R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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the sherijff declared Charles A. Bayley duly elected a member of the Legis-
lative Assembly. The proceedings in other districts were equally farcical,
the only difference being that instead of one voter the number ranged from
half-a-dozen to twenty. Some of the electors by virtue of owning land had
votes in every district.

At that time the undoubted leader of the Colonials, who had gathered
at Victoria, was Amor de Cosmos. He was an energetic and able worker,
and being fearless and having had some political experience in Nova Scotia,
he was admirably fitted for the position. He started the British Colonist
and bombarded the governor and his friends with liberal literature of the
fiercest kind thrice each week. In his writings Mr. De Cosmos was assisted
by a contributor who wrote over the signature of " Monitor," but whose
name was Charles Bedford Young. Mr. Young was a bitter and sarcastic
writer. Many of his articles were libellous, and, looking back now over the
many years that have elapsed since that warfare was waged, one is surprised
when he is told that Young and De Cosmos never found themselves on the




RAPIDS, KICKING HORSE RIVER.



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BRITISH COLUMBIA 113

wrong side of the lock-up. On one occasion the government did essay to
" muzzle the press " by ordering De Cosmos to discontinue the publication
of his paper until he should furnish bonds to the sum of £ 1,000. as required
at that time in Great Britain from all publishers. De Cosmos suspended
publication, the people espoused his cause, the bonds were furnished with a
rush and the publication was resumed. On another occasion, in i860, the
publisher was brought before the legislative assembly for libelling the Speaker.
He was arrested by the clerk of the assembly — a mite of a man named Cap-
tain Doggett — and an apology was" demanded. The apology was offered
and accepted and the prisoner released.

In 1859 George Hunter Cary, a barrister who had been appointed
attorney-general of the two colonies, arrived from England. Mr. Cary was
a very able man, but he was short-tempered and irascible. In his bursts
of passion he was known to denounce the (then) Chief Justice Cameron as

a " old fool," cast his wig and gown on the floor and rush from the

courthouse, remaining away until he had been coaxed to go back by his client
and resume his toggery and argument; but he was never asked to apologize.
Now it happened that Mr. De Cosmos was as short-tempered as the attorney-
general, and it was not long before these two men clashed. It was over an
election for Victoria City. De Cosmos was nominated by the opposition and
Selim Franklin by the government. De Cosmos' return seemed certain, but
on the eve of the election, acting on the advice of Cary, a large number of
American negroes, who had been driven from their homes by their white
countrymen, were placed on the roll of voters and Franklin was returned.
Petition after petition was filed, but the legislature refused to unseat Frank-
lin, and he held on to the end. The next important question that agitated
the Victoria public was the Victoria water supply, just as at the present day,
nearly half a century later, a similar agitation has been launched. At the
time of which I write, Victoria was supplied with water by carts that went
from door to door. The water was obtained from Spring Ridge, where a



114 BRITISH COLUMBIA

spring- had been utilized for many years by tlie Hudson's Bay Company and
its tenants. In this spring Cary thought he saw a chance to turn a few honest
dollars. So he purchased the lots on which the spring stood from the com-
pany and fenced in the water. The car men, the following day, were in-
formed that unless they paid a tax of a shilling a barrel no more water would
be supplied them. Popular indignation was at once aroused. The papers
denounced the sale of the people's water supply as an unpardonable sin. Pub-
lic meetings were called. At these Cary was hooted from the platform and
the populace passed strong resolutions. In the midst of the excitement a
New Brunswicker cut down the fence and the car men filled their barrels un-
molested. The attorney general received back his money, and the sale was
cancelled, but from the day when he secured the right to the spring Cary's
popularity and influence declined. He was the constant object of attack
and the mere mention of his name called forth the most vituperative expres-
sions. He built the late Cary Castle, lost all his money and returned to
England in 1867, where he died in a madhouse. The agitation for constitu-
tional government continued unabated. In 1863 the franchise was extended
and Mr. De Cosmos was returned with several supporters; but what could
six popular members effect in a legislature of fifteen?

In March, i860. Governor Douglas, attired in vice-regal uniform and
accompanied by a brilliant staff of naval and military officers, convened the
second Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island in the public buildings at
James Bay. There had been a Legislative Assembly in 1856, which was pre-
sided over by Hon. Dr. Helmcken, and the members were nearly all Hudson's
Bay Company's employes. There was very little ceremony observed and as
there were no newspapers at the time the doings of the body were never made
public. At the opening in i860 Dr. Helmcken was elected Speaker, and the
speech was read by the clerk, the Governor, his staff, the Speaker, and the
audience standing during the ceremony. The speech promised a great many
things that were never carried out and which were probably only inserted to



BRITISH COLUMBIA 115

quiet the public mind, which by this time had become very pronounced and
often threatening* in favor of responsible government. This House only
lived through two sessions, but during its existence a strange thing happened.
One of the popular members who sat for Esquimalt was George Tomline
Gordon. In 1861 he was made colonial treasurer, and the government con-
ceived the brilliant idea of causing him to resign and stand for re-election,
although there was no constitutional provision that required him to take that
step. In fact, there was no constitution. De Cosmos was put up to oppose
Gordon, The vote, five minutes before the poll closed, stood ten and ten.
De Cosmos' real name was William Alexander Smith, but in California, by
an act of the legislature, he was permitted to assume the name of Amor de
Cosmos. On the occasion of the Esquimalt election he stood as William
Alexander Smith, commonly known as Amor de Cosmos, and his friends so
voted for him. The last man made a grievous error. He forgot the long
formula and voted for " Amor de Cosmos," and his vote was so recorded.
The polls being closed, the sheriff announced a tie between Gordon and Smith,
and one vote for Amor de Cosmos. He then voted for Gordon, whom he
declared elected. Above the Legislative Assembly there sat the governor
with his executive council, who promptly stifled every measure of a popular
nature which the government nominees in the lower house might permit to
pass. The sittings of the assembly were open and reporters took and pub-
lished notes of the proceedings. So a government member, who did not
wish to incur public opprobrium by opposing a popular measure in the open,
voted for it. The measure then went before the executive council and was
quietly strangled there, no reporters being present.

Independent Colonial Government.

About this time the Hudson's Bay Company surrendered the unsold public
lands which they held under a patent from the Crown and the Imperial Gov-
ernment. Lord Lytton, being Colonial Secretary, proclaimed the colonies of



116 BRITISH COLUMBIA

Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Governor Douglas was made Gov-
ernor of both and New Westminster was declared the capital of British
Columbia, Colonel Moody, an officer of the Royal Engineers, was made
Lieutenant Governor, with a residence at New Westminster, and the staff of
the Mainland Government, which had resided all these years at Victoria, re-
moved to New Westminster, and took up their quarters at Sapperton, a short
distance from the new capital, where a handsome Government House was
afterwards built. It must be rernembered that while Vancouver Island had
" enjoyed " the shadow of a representative form of government the Main-
land had not even had the shadow. It was governed directly from Victoria,
where the officials resided, until Lord Lytton's accession to the Colonial
Office. John Robson, a writer of great force and an able orator, had mean-
while established the Columbian newspaper and fired a weekly broadside at
the one-man government.

In 1864 the Home Government awoke to a sense of the anomalous con-
uition of public affairs in the Pacific colonies, and appointed Colonel Ken-
nedy Governor of Vancouver Island, and Mr. Frederick Seymour Governor
of British Columbia, with separate civil lists. The new governors arrived
early in 1864 and both caused elections to be held in their respective colonies.
The official element predominated in the legislatures and the sessions were
marked by acrimonious debates and the passage of many undesirable meas-
ures. The civil list salaries were enormous. Governor Kennedy was voted
$15,000.00 per annum, and Cary Castle, destroyed by fire in 1898, was pro-
vided for him as a gubernatorial residence. Governor Seymour was voted
$20,000.00 per annum and a $50,000.00 residence was built for him. A feel-
ing of intense rivalry sprang up between the two provinces. This was em-
phasized in 1866 by the passage of a series of resolutions through the Island,
legislature asking the Imperial Government to unite the two colonies under
one governor with one civil list. Victoria, from its early settlement about
30 years before, had been a free port, no duties being levied upon imported



BRITISH COLUMBIA 117

gxx»ds. The revenue for the support of the Government was derived from
direct taxation, which caused the burden to fall heavily upon property-owners
and business men. Mr. De Cosmos succeeded in passing a resolution calling
upon the government to impose a scale of customs duties, which the govern-
ment, being pinched for means, promptly did. The Imperial Government
approved of the scheme for uniting the colonies. They abolished the colony
of Vancouver Island and organized the Pacific possessions into one colony
under the name of British Columbia, with New Westminster as the capital.
The Islanders were furious at the loss of their political identity and the seat
of government, and a movement was begun in favor of Victoria being made
the capital of the united colonies. Governor Seymour vigorously opposed the
proposition to remove the capital to Victoria. He did not like the Islanders
and the Islanders did not like him. But they wanted the capital even if Mr,
Seymour should come with it. In 1877 the Imperial Government proclaimed
Victoria as the capital, and New Westminster submitted with very bad grace
to the inevitable. The costly and pretty Government House, heartbroken by
the change that had come over its fortunes, rapidly fell into a state of decay
and delapidation, and the place where it once stood is now scarcely recog-
nizable.

The Confederation Movement.

The erection of the Maritime Provinces and the Canadas into a Confed-
eration took place on July i, 1867. British Columbians were not slow in
organizing a party that favored the admission of the colony into the confed-
eration, if by so doing they could secure responsible government. Mr. De
Cosmos went to Ottawa in 1867 and Mr. Higgins went there in 1868 to
urge upon the Federal Government the importance of admitting British Co-
lumbia into the union, and so put an end to a feeling that existed at Victoria
in favor of annexing the colonies to the United States, and which was becom-
ing uncontrollable.

In 1869 Governor Seymour summoned a Legislative Council, a majority



118 BRITISH COLUMBIA

of which were officials. Mr. De Cosmos, during the first session of the
council, had for his lieutenant Thomas Basil Humphreys, a bold, aggressive
man, with a voice like a clarion and a flow of language that seemed never
ending. Mr. J. W. Trutch (after Sir Joseph), chief commissioner of lands
and works at the time, was leader of the Legislative Council, and an attempt
made by the popular members to pass resolutions favoring confederation was
voted down by the official members. The people were enraged and a public
meeting was convened at the theatre, which was densely crowded. At that
meeting " Tom " Humphreys delivered a violent speech, in which he attacked
" Joe " Trutch as a traitor, a boodler, a self-seeker and an all-round, unde-
sirable citizen. The Government members were incensed at Humphreys'
language and his attack on Mr. Trutch. When, upon the following day,
Humphreys appeared at the House, he was confronted with the scandalous
remarks as reported in the press, and asked if the report was correct. He
replied: " It is certainly correct." A resolution was then moved calling upon
him to apologize to Mr. Trutch and the Council for his words. He refused
to apologize to Mr. Trutch, and delivered a bitter speech, in which he declined
to retract one word. An amendment was then offered to the resolution that
provided for his expulsion, and he was expelled by an almost unanimous
vote. He left the Council chamber and was received by an immense throng
on Government street and loudly cheered, and at night he was serenaded,
when he made a characteristic speech in which he repeated word for word
his attack upon the chief commissioner. On the next night a mass meeting
was held at the theatre, where he again attacked Mr. Trutch and hurled de-
fiance at his " persecutors." Resolutions condemnatory of the action of the
Council were carried unanimously and Humphreys was presented with a valu-
able gold watch, duly inscribed, together with the freedom of the city, and
a chain as a mark of public approval. A writ was issued to fill the vacancy
caused by Mr. Humphreys' expulsion. He was triumphantly re-elected for



BRITISH COLUMBIA 111>

Lillooet, and took his seat at the Council board, where he remained unmo-
lested, but did not again attack the chief commissioner.

But if in 1870 the official members of the Legislative Council were op-
posed to confederation and passed resolutions declaring that the time had not
arrived for entering the union, a rapid change of front took place during
the recess. In the summer of 1870 Governor Seymour, who had been known
to be strongly opposed to confederation, was taken seriously ill. He was
never a strong man, and his constitution had been undermined by the climate
of Honduras, where he filled the position of Governor before being sent to
the Pacific colony. He was advised to take a sea voyage and embarked in
Her Majesty's ship Sparrowhawk for a cruise along the Northwest coast.
He failed rapidly and at Bella Coola he passed away. The body was brought
back to Esquimalt and buried in the naval cemetery, where it reposes beneath
a handsome monument erected by his widow.

Sir Anthony Musgrave, Governor of Newfoundland, was appointed to
succeed the late Governor. He arrived here in the fall of 1870, and it was
understood that he had received instructions to favor a policy that would
insure the admission of British Columbia into the Canadian Confederation
upon just and equitable terms. The Legislative Council was dissolved and
elections were held throughout the colony. The popular members were all
or nearly all in favor of joining the confederation. When the Council met
Mr. Trutch introduced a series of resolutions asking for the admission of
British Columbia into the Canadian Confederation. The terms were dis-
cussed with more or less heat. Some of the speeches were eloquent. The
popular members taunted the official members with having received assur-
ances that they would be pensioned or billeted on some other unfortunate
colony for the balance of their lives.

Mr. De Cosmos introduced a resolution which demanded as one of the
terms that responsible government should be guaranteed the new province.
The resolution was voted down by the officials, aided by two or three popular



120 BRITISH COLUMBIA

members. It was held that the system of government should not form part
of the terms, but must be left for the action of the electorate after the con-
federation. The elected members contended that if this opportunity for a
change of the system was lost, years might elapse before another opportunity
would present itself for securing a popular form of government. The Gov-
ernment carried their point, and the responsible government resolution was

negatived.

Arranging the Terms.

The greatest stumbling block to the immediate passage of the union
resolutions lay in the question of overland communication. Scarcely anyone
believed that Canada, then in her swaddling clothes, having been born, na-
tionally, only three years before, would guarantee a railway. The most en-
thusiastic advocates of the confederation of this colony with the young nation
at the east scarcely dared hope for railway construction within a generation,
and a demand for a wagon road with steamboat connection on the water
stretches of the Middle West known as the Great Lakes, was all that most
men expected. The newspapers, as in duty bound, maintained a constant
fire on the Legislative Council, declaring that nothing short of a railway
would lure British Columbia into the Confederation. But the Councillors,
after several days of labor, delivered themselves of a clause that adopted
the wagon road suggested and with that modest demand the section went
through.

Another important matter that evoked much discussion was the question
of tariff. At the union of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Co-
lumbia the free pQrt of Victoria was abolished and for it was substituted the
tariff in force on the Mainland previous to the union. This tariff averaged
about I2J/2 per cent, there being a long list of goods that were admitted duty
free. Canadian goods were treated as foreign goods and were taxed accord-
ingly. The British Columbia tariff was not intended to afford protection.
It was for revenue only. The customs duty in force in Canada at that time



BRITISH COLUMBIA 121

averaged scarcely 15 per cent, a rate which the early legislator deemed ample
for all purposes. Now, notwithstanding the abolition of the free port, three
years before, there remained a good many people who believed that with that
abolition the sun had begun to set on Victoria's commercial interests. They
argued that the policy of the Crown Colony Government had been to make
Victoria the storehouse of the Pacific, where goods of every description might
be accumulated in vast quantities, and from which the stocks of merchants
along the whole coast might be repleted as occasion required. Impressed
with this idea, several importing firms had erected fireproof warehouses on
the water front, and the wharves that still stand in the inner harbor were
placed there for the accommodation of heavy stocks of merchandise of various
descriptions. The owners of these warehouses and wharves and the heavy
importers were most energetic in their endeavors to have the free port re-
stored. Failing in that, they pressed for a clause that would permit British
Columbia to retain her 12^/4 per cent tariff until after the completion of an
overland railway. This last proposition was finally agreed to, subject to
any action which the Legislative Assembly of the new province, to be cre-
ated by proclamation after the final adoption of the terms, might take. It
is almost needless to say that at its first session the Legislative Assembly
passed resolutions in favor of the adoption of the Canadian tariff, and we
have since lived and prospered under it in spite of the fact that the scale of
duties in force in 1871 has been more than doubled in pursuance of the pro-
tection policy of Sir John Macdonald, which policy has been emphasized and
confirmed by their successors.

Another matter which occupied the earnest attention of the Legislative
Council was the financial basis on which the colony should enter the Confed-
eracy. It was finally agreed that an annual subsidy of $35,000 and an annual
grant equal to 80 cents per head of a population of 60,000, to be augmented
in proportion to the increase of population at each subsequent decennial census
until the population reached 400,000, at which rate such' grant should there-



122 BRITISH COLUMBIA

after remain, should be paid the province. It was further stipulated that
the Dominion Government should assume the colony's debt (about
$2,000,000), guarantee the interest for ten years from the date of the com-
pletion of the works at the rate of 5 per cent per annum on such sum not ex-
ceeding £100,000 sterling as might be required for the construction of a
first-class graving dock at Esquimalt. The Dominion was further required
to provide for the salaries of the Lieutenant-Governor, judges, customs offi-
cers, postal and telegraph employes, fisheries and militia, and to maintain
lighthouses, buoys and beacons, quarantine hospitals, geological surveys and
the penitentiary. The Dominion was also asked to provide for pensions for
the retiring Crown Colony officers, and British Columbia was declared to be
entitled to six commoners and three senators in the Parliament at Ottawa.

The terms having been finally passed by the Legislative Council and ap-
proved by Governor Musgrave in council, it now became necessary to appoint
three delegates to bear the precious document to Ottawa and present it in
person to the Governor-General in council. Hon. Mr. Trutch, Hon. Dr.
Carrall and Hon. Dr. Helmcken were selected as the delegates. Dr. Helmc-
ken declined and the Hon. John Robson was suggested in his stead. Indeed,
his appointment was on the eve of being gazetted, when Mr. Robson's enemies
urged Dr. Helmcken to go. The opposition to Mr. Robson was based on
the facts that he was an advocate of responsible government and that he and
Mr. Trutch were not on good terms. The doctor finally relented and the
delegation as originally planned left for the east.

At that time little was known of the vast Pacific empire, with its bound-
less resources of forest, mineral and fossil wealth, its inexhaustible fisheries
and its genial and health-giving climate. Although possessed of every re-
source which, upon development, would prove to the world that British Co-
lumbia, with its 380,000 square miles of territory, was the richest and most
favored section of British North America, the country was but sparsely set-
tled. The delegates, upon their arrival at Ottawa, were regarded almost as



BRITISH COLUMBIA 123

visitors from one of the heavenly planets, who, having ventured too near the
edge of their world, had missed their footing and, falling into space, had
landed at the federal capital. The delegates had the most cordial reception.
Sir John Macdonald was the Prime Minister and Lord Lisgar was the Vice-
roy. But Sir John was very ill and when the delegates arrived it was feared
that his end was in sight. Sir George Cartier was acting premier. He sub-
mitted the terms to the Executive Council, and while they were being con-
sidered the delegates were wined and dined by nearly every one of note.
Lord Lisgar remarked that he was much impressed with the ability of the
delegates in pressing their claims and their earnestness of purpose. The
matters embraced in the document were of so momentous a character that
several weeks elapsed before a final decision was reached. The Dominion
Government, a year or so before, had purchased from the Hudson's Bay Com-
pany its rights in the Northwest Territory, and were firmly committed to a
policy of expansion by the construction of a railway to and through that
country of wonderful agricultural possibilities. The terms, as I have said,
when they left Victoria, asked only for a wagon-road, and the acting Premier,
when he informed the House that the ministry had decided to alter the terms
as submitted by British Columbia, and had guaranteed to construct an un-
broken line of railway to the tidewaters of British Columbia in ten years,
startled the Commoners and the whole country. The Liberals, led by Alexan-
der Mackenzie and Hon. Edward Blake, bitterly opposed the railway as being
beyond the financial capabilities of the country to build within the specified
time. It was during the debate on the terms that Mr. Blake characterized



Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 11 of 79)