed by Hon. Mr. Job and seconded by Mr. Harrington, and, doubtless, supported by the various members of the Convention. Then will follow the appointment of a committee to draft the address of loyalty to His Majesty and thanks to His Excellency. Then, I suggest we might appoint a committee on rules and procedures; and as I shall mention to you then — I shall not delay you now — we should propose a resolution making applicable to the proceedings of the Convention parliamentary procedure in so far as it can be applied, pending the report of the committee on rules and procedure, which may take a week or ten days. But we must have rules to pursue our deliberations and I make that suggestion for your thought in the meantime. We shall now take recess until this afternoon at 2.45.

Afternoon Session, September 11, 1946

At 2.45 pm the members of the Convention assembled in the chambers to await the arrival of His Excellency the Governor and party. At 2.55 the Chairman took the chair. At 2.58 Captain W. Gordon Warren as A.D.C. announced to the Chairman the arrival of His Excellency the Governor.
Mr. Chairman I have the very great honour to present His Excellency the Governor Sir Gordon Macdonald, K.C.M.G., who very graciously has consented to open this Convention. His Excellency the Governor.
Sir Gordon Macdonald, K.C.M.G. We are meeting today in a building where the giants of September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 3 former days engaged in wordy warfare to further the interest of their native country: men who played a noble part in the public affairs of Newfoundland, who served their day and generation with wisdom and devotion, men to whom the country is heavily indebted. We are meeting to welcome another body of men, who are the elected representatives of the different districts in Newfoundland as members of the National Convention: men confronted with a task as difficult, and shouldering a responsibility as heavy as any of their predecessors; men called upon to give of their best.
In the long and honoured history of Newfoundland there are many notable and outstanding dates, which her people can remember with pardonable and justifiable pride. Dates which, as it were, leap to the mind when one only thinks of Newfoundland — 1497, 1739, 1832, 1845 and many others. It is now over 217 years since the first governor of Newfoundland was appointed, 114 years since representative government was granted and 91 years since responsible government was first introduced. There are many memorable dates in the history of Newfoundland. Amongst those dates, in the days to come, will figure with no less lustre September 11, 1946. That date will not be omitted by the future historian of Newfoundland, since it is that on which the elected representatives of Newfoundland gathered together as a National Convention, presided over by a fellow countryman of theirs whose name has a deservedly honoured place in the counsels of the nation. These 46 Newfoundlanders gather together to consider, and here in the interest of accuracy I quote from the official terms of reference, "to consider and discuss amongst themselves as elected representatives of the Newfoundland people, the changes that have taken place in the financial and economic situation of the island since 1934, and bearing in mind the extent to which the high revenues of recent years have been due to wartime conditions, to examine the position of the country, and to make recommendations to His Majesty's Government as to possible forms of future government to be put before the people at a national referendum." Though these terms of reference do not permit of a roving commission, they do provide ample scope for the members of the Convention to ventilate their views on the possible forms of future government.
To consider and discuss the financial and economic changes that have taken place in Newfoundland during the past 12 years is no small undertaking. To examine the position of the country calls for much thought and keen observation, and then in the light of all the knowledge gained and all the information placed before you, to make recommendations as to possible forms of future government. Such terms of reference will make it possible for every member of the Convention to do his duty by his people and the task of the Chairman should not be too onerous.
Nevertheless, it is true to state that at no time have a body of representatives in Newfoundland been called upon to deal with a more difficult task, nor to shoulder heavier responsibilities. To be entrusted with the obligation of recommending what forms of government are deserving of consideration by the people of any country is a great honour and a great responsibility. But to be entrusted with such a task in a crucial period of transition in the world's history, at a time of much uncertainty, adds distinction to the honour without in any way lessening the responsibility.
Gentlemen, you are certainly entitled to use the words of Oliver Cromwell, words he wrote when in a most precarious and perilous position, surrounded by superior forces, "We are upon an engagement very difficult" — an engagement which will demand the highest and the best from every member of the Convention; which will demand not only intelligence and knowledge, but also wisdom and sagacity, tolerance and magnanimity; a task which will call for a high degree of selflessness, the noblest form of patriotism.
This in no way means there will not be differences of opinion; it in no way means that those differences will not be expressed with vigour and maybe passion. Persons who feel strongly, some times speak strongly. But what it does mean is that when a member does intervene, he will do so in the highest interest of the Convention and of the country.
Few questions have roused more feeling, have disturbed the emotions to a greater degree in nearly all countries, than questions relating to the possible forms of government. They raise not only political and constitutional issues but also issues of immense moral and social significance, questions to which the warm heart may be as safe 4 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 a guide as a cool head. But the cool head, the analytical mind, the wide vision, all will be necessary. I realised this clearer than ever the other day. When re-reading that classic on representative govemmentby John Stuart Mill, I came across a passage not inappropriate to this occasion, apassage worthy of serious consideration by each member of the Convention. It reads as follows: "To determine the form of government most suitable to any particular people", says Mill, "we must be able, among the defects and shortcomings which belong to that people, to distinguish those that are the immediate impediment to progress; to discover what it is which, as it were, stops the way. The best government for them is the one which tends most to give them that for want of which they cannot advance, or advance only in a lame and lopsided manner. We must not, however, forget", John Stuart Mill continues, "the reservation necessary in all things which have for their object improvement, or progress; namely that in seeking the good which is needed, no damage, or as little as possible, be done to that already possessed."
Those are wise words; they were written some 85 years ago, but they are very much up to date. I would commend them to the earnest consideration of every member of the Convention. They will help you in your deliberations.
Gentlemen, you are honoured men. Your fellow countrymen have called you to a very big job. You have their confidence. They trust you. They are expecting great things ofyou. When you have fulfilled your task as members of the National Convention, they know that they will be called upon to exercise their civic responsibilities. Then one of, if not the most important election in the history of Newfoundland will take place. Your fellow countrymen look to you for guidance.
They look to you for guidance during your deliberations. They hope for your guidance when you return to your homes. They know you will be fully informed on all the aspects of all the problems confronting Newfoundland. They know that on the next occasion they go to the polling, they will have the destiny of the rising generation and following generations in their hands. They are relying on you in a very special manner to help them in every way to discharge that great responsibility. It is an aspect of your work which I know you are not likely to overlook. The whole of your work is preliminary but very closely associated with that forthcoming election.
But your fellow countrymen will not by any means he the only people interested in your activities. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the whole civilised world is keenly interested, I feel sure that you will be fortified in your work in the knowledge that you have millions of well-wishers beyond the long and rugged coastline of your native land. You have the good wishes of all your fellow countrymen. It is with that knowledge thatI would have you go on your way, and in declaring the National Convention open, I trust that unborn generations of Newfoundlanders will rise to sing your praises for the grand job you did. That God's richest blessings will rest on all your labours is my earnest prayer.
Mr. Chairman Gentlemen of the National Convention, if it pleases you I should accept a motion for the adjournment of the Convention until 3 o'clock tomorrow afternoon when a motion for the presenting an address of loyalty to His Majesty and thanks to His Excellency will be presented to the Convention.
[The Convention adjourned]


Newfoundland. The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948 Vol 1: Debates. Edited by J.K. Hiller and M.F. Harrington Montreal: Memorial University of Newfoundland by McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995).



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