Newfoundland; Economic, Diplomatic, and Strategic Studies

By R. A. MacKay | Go to book overview

II
A HALF CENTURY OF ECONOMIC CHANGE

THE economic problems of Newfoundland cannot be fully appreciated from an examination of its present economic structure. The present must be seen in perspective. It is proposed in this chapter to review the economic developments of the half century before the loss of responsible government.

Since the earliest fishing voyages Newfoundland has been integrally related to economic developments on the fringe of the Atlantic basin. It early became an important source of food supplies for south-western Europe. In the Eighteenth Century the Island was officially regarded as merely a "great ship moored near the banks during the fishing season, for the convenience of English fishermen", as William Knox, Under- Secretary to the Board of Trade and Plantations, put it. In the Eighteenth Century, too, it was a meeting-ground between New England and Old England, where goods were traded or transshipped and from which fishermen from Old England migrated to the continental colonies. But the long period of intermittent war between France and England in the latter half of the Eighteenth Century and the early years of the Nineteenth interrupted the annual fishing voyages and settlement grew apace. Meantime the fishing vessel was becoming less profitable as an off-season carrier. By the time of Waterloo the Island was a settlement colony and control of the fishing trade had passed to local residents. In the Nineteenth Century Newfoundland gradually became a commercial and economic entity in a new laissez-faire system of international trade. Responsible government was a political corollary of this economic change. Responsible government became in turn a means of securing greater economic autonomy by

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