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Fish Out of Water

book cover


Newfoundland, in 1814, was at the beginning of a century of political growth and constitutional development within the context of both the British Empire and British North America. The local political leaders who campaigned for Crown Colony status, Representative Government, and finally, Responsible Government, and who led the governments during this century of political evolution were convinced that commercial developments would be enhanced by these constitutional developments. However, although political "progress" had a momentum of its own in nineteenth century, in Newfoundland the real question was whether the colony could maintain a permanent politically independent existence given its traditional economic and commercial systems. Indeed the extent to which any small country almost wholly dependent on the production and sale of a single product in highly competitive and often unstable international markets can remain politically independent is the question that is central to this book.........


........In 1914 Newfoundland could look back on one hundred years of peace, living standards comparable to that of the rest of British North America, and industrialization attempts. Nevertheless its economy remained primarily dependent upon the saltfish trade which, in turn, was dependent upon the resources, connections, and support of Great Britain's international commercial arrangements and activities. Within twenty years Newfoundland would be forced to call a halt to its journey along the road to political independence and would ask the imperial government to reverse this political process in a futile effort to save its trade. Although the Great War and the Great Depression contributed to the Colony's economic collapse, developments during the nineteenth century demonstrated that Newfoundland's political independence was incompatible with the commercial reality of the international saltfish trade.