Presentation of Bow Wow Parliament Cartoon

On April 5, 2006, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Edward Roberts, presented the Speaker of the House, the Honourable Harvey Hodder, with a copy of the Bow Wow Parliament Cartoon. The Hansard text of the presentation appears below.

Erick Walsh©

April 5, 2006 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY PROCEEDINGS Vol. XLV No. 8

[Excerpt]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Mr. Speaker, His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has arrived.

MR. SPEAKER: Admit His Honour the Lieutenant Governor.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: All rise.

Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair.

His Honour the Lieutenant Governor takes the Chair.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor that all present please be seated.

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR (Edward Roberts, ONL, QC):

Mr. Speaker and Members of the House, this is one of the few occasions when the Lieutenant Governor will be here in his or, I suspect soon, her own right, and it is a pleasure to be here. My speech will not be as eloquent or as long as the one I read two weeks ago, but I am, I hope, in far better voice.

I apologize if I have interrupted Private Members' Day, although I have done it many times in the past, in different circumstances, from both sides of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: We are doing government business today anyway.

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: You are doing government business today. I suspect the Easter recess is upon us, unless things have changed.

I am here because I am going to ask the House to accept a gift from me, a gift which I think is redolent of the history of this place.

This House, not this particular Chamber but this House of Assembly, as I am sure you all know, goes back to the first day of January, 1833. There were no New Year's Day holidays in those days; the House met on the first of January. It met in a tavern. It did not have a proper place of its own, and I don't know whether the tavern was in business or not but you can be sure, I say to the Minister of Finance, that the Treasury was getting a slice of what was on the go, just like now.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: I do not know whether there is any truth in the story that the House met and neglected to pay its rent and that the Mace was distrained. I have never wanted to find the truth of it because it is too good of a story to disprove, should that be the case.

Perhaps I can tell you the members who were in that House. The first Speaker, as you know, was John Bingley Garland, who hangs just here. They represented nine districts, and I take some personal pleasure in that the names of each of those nine districts are carried on, in the names of one or more of the constituencies into which this House was divided in the most recent Redistribution Act, which I believe, if memory serves me, was about 1995. Certainly, the1996 election was the first one under the boundaries. I assume you will be changing them in due course, but that is for you to do.

Anyway, the House was born in controversy, and the House was born as a result of astute parliamentary tactics, and that is the point I want to make today.

To cast your mind back:1832 was the era of a great Reform Bill in the United Kingdom, in England, when the rotten boroughs were abolished and the new urban areas, the cities, the Northern cities, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, were given adequate, or something close to adequate, parliamentary representation. That was a titanic parliamentary struggle going on over two or three years.

At one point, one of the great unknown heros of our history, a man named Sir George Robinson who was the MP for Worcestershire - next time you have your Worcestershire sauce think of Sir George who was the MP for Worcestershire 174 years ago - took advantage of a situation when the government needed unanimous consent in respect of a supply bill. There had been petitions from Newfoundland for several years asking for a form of elected government. There was none. There were no elections of any sort being held in Newfoundland whatsoever.

Anyway, Sir George Robinson who had business interests here took advantage of the fact the government needed unanimous consent and he extracted a commitment from the Administration. It was led by Earl Grey. Earl Grey was a member of the House of Lords, as well as a man who liked a cup of tea. The spokesman in the House of Commons, a man named Lord Howick, made a commitment that Newfoundland would be given an elected Assembly. It was extracted from him - and you can go back and you read the Hansard - in the House of Commons, and then Sir George gave his consent and the supply measures went ahead. In due course, the Governor's instructions - Sir Thomas Cochrane was the Governor - were amended, and Cochrane was instructed to come out here and issue a proclamation calling for an election which was held in the fall of 1832, and the House, as I said, met on January 1, 1833.

The events called for satirical comment. I spent many years in this House and I hope I learned that we should not take ourselves too seriously, we should take our jobs seriously, take our responsibilities seriously, but don't take ourselves too seriously. These events called for satirical comment and it came in the form of this cartoon. This is called the Bow Wow Parliament cartoon. I do not know how many of you have had a look at it, but if you haven't, have a look at it. The next time you think that we are close to immortal remember the Bow Wow Parliament.

It was published in March 1832. The Chair is being occupied by the Speaker. It was passed after the commitment was extracted by Sir George, but long before the instructions were given to Cochrane, and the Speaker is bewigged and ‘begowned', being in a British parliamentary context, and he is putting the question. He is surrounded by members. All of them are Newfoundland dogs. The question is: All those in favour say, bow. All those against say, wow. And the bows have it. Of course, it has been known as the Bow Wow Parliament.

This is an original copy, but do not think it is all that valuable. It was printed as a broadsheet and there are still some around at Government House. I am proud to say we now have the copy which I think - it was the gift of Allan Perry - was owned by Garland himself, by John Bingley Garland when he was Speaker. It is hanging in my study at Government House.

In any event, Mr. Speaker, that is all I want to say. It is a reminder of our history, it is a part of our history. I think it is uniquely connected to this Parliament. Whether or not this is a Bow Wow Parliament I will leave it to members to settle. That is not my role. I act on advice. But the Bow Wow Parliament cartoon is very much a part of our parliamentary history here in Newfoundland and now in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I ask the House to accept it as an earnest of my deep respect for this place. Eight elections, ladies and gentleman, and twenty-three years taught me to respect this House and I do so, and to hold it in affection and I do so, both the House and the people for whom you speak.

There you are, Mr. Speaker. I hope you will find a place for it. I hope you will be able to take some pleasure from it and I hope you will remember how this House came to be 173 years ago.

Thank you very much.

[Applause]

MR. SPEAKER: Your Honour, on behalf of the Members of the Assembly and on behalf of the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, it is my pleasure to accept this gift from you as a long serving public servant of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and to assure you that we will have this picture hung just outside the Chamber here. It will be there for all people to see and it will be hung there before tomorrow's sitting.

With that I invite you to come here. With leave of the House we have a photographer here who would like to take a picture of you and I, on behalf of all the people, you presenting and I accepting.

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR: Is this a matter of unanimous consent, Mr. Speaker?

Where is Sir George now that you need him?

MR. SPEAKER: We can say all those in favour of giving consent, say Bow.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Bow.

MR. SPEAKER: And those against, say Wow.

We have no Wows.

HIS HONOUR THE LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR: I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I have learned to tilt it forward, because otherwise the flash will just reflect on it. One more, please.

That is what you learn when you are the Lieutenant-Governor, I can tell you.

Thank you, Harvey.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: All rise.

[His Honour, the Lieutenant-Governor, leaves the Chamber. Mr. Speaker returns to the Chair.]