Newfoundland National Convention, 19 May 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


May 19, 1947

Report of the London Delegation

Mr. Chairman Orders of the day. I have before me the replies of the Dominions Office to the various questions submitted by the delegation of the National Convention, which delegation was appointed pursuant to the resolution of February 28, 1947, and which replies have been brought back by the delegation which went to London some three weeks ago.[1]
[The Secretary read the questions and answers, and the Convention resolved into a committee of the whole]
[Mr. Cashin read the resolutions passed by the Convention on 28 February and 10 March, 1947, and a despatch from the Dominion; Office dated 18 March, 1947]
Mr. Cashin ....It will be seen from this memorandum that the Secretary of State agreed to meet the delegation and requested us to forward a more explanatory memorandum of the precise questions which we desired to ask. As a result, the following memorandum was prepared by the elected delegation and forwarded through the proper channel to the Secretary of State.
[Mr. Cashin quoted from the memorandum]
The delegation left St. John's by train on April 24, arriving at Gander the following morning. We left Gander by BOAC on the evening of April 25 and arrived in London around noon on Saturday, April 26.
On the morning of April 29, the delegation was introduced to the Secretary of State and other members of the United Kingdom government. We were tendered a luncheon in the Savoy Hotel by the Secretary of State, and at 3 pm the same day our first meeting took place in the office of the Secretary of State in the House of Lords.[2] The representatives of the British government who were present were Lord Addison, Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs; Mr. W. Glenvil Hall, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and a Member of Parliament; Mr. A.G. Bottomley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Dominion Affairs; and Sir Eric Machtig, Permanent Secretary of State for the Dominions, and various other officials connected with the Dominions Office and the Treasury. Also there were present the Chairman of the Commission of Government and the Commissioner for Justice, both of whom had preceded us to England for the purpose of sitting in on the meetings, as well as to advise the Secretary of State on matters which were to be discussed by the delegation. As the discussions proceeded, the impression created with some of us was that these two members of the Commission had been summoned to London to give the Dominions Secretary information which he might not have, and for the further purpose of trying to influence the United Kingdom officials on matters of great importance to our country which came up for discussion. It was not uncommon to see considerable whispering take place when questions of serious importance were put to Lord Addison. I personally cannot but think that these two gentlemen, and I refer to the two members of the Commission government, undoubtedly used their influence and efforts to justify the actions of the Commission during the past six or seven years. What I have just said, Mr. Chairman, I believe. I would go so far as to say that the memorandum in reply to our questions, which you have before you, had been prepared before our arrival in England, and that the two members of the Commission government assisted in its preparation,
Mr. Chairman You are making references to a representative of His Majesty the King. I must ask you not to do that in future.
Mr. Cashin I was referring to the Chairman of the Commission of Government.
Mr. Chairman He happens, also, to be the Governor of Newfoundland.
Mr. Cashin I can understand that. Before I give any details of our three meetings, let me say definitely that the object of this delegation to London to discuss matters with the British government was not to seek financial assistance from the mother country. I hold, Mr. Chairman, that Newfoundland today needs no financial help from anyone. Our country is undoubtedly self- supporting. The object of our delegation's going 528 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 to Great Britain was for the purpose of discussing matters of future interest to the country. The object was to try and get the British government to see and think reasonably, as we thought we were thinking, and as the majority of us still think. Our primary object was to discuss the reduction of our public debt by way of refunding, by the use of our sinking fund, and by the application to that debt of our free-of-interest loans to Britain; to discuss future trade relations with the United Kingdom government; to discuss the future operation of Gander airport, and to seek the reason why Newfoundland has been burdened with any deficit on its operation; to see if we could in some way or other impress upon the United Kingdom government the importance to the future economy of our country of Britain purchasing a substantial quantity of our fresh and frozen fish, as well as the product of our iron mines on Bell Island. These are the matters, Mr. Chairman, which I contend we went to the United Kingdom for, and whilst there appears on our agenda a heading "Development Loans", you will all remember that we definitely told the Secretary of State that Newfoundland required no loans for development purposes from the United Kingdom government at the moment, and this matter was dropped from our discussions. Again, let me repeat for the benefit of the country as a whole, that our delegation did not go to London to seek any material assistance from Great Britain. We need no such assistance. If I may be permitted to say, Mr. Chairman, Great Britain is not in a position to give us any financial assistance at the present time. The fact of the matter is, Newfoundland has been and is still helping the United Kingdom government in a financial way, and at the expense of the Newfoundland treasury.
At this first meeting, which might be called a preliminary or informal meeting to discuss generalities, Viscount Addison took each question as outlined in our explanatory memorandum in sequence. And even though it is quite obvious that the intelligent discussion of these questions could only be discussed one with the other, the Secretary of State insisted that each question should be discussed separately. The firstquestion related to the public debt, and Viscount Addison, in effect, asked us what about it anyhow? In reply, we tried to convey that the public debt was one which certainly called for reduction as well as refunding. We tried to point out that our interest-free loans to the United Kingdom should be used for the purpose of reducing our sterling debt. In our opinion, Mr. Glenvil Hall, the Financial Secretary of the Treasury, was certainly favourably disposed to such a proposition, but the Dominions Secretary was not so enthusiastic in this respect. The latter then suggested that the United Kingdom government might convert our sterling debt, which amounted to approximately $75 million and bore interest at the rate of 3% annually, to 2.5%, and that such conversion would take place on January 1, 1948, after giving the necessary three months notice. He also indicated at this meeting that the United Kingdom government would be prepared to reduce this particular sterling debt by the application of the sinking fund, which is held in the Bank of England and amounts at the present time to some $75 million.
With regard to the base deals, we were simply told that these bases had been given to the United States for a period of 99 years, with the concurrence of the Commission government, and that in return Great Britain had received destroyers from the American government. It was admitted by the representatives of the United Kingdom government that no effort whatever had been made to get any remuneration for Newfoundland in the way of preferential tariffs on our fisher products, and that at the present time Great Britian was in no position to approach the American government on such a matter.
It was pointed out to us, however, that if Newfoundland decided to return to self-government, such a government might be in a position to further discuss the whole matter with the United States. We were unable to extract definite information as to whether or not the United States government had insisted on a 99 year lease of these bases, or whether any effort had been made to make such base deals simply for the duration of hostilities. On such matters the members of the United Kingdom government were most evasive and concentrated their arguments against us, on the grounds that these bases were absolutely essential to the winning of the war. The Newfoundland delegation was not slow to point out that our country and our people had no objection whatever to granting such concessions to the May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 529 United States government for the duration of the war, and further, that the people of Newfoundland as a whole were prepared to make. and actually did make every sacrifice necessary for the winning of the war.
The matter of trade and tariffs was then taken up, and in particular the possibility for the sale of our fresh and frozen fish as well as iron ore to the United Kingdom. These specific matters were discussed generally at this meeting, and the Dominions Secretary promised to have some information on these matters for the next meeting. It was then suggested by Mr. Glenvil Hall that at our next meeting we would discuss the whole matter of our sterling debt, base deals and interest-free loans as one subject, as he felt and we felt, that such matters were so interwoven, one with the other, that they should be discussed along such lines. I feel sure that the majority of the members of our delegation left that meeting feeling that because of Mr. Glenvil Hall's attitude on the matter of our public debt, some reasonable consideration would be given to the readjustment, refunding and reduction of our sterling indebtedness.
Our next meeting[1] with the Secretary of State and his colleagues took place on May 1, and was held in the office of the Secretary of State in the Dominions Office building. When we took our places around the table, the following memorandum was handed us by the Secretarg of State.
[Mr. Cashin read the memorandum[2]]
Mr. Glenvil Hall did not attend this conference, but one of the permanent officials of the Treasury sat in, evidently for the purpose of giving any information that might be required, or for the purpose of checking any errors which might be made in the discussion of financial matters. This gentleman never expressed any opinion, nor was he asked to do so. A general discussion took place on the contents of this memorandum. We were told that Mr. Glenvil Hall could not attend because he was busy with his parliamentary duties, but that he would probably attend our next meeting.
After this very interesting, and what I may term heated discussion of Newfoundland affairs, we were advised by the Dominions Secretary that we could present a memorandum of our own in reply to the one received from the United Kingdom government. This memorandum, which has just been read by the Secretary of the Convention, has one or two matters contained in it with which I regret to say neither Mr. Bradley nor Mr. Keough could concur.
We will first deal with the public debt. This had been briefly discussed at our first meeting. It will be noticed that the British government puts this sterling debt under three main heads, as follows:
1. The two 3.5% sterling loans amounting together to about ÂŁ870,000, which mature in 1950 and 1952.
2. The ÂŁ400,000 temporary loan which was made available to Newfoundland by the United Kingdom government in 1917 for war purposes.
3. The 3% sterling debt of ÂŁ17,790,000.
With respect to the ÂŁ870,000 loans, we were informed that the redemption of these two loans, coming due in 1950 and 1952 respectively, had been provided for from our interest-free loans to Great Britain, by the transfer to the Crown Agents for the Colonies of ÂŁ800,000, which has been invested at 2.5%. The accrued interest on this ÂŁ800,000 will be more than sufficient to meet the principal of these amounts as they fall due.
We had already known that no interest had been paid on the ÂŁ400,000 temporary loan raised in 1917 for war purposes, and this matter was referred to in the report of the Finance Committee now before this house. The Secretary of State advised us that the repayment of this loan would not now be sought. Therefore the loan is cancelled, and it should disappear from our records.
With regard to the 3% sterling debt, which amounts to approximately ÂŁl7,790,000, or in dollar currency roughly $71.75 million, which amount has been guaranteed as to principal and interest by the United Kingdom government, it will be noted that it is the intention of the United Kingdom government to convert this debt to 2.5% interest as from January 1, 1948. The United Kingdom government through Viscount Addison, and on the advice of the Chairman of the Commission government and the Commissioner for Justice, told us that because of the dollar shortage in Great Britain it would be im 530 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 possible to have the British government take over this debt. Let me point out at this juncture that this debt is held in sterling funds and that the only benefit accruing to Great Britain with respect to dollars in this connection, is that the interest is paid to Britain in dollars, and it is for this reason that the United Kingdom government does not see its way clear to conceal the debt. They also told us that the matter of its conversion to a lower rate of interest has been under consideration by the Commission government for some time. Such a statement, in my opinion, is far from the truth, and I have no hesitation in saying that neither the Commission government nor the Dominions Office had any intention of reducing our debt charges until the matter was brought to their attention through the efforts of this Convention. Again I repeat what I have so frequently stated before, that all the efforts of the Commission government have been devoted to increasing the expenditures of the country in every branch of the service. The policies now being adopted and put into operation by the Commission can only result in the ultimate spending of all our treasury balances. No effort whatever has been made to curtail unnecessary expenditures, and each succeeding year for the past six years finds the maintenance of government consistently rising.
The Dorninions Office informed us that upon the conversion of our 3% sterling debt to 2.5%, the sinking fund now lying to our credit in the Bank of England would be deducted from this particular debt. This sinking fund amounts to around $7.5 million at the present time, and as there will be another payment made to this fund on July 1 next, the total amount will then be approximately $8.25 million. It has been stated definitely in the Financial Report[1] presented to this Convention, that these annual sinking fund payments should have been deducted from the principal of our debt each year, as the monies were used for the purchase of our outstanding 3% stock. I say now, that by the manipulation of this sinking fund, Newfoundland has lost in the vicinity of half a million dollars, and that the decision of the United Kingdom government to use this sinking fund for the reduction of this sterling indebtedness is no concession on their part, but really an obligation which they should have carried out yearly since 1937-38. Neverthe less, by the conversion of this debt to 2.5% and the deduction of the sinking fund, the Newfoundland treasury will save in the vicinity of half a million dollars annually, and our total sterling debt outstanding will then be approximately $635 million.
It will be seen from the memorandum we sent the United Kingdom government, and their memorandum to us, that the matter of the disposition of our interest-free loans to Britain was discussed. It will be observed that the United Kingdom government informed us that on the advice of the Commission government, it would not be prudent to use the balance of these loans for the reduction of our sterling indebtedness, as such monies may be required for development purposes. Neither would the United Kingdom government undertake to pay the Newfoundland treasury any interest whatever on these loans, although the treasury of Newfoundland today is paying 3% per annum on these very loans.
Our delegation took the position that these loans should be used for the purpose of reducing our sterling debt, and we pointed out to the United Kingdom government that we could not understand the attitude of the Commission in this matter. The Secretary of State had consistently pointed out to us that, owing to the shortage of dollars in Great Britain, they were not in a position to devote this money to the reduction of our debt; whilst on the other hand the Commission government had intimated that they might need the money for future development purposes. it can be seen how inconsistent the Commission government and the Secretary of State were, because to be of any use for development purposes in Newfoundland, this money would have to be converted back to dollars, whilst under the present circumstances it would not be necessary to find dollars for the purpose of reducing our debt, as this debt is principally held in the United Kingdom and our loans are now in sterling currency. The Dominions Secretary advised us that it would be a matter of policy for the future government of Newfoundland as to the disposition of this money, and this was concurred in by both Mr. Bradley and Mr. Keough. Five of us delegates took the position that it would be good business to use this money to reduce our debt, as it would mean a further reduction in interest and May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 531 sinking fund annually of $400,000 which when added to the half million dollar reduction in interest charges by the conversion of our debt to 2.5% as well as using the sinking fund, would mean an annual saving all told to the Newfoundland treasury of approximately $1 million, and a reduction of our sterling indebtedness to less than $54 million.
We pointed out to the representatives of the British government that the Newfoundland delegation was deeply conscious of the condition of affairs generally in the mother country, but that at the same time we were fully aware of what the saving of $1 million annually would mean to the people of Newfoundland, who after all had suffered more than their share of hardship and privation in the past. We took occasion to draw the attention of the Dominions Secretary to the abnormal rise in our public expenditures during the past six or seven years, when such expenditures have risen from $16 million in 1940 to over $38 million this year. We suggested that there was no sound reason for these excessive capital expenditures, and that in our opinion under no circumstances should the expenditures exceed the revenues, and that our present cash balances should be conserved. We further pointed out that the application of this $9.25 million interest-free loan to Britain to the reduction of our sterling debt was a sound business proposition, and that such a disposition of this money would in no way effect the dollar situation in Great Britain. Our efforts to get any commitment in respect to this matter were of no avail, and as usual we were informed by Viscount Addison that these matters had already been considered by the Commission government.
With regard to the operation of Gander airport, it will be seen from the interchange of memoranda that under the new arrangement Newfoundland is being held liable for a minimum of $250,000 a year deficit on the operation of this international air highway. Our delegation felt that because Newfoundland as a country was not interested in the air transport business, and particularly in View of the fact that several foreign airlines were using the facilities of the airport, our country should not be called upon to pay any deficit that might be incurred in its operation. However, under the present circumstances it is quite evident that both the Dominions Office and the Commission government are satisfied that the Newfoundland treasury should bear one third of any deficit that might be incurred. Nevertheless, it was pointed out to us that in the event of the country deciding to return to responsible government, the Newfoundland authorities will have the right to decide any future policy in respect to the administration of this particular airport. There is no doubt in my mind, Mr. Chairman, that the British government is using this airport for international bargaining.
You will observe that in our memorandum to the United Kingdom government, we stressed the importance of some effort being made by the United Kingdom to induce the Government of the United Statesto grant Newfoundland some quid pro quo in return for the 99-year leases of certain military, naval and air bases in Newfoundland, and as already pointed out, we were informed by the representatives of the British government that under the present trying times which their country was experiencing, they were not in any position to take the matter up with the American authorities.
With regard to matters of trade and tariffs, we pressed with all our ability the importance of the purchase by Great Britain of substantial quantities of our fresh and frozen fish. We took occasion to point out that during the war they had purchased considerable quantities of Newfoundland's fishery products at much lower prices than we could have obtained from the United States. They invariably replied sympathetically, but stated that their great difficulty was the dollar exchange. When the matter of their buying some 12,000 tons of fish from Iceland and over 20 million pounds from Norway was brought to their attention, the Secretary of State informed us that he was writing the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the whole matter. It was pointed out to them that this very year Newfoundland had purchased three ships from Great Britain at a cost of some $2.5 million and that in our opinion they should have taken fish in payment, instead of transferring these dollars to the United Kingdom from the Newfoundland treasury, and not even buying our fish. At this point the representatives of the United Kingdom became somewhat indignant, because they felt that the people of Newfoundland would not mind them using our monies to their own advantage, 532 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 even though they had evidently not considered the importance to the Newfoundland fishermen of keeping our fresh fish plants in operation. We received information that the fish which the United Kingdom is buying from both Iceland and Norway is being paid for at a much higher price than the same commodity could be purchased from Newfoundland. Finally, the Secretary of State gave us his assurance that he would go further into the matter, and I think we all feel that some effort will be made to purchase a quantity. of our fresh and frozen fish during the coming season.
The same difficulty arises with regard to the sale of our iron ore to Great Britain It is a question of being able to find dollars, and we were informed by Mr. Bottomley that he has been working assiduously in this respect and that we shall possibly have an order for our ore this season. Nevertheless, we obtained no definite assurance from the United Kingdom government that they would be in a position to guarantee any long-term contracts. As usual, they told us that the Commission government had been pressing for action on all these matters.
Our third and final meeting with the representatives of the United Kingdom government took place in the Dominions Office on the morning of May 8. The Secretary of State, Viscount Addison, as usual, occupied the Chair and in reply to our memorandum handed us the following, which I shall now read for the information of the Convention and the country.
[Mr. Cashin read the memorandum[1]]
As on the occasion of our second meeting on May I, Mr. Glenvil Hall was not present, and I am convinced that the majority of the members of our delegation felt that because of this gentleman's reasonableness, and his sympathetic attitude towards Newfoundland in respect to the adjustment of our public debt, influence was brought to bear for the purpose of preventing him from attending our two meetings. In any case, the fact of his being absent for the second occasion is most significant.
After reading this final memorandum, I am sure that the Convention and the people of Newfoundland will be assured that because of our pressing the United Kingdom government for certain information and action, and because they realised their embarrassing position, they decided to cut us off short by simply telling us, in effect, that we had no business whatever to discuss with them the administration of the affairs of Newfoundland, that it was not for us to suggest policies which we, in our view, considered were a benefit to the country and its future prosperity. So they raise the issue of our authority under the Convention Act. They tell us that our suggestions and efforts were nothing, more or less than a condemnation and criticism of the Commission government. They overlook the fact that they had asked us weeks before we left Newfoundland what matters we desired to discuss with them. They forgetthat they agreed to discuss such matters, and now turn and in so many words tell us to mind our own business, and that all these affairs have been, and are still under consideration by the Commission government.
When questioned on the constitutional issue, Viscount Addison glibly and deliberately avoided answering any direct questions, and I am sure he left every delegate with the impression that no matter what decisions this Convention might make, the United Kingdom government had made up its mind. They were going to control the Government of Newfoundland as long as there was a dollar left to the credit ofour treasury. This statement has been made by me on numerous occasions, and recent indications made in the budget speech tell us of a three-year programme which has been planned for Newfoundland by the present Commission government.
The British government has thrown overboard the agreement or pledge they gave to this country in 1933-34, and I express the personal opinion again this evening, that so long as our treasury dollar balances are available, it is their intention to hold on to the control of Newfoundland. They have intimated time and time again that they have plans for two or three year development programmes as well as reconstruction programmes, and they have not shown on their part that they would agree to any change of government the people may decide on, even though a plebiscite be taken this year. They have not even committed themselves to do so. At the present time our country is nothing more or less than an international pawn, and is being used by the United Kingdom May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 533 government for the purpose of making international deals with both the United States and Canada.
That, gentlemen, completes the official record of the delegation's visit to the Dominions Office. And we have now passed on to you for what it is worth all the information which has been given us. You now know just as much as we members of the delegation, and are just as competent to arrive at your own conclusions. No doubt during the discussion members will have ample opportunity to express their individual opinions. For myself, before concluding, I wish to express a few purely personal opinions.
Firstly, what did the mission of this delegation to London accomplish? To begin with we were successful in having the £400,000 temporary loan of 1917, on which no interest had been paid, cancelled — it's off the books. Secondly, I contend that we were primarily instrumental in having our sterling debt which amounts to nearly $72 million and which now bears interest at 3%, converted, or rather we were promised it would be converted, to 2.5% on January 1 next. In addition, we were successful in having the British government use the sinking fund of this debt, which will amount to $8.25 million in July, for the purpose of reducing this particular debt. By this action the treasury of the country will save at least half a million dollars annually.
We are of the opinion, or at least I am, that because of our representations the Dominions Office will probably devote our interest-free loans to the further reduction of our sterling debt, and that because of our consistent emphasis, there is a good possibility of the United Kingdom giving us an order for our fresh and frozen fish this season. They assure us that they are doing their best, such as it is.
To me, this whole affair simply represents a continuance of the policy which has been operating in Newfoundland since 1934. It is just another piece in the jig-saw puzzle into which Newfoundland has been cut up. But these pieces are gradually being put together, and when the last piece is put in place, and the puzzle solved, some people amongst us may be in for a surprise. Because, if the forces opposed to us have their way, it will not be a picture of Newfoundland they will see, not the Newfoundland which the Commission took over in 1934, but instead a part of the country we know as Canada. I will have much more to say on this matter at a later date. But for the present let me continue my comments on the delegates' visit.
Let me say that I do not believe that the British government ever wanted to see a delegation from this country coming to England. And why should they? For has not this visit shown that they had long ago finalised their plans concerning us? But this Convention decided to send a delegation, and faced with this request, the British government had no other choice but to put a good face on the matter. It would have been very bad politics for them to have done otherwise. Even so, they showed very little enthusiasm. Members will remember that before they would consider meeting us they demanded that we first place on paper the matters we wished to discuss. This was hardly an invitation to the open and free discussion we had hoped for. You know how it is when someone calls at your door that you don't want to see. If you can't say you are not at home, you tell the servant to ask the man what he wants to see you about, and so it was with us. Viscount Addison first wanted to know what we wanted to see him about to prepare himself in advance. He did not want to be taken by surprise.
Now compare this with the preliminaries of sending a delegation to Canada. Did they send us a guarded request to know what we wanted to see them about? Did they ask for memorandums? Not at all. They almost fell over themselves putting out the welcome hand. A delegation would be welcomed with a heart and a half. The joy bells will ring out in Ottawa when they arrive. Now what does all this mean? ln the first place it means that the British government has endorsed Canada's action — that she has encouraged Canada to give us a big hand. And if she has done this, it also means that the British government is prepared to see us go into Canada — that she wants us to go in with Canada. For myself I see in it just a further continuation of something which I have long expected. I have much interesting evidence, which I may place before this house at a later date, when the matter of forms of government eventually comes up. But for the present I say this, and you may think I am talking rashly if you wish. I say to you that there is in operation at the present time a conspiracy to sell, and I use the word "sell" advisedly, this country 534 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 to the Dominion of Canada. I repeat, some people may think I am talking wildly, but I would ask them to remember that long before this I made statements in this house which were regarded at the time as wild prophecies, but time proved that I was right. All I ask you then to do in the present instance, is to watch events develOp in the coming two months, then pass your judgement on the statements I make today. Watch in particular the attractive bait which will be held out to lure our country into the Canadian mouse-trap. Listen to the flowery sales talk which will be offered you, telling Newfoundlanders they are a lost people, that our only hope, our only salvation, lies in following a new Moses into the promised land across the Cabot Strait. By the way, I note by recent papers, that there are 30,000 men unemployed in the Maritimes alone. Can it be that things are so wonderful in this Paradise that men don't need to work? Gentlemen, before leaving this matter I would say just this, look out for those amongst us who would take ourselves and our country on a one-way ride.
But let me again return to my comments on the delegation to England. Now, as I mentioned in the beginning, there are some people who had the impression that we went to England looking for favours and handouts from a starving and depressed people. Such is emphatically not the case. We went to investigate and discuss Newfoundland affairs. We wanted to know what they were doing with our money. We wanted to know why they had given away parts of our sovereign territory, and we wanted to know above all else what they intended to do about our rights as a politically free people. For ten years we have been trying to get this information out of the local Commission, but in vain. And after our trip we are little wiser than we were before. But as for wanting to get any handouts from Britain — why nothing could be further from the truth. We did not ask for anything from Britain — not a dollar of her wealth, an ounce of her food, an inch of her territory. And I think the other members of the delegation will agree with me when I say that in the person of Viscount Addison we had to deal with a man who was quite competent in protecting his country's assets. Talk of giving — why he would not even give us an answer to many of our questions. And in the two weeks we were in England we were only granted three meetings. To my mind, Viscount Addison gave an example of political economy of the highest order. He was the soul of economy and political tact. Of course it would not be fair to place all the blame on the shoulders of the noble lord, because it was quite obvious that he was acting under strict orders, and these orders seemed to be, as regards the delegation, "Tell them nothing and give them nothing". We asked him plenty of questions. We showered him with them, but he shed them like a duck. He had his orders not to go beyond a certain point, and beyond that point he refused to budge. Sometimes we thought we had him tied up, but he wiggled out with the ease of a Houdini. However, there were one or two occasions when he found himself out on a limb. I remember in particular when he was trying to justify the base deals. He put up his defence, that the British government were forced to give the United States these bases because they were in a hole and Great Britain desperately needed destroyers. He elaborated on this point and made much of it, saying that "lives had to be saved."
I could go on at great length, Mr. Chairman, commenting on the many phases of this visit of ours, but I believe it is best summed up in the London newspaper which refers to it as follows: "How cold, graceless, ungenerous and chuckleheaded is the attitude of the Government towards Newfoundlanders." It goes on to say: "It could not, it dare not go back on Britain's pledge of 1934, that as soon as the Island's difficulties had been overcome, Responsible Government on the request of the people of Newfoundland would be restored. Yet today it talks of special difficulties of our financial position and tells the Newfoundlanders harshly that, if they vote away the present Commission, Britain will no longer guarantee the interest on Newfoundland's loan of $71 million. Is this the way to talk to our kith and kin? When Newfoundland made Britain an interest free loan of £25 million for the war effort, she did not extract a promise in return. Newfoundland sent her young men to tight alongside us, sent her sailors to defy the U-boats, she provided bases, she begrudged nothing. The statement made to the Newfoundland delegation by a government which has poured out millions in dollars to succour strangers from China to Chechoslovakia in the last two years is contemptible". That is the summary of the London May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 535 Daily Express. True, it is an opposition paper — it probably wishes to make political capital out of the facts. But does that dispute the existance of these facts? Does it prove that they are not a true statement of conditions? Gentlemen, it is my opinion that we should not waste much time on this report. The answers to our questions could have been obtained by means of a registered letter.
I close my remarks with this message: the people amongst us who love freedom, who love the traditions of this fine land, who cherish our traditions, must prepare themselves to defend these things if they would preserve them. At this very moment the lines of battle are drawn up, and walking amongst us are those whose burning ambition it is to see this country passed into the hands of strangers; to haul down the flag of our fathers and replace it with an alien one; to make the Ode to Newfoundland a forgotten thing on the lips of our children, and to extinguish the torch which our liberty-loving ancestors cherished for nearly 100 years. All these things they will try to do under a banner to which they have nailed the dollar sign. But I tell them they will not succeed. Once before in our history our country had to meet such an attack. Once before there were those who sought to destroy her identity and sabotage her liberty, but a far poorer country and a less enlightened people gave them their answer. Shall we of today, blessed inhabitants of one of the most solvent countries in the world, fail where our fathers triumphed? I feel that I have the endorsement of all right-thinking Newfoundlanders with me when I say that we shall not fail.
[The committee rose and reported progress, and 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).



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:448. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II:451. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:474. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Memorandum in Response to Questions Raised by the Newfoundland Delegation. Volume II:471. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:369. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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