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Peter John Cashin

Photograph: Major Peter John Cashin


Major Peter John Cashin.

(March 8, 1890 - May 21, 1977)

Peter J. Cashin was a hero of the First World War. A supporter of responsible government for Newfoundland, he led the anti-Confederation forces during the National Convention and the 1948 votes on the colony's future.

Peter John Cashin was born in Cape Broyle, Newfoundland, the son of Sir Michael and Lady Gertrude (Maloney) Cashin. After attending St. Bonaventure College in St. John's, he joined his family's fishery supply firm in 1908. In 1911, he moved to western Canada, returning in 1915 to enlist with the Newfoundland Regiment. After being promoted through the ranks to 2nd Lieutenant, Cashin was wounded in France in June of 1916. Returning to England, he was seconded to the British Machine Gun Corps. He took part in many campaigns with them, attaining the rank of Major by 1918. He remained in France until the signing of the armistice, then returned to Newfoundland to rejoin the family business.

Cashin was first elected to the House of Assembly as a Liberal-Labour-Progressive for Ferryland in 1923, but a few years later "crossed the floor" in a dispute over government tariff policies. He ran and won as a Liberal in 1928, accepting a cabinet post as minister of finance and customs. He resigned the post in 1932, alleging widespread corruption within the cabinet. His action was responsible for precipitating that year's general election. After losing his seat, Cashin left political life for a number of years, moving to Montréal in 1933. Upon his return in 1942, he began criticizing the Commission of Government, and agitating for a return to responsible government.

Cashin was elected as a delegate for St. John's West to the National Convention in 1946, and established himself as the leading advocate of responsible government and critic of union with Canada. With Joseph Smallwood, Cashin was recognized as one of the dominant personalities of the Convention. He led the campaign for responsible government during the referenda of 1948, as chairman of the Responsible Government League. In the first post-union election in 1949, Cashin ran as an independent member, winning a seat at Ferryland. However, after the Conservative leader lost his seat that same year, Cashin was recruited to lead the party in the 1951 election, in which the party won five seats.

Cashin remained as party leader until 1953, when he resigned to run as an independent in St. John's East. After his defeat, he resigned from politics. Smallwood appointed Cashin director of civil defence in 1954, a post he held until 1965. After his retirement, he began writing his memoirs, but died before they were completed.


"Cashin, Maj. Peter J." -- Canadian who's who. -- Toronto : Trans-Canada Press, 1963. -- Vol. 9, p. 178

"Cashin, Maj. Peter J., MHA". -- Who's who in and from Newfoundland 1927. -- Ed. R. Hibbs. -- St. John's, Nfld. : R. Hibbs, 1927. -- P. 146-147

Harrington, Michael F. -- "Cashin, Peter John". -- Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador biography. -- Ed. Michael F. Harrington. -- St. John's, Nfld. : Harry Cuff Publications Ltd., 1990. -- P. 55-56

Janes, Diane P. -- "Cashin, Maj. Peter J." -- Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. -- Ed. Joseph R. Smallwood. -- St. John's, Nfld. : Newfoundland Book Publishers Ltd., 1967. -- Vol. 1, p. 380-381