R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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them in remembrance of the terms they themselves proposed, which terms
were assented to by their local Legislature, and point out that it was only
the insane act of the administration here which gave such conditions of
union to Columbia; that it could only have been because that administration
sought additional means of procuring extensive patronage immediately be-
fore the general election, and saw in coming contests the means of carrying
the elections, that the province obtained on paper terms which at the time
were known to be impossible of fulfillment.'' He was evidently appalled by
the immensity of the undertaking, and tO' his cautious mind it meant financial
disaster to the Dominion. Though great in rectitude, Mackenzie did not
possess the wider vision or inspiring imagination of his predecessor; nor did
he realize the resources and possibilities of the far west. There were indeed
few Canadians at the time who' did.

The Great Dispute.

Mr. Mackenzie, in view of what appeared to him to be insuperable diffi-
culties, on several occasions endeavored to obtain the consent of the Provincial
Government to a modification of the terms. The province, however, was
strenuously opposed to his proposals. Their mere suggestion aroused intense
feeling, and although the Dominion Government averred that it was their
intention to push forward the work of construction with all possible despatch,
and that they had not the slightest desire to repudiate their obligations to
the province, such assurances were received with no little distrust. Indeed,
feeling became so strong in Victoria that a public meeting was called in Feb-
ruary, 1874, to protest against the Government of Mr. De Cosmos assenting
to any modification of the railway terms. The terms of the resolutions passed
and the sequel, as it affected the local legislature, are given in the previous
chapter by Mr. Higgins.

As previously mentioned, it had been provided by an Order-in-Council,


passed in June, 1873, that Esquimalt should be the terminus of the Canadian
Pacific Railway, and -in order to make this possible it was decided that the
line should be carried across Seymour Narrows. This decision, in the light
of later events, proved, to say the least, premature. The residents of Van-
couver Island, who at first were naturally elated at the determination of the
Dominioq, evinced the greatest hostility to a change of route, even when
the enormous cost and the difficulty of bridging the Narrows eventually
proved that the scheme was, for the time being, impracticable. The selec-
tion of a terminus proved a fruitful source of friction between the two Gov-
ernments. The British Columbia administration strenuously endeavored to
secure the construction of the Island Railway as a portion of the main line,
as indeed, from the tenor of certain despatches, had evidently been the orig-
inal intention of Sir John A. Macdonald. At a later date, however, the Do-
minion Government asserted that the construction of a line of railway on
Vancouver Island was intended only as a local work, which it was proposed
should in some measure indemnify the province for the loss sustained by the
non-fulfillment of the Terms of Union. Mr. Walkem on the part of the
province combated with much acumen and force any such interpretation of
the action of the Federal Government. However, as will be shown later, it
was at last settled by mutual consent that the terminus should be on Burrard
Inlet. Throughout the whole discussion the city of Victoria, for obvious
reasons, had endeavored in every possible way to secure the location of the
terminus at Esquimalt, and was opposed to any modification of the terms
that would interfere with the fulfillment of the cherished desire of its citizens.
While the Island, through " The Terms of Union Preservation League,"
strenuously opposed the alteration or modification of the terms and condi-
tions upon which the province had entered Confederation, the Mainland was
not at all unanimous on the question. In fact, a numerously signed petition
was forwarded to his Excellency the Governor-General in the summer of
1874 by the residents of the latter portion of the Province, which stated that


in their opinion " the Order of the Privy Council of Canada, of June 7th,
1873, is in no way binding on Your Excellency's present Government and
that a line of railway along" the seaboard of Vancouver Island to Esquimalt
is no part of the Terms of Union." The document in question then re-
cited " that in any arrang-ement which may be entered into for an extension
of time for the commencement or completion of the railway, any considera-
tion granted by the Dominion Government to the Province of British Colum-
bia, should be such as would be generally advantageous to the whole Prov-
ince, and not of merely a local nature, benefiting only a section thereof."
The petitioners also added that in their opinion it would be " unwise, im-
politic, and unjust to select any line for the railway until time be given for
a thorough survey of the different routes on the Mainland," as it was be-
lieved that such surveys would result " in the selection of the Eraser Valley
route, which is the only one that connects the fertile districts of the interior
with the seaboard." It will thus be seen that sectional feeling had been
aroused, which unfortunately continued to exist long after its direct cause
had been removed.

In order to arrive at an impartial conclusion respecting the situation as
it actually existed, it is necessary to examine the conditions, circumstances
arid state of public feeling at the time, both in British Columbia and in
Eastern Canada. When the people of the Province entered Confederation,
expectations were high and anticipations eager and sanguine. The change
betokened to them an era of development and prosperity, such as they had
not experienced since the early gold mining days. Buoyed up with such
hopes they did not realize the difficulties imposed on the Government of
Canada and the attitude towards the building of a trans-continental line
of railway, in the circumstances and for the objects to be gained, assumed
by the great majority of the people of older Canada. As time passed and
their expectations were not realized, distrust and disappointment succeeded


Day by day it became more evident that the Dominion Government
were loath to carry out the obHgations assumed in behalf of British Colum-
bia, and a bitterness of feeling developed that boded no good for the future
of the relations between the West and the East. Isolated as the Province
was, with declining trade, and mining, except in fitful bursts of excitement
as new finds were made, stagnant, it is not difficult to understand that its
people regarded the failure to proceed with construction of the railway as
an absolute and unjustifiable breach of faith and the violation of the terms
of a solemn treaty. On the other hand, the people of Eastern Canada, with-
out knowledge of the country and not realizing what the West had in store
for them, looked askance at the proposition and honestly believed that Sir
John Macdonald had bartered natural solvency in a bargain that had little else
than sentimental considerations to jusify it. In those days Canada was in
an experimental stage as a Confederacy and the task of bridging a continent
by a line of railway, which today is undertaken without fear, seemed beyond
the limits of practicability — a hair-brained scheme. There were men of
inij gir-ation, enthusiasts, who, fired with zeal by an undertaking so pregnant
with possibilities for the Dominion and who, bounding over physical ob^
stacles and eliminating time and distance, reached what we have already
realized; but they were here and there. Alexander Mackenzie did not be-
long to that class of statesmen; he had been moulded in the school of hard
facts, and rocks and mountains and long distances were verities to him not
to be overcome by any effort of the imagination. He was as prosaic as he
was honest, and was deeply imbued with the idea that the construction of this
enormous work was impossible unless it should be spread over a number of
years. He did not hesitate to affirm that it was a physical impossibility to
build the railway in accordance with the terms agreed upon, and that any
attempt to do so could only result in grave financial peril. Mackenzie rep-
resented the conservative element, who looked askance at big things without
the money in hand to see them through. As between British Columbia and


Eastern Canada neither one could put itself in the mental attitude of the
other, and so the breach grew wider. With the people of the former the
building of a railway was the one object of their living, the sunimmn bonum
of their hopes, their financial salvation. The Dominion made overtures,
and offered certain concessions in order that the Province might be com-
pensated for the loss it had suffered through the inability of Canada to
fulfill what were treaty obligations. These overtures, however, were re-
jected by the Provincial administration as it was feared that their accept-
ance would jeopardize the right of the Province to demand the immediate
commencement of the more important work on the Mainland. The Do-
minion would not accede to the Provincial demands and a dead-lock con-
sequently ensued. The discontent at last became so great that the admin-
istration determined to dispatch a petition to Her Majesty, the Queen. , A
memorial was therefore drawn up, complaining of the non-fulfillment of
the Terms of Union on the part of the Dominion Government, and setting
forth clearly and concisely the grievances of the Province, and the hard-
ships that it had endured on account of the dilatoriness of the authorities at
Ottawa. The petition concluded with the following paragraphs :

" That British Columbia has fulfilled all the conditions of her agree-
ment tmder the Terms of Union :

" That the Dominion has not completed the necessary railway explora-
tions and surveys; nor since 1872 has any effort, at all adequate to the un-
dertaking, been made up to the present time :

" That notwithstanding the fact on the seventh day of June, 1873, by
Order of the Privy Council ' Esquimalt' was' ' fixed' as the point of com-
mencement on the Pacific, and it was decided that a line should ' be located
between that harbor and Seymour Narrows;' and notwithstanding, further,
that a valuable belt of land, along the line indicated, has ever since been
reserved by British Columbia, at the instance of the Dominion, and for tho


purposes, ostensibly, of immediate construction, the Dominion Government
have failed and neglected to commence construction up to the present time:

" That although the Government of the Dominion admit that the agree-
ment v^ith British Columbia has been violated, and acknowledged that im-
mediate construction might be commenced at Esquimalt, and active work
vigorously prosecuted upon * that portion of the railway ' between Esqui-
malt and Nanaimo, yet they virtually refuse to commence such construction
unless British Columbia consents to materially change the Railway Clause
of the Treaty :

" That, in consequence of the course pursued by the Dominion, Brit-
ish Columbia is suffering great loss; her trade has been damaged and un-
settled; her general prosperity has become seriously affected; her people
have become discontented; a feeling of depression has taken the place of the
confident anticipations of commercial and political advantages to be derived
from the speedy construction of a great railway, uniting the Atlantic and
Pacific shores of Your Majesty's Dominion on the Continent of North


The Carnarvon Terms.

It was furthermore decided that the Honorable George A. Walkem,
Attorney General, who, by the way, had always displayed the utmost dili-
gence in pressing upon the Dominion the necessity of complying with the
Terms of Union, should proceed immediately to Ottawa and from thence
to London to press the claims of the Province. The petition to Her Majesty
was in due course forwarded to the Earl of Carnarvon, Secretary of State
for the Colonies, who was also informed of Mr. Walkem's departure for
England. Earl Carnarvon in a dispatch (June i8th, 1874) to His Ex-
cellency the Governor General, intimated that although he had no desire to
interfere in the affairs of Canada he would gladly waive all considerations
of delicacy, as he was strongly impressed with the great importance of
effecting a speedy and amicable settlement of the matters in dispute between


the Provincial and Dominion Governments. He, therefore, signified his
willingness to tender his good offices as arbitrator, provided that all con-
cerned were agreeable to the proposal and that his decision should be ac-
cepted as final. Each party was requested to furnish a statement, and on
these written reports a decision would be rendered. Both the Dominion
and Provincial administrations accepted Earl Carnarvon's generous offer
and also agreed to be bound by his decision. Thus it seemed that the un-
happy controversy which had been carried on with more or less bitterness by
both sides, was in a fair way to be settled in a friendly manner.

The Dominion Government in a report of the Privy Council dated July
8th, 1874, replied at some length to the charges preferred by British Colum-
bia. It was carefully pointed out, and much was made of the fact, that the
passage of the section in the Terms of Union relating to the construction of
the Pacific Railway had been strongly opposed in Parliament, and was only
carried by a small majority of ten. It was also claimed that even to obtain
this majority the Government of the day had been obliged to propose a
resolution that distinctly laid down that the railway should be " constructed
and worked by private enterprise, and not by the Dominion Government, and
that the public aid given to secure that undertaking should consist of such
liberal grants of land, and such subsidy in money or other aid, not increas-
ing the present rate of taxation, as the Parliament of Canada shall hereafter

Mr. Joseph Trutch, the Provincial delegate, who had been at Ottawa
when the Terms were discussed, had, as already stated, intimated at a public
meeting that the Province did not regard the Terms of Union as to a railway
binding to the letter, but all that was required was that the railway should
be built as soon and with as little delay as possible. The Federal Ministry
contended that such statements showed very clearly that the " Terms were
directory rather than mandatory." Furthermore it was pointed out that
over one million dollars had been voted for surveys, more than one-half of


which had been spent in British Columbia. In spite of strenuous exertions,
however, the engineers had not been able to locate any portion of the line,
and, therefore, it had been impossible to vigorously prosecute the work of

It was also mentioned that in March, 1873, Sir Hugh Allan had formed
a company which had undertaken to complete the line for a grant of $30,-
ooo,cxx) and 20,000 acres of land per mile. Sir Hugh journeyed to London,
where he endeavored to obtain financial assistance, but his efforts resulted
in failure and in consequence the company relinquished their charter.

The Dominion also referred to the fact, that in their solicitude for
the welfare of the Province, Mr, Edgar had been dispatched on a special
mission to the Government of British Columbia, and although Mr. Edgar
had been empowered to make certain proposals regarding an amelioration
of the railway conditions, the Executive Council of the Province refused to
enter into negotiations with him on the ground that he was not a duly ac-
credited agent. The Dominion Government stigmatized the action of Brit-
ish Columbia in this connection as a " mere technical pretense." Again it
was contended that the public feeling of the whole Dominion was so strong-
ly against " the fatal extravagance involved in the terms agreed to by the
late Government, that no Government could live that would attempt or
rather pretend to attempt their literal fulfillment." It was averred that
public meetings had been held both on Vancouver Island and the Mainland
which had condemned the action of the Provincial Executive in not acceding
to the proposed modifications. The report concludes with a reference to
the action of the Government respecting the Graving Dock at Esquimalt
which, it is argued, clearly demonstrates that the Canadian Ministry had
always exhibited a profound desire to act in accordance with the Terms of
Union, and even to go beyond them when circumstances warranted such
behavior. Under the Terms of Union the Dominion was bound to guar-
antee five per cent on $500,000 for ten years after the construction of the


dock. The Local Government, however, on finding that it was impossible
to have the- work performed on the basis of this subsidy, solicited further
aid from Ottawa and in order to comply with this request the Dominion
Government obtained authority from Parliament to advance the sum of
$250,000 as the work progressed.

Mr. Mackenzie certainly nrepared a careful and plausible statement of
the case from the Dominion standpoint. Briefly, he contended that, al-
though it had been ascertained that the literal fulfillment of the Terms of
Union was impossible, Canada had always conscientiously endeavored to
keep faith with British Columbia, and that in face of tremendous difficulties
the work of mapping out the route of the Pacific Railway had been prosecuted
with all diligence, and, further, that no expense had been spared that was
compatible with the means at the disposal of the Government.

Upon arriving in London Mr. Walkem immediately proceeded to lay
before the Earl of Carnarvon the case for British Columbia. The main
points of the controversy were fully discussed and the Secretary of State for
the Colonies expressed satisfaction at the moderate statement made on be-
half of the Province. Mr. Walkem's tact and knowledge certainly cleared
the way for a prompt solution of the problem. The Dominion Government
presented their side of the case in a Minute of Council, dealing at length
with the whole question.

After a delay of a few weeks, during which period both parties to the
dispute laid counter statements before the Earl of Carnarvon, a decision was
rendered which was embodied in a dispatch to the Earl of Dufferin, then
Governor General. After expressing satisfaction at the clear and complete
statements furnished by the Dominion and Provincial Governments, and at
the temperate and forbearing manner in which both sides of the case had
been presented, the Secretary of State remarked that any decision he might
render must of necessity partake of the nature of a compromise, and as such
it was not improbable that he might fall short of giving complete satisfac-


tipn to either side. It was also pointed out that under the amended terms
British Columbia would, after all, receive substantial advantages from the
union with Canada, while on the other hand, the Dominion would be de-
livered of no inconsiderable part of those obligations which had been all too
hastily assumed in the first instance, without sufficient knowledge of the con-
ditions under which so great and important a work could be carried into
effect. Briefly the remarks of the Earl of Carnarvon, in handing down his
decision, were as follows:

1. That the railway from Esquimalt to Nanaimo shall be commenced
as soon as possible, and completed with all practicable despatch.

2. That the surveys on the Mainland shall be pushed on with the ut-
most vigor. On this point, after considering the representations of your,
ministers, I feel that I have no alternative but tO' reply, as I do most fully
and readily, upon their assurance that no legitimate effort or expense will
be spared, first, to determine the best route for the line, and secondly, to
proceed with the details of the engineering work. It would be distasteful
to me, if, indeed, it were not impossible, to prescribe strictly any minimum of
time or expenditure with regard to work of so uncertain a nature; but, hap-
pily, it is equally impossible for me to doubt that your Government will
loyally do its best in every way to accelerate the completion of a duty left
freely to its sense of honor and justice.

3. That the wagon road and telegraph line shall be immediately con-
structed. There seems here to be some difference of opinion as to the special
value to the Province of the undertaking to complete these two works, but
after considering what has been said, I am of opinion that they should both
be proceeded with at once, as indeed is suggested by your ministers.

4. That $2,000,000 a year, and not $1,500,000, shall be the minimum
expenditure on railway works within the Province from the date at which
the surveys are sufficiently completed to enable that amount to be expended
on construction. In naming this amount I understand that it being alike the


interest and the wish of the Dominion Government to urge on with all speed
the completion of the works now to be undertaken, the annual expenditure
will be as much in excess of the minimum, of $2,000,000 as in any year may
be found practicable.

5. Lastly, that on or before December 31st, 1898, the railway shall be
completed and open for traffic from the Pacific seaboard to a point at the
western end of Lake Superior, at which it will fall into connection with the
existing lines of railway through a portion of the United States, and also
with the navigation of Canadian waters. To proceed at present with the
remainder of the railway extending, by the country northward of Lake
Superior, to the existing Canadian lines, ought not, in my opinion, to be re-
quired, and the time for undertaking that work must be determined by the
development of settlement and the changing circumstances of the country.
The day is, however, I hope, not very distant when a continuous line of
railway through Canadian territory will be practicable, and I therefore look
upon this portion of the scheme as postponed rather than abandoned.

The decision gave satisfaction not only to the Province but also to the
Dominion, in fact, the latter maintained in a report of the Privy Council,
accepting the new terms, and approved by the Governor General on Decem-
ber i8th, 1874, that " the conclusion at which His Lordship has arrived
* upholds,' as he remarks, in the main, and subject only to some modifica-
tion of detail, the policy adopted by this Government on this most embarrass-
ing question."

It was now hoped that the " Carnarvon Terms," a name by which the
agreement in question was familiarly known, would once for all settle the
problem of railway construction, and great was the rejoicing in British
Columbia thereat. Once again the people were doomed to disappointment.

Further Delays.

Two years went by and the construction of the railway had not been
commenced in the Province, although a certain amount of preliminary work


had been accomplished. The Government of British Columbia repeatedly
demanded that the Dominion should give effect to the " Carnarvon Terms,"
but without avail. Matters went from bad to worse and discontent became
so general in the Province that secession was openly talked of.

In January, 1876, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia once
again resorted to the expedient of petitioning Her Majesty to compel the
Canadian Government to redress the grievances of the Province. The peti-
tion cited the fact that although the Dominion Government had distinctly
consented to be bound by the decision of the E^rl of Carnarvon in 1874. no
real attempt had been made to carry out the solemn obligations imposed by
that agreement; that the action of the Dominion Government in refusing
to make an annual railway expenditure of two million dollars in the Province.
in spite of the agreement to do so, if the performance of this promise should
interfere with the conditions of a resolution passed in the House of Com-
mons in 1 87 1, after the Terms of Union had been assented to, created great
dissatisfaction; that in effect the resolution in question provided that the
railway should be constructed and worked by private enterprise, and not

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 21 of 79)