R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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ated, and the people of British Columbia, in common with the people of the
rest of Canada, share in that feeling of brotherhood that should actuate the
whole of the citizens of one nation.





The official lives of the Governors and Lieutenant Governors of British
Columbia embody the political history of fifty years, and incidentally em-
brace much else of interest. In colonial days the Governor was a factor in
politics, representing Imperial interests and in a large measure Imperial
politics. His personal influence, too, counted for much more than it has
in the case of latter day Governors, because he had greater power to enforce
his views on his Executive Council, of which he was one de facto, as well as
in name. Before the days of responsible government in British Columbia,
at it was in the old Canadas, the Legislative Assembly was rather an ad-
visory than a governing body, and as the real head of the Executive, the
Governor possessed an authority which to assert today would be dangerous.

Responsible government brought with it to the Dominion and to the
Province the complete recognition of the right of the people, through their
representatives elect, to govern. Parliament is supreme, and the Government
or Executive, while by an unwritten code of proxy is entrusted, as the best
modern solution of practical Government, with a large measure of discretion-
ary powers, its will is, nevertheless, in the final analysis, but the registered
index of the popular will, and the Governor or Lieutenant Governor simply
affixes his seal to the fiat of the court of public opinion.

The one was the direct representative of the Imperial Government, with
a large measure of control and influence, and the other, under responsible
government, is an indirect representative, whose authority, except under


extraordinary circumstances, is derived solely from the people over whom
he is nominally set to govern.

In the one case, in dealing with the Governors, we are dealing with part
of the policy which directed public affairs, in the other we have a series of
pegs which may or may not be convenient upon which to hang current his-

When the colonial Governors assumed office they were waited upon
by delegations and memorialized on public matters and were authoritative and
sometimes mandatory in their replies.

Now representations are sometimes made to the Governor, but not
strictly in matters of State, or if by courtesy this is done, they are referred
to the Executive. His influence is often sought, but, if exerted, is done so
unofficially, and need not necessarily be respected. The Home Govern-
ment may seek advice from the Governor of Canada independently respect-
ing matters of Imperial interest, but as a rule he is simply the medium of
communication between the tw^o Governments. The same thing may occur
in regard to Dominion and provincial affairs, but a similar rule applies.

Richard Blanshard.

It is usual to regard Sir James Douglas as the first Governor of British
Columbia, but, although he was virtually the first, nominally he was not.
The consideration of Blanshard's place in our history carries us back to the
time of Hudson's Bay Company rule, when that corporation exercised sov-
ereign control not only over Vancouver Island but over a vast tract of terri-
tory known as Rupert's Land, as well as exclusive trading rights over an-
other vast area known as the Indian Territory. It may be said of Blanshard,
as has been said of many another good man in a somewhat different sense,
that he was before his time. Space will not permit of my going into a con-
sideration of all the circumstances connected with his appointment and the
tenure of his office as Governor. Bancroft and other writers on the Hud-


soli s Bay Company period have dealt with these, nor indeed, does the im-
portance of his gubernatorial career justify elaborate treatment. He was
appointed simply to satisfy the conditions of the time. Sir James Douglas
would have been the man had it not been felt that (where the interests of the
company and the colonist as such might at times come into conflict) one in-
dependent of the company altogether would be desirable. Moreover, an
independent appointee gave at least a semblance of Imperial above company
control. Under other circumstances, the precaution would have been a very
wise one, but there were practically none other than Hudson's Bay Company
employes to govern, and thev owed no allegiance to any power other than
the chief factor, who had neither inclination nor intention to acknowledge
any governor other than the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. A
memorial presented to Governor Blanshard. which set out, among other
things, the names of all the persons in the colony not connected directly with
the Company, had fifteen signatures to it. and Blanshard himself solemnly
asserts that there were not more than thirty persons of all sorts and condi-
tions, that is, w^hite persons, outside of the company's employ.

From what we know of Blanshard, he was a man of good parts, and
under other circumstances would probably have succeeded in as great a de-
gree as he failed at that time. In England the post of Governor of a Colony
is regarded as one of honor and emolument, and we can in some measure
judge of his disappointment when he landed in Victoria and fully realized
for the first time the conditions then existing in this country. He found
governing a hollow mockery. Upon his own testimony we learn that his
only duties consisted in settling disputes between members of the company,
or such as would form part of the work of an ordinary justice of the peace,
and we cannot wonder at and can readily forgive the irritation he displayed
and the pessimism of his letters and reports home. Without a population
to govern, with scant recognition of his office, without official residence or
a stipend and without even the undisputed sway of Alexander Selkirk over


the fowl and the brute, he nevertheless, as he wandered forlornly over his
domain, could doubtless echo to the faintest whisper the sentiment of that
other monarch when he exclaimed :

"O Solitude, where are the charms

That sages have seen in thy face?
Better dwell in the midst of alarms

Than reign in this horrible place."

Coming out to Vancouver Island in January, 1850, he left again in
185 1, his governorship extending over a term of about two years, and we
hear of him again giving evidence before the Select Committee of the House
of Commons in 1857, appointed to enquire into the title and the conditions
of occupancy of land held by the Hudson's Bay Company, an opportunity
that no doubt afforded him much satisfaction for the treatment he had re-
ceived, treatment that cannot be described as other than shabby and un-
deserved. He was succeeded by James Douglas, then chief factor of the
Hudson's Bay Company on the Pacific Coast. Taking all things into con-
sideration, Douglas was the only man at that time with any claim to the
position who could have satisfactorily filled it. As already intimated prac-
tically the only interests to be considered were those under his own care, and
from his official standing in the company, he had almost perfect control of
the population, as every person in the colony was directly or indirectly de-
pendent on the company. He knew the whole country intimately, had the
confidence and respect and a familiar knowledge of the Indians, and above
all was a man born to rule.

Sir James Douglas.

I have referred to him elsewhere as " remarkable," and when the his-
torian of the future comes to write dispassionately on British Columbia in a
light uncolored by the atmosphere of the day and generation in which Sir
James lived, that estimate of him will be fully sustained. To my mind the
most remarkable feature of his career is the development of a character and

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a personality unique in its fullness and moral strength. It was a character
that grew up in and out of a western soil almost barbaric in the rudeness
and primitiveness of its product, and yet so diverse in many respects that
had it not been for its ruggedness and strength might be termed exotic. As
a boy of sixteen out of school launched on a sea of Far West adventure,
entirely removed from the social influences and culture comforts of his home
in Scotland, associating for years with the uncivilized Indian tribes of the
country, and moulded by the stern experience of an isolated life on prairie,
in forest and on mountain; out of touch with the civilizing forces of the
wonderful century in which he began life; engaged in an occupation that
begat no ambitions or aspirations of a future that such a man in other walks
of life might reasonably entertain — with such environments it is remarkable,
I contend, that he should not only retain the accomplishments of his youth
throughout life, but increase and perfect them ; acquire a knowledge of many
subjects of an academic nature, and particularly of the principles of political
economy and statescraft ; develop a strong literary style of composition and
familiarize himself with formalities of government and parliamentary pro-
cedure; nurture the moral and religious instincts of his youth; observe a be-
coming temperance and abstemiousness ; cultivate a striking dignity of per-
son; and in the midst of his busy life, full of practical and unromantic de-
tails, keep abreast of the thought of his day, and that when he was called
upon to fill the responsible and dignified position of Governor of one of
Her Majest}^'s colonies, without any previous experience or training for
such a post, he should do so with the utmost ability and acceptability. It
is true that in many of the qualifications possessed by James Douglas — edu-
cation, intelligence, tact, force of character, physical prowess, bravery, re-
sourcefulness, systematic habits, dignity, moral rectitude — the Hudson's
Bay Company service was a splendid training school, and it is only fair to
say that our hero was but one, though a conspicuous member, of a long list
of pioneers in the nobility of the fur trade to whom history can never do too


much honor. In this respect, however, Douglas was particularly notable,
that while he evinced many if not all of the better qualities of men of his
class, he was singularly free from the moral defects and excesses, not un-
natural in a rough and ready school of ethics through which all alike gradu-
ated, that distinguished some of them. In his day, Sir James was undoubt-
edly remarkable among many remarkable men, and it is not unnatural to
conclude that under other conditions of life, and with a wider opportunity,
would have equally distinguished himself as a man of affairs and as a leader
of men. We can, therefore, honor him not only for what he was in life,
but for what he might have been.

James Douglas was born in 1803, in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and went to
school there and in Chester, receiving a good education. His knowledge of
French was acquired (not in the Northwest, as stated by Dr. Bryce), but
from an old French count, who counselled him upon leaving for America to
keep it up as it would always be useful to him. So well was the advice fol-
lowed that when Sir James visited France on his journey through Europe
many years afterwards, he was complimented upon his excellent and courtly
use of the l&ngiiage. He was a student until the day of his death, and his
reading embraced a very wide range of subjects.

Upon the formation of the two colonies under Imperial control in 1859,
having severed his connection with the Hudson's Bay Company, he became
governor of both, retiring in 1864 with the honor of knighthood. He died
in 1877, after the problem of confederation and in a large measure that of
railway connection, had been solved, thus living to behold in his own life-
time,, the consummation of what as a pioneer and founder of a province he
had been a factor in achieving. Whatever differences in opinion there may
have been among his contemporaries as to his policy as a governor or what-
ever may have been the varying estimates of his character as a man among
men with whom he had personal relations — every strong man has his
enemies and in all politics there is strife — that today he is by general con-


sensus of opinion regarded as the man representative of his times, the one
about whose individuahty must cluster as a nucleus the materials for the
history of the early life of British Columbia, is the strongest possible testi-
mony to the part he played as a pioneer and statesman.

After Douglas came three Governors, about whom the present genera-
tion know but little, for while they were within the memory of many of the
older inhabitants, as governors there was nothing special connected with
their administrations to make their tenure of office memorable. During
Sir James Douglas's regime British Columbia was in a purely formative
stage. Permanency depended upon future developments. Regarding these,
hopes had always been high, and prospects, though bright, were indefinite,
and based on a sanguineness characteristic of a strong, hardy, brave, in-
telligent and adventurous class of people, who, loving the freedom of West-
ern life, had an instinctive faith in the country — a faith that has remained
steadfast with them and us, and which is now finding its justification in
many ways. All things come to those who know how to wait, is the true
rendering of the old proverb, and waiting is being amply rewarded.

Kennedy and Seymour.

When Arthur Edward Kennedy and Frederick Seymour succeeded
Douglas in the colonies of Vancouver Island and (the mainland of) Brit-
ish Columbia, respectively, the country was settling down to an organized
state of afifairs. There were separate political institutions in the Colonies,
separate seats of Government, and a distinct separateness of feeling, which
later crystallized into a sectionalism that had its influence for many a day
afterwards, and is not yet wholly eliminated. After, however, the early
mining excitements had subsided and Cariboo had been exploited, there was
a period of long rest, during which development was slow and little change
was experienced in the outward appearance of things. Political events were
shaped largely upon the main issue of the union of the colonies, which was


favored on the Island, and opposed on the Mainland. Governor Seymour,
who had a fine residence in New Westminster, fought against the removal
of the capital to Victoria, and even after that had been decided upon, de-
layed the inevitable as long as possible in the hope that the Imperial authori-
ties might .be influenced to change their views. The union, after a hard
stniggle, was effected in 1866, when Governor Kennedy retired and Gov-
ernor Seymour succeeded as Governor of all British Columbia. The first
session after union was held in Victoria in 1867. One of the strong levers
in bringing about union was the expense of the civil list, which high even
for the united colonies, was burdensome when maintained separately in
colonies with limited population and undeveloped resources. The salary of
the governors alone was $15,000 a year each, and although the salary of
Seymour was increased to $20,000 after the union, the saving was consid-
erable, and in a similar way the expenditure for civil service was correspond-
ingly reduced all round.

I am indebted to- the Hon. D. W. Fliggins, ex-Speaker, for impressions
of the early governors. Governor Kennedy arrived in Victoria on Good
Friday, 1864, and was received with open arms and salvos of artillery. He
had been a captain in the regular army and had seen service in India. Re-
tired on captain's half pay, he had mixed in Imperial politics, and was a
fluent and graceful speaker. Handsome in appearance, gray, decidedly
military in his bearing, very suave, amiable, and clever, he was a striking
figure and a man of character as well. While addressing a deputation of
citizens from the steps of the Government buildings on one occasion he used
the memorable expression that it was better to be decidedly wrong than un-
decidedly right, a note that was attuned to his own policy. Governor Ken-
nedy took a strong interest in the affairs of the colony and personally investi-
gated the resources of the Island as far as was possible with a view to its
betterment. The agitation for union of the colonies began early in his
reign, and his influence was a strong factor in bringing it about. He had


two daughters, one of whom married Lord Gilford, afterwards Governor
of Queensland.

Governor Seymour was a man of different stamp, smaller in physique
and of nervous, active temperament. He was quite bald. He had been
governor of British Honduras, where he had made a good record for him-
self, but where his experience probably influenced his views of Colonial
policy, and to some extent his disposition. His advent to office as Governor
of the united colonies was coincident with the completion of the Atlantic
cable, which brought his instructions respecting union, and which as has been
seen he delayed as long as possible before carrying into effect. Seymour
continued in office until June, 1869, in which year his death occurred. He
died on board Her Majesty's ship Sparrowhawk at Bella Coola, whither he
had gone on a trip for his health. After coming to British Columbia he re-
turned to England and married there.

The principal feature of his Governorship was the movement for union
with Canada, which began almost immediately as soon as the lesser union
had been effected. Seymour used all the influence in his power in its favor,
and as the policy of the Home Government in this matter was well known,
he undoubtedly acted under instructions.

Sir Anthony Musgrave.

Sir Anthony Musgrave succeeded, and by this time Confederation was
the one absorbing issue. Curiously enough, in contrast with the attitude
on the union of the colonies, Confederation was strongly supported on the
Mainland, while the principal opposition came from the Island, although
there was a strong party in Victoria in its favor. There was also an in-
significant element advocating annexation with the United States. Mus-
grave's instructions were explicit on the subject, and his mission as Governor
had principally that end in view. His efforts, backed up by Imperial in-
fluence, strong even to the point of command, brought the issue to a head


sooner than it otherwise would have been, and in the end sentiment wa&
unanimous in its favor.

The year 1871 saw Confederation an accomplished fact, and with it
came responsible government. Musgrave's services upon his retirement were
recognized by knighthood. , He is described as a tall, slim, handsome man,
of excellent parts and intellectual attainments. In the West Indies, where
he had written himself into the notice and favor of the Governor of St. Vin-
cent, he had been a journalist, and with favor came well deserved prefer-
ment. During his residence in British Columbia he had the misfortune,
while riding, to break his leg. His sister, Mrs. Dodgson, still lives in Vic-
toria, and another sister married Mr, John Trutch, an engineer, formerly
Land Commissioner of the E. & N. Railway, well known to all old Victo-

Sir Joseph Trutch.

After Confederation, as was proper, the honor of being the first Lieu-
tenant-Governor fell to the lot of a British Columbian, who had been long
and prominently identified with its affairs as a member of the Legislative
Assembly and as Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and Surveyor-
General — Sir Joseph W. Trutch. He had been one of the three delegates
who went to Ottawa to arrange the terms of Confederation, and after the
successful completion of his mission returned to Victoria with his commission
as governor in his pocket, and was appointed in July, 187 1. During his
term of office, responsible government and the initiation of the work of sur-
veying the C. P. R. line of railway came about. Sir Joseph acquired con-
siderable wealth, and subsequent to his retirement from office he went to Eng-
land to live, but although he had his residence mainly there, he continued
to have large interests in the Province, being one of the heavy shareholders
in the Hall mines and smelter at Nelson, B. C. He died very recently. Sir
Joseph Trutch was a man of more than ordinary ability; but, although
estimable in every respect, had personal qualities which did not render him


popular. He was careful in business matters, exact in the fulfillment of his
official duties, and was at all times concerned that the dignity of his person
or office should not suffer. When he retired, in 1876, he did so retaining
the respect of the citizens generally.

Sir Joseph was the son of an English solicitor, who was afterwards
Clerk of the Peace in St. Thomas, Jamaica, where he married the daughter
of a Judge of the Supreme Court, and where Sir Joseph was born. The latter
was educated at Exeter, England, and was trained -as a civil engineer. In
1849 he came out to the Pacific Coast and practiced engineering in California
and Oregon, and was thus a pioneer of pioneers in mining life on this coast.
Afterwards he was assistant engineer on the Illinois and Michigan canal and
on the Illinois River improvement works. In 1855 he married a daughter
of Mr. Louis Hyde, of New York. In 1859 he came to Victoria, and up
until 1864 was employed on the construction of public works in British Co-
lumbia, notably on the section through the cafion of the Eraser River and
the wagon road from Yale to Cariboo, including the suspension bridge over
the Eraser River, built by him under the terms of a toll charter. He suc-
ceeded Lieutenant-Colonel Moody, R. E., as Chief Commissioner of Lands
and Works and Surveyor-General of the Province in 1866.

Hon. a. N. Richards.

The Hon. Albert Norton Richards, Q. C, who succeeded Sir Joseph
Trutch, was a man of considerable prominence in the old Canadas before
coming to this province, having sat for South Leeds in the Canadian Assem-
bly of Canada from the general elections of 1863 until January, 1864, and
for the same constituency for the House of Commons from the general elec-
tion of 1872 to the dissolution in 1874. Eor a brief period in 1863-64 he
was a member of the Executive Council of Canada and Solicitor-General of
Upper Canada. He was a brother of the late Chief Justice of Canada. When
Hon. William McDougall, C. B., made his memorable trip to the Northwest


in 1869 to be Governor of Manitoba, Mr. Richards accompanied him as
Attorney-General in the provisional government about to be established in
that province.

As is well known, owing to the rebellion headed by Louis Riel, the pro-
posed arrangements fell through. He was afterwards for several years legal
agent of the Dominion Government in British Columbia. It was during his
term of office here in Government House, and during the latter part of that
of his predecessor, as well as during the early part of that of his successor in
office, that the most notable agitation in the history of British Columbia took
place. I refer to the trouble over the non-fulfillment of the terms of Con-
federation with reference tO' the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
It is a long chapter, with many incidents, including the change of the terminus
from Esquimau to Port Moody, the Hon. Mr. Walkem's mission to England,
and Carnarvon Terms, mass meetings and memorials, the secession cry, Lord
Duflferin's celebrated peace mission in connection herewith, the demand for
an Island railway, the Settlement Act, and many others, which all finally
culminated in a full and satisfactory adjustment of provincial grievances and
a new era of development of which we have already reaped the first fruits.

Governor Richards was a man of character, intellectual ability, highly
developed legal attainments and rugged honesty. He was plain and unas-
suming, an effective, but not eloquent pleader, and a sturdy old-time Re-
former, who never swerved in his allegiance to Baldwin liberalism. Had his
party been in power at an earlier period prior to his death, his services and

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 23 of 79)