R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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wished. The people of British Columbia were wise in their day and gen-
eration and knew or thought they knew, how to make a good bargain, and
whatever may be the difference of opinion that exists to-day as to the posi-
tion of this province in the Dominion, they flattered themselves, when the
news came from Ottawa as to the outcome of the negotiations there, that
they had done well. And who will say, considering the circumstances of the
province at that time, and its impotency to do for itself what the Dominion
Government had agreed to do for it, that the issue did not justify some
measure of self-satisfaction? This is what it got: A railway 3,000 miles
long to be begun within two years; $100,000 a year in lieu of lands to be
given for railway in question; 80 cents per head of a population computed
at 60,000; deliverance from $1,500,000 of debt; $500,000 for a dry dock
at Esquimau ; superannuation of officials; $35,000 a year in support of
the government; five per cent per annum on the difference between the debt
and that of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick pro rata of the population;
Indians to be cared for by the Dominion and nine representatives at Ottawa,
three senators and six members in the House of Commons. In lieu of this


the province gave the land included in the railway belt, its customs and excise
revenues, the control of the general affairs now within the jurisdiction of
the Dominion Government, which then pertained to its colonial status. These
terms were subsequently modified to some extent, favorably to the province,
but not in any essential respect.

Looking- at it from the standpoint of to-day it would be a difficult task
indeed, and perhaps a not over-wise one, to decide as to which of the two
parties to the negotiations really made the better bargain. Speculation would
not be quite idle as to what this province would be standing alone as a
Crown Colony; but we cannot come to a definite conclusion. Great life
and energy have been imparted to the people and great development has re-
sulted. The foundation has been laid for things many times greater in
comparison, the magnitude of which we are not yet in a position to realize.
It is true the province is paying a too substantial dividend to the Dominion
for the latter's investment, and is under no financial obligations for the
advantages it has derived. On the other hand, the Dominion, in order to
carry out the terms of the bargain with British Columbia, assumed enormous
obligations, under which she staggered for a time, but Canada to-day with-
out the West would not rank higjher in the category of countries than one
of the States of the American Union. With the prestige which a trans-
continental line with its trans-Pacific connections has given her, with the
markets that have been afforded to her manufacturers thereby, and the wealth
that has been added to her domain, the taking of British Columbia into the
family compact has constituted it the supreme achievement of Confederation.

The Preliminary Steps.

To come back to the starting point of Confederation in British Colum-
bia; that may be said to have been the union of Vancouver Island with
the Mainland. No doubt the dissatisfaction in the Westminster district over
the removal of the capital had much to do in stimulating the movement, and


its foremost advocates belong to the Mainland. It is true that the Hon.
Amor de Cosmos, in Victoria, had been among the first — if he was not
indeed the first — to publicly advocate it in his paper, the " Standard."

However, it first came prominently to the front during the session of
1867, when a resolution was unanimously passed in its favor, requesting
Gov. Seymour " to take measures without delay to secure the admission of
British Columbia into the Confederation on fair and equitable terms." Gov.
Seymour, it may be remarked, was at first not favorably disposed to a union
with Canada, and whatever his influence with the executive may have been
in this regard is not known ; but at all events, when the session of the
following year was held, little or no progress had been made in the direction
indicated by the resolution in question, and, as a matter of fact, the mem-
bers of the Government seemed to have changed their attitude in regard to
it, and when the subject was again introduced it met with overwhelming
opposition. As a result of the action taken, or rather, not taken, by the Ex-
ecutive Council, an agitation was started throughout the country for the
purpose of bringing it to an issue.

At a meeting held in Victoria on January 29, 1868, a committee was
appointed, consisting of Messrs. James Trimble, Amor de Cosmos, I. W.
Powell, J. R. Findlay, R. Wallace and H. E. Seeley, who drew up and signed
a memorial, which set forth, among other things, the resolution unanimously
passed by the Legislative Council, already referred to; that a public meeting
had been held at the same time expressing concurrent views with the Legis-
lative Council; that the people of Cariboo had held in the previous Decem-
ber a highly enthusiastic meeting, and unanimously passed a resolution in
favor of immediately joining the Dominion; that public opinion was over-
whelmingly in favor of Confederation; that there was only a small party
other than Annexationists who were opposed; that nearly all the offices
belonged to the latter party; that there was only a small party in favor of
annexation to the L^nited States; that Governor Seymour had not made


any representations to the Dominion Government asking for admission, as
requested; that the Legislative Council, composed as it was of officials and
others subject to the will of the Government, could not be depended upon
to express the will of the people, and so on.. These and other representations
were contained in the memorial which was addressed to the Dominion

Hon. S. L. Tilley, the Minister of Customs, sent the following reply,
dated Ottawa, March 25, 1868 : " The Canadian Government desires union
with British Columbia, and has opened communications, and suggests imme-
diate action by your legislators and a passage of an address to Her Majesty
requesting union with Canada. Keep us informed of progress."

On the 2 1 St of May of the same year a Confederation Leagtie was formed
in the city of Victoria, of which the following gentlemen formed the Execu-
tive Committee: James Trimble (Mayor), Captain Stamp, Dr. Powell, J. F.
(now Hon. Justice) McCreight, Robert Beaven, J. D. Norris, George
Pearkes, R. Wallace, C. Gowen, M. W. Gibbs, Amor de Cosmos and George
Fox. The League began with a membership of one hundred in Victoria,
and branches were formed in several places on the Island and the Mainland.

On July the ist of the same year, what was described as " a largely
attended and spirited open-air meeting " was held at Barkerville, Cariboo, at
which strong resolutions were passed unanimously condemning the Govern-
ment for opposing Confederation and favoring " some organized and sys-
tematic mode of obtaining admission into the Dominion of Canada." At
this meeting Mr. J. S. Thompson, afterwards a member of Parliament, made
an effective and eloquent speech in moving a resolution, which, by the way,
was seconded by Mr. Cornelius Booth, late Supervisor of the Rolls for the
Province. Before the meeting adjourned a committee of five was appointed
to carry out the wishes of the meeting in furthering what had been advocated.

The next most important step in the agitation was the holding on Sep-
tember 14 the somewhat celebrated convention at Yale, at which most of the


• leading- men of the province were present. A committee was then appointed,
composed of Hon. Amor de Cosmos, Messrs. Macmillan, Wallace and Norris,
of Victoria; Hon. John Robson, New Westminster; and Hon. Hugh Nelson.
of Burrard Inlet, to carry out the objects of the Convention. The proceed-
ings of this Convention were very much criticised at the time, and were the
subject of not a little ridicule on the part of those who were opposed to the

At the next meeting of the Legislature, in 1869, the question was again
brought up, with the result that the Government carried an adverse resolution
as follows : " That this Council, impressed with the conviction that under
existing circumstances the Confederation of this colony with the Dominion
of Canada would be undesirable, even if practicable, would urge upon Her
Majesty's Government not to take any steps toward the present consumma-
tion of such union." Messrs. Carrall, Robson. Havelock, Walkem and
Humphreys, who stated that they had been returned as Confederationists^
entered a protest against the passage of the resolution, and placed on record
their disapproval of the action of the Government.

Despite the attitude taken by the Government, events about this time
began to hasten that which facilitated in rather an unexpected way the bring-
ing about of Confederation. There was considerable talk of annexation on
the part of, it is true, an inconsiderable minority of American citizens, and a
petition which was circulated and signed principally by the latter, was sent
to the President of the United States, praying for admission into the Union.
In June of that year Governor Seymour, whose sympathies and influences
during the preliminary portion of the agitation for Confederation had been
on the side of those who were opposed to it, but whose opposition, we are
led to understand, was subsequently withdrawn — the result of his visit to
England — died. Anthony Musgrave, whose instructions were to bring about
Confederation as speedily as possible, in conformity with the Imperial policy,
succeeded him. Governor Musgrave, we are told. " was admirably fitted for


the work of reconciling the opposing elements, and his eflforts were easily
successful." Since the time that the first resolution had passed the House,
when it was unanimously agreed to, the events in Canada had led to a tem-
porary damper in the enthusiasm at first displayed over Confederation. There
was the dissatisfaction existing in Nova Scotia, which did not augur well
for the success of the Union, and the trouble in Manitoba, which at the time
the Legislative Council sat, in 1870, had not yet l)een settled satisfactorily.
These no doubt created unrest in the minds of some of the leading men in
the colony, especially in Victoria, as to the wisdom of joining hands with the
Dominion while as yet Confederation was, so to speak, only in the experi-
mental stage. There were in British Columbia indications of improvement
of the situation, owing to mining excitement, the result of new discoveries,
and it was thought by some, notably Dr. Helmcken, that it would be better
to wait a little longer in order to judge more accurately of the results of
Confederation in the other provinces, and in case of times improving, as
seemed probable, British Columbia would be in a better position to demand
her own terms than if she went into the Union on the first invitation.

However, Governor Musgrave was anxious to carry out his instructions,
and no doubt wished to have the honor of bringing the matter to a successful
issue during his term of office, and he succeeded, as we shall see, in bringing
the Executive to his way of thinking. Prior to the session of 1870 he had,
with his Council, framed resolutions to lay before them so as to enable him
to deal with the Government of Canada. It was agreed that the terms of
Union should not be finally accepted until ratified by the people, and authority
was to be asked to reconstitute the Legislative Council, so as to allow the
majority of its members to be formally returned for electoral districts, and
thus obtain expression of opinion of the people of the colony.

The terms of Union proposed by the Governor were, briefly : Canada
to assume the debt of British Columbia; to pay $35,000 yearly for the sup-
port of the local Government, and 80 cents per head of the population, to


be rated at 120,000, the rate of 80 cents to be continued until the population
reached 400,000, the subsidy thereafter to remain fixed; to commence at
once the survey for a line of railway; to complete a wagon road to Lake
Superior within three years after Confederation, and not less than $1,000,000
to be spent in any one year in its construction; to guarantee 5 per cent in-
terest on a loan of $500,000 for the construction of a graving dock at Esqui-
malt: to provide fortnightly steam communication with San Francisco; to
give regular communication with Nanaimo and the interior; to build and
maintain a Marine Hospital, a Lunatic Asylum and a Penitentiary; to main-
tain the Judiciary and the Postoffice and Customs services; to use its influ-
ence to retain E^uimalt as a station for Her Majesty's ships and to establish
a volunteer force; to provide a pension for the present officers of the Govern-
ment ; and to allow interest at the rate of 5 per cent per annum on the differ-
ence between the actual amount of the indebtedness of the colony, per head
of the population, rated at 120,000, and the indebtedness per head of the

other provinces.

The Debate on Confederation.

On Wednesday. March 9, 1870, began the memorable debate on the
subject of Confederation with Canada, when the then Attorney-General,
Hon. (late Sir Henry P. P.) Crease, rose to move: "That this Council do
now resolve itself into committee of the whole, to take into consideration
the terms proposed for the Confederation of the Colony of British Columbia
with the Dominion of Canada, in his excellency's message to this Council."
" In doing so," he said, " I am deeply impressed with the momentous char-
acter of the discussion into which we are about to enter, the grave impor-
tance of a decision by which the fate of this, our adopted country' of British
Columbia, must be influenced for better or for worse, for all time to come.
And I earnestly hope that bur minds and best energies may be bent to a
task which w-ill tax all our patriotism, all our forbearance, all our abnegation
of self and selfish aims; to combine all our individual powers into one great


united effort for the common good." He then invoked the Divine blessing
in the follov^^ing- words : " May He who holds the fate of nations in the
hollow of His hand, and crowns with success, or brings to naught the coun-
cils of men, guide all our deliberations to such an issue as shall promote the
peace, honor and welfare of our most Gracious Sovereign, and of this and
all other portions of her extended realms." His speech in introducing the
resolution above was brief, but lucid and eloquent. " This issue is," he re-
marked, " Confederation or no Confederation," and pungently added, " Your
question, Mr. President, that I do now leave the chair, means: That is the
issue before us now." Thus was launched a discussion which, vigorously
conducted for a number of days, landed the Province of British Columbia
in the arms of the Dominion.

The debate to go into Committee of the Whole lasted three days, and
nine days were occupied in discussing the details in committee. Some nota-
ble speeches were made, and probably no debate since that time brought into
requisition greater talent, or better sustained and more dignified oratory in
the Legislative Assembly. They were able men, some of them, who took
part, and all the speakers were prominent in the affairs of the country.
Among them were Attorney-General Crease, Dr. Helmcken, Amor de Cos-
mos, Thomas Humphreys, M. W. T. Drake, John Robson, Joseph Trutch,
Hy Holbrook, T. L. Wood, F. J. Barnard, R. W. W. Carrall, E. Dewdney,
G. A. Walkem — nearly all of whom are familiar to the newest comers as
men having a high place in the affairs of the province. It would be impos-
sible in a limited space to give even in outline the salient points in the debate.

Following the Honorable the Attorney-General came Dr. Helmcken,
from whom the principal opposition arose. In the course of his remarks he
said : " The honorable gentleman laid great stress upon the consolidation
of British interests on this coast; but I say, sir, that however much we are
in favor of consolidating British interests, our own must come first. Im-
perial interests can well afford to wait. We are invited to settle this ques-


tion now and forever; but I say that we are not called upon to do so. The
matter will come before the people after the proposed terms have been sub-
mitted to the Dominion Government; and it will very likely happen that if
these terms were rejected and others of a mean nature substituted by the
Government of Canada for the consideration of the people of this colony,
other issues may come up at the polls, and amongst them the question whether
there is no other place to which this colony can go but Canada. Whatever
may be the result of the present vote, it is impossible to deny the probability
of the lesser being absorbed by the greater, and it cannot be regarded as im-
probable that ultimately not only this colony but the whole of the Dominion
of Canada will be absorbed by the United States." As has already been
stated. Dr. Helmcken dwelt largely on the fact that the time was inopportune
to open the question, because he indicated that the new gold discoveries
would bring a large population to the province, and that the present depres-
sion would be swept away, and that in that event the province would be in a
better position to go to the Dominion and negotiate for terms.

In noticing the drawbacks of the colony he said : " The United States
hem us in on every side. It is the nation by which we exist. It is a nation
which has made this colony what it is; but, nevertheless, it is one of our
greatest drawbacks. We do not enjoy her advantages, nor do we profit
much by them. We do not share her prosperity, and we are far too small
to be rivals. The effect of a large body and a small body brought into con-
tact is that the larger will adopt the smaller and ultimately absorb it. And
again, I say so, sir; I say that the United States will probably ultimately
absorb both this colony and the Dominion of Canada. Canada will, in all
probability, desire quite as much to join her ultimately as we do now to join
the Dominion." Dr. Helmcken also objected to the Canadian tariff, which
was lower than that of British Columbia at the time, and consequently un-
favorable to the development of the agricultural industry. This was a mat-
ter that was very strongly dwelt upon by nearly all the members, and it was


held that in arranging the terms the Dominion Government would be specially
induced to look after the interests of this province and see that the farmers
were protected from competition from the neighboring territory of Wash-
ington and Oregon. The doctor held that Confederation would be inimical
to nearly every interest of the province, and particularly to the farmers. He
said it would be inimical to brewers, to the spar trade, to the fisheries, whaling
pursuits and the lumber business. Of all the speeches delivered, his may be
said to have been the most original.

Hon. Mr. Drake, member for Victoria City, moved the six months'
hoist, saying : " I need not state, sir, that I have always been opposed to
Confederation. I have consistently opposed Federation on any terms up to
the present time, and I do not see any reason now to change my opinion."
Mr. Drake took very much the same line of objection as Dr. Helmcken. He
spoke particularly in regard to the Canadian tariff, which he said would place
the farmers of British Columbia at a very great disadvantage compared with
those of the United States. He claimed that distance from Canada, small-
ness of population, giving an insignificant representation in the Dominion
Parliament, and the unsettled state of the intervening territory, would be in-
superable barriers to the success of the scheme. The Hon. Mr. Ring, mem-
ber for Nanaimo, seconded Mr. Drake's amendment, and spoke briefly. Hon.
Mr. Robson, it is needless to say, though opposed to the Government, took
a strong and patriotic position in favor of the original resolution. He al-
ways favored Confederation.

Perhaps the strongest speech was made by Hon. J. W. Trutch, Chief
Commissioner of Lands and Works. His arguments were well presented,
and his advocacy of Confederation moderate but firm. Regarding Canada,
he said : '* I believe, sir, that many of the objections which have been raised
to Confederation have arisen from prejudiced feelings. I have no reason to
be prejudiced against or partial to Canada. I believe the Canadians as a
people are no better than others, and no worse. I have no ties in Canada.


nor particular reason for entertaining any feeling of affection for Canada."
He repudiated some suggestions of Hon. Mr. Drake as follows : " The
honorable junior member for Victoria asks what guarantee have we that the
terms will be carried out. I say at once, sir, if the terms are not carried out,
if the Canadian Government repudiate their part of the agreement, we shall
be equally at liberty to repudiate ours. We should, I maintain, be at liberty
to repudiate Confederation." He considered the time was most opportune.
He was in favor of the province having the right to make its own tariff, so
as to protect its farming interests, and hailed with pleasure the salmon laws
of Canada and advocated the rights of the Indians. Concluding, he said :
" As we shall, from our position on the Pacific Coast, be the keystone of
Confederation, I hope we may become the most glorious in the whole struct-
ure, and tend to our own and England's future greatness."

Hon. Mr. Wood was the next speaker. He supported in an able and
argumentative speech the amendment for the six months' hoist. His objec-
tions were, first, to the principles of the Organic Act of 1867, as applied to
the British North American Provinces; second, to the special application of
the principle to this province; third, to the mode in which the consent of its
adoption was attempted to be obtained. Mr. Wood thought the principle
of Confederation was bad in itself and would not work out successfully. He
thought that Great Britain favored it from a selfish point of view, and not
from considerations of broad statesmanship. With respect to British Co-
lumbia his objections were: Remoteness, comparative insignificance, and
diversity of interests. As to the third objection, the mode of bringing about
Confederation, he objected to it as not appealing to moral or political con-
siderations, but to pecuniary motives. In other words, the people were
being bribed by promises of a railway and a dry dock rather than being con-
vinced by political advantages.

Hon. Amor de Cosmos made a long and vigorous though somewhat
discursive speech. He claimed to be the first to advocate Confederation.


and as such condemned the Government for delaying so long. He remarked
at the opening : " For many years I have regarded the union of the British
Pacific territories, and of their consoHdation under one Government, as one
of the steps preHminary to the grand consoHdation of the British Empire in
North America. I still look upon it in this light with the pride and feeling
of a native-born British American. From the time when I first mastered
the institutes of physical and political geography I could see Vancouver
Island on the Pacific from my home on the Atlantic; and I could see a time
when the British possessions, from the United States boundary to the Arctic
Ocean, and extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, would be consolidated
into one great nation." Mr. De Cosmos incidentally remarked : " If I had
my way, instead of the United States owning Alaska, it would have been
British to-day." He laid great stress on the terms of Confederation and
was anxious to make as good a money bargain as possible. On that ground
he objected to the financial arrangements as submitted by the Government as
not creating sufficient surplus of revenue, and also to the fiction, as he termed
it. of assuming the population to be 120,000 instead of 40,000. It may be
remarked here, incidentally, that the assumption of 120,000 as the popula-
tion of British Columbia was based not on an estimate of the actual number
of people, including Indians, in the province, but on the relative tariff reve-
nue as compared with that of Canada, which was as three to one. In other

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 19 of 79)