R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

. (page 17 of 79)
Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 17 of 79)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

any public notice, which subsequently have been sub-let to the contractors
at a much lower rate. (5) That faulty administration has been made of
public lands, and that lands have been declared public reserves, which have


been afterwards claimed by parties connected with the Colonial Government.
(6) The want of a registry office, for the record of transfers and mortgages.
" The first complaint, that the Governor, etc., do not reside permanently
in British Columbia, scarcely requires comment from me. Your Grace is
aware that I have a divided duty to perform, and that if under the present
circumstances the Colonial Secretary and Attorney General resided perma-
nently in British Columbia, these offices would be little better than a sinecure
— the public service would be retarded and a real and just complaint would
exist. Although the treasury is now established at New Westminster, and
the Treasurer resides permanently there, I have nO' hesitation in saying that
it would be far more for the benefit of the public service if that department
were still in Victoria.

" The complaint of over-taxation is not peculiar to British Columbia,
but whether it is well founded or not may be inferred from the example of
other countries. Judging from that estimate, the people of British Columbia
have certainly no reason for complaint of their public burdens, for the United
States tariff which is vigorously enforced in the neighboring parts of Wash-
ington Territory, averages 25 per cent on all foreign goods — spirits and other
articles of luxury excepted, on which a much higher rate of duty is charged.
The citizen of Washington Territory has also to pay the assessed road and
school taxes, levied by the Territorial Legislature. In contrast with these
taxes, the import duty levied in British Columbia is only ten per cent, with
a similar exception of spirits and a few articles of luxury, which pay a higher
duty; while all other taxes levied in the colony are also proportionately low,
compared with those of Washington Territory. I might also further state
that two-thirds of the taxes raised in British Columbia have been expended
in making roads, and other useful works, and have produced a reduction of
not less than a hundred per cent on the cost of transport, and nearly as great
a saving in the cost of all the necessaries of life, so that while the communi-


cations are \^mg rapidly improved, the people are, at the same time, really
reaping substantial benefits more than compensating the outlay.

" With respect to the complaint about the boatmen, they had no claim
whatever to be exempted from the law imposing a duty indiscriminately on
all goods passing upward from Yale, neither did the duty bear at all upon
them, as they were merely carriers, and not owners of the goods. The real
question at issue was, whether the inland duty should be charged on goods
carried from Yale by water as well as by land, and was nothing more than
a scheme concocted by the owners of the goods to benefit themselves at the
expense of the public revenue,

" And here I would beg to correct an error in the memorial with re-
spect to the population of British Columbia, which is therein given at 7,000,
exclusive of Indians, making an annual average rate of taxation of £7 los
per head. The actual population. Chinamen included, is about 10,000, besides
an Indian population exceeding 20,000, making a total of 30,000, which re-
duces the taxation to £2- per head instead of the rate given in the memorial.
It must be remembered that all the white population are adults, and tax-pay-
ing — there being no proportionate number of women or children, and it is
a great mistake to suppose that the native Indians pay no taxes. They have,
especially in the gold districts, for the most part, abandoned their former
pursuits and no longer provide their own stores of food. All the money
they make by their labor, either by hire or by gold digging, is expended in
the country, so that the Indians have now become very extensive consumers
of foreign articles. Every attention has been given to render Fraser River
safe and accessible ; the channels have been carefully surveyed and marked
with conspicuous buoys; and foreign vessels may go direct to New West-
minster, without calling at Victoria, and the port dues are the same whether
the vessels clear originally from Victoria or come directly from foreign
ports. It is impossible to imagine a more perfect equality of legislative pro-
tection than is given to these ports.


" I have had applications, under various pretexts, from almost every
trading place in the colony for remissions of duty, and I have steadily resisted
all such applications on the ground that class legislation is vicious and leads
to injustice and discontent. It is, moreover, very doubtful if the proposed
remission of duty on shipbuilding materials would advance that interest, as
long as the timber business of New Westminster is a monopoly in the hands
of a few persons who keep timber at an unreasonably high price.

" With respect to the fourth and fifth complaints I am not cognizant of
any circumstances affording grounds for them. I addressed a letter to the
Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, whose department they more im-
mediately^ affected, and I forward herewith a copy of that officer's report,
from which it will be seen that no just cause exists for the allegations made.

" The want of a registry office, which also forms a subject of complaint,
arises solely from our not having succeeded in maturing the details of a
measure, which is, I feel, replete with difficulties of no ordinary kind, but
that measure, providing for the registration of real estate, will be passed as
soon as practicable.

" Before concluding this dispatch, I shall submit a few observations on
the financial system of Vancouver Island in contrast with that of British
Columbia, explanatory of their distinctive features and their applicability to
the colonies respectively.

" The public revenue of Vancouver Island is almost derived from taxes
levied directly on persons and professions, on trades and real estate, on the
other hand, it is by means of duties and imposts, and on goods carried in-
land, that the public revenue of British Columbia is chiefly raised. No other
plan has been suggested by which a public revenue could be raised, that is so
perfectly adapted to the circumstances of both colonies, or that could be sub-
stituted or applied interchangeably with the advantage to the sister colony.
The reasons may thus be stated: The low price and bulky productions of
Vancouver Island will not bear the cost of exportation to any British pos-


session, and are virtually excluded from the markets of the Mother Country
by the distance and expense of the voyage. A precisely similar result is
produced through the almost prohibitory duties levied in the neighboring
ports of Oregon and California; the former, moreover, abounding in all the
products common to Vancouver Island, except coal; and neither being in-
ferior in point of soil, climate or any physical advantage. Thus practically
debarred from commercial intercourse and denied a market for its produce,
it became painfully evident that the colony could not prosper, nor ever be a
desirable residence for white settlers, until a remunerative outlet was found
for the produce of their labor. It was that state of things that originated
the idea of creating a home market, and the advantageous position of Vic-
toria suggested free trade as the means, which was from henceforth adopted
as a policy — with the object of making the port a center of trade and popu-
lation, and ultimately the commercial entrepot of the North Pacific. That
policy was initiated several years previous to the discovery of gold in British
Columbia, and has since been inflexibly maintained. Victoria has now
grown into commercial importance, and its value and influence can hardly
be overestimated. Financially, it furnishes four-fifths of the public revenue,
it absorbs the whole surplus produce of the colony, and it is a center from
whence settlements are gradually branching out into the interior of the
island. Thus Victoria has become the center of population, the seat of trade,
a prospective source of revenue, and a general market for the country. The
settlements are all compactly situated within a radius of twenty miles, ex-
cept those which are accessible by sea ; there is, therefore, no pressing call for
large expenditure in the improvement of internal communications. Roads
are opened where required, with due regard and in proportion to the means
of the colony, its vital interests not being greatly affected by any avoidable

" The circumstances of British Columbia are materially different from
those just described. That colony has large internal resources, which only


require development to render it powerful and wealthy. Its extensive gold
fields furnish a highly remunerative export, and are rapidly attracting trade
and population. Mining has become a valuable branch of industry, and
essentially the vital interest of the colony; it hereto has been my unceasing
policy to encourage and develop that interest. The laws are framed in the
most liberal spirit, studiously relieving miners from direct taxation, and
vesting in the m'ining boards a general power to amend and adapt their pro-
visions to the special circumstances of the districts. The Government has,
moreover, charged itself with the more onerous duties in furtherance of the
same object, by opening roads through the most difficult routes into all parts
of the country, to facilitate transport and commerce, and to enable the miner
to pursue his arduous labors with success. Three lines of roads have been
successfully carried through the last range, and mining districts five hundred
miles from the sea have been rendered accessible by routes hitherto unknown.
The extension and improvement of works so pressingly required and in-
dispensable to the improvement and development of the country, still claims
the anxious care of the Government. The greatest difficulty was experienced
in providing funds to meet the necessarily large expenditure on those works,
and that object was accomplished by imposing an import duty on goods, as
the only feasible means of producing a revenue adequate to the public exigen-
cies. It was justly supposed that any tax directly levied on the mining popu-
lation, would lead to clamor and discontent, without being productive of
revenue ; whereas the indirect tax is not felt as a burden, and, I believe, makes
no appreciable difference in the price which miners have to pay for their sup-

" I have entered into the foregoing review of the administrative sys-
tems adopted in British Columbia and Vancouver Island, in answer to the
assertion of the memorialists, that every exertion is made to stimulate the
progress of Vancouver Island, at the expense of British Columbia, and to


prove that my measures have ever been calculated to promote, to the fullest
extent, the substantial interests of both colonies."

The Views of the Home Government.

From a practical point of view the foregoing was a complete answer to
the memorialists, and yet Sir James overlooked the fact that the spirit of the
times was completely in antagonism to his attitude. He was right, and yet
he failed to appreciate that nine-tenths of the people of British Columbia
were educated in the school of popular government. Douglas had lived his
life among the western wilds in an atmosphere of one-man government, per-
fect and absolute in its mechanical details, but wholly out of harmony with
the institutions of its people. It was as perfectly hopeless to expect the Im-
perial Government to deny British Columbians the right of representative gov-
ernment as it was foolish and suicidal in a past century to have antagonized
the American colonies in their aspirations for greater freedom of commerce.
It was, therefore, only a question of time when the Home Government would
grant to the memorialists their request. We are only surprised that it took
two years for Douglas to be apprised of the decision of the authorities to
make important changes in the system of administration in British Colum-
bia. In a dispatch dated May 26th, 1863, the Duke of Newcastle informed
Douglas that the act for the government of British Columbia would expire
in a year and that it was proposed to make provision for a Legislative Council
and for separate governors for the colonies of British Columbia and Van-
couver Island. It was, however, made plain that the Home authorities had
in mind the union of the two colonies as soon as public sentiment was pre-
pared for it. The Duke'of Newcastle expressed confidence that economy and
efficiency would be promoted, that commerce would be facilitated, that politi-
cal capacity would be developed, that the strength of the colonies would be
consolidated, and that generally their well-being would be greatly advanced
by union. The representations made by Governor Douglas, had, however,


considerable weight in Downing Street, because, the dispatch went on to say,
that while the authorities would have been pleased to give British Columbia
the same representative institutions which existed in Vancouver Island, it
was felt that that under present conditions would be impossible. Some of the
circumstances referred to by Douglas were recited.

" Under these circumstances," His Grace remarked, " I see no mode
of establishing a purely representative legislature, which would not be open
to one of two objections. Either it must place the Government of the colony
under the exclusive control of a small circle of persons, naturally occupied
with their own local, personal or class interests, or it must confide a large
amount of political power to immigrant, or other transient foreigners, who
have no permanent interest in the prosperity of the colony.

" For these reasons I think it necessary that the government should re-
tain, for the present, a preponderating influence in the Legislature. From the
best information I can obtain, I am disposed to think it most advisable, that
about one-third of the Council should consist of the Colonial Secretary and
other officers, who generally compose the Executive Council; about one-third
of magistrates from different parts of the colony; and about one-third of
persons elected by the residents of the different electoral districts. But here
I am met by the difficulty that these residents are not only few and scattered,
but (like the foreign gold diggers) migratory and unsettled, and that any
definition of electoral districts now made, might, in the lapse of a few months,
become wholly inapplicable to the state of the colony. It would, therefore,
be trifling to attempt such a definition, nor am I disposed to rely on any un-
tried contrivance which might be suggested for supplying its place — con-
trivances which depend for their success on a variety of circumstances, which,
with my present information, I cannot safely assume to exist.

" By what exact process this quasi-representation shall be accomplished,
whether by ascertaining informally the sense of the residents in each locality,
or by bringing the question before public meetings, or (as is done in Ceylon)


by accepting the nominee of any corporate body or society, I leave you to
determine. What I desire is this, that a system of virtual though imperfect
representation shall at once be introduced, which shall enable Her Majesty's
Government to ascertain, with some certainty, the character, wants and dis-
position of the community with a view to the more formal and complete es-
tablishment of a representative system, as circumstances shall admit of it.
* * * With these explanations, I have to instruct you first to proclaim
a law securing to Her Majesty the right to allot the above salaries to the of-
ficials of British Columbia; and, having done so, to give publicity to the en-
closed Order-in-Council and to convene as soon as possible, the proposed


The Pioneer Legislature.

And a Legislative Council on the lines indicated in the Duke of New-
castle's despatch was convened. It consisted of officials of the colony, of
magistrates and of elected representatives in about equal numbers. The
first council came into existence in 1863 and sat for the year 1864. The
members were: The Hon. Arthur Birch, Colonial Secretary; Hon. Henry
P. P. Crease (afterwards Sir Henry), Attorney-General; Hon. Wymond
O. Hamley, Collector of Customs; Hon. Chartres Brew, Magistrate, New
Westminster; Hon. Peter O'Reilly, Magistrate, Cariboo East; Hon. E. H.
Sanders, Magistrate, Yale; Hon. H. M. Ball, Magistrate, Lytton; Hon. J. R.
Homer, New Westminster; Hon. Robt. T. Smith, Hope, Yale and Lytton;
Hon. Henry Holbrook, Douglas and Lillooet; Hon. James Orr, Cariboo
East; Hon. Walter S. Black, Cariboo West; Mr. Chas. Goode, who mar-
ried a daughter of Sir James Douglas, was clerk or secretary of the Council.

Of these pioneer legislators, two are still living; so also is the Clerk,
Hon. Mr. Hamley, for some years Collector of Customs at Victoria after the
union of the colonies, is in retirement at the capital; Hon. Arthur N. Birch,
subsequent to his leaving British Columbia, was appointed to an important
position in Ceylon, was knighted, and is now living in London, England,


as agent of the Bank of England. Mr, Goode is living in England. Four
of the number died within a year of the writing, Hon. Peter O'Reilly, who
was for many years Indian Commissioner for the province; Sir Henry P. P.
Crease, who was knighted after retiring from the Supreme Court Bench;
Hon. E. H. Sanders, in California, and Hon. James Orr, the last of the
number to be laid away. Lt. Col. R. Wolfenden, who was Queen's printer
in those days and the first to serve Her Majesty in that capacity in British
Columbia, is still in harness, the only difference being that he is printer to His
Majesty instead of Her Majesty. The others have long been memories
among the shades of the band of pioneers, who left this coast for the shores
of the hereafter.

About this time took place an event of some note. The terms of office
of James Douglas as Governor of Vancouver Island and British Columbia,
respectively, expired almost concurrently, they being but a few months apart.
Those few months remaining of his term in British Columbia he de-
cided to spend in New Westminster, to which place he removed in the fall
of 1863. He was the recipient of many marks of esteem and respect on the
part of the citizens of both the Island and the Mainland, from whom he
received testimonials and by whom he was banquetted. In addition to that,
however, his services in his public capacity were rewarded by the distinction
of knighthood, the first recipient of such a title on the Pacific coast; and
here, perhaps, is the place for a word as to the qualities and qualifications of
the founder of the most westerly province in the Dominion of Canada. The
editor of the British Colonist at the time the official news of knighthood
was received, who was no less than Amor de Cosmos, a strong opponent of
the government as administered by Sir James — and a remarkable man in
his way — had this to say : " If we have opposed the measures of the Gov-
ernment, we have never in our public acts of the executive head of that
Government failed in our esteem for the sterling honesty of purpose which


has guided those acts, nor for the manly and noble qualities and virtues
which adorn the man."

Sir James Douglas.

Sir James was, perhaps, the most remarkable man that has appeared in
the public arena in the province of British Columbia. A Scotchman by
descent through the line of the Black Douglas, educated in Scotland, and
associated for his earlier years with the members of the Northwest Com-
pany, who were his countrymen, he both inherited and acquired many of
those distinguishing characteristics which seem to reflect the ruggedness and
strength of their native mountains, and much of the picturesqueness and
charm of Caledonian scenery. Sir James Douglas was a large man physically
and mentally. He had strength alike of physique and character. Although
at the age of sixteen he sought the wilds of the Northwest in the employ of
a fur company, he had had a liberal education, and throughout his career
he aimed to increase his stock of knowledge and increase his accomplish-
ments. He retained and strengthened the moral rectitude of his youth. In
his principles he represented the old-fashioned punctiliousness in regard to
details of all kinds, with progressive and far-seeing views of business and
public policy. He combined a genius for business with a love of nature,
of family, of literature, of devotion. His love of order, his respect for
the conventionalities of office, his becoming self-respect, gave rather too
much the impression of pompous display and an assertion of superiority,
both of which were foreign to his nature. Sir James loved to magnify the
office, but not the man. He was a strong, masterful man, with the faults
that such men have — ^a tendency to rule with too firm a hand, to brook no
opposition, to be perhaps overbearing, traits which were developed unusu-
ally under the one-man rule of the Hudson's Bay Company, and necessary
in the conditions under which that wonderful corporation carried on its
operations over a vast extent of the New World. He had a good mastery



\: 1 V, ('I

■' (' .VI i: II


of French, which he spoke fluently with a correct accent ; had a wide knowl-
edge of history and political economy; conversed with ease and entertain-
ingly; rose early and rode and walked a great deal; was tenderly devoted
to his family; was constant in religions exercises; assiduous in the perform-
ance of official duties ; and generally was a man who acted well his part in
life and did honor to his high position in the state. Of splendid physical
proportions and herculean strength, he had an imposing presence. He pos-
sessed the quality of personal m.agnetism in a high degree, and exercised
corresponding influence with all with whom he came in contact. Cool,
calculating and cautious, he was also courageous and prompt to act, com-
bining the dominating characteristics of Anglo-Saxon and Celt. When he
retired he still possessed considerable vigor of mind and body, and might
still have continued to take an active part in the affairs of the country;
but he had probably reached that stage in the development of the province
at which he was more in spirit with the past than the present, where others
more in harmony with new conditions would rule with greater acceptance
to the people. He had acted a part in affairs that redounded highly to his
credit and to the welfare of a budding colony, with tact, intelligence, rare
ability, and high conception of and conscientious application to duty. Had
his early training been in the field of politics and his lot been cast in a wider
and more important sphere he could have and undoubtedly would have
taken a place in history. He had the qualifications which make men of mark.
In estimating him as a man and as an official we must judge him by the
success he achieved in the sphere in which he moved. His record in that
respect was the best possible.

When he retired from public life, accepting his well-earned honors, he
visited his native land. He went to England by way of Panama, and after
spending some time in Great Britain, visited the continent, through the
countries of which he made a leisurely circuit, and returned to his adopted
and ultimate home in British Columbia, for which he had an ardent attach-


ment, after about a year's absence. His impressions of bis travels, as re-
corded in bis journal, are most interesting readingf and tbrow many luminous
side-ligbts on bis cbaracter and qualities. He lived in retirement witb his
family in Victoria until August 2nd, 1877, upon wbicb day deatb came as
a hasty and unexpected messenger to call him to his final home. He lives
gratefully in the memory of the older inhabitants of the province. He is
also remembered by a monument of stone in the grounds of the Parliament
buildings at the capital, and his statue occupies a niche at one side of their

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 17 of 79)