The Early Days of Representative Government in British Columbia
By W. N. Sage


FAR removed from the settled portions of British North America and separated from them by the Rocky Mountains and the great plains, two British colonies grew up on the North West Pacific coast during the middle years of the nineteenth century— Vancouver Island and British Columbia. At first sight their story would seem to have but little connection with that of the rest of Canada. Their problems were different, and their isolation was all but complete. Even as late as 1871, when the united colony of British Columbia became a province of the Dominion of Canada, there was considerable heart-searching both in Ottawa and Victoria as to whether or not it was wise to try to ,ink up with the four original provinces of the newly-formed Dominion a territory so remote. In fact, as is clearly evidenced by a perusal of the debate on Confederation in the Legislative Council of British Columbia in March and April, 1870, and especially of the speech of the Hon. Mr. Trutch, it was only the incorporation of the North West Territory with the Dominion in 1870 that made the entrance of British Columbia into the federation a possibility. And even yet, fifty years after Confederation, British Columbia still retains its individual characteristics and its peculiar problems. It faces the Orient and has, geographically, turned its back on the rest of Canada. It is, as an eastern Canadian has called it, the “West beyond the West”. But it is now intensely Canadian in feeling, and has long since ceased its agitation for “Better Terms*'

Although in their early days the two colonies which now form the province of British Columbia were entirely shut off from the rest of British North America, their political and constitutional development had many points of similarity with that of the older provinces. It is true that before 1871 responsible government, in its usual sense, had not been set up in any part of British Columbia; though representative government had been tried, and had proved to be no more successful, without responsible government, in Vancouver Island, and British Columbia than it had been in eastern Canada. It is true also that full powers of self-government were granted to British Columbia after 1871 only as a province of Canada and not as a separate colony. None the less, the story of the early attempts at popular government in British Columbia is well worth chronicling, and it should not be forgotten that the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island which met in 1856 was the first of its kind to be set up in British North America west of the Great Lakes.

In the older Canadian provinces representative government was granted as a result of a considerable popular demand. In Vancouver Island it was set up on account of the expressed wish of the Colonial Office, while the Act which in 1858 created the crown colony of British Columbia provided for the establishment in that colony of a legislature containing a representative assembly as soon as conditions would permit. As a matter of fact, no Legislative Assembly was ever created for the crown colony of British Columbia, but five representative members sat in the Legislative Council.

Before, however, we can discuss the constitutions of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, it will be necessary to sketch briefly the events which in each case led to the creation of these British settlements on the North West Pacific coast. The origins of the two colonies were quite dissimilar. The older colony, Vancouver Island, was brought into being in 1849 by the Royal Grant made in that year by the imperial authorities to the Hudson’s Bay Company. By the terms of this grant: the Hudson’s Bay Company was given control of the island, provided that it accepted certain conditions imposed by the imperial government. These conditions included the acceptance of a royal governor and the settlement by the Company, within a period of five years, of resident colonists to whom lands were to be sold “at a reasonable price”. At the same time the Hudson’s Bay Company had possessed since 1821 the exclusive privilege of trading with the Indians on the Mainland of British Columbia. Coupled with the rights of sovereignty over Rupert's Land, conferred by the original charter of 1670, and reaffirmed by the grant or license of 1821, this Royal Grant of 1849 made the Hudson’s Bay Company supreme in all western Canada, including Vancouver Island. From Fort William on the east to Fort Victoria on the west, and from the international boundary to the Arctic Ocean, no one was in a position, at that moment, seriously to question the authority of the Great Company.

None the less, the “Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay” knew that their position in western Canada was none too secure for the future. The 1838, in itself a renewal of the grant of 1821, had been grant of expressly limited to a period of twenty-one years. and would automatically expire in 1859. It might be further renewed, but further renewal was very doubtful. That grant, in 1849, had therefore only ten years to run, and it: behooved the Great Company to utilize its time to the best advantage. Now the Company was a fur-trading monopoly, and as such did not desire any extensive colonization of its territories. It knew too well that the advent of the colonist meant the doom of the fur-trade. But it did not object to colonies which it could control, especially when it was evident that the British Colonial Office was considering plans for the colonization of Vancouver Island. In June, 1847, James Edward Fitzgerald had submitted to the Colonial Office an elaborate scheme for the formation of a joint stock company which would establish a colony upon Vancouver Island.® This colony would be independent of the Hudson’s Bay Company. As an offset to such schemes as this, the Great Company obtained the Royal Grant of 1849, and passed resolutions outlining conditions of settlement on the island. These conditions were sufficiently stringent to bar any large influx of settlers. Among them were included the following:

(1) That no grant of land shall contain less than twenty acres.

(2) That the purchasers of land shall pay to the Hudson's Bay Company at their House in London, the sum of one pound per acre for the land sold to them, to be held in free and common soccage.

(3) The purchasers of land shall provide a passage to Vancouver’s Island for themselves and their families; if they have any; or be provided with a passage (if they prefer it) on paying for the same a reasonable rate.

(4) That purchasers of larger quantities of land shall pay the same price per acre, namely, one pound, and shall take out with them five single men, or three married couples, for every hundred acres.

The above conditions hardly need comment. They show too clearly the policy of the Great Company regarding the settlement of Vancouver Island. They have been quoted at length as they have a direct bearing upon the history of representative government in Vancouver Island. Only freeholders, as we shall see, were allowed to vote. In fact, the whole scheme for settlement was a sham. It is well summed up in the following sentence from Fitzgerald’s letter to Herman Merivale, dated June 2, 1848: ‘‘The Hudson's Bay Company want to get the island into their own hands in order that they may prevent ,iny colony there, except of their servants and dependents.”

Such was the origin of the colony of Vancouver Island. It was the creation of the fur-trading monopoly for the furtherance of its own interests. And in the early years of the colony the Great Company was able to maintain its hold on Vancouver Island without much difficulty. The royal governor, Richard Blanchard, alter about two years’ tenure of an office which carried with it little honour and less power retired to England, leaving as his successor James Douglas, the chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Victoria, and the real ruler of all the Company’s territories west of the Rocky Mountains.

But the easy-going calm of the fur-traders was rudely disturbed by the discovery of gold -within British territory north of the forty-ninth parallel. The gold discoveries in California in 1848 and 1849 had somewhat stirred the Hudson’s Bay posts, but that was nothing compared to the reports of gold in the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1852, and the gold rush to the Fraser in 1858. It was this last event which sealed the fate of the trading monopoly of the Hudson’s Bay Company on the mainland of British Columbia. Governor Douglas on May 8, 1858, issued his fatnous proclamation “warning all persons” that the Hudson’s Bay Company was “legally entitled to trade with Indians in the British Possessions on the north-west coast of America, to the exclusion of all other persons, whether British or Foreign,” and threatening to seize “all ships, boats and vessels, together with the goods laden on board, found in Fraser’s River, or in any of the bays, rivers, or creeks of the said British Possessions on the northwest coast of America, not having a license fee from the Hudson’s Bay Company, and a suffrance from the proper officer of the Customs at Victoria.” This proclamation was, in July, 1858, disallowed by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, the colonial secretary, but it shows how heroically the Hudson’s Bay Company held on to its trading monopoly in New Caledonia, as the mainland of British Columbia was then called.

'The result of this gold rush to the Fraser was the formation of the crown colony of British Columbia. This was done by Act of the imperial parliament on August 2, 1858, and also by the “Instrument under the Royal Sign Manual, revoking so much of the Crown Grant of 30 May, 1836, to the Hudson’s Bay Company, for exclusive trading with the Indians, as relates to the territories comprised within the Colony of British Columbia, dated 2nd September, 1858.” The crown colony of British Columbia was to be absolutely free from Hudson’s Bay Company control and was to be under the Colonial Office entirely. The first governor was James Douglas, who was allowed to hold office as governor of the two colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, provided that he severed all official connection with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Thus were the two colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia brought into being. Their origins were very unlike, though their future was closely bound up together. It has been necessary to go into this discussion of the foundation of the two colonies before it was possible to deal with their constitutional problems, and especially the attempts at the setting up of representative government. Since the two colonies, although under one governor for several years, from 1858 to 1863 m the case of Vancouver Island, and in 1864 in the case of British Columbia, were administered as distinct political units until their union in 1866, it is essential that their constitutional problems be now discussed separately.

The constitution of Vancouver Island was provided for in the commission and instructions issued in 1849 to Richard Blanchard on the occasion of his appointment as first governor of that island. This commission and these instructions provide for the setting up of a council and an assembly in the new colony-—in a word, by the introduction of representative institutions. It was the object of the Colonial Office that the infant colony should enjoy the blessings of popular government from the start, but it was not purposed to give the colony complete control of its own affairs. It is to be noted that the governor was to exercise his functions with the advice of the council. He was not in any way intended to be an unconstitutional monarch.

It will be well here to examine the text of the commission, since it sets forth more accurately than any paraphrase could the actual powers and duties of the governor, council, and general assembly. Regarding the formation of the council the terms of the commission read as follows:

We do hereby grant, appoint and ordain that you and such other persons as are hereinafter designated, shall constitute and be a Council for the said Island. And we do hereby direct and appoint that in addition to yourself the said Council shall be composed of such other persons within the same, as shall from time to time be named or designated for that purpose for Us, by any instructions, or warrant or warrants to be by us for that purpose issued under Our Signet and Sign Manual, and with the advice of Our Privy Council, all of which Councillors shall hold their places in the said Council at our pleasure. And we do hereby grant and ordain that you with the advice of the said Council shall have full power and authority to make and enact all such Laws and Ordinances as may from time to time be required for the peace, order and good Government of the said Colony, and that in the making all such Laws and Ordinances you shall exercise all such powers and authorities, and that the said Council shall conform to and observe all such Rules and Regulations, as shall be given and prescribed in and by such instructions as We with the advice of Our Privy Council shall from time to lime make for their and your good guidance therein, Provided, nevertheless, and We do hereby reserve to Ourselves, Our Heirs and Successors, Our and their right and authority to disallow all such Ordinances in the whole or in part, and to make and establish from time to time with the advice and consent of Parliament or with the advice of Our or their Privy Council all such Laws, as may to Us or them appear necessary lor the order, peace and good Government of Our said Island and its dependencies, as fully as if these presents had not been made. From the foregoing it is evident that the powers of the governor and council were by no means absolute. The Colonial Office was prepared to keep a close check upon the laws and ordinances issued by them. The royal right of disallowance was carefully maintained, and the imperial parliament was free to legislate as it liked for the colony and its dependencies. Nevertheless the governor and council were given considerable scope in issuing laws and ordinances dealing with purely local matters.

The instructions issued to Governor Blanchard empowered him to “constitute and appoint seven persons” resident in the colony “to be Members of the said Council” during royal pleasure. Three members were to form a quorum, and the governor was to be empowered to fill vacancies subject to royal approval or disallowance. Freedom of debate was to be allowed in all sessions of the Council, and members of the Council were to be “men of good life, well affected to our Government, of good estates and abilities suitable to their employments.” It was eAident from the above that the Council was to be an aristocratic body representative of the landed interests in the colony.

The terms of the commission are equally explicit regarding the formation of the General Assembly of the colony—

And we do hereby give and grant unto you full power with the advice and consent of Our said Council from time to time as need shall require, to summon and call General Assemblies of the Inhabitants owning twenty or more acres of freehold land within the said Island and its Dependencies under your Government in such manner and form, and according to such powers, instructions, and authorities as are granted or appointed by your General Instructions accompanying this your Commission, or according to such further powers, instructions and authorities as shall be at any time hereafter granted or appointed under Our Sign Manual and Signet, or by Our Order in Our Privy Council, or by Us through one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, And Our will and pleasure is that the persons thereupon duly elected by the major part of the said Freeholders and so returned shall before their sitting take the Oath of Allegiance, which oath you shall commission lit persons under the Public Seal of Our said Island and its Dependencies to defend and administer unto them, and until the same shall be taken shall be incapable of sitting though elected. And we do hereby declare that the persons so elected and qualified shall be called and deemed the General Asssembly of Our said Island of Vancouver, And you, said Richard Blanchard, by and with the consent and advice of Our said Council and Assembly or the major part of them respectively, shall have full power and authority to make, constitute and ordain Laws, Statutes and Ordinances for the public peace and welfare and good Government of our said Island and its dependencies, and the people and inhabitants thereof, and such others as shall resort thereto, and for the benefit of Us, Our heirs and successors, which said Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances are not to be repugnant, but as near as may be agreeable to the Laws and Statutes of this Our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, provided that all such Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances of what nature or duration whatsoever, be transmitted to Us in the manner specified in your said Instructions under the Public Seal of Our said Island and its Dependencies for Our approbation or disallowance of the same, as also duplicates thereof by the next conveyance.

In the accompanying instructions, Blanchard was empowered “to issue a Proclamation declaring the number of Representatives to be chosen by such Freeholders to serve in the said General Assembly.’’ He could also, if he saw fit, divide the island into electoral districts and appoint returning officers. All laws were to be styled as enacted “by the Governor, Council and Assembly” of the “Island and its Dependencies.”

Such, on paper, was to be the constitution of Vancouver Island. It has been given in some detail as illustrating the policy of the Colonial Office. The commission and instructions to Blanchard were framed in the evident expectations that the colony of Vancouver Island would rapidly grow and be capable of a fairly elaborate system of representative government. The Hudson’s Bay Company were making plans for the transportation of emigrants to the island, and it was anticipated that almost as soon as the governor arrived he could select his council, and soon after make plans for the election of the first General Assembly. The real condition of affairs on Vancouver Island was evidently unknown in England.

What Blanchard actually found on his arrival Is best set forth in his own words. The following is from his despatch, dated April 18, 1850, to Earl Grey, who was then the colonial secretary: As no settlers have at present arrived, I have considered that it is unnecessary as yet to nominate a Council as my instructions direct; for a Council chosen at present must be composed entirely of Officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, few, if any, of whom possess the qualification of landed property which is required to vote for Members of the Assembly, and they would moreover be completely under th'e control of their superior Officers; but as no ’mmediate arrival of settlers is likely to take place and my instructions direct me to form a Council on my arrival, I should wish for further direction on this point before proceeding to its formation. In fact, as Blanchard stated in his evidence before the select committee of the imperial parliament on the subject of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1857, there was practically nothing for him to do in the colony “except to regulate the disputes between the Hudson’s Bay Company’s officers and their servants.” When Mr. Roebuck, one of the chief members of the committee, suggested to Blanchard that there was no colony at all, the former governor could truthfully state, “It was nothing more than a fur-trading post, or very little more.” In such a community, controlled by a fur-trading monopoly, it is hard to see the place for any system of representative government. During Blanchard’s regime of about two years, therefore, popular institutions were impossible.

Blanchard resigned in 1851, and retired to England, a much disillusioned man. Before he left, however, he set up the first Council of Vancouver Island. This council was primarily formed to carry on the government of the colony until a new governor could be appointed. It was, therefore, by nature both an executive and legislative council. Since, according to his original instructions, three members constituted a quorum, Blanchard made no attempt to appoint more than that number. The three selected were James Douglas, John Tod, and James Cooper, all of whom had been connected with the Hudson’s Bay Company. To James Douglas, chief factor of the Great Company, was given the title of senior member.

The first meeting of the Council of Vancouver Island wTas held on August 30j 1851. On this occasion Blanchard constituted his council by provisionally admitting the new members; then he announced his resignation, and left a printed copy of his instructions for the guidance of the newer senior member and his associates. The next meeting was not held until April 28, 1852. Before this time James Douglas had received his formal commission from England, and had been sworn in as governor of Vancouver Island.

From 1851 to 1858 Douglas held the two offices of chief factor and governor. His dual position made him practically the dictator of the colony. The Company had triumphed and, to quote Bancroft, had “obtained not only a crown grant, but a crown government.” What little colonial administration was necessary was, until 1856, carried on by Douglas and his Council. Practically all that the Council had to do was to discuss the measures submitted to it by the governor. According to the Royal Grant of 1849 the lands and public works of the colony were controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company, and so those most important subjects were withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Council.

The actual business transacted during these years is faithfully recorded in the old minute book of the Council, preserved n the Provincial Archives at Victoria. It is chiefly a routine record, dealing with liquor licenses, the appointment of magistrates, and the question of public instruction. On the important subject of the tariff the members of Council were opposed to the imposition of any customs duties, especially since there were not “above twenty settlers on the whole island.” It is interesting to note that on this occasion the Council opposed the will of the governor. Douglas had submitted a plan “for the consideration of Council, for raising a permanent revenue by imposing a duty of five per cent, on all imports of British and Foreign goods,” but the Council did not approve. Free trade feeling was already prevalent in the infant colony.

Although on occasion the Council went against the opinion of the governor, the two seem, on the whole, to have worked together very harmoniously. Meetings were quite infrequent: only five were held in 1852 and six in 1853, and these were summoned only when the governor found that he needed the assistance of the Council. For the rest of the time, he ruled unaided.

It should not be thought, however, that the Council of Vancouver Island was a powerless body. It could and did pass important legislation. Magistrates and justices of the peace were set up in March, 1853, and in September of that year a “Court of Common Pleas” was established, with power and jurisdiction in all civil cases “wherein the damages claimed shall not exceed the sum of £2,000 sterling money.” At the same time the duties ot the judge were outlined, and a salary of one hundred pounds sterling a year was voted to him from the revenue derived from liquor licences. It is interesting to note that the judge appointed on this occasion was David Cameron, a brother-in-law of Governor Douglas. Cameron, who had been a clerk in the Hudson's Bay service, does not seem at first to have been very learned in the law, but he filled the office of judge and later that of chief ‘ustice to the comparative satisfaction of the inhabitants of the island. None the less such appointments as this gave colour to the charge of Amor De Cosmos, the editor of the British Colonist, that Vancouver Island was ruled by “a Family-Company-Compact.”

The subject of education was one which attracted much of the Council’s attention. In March, 1853. it was decided by the Council to erect two schools, one at Victoria and the other at Maple Point “near the Puget Sound Company’s establishment.” The sum of £500 was appropriated on this occasion “for the erection of a school-house at Victoria, to contain a dwelling for the teacher, and school-rooms, and several bedrooms.” The first school-master was Robert Barr, who received the title of “Colonial Teacher.” The important question of fees was discussed, and it was resolved at the meeting of Council on December 2, 1852, that Mr. Barr should be permitted to make the following charges for the board of pupils:

For the children of Colonists, residents of Vancouver Island, and of servants of the Hudson’s Bay Company ......18 guineas per annum.

For the children of non-residents, not being servants of the Hudson’s Bay Company........Any sum that may be agreed upon with the parties.

It might be noticed in this connection that Mr. Barr’s original schedule presented to the meeting had allowed the children of officers and servants of the Hudson’s Bay Company to be received for a payment of sixteen guineas per annum. The Council, although composed of men who had been, or still were, in close connection with the Great Company, would not sanction this preferential rate. At the same meeting a committee was appointed “to enquire into, and report upon, the state of the Colonial School, and to hold quarterly examinations to ascertain the progress made by the pupils.” In 1856 the Rev. Edward Cridge, colonial chaplain at Victoria, was appointed a member of this committee and was empowered to hold examination and “to report on the progress and conduct of the pupils, on the system of management, and on all other matters connected with the District Schools which may appear deserving of attention.” Mr. Cridge thus became the first school inspector on Vancouver Island.

The liquor question, then as ever, occupied much of the attention of the government of the colony. Apparently there was much need for regulation since we learn from a private diary of the period that “it would almost take a line of packet ships running between here and San Francisco to supply this Island with grog, so great a thirst prevails among its inhabitants.” At the meeting of Council on March 29, 1853, it was decided that one hundred pounds be charged for each wholesale licence, and one hundred and twenty pounds for each retail licence on the island. These licence fees were to be “under the management of the Governor and Council.” The gift or sale of liquor to the Indians was forbidden by an Act of the Council dated August 3, 1854.

The Council had but little control over revenue, since according to the Royal Grant of 1849 all proceeds from land sales, royalties, and timber duties were remitted to England and placed there in a reserve fund, with the exception of the ten per cent, allowed to the Hudson’s Bay Company. The revenue derived from liquor licences was the only fund absolutely at the disposal of the governor and council. The amounts derived from this source increased from £220 in 1853 to £460 in 1854, and decreased to £340 in 1855. From this money the judge’s salary was paid. Some other items, chiefly those connected with the Colonial School, were paid from the Vancouver Island’s Trust Fund. But the bulk of the expenses of the colony were defrayed by the Hudson’s Bay Company.® This was, of course, in fulfilment of the terms of the Royal Grant of 1849, whereby the company was required to pay “all civil and military expenses” of the colony. That the company lived up to its obligations is apparent from a financial statement submitted in 1856 by Douglas to the secretary of the Hudson’s Bay Company in London. For the year ending November 1, 1855, the public expenditure of the colony was £4,107 2s. 3d. and the income from licence fees, land sales and sundry credits was £693 2s. 10d., leaving a balance unpaid of £3,413 19s. 5d. The chief expenditures recorded were for construction of roads and bridges, and for the surveyor’s department. Other items included monies paid out to the Victoria church for the chaplain’s salary, and also to the public schools. About eighty pounds w^as spent upon the maintenance of the local militia. Since the control of finance was still in the hands of the fur-trailing monopoly, it may be seen that representative institutions in Vancouver’s Island had not progressed far by 1856.

But that year, 1856, is memorable in the history of the island colony since it saw the creation of the first Legislative Assembly. This body was brought into being at the expressed wTish of the colonial secretary, Mr. Labouchtire. In a despatch dated February 28th, 1856, Labouchere wrote to Douglas instructing him to call together an Assembly at once. The colonial secretary’s language on this occasion admitted of no alternative interpretation:

It appears to Her Majesty’s Government, therefore, that steps should be taken at once for the establishment of the only legislature authorized by the present constitution of the island. I have, accordingly, to instruct you to call together an Assembly in the terms of your Commission and Instructions.

Douglas was, therefore, to carry out the instructions already issued to him and to fix the number of representatives, and if he thought it advisable to divide the colony into districts and to establish separate polling places. It was pointed out to him that it would be possible for him, if he saw fit, after constituting the assembly to bring before it the advisability of setting up some more simple form of government than that of governor, council, and assembly. A single chamber might be created of which at least one third of the members should be appointed by the Crown. But this latter course of procedure was not followed by Douglas in the case of Vancouver Island. None the less this policy, advocated by Labouchere, was later partially followed when the Legislative Council of the crown colony of British Columbia was constituted.

As might be expected, Douglas and his Council were completely taken by surprise on receiving the despatch of the colonial secretary. Even before discussing the despatch with the Council, which he did on June 4, 1856, Douglas had written his mind pretty freely to Labouchere. Since the governor’s letter clearly show's his attitude in regard to representative government, several sentences from it will bear quotation here:

It is, I confess, not without a feeling of dismay that I contemplate the nature and amount of labour and responsibility which will be imposed upon me, in the process of carrying out the instructions conveyed in your despatch. Possessing a very slender knowledge of legislation, without legal advice or intelligent assistance of any kind, I approach the subject with diffidence; feeling, however, all the encouragement which the kindly-promised assistance and support of Her Majesty’s Government is calculated to inspire.

Under those circumstances, I beg to assure you that every exertion on my part shall be made to give effect to your said instructions at as early a period as possible.

I observe that the terms of my commission only empower me “to summon and call general assemblies of the inhabitants owning 20 or more acres of freehold land within the said island”, apparently restricting the elective franchise to the holders of 20 acres of land and upwards, to the exclusion of holders of houses and other descriptions of town property, a class more numerous than t he former. I am utterly averse to universal suffrage, or making the population the basis of representation; but I think it expedient to extend the franchise to all persons holding a fixed property stake, whether houses or lands, in the colony; the whole of that class having interests to serve, and a distinct motive for seeking to improve the moral and material condition of the colony. Long before his despatch of May 22 could reach Downing Street, Douglas had acted upon his instructions and made plans for calling together the first General Assembly of Vancouver Island. In the meeting of Council of June 9 the property qualifications of members of the Assembly and also those of voters had been fixed, the former at “the ownership of £300 of freehold property or immovable estate,” and the latter at “the. ownership of 20 acres of freehold land or upwards, as required by the instructions from the Crown.” At the same time, it was decided that “absentee proprietors shall be permitted to vote through their agents or attorneys.” The Venetian Oligarchy of the eighteenth century in England was no closer a corporation than that which was to be in control of Vancouver Island. Four electoral districts were set up, and provision was made for the election of seven members to the Assembly.

All preparations having been duly completed, the elections were held and the first Assembly met on August 12, 1850. After the opening ceremonies, to which reference will be made later, Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, that grand old man of British Columbia politics, whose death, at the age of ninety-six, occurred n September, 1920, was elected speaker. He was a son in-law of Governor Douglas, and held the position of physician to the Company. Of the other six members, four had been connected with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The fur-trading monopoly was still in control of affairs on the island, although representative government was now a reality.

At the formal ceremony of the opening of the Assembly, Governor Douglas made a notable speech. He congratulated the members on the “memorable occasion,” and reminded them that this was “the first instance of representative institutions being granted in the infancy of a British Colony.” He then outlined at some length the condition of affairs in the colony and claimed that “like the native pines of its storm-beaten promontories it has acquired a slow but hardy growth.” He went on to advocate reciprocity with the United States, and the adoption of the policy of free trade. The necessity for adequate military and naval protection was pointed out, and the danger from the Northern Indians cited. Douglas then called the attention of the Assembly to the fact that with it lay the origination of all money bills, and that one of its duties was “to consider the ways and means of defraying the ordinary expenses of the Government, either by levying a customs duty or by a system of direct taxation.” In conclusion, the governor stated that he had authorized Chief Justice Cameron to administer the oaths of allegiance to the members of the Assembly, and that the members should choose their speaker and proceed with their organization.

That all the inhabitants of Vancouver Island did not share the rather grandiloquent views of the governor may be ascertained from the following sentences from a letter of John Work, a chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company and a member of Council of Vancouver Island, to his friend Edward Ermatinger, who was an ex-employee of the Company:

Our Colony is not increasing in population. I have already told you of the advantages of soil, climate, etc., which experience fully realizes. The home Government, except in the article of dispatches, leaves us to ourselves to get on as best we may. We have had an election lately of Members of a House of Assembly, to assemble in a few days. It is to consist of 7 Members chosen by about 40 Voters, the qualification of a Member is fixed property to the amount of £300 and of an elector to own 20 acres of land, hitherto affairs were managed by the Governor and his Council consisting of four members, Cap! Cooper, Mr. Tod, Finlayson & myself. I have always considered such a Colony & such a government when there are so few people to govern as little better than a farce and this last scene of a house of representatives the most absurd of the whole. It is putting the plough before the horses.

The principle of representation is good, but there are too few people and nobody to pay taxes to rover expenses. We shall see how the affair will work. Roads are opened in different directions and many improvements made, but we labour under great disadvantage, owing to the bungling of our Government at home not having included us in the reciprocity Treaty with your Yankee neighbors. We have no market but California to go to where we have no chance to compete having to pay high duty when our American neighbors have none either there or here................

Thus with much pomp and ceremony, but with some misgiving. was the General Assembly of Vancouver Island launched. The problem next arose, what was there for it to do? That problem was never completely solved so long as the Hudson's Bay Company retained control of the island. But the Assembly went gaily to work endeavouring to find a sphere of action for itself. Its first task was to investigate the qualification of its members. This resulted in the disqualification of one member. Edward E. Langford, who lacked the required £300 minimum. The Assembly next called for a statement of the colonial accounts, and requested information as to “what funds are subject to the control of this Assembly, if any: what is the amount, and from what source does it come, and what fund is the royalty on coal paid into.” To this request for information Governor Douglas replied showing that the only funds which could be controlled by the Assembly were those arising from the liquor licences and that all other monies were sent to England, to be placed in the reserve fund. It later developed that funds arising from licences had also been paid into the coffers of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The first vote of supply by the Assembly was passed in December, 1856, and it amounted to £130, of which fifty pounds was to be pai l to the governor to defray the cost of furnishing the Assembly with copies of public documents. This money was to be paid out of the licence fund. The vote of supply was, accordingly, sent up to the Council and was passed by that body in February, 1857. Several slight amendments were made by the Council, however, the most important being that the Council changed the wording of the vote of the Assembly "that the above items be paid out of the revenue derived from the licences of July 10th, 1850” so to read “out of the revenue derived from the duty charged on licenced houses.” The Assembly objected to the change on the ground that the funds derived from the 1856 licences were under its control. It looked for a moment as if a constitutional issue had been raised. The governor, however, intervened, and in a letter dated Apdl 21, 1857, stated that the reason for the Council s amendment was that the “duties raised on licensed houses for the year 1856 were paid into the General Colonial Fund and expended, with other proceeds of revenue, in the service of the colony, prior to the convention of the House of Assembly in August last, and for that reason are not at our disposal,” and that “the Council, in amending the Bill, by charging the sums thereby granted to the revenue derivable from the same source in 1857, were influenced solely by the knowledge of that fact, and not from any desire to interfere with the arrangements of the House of Assembly.” The Assembly thereupon accepted the amendments of the Council, and the incident closed.

Various other subjects of interest to the colony were from time to time discussed by the Assembly. In almost all cases information relative to the matter under discussion was sought from the governor. Enquiries were made concerning the last census of the island and also the postal arrangements. Douglas at once furnished full data concerning the census and advocated that “no time be lost in providing means for initiating a postal system.” At the same time he suggested to the Assembly that it should vote supplies “for the improvement and opening of public roads.” He thereupon furnished estimates amounting to £1,400, of which £500 was for postal expenses and £900 for roads.

The Assembly at once raised the constitutional point of “no taxation without representation.” In an address to the governor :t put itself on record in these terms:

The House is humbly of opinion that it would be unconstitutional to levy taxes until the Legislature be more complete and the towns represented as well as the districts, and the House further conceives that before such a step were taken, as that of raising taxes, the entire revenue ought to be placed under the control of the Legislature of this Island, to be by them appropriated as might be deemed most expedient to the welfare of the Colony.

Upon these grounds the Assembly rejected the proposed appropriations for postal facilities and roads.

On the same occasion, May 5, 1857, one of the members of the Assembly, Mr. McKay, moved:

That requisition be respectfully made to His Excellency the Governor for an Abstract of the Annual Income and Expenditures of the Colony from its commencement until the end of 1856. Also, if possible, to know what sums have been expended in England by the Honourable Hudson’s Bay Company and for what purposes. If the Colony be in debt, to know to whom such debt is owing; or if liquidated, to show how and by whom, and whether any interest is or has been paid or charged upon such sum lent to pay the debt; and, if so, the rate of interest per annum and the amount paid. Apparently no information on this subject was forthcoming from the governor, since there is no further mention of Mr. McKay’s motion except its transmission to Douglas, either in the “Minutes of the Assembly” or in the “House of Assembly Correspondence Rook.”

Information was further sought from the governor on the subject of laws enacted by the Council and thereby enforced in the colony. This was freely but incompletely given, and the governor received the thanks of the assembly. The question of the proposed reciprocity treaty with the United States was discussed, and disappointment: expressed that negotiations had been brought to “an abrupt termination.” A somewhat lengthy correspondence occurred between governor and Assembly on the subject of the “non-receipt of royalties upon coal from Nanaimo for the year 1856.” Information was also sought relative to the Inferior Court of Justice, “the constitution of the same, and by whose authority” it had been constituted. A reply was received from the governor transmitting a letter from Chief Justice Cameron defending the existing constitution of the court.

Enough has been cited to show how the Assembly during the first year of its existence gradually widened the scope of its activities by the well-recognized process of asking for information It was by no means a sovereign body, but it was steadily making its influence felt. The relations between governor and Assembly were usually very cordial indeed, and information, when obtainable, was freely given by Douglas. It is interesting to note in this connection that the Council, almost completely dropped out of sight during the early months of the Assembly’s activities. Very few meetings were held and but little business transacted. There is no record of any meeting of Council from February 17, 1857, till October 11, 1858. The governor was dealing direct with the Assembly without the advice or assistance of the Council.

The Assembly during this period passed several important bills. The most important of these was the “Bill for the Enfranchisement of Victoria Town,” introduced on May 6, 1857, and finally passed on June 1 of that year. It granted to Victoria Town the privilege of returning two members to the Assembly, and fixing the qualifications of members at the £300 property minimum required for the members for the districts. After much discussion the qualification of voters was placed at the possession of “freehold property consisting of houses or buildings of the value of £50 (fifty) sterling and upwards :n the aforesaid Town of Victoria”1 and also to those persons “who shall have occupied such house property for twelve months previous to exercising the said right at a rental of £10 sterling per annum for the entire building so occupied.” Two noteworthy clauses in the bill disqualified from voting civil servants and members of Council.

The subsequent fate of this bill is very enlightening to the student of representative institutions upon Vancouver Island. The bill was sent to Governor Douglas on June 1, 1857. On December 19 of the same year the governor, after enquiry from the Assembly as to the fate of the bill, replied that he had received the bill and that it would be discussed by the Council. Nearly a year later, on November 8, 1858, Douglas reported that the subject was “still under consideration.” On January 11, 1859, Mr. Yates, a member of the Assembly for Victoria district, moved “That this House be informed by the Executive if the bill for the Extension of the Franchise to the Town of Victoria, which passed this House, on the first of June, 1857, is likely to be passed or rejected by the Executive.” This evoked a reply from Douglas that “the consideration of the Act for the Enfranchising of the Town of Victoria has been necessarily delayed in consequence of the condition of the country and the great pressure of public business; it will, however, be brought forward to the consideration of the Council on the first convenient occasion.” The bill was finally placed before the Council on March 23, 1859. Objection to the bill was then raised, especially to the qualification of £10 rental as being too low. On April 11, 1859, the bill was sent to the crown solicitor for remodelling. It was finally agreed to on April 16, 1859, nearly two years after it had first been introduced into the Assembly. It is not to be wondered at that in face of such political conditions there was a growing demand for reform in Vancouver Island.

This demand for reform coincided with the foundation of the crown colony of British Columbia. The gold rush to the Fraser brought in a large number of settlers to Victoria, which became the port of call on the way to the new El Dorado. The leader of this reform movement was Amor De Cosmos, the founder and first editor of the British Colonist. In the first number of the Colonist, issued on December 11, 1858, De Cosmos announced his intention to support the cause of reform and “to advocate such changes as will tend to establish self-government.” He put his case well in the following sentences:

We shall counsel the introduction of responsible government— a system long established in British America, by which the people will have the whole and sole control over the local affairs of the colony. In short we shall advocate a Constitution modelled after the British, and similar to that of Canada.

To the welfare of the newly established colony of British Columbia De Cosmos claimed he would be as devoted as he was to that of Vancouver Island. His attitude towards British Columbia is stated in the following sentences:

In everything that concerns British Columbia we shall take a deep and permanent interest. The interests of the two colonies, we believe, are identical, and shall receive an equal share of consideration at our hands. To foster the settlement of British Columbia, chronicle its progress and assist in the establishment of necessary political and commercial reforms, are duties which we cheerfully impose on ourself. Our columns will ever be open to publish their grievances, and used to demand redress at the hands of the proper authorities.

De Cosmos was as good as his word. There was no more consistent advocate of the setting up of popular government in both colonies than he.

The Imperial Act of 1858 which established the crown colony of British Columbia provided for the setting up of a “Legislature to make laws for the peace, order and good government of British Columbia, such Legislature to consist of the Governor and a Council, or Council and Assembly, to be composed of such and so many persons, and to be appointed or elected in such manner and for such periods, and subject to such regulations as to Her Majesty may seem expedient.” Until such a legislature was set up, the governor was empowered by the letters patent, issued to him as his commission, to legislate by proclamation. His instructions limited his powers in this matter to some extent by listing certain subjects as beyond his sphere of legislation, but the fact remained that James Douglas, became by virtue of the Act of 1858, the real dictator of British Columbia, and also that he ruled the Gold Colony from his residence in Victoria, Vancouver Island.

At the moment it was probably necessary for the new colony to be controlled by a strong hand, but soon a demand arose for representative institutions.

Governor Douglas, who was, as always, an adept at living up to the letter, if not the spirit, of the law, in March, 1859, appointed Colonel Moody and Judge Begbie as members of his executive council. These appointments were duly reported to Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton for his confirmation. Lytton accepted them as merely temporary, and replied to Douglas as follows:

Regarding these appointments as a mere voluntary committee of, advice, I approve of your proceedings. Whenever you consider that the time has arrived for the formation of a regular Executive Council, and that it is expedient to make the necessary appointments, proper steps shall, on your recommendation, be taken for the purpose.

Douglas, however, took no further steps to create "a regular Executive Council” and ruled British Columbia autocratically with the assistance of Colonel Moody, who was not only the commander of the Royal Engineers, bur was chief commissioner of lands and works, and held a “dominant commission as Lieutenant-Governor of the Province,” and also of Judge Begbie, who was, in addition to his judicial functions, empowered to act as attorney-general. In a sense, Douglas was carrying out the letter of his instructions, and he was able to plead the unsettled conditions then prevailing in the colony, the scanty and widely dispersed population, and the general need for strong government in defence of his actions, in not setting up a colonial legislature or at least a legislative council. In the meantime, Douglas governed the country as he saw fit, and, from time to time, issued proclamations, “having the force of law,” on various subjects ranging from customs duties, land sales and regulations for gold mining, to forms to be used for the naturalisation of aliens and affirmations which were to be taken in courts of law by persons who had conscientious scruples against taking the prescribed oaths. Douglas was determined that British Columbia should not suffer from any lack of governance. None the less, he was not ready to permit the introduction of representative institutions in the Gold Colony.

The settlers, as might be expected, had other views. As early as May, I860, “a petition was forwarded to the Duke of Newcastle, asking for a resident Governor and officials and for representative institutions.” This petition seems to have been without effect since in April, 1861, Douglas was presented with a memorial advocating that a resident governor be appointed and that a representative assembly be set up in British Columbia. The delegation on this occasion was headed by J. A. Homer and contained eight members representing Hope, Douglas, and New Westminster. Governor Douglas forwarded the petition to the Duke of Newcastle on April 22, 1861, with an accompanying despatch which set forth at great length his objections to granting representative institutions to British Columbia. Several paragraphs from the despatch follow:

The first prayer of the inhabitants is for a resident governor in British Columbia, entirely unconnected with Vancouver Island. Your Grace will, perhaps pardon me from hazarding an opinion on a subject which so nearly concerns my own official position. I may, however, at least remark, that I have spared no exertion to promote the interests of both colonies, and am not conscious of having neglected any opportunity of adding to their prosperity. The memorial then proceeds to the subject of Representative Institutions, asking for a form of government similar to that existing in Australia and the eastern British North American Provinces. This application should, perhaps, be considered to apply more to the, future well-being of the colony than to the views and wishes of the existing population. Without pretending to question the talent or experience of the petitioners, or their capacity for legislation and self-government, I am decidedly of opinion that there is not as yet, a sufficient basis of population or property in the colony to institute a sound system of self-government. The British element is small, and there is absolutely neither a manufacturing nor farmer class; there are no landed proprietors, except holders of building lots in towns; no producers, except miners, and the general population is essentially migratory—the only fixed population, apart from New Westminster, being the Traders settled in the several inland towns, from which the miners obtain their supplies. It would, I conceive, be unwise to commit the work of legislation to persons so situated, having nothing at stake, and no real vested interest in the colony. Such a course, it is hardly unfair to say, could be scarcely expected to promote either the happiness of the people or the prosperity of the colony; and it would unquestionably be setting up a power that might materially hinder and embarrass the Government in the great work of developing the resources of this country: a power not representing large bodies of landed proprietors, nor of responsible settlers, having their homes, their property, their sympathies, their dearest interest irrevocably identified with the country; but from the fact before stated, of there being no fixed population, except in the Towns. Judging from the ordinary motives which influence men, it may be assumed that local interests would weigh more with a legislature so formed, than the advancement of the great and permanent interests of the colony.

I have no reason to believe that the memorial does not express the sentiments of the great body of the people of British Columbia, nor that I would, for a moment, assume that Englishmen are, under any circumstances, unmindful of their political birthright, but I believe that the majority of the working and reflective classes would, for many reasons, infinitely prefer the government of the Queen, as now established, to the rule of a party, and would think it prudent to postpone the establishment of representative institutions until the permanent population of the country is greatly increased and capable of moral influence, by maintaining the peace of the country, and making representative institutions a blessing and a reality, and not a by-word and a curse.

The total population of British Columbia and from the colonies in North America, in t he three towns supposed to be represented by the memorialists is as follows: New Westminster, 164 male adults; Hope, 108 adults; Douglas, 33 adults; in all 305; which supposing all perfect in their views respecting representative institutions, is a mere fraction of the population. Neither the people of Yale, Lytton, or Cayoosh, Rock Creek, Alexandria, or Similka-meen appear to have taken any interest in the proceeding, or to have joined in the movement.

After alluding to the successful establishment of municipal institutions in New Westminster, where a town council had been set up in the summer of I860, Douglas went on to show that the formation of similar bodies at Hope, Yale, Cayoosh, and other British Columbia towns would ultimately lead to the introduction of a representative House of Assembly. He then proceeds to summarize the “existing causes of disaffection as alleged in the memorial,” under the following heads:

(1) That the Governor, Colonial Secretary and Attorney General do not reside permanently in British Columbia.

(2) That the taxes on goods are excessive as compared with the population, and in part levied on boatmen, who derive no benefit from them, and that there is no land tax.

(3) That the progress of Victoria is stimulated at the expense of British Columbia, and that no encouragement is given to ship-brriding or to the foreign trade of the colony.

(4) That money has been injudiciously squandered on public works and contracts given without 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.

To these charges, which well illustrate the need for representative government in British Columbia, Douglas made answers as best he might. He dealt with the first complaint, that of the absence of the governor and the chief officials from British Columbia, as follows:

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 permanently 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 more to the benefit of the public service if that department were still in Victoria.

One further quotation from a later portion of the despatch will well illustrate the governor’s ability to juggle with figures, and to make out the best possible case for himself and his autocratic rule:

And here I would beg to correct an error in the memorial with respect 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 10s per head. The actual population, Chinamen included, is about 10,0U0, besides an Indian population exceeding 20,000, making a total of 30,000, which reduces 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-paying —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 extensive consumers of foreign articles.

In conclusion. Douglas contrasted the financial systems and natural resources of the two colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. He wrote:

The public revenue of Vancouver Island is almost wholly derived from taxes levied on persons and professions, on trades and real estate; on the other hand it is by means of duties and imports, and on goods carried inland, 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 substituted or applied interchangeably with advantage to the sister Colony.

Douglas then went on to show that Vancouver Island by reason of its resources and geographical position was bound to be a free trade colony, while British Columbia for similar reasons had, of necessity, to embrace protection. His concluding remarks contained a protest that his measures and policies “have ever been calculated to promote, to the fullest extent, the substantial interests of both colonies.”

But no matter how much Governor Douglas might protest that both colonies received equal justice at his hands, the inhabitants of British Columbia continued to hold meetings and draw up memorials favouring a resident governor and representative institutions. Finally, in July, 1862, a new memorial, the fourth, was prepared. This document stated that taxation without representation existed in the colony; that the sums thus raised, amounting to £10 10s. per head of the population, excluding native Indians, were not carefully spent; and that the governor was an absentee wrho was practically never in the colony. In conclusion, the memorialists prayed for “A Governor who shall reside permanently in this colony, free from any private interests in the colony of Vancouver Island, or connected directly or n-directly with the Hudson’s Bay Company; a system of responsible government similar to that possessed by eastern British North American and Australian colonies.”

Still another petition, the fifth, was sent home to England by the Hon. Malcolm Cameron, who had been paying a visit to the Gold Colony. This time the petition was heard, mainly, apparently, through the influence of Mr. Cameron. The Act for the Government of British Columbia passed in 1858 was to expire at the end of the session of parliament following December 31, 1862, and further legislation for the Gold Colony was necessary. Douglas’s appointment as governor of British Columbia was to last until 1864, but his term in Vancouver Island expired in 1863. Thus the appointment of separate governors was a distinct possibility. The time was also opportune for the Imperial authorities to grant some form of representative government to British Columbia.

The Duke of Newcastle, who wras then colonial secretary, in his despatch of May 26, 1863, informed Douglas that he was about to “submit to Her Majesty an Order in Council constituting a Legislative Council in British Columbia,” and that he desired Douglas “to constitute a partially representative body, capable of making the wishes of the community felt, and calculated to pave the way for a more formal, if not a larger, introduction of the representative element.” In a further despatch on June 15, 1803, Newcastle expressed his position as regards representative government even more clearly:

I should have wished to establish there the same representative institutions which already exist in Vancouver Island; and it is not without reluctance that I have come to the conclusion that this is at present impossible.

It is, however, plain that the fixed population of British Columbia is not yet large enough to form a sufficient and sound basis of representation, while the migratory element far exceeds the fixed, and the Indian far outnumbers both together.

Gold is the only produce of the Colony, extracted in a great measure by an annual influx of foreigners. Of landed proprietors there are next to node, of tradesmen not very many, and these are occupied in their own pursuits at a distance from the centre of Government, and from each other. Under the circumstances 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 rather transient foreigners, who have no permanent interest in the prosperity of the Colony.

For these reasons I think it is necessary that the Government should retain for the present a preponderating influence in the Legislature. From the best information I can obtain, 1 am disposed to think 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.

In the same despatch Newcastle enumerated the powers of the Council. It was to have at its disposal the proceeds of crown lands, and it could “pass laws for the regulation and management of these sources of revenue, subject of course to disallowance in this country, and subject to the qualification which I have mentioned as indispensible in Vancouver Island, viz., that the Crown must retain such legal powers over the lands as are necessary for the disposing of all questions (if any) which remain to be settled with the Hudson’s Bay Company —questions which, without such uncontrolled power, might still be productive of embarrassment.”

The attitude of Her Majesty’s government towards representative institutions in British Columbia was thus clear. The Home authorities wished some form of representation at once introduced whereby it would be possible “to ascertain with some certainty the character, wants, and disposition of the community with a view to the more formal and complete establishment of a representative system as circumstances shall admit of it.”

In an accompanying order-in-council, dated June 11, the maximum number of members for the Legislative Council was fixed at fifteen, divided into the three classes already mentioned. Further particulars for the guidance of the governor were also given.

Armed with these instructions Douglas proceeded forthwith to hold an election of the representative members of the Legislative Council. He divided the colony into five districts: New Westminster, Hope, Yale and Lytton, Douglas and Lillooet, Cariboo East, and Cariboo West. Members were duly elected for these districts, and the first Legislative Council of the colony of British Columbia was formally constituted by the governor’s proclamation of December 28, 1863. The first meeting of the Council was on January 21, 1864. As on the occasion of the first meeting of the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island, Governor Douglas made a long speech reviewing the state of the colony. This was one of Douglas’s last official acts in British Columbia. In April, 1864, he retired from office and was succeeded by Governor Seymour. British Columbia had obtained the first rudiments of representative government, but that was all.

It will now be necessary rapidly to review the closing years of Douglas’s administration on Vancouver Island and to trace the rising demand for responsible government. In 1859 the Hudson’s Bay Company’s licence of trade expired, and at the same time the Imperial government exercised its right of repurchasing Vancouver Island and the island passed directly under the control of Downing Street. Crown lands and public works now became a vital local issue in which the Legislative Assembly might take part. But although the Great Company had lost its power, the ex-chief factor, Douglas, was reluctant to part with any of his prerogatives. He could now cite the authority of the Colonial Office for his actions, and was by no means loath to do so.

One of the methods of legislation still open to the governor was by proclamation, and on January IS, 1860, Douglas issued a proclamation declaring the “Port of Victoria, including Esquimalt Harbour” a free port, at which no customs duties could be levied. Another proclamation fixed the price of land, which had formerly been at one pound an acre, at four shillings and two pence (or one dollar) an acre. Responsible government in Vancouver Island was some distance off yet.

But demand for it was growing. Amor De Cosmos, in the British Colonist, was pouring out the vials ot his righteous wrath against Douglas and the “Family-Company-Compact.” De Cosmos was an able man, and made out a remarkably strong case for responsible government. In a series of strong editorials in the Colonist, he explained to the people the necessity for having an executive council made up of ministers of state, or “Heads of Departments,” “responsible to the representatives of the people in the Assembly for the manner in which their departments were conducted.” He denounced voting by proxy, and advocated an overhauling of the whole franchise question. He favoured giving the right to vote to “all British householders six months in the country, whether owners, tenants or joint tenants for three or six months prior to the election,” and to “all British owners of real estate to the value of eight dollars a year.”

Nor did De Cosmos spare the members of the Legislative Assembly. Headmitted the difficulties under which they laboured, but he advocated a new election as soon as possible. The following quotations from his editorials make clear De Cosmos’s views on the Assembly:

The members of the Legislature appear to have got disheartened. Nor can we wonder at it. They have passed several important bills, and they have nearly all expired in the arms of the Executive. The most important bill, the extension of the Franchise in the Town of Victoria, has lain prostrate now twenty months, and I am afraid it is all but dead.

The following is taken from the editorial on the Family-Company-Compact:

With all its sins of omission and commission our House of Assembly today is the best served department of the colony; and in saying this perhaps no very great compliment is paid to it. Latterly, however—though with a few exceptions, chiefly under Compact influence—it has shown a disposition to meet the wants of the people,—and answer the end of its institution. The majority of its members in a new house, with an addition raising the number to about twenty, would tend to the harmony and prosperity of the colony; but to allow the present house to exist longer, public feeling would be misrepresented and oui new, varied, and important interests would suffer from not receiving due and timely consideration. The sooner it is dissolved and a new house ordered, the sooner will the Family-Company-Compact cease to monopolize the government for ’ndividual aggrandizement to the cost of the country.

When a new franchise bill was introduced into the Assembly, however, it wTas assailed by De Cosmos as being an attempt to maintain the Compact in office for three years longer. The new bill would have increased the number of representatives to eleven, giving two to the town of Victoria, and distributing the others among various districts, including several “rotten boroughs.” Nanaimo, with one qualified voter, was to return one member. The qualifications for voting remained unchanged. De Cosmos had apparently st'Il a long fight before him.

The first Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island expired in 1859. In its concluding sessions, it had debated the relations of church and state. The colonial chaplain, the Rev. Mr. Cridge, had since 1854 been a paid official of the colony. His original appointment, dating from that year, had been for a term of five years, but it was understood that, at the end of that time, the contract could be renewed. Mr. Cridge’s original agreement had been with the Hudson’s Bay Company, but the question of his re-appointment was brought by Governor Douglas to the attention of the Legislative Assembly. In the discussion before the House, Speaker Helmcken “maintained that the appointment of Mr. Cridge was a permanent one, and that he was entitled to a salary until such time as the connection between Church and State was abolished.” The House, however, refused to support the speaker, and passed the following resloution on the subject: Resolved,—this House is of opinion that by the memorandum of agreement dated 12th August, 1854, the Rev. Mr. Cridge was evidently led to expect a renewal of his engagement on faithful service; but the House would recommend the propriety of deferring the consideration of State and Church connection until the House is enlarged, and the sentiments of the people can be better understood.

The Clergy Reserve question at once occupied public attention. The Congregationalist missionary, the Rev. W. F. Clark, wrote to the British Colonist protesting against the “embryo State Church,” and claiming that in Victoria District alone “a Clergy Reserve of two thousand, one hundred and eighteen acres” had been set apart. Charges were brought forward that Clergy Reserves were also planned for British Columbia, and the editor of the British Colonist quoted a sentence from Governor Douglas’s despatch of December 14, 1858, which runs as follows: “I propose building a small church and parsonage, a courthouse and jail, immediately at Langley, and to defray the expense out of the proceeds arising from the sale of town lands there.”

This outcry against a state church was sufficiently great to cause the abandoning of the Clergy Reserves proposals. In 1800 when Bishop Hills, first Anglican bishop of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, arrived, the Victoria glebe, which was to have, been granted to Mr. Cridge, was reduced from one hundred to thirty acres and was “transferred under trustees to the Church.”6 Air. Cridge’s colonial appointment was terminated at the same time, and he was licenced by the new bishop to preach in the Victoria district. His salary was paid, thenceforth, by the congregation, supplemented by missionary grants from Kngland. The separation between church and state on Vancouver Island was now complete.

While this momentous issue was being thus peaceably settled, Vancouver Island was in the throes of its second general election. This took place in January, 1860, and thirteen members were elected. It was on this occasion that the single Nanaimo voter elected Captain Swanson of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s steamer Labouchiere as member for Nanaimo by the majority of one. De Cosmos had, apparently, never heard of the famous Bute election in pre-Reform days in Great Britain, since he wrote in the Colonist, with more heat than accuracy, “This caps the climax of all elections that were ever heard of where the Anglo-Saxon language is spoken.”

It was also on the occasion of the election of 1860 that Edward E. Langford offered himself as a candidate for the town of Victoria, but was defeated. During the campaign an anonymous placard appeared on the streets of Victoria purporting to be the copy of an election address by Langford. Langford had a few days previous published an address which he claimed to be explanatory of his opinion on the affairs of the colony, founded on the experience of nearly nine years’ residence therein, he having been nearly the whole of that time a magistrate, and chairman of the sessions. The anonymous placard was really an exceedingly pointed bit of satire on Langford and his record in Vancouver Island. Its authorship is generally conceded to Judge Begbie of British Columbia, who was thus, anonymously, amusing himself at Langford’s expense. It was, no doubt, intended to cause amusement among the Victoria electorate, but it was none the less uncalled for, especially when it was, apparently, taken to the printer by Governor Douglas’s private secretary, Mr. Good.

As this handbill played quite a part, not only in the election of 1860, but also in the libel suit brought by Langford against Edward Hammond King, the printer of the document, a large part of it may be reproduced here. After stating that “some injudicious person assuming my name has put forward, in answer to your requisition, a long-winded and spiteful address containing many things which I, of course, should not like to have repeated,” the handbill proceeds:

The easiest way for you, gentlemen, to judge of my merits is to make a short statement of what I am and what I have done.

I came here about eight years ago, the hired servant of the Puget Sound Company, for the wages of about six dollars a week, and my board and lodging; the privileges of board and lodging were also extended to ray wife and family, in consideration of the Company having the benefit of their labour on the farm, of which I was to have the charge.

I was brought out here at the expense of the Company; I was placed on the farm I now occupy, bought by the Company, stocked by the Company, improved by labour supplied by the Company entirely. In fact, I have not been put to a penny expense since my arrival in the Colony. The boots I wear and the mutton I and my family and guests eat have been wholly supplied at the expense of the Company; and I flatter myself that the Colonial reputation for hospitality, as displayed by me at the expense of the Company has not been allowed to fall into disrepute. I have given large entertainments, kept riding horses and other means of amusement for myself and my guests; in fact, I may say that 1 and they have eaten, driven and ridden the Company for several years, and a wiry animal it has proved, though its ears, gentlemen, are rather long.

All this time I was and am the farm bailiff of the Puget Sound Company, at wages of £60 ($300) per annum and board, a position I value much too highly to vacate until I shall be kicked out of it. I have refused to render any account, any intelligible account of my stewardship; in fact, I had kept no accounts that I or anybody else could make head or tail of. When requested to give satisfactory explanations, I told my owners pretty squarely that they should have no satisfaction except that usual among gentlemen; and as I knew nobody would call me out and pistol me, I commenced a system of abuse with which you are doubtless tolerably well acquainted, at the same time currying popularity with my farm servants by letting them eat and drink, play or work, just as they liked, which I could do cheap, as the Company pays for all.

I am sorry to say, however, gentlemen, that although pretty jolly just now, I have not been careful enough to keep a qualification for myself for the House of Assembly, although I have run my owners many thousands of pounds in debt. However, I hope to bully them out of their property entirely; “improve” them out of their land. How I propose to do this, seeing that all the land, capital, stock, and labour has been provided by them, is a secret. In the meantime, if 1 should not be fortunate enough to nail a qualification before the election, I shall do as I did before, hand in a protest against the grinding despotic tyranny which requires a qualification t all, notwithstanding Runnimead and Rule Britannia. The House, I doubt not, will allow me to sit, and I shall be too happy to serve you as I have served my present employers. Need one wonder that Langford brought a charge of libel against the printer and endeavoured to ascertain the author’s identity! But the libel suit merely landed Langford in further difficulties. When questioned in court concerning certain of his account books at Colwood Farm, Langford declined to answer, and was committed to prison for contempt of court. In his letter ol June 18, 1861, to the Duke of Newcastle, Langford stated his opinion of the trial in the following terms:

The proceedings in court at the trial were of an improper, illegal and vexatious character; and, on my refusing to answer a question which was irrelevant to the statement contained in the declaration, inquisitorial and harsh n its tendency, and which affected the interests of society at large, I was removed from court in the custody of the sheriff; the examination for the defence was carried on in my absence, evidence that I had given on oath was struck out by the direction of the Judge, and a nonsuit recorded; I was then brought into court, was sentenced to be imprisoned in the common gaol, and to pay a fine of £10. I was taken to prison and locked up with felons, Indians and maniacs.

While in prison Langford received a bill of costs sent in by the attorney-general, who had acted both as attorney and counsel for the defence, amounting to £90 9s. 2d. This Langford declined to pay, although the court had decreed that the plaintiff should pay all costs of the action. Judgment was accordingly given against him for the amount of the attorney-general’s bill, and his “furniture and other effects were seized under an execution.” Fortunately for Langford, a subscription on his behalf was raised by the inhabitants of Vancouver Island and the sum of $500 collected. He was thus enabled to pay his bill of costs, and he did so on July 14, 1860.

Langford also states in his letter to the Duke of Newcastle that Captain King, the printer of the placard, had informed him in October, 1860, that Judge Begbie was the author of the document and that Governor Douglas’s secretary, Mr Good, had “brought the libel, in manuscript, to the printing office.” He goes on to relate that Captain King told him “that Mr. Good gave him £20. to pay to the Attorney-General, stating that he was to defend the action.”

Langford's case has been dealt with at some length, not only on account of its notoriety at the time, which was sufficiently great to warrant the publication of the correspondence connected with it in a British “White Paper” in 1X63, but more especially as illustrating political conditions on Vancouver Island. To be sure, Langford was one of those charming persons who can make the most of any grievance, and whose obstinacy and lack of humour generally lead them into further difficulties, but none the less he was on very bad terms with the Douglas administration, lie had already run foul of the colonial surveyor, Joseph Despard Pemberton, on the subject of a certain tract of land, which he had tried to buy, but which Pemberton declared had been already disposed of to Mr. Dallas, the agent for the Puget Sound Company, who was also the son-in-law of Governor Douglas. In addition, Langford had launched an attack upon Chief Justice Cameron, and had charged him with being an insolvent debtor, both in Scotland and in Demerara. He had also declared him to be so biassed and inefficient that “the proceedings in the law courts of the Colony are the theme of scorn and derision among the colonists,” and that “life and liberty had been illegally sacrificed and jeopardised, and the ends of justice defeated.”1 It is not to be wondered at that in government circles Langford was an exceedingly unpopular candidate, and that Judge Begbie’s satirical pen was brought into the fray against him.

Soon after his release from prison, Langford retired to England, and proceeded to bombard the Colonial Office with a series of letters voicing his grievances. On the whole, these letters met with rather a chilly reception from the Duke of Newcastle, and at length, in 1863, Langford ceased sending them. After that this stormy petrel of Vancouver Island seems to have dropped out of public view.

In the meantime, the second Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island was still sitting, but it cannot be said to have accomplished very much of importance. One reason for this has already been given, when it was stated that Douglas could, on his own initiative, issue proclamations which possessed the force of law. Another reason was the comparatively small population of the island, which hardly exceeded three thousand persons, exclusive of native Indians. The members of the Assembly, although most of them represented outside districts, lived in the town of Victoria, and cannot have kept in any too close touch with their constituents. The town of" Victoria, according to figures given by D. G. F. Macdonald, in his book British Columbia and Vancouver Island, published in 1863, contained almost four-fifths of the white population of the entire island. None the less the Assembly still kept on with its work, drew up some land legislation, passed naturalization bills, and increased the number of members from Victoria city from two to three.

The third Legislative Assembly succeeded the second iij 1863. This was the last Assembly with which Douglas had any official connection. His term of office expired in 1863, and although his successor, Governor Arthur E. Kennedy, did not arrive until 1864, Douglas confined his attentions entirely to the mainland during the remaining months of his term of office as governor of British Columbia.

With the retirement of Sir James Douglas (he was knighted in 1863 in reward for his services), the early days of representative government in Vancouver Island and British Columbia may be said to have ended. Separate governors were appointed, and new problems soon arose chiefly concerned with the inter-relation of the two colonies. The first phase in the history of self-government in British Columbia was over.

It had been a peculiar phase in which the two colonies had endured their earliest political education. On the whole, it must be confessed that representative government had not worked well on Vancouver Island, and had hardly been tried at all in the mainland colony. The vested interests on the island were too strong to allow any great measure of popular control. Above all, Douglas was by nature an autocrat. As Judge Howay has well put it: “He loved power. He must rule; he could not reign.” None the less he was too loyal a British subject, and too well-disciplined an official, not to try to give representative institutions a fair showing. The early attempts and failures of the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island and of the Legislative Council of British Columbia, as subsequent events have clearly shown, paved the way to complete self-government.

W. N. Sage


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