Not To Be Trusted With Knives











It’s my one year anniversary of moving from Blogger to WordPress.com.  So, now I’m moving to WordPress.org. It’s true what they say: WordPress.com is just a gateway platform to the harder stuff.

In fact, I’m all set up to make the shift.  I’ve got a domain (which I’ve actually had for a while), I have a server, and WordPress.org has been installed (thanks to Kalev, who rocks).  I’m only lacking one magical ingredient: time.  This semester is insanely, insanely busy.  In addition to my day job, I’m teaching two new courses: the UBC one and one at SFU1 and I’m playing on two hockey teams.  Oh yeah, and I’m supposed to be training for a half marathon. So I won’t be making the shift until I get a few minutes to breath2.

In the meantime, I need all you techies to answer this question: What are your favourite WordPress plugins?

Kalev has suggested this one, which, among other things, allows commenters to preview their comments before posting them.  What other ones should I get?  You know, for when I stop being insanely busy and get a chance to make the jump.

And speaking of being insanely busy, I’ve decided to prorogue my BC Premiers series until after the end of the semester.  Writing the BC Premier series postings, which I usually do on Sundays, takes up a fair bit of time since I know pretty much nothing about BC Premiers.  Unlike my usually postings where I just blather about whatever is spinning around in my brain, I actually have to read stuff.  And I know that I just don’t have time to do that until the semester is over.  So I’ve asked the Governor General of my blog3 for a prorogation of the BC Premier series and she has graciously agreed to allow it. Expect the series to start back up in late April, at which time I’ll present a budget.

1Which, mercifully, is online (so I don’t have to go up the mountain) and has a TA (who does tonnes o’ work and also rocks)
2Perhaps over reading break?
3As it turns out, I’m the GG of my own blog. What a lucky coincidence!

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Wow, I’ve been a total slacker in writing entries on my BC Premiers series lately.  I haven’t actually written one in more than a month.  I blame the economy. And the prorogation of Parliament.

Anyway, I’m back.  And I’m back with the eleventh Premier of the province of British Columbia – Charles Augustus Semlin.

Charles Semlin.png Name Charles Augustus Semlin
Born: 4 December 1836 near Barrie, Upper Canada
Died: 2 November 1927 in Cache Creek, British Columbia
Party: none
Held Office: 15 August 1898  – 27 February 1900.
  • had a lot of different types of jobs:
    • quit his job as a school teacher in Barrie, Upper Canada to try his hand a prospecting in the gold rush, but, not being very good at it, he became a packer (like, he carried other people’s stuff for them), followed by managing a roadhouse and ranch
    • I guess he liked running a roadhouse, ‘cuz then he bought one (1865)
    • But I guess he liked being a rancher more, ‘cuz then he traded the roadhouse for a ranch (1870)
    • in addition to ranching, he was the first postmaster in Cache Creek, became a school board member, became an MLA and got Cache Creek a school, which turned out to be controversial and closed in 1890; but then he became a school trustee for the school district created in the region after the school he got started was shut
  • he doesnt’ seem to have been a very good politician:
    • his entry to provincial politics in 1871 was kind of messed up: he was tied for third in a three-member riding, so the returning officer put their names in a hat, drew Semlin’s name and declared him the third MLA for the riding. Awesome.
    • he ran unsuccessfully in the next two elections (1875 and 1878), but then won his seat back in 1882 and retained it for the next four elections (1886, 1890, 1894, and 1898)
    • 1894: became leader of the opposition after the election of 1894, although he was widely recognized as being rather meh as a leader. Yes, meh is a word.
    • 1898: Premier Turner failed to win a clear majority, so Lieutenant Governor Thomas Robert McInnes kicked out Turner and asked Beaven to form a government. Sure Beaven didn’t even win his own friggin’ seat, but this didnt’ appear to matter to McInnes.  Not-so-surprisingly, Beaven couldn’t get enough support to form a government (did I mention that he didn’t even win a seat?), so McInnes asked Semlin, being the ineffectual leader of the opposition from the last government, if he could form a government.  And Semlin did, so then he was the Premier. Some other dudes were trying to put together a provincial Liberal party (remember, they still didn’t have political parties at this point), but they didn’t have it together yet and so weren’t asked to form the government.
    • Semlin was, did I mention, a pretty meh leader and that, combined with infighting within his Cabinet and Semlin’s attempts to initiate a bunch of reforms (people hate that) meant for a short lived (18 month) premiership for Semlin.
    • A speech given by his Attorney General, Joseph Martin, ended in a brawl that had to be broken up by the cops and Semlin demanded Martin’s resignation. So Martin was pissed at Semlin and joined the opposition.  This resulted in Semlin receiving a vote of non-confidence, but asked Lieutenant Governor McInnes for a some time to prove he could regain the confidence of the house, which he did by getting some opposition ministers to to join him. But the McInnes, who apparently liked doing weird things, ignored Semlin’s newfound confidence and asked Martin to form a government.  Which pissed off the MLAs, so they voted Martin out in no-confidence.  So, basically, it was a really big shit show. So they had an election in 1900 (in which Semlin didn’t run) and, when the dust cleared, Dunsmuir became the next Premier.
    • Semlin won a by-election in 1903, but then didn’t run in the 1903 general election. Then ran and lost in 1907.
  • And now a tidbit about his personal life:
    • Although he didn’t marry, he raised a daughter, ironically named Mary.  Her mother, according to the 1881 census, was a First Nations woman named Caroline Williams, who lived with Semlin and used the last name Semlin, but was not married to him.

In summary, he had a lot of jobs, he was a meh politician and his daughter was a bastard.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

Wikipedia, the reference that has a grand total of seven sentences about Charles August Semlin.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



After a break from the series last week due to my attendance at the pig party, this week’s installment of my BC Premierial series brings us the 10th Premier of the Province of British Columbia: John Herbert Turner.

John Herbert Turner.png Name John Herbert Turner
Born: May 7, 1834 in Claydon, Suffolk, England
Died: December 9, 1923 in Richmond, England
Party: none
Held Office: 4 March 1895 to July 1898
  • was not Canadian Prime Minister John Turner.
  • 1856: came to British North America from England (first to Halifax, NS then to Charlottetown, PEI)
  • 1860: went back to England to marry, Elizabeth Eilbeck, who he then brought to PEI
  • July 1862: reached Victoria, BC, having been attracted to the west by the gold rush, but decided to work as a merchant, which was what he had done out east, rather than as a miner, as was his original intention
  • 1869: was appointed to the tariff commission
  • 1872: was named as a trustee of the Ogden Point Cemetery
  • 1876 to 1879: served as an alderman
  • 1879: acclaimed as mayor of Victoria, a position he served in until 1881
  • 1882: after many years of involvement in the militia, he retired with the rank of lieutenant-colonel
  • June 1882: went to England for an extended stay
  • July 1886: entered BC provincial politics by winning an election as an MLA, representing Victoria City
  • 8 August 1887: became minister of finance and agriculture under Premier A.E.B. Davie, posts he would retain under Premiers Robson and the other Davie
  • 4 March 1895: became Premier when Davie resigned
  • Apparently, he was not so good with money: “Throughout the period that Turner was minister of finance (1887–98), the provincial budget was in deficit each year and by the time he left office the gross public debt had climbed to nearly $7,500,000, a sevenfold increase from 1886.”1
  • He was also criticized for using his political position for personal gain, being involved in a number of business enterprises during his time as Premier; for being at the “beck and call of powerful corporations”1 and for refusing fair representation of the mainland (especially Vancouver)
  • He lost power in July 1898 in a controversial election – the election appeared to be a draw between Turner’s non-party government and the non-party opposition; Lieutenant Governor Thomas Robert McInnes demanded Turner’s resignation, which he didn’t want to give at first, but then gave, making him the leader of the Opposition against Premier Semlin’s government
  • June 1900: was reinstated as the minister of finance and agriculture under the newly elected Premier Dunsmuir
  • 3 September 1901: resigned from provincial politics and became the agent general for BC in England, a post at which he served until he was removed in 1915 to be replaced by recently retired BC Premier Sir Richard McBride, who died in 1917, at which time Turner was re-appointed to this post; Turner then resigned from this post in 1918
  • 9 December 1923: died in Richmond, England

In summary, he was bad with money, seems to have been using his political power for personal financial gain. Otherwise, pretty boring.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

References:
Wikipedia, the reference that has virtually no information about John Herbert Turner either
1Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



{November 16, 2008}   BC Premier #9 – Theodore Davie.

Theodore Davie was the 9th Premier of the Province of British Columbia.

Name Theodore Davie
Born: March 22, 1852 in Brixton, England
Died: March 7, 1898 in Victoria, BC
Party: alas, still no parties
Held Office: July 2, 1892 – March 2, 1895
  • brother of Premier Alexander Edmund Batson Davie
  • 1867: went to Victoria  to join his father; studied law
  • 1874: he married a 14-year-old, Blanche Baker; she died 2 years later.
  • 1877: called to the bar
  • built a reputation as a very able criminal lawyer1
  • 1882: elected to the BC Legislative Assembly (seat = Victoria)
  • supported Premier Smithe‘s government, and then his brother‘s government
  • served as Attorney General under Premier Robson
  • 1884: married Mary Alice Yorke, with whom he went on to have 7 kids (4 boys, 3 girls)
  • 1892: became Premier when Robson died
  • you have Davie to thanks for the Parliament buildings in Victoria, as it was his decision to build them despite opposition from the mainland
  • continued to practice law while serving as the Premier
  • 1895: resigned as Premier to take the post of Chief Justice of BC
  • 1898: died of heart disease

In summary, Davie is kind of boring. Except for the part where he married a 14-year-old and was then widowed when she died at 16. What the hell is up with that?

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

Footnotes:
1To clarify, that would be a lawyer who defends those charged with crimes and not, as it sounds, a lawyer who himself commits crimes.

References:
Wikipedia, the reference that really doesn’t have much to say about Theodore Davie.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



{November 9, 2008}   BC Premier#8 – John Robson

The 8th Premier of the Province of British Columbia.

Nice beard.

Nice beard.

Name John Robson
Born: March 14, 1824 in Perth, Ontario
Died: June 29, 1892 in London, England
Party: none
Held Office: August 2, 1889 – June 29, 1892
  • Robson Street in Vancouver is named after him (as is Robson Cove in Burrard Inlet and Robson, a town in Kootenays)
  • 1859: moved from Ontario, where he was a merchant, to the Colony of BC, to try to capitalize on the Fraser Valley Gold Rush, leaving behind his wife, Susan, and their 2 kids (Susan and the kids didn’t move to BC to join him until 19641864)
  • apparently he sucked at prospecting, so instead he helped his brother, Ebenezer, a minister, build a Methodist church in New Westminster
  • was known as an advocate for responsible government, became the editor of the British Columbian (a newspaper)
  • he was “briefly imprisoned” by Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie for publishing a letter that suggested Begbie took a bribe; this didn’t do much for Begbie’s popularity
  • served on the New West town council and was later elected to the BC Legislative Council (the Council had some elected, and some appointed seats, and governed the newly united Colonies of BC and Vancouver Island).
  • moved his paper to Victoria, where it was bought out by De Cosmos paper Daily British Colonist (which still exists today as the Victoria Times-Colonist)
  • became an advocate for BC joining Confederation and so, along with De Cosmos and Robert Beaven, he founded the aptly named “Confederation League” which lobbied for BC to become part of Canada
  • 1871: was elected to BC’s first legislative assembly (seat = Nanaimo)
  • opposed his former ally, De Cosmos and the subsequent Premier, Walkem
  • was ahead of his time by advocating for female suffrage: “Although in 1873 he had claimed “respectable women didn’t want the right” to vote, he later had second thoughts, and by 1885 he was championing the enfranchisement of women because of their good work in voting for school trustees and their support of morality. Almost every year thereafter Robson introduced a private member’s bill to enfranchise women; each time the legislature rejected it.”1
  • like most of the politicians of his time, he supported racist policies against both Chinese and First Nations people; “He had been one of the first to call for a special tax on Chinese because they were “essentially different in their habits and destination,” did not contribute a fair share to the provincial treasury, and competed with “civilized labour.”” 1 and “Despite his belief that the native peoples would become “utterly extinct,” he argued that in the mean time the government had a responsibility to civilize and Christianize them. Thus they should be removed from the immoral towns and cities, protected from whisky traders, and made aware of the force of the law. He recognized Indians’ rights as the “original ‘lords of the soil’” but demanded that treaties be negotiated and reserves established so that Indians should not have more land than they could use well.” 1
  • received a patronage appointment with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for his support of Alexander Mackenzie in the 1874 Canadian federal election
  • 1882: returned to the provincial legislature (seat = New West)
  • advocated for constructing the CPR terminus at Granville, and he got the legislature to name the Vancouver as “Vancouver” when it was incorporation in 1886
  • during Premier Davie‘s long illness, Robson served as the acting Premier and, in 1889, was appointed Premier when Davie died
  • switched from representing New West (a really busy, growing riding) to representing a riding in the Cariboo to reduce his workload, as he was worried for his health
  • 1892: died of blood poisoning in office after he hurt his finger in the door of a hansom cab, becoming the third BC premier in a row to die in office

In summary, he died of hansom cab door-related mishap.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

References:
Wikipedia, the reference that rhymes with ickipedia.
1Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



A.E.B. Davie, the 7th Premier of the Province of British Columbia.

Name Alexander Edmund Batson Davie
Born: November 24, 1847 in Somerset, England
Died: August 1, 1889 (only 41 years old) in Victoria, BC
Party: none
Held Office: March 29, 1887 – August 1, 1889
  • Davie Street in Vancouver is named after him
  • immigrated to BC with his dad and three brothers in 1862 (his mom, a brother and a sister stayed behind in England)
  • was the first person to receive his entire law education on Vancouver Island, had a practice on Vancouver Island and in the Cariboo
  • served as a law clerk to the Legislative Assembly (1872-187) and got a taste for politics
  • was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1875 in the Cariboo, because there was no seat available in his actual home, Victoria – he faced some opposition there for not being a local, but got support from Premier Walkem
  • he was sort of a supporter of the government (although he only voted with Walkem on issues where he agreed, so really he was more like an independent), but then, when Walkem went down in non-confidence, in typical BC-fickle fashion, Davie jumped ship to the Opposition, supporting the new Premier, A.C. Elliot. Of course, since there are still not political parties at this point, this kind of thing was relatively common and I’m sure no one referred to Davie as “an attractive dipstick” for crossing the floor
  • was asked by Premier Elliot to be the provincial secretary, but then lost his seat in a by-election in 1877 (apparently they needed to do a by-election for this, although it’s not clear to me why this is so); at this point, he went back to his law practice full-time
  • regained a seat in the Legislative Assembly, this time in Lillooet, in 1882 and became the Attorney General under Premier Smithe; claim to fame: went to Ottawa to argue before the Supreme Court of Canada that the provinces have the right under the British North American Act to regulate the sale of booze; also, he cleaned up a bunch o’laws that were all messy and hapharzard after the gold-rush era
  • in 1887, Smithe died and Davie was asked to be the Premier, which he accepted while also keeping the position as AG
  • within months he fell sick and went to California to “recuperate”
  • provincial secretary John Robson ran the government at this time, with Davie wrote letters to Robson to express his views on current issues
  • returned to BC in 1888, but died of tuberculosis, which was apparently referred to “phthisis,” while still in office in 1889; phthisis, pronounced TIE-sis, incidentally, is my new favourite word
  • spolier: his brother, Theodore, will be featured in my BC Premieral series soon, as he becomes the Premier in 1892

In summary, he spend the majority of his time as Premier in absentia, then died of TB; also, he’s a big part of the reason that provinces have different liquor laws.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

References:
Wikipedia, the reference that dreams are made of
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



Now we enter the era of Premiers whose names I recognize because they have Vancouver Streets named after them. At least, I assume Smithe St. is named after this guy.

Name William Smithe
Born: June 30, 1842 in Matfen, England
Died: March 28, 1887 in Victoria, British Columbia (he only lived to be 44 years old!)
Party: none
Held Office: January 29, 1883 – March 29, 1887
  • settled on Vancouver Island in 1862 as a farmer
  • his first public office was the appointed position of road commissioner for Cowichan in 1865
  • ran in BC’s first provincial election in 1871 and won a seat for Cowichan
  • he was actually born as William Smith, but added an “e” to the end of his name, presumably because Amor De Cosmos was also oringally named William Smith and he figured the “e” would stop people from being confused as to who was who.  I’m guessing that the latter William Smith changing his name to Lover of the Universe did more to help people distinguish between the two of them than the former adding the “e”
  • in the Legislature, he maintained “an independent stance”1 by not supporting Premier McCreight or his successors, Premiers De Cosmos and Walkem
  • in 1873 he married Martha Kier, daughter of an important Cowichanian, which added to his prominence in the region
  • re-elected in 1875, campaigned on Walkem’s failure to build a road from Victoria to Cowichan
  • I like to say the word “Cowichan”
  • he was the leader of the opposition when the Leglislature opened in 1976, but as the Walkem Government fell, he handed over the opposition leadership to Andrew Charles Elliott, who then became the Premier. And didn’t include Smithe in the cabinet. Which I find a little ungrateful, no?
  • Smithe was added to cabinet as minister of finance and agriculture in July 1876, however, when the “erractic” Thomas Basil Humphreys was canned2
  • managed to retain his seat in the March 1878 election despite not really doing anything too exciting as a cabinet minisiter and in the face of most everyone else on the “government supporters” side of the floor being kicked out
  • yet again became the leader of the opposition against Premier Walkem (we was reinstituted as Premier)
  • became the Premier in 18 when Walkem’s successor, Beaven, couldn’t muster up the support of more than 8 of 24 MLAs; this gave Smithe the biggest majority since BC joined Confederation
  • at this point, BCers were still pissed off over the long-standing issue of Canada not building the promised railway, as well as mainland BCers being pissed off over a really expensive dock being built on the Island. Dock-gate, if you will3.  Smithe struck a deal (the Settlement Act) that made both mainlanders and islanders happy:
    • the feds got “3,500,000 acres in the Peace River district” of BC<5
    • the feds would “open the railway lands in the south to settlement, assume construction of the graving dock, and advance $750,000, for the building of the island railway”5.
  • As with several other of the Premiers we’ve looked at so far, Smithe’s government implemented a number of racist policies aimed at Chinese-Canadians and Aboriginal people, including:
    • preventing Chinese people from acquiring crown land
    • a $10/yr “license” fee for Chinese people over the age of 15. If I’m reading that correctly, that’s a license to be Chinese?
    • trying to implement an act forbidding Chinese immigration. This act was stopped by the feds, but the feds did implement a $50 head tax on all “Oriental” immigrants to appease BC
    • “severely limited Indian lands […] arguing that because Indians did not cultivate much land they did not need much”5.
  • won the 1886 election, showing support from the public on his policies, including the racist ones,
  • when asked by an “American newspapermen […] if British Columbia might one day annex itself to the Union in response to natural trading interests, he replied that British Columbia might instead annex Washington and Oregon”5.
  • died of nephritis in office in 1887.

In summary, Smithe appears to have settled that whole railway kerfuffle that all the previous BC premiers seemed to have being fighting with the feds over.  So here’s hoping that we will be reading about more non-railway issues in future editions of my BC Premier Series!

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

Footnotes:
1Which I still find funny, given that there were no political parties at this time
2No idea what made Humphreys so “erratic” as Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for him. And I’m too lazy to search any further for that as my interest-level:willingness-to-exert-effort ratio on this one is pretty low.
3Not to be mistaken for Deck-gate.

References:
4Wikipedia, the reference that shall inherit the earth
5Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



The 5th Premier of the Province of British Columbia – Robert Beaven.

Name Robert Beaven
Born: January 20, 1836 in Staffordshire, England
Died: September 18, 1920 in Victoria, BC
Party: like it’s 1899
Held Office: June 13, 1882 – January 29, 1883
  • family moved from England to Toronto because he dad, the Reverend James Beaven, received an academic appointment there
  • came from Toronto to BC. Like many people, he came to BC because of the gold rush.
  • became a businessman in Victoria (specifically he was a “commission agent, the local agent of the Florence Sewing Machine Company, and, with a partner, a retail clothier and outfitter.”1)
  • became the secretary of Amor De CosmosConfederation League (which was pro-Colonies of BC & Vancouver Island joining Confederation)
  • upon the colonies joining Canada in 1871, he was elected to BC Parliament
  • served in the cabinets of De Cosmos and Walkem
  • he was accused of “corruption and incompetence” (although an investigation by a royal commission found no proof of this), and was criticized for such things as not opening up land for settlement quickly enough, mismanaging Native land policy, running up provincial debt,  the escalating cost of the Esquimalt dock (apparently mainlanders didn’t like how dominant the Island was and Islanders were pissed off that transcontinential railway was going to exclude them)
  • became the Premier in 1882 with one of those minority governments where there’s no political parties and majority/minority status depends on how many MLAs say they are with ya, and how many say they are against ya.
  • he offered to make Princess Louise the Queen of Vancouver Island during a visit to BC.  Louise was the 6th child of Queen Victoria and wife of then-Governor General of Canada, the Marquess of Lorne.  Seeing as technically Louise’s mom, Queen Victoria, was Queen of all of Canada, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have gone over too well if Beaven had separated Vancouver Island from Canada and made Louise the Queen, even if he could have.
  • brought down by a non-confidence vote in 1883
  • in total, he served 23 years in the legislature until he lost an election in 1894
  • was also the mayor of Victoria from the 1892-1894 and 1996-1898
  • after being out of the legislature for 4 years, he was asked by then-Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Robert McInnes to form a government after McInnes dismissed then-Premier John Herbert Turner.  Other MLAs were pissed, refusing to support a Beaven government and that pretty much went nowhere.

In summary, he was a politician for a long time. Then he wasn’t.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. Boo-yah!

References:

Wikipedia, the double-shot, half-sweet, extra hot Venti of references.
1Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



Andrew Charles Elliot, the fourth Premier of the Province of British Columbia, rivals the Right Honourable Captain Boring in terms of sheer boringness.

Name Andrew Charles Elliott
Born: c. 1828 somewhere in Ireland
Died: April 9, 1889 in San Francisco
Party: Like a rock star
Held Office: February 1, 1876 – February 11, 1878
  • apparently they don’t actually know when he was born, nor can they narrow down the location to more than just “Ireland.”  Nice record keeping, 1820s Ireland!
  • he came to BC to be a lawyer in the “gold colony” and somehow was called to the bar, even though there was no county court system.  So he figured he’d leave.  Then they made a court system. And then he stayed.
  • He became a county judge, then a “gold commissioner and stipendiary magistrate,” then he was appointed to the Legislative Council by Governor Frederick Seymour.  After BC joined Confederation, he became the high sheriff, then the police magistrate of Victoria.  He had a lot of jobs.
  • In 1875 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly and later would become the Leader of the Opposition (again, remembering that there aren’t any political parties at this point).  When G.A.W. got kicked out by a non-confidence vote, Lieutenant Governor Joseph William Trutch asked A.C.E. to form a government.
  • He had a reputation for being boring “honesty and gentlemanly behaviour. “Nearly twenty years in office and not rich!” exclaimed David William Higgins, the editor of the” Daily British Colonist and Victoria Chronicle4.
  • Faced with the clusterfuck of a financial situation  that G.A.W. had left behind1 he raised taxes. All sorts of taxes. Real estate taxes. Income taxes. School taxes. Wild land taxes.
  • Like G.A.W. before him, A.C.E. had to deal with the whole railroad thing.  The feds had offered a railroad from Esquimalt to Nanaimo if the province agree to let them have more time to complete the transcontinential railroad.  But there were more delays and suchlike, and then the feds said, “Um, yeah, that whole thing about the railroad ending in Esquimalt… yeah, not so much.”
  • His government was defeated in 1878 and so he resigned.  Then he tried really hard to get a pension from the federal government on the basis that he was a former colonial official.  Again, the feds said, “Yeah, not so much.”  While in London trying to get support for the pension claim, his wife died unexpectedly back in Victoria in 1881.
  • He lived in San Fran for his last few years, on the advice of doctors who felt the northern climate was too cold for his poor health.

In summary,*yawn*.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. Hoorah!

Footnotes:
1It was so bad that the Bank of BC had cut off their government’s credit. How bad does a government had to be for the bank of their province to cut off their credit?
2Apparently these docs haven’t actually been to San Fran ‘cuz, really, it’s pretty frickin’ cold there, imho.

References:
3Wikipedia, the reference where everybody knows your name
4Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



Today’s installment of my Premiers of the Province of British Columbia series – G.A.W.

George Anthony Walkem.jpg Name George Anthony Walkem
Born: November 15, 1834 in Newry, Ireland
Died: January 13, 1908 in Victoria, British Columbia
Party: none
Held Office: February 11, 1874 – February 1, 1876
June 25, 1878 – June 13, 1882
  • 1847: family emigrated to Canada from the UK
  • went to McGill and studied law under John Rose
  • 1858: called to the bar in Lower Canada
  • 1861: called to the bar in Upper Canada
  • 1862: moved to the then Colony of BC
  • at first they wouldn’t call him to the bar in BC because Judge Matthew Begbie (who apparently was the one who did the calling) only liked lawyers trained in Britain; however, Walkem appealed to Governor James Douglas (who you may remember as our buddy Amor‘s enemy) and Jimmy D proclaimed the Legal Professions Act, permitting “colonial” lawyers to plead in court”4
  • 1864-1870: member of the Legislative Council of the Colony (the members of which were appointed) for the Cariboo East and Quesnel Forks District
  • like Amor, he pushed for the union of the Colonies of BC & Vancouver Island, and then for the united Colony to join Confederation
  • 1871: with BC now a part of Canada, Walkem was elected to the provincial legislature for the Riding of the Cariboo and was the chief commissioner of lands and works in John Foster McCreight‘s government;
  • he was appointed as the Attorney General in the cabinet of our buddy, Amor, despite having described Amor as having “all the eccentricities of a comet without any of its brilliance”4
  • 1874: upon the resignation of Amor as Premier of BC, Walkem was asked by Lieutenant Governer Joseph William Trutch to be the next Premier
  • because BC loves a scandal, Walkem faced one when he took over as Premier – specifically, the “Texada scandal,” which consisted of allegations members of Amor‘s government, including Walkem, were going to “profit from public development of newly discovered iron ore on Texada Island”4. A royal commission later declared there was “insufficient evidence to charge anyone with an attempt to prejudice the public interest.”4 Because BC loves a good quotation, Walkem had said, “I did not take silver for iron.”4
  • back then, the railway was kind of a big deal, and Walkem put pressure, unsuccessfully, on Ottawa to build a railway all the way to the Pacific Ocean like it had promised to do. People in BC were ticked off that Walkem couldn’t make this happen, as well as having increased the debt by taking on public works projects, but his government was still re-elected in 1875, “albeit with a reduced majority”4. I’m not sure how someone without a party can have a majority, now that I think of it, but I guess things worked a bit differently back then?”1
  • 1876: his government was kicked out by a vote of non-confidence over its financial troubles. I have no idea how a government with a MAJORITY gets kicked on a vote of non-confidence, but, again, he didn’t have a party so I have no idea how he had a majority in the first place1
  • 1876-1878: served as the Leader of the Opposition against Andrew Charles Elliot’s government. Again, no idea how this works since Walkem wasn’t in any political party and neither was Elliot.1
  • 1878: re-elected as Premier with a majority2 after Elliot’s government falls apart
  • it appears that Walkem was quite the racist, particularly against people of Chinese and First Nations descent – he passed a statute denying Chinese and First Nations people the vote; he opposed “cheap Chinese labour” and banned Chinese workers from being hired for any provincial government contract; he even tried to implement a tax solely on Chinese people, but the BC Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional; he also took a “comparatively hard line on the size of Indian reserves”4 and “may have stalled settlement of the Indian land question to retaliate against the Mackenzie government for its position on the railway”4
  • still pissed off about Ottawa reneging on that railway thing, he appealed directly to London and, since Britian was still the boss of Canada back then, Britian put pressure on Ottawa to build that damn railway
  • April 1882: nearly lost another vote of non-confidence over, among other things, financial problems (this time over a dock being built on Vancouver Island – probably referred to as “Dock-gate”3 at the time)
  • May 1882: appointed to BC Supreme Court, possibly because it was felt that it would be easily to solve the whole railway thing without Walkem in the way, possibly because John A. MacDonald was returning a favour (specificially, Walkem helping MacD a seat in the House of Commons for Victoria after he was defeated in Kingston in 1878)
  • July 1882: the government, now headed by Robert Beaven, who replaced Walkem when he was appointed to the Supremer Court, lost the election
  • Despite the fact that he, as Premier, put forth legislation requiring BC Supreme Court Judges to reside in their judicial districts , Walkem himself, now a BC Supreme Court Judge, refused to move from Victoria to live in his judicial district. Hello, hypocrite.  Apparently, though, he turned out to be well liked as a judge.  More so than he was as a Premier.

In summary, George Anthony Walkem, 3rd Premier of BC, somehow had some majority governments even though there were no political parties in BC at the time, but people were pissed at him because Ottawa didn’t build the railway to the Pacific like they promised, so sometimes they kicked him out. Also, he was a racist.

Image credits: From the National Archives of Canada, accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain.

Footnotes:
1Doing a little digging (i.e., clicking through links on Wikipedia, I have discovered that, although there was no recognition of provincial political parties until 1903, candidates would declare themselves as in support of the “Government” or as not in support of the government (“Non-Government” or “Independent”). Then sometimes they’d change their mind later and, since there were no actually parties, one could go from having a “majority” to being kicked out by a vote of non-confidence if enough people who had called themselves “Government” decided they didn’t like you and were now “Non-Government.”
2Even the Canadian Biography Online entry about Walkem concedes “although in a sense there is no such thing [as a majority] in a system without political parties,”4 right after saying he won a “comfortable majority,”4 so wtf?
3😉

References:

  • Wikipedia, the reference of choice for the lazy
  • 4Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, the source from which the Wikipedia entry on G.A.W. appears to be plagiarized. As in direct quotations not being enclosed in quotation marks, nor referenced within the text.


{September 12, 2008}   Update on Amor

My friend JB generously offered to let me post this picture in my blog posting on Amor de Cosmos, second Premier of British Columbia.  Due to its sheer awesomeness, I figured that it deserves it’s own blog posting:

Hamish McKinnon.  All rights reserved.

The Parliament Building Players, The Parliament Buildings, Victoria, BC, Summer 1998. Back: Francis Rattenbury, Nellie Cashman, Amor de Cosmos, Queen Victoria, James Douglas Front: Hamish McKinnon. All rights reserved.

Apparently kids were hired to play historical figures to entertain tourists at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria.

Amor is the guy in the middle with the top hat.  My friend is the one in the front.  The chick with the crown is the Queen, but I have no idea who these other characters are!



Tonight’s installment of my British Columbia premieral series brings us BC Premier#2 – a guy who was fond of representative government, but people of Chinese and First Nations descent, not so much. Oh yeah, and he legally changed his name to “Lover of the Universe.”  Seriously.

Amor de Cosmos 2a.png Name Amor de Cosmos (born: William Alexander Smith)
Born: August 20, 1825 in Windsor, Nova Scotia
Died: July 4, 1897 in Victoria, BC
Party: Liberal Party of Canada (until 1882)
Held Office: December 23, 1872 – February 11, 1874
  • spent 12 years as a grocery clerk, but then moved to California in 1853 to become a photographer during the California Gold Rush
  • in 1854, he changed his name from Will Smith (boring!) to Amor De Cosmos (awesome!) – he chose this name “to pay tribute, as he said, “to what I love most…Love of order, beauty, the world, the universe.”1
  • in 1858, he moved back to British North America (i.e., what would later become Canada), specifically to Victoria, which was in what was then known as the “Colony of Vancouver Island” (now just “Vancouver Island” which is part of British Columbia) and founded a newspaper then called the The Daily British Colonist, which would later become the Victoria-Times Colonist (are you still following all this?)
  • he wasn’t too fond of the governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, Sir James Douglas, governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island who, along with his peeps, wasn’t a big fan of representative government; he figured that the church, church-run schools and a landed gentry should run the show; De Cosmos, in contrast, was big on public education, ending economic and political privileges, and responsible, elected government.
  • De Cosmos supported the development of “the three Fs”: farming, forestry & fisheries – he described fisheries as “an exhaustless mine of wealth”2 and BC forests as “practically inexhaustible,”2; these industries, of course, were kind of a big deal for the economy for many, many years to come (although the “exhuastlessness” of our natural resources, well, not so much).
  • he supported the union of the Colonies of British Columbia (BC) and Vancouver Island (occurred in 1866), and the entry of BC into Canadian Confederation (occurred on July 20, 1871 )
  • political offices held:
    • member of the Legislated Assembly of Vancouver Island (1863-1866, whcn VI joined BC)
    • member of the Assembly of the United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia (1867-1868, 1870-1871)
    • elected to represent Victoria in both the provincial and Canadian government in 1871
    • took over as Premier of BC after McCreight resigned due to a vote of non-confidence in 1872
  • he is considered to be BC’s “Father of Confederation,” as he played a key role in getting BC to join Canadian Confederation
  • as Premier, his government focussed on the issues with which he had always been concerned: ” political reform, economic expansion, and the development of public institutions — especially schools”1, as well as the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
  • His tenure as Premier, though, was rather short and he spend much of it in Ottawa & London; “his government continued the policy begun by McCreight of implementing a system of free, non-sectarian public schooling, reduced the number of public officials, extended the property rights of married women, and adopted the secret ballot.”2
  • he described First Nations people and people of Chinese descent as “inferior” (although he thought they could be used in the labour force) and he thought the federal government was too generous in its “concessions of land” to First Nations people, and that First Nations people “should be taught “to earn his living the same as a white man.””2
  • he ended his tenure as Premier amid “accusations of impropriety”3 in 1874, but still managed to be re-elected to federal Parliament.
  • he gained a reputation for being “eccentric” due to such things as as his fierce temper that often ended in fist (and walking stick4) fights, his phobia of electricity, the fact that he changed his name to “Lover of the Universe,” his egotism, his objection to the introduction of prayer in the House of Commons and his remaining a bachelor5); after retiring, his eccentricities intensified to the point that he was declared “of unsound mind” in 1895, and he died about a year and a half later
Hamish McKinnon.  All rights reserved.

The Parliament Building Players, The Parliament Buildings, Victoria, BC, Summer 1998. Back: Francis Rattenbury, Nellie Cashman, Amor de Cosmos, Queen Victoria, James Douglas Front: Hamish McKinnon. All rights reserved.

In summary, this guy changed his name to “Lover of the Universe.” What’s up with that?

Image credits:

  1. Black & white image accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!
  2. Update 12 Sept 2008 – Image of the Parliament Players provided by JB (see comments). He owns the copyright. All rights reserved.

References:
1Wikipedia, the reference of champions
2Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

Footnotes:
3Starting a long history of BC Premiers leaving office under a dark cloud. They’ve made something of an art form of scandal, really.
4Picturing this guy getting into a fight in which he uses his walking stick as a weapon amuses me greatly.
5Seriously, being “unmarried” was mentioned in the context of him being an “eccentric.”



{August 31, 2008}   BC Premier #1 – JFMcC

Now that I’ve made my way through all of the Canadian Prime Ministers, I feel a void. I actually got to quite like learning a bit about Canadian history every Sunday. So, I’m now taking on a more daunting task – I’m going to write a blog posting every Sunday about a British Columbia Premier1. It’s more daunting because I didn’t grow up in BC, so I’ve never heard of the vast majority of BC Premiers before2. Plus, there’s been more BC Premiers than there has Canadian Prime Ministers, so this series will be longer. But I think I’m up for the challenge!

OK, first up is The Honourable John Foster McCreight – the first Premier of the Province of British Columbia.

John Foster McCreight Name John Foster McCreight
Born: November 18, 1827 in Caledon, County Tyrone, Ireland
Died: November 18, 1913 (hmm.. he appears to have died on his birthday!)
Party: none
Held Office: November 13, 1871 – December 23, 1872
  • he was a lawyer, called to the bar in 1852
  • Ireland –> Australia –> San Fran –> Victoria, BC
  • when he moved to Victoria in 1860, it was part of the “Colony of Vancouver Island;” by 1866, the Colony of Vancouver Island and the Colony of British Columbia joined forces
  • evidence is kind of sketchy on his martial situation – maybe he had a scandalous affair in Australia that caused him and his wife to leave there, or maybe he married someone from San Fran – they don’t seem to be sure. But the 1881 Census does list him as married to an Elizabeth Ann McCreight, although little seems to be known about the 411 on her.
  • he was heavily involved in the Anglican church and the Masons – involvement which “seem[s] to have been motivated by a mixture of faith and ambition.”4
  • after BC joined Canadian Confederation on July 20, 1871, he became the Attorney-General, then ran in the first election and won the seat for Victoria, and was then chosen as the first Premier of BC
  • he was described by a colleague as, among other things, “utterly ignorant of politics;”4 not exactly a rousing endorsement for a politician
  • best line in his biography: “he was firmly opposed to responsible government, believing his fellow British Columbians too immature to carry the burdens of democracy”4
  • he lost a vote of nonconfidence in 1872, so he resigned
  • he was appointed as a justice in the Supreme Court of BC, where he worked until 1897, and then he went back to the UK

In summary, on his trip around the world from the UK to Australia to North America and then back to the UK, he took a pit stop in Victoria to become our first provincial premier. The end.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

Footnotes:
1For my American readers, the “Premier” is the head of the government for a province or territory. Sort of like your state governors. And provinces and territories are like states. And Canada is that giant country just north of you.
2Of course, I grew up in Ontario and didn’t learn about the vast majority of Ontario premiers. But I digress.

References:
3Wikipedia, the reference of champions
4Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online



et cetera