Newfoundland; Economic, Diplomatic, and Strategic Studies

By R. A. MacKay | Go to book overview

THE PROBLEM OF NEWFOUNDLAND

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

THE island of Newfoundland has been known to Europeans longer than the mainland of the continent. Whether John Cabot made his landfall there is a matter of dispute among historians, but in any event European fishermen followed hard in his wake, perhaps even preceded him, to exploit the teeming fishing grounds off its shores. They came not to settle but to fill their ships with cod and to return to the markets of the Old World. When men first began to settle North America in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, for the most part they passed the island of Newfoundland by for the more hospitable shores of the mainland, as they did in the Nineteenth Century when the interior of the continent was opened up. Those who remained in Newfoundland did so because of the fishery. In the course of the centuries they have built there a unique community, surrounded by and founded on the sea, which, unlike the mainland colonies, has persisted in maintaining its political separateness.

Prior to the present world cataclysm Newfoundland was an unimportant island as far as the distribution of power in the North Atlantic was concerned. But the catastrophic drift of events in 1940 revealed as in a flash its strategic importance in the new three-dimensional maritime warfare. Events compelled its protective occupation by the sons of those who passed it by in search of greater economic opportunity in Canada or the United States, and within one of its bays was signed the Atlantic Charter, the first pledge of British and American peoples to co-operate for the restoration of freedom to the conquered peoples of Europe. Newfoundland has thus become a focus of United States, Canadian and British power in the North Atlantic.

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