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    Going down long road from Newfoundland

    SOCIAL HISTORY: stories of life and times in Canada past.

    Going down the road when times are tough and jobs are scarce is a Newfoundland tradition that dates back to at least the mid-nineteenth century, as indicated by a report in the St. John’s Newfoundland Express (republished in the Toronto Leader, October 24, 1853).

    There are much brighter times on the Island today, thanks in part to oil development, but in 1853, unemployed Newfoundlanders had an obligation to move elsewhere in search of better prospects, according to the Express.

    “While we regret that there should be a necessity for so many of our people to emigrate, we must say that we by no means regret that they should have the enterprise and energy to betake themselves to those countries in which they can dispose of their labour to the best advantage.”

    The root of the problem, as the Express saw it, was that the Island’s population had increased 20 percent in the past quarter century, with no increase in foreign demand for its staple exports. “Consequently, each individual has to submit to subsist upon four-fifths of what he could earn 25 years ago.

    “Now if this were to be equalized over the community, it would be less felt; but in place of that there is more elbowing, and while some do well, more are reduced to great straits.

    “For a time the diminution from other sources was made up by the extension of agriculture. But the aid derived in this way having been now suddenly cut off by the potato disease, numbers are brought to a pinching want. Under these circumstances prudence dictates the propriety—the duty in many instances—to remove to the distance of some hundreds or thousands of miles, where labour is in demand, and consequently more highly remunerated.”

    TAGS: Newfoundland, Emigration, Economic recessions/depressions, Unemployment

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