WOODS, JOSEPH, newspaper editor and proprietor, printer, and politician; b. at St John’s, Nfld., in 1813, son of Joseph and Mary Woods; d. at St John’s in March 1871.
Of Joseph Woods’ early life we know only that he was born into an Anglican family and that his parents were converted to Methodism while he was still a child. In 1843, in St John’s, Joseph Woods and William James Ward became proprietors of the Morning Post. The partnership was dissolved on 14 May 1846; Ward became sole proprietor of the Morning Post and Woods purchased the Morning Courier (Courier after 1855) from Ebenezer Winton. In addition to editing the Courier, Woods was compiler, printer, and publisher of the Newfoundland Almanac.
The Morning Courier, a semi-weekly established in 1844 by William Beck, carried local and foreign news but became much more political in tone with Woods as editor. As early as 1847 he declared himself in favour of the principles of responsible government. In supporting this Liberal demand Woods was an exception among Wesleyans, most of whom supported the Conservatives. He admitted that his primary goal was to gain a share of government patronage for the Wesleyans, who “generally are poor,” from the Episcopalians, who “generally are rich.” The Liberal press, including the Morning Courier, suggested to the Wesleyans that their interests would be promoted by joining the Roman Catholics in the struggle for responsible government. In the crucial 1855 general election, just before the introduction of responsible government, Woods was defeated as a Liberal candidate in the district of Burin. However, as the Liberals won a majority in the House of Assembly, the Courier duly received a share of much-needed printing jobs and Woods continued to give his paper a Liberal bias. Accordingly in 1861 it opposed the dismissal of John Kent’s government, violently criticized the Conservative and Protestant government of Hugh William Hoyles*, but supported the coalition of Frederic Bowker Terrington Carter* and Ambrose Shea* which followed. When confederation became the issue, Woods advocated union with “increasing warmth” until July 1869 when he suddenly switched allegiance to the anti-confederate party led by Charles Fox Bennett*. This change created the suspicion that the Courier was being subsidized by Bennett. Woods said he was convinced that confederation had brought no real benefits to the mainland provinces and that Newfoundland would not suffer by remaining outside the union.
A prominent Wesleyan, Joseph Woods was a member of the Wesleyan Methodist School Society and the St John’s Day School Committee. He was married and had two daughters. After his death the Courier and the Newfoundland Almanac continued to be published by his brother John on behalf of Joseph’s widow and children.
Newfoundland, Department of Provincial Affairs, “List of affidavits of proprietorship of newspapers,” 1836–1900. Courier (St John’s), 1847–72. Morning Chronicle (St John’s), 4 March 1871. Telegraph (St John’s), 8 March 1871. The Newfoundland almanac, for . . . 1858 . . . , comp. Joseph Woods (St John’s, 1857). The Newfoundland almanac for . . . 1877 . . . (St John’s, 1876). E. C. Moulton, “The political history of Newfoundland, 1861–1869,” unpublished ma thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1960. E. A. Wells, “The struggle for responsible government in Newfoundland, 1846–1855,” unpublished ma thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1966.