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Canadian Relations With Newfoundland in 1907



[Canadian Annual Review, 1907; for full citation, see the end of the text]


No progress of any kind was apparent during 1907 in the discursive and occasional talk as to the Confederation of Newfoundland with Canada . The Bond Government remained in power with a large majority, there were no bye-elections for the Legislature; and the only Government change was the retirement of the Hon. Sir E. P. Morris, Minister of Justice, on July 20, with the appointment in his place of Hon. James M. Kent, K.C., acting-Minister and a Member of the Executive Council. The Budget speech of Hon. E. M. Jackman on Feb. 11th showed a revenue for the year ending June 30, 1906, of $2,660,000 and an estimate for 1907 of $2,665,000; with expenditures in the former year of $2,590,000 and an estimate for the latter period of $2,717,000. School desks, hardwood, timber for ships, wire fencing, gates, and motor engines for agricultural use, were placed on the free list. The bounty on canned codfish was increased and bounties ranging from $4.00 to $10.00 a ton were promised for ships constructed in the Colony. The debt on June 3, 1907, was stated at $22,793,866; the imports for the year ending June 30, 1907, were $10,426,040, of which $2,669,934 came from Great Britain, $3,669,098 from Canada, and $3,447,359 from the United States; the exports were $12,101,161, of which $1,492; 745 went to Great Britain, $1,611,480 to Canada, $2,063,444 to Brazil, $1,841,968 to Portugal, and $1,394,269 to the United States. The year 1906 had been a very prosperous one; that of 1907 was still more so.


The Colony came into touch with Canada upon two points during this period - one was the general discussion at the Colonial Conference; the other was the matter of a projected fast steamship line. The latter subject came to the front by the Legislative ratification of a contract between the Newfoundland Government and certain interests in London, represented by Ochs Bros. and H. C. Thomson, for the establishment of a line of steamers running from Killary Harbour, Ireland, to Green Bay, Newfoundland, with three days as the time from port to port. Newfoundland promised a yearly mail subsidy of £15,000 for 25 years, land grants, extensive terminal and railway facilities and free admission of material. Despite the All-Red line proposals and the Blacksod Bay rival scheme considerable progress was made during the year in the railway part of the Newfoundland plan.


As to the Conference much has already been written. Sir Robert Bond, as a rule, supported the attitude and proposals of the Canadian Premier; and the Canadian press sympathized very largely with his view of Imperial policy in the United States imbroglio. Speaking at the National Liberal Club, on Apr. 26, in this latter connection, Sir R. Bond said: "Originally the people of the United States had equal rights with British subjects in the Fisheries of North America. The war between England and the United States cancelled those rights. In 1818 a Treaty was entered into which gave the Americans certain rights, and it is precisely in regard to what these rights mean that a difference of opinion has existed. There can be no doubt whatever, I think, that England, being the Sovereign Power, and conveying to the United States certain privileges within her territory, expected and intended that those who exercised those rights should be amenable to the laws of the land that they were about to enter. That is what I contend."


The semi-personal incidents which followed and which evoked considerable indignation in Canada, as a result of sensational statements by the Canadian and United States press agencies, were really very different from the description in despatches. The Newfoundland Premier did not leave the Conference in anger nor did he use the words which these cables put in his mouth notably on May 14. In the June Contemporary Review Judge Hodgins, of Toronto, had an elaborate article on the Fisheries question as affecting Canada and Newfoundland. Great Britain's enforcement of the modus vivendi with the United States; the practical suspension of Colonial laws prohibiting Island fishermen from serving on American vessels; the apparent overriding of Newfoundland legislation by the Imperial authorities aroused much sympathy in Canada and the press was practically unanimous in censuring the British policy without, perhaps, much consideration for British responsibilities. In an elaborate despatch to the Governor of Newfoundland, dated Sept. 19, 1907, Lord Elgin reviewed the whole question, and added these significant words: "I am, however, constrained to add that His Majesty's Government cannot but feel that in this important question they have not received all the assistance which they were entitled to expect at the hands of your Ministers. My colleagues and myself are not responsible for, and did not create, the burdensome treaty obligations which bear so heavily on Newfoundland, and the practical sympathy of this country with the Colony was shown in 1904, when the late Government, with the full approval of every section of the community, made considerable sacrifices, not merely of money but of British territory, in order to relieve Newfoundland from the most onerous of the French treaty rights. But whatever charges may be brought against the policy which, in 1818, conceded the American treaty rights of fishery, nevertheless, those rights remain binding and have been continuously exercised for nearly 90 years." The whole question of the Fisheries was finally relegated, with the approval of both the Newfoundland and Canadian Governments, to the Hague Tribunal.


Source: J. Castell HOPKINS , The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1907, Toronto, The Annual Review Publishing Company, 1908, pp. 364-365.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College