Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia - STUDY THIS FOR THE EXAM!!!

Colony of Vancouver Island 

Flag for the Colony of Vancouver Island.
  • January 13, 1849, the British colonial office designated Vancouver Island as a crown colony . 
  • James Douglas was charged with encouraging British settlement. 
  • Richard Blanshard was named the colony's governor but as HBC chief officer, it was Douglas who held all practical authority in the territory. 
  • There was no civil service, no police, no militia, and virtually every British colonist was an employee of the HBC. 
  • Frustrated, Blanshard returned to England. 
  • In 1851 the colonial office appointed Douglas as governor. 
  • Douglas raised a domestic militia and worked hard at encouraging settlement.
  • Mid-1850s, the colony's non-aboriginal population was approaching 500
  • Sawmill and coal mining operations had been established at Fort Nanaimo and Fort Rupert (near present day Port Hardy). 
  • Douglas assisted the British government in establishing a naval base at present-day Esquimalt to check Russian and American expansionism.
  • Colonial officials in London kept land prices high in order to encourage the emigration of wealthier Britons, who were given incentives to bring out labourers with them to work the landholdings. 
  • Therefore emigration was slow
  • Landless labourers left VI to obtain free land grants in the United States, or work the newly-discovered goldfields of California. 
  • Because the immigrants were wealthy Britons, they maintained the British class system, resisting non-parochial (non-church run) education, land reform, and representative government - similar to the earlier situation in Upper Canada.
  • VI had a large First Nations population > 30,000. 
  • Douglas completed fourteen separate treaties with the various nations. 
  • Under the terms of these treaties, the Douglas Treaties, the nations were obliged to surrender title to all land within a designated area, with the exception of villages and cultivated areas, in perpetuity. 
  • They were also given permission to hunt and fish over unoccupied territories. 
  • For this, the nations were given a one-time cash payment of a few shillings each.
  • By 1857, Americans and British colonists were beginning to respond to rumours of gold in the Thompson River area. 
  • In 1858, 10,000-20,000 men moved into the interior of New Caledonia (mainland British Columbia), and Victoria was transformed into a tent-city of prospectors, merchants, land-agents, and speculators.
  • August 2, 1858 - to control the HBC and the influx of people, the British government converted New Caledonia into a crown colony and given the name British Columbia. 
  • Douglas was offered the governorship of BC
To see a birds-eye-view of what Victoria looked like in the early days, click here.

Colony of British Columbia
The Seymour Artillery Regiment in New Westminster, 1866

  • British Columbia was given the capital of New Westminster but Douglas governed from Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island.
  • Because of the Cariboo Gold Rush, there was a huge influx of people into the new colony 
  • This required Douglas to draw up regulations and creating infrastructure (basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society, i.e. roads, courts, government offices, etc.).  
  • Magistrates and constables were hired including "the Hanging Judge" - Matthew Baillie Begbie.
  • Mining regulations drawn up, 
  • Townsites surveyed at Yale, Hope and Fort Langley to discourage squatting on crown land. 
  • Roads were constructed into the areas of greatest mining exploration around Lillooet and Lytton.
  • A more stable population of British colonists settled in the region, establishing businesses, opening sawmills, and engaging in fishing and agriculture.

    Development of Responsible Government in the Colonies 

    •  Douglas was both Chief Factor for Fort Victoria and Governor of Vancouver Island.  
    • Because most of the new settlers were upper class Britons, a "Family Compact" type situation was developing
    • The prejudice and class conscious new settlers looked down on the ex-HBC employees and the bi-racial governor and his Metis wife.
    • Many of the ex-HBC employees complained about the situation to London
    • As a result, Douglas formed a Legislative Assembly (responsible government) in 1856.
    • Douglas was not in favor of the Assembly and made the requirement for voting to be a male landowner of 20 or more acres.
    • This made the voting population on VI very small.
    • Douglas appointed men to the government who were in favour of his agenda: Dr. John Helmcken (his son-in-law), Joseph Pemberton, Joseph MacKay, John Muir (all ex-employees of Douglas).
    • Newspaper editor, Amor De Cosmos and Leonard McClure were liberal reformers that did not like the way Douglas governed and challenged him at every turn.
    • In 1864 Douglas was voted out of the Legislature.
    • BC's settlers also objected to the colony's lack of responsible government 
    • this was led by the editor of the New Westminster newspaper, The British Columbian and future premier, John Robson. 
    • A series of petitions requesting an assembly were ignored by Douglas and the colonial office until Douglas was eased out of office in 1864. 
    • Douglas's successor as BC governor was Frederick Seymour
    • April, 1864 the new governor and the Legislative Assembly were instated in BC
    • Amor De Cosmos, John Robson (premier of BC) and Robert Beaven (member of the BC Legislative Assembly) pushed for the joining of the two colonies when the BNA Act was signed.
    • They saw this as a way to develop economic health of the colonies and also to increase democratic reform.
    • August 6 1866, under pressure from London, Vancouver Island and British Columbia were joined into one colony with the capital in Victoria.
    • John A MacDonald pushed for the inclusion of BC in Confederation.
    • Canada agreed to take on the huge debt that BC had incurred by building infrastructure needed with the rapid increase in population.
    • Canada would also connect BC to the transcontinental railway.
    • 1871 BC joined Confederation.

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