Monday, May 13, 2013

More Cosmos

Another photo of the man in question, Amor De Cosmos. This one comes from the Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/PA-026435

When I left off on Friday, De Cosmos had just started the newspaper The Daily British Colonist. Until 1863, he served as editor and quickly became an opponent of the governor of the colony, Sir James Douglas. De Cosmos felt that the 'family-company compact' of the Hudson's Bay men and their associates who controlled the political and social affairs of the colony wasn't good for the people. (Remember, Douglas was the Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company) 

This is an unusual house for Vancouver. There are side-gabled Craftsman houses in Vancouver - mainly Kitsilano not Grandview where this home is - but they are usually 1 1/2 storeys high with a dormer/sleeping porch facing the street. This style is more commonly seen in Los Angeles.

Even after Douglas retired in 1864, De Cosmos continued his movement against this group that generally distrusted representative government and believed in a hierarchical social order with government support for an established church, landed gentry and private, denominational system of education.

A liberal reformer cast in the mould of John Locke and John Stuart Mill, De Cosmos argued passionately for  unrestricted free enterprise, public education, an end to economic and social privileges and the institution of responsible government through an elected assembly.

Remember though there was still a Victorian spirit to many citizens and De Cosmos was no different. He believed in social progress through economic and population growth. De Cosmos advocated tirelessly for economic diversification and was one of the first British Columbians to argue for a policy encouraging the development of the three "F"s - farming, forestry and fisheries.

 De Cosmos had a strong sense of nationalism perhaps because his parents were American refugees and he had lived in the US for six years. Amor believed that not only should the colonies of British North America be self-supporting but also that the country should develop its own distinct identity. These beliefs led to the two great causes of his later career: first the union of Vancouver Island and British Columbia and second the entry of the merged colony of the new colony of British Columbia into the confederation of Canada.

In pursuit of these causes, De Cosmos left journalism and entered politics. He first served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island in 1863 and stayed after the merging of the two colony s.

At the time that B.C. entered the confederation, De Cosmos was the leading supporter of the cause. In fact, he is known as British Columbia's Father of Confederation. However, he was passed over for the position of premier perhaps due to his reputation as an iconoclast and his volatile temperament.

When McCreight resigned as premier in 1872, Lieutenant Governor Sir Joseph Trutch asked De Cosmos to take over the position.

De Cosmos set to work forming a new government. He populated is cabinet with reformers - most born in North America and would go on to dominate provincial politics for a generation. 

His government had a mission for political reform, economic expansion, and the development of public institutions - namely schools. De Cosmos also focused on advancing the transcontinental railway as promised under the Terms of Union. De Cosmos attempted to alter the Terms of Union in order to gain monetary assurances from the federal government in order to complete a dry dock at Esquimalt. This led to accusations of impropriety and ended his provincial political career. He ended his tenure as premier on February 9, 1874.

However, he went on to serve as a Liberal Member of Parliament for Victoria City. (Federal position) He continued to push for the completion of the railway and was an opponent to land concessions for the First Nations. De Cosmos believed that such concessions hindered the economic growth and settlement of those of European descent. 

After losing the election in 1882, De Cosmos retired to Victoria. He had never married and had few close friends.

Amor De Cosmos was a man of great intellect but also somewhat of an eccentric. He had grandiose manners and would burst into tears in public. He also had a violent temper that often led to fistfights. He had unusual phobias including a fear of electricity.

With age, his eccentricities intensified and he was becoming more and more incoherent. In 1895, Amor De Cosmos was declared insane. He died in Victoria at the age of 71.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the information on Amor De Cosmos.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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  1. Well done Karen. I always enjoy your insight.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. This is an interesting and amazing city and province.