Whiteway, Sir William Vallance

Sir William Vallance Whiteway, lawyer, politician, premier of Newfoundland 1878-85, 1889-94, 1895-97 (b near Totnes, Eng 1 Apr 1828; d at St John's 24 June 1908). Whiteway came to Newfoundland in 1843 and began a legal career in 1852. He entered politics in 1859 and achieved prominence as a leading confederate in the late 1860s. Defeated in the anticonfederate landslide of 1869, he later returned to the Assembly, becoming solicitor general in 1874 and premier in 1878.

Ambitious and energetic, Whiteway worked to develop the Newfoundland economy. His instrument was a trans-island railway, begun in 1881. The policy was controversial, and Whiteway found himself maneuvered out of office in 1885 by a mercantile party that favoured more attention for the troubled fishing industry. He was triumphantly re-elected in 1889 as leader of the Liberal Party, and again in 1893 on a platform stressing railway building and economic progress. However, the filing of petitions alleging corrupt electoral practices against Whiteway and 16 other Liberals precipitated a major political crisis and his government's resignation in Apr 1894. He regained the premiership in 1895 but was defeated in the 1897 election. Soon after, he was replaced as Liberal leader by Robert BOND.

Whiteway's principal legacy is the Newfoundland railway, though his assertion of colonial rights on the FRENCH SHORE is historically important. He was among the first Newfoundland politicians to cast the political process in class terms.