R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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British Columbia as a " sea of mountains," and declared over and over again
that a railway built through that " sea " would never pay operating expenses.
The excitement caused by the introduction of the railway clause was intense
throughout Canada. Public meetings were held at all large centres and
denunciatory resolutions passed. But in spite of the most strenuous opposi-
tion from all quarters, Sir George Cartier stood firm, and after weeks of de-


bate the resolutions were finally passed. When > they were about to be read
for a third time, it is recorded that Sir George Cartier rallied his supporters
by the shout, "All aboard for the West ! " The summons acted like a bugle
call on the nerves of his followers and the resolutions went through with a

The terms were amended in another important particular. When the
delegates left Victoria for Ottawa they were accompanied by a quiet but ob-
servant gentleman who was instructed to inform the Government that unless
the clause which withheld responsible government was eliminated from the
terms, British Columbia would not consent to enter the Confederation. He
was instructed to tell them that if the agreement should be placed before the
people without a guarantee of this nature, it would be rejected. The gentle-
man performed his duties effectually. He enjoyed a personal acquaintance
with two or three of the Maritime Province Ministers, and so impressed them
and their colleagues that they consented to alter the terms in that respect and
give the people full political power.

After Confederation and the Railway.

The ratification of the terms in their amended form by the Legislative
Council was an easy task, and on the 21st day of July, 1871, British Columbia
entered the Confederation. Mr. Trutch, who had been in the meanwhile
knighted, and who was now Sir Joseph, was appointed Lieutenant-Governor,
and he shortly called upon the Hon. Mr. McCreight, a leading barrister, to
form a Ministry. Mr. McCreight, who had not distinguished himself in
politics and who was not a supporter of responsible government, accepted the
task and assumed the portfolio of Attorney-General. He called to his assist-
ance Mr. A. Rocke Robertson, as Provincial Secretary, Hon. Geo. A. Walkem
as Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, and Hon. Henry Holbrook as
President of the Council. It is worthy of remark that Messrs. McCreight,
Robertson and Walkem were afterwards made justices of the Supreme Court.


Proclamations were issued defining the districts and calling upon the
electors to register as voters. The suffrage was universal and voting was
to be open. Proclamations for the elections followed and for the first time
in its history British Columbia enjoyed the blessings of a government that
was responsible to the people instead of to the Crown. The elections resulted
in the return of a " mixed " house of 25 members. All the ministers were
returned; but there being no party lines or any well defined political issues,
and no acknowledged leaders, the first was a sort of happy-go-lucky session,
in which the fledgling statesmen merely tried their wings, and got ready to soar
at the next session. The Government was bitterly attacked by Mr. De Cosmos
and Mr. Thomas Humphreys. Mr. Robson was also a member of the new
house, but he was not in accord with De Cosmos and Humphreys, although
he, too, was classed with the opposition. The session of 1872 closed with
Mr. McCreight and Mr. Robertson thoroughly disgusted with politics and
politicians. One of the most important measures passed provided for the
adoption of the Canadian tariff. Another measure adopted the ballot and a
third denied the franchise to Chinamen and Indians.

At the opening of the next session, in the fall of 1872, the Government
met a hostile house. Several members who had supported the Ministry
throughout the previous session appeared in opposition, and the Ministers had
not won over a single opponent during the recess. After a few days' sharp
struggle the Premier informed the House that he could no longer consent
to occupy his seat on sufferance, and that he had placed his resignation in the
hands of the Lieutenant-Governor. Sir Joseph was deeply pained at the ig-
nominious failure of the Ministry in whom he had placed his entire confi-
dence and the personnel of which he highly approved. He accepted the situ-
ation with ill-concealed chagrin, and called on Mr. De Cosmos to form a
government. That gentleman took in Mr. Walkem as Attorney-General,
Mr. Robert Beaven as Chief Commissioner, Dr. Ash as Provincial Secretary,
and Mr. W. J. Armstrong as Minister of Finance.


To the surprise of all and the indignation of not a few, Mr. Humphreys,
who had stood loyally by Mr. De Cosmos for several years and fought his
battles and those of the opposition in and out of season, was omitted from
the list of Ministers. Mr. Robson, who had fought in the opposition ranks,
also found his claims ignored. Both gentlemen went into opposition with
Mr. Smithe and two or three others, but the new Ministry developed great
strength, and in a house of 25 their opponents numbered only 7.

While the House was in session at Victoria, events which were destined
to have an important bearing on the Pacific Province, and, indeed, on the
whole Dominion, were transpiring at Ottawa. The Macdonald Ministry, in
consequence of developments that history has recorded as the Pacific scandal,
resigned, and Lord Dufferin, who had succeeded Lord Lisgar in 1872, called
upon Hon. Alexander Mackenzie, leader of the Liberals, to form a govern-
ment. The new Premier experienced no difficulty in completing his cabinet,
and as soon as arrangements could be perfected he asked his Excellency for
a dissolution. The request was almost unprecedented, the House being only
in its second session, but Mr. Mackenzie declared that the House was
"tainted" and, a dissolution was granted on the 2nd January, 1874. The
Liberals swept the country, returning with an enormous majority.

Among the first of the acts of the new Government at Ottawa was an
endeavor to obtain a relaxation of the terms of union with British Columbia,
so far as they related to the time-limit for the commencement and completion
of the railway. The Macdonald Government had agreed to begin railway
construction within two years after the entrance of British Columbia into
Confederation. Three years had elapsed and not a tap had been struck, be-
yond exploratory surveys throughout the Province. Mr. Mackenzie pro-
posed to substitute for an all-rail construction the water stretches that lie be-
tween the Northwest and Eastern Canada. Now, it so happened that Mr.
De Cosmos, the new Premier of British Columbia, was a member of the
House of Commons, as well as a member of the Provincial Legislature. It


was borne in mind that when the terms were before the Legislative Council
he had only argued for overland communication by wagon road. He was
suspected of an ambition to enter the Mackenzie cabinet ; and there were not
wanting some who were ready to accuse him of an intention to so alter the
terms as to adopt, instead of an all-rail connection, the water-stretch policy
of Mackenzie. Before the session at Victoria was well begun Mr. De Cos-
mos left his post in the local House and sailed for Ottawa to take up his
duties there, leaving his provincial seat vacant. He had always been in
favor of the retention of the British Columbia tariff, and when he left for
Ottawa a resolution for the adoption of the Canadian tariff was pending at
Victoria. The advocates of a low tariff' were in an angry mood at what
they termed their betrayal. The Premier's opponents made the most of their
opportunity and the Canadian tariff passed the House. Mr. De Cosmos was
denounced on all sides for being absent when he should have been present at
the critical moment of tariff changes. An agitation for the abolishment of
dual representation, aimed directly at Mr. De Cosmos, was started, and a bill
was passed to that effect, so that at the following election Mr. De Cosmos,
who preferred retaining his Ottawa seat, was not eligible to hold a seat in
the local House, and dropped out of local politics forever.

The proposition of the Canadian Government to relax the all-rail clause
and substitute a system of connection by water stretches created alarm
throughout the Pacific Province. Public meetings were everywhere held,
bitter speeches were made, and resolutions denouncing the new policy were
almost unanimously passed. At a meeting convened in the Philharmonic
hall at Victoria on the 28th of January, 1874, it was announced that the
Legislature was at that moment holding an evening session for the purpose
of rushing through an alteration of the railway term in response to the de-
mand of the Mackenzie Government. Resolutions of an almost revolutionary
character were carried without a dissenting voice. It was resolved to present
the resolutions then and there. A crowd of at least two thousand persons


rushed across James Bay bridge, which trembled beneath the tread of so many
feet, and swarmed into the Legislative hall, which they rapidly filled, leaping
over the bar and occupying the space devoted to honorable members, packing
the galleries, and hooting, yelling and cursing as they entered. Dr. Trimble,
who was Speaker, called for order. The noise was deafening and the
Speaker's voice could not be heard three feet from the throne. He was
hooted and fists were shaken at him. Then he left the chair, thus suspend-
ing the sitting. The members of the Ministry hurried from the hall, the
lights were put out and the crowd retired; but not until the resolutions had
been placed in the Speaker's hands. The motion to present the resolutions
at the bar was injudicious, unparliamentary and dangerous. Bloodshed
might have resulted. As it was, pistols were drawn and clubs flourished, but
no one was injured. For a few days it was thought that the capital would
be removed to some town on the Mainland, where the legislators might legis-
late in quiet and security. The next day an unimportant resolution, which
did not materially aflfect the terms of union, was passed by the House and
the incident closed. To illustrate the fickleness of public opinion it is only
necessary to mention that Mr. De Cosmos a few days later stood for re-elec-
tion to the Commons in the constituency which on the night of the riot de-
clared itself ready to hang him, and was successful.

Mr. Walkem, who succeeded Mr. De Cosmos as Premier, later in the
year bore a petition to the Queen, asking Her Majesty's Government to en-
force the railway clause in the agreement with Canada, the Imperial Gov-
ernment having been a party to the agreement. From that petition sprang
the Carnarvon terms, which provided, among minor things, for the building
of a line of railway from Victoria to Nanaimo in satisfaction of past defaults.
When the Carnarvon terms were laid before the House of Commons Mr.
Edward Blake opposed them, and Mr. Mackenzie, alarmed at the defection
of his principal adherent, did not press them. This action, or inaction, on
the part of the Federal Government again excited the province to a fighting


pitch. More meetings were held, and more petitions were sent to Ottawa

and England. An emissary of the Canadian Government came to Victoria,

but he submitted terms which were not acceptable to the Go\ernment or the


Lord Dufferin's Visit.

The summer of 1876 was a memorable one. Lord Dufiferin, the Vice-
roy of Canada, with Lady Dufferin and a numerous suite, arrived at Esqui-
inalt in a warship. They reached the province via San Francisco, there
being no railway north of that port at the time. His Excellency landed at
Esquimalt, where he was received with a royal salute and a deputation of
citizens and escorted to Government House. Along the line many triumphal
arches had been erected. They bore various patriotic and welcoming devices,
but on one of them appeared the inscription, in bold letters, " Carnarvon
Terms or Separation." This arch spanned Fort street at its intersection with
Broad. Lord Dufferin, who had been previously apprised of the existence of
the arch, suggested that if the " S " in " Separation " were changed to an
" R," making it read " Reparation," he would pass beneath it. If it re-
mained unaltered he would be driven through another thoroughfare. The
committee refused to give way, and when the vice-regal carriage reached
Fort street it left the procession and was driven along Broughton to Douglas
and thence back to Fort street, thus avoiding the arch altogether. The of-
fensive arch remained standing for several days, as a. mark of defiance and
disaffection, and in the meanwhile the Governor-General remained at Gary
Castle arranging for a stroke which was intended to quiet the turbulent popu-
lar feeling and put an end to the threats of secession from the Canadian
Union. Provincial elections had been held in 1875 ^"^^ the Walkem Gov-
ernment had gone down. Mr. A. C. Elliott, a barrister, and lately police
magistrate, was called on to form a government. Hon. A. N. Richards had
succeeded Sir Joseph Trutch as Lieutenant-Governor a few days before Lord
Dufferin arrived and the Elliott Government was in power. It was a very


trying- period for the new Governor and his Premier, with disaffection at
home and ill-faith at Ottawa to contend with. There was another burning
question which agitated the constituency. Ever since the province had
joined the Dominion a fierce fight had been waged between the residents of
the lower Mainland and those of Vancouver Island for the adoption of a
line for the railway which would benefit their respective localities. The
Mainlanders insisted that the proper route was along the Eraser valley, with
its terminus at Burrard Inlet. The Islanders were equally insistent upon
the adoption of a line by Bute Inlet, which would make Esquimalt the ter-
minus. Railway engineers had surveyed both routes, and it was known
that Marcus Smith, the chief engineer, had reported that the best route was
through the Rocky Mountains via Yellowhead Pass, thence to Bute Inlet
(where he proposed to establish a ferry and ultimately to build a bridge), with
the terminus at Esquimalt. When Lord Dufferin left Ottawa for Victoria
it was semi-officially announced in the papers that he was the bearer of a
proclamation that would decide the contest for the route in favor of Bute
Inlet and Esquimalt. This dispatch, according to Lieutenant Governor
Trutch, was sent from Government House to the Provincial Secretary's of-
fice by an official messenger and was handed, so the messenger reported, to
the Provincial Secretary. From that "day to this the dispatch has not been
seen. It never reached the public eye. Who destroyed it if it was destroyed,
who secreted it if it was secreted, who lost it if it was lost, will never be
known. The parties are all dead. Lord Dufferin always denied all knowl-
edgment of its fate, although it was admitted that His Excellency handed the
dispatch to the Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor said he
personally delivered it to the messenger. The Provincial Secretary and the
Premier were equally emphatic in asserting that it never came into their
hands. Nine years ago Sir Joseph Trutch told the writer that the proclama-
tion adopting the Bute Inlet route was carefully read by him and that he
gave it to the messenger himself. He added that its disappearance was as


profound a mystery to him as it was to Lord Dufferin. The Fraser River
route a year or two later was adopted by the promulgation o£ another proc-
lamation, and with the removal of four cargoes of steel rails that had been
landed at Esquimalt and Nanaimo with the view to railway construction on
the island from Esquimalt to Seymcmr Narrows the battle of the routes
came to an end.

It was said at the time that Lord Dufferin was deeply incensed at the
conduct of the populace when he refused to pass under what he termed
the " disloyal arch." He was jeered and hooted, and an effort was made
to turn his horses' heads up Fort Street; but the sober second thought of
the people came to them before it became necessary for the safety and dig-
nity of the vice-regal party that they should alight and, declining to accept
further courtesies, leave Victoria without carrying out the object of their
visit, which was a heart-to-heart talk with the people, when the whole
subject of railway construction would be reviewed, and the inaction of the
Federal authorities in failing to carry out the railway clauses of the agree-
ment, viz., to begin construction within two years from the date of the entry
of the province into the Dominion, and the positive refusal of Mr. Mac-
kenzie to accept the Carnarvon terms after the Colonial Secretary had made
the award as an arbitrator between the Dominion and British Columbia,
were to be explained and condoned. It was argued with much force that
the province had voluntarily accepted the higher Canadian tariff, believing
that in surrendering its own tariff, which it was entitled to retain until the
completion of the promised overland railway, it was contributing more
than its quota to the Dominion Government. The local opposition paper,
the Standard, was violent in its opposition to the Ottawa Governmeot, and
while it did not openly approve of the demonstration that occurred at the
separation arch, it did not disavow it or express regret at the untoward
occurrence and the insult that was offered to Lord Dufferin. The Colonist,
organ of the Elliott Government, mildly rebuked the offenders and argued



that the period was a critical one for the interests of the Island, and par-
ticularly for those of Victoria, which had everything to gain by pursuing
a moderate course at a time when the selection of a route for the railway
hung in the balance. A resort to violence and insult might prove most

Shortly after the Governor-General's arrival at Victoria, a large pop-
ular deputation waited upon His Excellency at Government House and pre-
sented him with an address in which the grievances of the province were
set forth in temperate, yet forcible words. The Governor-General received
the deputation cordially and after hearing the address read, informed the
deputation that he would consider its clauses and give an answer at an early
date. The vice-regal party visited the Mainland and penetrated the Interior
as far as the limited steam and stage methods of transportation permitted.
They were everywhere received with demonstrations of affection and loyalty.
The addresses presented were devoid of the slightest allusion to the unhappy
differences that existed between the province and the Dominion; but they
pressed for the early beginning of railway construction in words so well
chosen as to elicit praise from His Excellency. No disloyal arches were
erected and the party returned to Victoria highly pleased with the results
of their visit to the Mainland. The Victoria deputation was invited to
Government House some days later. They were received in the billiard
room. His Excellency, who wore the insignia of his order, was supported
by his military staff. Lady Dufferin, a charming and beautiful woman,
stood by his side and remained there during the interview, which lasted about
two hours. His Excellency considered the address clause by clause, deliver-
ing the most eloquent and effective address it had ever been the good for-
tune of the writer to hear. His speech occupied nearly two hours, his
hearers listening with rapt attention to the glowing words that fell from
his lips. He reviewed the whole situation, and while admitting that the
province had been disappointed in one detail of the terms, claimed that


every other obligation had been faithfully kept. He attributed the delay
in carrying out the railway obligation to the financial condition of the country
and the insufficiency of the surveys, instead of, as had been charged, to
a deliberate intention on the part of the Dominion to break faith. When he
considered the part of the address which pressed the right of the province
to separate from the Dominion, he plainly told them that the desire for a
dissolution did not extend to the Mainland, where the sentiment was one of
unbroken loyalty to the Dominion. He pointed out that if the Islanders'
demand to secede was admitted they would go out alone. The Mainland
w^ould not accompany them. The Imperial Government would not consent
to the annexation of Vancouver Island to the United States, and the Island
would stand in a position of isolation subject to all the political disad-
vantages of a Crown Colony form of government, from which it had just
escaped by joining Canada. He then drew a picture of Vancouver Island
weighed down by debt and in a forlorn condition, with the commerce of
the empire passing its doors, while the Mainland, which would be connected
witli the east with a transcontinental railway, prosperous and contented,
strode on to greatness and power, regarding her ill-advised sister with
a feeling akin to pity. His Excellency concluded a long oration with an
eloquent peroration in which he referred to " this glorious province " and its
prospects in enthusiastic and prophetic language.

Lord Dufferin bowed to his audience as a signal that the interview was
at an end, and the deputation withdrew in silence and buried in serious
thought. Canada's case had been presented as it had never before been
presented, and the deputation was impressed for the first time with the belief
that while British Columbia undoubtedly had a grievance Canada had a just
claim upon the sympathy and consideration of the province for the failure to
begin railway construction within the time-limit fixed by the terms of union.

After the departure of Lord Dufferin for home the talk of secession
grew fainter. His words had set the leaders of the separationists thinking


and they had at last concluded that separation would be prejudicial to the
Island's interests, so they confined their agitation within constitutional lim-
its, and while they continued to press for the Carnarvon terms their language
was moderate and gave no ofifense at Ottawa.

Strenuous Politics.

Mr. Elliott's government, which had gained office after the election
of 1875, held on during two stormy sessions. They were vigorously opposed
by Mr. Walkem and Mr. Humphreys, his first lieutenant. Mr. Elliott was
asserted by his admirers to be an able man ; but he was fond of his ease and
his books and was no match in debate for his alert and active opponents. He
simply could not turn his thoughts to politics. They were distasteful to
him. Most of the time since his arrival in the colonies in 1859 had been
devoted to discharging his duties as magistrate — first at Yale, then at Lil-
looet, and afterwards at Victoria. As a magistrate, he was a marked suc-
cess. As a politician and as leader of the House he was a conspicuous failure,
and no one was better aware of that fact than himself. His opponents held
him up to ridicule in the House and to the country. He was denounced as
a traitor to the province, was told that his government had sold the colony
to Mackenzie and that in consequence of his supineness and treachery the
child yet unborn would not live to see the first rail of a transcontinental line
laid in British Columbia. The session of 1878 was worse for the Govern-
ment's interests than any that preceded it. In the previous sessions, Mr.
Elliott had had an unbroken majority of four. In the session of 1878, one
of his supporters fell off and his majority was reduced to two. From
the date of that vote, which showed that the solid ranks of the Government
were broken, the opposition rode roughshod over the ministry. They dis-
puted the passage of every public measure, opposed the most trivial motions
when moved by a supporter of the government, and, in reality, " ran the
House." Matters went from bad to worse. The country was suffering for


legislation. Road work was suspended, salaries were unpaid and the treas-
ury was at a low ebb. A vigorous, militant man at the head of the ministry
could have saved it with a majority of two; but Mr. Elliott was neither
one nor the other. Mr. Walkem, with only the casting vote of the speaker,

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 12 of 79)