In 1699 the first legislation regarding NEWFOUNDLAND was passed in the British Parliament. Formally An Act to Encourage the Trade to Newfoundland, it is better known in Newfoundland as King William's Act or The Newfoundland Act. Like previous ORDERS-IN-COUNCIL, the Act was more concerned about visiting fishermen than settlers. Despite population increases during the 18th century, settlers continued to be governed by FISHING ADMIRALS (captains of West Country ships) and justices of the peace or magistrates, all under the jurisdiction of the naval convoy commodores who spent the summers supervising the fishery.
Between 1756 and 1800, European wars slowed settlement in Newfoundland and lessened the demand for some measure of self-government. The following 3 decades saw rapid growth and a vociferous demand, headed by William CARSON and Patrick MORRIS, for REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT. This was aided by the British reform movement: it was not mere coincidence that the bill giving Newfoundland representative government was introduced into the British Parliament on the day that the Reform Bill received royal assent, 7 June 1832.
Representative government, consisting of an elected assembly and an appointed council, proved to be unworkable and was modified by the August 1842 Newfoundland Act, which integrated the council with the assembly. In 1847 a new Act in effect revived the council and made it an upper house. But nothing short of RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT, as established in Nova Scotia and Canada in 1848, would satisfy the people. Following disputes between local factions and between Newfoundland and Britain, responsible government was awarded in 1855. It remained until November 1933 when, facing bankruptcy, Newfoundland asked Britain to suspend its constitution. The 1933 Newfoundland Act made this possible. In 1949 Newfoundland became a province and again enjoyed the privileges and responsibilities of democratic government.