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Death of the National Dream: Fred Alderdice and his default plan

Doug Letto

In October 1932, the newly elected Prime Minister of Newfoundland made a dramatic plan known to the British government. Fred Alderdice told the Secretary of State for the Dominions that the government had little choice but partially default on more than $5 million a year in debt payments. Britain reacted angrily. Its subsequent offer of a lifeline to pay a share of the year end interest on the debt, and the appointment of a royal commission to examine the future of Newfoundland and its financial situation and prospects, put the Dominion on a path that would see its constitutional status irreversibly changed.

Could Alderdice have played his cards differently? Could he have preserved Newfoundland’s constitutional independence? Did Newfoundlanders let down the dream and promise of a nation?

Author Doug Letto poses those questions and challenges a common view of how Newfoundand went from Dominion status to province of Canada.

Listen to Doug Letto’s lecture: