William Whiteway

William Whiteway

Sir William Vallance Whiteway (April 1, 1828 – June 24, 1908) was a politician and three time Premier of Newfoundland. Born in England, Whiteway emigrated to the island in 1843 and entered the law in 1852. In 1859 he was elected to the House of Assembly as a member of the Conservative Party of Newfoundland and became a supporter of Canadian confederation. He lost his seat in the 1869 election on confederation but returned in 1874 and served as Solicitor-General in the government of Sir Frederick Carter before becoming Premier in 1878 when he succeeded Carter as leader of the Conservatives.

Whiteway's major policy ambition was the construction of a railway spanning the island which was begun in 1881 and which he believed would spur economic development of the colony. In 1885 his Conservative party was destroyed by sectarian riots at Harbour Grace which resulted in several Protestants leaving the Whiteway government in protest over its conciliatory attitude towards Catholics. Leading the dissenters was James Spearman Winter, Whiteway's Solicitor-General and grand master of Newfoundland's Orange Order.

The Orangemen joined with Robert Thorburn, an opponent of Whiteway's railway who felt that the colony should focus on the fishery, to form the "Reform Party" and win the 1885 election on a "Protestant Rights" platform.

In Opposition Whiteway founded a new Liberal Party of Newfoundland which won office in 1889 returning Whiteway as Premier on the issue of the railway. His government was forced to resign in 1894, however, due to allegations of electoral corruption in the previous year's election.

The Tories had argued that Whiteway's Liberals had promised jobs to Newfoundlanders who voted for him and filed petitions in the Supreme Court under the "Corrupt Practices Act" against fifteen Liberal members of the House alleging bribery and corruption. The members were tried and found guilty and their seats were declared vacant. On April 3, 1894, while the trials were still underway, Whiteway asked Governor Sir Herbert Murray to dissolve the House of Assembly for a new election. The governor refused and asked the Tory leader, Augustus F. Goodridge to form a government despite the fact that the Tories had only 12 seats to 21 for the Liberals. As Liberal seats were declared vacant due to guilty verdicts the standings in the House at the end of the process in August were 8 Conservatives, 9 Liberals and 19 vacancies. Whiteway himself had been found guilty, his seat declared vacant, and under the provisions of the law he was barred from seeking election to the House of Assembly or sitting in government.

The Governor enabled Goodridge to remain in office by continually proroguing the House in order to prevent the government's fall through a Motion of No Confidence.

By-elections were held throughout the fall in which the Liberals retained the seats they had been disbarred from, losing just two, while picking up two from the Conservatives in return. The last by-election was held on November 12, 1894, a full year after the general election. In the interim, 21 by-elections had been held, resulting in a virtual return to the status quo.

Goodridge remained as premier until December 12, 1894, two days after the failure of two banks crippled the economy. Daniel J. Greene, acting Liberal leader, was sworn in as premier the next day.

His government passed the "Disabilities Removal Act", which allowed all those members who had been disqualified to run as candidates as well as sit in government. Greene then resigned so that Whiteway could be sworn in as premier for a third time.

Whiteway's Liberals lost the 1897 election, resulting in his retirement from politics. He was succeeded as Liberal leader by Sir Robert Bond.

External links

* [http://www.biographi.ca/EN/ShowBio.asp?BioId=41263 Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]

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