A Little Bit of History

A small snippet of political history which has been in my possession for more than 60 years is outbound by mail this week to the Newfoundland Archives in St. John’s. Musty from nearly forgotten confinement in a filing cabinet, the folder contains meeting notes and correspondence on the 1949-50 drafting of a constitution for the newly formed Progressive Conservative Association of Newfoundland. It came to me when I served as acting Secretary of the Association in 1958-59.

Militant opponents of Newfoundland’s 1949 entry into Confederation and the Liberal provincial government led by Premier Joey Smallwood hastened to form the Newfoundland Progressive Conservative Party. While struggling to fight the Liberals in early elections, organizational efforts began with drafting of the new party’s constitution.

Documents show that preparations began with approaching the Dominion Headquarters of the Progressive Conservative Association of Canada in Ottawa, seeking copies of existing constitutions. National Director R .A. Bell complied with this request in letters March 18, 1949, to Hon. J.S. Currie, Editor of the “Daily News”, and Harry Mews, Manager, North American Life Assurance Co. He provided copies of constitutions of the P.C. Association of Canada and that of the P.C. party of Ontario which he said might be of some value to them. Other provincial parties also sent copies of their constitutions. Harry Mews, later to become Mayor of St. John’s, was the first Leader of the Newfoundland Progressive Conservative Party while Hon J.S. Currie was Honourary President of the Nfld P.C. Association.

The folder label reads “Constitution – 1st draft – Currie, Browne, Furlong.” Of particular interest in its contents are hand written minutes of the Consultation Committee of the P.C. Association held November 8, 1950 over the signature of Secretary A.B. Butt. Attendees, identified in the minutes mainly by surname, were Messrs (John T.) Cheeseman, John G. Higgins, (W.J.) Browne, (Frank) Fogwill, (J.W.) McGrath, Pinsent, Stick, (R.S.) Furlong, (Bill) Perlin, (Harry) Mews and (A.B. “Bert”) Butt. It was decided after discussion to produce a constitution for a provincial association rather than limiting it to a St. John’s organization. The minutes were written on Press Message form paper of the Anglo-American Telegraph Company Ltd.

Another hand written note dated Nov 5, 1950 listed by surname the following as P.C. Association officers:
Hon. President – Currie
President –           Cheeseman
Vice-Presidents   Duffy, Finn (?), Sparkes,
Secretary              Hollett
Treasurer             O’Dea

Members included McGrath, Dawe, Furlong, Doyle, Perlin, Mews. Harrington, Higgins. Fogwill, Fahey, Jackman, Browne, Higgins

Several of the participants later served in the Newfoundland House of Assembly or in the Canadian Parliament. R.S. Furlong became  Chief Justice of Newfoundland.

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