(Feb. 6, 1997, Gazette)
The campaign was somewhat par for the course in 19th-century Newfoundland, with mudslinging and underhandedness as the operative words. D. W. Prowse (1895) described it as an "indecent carnival of scurrility." The result was a vote of confidence for Whiteway, with the Liberals winning 23 seats to the Conservatives' 12, and one independent.
The Conservatives, however, were convinced that the people had been unfairly influenced by the Liberals with promises of work for those who voted for them. On Jan. 6, 1894, the Conservatives filed petitions in the Supreme Court, under the Corrupt Practices Act, against 15 of the Liberal winners and independent member James Murray, charging them with bribery and corruption, and advocating their dismissal from the House of Assembly.
The members so charged were all brought to trial, and as they were heard by electoral district it was well into summer before all the trials were conducted and the verdicts rendered. All members charged were found guilty, had their seats declared vacant, and all but one (James Watson in Trinity) were barred from running again for election to the House of Assembly.
At that time in Newfoundland, when a person was appointed to cabinet he had to resign his seat and run in a byelection, in order to show he still had the confidence of the electorate, as he would now be receiving an increase in salary from the public treasury. Therefore, the five members of the House of Assembly whom Goodridge appointed to his cabinet had to resign, bringing the Conservatives numbers down to seven. Throughout the summer, more and more Liberal seats became vacant (two by-elections were held in May), until by August, when the trials were over, the standings in the House were Conservatives: 8; Liberals: 9; and 19 seats vacant. Meanwhile, the governor kept proroguing the House of Assembly, enabling Goodridge to remain in office and preventing him from having to face motions of no confidence.
Goodridge remained as premier until Dec. 12, 1894, two days after the Bank Crash which crippled the Newfoundland economy. Daniel J. Greene, acting Liberal leader, was sworn in as premier the next day; he met the House of Assembly and arranged for passage of the Disabilities Removal Act which allowed all those members who had been disqualified to once again offer themselves as candidates. Greene then handed the premiership back to Whiteway, and several members of the Liberal Party resigned their seats to make way for Whiteway and members of his administration to gain election to the House of Assembly. Six more byelections had to be held, a total of 27 since the previous general election, all won by Liberals. The more things changed, the more they remained the same.
Incidentally, after this blot on their characters, Whiteway continued as premier until 1897 and Bond became premier in 1900, remaining in office until 1909.
Bert Riggs is the archivist for the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives, located on level one of the Queen Elizabeth II Library.