War Position of Newfoundland in 1918
[Canadian Annual Review , 1918; for the full citation, see the end of the text]
On Jan. 3rd Sir Edward P. Morris, who had been in public life for 32 years and Prime Minister of the Island for 8 years, resigned and was succeeded, after an interval of crisis and difficulty, by Hon. W. F. Lloyd, K.C., LL.D. Others who were supported for the position by elements of public opinion were Hon. W. F. Coaker and Hon. R. A. Squires; a little later Sir Edward was raised to the British Peerage, as Baron Morris of St. John's and Waterford, in recognition of the part taken by him for years past in Imperial constructive work and War action. Three other Ministers resigned - R. A. Squires, J. R. Bennett and M. P. Gibbs; the re-organized and still Coalition Cabinet under Mr. Lloyd, who took the Department of Justice, was composed of Hon. M. P. Cashin, Minister of Finance and Customs, W. Woodford, Minister of Public Works, W. W. Halfyard, Colonial Secretary, J. G. Stone, Minister of Marine and Fisheries, John C. Crosbie, Minister of Militia, J. A. Clift, Minister of Agriculture and Mines; Wm. Ellis, Leader of the Upper House; W. F. Coaker, A. E. Hickman and Hon. J. R. Bennett were Ministers without Portfolio.
In this connection Sir W. D. Reid, so long head of the Reid-Newfoundland Company, and associated with many important business enterprises, made a statement in a letter to Sir T. Shaughnessy - which became public - that he had financed three general elections, 1908, 1909, 1913, found the capital to establish The Chronicle in order to overthrow the Bond Government, provided the funds to purchase from Liberal controllers, the Evening Herald, worked in conjunction with Sir T. Shaughnessy to promote the union of Newfoundland and Canada, brought about the retirement of A. B. Morine from politics to smooth the way for the coalition of the Morris Government with Coaker and Lloyd of the Opposition, and arranged for Mr. Coaker, President of the Fishermen's Union, to tour through the United States and Canada in 1917 so as to study Confederation conditions. Mr. Coaker at once prosecuted Sir W. D. Reid for criminal libel and the others denied the charges. Sir William was arrested but discharged on Feb. 18th, and on April 1st the charge was again dismissed by a grand jury.
The stimulation of recruiting and maintenance of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at full strength were the first War essentials of the year. Up to this time 6,448 men had enlisted from a population of 250,000 and of these 1,200 were dead; the Regiment had served with distinction in Galipolli, and at Beaumont Hamel, at Guédecourt, at Monchy le Preux, at Cambrai and other battles in France; the Newfoundland Naval Reserve totalled 1,807 and had lost during this period 137 men. Another and peremptory issue in February was a shortage of food owing to loss of ships and especially that of the Florizel on Feb. 24th. The Government took steps promptly and successfully but it was contended that the handling of food tonnage and high cost of living problems was arbitrary; meantime the need for Conscription became a serious question and the Opposition was busy re-organizing with Messrs. Squires and Gibbs, as active members, with A. B. Morine back from Canada, and an agitation on foot to bring Sir Robert Bond into harness again as a political leader.
The Legislature was opened on Apr. 23rd with a pledge of Selective Conscription based upon Canadian legislation; this Military Service Act passed in due course and dealt with unmarried men or childless widowers between 19 and 40; little opposition was shown and Resolutions in favour of the measure came from all sections of the country; the Legislative term was extended for a year and the Minister of Finance had a Budget which showed a surplus of $650,000 and proposed an increased taxation which included Incomes and an export duty on fish and fish-oils. Parliament adjourned on May 16th and a little later the $2,000,000 War Loan at 6% per cent. was over-subscribed by 75 per cent. As the Public Debt was already $38,000,000 this was a rather remarkable incident. The revenue of the Island in 1917 was $5,267,000 and expenditures $4,555,000, the estimates for 1918 were $5,702,000 and $5,452,000 respectively. Meanwhile Imports had grown from 15 to 21 millions and Exports from 15 to 22 millions. As to private War-effort Sir P. T. McGrath, K.B.E., told a St. John, N.B., audience on Oct. 10th that $3,500,000 had been expended by the Patriotic Fund; that two Hospitals had been established for returned Soldiers and a Woman's Patriotic organization with 200 branches had collected funds at the rate of $1,000 a week; that $100,000 a year had been subscribed for the Red Cross and a $50,000 contribution given for aeroplanes. The operation of the Conscription Act was quick and effective. Within three weeks of May 11th, when it came into effect, 1,000 exemption pleas out of 3,000 had been dealt with; 1,500 had been voluntarily enrolled out of 2,500 who registered as ready for immediate service, and it was found that there were neither enemy aliens nor conscientious objectors in the Island . By July 15th the Regiment was at full strength.
Incidents of the year showed 12 ships engaged in the seal fisheries with a catch of 151,431 valued at $863,000 and a reduction in the cod fishery catch as a result of so many fishermen - with however, large increases in price - absent on War service; the construction of a large cold storage plant by the Reid-Newfoundland Co., with a present capacity of 12,000,000 pounds and a projected one of 50,000,000 with also smaller storages as fish collection stations; general evidence of prosperity throughout the Island with excellent economic conditions; the appointment of H. D. Reid as President of the Reid-Newfoundland Company in succession to Sir W. D. Reid. During the year Newfoundland was formally styled and recognized as a Dominion and Sir Edgar Bowring appointed High Commissioner in London without salary; the Hon. M. P. Cashin, Minister of Finance, and the well-known journalist-politician, Hon. P. T. McGrath, M.L.C., were created Knights of the Order of the British Empire; Mr. Premier Lloyd attended the Imperial War Cabinet and Conference and was made a member of the Imperial Privy Council and Knighted.
Source : J. Castell HOPKINS , "War Position of Newfoundland in 1918", in The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1918, Toronto, The Canadian Annual Review Limited, 1919, 879p., pp. 208-210.
© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College