Wednesday, May 8, 2013

John Foster McCreight

On May 14, our province goes to the polls to elect a new premier and officials. So I am going to write a bit on every one of our 35 premiers so far. And I will start today with British Columbia's first premier, John Foster McCreight.

Born in Caledon in County Tyrone Ireland in 1827, McCreight came from a well established and a well-connected family. He studied law at Trinity College in Dublin. From the Emerald Shores, McCreight went down under and opened a law practice in Melbourne, Australia.

Then, in 1859, John left Australia and sailed first to San Francisco then to Victoria.
A photo of John Foster McCreight

B.C.'s flag

McCreight arrived in Victoria in 1860. At that time, the city was the capital of the Colony of Vancouver Island. At that time, Sir James Douglas, the Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company governed the colony.

Two years after his arrival, John was called to the British Columbia bar and opened a practice in Victoria. By all accounts, McCreight led a quiet life. Outside of his law practice, John was active in the local Masonic Lodge as well as being an active layperson in the congregation of the local Anglican cathedral.

It was in 1866 that the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia merged. Initially, when the colonies united, the newly formed province didn't join the Canadian Confederation. However, the economic and strategic situation soon made the idea attractive. So on July 20, 1871, British Columbia became part of Canada.

McCreight joined the interim transitional cabinet as Attorney General. During the first provincial general election, John won a seat in the legislature for Victoria City. Sir Jospeh Trutch, the Lieutenant Governor, chose McCreight to be the first premier. In addition, McCreight still carried out the duties of Attorney General.

Unfortunately, reports show that McCreight didn't have the right temperament for public life. A colleague of McCreight's, Henry Perring Pellew Crease, described the premier as "bad tempered and fits & turns extremely credulous & extremely suspicious...excessively obstinate in the wrong places...close and reserved in his daily life...[and] utterly ignorant of politics".

In spite of his shortcomings, McCreight had a productive tenure as premier. Three dozen pieces of legislature were passed in the first year. But his inability to form alliances and mollify others in the cabinet led to a loss of support from the MLAs. McCreight resigned in 1872 after losing a motion of no confidence.

McCreight stayed in the legislature until 1875 when he left to return to his law practice as a Queen's Counsel. in 1880, he was made justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In that capacity he served the Cariboo, Victoria and finally, in 1883, New Westminster. He retired in 1887 at the age of 70 and returned to the United Kingdom. He died in Hastings, East Sussex at the age of 86.

Thanks goes to Wikipedia for the information on McCreight and the Province of British Columbia for a list of premiers.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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