William Gilbert Gosling and the Charter: St. John's Municipal Politics, 1914-1921


Melvin Baker (c)1985

Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXXI, no. 1 (Summer 1985)

On July 2, 1914, a 12-member civic board appointed by the colonial government replaced the elected municipal government, which had been created under authority of the 1902 Municipal Act. This change resulted from the recommendations in February, 1914, of a local reform association, the Citizens'Committee. This Committee had been formed in December, 1913, to examine the town's existing municipal arrangements and to make suggestions for its improvement. Consequently, the municipal election, which was scheduled to be held in June, 1914, was postponed for one year and the Municipal Board was appointed to govern St. John's without remuneration and prepare a new municipal act based on its administrative experience. This draft act would first be submitted to the people in a plebiscite; if the popular verdict were favourable, it would then be presented to the legislature during the 1915 session. The chairman of the Board was St. John's merchant William Gilbert Gosling who, along with the Board of Trade, had been a prime mover in the formation of the Citizens' Committee. (1)

William Gilbert Gosling

On July 2 Board members elected Gosling as their Chairman. This was a critical choice, because it was Gosling's leadership that enabled the Board both to govern St. John's and to draft a new municipal act. The most pressing problem facing Gosling and his fellow Commissioners on taking office was financial; but here their ability to act was circumscribed by the estimates drawn up by the outgoing Council. Accordingly, the Board concentrated its efforts to improve the town's financial picture on reduced expenditure and the introduction of a more rigid system for the collection of tax arrears.

With regard to arrears, which stood at $98,706.28 at the end of 1913, the Board decided that after August 1, 1914, legal proceedings would be taken against taxpayers who were behind in their payments, especially those whose bills had been outstanding for several years and who could afford to pay. (2) To improve the tax collection system, the Board abandoned the practice whereby collectors made irregular, unannounced visits to neighbourhoods; henceforth collectors would inform taxpayers of intended calls. If a taxpayer refused to pay after several such visits, the collector could give him notice to pay within 10 days or face legal proceedings. (3) The Board had some success with these changes but the outbreak of war in Europe in August, 22, 1914, adversely affected its efforts. The temporary disruption of trade caused by the war, which automatically involved Newfoundland as a member of the British Empire, and the consequent financial difficulties in St. John's, led the Municipal Board to relieve the pressure on its tax evaders. The result was that, during 1914, the amount owing in arrears actually grew by $2,240.06, to a total of $100,946.34. Nevertheless, the 1914 increase was the lowestin 10 years. (4) Because of its success in reducing expenditure, the Board had an overall surplus for 1914 of $7,554.72. (5)

Gosling also reorganized the town's administrative structure, giving Department heads greater financial and administrative powers than before. These included the responsibility for the hiring of casual labourers, an authority which in the past had all too often been exercised by the Mayor and Council for patronage purposes. Past interference by municipal politicians had been most pronounced in the Roads and Sewers Department, where men had been frequently hired by Council simply to relieve unemployment. During the winter of 1914-1915 the Board let go all labourers except the small number needed to maintain local roads. The Board also removed from its payroll about 20 aged labourers who, in the absence of a municipal pension scheme, had been kept on the paysheets at a reduced rate. Each of these men was now given a pension out of general revenue at a much lower rate than his previous salary.

Another administrative change made by the Board was the creation of a Stock Department to coordinate the purchase of all departmental supplies. The previous system, under which individual departments made their own orders, had led to duplication and unnecessary expenditure. Economical measures were also applied to the Sanitary Department, the most expensive of all the civic divisions. The night-soil service was especially expensive; in the summer 17 sanitary carts and 34 men were required to cart the night-soil to the outskirts of the town, where it was deposited for use by farmers. (6) Gosling effected savings here by constructing catch-basins or "hoppers" throughout the town for the use of the residents who did not have water closets. The waste water deposited in these ran off through the connecting water system, while the nightsoil was either strained into the sewers by municipal employees or collected by the sanitary carts. (7) In this manner the number of sanitary carts was reduced to five by the end of 1915. (8) To prevent the development of a night-soil service in areas where new building was taking place, the Municipal Board refused to grant building permits until water and sewer mains were installed. (9)

Not surprisingly, the inadequacy of the water system for fire protection, which had been one of the great concerns of the Board of Trade and the late Citizens' Committee, was also a major issue facing the Municipal Board. The changes made by the Municipal Council since 1904 had improved the means for bringing water from Windsor Lake to the town. What now worried the Municipal Board and citizens generally was the distribution of that water within the mains of St. John's. (10) In its investigation of the water system in January, 1914, the Citizens' Committee had found that many of the water pipes were corroded with rust, a circumstance, they believed, which had contributed to the recent destruction by fire of the Cochrane Street Methodist Church." (11) One section of a four inch main pipe taken from Cochrane Street was put on display by the Committee to show that the rust had reduced the passage way of water through the pipe to half its size. (12)

The rust problem, the Committee believed, accounted for the fact that, in order to fight a fire in one part of St. John's, water still had to be turned off in other areas. If a fire broke out simultaneously at both ends of the town, Board Chairman Gosling later noted, St. John's stood in danger of being again destroyed as was the case with the fire in 1892. In Gosling's view, rusty pipes had combined with additional demand on the water service from house construction to create a new crisis of fire protection. (13) With this in mind, in September, 1914, he approached leading American authorities on municipal government asking them to recommend a competent engineer to examine the St. John's water system. (l4) On the basis of the advice thus received, he secured the services of Francis F. Longley of the New York engineering firm of Hazen and Whipple. (15)

Longley's report to the Municipal Board, dated October 30, 1914, called for the expenditure of approximately $168,000 to increase the pressure in the water mains and to eliminate the great domestic waste of water. Nothing that the averge daily water waste for St. John's should be 40% of the total amount of water drawn from Windsor Lake (the town's water supply), Longley discovered that the actual rate of waste was 80%, of which all but 5% occurred in houses and buildings with faulty installations. The essence of Longley's report was a proposal for the reorganization of the two water distribution districts which Council had established after 1904. The new main which had been built from Windsor Lake to the Higher Levels (the LeMarchant and Freshwater Road area) would in future serve only the suburbs north of Harvey Road and the area around Freshwater Road; the growing areas in the western end of St. John's, as well as the congested heart of the town, were to be serviced by the main from Windsor Lake to Water Street and by a new 20-inch main to be built from the Lake to the east end. The new main would enter St. John's at Rawlins Cross and then run down Kings Road to Duckworth Street before connecting up with George's Pond, located on Signal Hill. The latter, supplied with water from Windsor Lake, would become a reservoir ensuring adequate water pressure in the pipes servicing three-quarters of the town's population. Through these changes St. John's would always have sufficient water for both domestic consumption and fire protection. Longley's other recommendations centered on the removal of rusty pipes and ways to stop the wastage of water by householders. (16)

The Municipal Board accepted Longley's suggestions and on January 12, 1915, approached the People's Party Government of Premier Edward Morris for funds to implement them, the work to be done over a three-year period. (17) Having received government approval, (18) the Board was able to complete the construction of the new main and the fixing of various leaks in 1916; other less extensive changes were completed at Windsor Lake in 1919. (19)

Having spent their first five months in office dealing with the town's services, the Municipal Commissioners, on December 1, 1914, turned their attention to the procedure for the drafting of a new municipal act. This matter, it was now agreed, would be discussed at a series of special Tuesday evening meetings. (20) Considerable progress was made at these meetings but a draft bill, or Charter as it came to be called, was not yet ready when the legislature convened in April, 1915. Nevertheless, on April 12, 1915, the Commission presented to the government a general outline of the principles it believed the Charter should embody. (21) Subsequently, the Morris Government secured legislation to extend the life of the Board until June 30, 1916, with a new Municipal Council to be elected to take office the following day. (22)

The additional time afforded the Municipal Board by the legislature in 1915 enabled the Commissioners to formulate the comprehensive Charter that Gosling had envisaged when he had first assumed office in 1914. What Gosling wanted was a strong local government having sufficient revenue and authority both to carry out improvements and to better manage its own affairs. Believing that "nine-tenths of municipal government is administrative, and one-tenth only legislative," Gosling sought a Charter combining "efficient administration" with "electoral responsibility." To free Council from the burden of administrative work, the Charter he and his colleagues designed, which was presented to the government on March 28, 1916, proposed greater responsibility for the permanent officials - the Secretary-Treasurer, Solicitor, Engineer, Sanitary Supervisor, and Medical Health Officer. "In other words," Gosling had written earlier, "the Council will make rules and regulations, and the officials will enforce them. The Council will allocate funds and the officials will superintend the expenditure. The Council will impose taxes, and the officials will collect them." (23)

Under this arrangement, the mayor and councillors would have enlarged legislative powers to govern the town and be more independent of the legislature. Council would still have to submit a financial statement each year but for the approval of the Governor-in-Council not of the legislature. Also included in the 398 sections of the proposed Charter (24) was a provision whereby females who owned property within the town and paid water and sewerage rates would be allowed to vote. Males over the age of 21 years would be similarly enfranchised if they paid Council a two dollar poll tax even if they paid no other direct municipal tax. The system of taxation itself was to be changed with a "City Tax" replacing the existing water and sewerage rates, which divided all property owners into categories of their property tenure, that is land or building owned, leased or simply occupied. This new City Tax, which had been recommended by the 1914 Citizens' Committee, would be paid by the owners of all houses and buildings in the town. It would continue to be based on the rental value of the property, which in turn was to be determined by a percentage computation on the cost of construction of the building. The new Tax would be paid by the landlord rather than the tenant, if a property was held under a building lease. The Charter provided for the transfer to Council of the revenue the colony was now receiving from St. John's residents who owned dogs, drove motor cars, and/or used telephones. The Charter also proposed that in all future ground leases the leaseholder should have the right to purchase the freehold by paying the landlord the equivalent of 20 years rent on the property.

With regard to the composition of the Council itself, the Charter proposed that the old system of a mayor and six councillors elected at large be retained, but with one important change. This was that three seats on Council become vacant every two years. To get this system started the proposal was that the seats of the councillors who stood fourth, fifth and sixth in the first election under the Charter became vacant after two years while the mayor would sit for four years; those of their better placed colleagues would then become vacant two years later. By this system, Gosling hoped to always have on Council men with some experience in municipal government. (25)

Other notable sections of the 1916 Charter proposed the establishment of a Municipal Arrears Commission and a Town Planning Commission. The former evidently would consist of the Secretary-Treasurer and two other persons and would be empowered to take legal proceedings against tax delinquents. For their efforts the Commissioners would receive a commission of a set percentage on the total amount of arrears collected. The Charter also proposed a more efficient collection of municipal taxation, which would be placed under the supervision of the Secretary-Treasurer. Under the proposed new arrangement, an incentive would be given to residents to pay their taxes on time. Those who did so would be entitled to a 10% discount on the amount paid; tax delinquents would be subject to interest on the amount owing after six months for as long as the taxes remained unpaid. The Town Planning Commission was to serve as an advisory body to the Council and to make recommendations as to the opening of new streets, the laying out of building lots, the reserving of land for firebreaks, parks, and playgrounds, and the overall expansion of St. John's. The Charter also allowed for Council to have authority to build, let, or sell houses, to make loans to Building Societies, which would erect homes for workingmen, and to establish a pension fund for its employees. (26)

Because of the great amount of detail involved in the Charter, Premier Morris decided to refer it to a Joint Select Committee of the legislature, which included the St. John's MHAs. (27) Morris also decided to convene a public meeting to give citizens an opportunity to examine the Charter before it received legislative approval. Out of this April 6, 1916 meeting, which was attended by more than 1500 people, came a Citizens' Committee of 30 members to examine the Charter and report on it to the Select Committee of the legislature. Those appointed to the Committee included representatives of the town's wholesale and retail merchant community, professions, and unions. Unlike the Citizens' Committee which Gosling had organized in late 1913, the 1916 Committee did not include any of the major Water Street merchants, who continued to work through Gosling, one of their own. (28)

At its first meeting, held on April 12, the new Citizens' Committee decided to ask the legislature to postpone action on the Charter until 1917 to give it time to study the proposed legislation thoroughly. (29) The Committee's approach was shared by the Joint Select Committee, which subsequently received permission from the legislature to sit out of session and report back on the Charter in 1917. (30) With regard to the municipal election scheduled to be held in June, 1916, the legislature accepted the Committee's recommendation that the voters' list be prepared according to the terms of the 1902 Municipal Act. The Council to be elected on this basis would hold office for two years, while the Charter was under discussion. The legislation also called for the holding of a plebiscite in September, 1916, to ask the same taxpayers eligible to vote in the June election whether they were in favour of the adoption of a ward system for the selection of councillors in future elections. (31)

In 1917 the Citizens' Committee put forward a number of suggestions. It wanted the proposal for biennial Council elections dropped and full Council elections held every four years. The Citizens' Committee also came out in favour of a paid Council; to have an unpaid Council, as the Charter suggested, would be to leave power in the hands of the wealthier members of society since they could afford to run. Committee members also believed that under a paid system residents could demand better service from Council. The Committee also opposed Gosling's suggestion that certain civic officials be appointed for life; rather all officials should be appointed at the pleasure of Council and be accountable to it and the electorate for their actions. Concerning the taxation sections of the Charter, the Citizens' Committee wanted the proposal that a building be assessed on its appraised construction cost struck and the principle of assessment according to rental value in the market place restored. Again, it objected to the proposal that the Governor-in-Council and not the legislature approve any tax increase. (32)

Gosling became a candidate for mayor in the 1916 campaign while six of his fellow Municipal Commissioners ran on one slate for Council. These were Charles P. Ayre, F.W. Bradshaw, and Francis MacNamara, all merchants; James J. McGrath, the President of the Longshoremen's Protective Union; Isaac C. Morris, a sailmaker; and J.W. Withers, the King's Printer. Gosling and his associates appealed to voters to maintain continuity in municipal government by emphasizing their resolution in having the Charter passed by the legislature. (33)

Gosling's rival for mayor was W.A. O'D. Kelly, a vice-chairman of the new Citizens' Committee and a dealer in building supplies. (34) The focus of Kelly's attack on Gosling and the Municipal Board was his criticism of the reorganization of the sanitary system and the institution of the hopper service, which he claimed was "contrary to all rules of health and civilization." Kelly did not offer any specific remedy, but attempted to link the outbreak of communicable diseases in the community to existing sanitary practice. (35) With this approach Kelly polled 1,780 votes on election day, June 29, to Gosling's 2,244. Gosling's total was the largest ever polled by a mayoralty candidate, (36) but his margin of victory was not nearly as impressive and of his fellow Commissioners only Ayre and Morris were elected. The other successful candidates for Council were James S. Tait, a medical doctor; Henry J. Brownrigg, a commission merchant; James J. Mullaly, a former municipal councillor and a more independent spirited Commissioner; and Nicholas J. Vinnicombe, a licensed hotel owner. (37)

In the plebiscite that followed on September 26 the turnout was very low, those in favour of election at large carrying the day by 464 to 283. (38) The ward system, which had existed in the 1890's had the support of Premier Morris and the Citizens' Committee; (39) but it was strongly opposed by Gosling. In response to claims that St. John's could best be served by ward councillors, who knew the needs of their neighbourhoods and were always available to answer the complaints of their constituents, (40) Gosling argued that Councillors had to put the interest of the whole town before the interests of any of its parts. This, ward councillors could not be expected to do. When he had first taken the position of Chairman, Gosling said, he had found himself "pestered with requests for small local attentions." "If I had succumbed to persuasion," he continued, "I would not have had time to think of anything else." The practice "of making personal appeals to Council for favours" was a "bad inheritance from the ward system"; "the smaller the electoral district," Gosling believed, "the more powerful becomes the temptation." By contrast, the principle embodied in the Charter was that St. John's "as a whole must be first considered against purely local or individual interests. " (41)

On July 10, 1917, the Joint Select Committee reported that because of the demands which had been made on its members by the war effort, it had not been able to devise a bill based on the Charter and the changes proposed to it by the Citizens' Committee. (42) In the circumstances, the Select Committee suggested a further postponement of consideration of the Charter, noting that three of the St. John's seats in the Assembly had become vacant. Two of these vacancies had been caused by the deaths of John Dwyer and Michael Kennedy in January, 1917; the third was the result of the appointment of the Liberal leader, James Kent, to the Supreme Court in 1916. (43) The decision of the Assembly and the Legislative Council was to extend the life of its Select Committee and to empower it once more to sit out of session. (44)

Disappointed by these developments, Mayor Gosling asked the Morris Government in July, 1917, to pass certain sections upon which the Council, the Citizens' Committee, and the Select Joint Committee were in agreement. (45) The most significant change was the imposition of the City Tax to replace the water and sewerage rates Council collected. Since this did not involve any change in the existing appraisal procedure, the government readily agreed. Under the City Tax thus legislated, the owner of any house or building, which on July 1, 1917, was occupied by a tenant on a lease agreement, would be entitled to add two-thirds of the City Tax imposed on him to the rent he charged his tenant for the remainder of the tenancy. (46) However, Gosling disliked the piecemeal approach of the government and in 1918 pressed again for the enactment of the whole Charter. (47)

He failed once more this time because of a great crisis in colonial politics. Re-elected in 1913, the Morris Government was required by law to hold a general election by the autumn of 1917. During the 1917 session, however, because of the war, an Extension Act had been passed prolonging the life of the existing Assembly by one year. The price Morris paid for this Act was the establishment of an all-party National Government to include representatives of his People's Party, the Liberal Party, and the Union Party, which had great strength among the fishermen in the northeastern area of the island and had first elected members to the House in 1913. Under this arrangement, Morris resigned the premiership in December, 1917, retiring to England where he was elevated to the House of Lords. (48) His successor was Liberal leader William Lloyd, whose National Government postponed any action on the Charter during the 1918 session, claiming that it was not yet ready to move on the matter. The new government did, however, pass legislation extending the life of the Municipal Council from June 30, 1918, to December 31, 1919. (49)

On May 9, 1919, Gosling and his colleagues on Council agreed to remain in office only if the government would pass the Charter at the 1919 session. The government accepted this condition, (50) but its attempts to pass the Charter fell victim to the turbulent politics of the 1919 session. In 1918 Lloyd had obtained a further extension in the life of the existing House but on May 20, 1919, the People's Party, which had a majority in the Assembly, carried a motion of nonconfidence in the leadership of the National Government. Lloyd was succeeded as premier by People's Party leader Michael Cashin, the MHA for Ferryland. (51) The Liberal Party led by Richard Squires subsequently won the general election which was held on November 3, 1919. Before its 1919 defeat in the House, the Lloyd Government passed legislation extending the life of the St. John's Council from December 31, 1919, to June 30, 1920, on the understanding with Council that the Charter would finally be dealt with in 1920. (52)

As might be expected, the long delay over the Charter created serious financial problems for the municipality. Gosling based his estimates each year on the taxation proposals contained in the Charter and their promise of improved municipal revenue. Each year he was disappointed. Nor did the imposition of the City Tax in 1917 greatly improve matters. If this reform had been accompanied by a change over to an appraisal based on the cost of construction of the property, it would have given Council an additional $15,000 per annum; but this was not done. Moreover, Council was unable to persuade the government to transfer the other taxeson dog owners, car owners and telephone users it considered rightfully its own. Arrears also continued to be a problem. The result of all this was that Council's deficit grew from $8,270.51 at the end of 1916 to $21,270.16 at the end of 1918. (53) Through strict economy and better revenue collection - the City Tax helped matters by replacing the burden of payment on the landlord rather than the tenant Council turned this deficit into a credit of $865.74 for 1919 but in the absence of a broadened revenue base its financial future was clearly bleak. (54) On the other hand, Council was able in this period to maintain its interest payments the the government on its funded debt and to the Royal Bank on loans taken for improvements to the water and sewerage systems. Council's total indebtedness at the end of 1920 stood at $1,817,090.91, an increase of $276,110.41 over the 1914 figure of $1,540,980.50. (55) With his disappointment over the reception of the Charter by the legislature, Gosling became more cynical and disillusioned in his comments, yet he continued the battle with unabating energy. In his Annual Report for 1919, the sixth such Report he had printed in the press to make people more aware of Council's activities, Gosling lashed out at the lack of civic spirit in the town's residents:

"The majority of citizens are supremely indifferent, and a large proportion are only interested in endeavouring to obtain some personal advantage at the City's expense to avoid paying their share of the City's expenses as long as possible or altogether, and to disregard the By-laws with impunity. When the people of the City are so little interested it cannot be expected that the Municipal Council, or Civic Officials will remain enthusiastic, or that the Government of the Colony will pay any attention to the representations of the Council as to the City's needs."

Gosling's patience with both the government and the public was clearly at an end, but he was willing to remain in office to secure some resolution from the legislature of the Charter issue. (56)

On January 30, 1920, he wrote Premier Squires asking for an immediate decision on the matter. (57) Squires' reply was not encouraging; the new Executive Council, he wrote, would have little time to study the bill before the legislature opened and the Charter would not therefore be brought forward as a government measure. (58) Gosling's reply on March 5 pointed out that the bill embodying the Charter was not originally meant to be a government measure; moreover, the members of the Executive Council could familiarize themselves with the Charter's provisions when the bill was read in the House. The task was "by no means such a stupendous one as you may think," he wrote to Squires. All that needed to be done was for the legislature "to take it up, amend it, pass it, or reject it." (59) Squires now gave way on the issue, arranging for an informal commitee consisting of Gosling, two government representatives, and the four St. John's opposition MHAs to make a report on the Charter to the Assembly. (60)

With the Charter now seemingly about to be passed at the 1920 session, Council in late June approached the government asking that the civic election scheduled for July be postponed. To hold an election in July, the Council argued, would deprive residents of the new voter qualifications in the Charter. Instead, the election should be held later in 1920 with the new Council taking over on January 1, 1921. In the meantime, the municipality should be administered by a Board of Commissioners appointed by the Governor-in-Council. The government accepted this proposal and subsequently had legislation passed for this purpose. (61) On July 5 Gosling and former Councillors Ayre, Morris, Mullaly, and Vinnicombe were appointed to the Commission. (62)

Unanimous approval of the Charter by the Assembly followed; but the Legislative Council now posed a new roadblock. The Upper House objected because the bill had gone through the Assembly in the last days of the session and without any debate. It was an insult that the Assembly expected like action from above. (63) As a result of this fracas Squires enacted legislation further extending the life of the Board of Commissioners to June 30, 1921. (64) Angered by the attitude of the Legislative Council, the Municipal Commissioners met on July 13 to decide what course of action they should take. Gosling, who had been elected Chairman, (65) suggested a mass resignation on duly 31, 1920, if the government had not persuaded the Legislative Council to cooperate. (66) Later in July the Commissioners agreed to stay in office even though the Legislative Council was still adamant. Their changed attitude was because of the strong show of public support for the stand they had taken. They now also had the assurance of Premier Squires that the Charter would be reintroduced at the beginning of the 1921 session to allow the Legislative Council sufficient time to debate it. (67)

During the session of the legislature in 1921, the Charter underwent further revision. The most notable change was the Legislative Council's removal of the section providing for biennial Council elections; in short the Upper House did not accept the argument that Council always had to have experienced members. The Upper Chamber also struck out the section of the Charter, put there no doubt, at the insistence of the Citizens' Committee, which gave the mayor and Council the right to divide St. John's into wards for election purposes. The Legislative Council conceded the right of the Municipal Council to need only the approval of the Governor-in-Council for any indebtedness incurred beyond the amount approved by the Governor-in-Council for its annual balanced budget. Previous to this change, Council needed the approval of the legislature. This change was made because Council, faced with less revenue than expected, had been often unable to keep within the bounds of its own estimates. The only alternative in these circumstances had been hasty cutbacks, a circumstance it was now hoped could be avoided by the simple procedure of having the Governor-in-Council approve further spending. The 1921 St. John's City Act retained the taxation system based on rental market value of property and empowered Council to establish a Town Planning Commission, a Municipal Arrears Commission, and a public library. Council could also use its funds to provide or to assist in providing for the medical care of the newlyborn and sick children. Finally, the Act recognized the town of St. John's as a "city", whose inhabitants formed a "body politic and corporate." This change from 'town' to 'city' reflected Gosling's desire to stimulate greater civic pride. (68)

Since the election for a new Council was not to be held until December, 1921, another act was passed appointing a new Commissionto replace the one that went out of office on June 30, 1921. The new Commission, whose term of life was to the end of 1921, did not assume office until July 26, thereby leaving St. John's without and local government for nearly a month. Gosling and Commissioner Ayre, however, declined to accept reappointment to the Commission because their business interests needed more of their time. (69) Isaac Morris replaced Gosling as Chairman (70) and then ran for mayor in the election of December 15, 1921. He was defeated 2,052 to 1,476 by the prominent St. John's merchant, Tasker Cook. Out of a field of 25, four councillors were elected who had had past experience: James T. Martin, Nicholas J. Vinnicombe, Samuel G. Collier and Charles W. Ryan. The two new members were P.E. Outerbridge, a partner in Gosling's Water Street firm and Reginald Dowden, a real estate agent. (71) With their election and the coming into effect of the revised Charter, St. John's entered a new era that extends to this day. As for Gosling, ill-health, which in part was brought on by his hard work for the Charter and the general welfare of the capital, forced his retirement to Bermuda where he died on November 5, 1930.


1. Melvin Baker, "The Establishment of Municipal Government in St. John's, Newfoundland, 1914," Urban History Review, vol. IX, no. 3 (February, 1981), 35-51.

2. Municipal Commission meeting, July 17, 1914, as reported in Daily News, July 18,1914; St.John's Municipal Council (St. J.M.C.) Minutes, July 31, August 21, October 2, 1914; and A.N. Gosling, William Gilbert Gosling: A Tribute (New York, n.d.), 69-70.

3. Gosling, William Gilbert Gosling 69-70; St. J.M.C. Minute, October 27, 1914; "Report of Municipal Board for Six Months, June 30th to December 31st, 1914," published in Daily News, February 16, 1915; and "Report of the Municipal Board for the year 1915," published in ibid., April 8, 1916.

4. "Report of Municipal Board for Six Months, June 30th to December 31st, 1914."

5. "Report of the Municipal Board for the year 1915."

6. "Report of Municipal Board for Six Months, June 30th to December 31st, 1914"; "Report of the Municipal Board for the year 1915"; and Gosling, William Gilbert Cosling, 70-1.

7. Gosling, William Gilbert Gosling, 71; Councillor J. Sinclair Tait to Daily News, September 25, 1916; and St. J.M.C. Minute, July 24, 1914, Report of the Sanitary Committee of the Sanitary Department.

8. "Report of the Municipal Board for the year 1915."

9. "Report of Municipal Board for Six Months, June 30th to December 31st, 1914"; and St.J.M.C. Letter Book J. L., Slatery to Joseph Soper and John Holly, September 28, 1914.

10. St. J. M.C. Letter Book, William Gosling to Edward Morris, January 29, 1915.

11. Daily News, January 19, 1914.

12. Ibid., January 24, 1914.

13. Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL), P8/B/ 11, Board of Trade Papers, 1914, Special File, "Report of the Executive Committee of the Citizens' Committee, February 12, 1914," 11-3; and St. J.M.C. Letter Book, William Gosling to Edward Morris, January 29, 1915.

14. St. J.M.C. Letter Book, J.L. Slattery to A. Prescott Folwell, Editor, Municipal Journal, September 7, 1914, and to the National Municipal League, September 8, 1914. The Commission also wrote the Engineering News, September 8, 1914. See St. J.M.C. Minute, September 22, 1914.

15. St. J.M.C. Minutes, September 18, 22, 1914.

16. Longley's report on the water supply was published in the Evening Telegram, November 11, 1914.

17. St. J.M.C. Minute, January 12, 1915.

18. PANL, GN 9/1, Minute of Executive Council, March 25, 1915.

19. "Report of the Municipal Board for the year 1915"; and "Report of the St. John's Municipal Council for the year ended Dec.31 st, 1919," published in Daily News, May 15, 1920.

20. St. J.M.C. Minute, December 1, 1914.

21. Gosling, William Gilbert Gosling, 64-7; and William Gosling to Colonial Secretary John Bennett, April 12, 1915, "Report of St. John's Municipal Board ," Journal of the House of Assembly, 1915, Appendix, 496-504.

22. Statutes of Newfoundland, 6 George V, Cap. 6.

23. PANL, P8/B/ 11, "Report of the Executive Committee of the Citizens' Committee, February 12, 1914," 15-6; and St. J.M.C. Minute, November 30, 1915.

24. There is apparently no copy of the Charter available.

25. The provisions of the Charter are based on the following sources: William Gosling to Colonial Secretary Bennett, April 12, 1915; "Report of the St.John's Municipal Board"; Daily News, April 7, 15, 1916; Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1916, 346-54; and PANL., GN2/22/B, Colonial Secretary's Office, "Report of Citizens' Committee on the Municipal Bill, April, 1917." See also PB/A/23, Warwick Smith Papers, "Minute Book, Citizens' Committee on Municipal Bill, 1916."

26. Ibid. The details of the Charter's provisions on the Municipal Arrears Commission and the Town Planning Commission are based on the relevant sections in the 1921 Municipal Act. See also St. J.M.C. Minutes, October 4, November 30, December 14,30, 1915, January 31, February 7, March 10, April 6, 1916.

27. Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1916, 354.

28. Daily News, April 7, 1916. See also PANL, PB/A/123, "Minute Book, Citizens' Committee on Municipal Bill, 1916," April 6, 1916.

29. PANL, PB/A/23, "Minute Book, Citizens' Committee on Municipal Bill, 1916," April 12, 1916.

30. Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1916, 506, 556-59, 580-81. See also St. J.M.C. Minute, April 28, 1916.

31. Statutes of Newfoundland, 6 George V, Cap. 3.

32. PANL, GN2/22/B "Report of Citizens' Commitee on the Municipal Bill, April, 1917," 1-9.

33. Daily News, June 23, 26, 28, 29, 1916; and Evening Telegram, June 10, 17, 19, 1916.

34. Daily News, April 13, June 20, 1916.

35. Evening Telegram, June 26, 27. 28, 1916.

36. Daily News, July 3, 1916.

37. Ibid., July 6, 1916.

38. Ibid., September 28, 1916.

39. Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1916, 57-58. The suggestion for the institution of a ward system came from the Citizens' Committee. See Daily News, April 13, 15, 1916.

40. Daily News, April 26, 1916; and "Yorick" to ibid., April 27, 1916.

41. William Gosling to ibid., April 24, 29, 1916.

42. Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1917, 441.

43. PANI., GN2/22/B, "Report of Citizens' Committee on the Municipal Bill, April, 1917," 1-9.

44. Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1917, 441.

45. St. J.M.C. Minutes, May 31, June 21, July 5, 1917; and Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1917, 450.

46. Ibid., 450-54, 477. See also Proceedings of the Newfoundland Legislative Council, 1917, 157; and Statutes of Newfoundland, 8 George V, Cap. 12.

47. St. J.M.C. Minutes, January 17, February 18, 21, 1918; and "Report of Municipal Council for the year 1917" published in Daily News, April 22, 1918.

48. For the politics of the 1918 session, see S.J.R. Noel, Politics in Newfoundland (Toronto, 1971), 123-25; and Ian McDonald, "W.F.Coaker and the Balance of Power Strategy: The Fishermen's Protective Union in Newfoundland Politics," in James Hiller and Peter Neary, eds., Newfoundland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Essays in Interpretation (Toronto, 1980), 165-67.

49. Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1918, 211 - 15; and Statutes of Newfoundland, 8-9 George V, Cap. 3.

50. St. J.M.C. Minutes, May 9, 1918, May 5, 1919; and William Gosling interview in Daily News, July 14, 1920.

51. Noel, Politics in Newfoundland, 126-29; and McDonald, "W.F. Coaker and the Balance of Power Strategy: The Fishermen's Protective Union in Newfoundland Politics," 166-67.

52. Statutes of Newfoundland, 9-10 George V, Cap. 9; and Proceedings of the Newfoundland Legislative Council, 1919, 138-40.

53. "Report of the St. John's Municipal Council for the year ended December 31st, 1916" published in Daily News, March 20, 1917; "Report of Municipal Council for the year 1917" published in ibid., April 22, 1918; and Report of the St. John's Municipal Council for the year ending December 31st, 1918" published in ibid., May 2, 1919. See also St. J.M.C. Minutes, April 26, July 5, 26, 1917.

54. "Report of the St. John's Municipal Council for the year ended Det. 31st, 1919."

55. Melvin Baker, "The Government of St. John's, Newfoundlland, 1800-1921 " (Ph.D. thesis, The University of Western Ontario, 1980), 397-98.

56. "Report of the St. John's Municipal Council for the year ended Dec.31st, 1919."

57. PANL, GN2/5, Special File of the Colonial Secretary's

Office, file 25-G, William Gosling to Prime Minister Squires, January 30, 1920.

58. PANL, GN8/2, Prime Minister Papers, folder 80, Prime Minister Squires to William Gosling, February 27, 1920.

59. Ibid., William Gosling to Squires, March 5, 1920.

60. Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1920,


61. St. J. M.C. Minute, June 24, 1920.

62. PANL, GN9/1, Minute of Executive Council, July 5, 1920.

63. Proceedings of the Newfoundland House of Assembly, 1920, 954-56.

64. Statutes of Newfoundland, 11 George V, Cap. 9; and PANL, GN2/5, file 303-C, Deputy Colonial Secretary Mews to William Gosling, August 11, 1920.

65. St.J.M.C. Minute, July 8, 1920.

66. Ibid., July 13, 1920.

67. Ibid., July 24, 1920. See also Daily News, July 14, 23, 24,

26, 1920; and PANL, GN2/5, file 303-C, J.L. Slattery to Prime Minister Squires, July 14, 1920.

68. Proceedings of the Newfoundland Legislative Council, 1921,

51-76; and Statutes of Newfoundland, 12 George V, Cap. 13.

69. St. J.M.C. Minute, June 30, 1921.

70. Ibid., July 26, 1921.

71. Daily News, December 14, 15, 17, 1921.