World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Joey Smallwood

Article Id: WHEBN0000282970
Reproduction Date:

Title: Joey Smallwood  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, Frank Moores, Newfoundland Reform Liberal Party, 30th General Assembly of Newfoundland, 31st General Assembly of Newfoundland
Collection: 1900 Births, 1991 Deaths, Canadian Journalists, Canadian People of British Descent, Canadian Political Party Founders, Canadian Radio Personalities, Companions of the Order of Canada, Fathers of Confederation, Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador Mhas, Members of the Orange Order, Members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Members of the United Church of Canada, People from Gambo, Newfoundland and Labrador, Persons of National Historic Significance (Canada), Pre-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador People, Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador, Reform Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador Mhas, Writers from Newfoundland and Labrador, Writers from St. John'S, Newfoundland and Labrador
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Joey Smallwood

The Honourable
Joey Smallwood
1st Premier of Newfoundland
In office
April 1, 1949 – January 18, 1972
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Lieutenant Governor Albert Walsh
Leonard Outerbridge
Campbell Macpherson
Fabian O'Dea
Ewart Harnum
Preceded by Position Established
Succeeded by Frank Moores
Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly for Bonavista North
In office
May 27, 1949 – August 20, 1959
Preceded by New District
Succeeded by Edward S. Spencer
In office
November 19, 1962 – September 8, 1966
Preceded by Edward S. Spencer
Succeeded by Beaton Abbott
Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly for St. John's West
In office
August 20, 1959 – November 19, 1962
Preceded by Malcolm Hollett
Succeeded by William G. Adams
Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly for Humber West
In office
September 8, 1966 – October 28, 1971
Preceded by Charles Ballam
Succeeded by Frank Moores
Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly for Placentia East
In office
October 28, 1971 – March 24, 1972
Preceded by Alain Frecker
Succeeded by Fintan Aylward
Member of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly for Twillingate
In office
September 16, 1975 – June 18, 1977
Preceded by Herbert Gillett
Succeeded by Bill Rowe
Personal details
Born Joseph Roberts Smallwood
December 24, 1900
Gambo, Newfoundland
Died December 17, 1991(1991-12-17) (aged 90)
St. John's, Newfoundland
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Clara Oates (1901-1994)
Children Ramsay, William, Clara
Religion United Church of Canada

Joseph Roberts "Joey" Smallwood, PC, CC (December 24, 1900 – December 17, 1991) was a politician from Newfoundland, Canada. He was the main force that brought the Dominion of Newfoundland into the Canadian confederation in 1949, becoming the first Premier of Newfoundland, serving until 1972. As premier, he vigorously promoted economic development, championed the welfare state, and emphasized modernization of education and transportation. Smallwood abandoned his youthful socialism and collaborated with bankers, turning against the militant unions that sponsored numerous strikes. The results of his efforts to promote industrialization were mixed, with the most favourable results in hydroelectricity, iron mining and paper mills.

Smallwood was charismatic and controversial. Never shy, he dubbed himself "the last Father of Confederation." While many Canadians today remember Smallwood as the man who brought Newfoundland into the Canadian Confederation, the opinion held by Newfoundlanders and their diaspora remains sharply divided as to his legacy.


  • Early life 1
  • National Convention and Confederation 2
  • Premiership 3
  • Life after politics 4
  • Notable quotes 5
  • In popular culture 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Joey Smallwood was born at Mint Brook, near Gambo, Newfoundland, to Charles and Minnie May Smallwood. His grandfather, David Smallwood, was a well-known maker of boots in St. John's. Growing up in St. John's, as a teenager Joey Smallwood worked as an apprentice at a newspaper and moved to New York City in 1920. In New York he worked for the socialist newspaper The Call. Joey Smallwood returned to Newfoundland in 1925, where he soon met and married Clara Oates. In 1925 he founded a newspaper of his own in Corner Brook.

In 1928, he acted as campaign manager for the Prime Minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland, Sir Richard Squires. He also ran as a Liberal candidate in Bonavista in 1932 but lost. During the Great Depression, he worked for various newspapers and edited a two-volume collection titled "The Book of Newfoundland." He also hosted a radio program, The Barrelman, beginning in 1937 that promoted pride in Newfoundland's history and culture. He left the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland in 1943 to operate a pig farm at the Newfoundland Airport at Gander.[1]

National Convention and Confederation

Around thirty men standing on steps.

As soon as prosperity returned in 1942, agitation began to end the Commission. Newfoundland, with a population of 313,000 (plus 5,200 in Labrador), seemed too small to be independent.[2][3]

Smallwood at this point was a well-known radio personality, writer and organizer; he was a nationalist who long had criticized British rule. In 1945, London announced that a National Convention would be elected in Newfoundland to advise on what constitutional choices should to be voted on by referendum. Union with the United States was a possibility, but London rejected the option and offered instead two options: return to dominion status or continuation of the unpopular Commission. Canada issued an invitation to join it on generous financial terms.

In 1946, Smallwood was elected a delegate to the Confederate Association that supported the Confederation option in the Convention during the 1948 Newfoundland referendums.[4]

At the convention Smallwood emerged as the leading proponent of confederation with Canada, insisting, "Today we are more disposed to feel that our very manhood, our very creation by God, entitles us to standards of life no lower than our brothers on the mainland."[5] Displaying a mastery of propaganda technique, courage and ruthlessness, he succeeded in having the Canada option on the ballot.[6] His main opponents were Peter Cashin and Chesley Crosbie. Cashin, a former finance minister, led the Responsible Government League, warning against cheap Canadian imports and the high Canadian income tax. Crosbie, a leader of the fishing industry, led the Economic Union Party, seeking responsible government first, to be followed by closer ties with the United States, which could be a major source of capital.[7]

Smallwood carried his cause in a hard-fought referendum and a runoff in June and July 1948 as the decision to join Canada (rather than restoration of independent dominion status) carried 77,869, as against 71,464, or 52.3%. A strong rural vote in favour of Canada overwhelmed the pro-independence vote in the capital of St. John's. The Irish Catholics in the city desired independence in order to protect their parochial schools, leading to a Protestant backlash in rural areas.[8] The promise of cash family allowances from Canada proved decisive.

Smallwood was a member of the 1947 Ottawa Delegation that negotiated the Terms of Union with Canada. He also created yet another newspaper, The Confederate, to promote Confederation. The 1948 referendums resulted in Confederation being approved, and in 1949, as leader of the Liberal Party, Smallwood was elected Premier of the new province.


Bradley, King and Smallwood, at the Liberal party convention of 1948.

Smallwood ran Newfoundland virtually unchallenged for 23 years. He governed with large majorities for virtually his entire tenure; during his first six terms he never faced more than eight opposition MHAs.

He vigorously promoted economic development through the Economic Development Plan of 1951, championed the welfare state (paid for by Ottawa), and attracted favourable attention across Canada. He emphasised modernisation of education and transportation to attract outsiders, such as German industrialists, because the local economic elite would not invest in industrial development. Although he had had socialist leanings in his youth, he often sided with bankers and became hostile to the militant unions that sponsored numerous strikes. He relied heavily on the expertise of German industry in his repeated attempts to industrialise Newfoundland in the post-Confederation period. His efforts to promote industrialisation were a mixed bag, with the most favourable results in hydroelectricity, iron mining, and paper mills.[9] He was also willing to side with corporations in his drive to industrialise the province. He granted foreign companies concessions to encourage development and even intervened in a labour dispute in 1959. The International Woodworkers of America had struck to get higher wages and better working conditions in the logging camps. In a controversial move, Smallwood decertified and effectively made the union illegal, replacing it with a government-sponsored union.

During his long career as Premier, Smallwood was often accused of being autocratic and self-aggrandising. He brought libel suits against The Telegram and would threaten to pull government advertising over stories. He kept a very tight rein on his ministers, regarding them as extensions of his own authority rather than his colleagues. Additionally, the House of Assembly did not have a question period, unlike most other provincial legislatures. His autocratic tendencies increased as the 1960s wore on. Smallwood announced his retirement in 1969, only to change his mind and run for the leadership against John Crosbie. In the ensuing contest, Smallwood would send Cabinet ministers to delegate selection meetings with notebooks, detailing who voted for which slate of delegates and who would bring Crosbie delegates to his residence, forcing them to sign affidavits supporting Smallwood's leadership. The affidavits would later be published in local newspapers.

By Newfoundland's seventh general election, in 1971, Smallwood's government had become tired and complacent. The election resulted in a hung parliament, with Smallwood's Liberals winning 20 seats to the Progressive Conservatives' 21. The Labrador Party's lone MHA, Tom Burgess, threw his support to Smallwood, resulting in a three-month deadlock. However, under the threat of a revolt in his own caucus, Smallwood was forced to resign in January 1972 in favour of the PCs' Frank Moores. Smallwood was voted out as Liberal leader soon afterward. In 1975, he took most of his followers into the Newfoundland Reform Liberal Party, which elected four candidates in that year's election. He retired for good at the end of the term.

Life after politics

A bust of Joey Smallwood on display at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

In his retirement Smallwood resumed writing; publishing several books including an autobiography titled I Chose Canada. Later in his life he began an ambitious project compiling a comprehensive Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. The five volume set was completed by a charitable foundation after Smallwood's death. Smallwood's publishing firm, Newfoundland Book Publishers (1967) Ltd., published Volumes 1 and 2; the Smallwood Heritage Foundation completed and published Volumes 3, 4, and 5.

In 1986, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, after hesitating because he felt that he should be more honoured for bringing Newfoundland and Labrador into the Canadian confederation and would have liked to have had the Right Honourable added to his name as well as a knighthood.

In 1989, a new Marine Atlantic ferry, the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood, was commissioned. It was decommissioned in 2011.

On December 17, 1991, only a week before his 91st birthday, he died and was buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John's, Newfoundland. His wife Clara, who died in 1994, is buried beside him.

Notable quotes

In popular culture

Smallwood was featured in two National Film Board of Canada documentaries: In 1970, he was the subject of Julian Bigg's documentary film A Little Fellow from Gambo;[10] in 1974, he was featured alongside Newfoundland media mogul Geoff Stirling and director Michael Rubbo in Rubbo's Waiting for Fidel.[11] In 1998, Wayne Johnston's novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams presented a fictionalized portrayal of Smallwood.

Smallwood is referenced in a line in the Newfoundland folk song, "Thank God We're Surrounded by Water" by Tom Cahill and Joan Morrissey.


  1. ^ Jeff A Webb The Voice of Newfoundland: A Social History of the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.
  2. ^ Gene Long, Suspended State: Newfoundland Before Canada (1999)
  3. ^ James K. Hiller, Confederation: deciding Newfoundland's future, 1934–1949 (1998)
  4. ^ Richard Gwyn, Smallwood: The Unlikely Revolutionary (1972)
  5. ^ Joseph Roberts Smallwood, I chose Canada: The memoirs of the Honourable Joseph R. "Joey" Smallwood (1973) p. 256
  6. ^ Richard Gwyn, Smallwood: The Unlikely Revolutionary (1972)
  7. ^ J. K. Hiller, and M. F. Harrington, eds., The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948. (2 vols. 1995). 2021 pp. excerpts and text search
  8. ^ The Catholic schools would later be nationalized in 1998. See John Edward Fitzgerald, "Archbishop E. P. Roche, J. R. Smallwood, and Denominational Rights in Newfoundland Education, 1948." Historical Studies: Canadian Catholic Historical Association 1999 65: 28-49. Issn: 1193-1981
  9. ^ Sean T. Cadigan, Newfoundland and Labrador: A History (2009), ch 10
  10. ^ Biggs, Julian (1974). A Little Fellow from Gambo"'". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  11. ^ Rubbo, Michael (1974). "Waiting for Fidel". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 

Further reading

  • Gwyn, Richard. Smallwood: The Unlikely Revolutionary (1968)
  • Hiller, James K. "Smallwood, Joseph Roberts (1900–1991)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition
  • Horwood, Harold. Joey (1989)
  • Smallwood, Joseph R. I Chose Canada: The Memoirs of the Honourable Joseph R. "Joey" Smallwood (1973)

External links

  • Canadian Encyclopedia biographical article
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.