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Confederation in Newfoundland

The following article is from:
The Newfoundlander (St. John's) Tuesday, October 5, 1869

In the following paragraphs, taken from a late Halifax paper, we have Mr. Bennett's account of, --

The following are extracts from a letter received in this city from a leading man in Newfoundland.

ST. JOHN'S, Sept. 15th, 1869.

I have just returned from the northern settlements of this colony, and I am sure you will be pleased to know from me that nearly the whole of the people whom, I have seen are determinedly opposed to Confederation, and I feel confident that no money that Canada may send to aid the confederate candidates can secure their return. We, the Antis, will greet with joy all the money they may send, as will the poorer of our people in pocketing it; but there is too much virtue among our honest and hardy population to sell their birthright, their power of self-government, for pelf. Heed not what our hireling press says; -- they are paid to inculcate untruths. I question whether a single Confederate will be returned at our next elections, to take place in November, although some persons calculate on six out of thirty.

The news from the westward and south is equally favourable. The Antis have successfully stormed the very strongholds of the Confederates. We are no annexationists; we wish to hold on to the old country, in spite of the bad policy manifested by its present ministers, who have been too much influenced by the money-dealers of London, who are the great holders of the Canadian bonds and Railway scrip, and who have used that power to secure, at the cost of the Maritime Provinces, a better security than Canada could offer for that stock. The people of England are ignorant of the facts which have produced this ruinous policy and alienated a loyal people, whilst it has at the same time embarrassed her commercial and political relations with the United States.

If the fact were not before us in black and white one would refuse to believe that a man appearing to hold any claim to respectability could have strung together this farrago of falsehoods and calumny. Mr. Bennett has been for some time living in an atmosphere of untruths - they have been to him meat, drink, clothing and washing all together. Bountifully supplied with these manufactures of his creatures by day and by night, his emulative aspirations were fired, and he at last resolved that in this letter to the Halifax papers he would outdo in the line of fabrication the most shameless of those whom he has filling with good cheer at his nightly regalings. To his credit it must be confessed, we think, he has succeeded in distancing them all in an avocation for which he must now regret that the extent of his aptitudes remained undiscovered till declining years leave him so short a time to devote to these congenial performances.

Mr. Bennett's Halifax correspondent will learn with surprise that those districts which he visited are Confederate strongholds - the very quarters where, he knows, the Antis have neither chance nor hope of success. We don't know, and we don't say, that he was uncivilly received by the people he went to lecture; but we do know and say that the people in those localities knew well their man and his mission, and that they made him know them in a manner which he did not mistake. With all their knowledge of him, however, we dare say, they will confess when they see his present letter, that he has given them a new light. They rightly regarded him as a man wholly absorbed in the pursuit of selfish ends and regardless of the means by which he could compass them. They felt that his professions of concern for them and for the country were utterly dishonest, and that he would sacrifice them all ten times over to keep his millions of acres to himself and to escape payment of his royalty which will soon become due. But that he would falsify facts to the extent now disclosed - that he would publish to the world that in his assertions he was proof against the restraints of decency or the semblance of decency - this, we believe, the Northerners were not prepared to witness; and whatever they may have thought of him before, they will now know how to supplement their estimate to the requisite enlargement.

The character he gives of the people of the colony is specially notable. "The poorer of our people," according to Mr. Bennett, "will greet with joy and will pocket any money they may send from Canada," They are "virtuous" enough to do this, but "too honest to sell their birthright." While he supplied this description of "virtue" to himself and his Anti fraternity, no one could dispute the correctness of his portraiture. But when he steps outside this circle and brands "the poor" of the whole country with the last degree of baseness and fraud, he perpetrates a libel too foul and too audacious for any pen but his own.

"The present ministers and the people of England" are accused of "bad policy and of ignorance" by this wondrous luminacy. This is remarkable somewhat, for these stupid ministers and the people may be presumed to have had the benefit of Mr. Bennett's instruction during those two thirds of each year which he spends with them, while the remaining third is too long to give to Newfoundland. But he seems to forget that his favourite Tory Ministers were just as ignorant and impolite on the matter of Confederation, which they endorsed and commended quite as strongly as Mr. Gladstone and his friends. There will be grief and dismay in Downing Street when the news reaches them that their knowledge and policy are not up to the mark to find favor with this eminently qualified critic; and they will probably be grateful for the kind intimation that, after all, he is not "an annexationist" and really will not abjure the "old country" if he can but educate her "ministers and people" up to his own level and that of the Anti league of Newfoundland!

This whole picture by Mr. Bennett presents a melancholy and memorable spectacle of that havoc which extreme selfishness and fanaticism can make of a man's titles to the indulgence or pity of his fellow men. Here is a person whose very age alone, if he had no other claim, would, under ordinary circumstances, secure for his acts something like lenient and forbearant consideration. Nobody cares to criticise with severity the vagaries of age while they are at all kept within the limits of reasonable endurance, and this reluctance is a right and commendable feeling. But in the case of Mr. Bennett, those years which should plead in excuse, only serve to deepen mens' disgust for his exhibitions. The passion of greed so all-consuming at his time of life as to render him reckless of truth and self-respect, is shown by his statements and by his present associates, marks the man out as an object of scorn to every rightly constituted mind.