Monday, June 3, 2013

Premier Davie

Alexander Davie accepted Premier Elliot's offer to become provincial secretary in May of 1877. However, the election that took place on June 22 of that year proved to be disastrous for the man. Davie was unable to convince the voters that a cabinet minister could best serve their interests. As well, Walkem was determined to destroy his imagined betrayer.

Davie returned to practising law full time. However, the lure of politics proved to be too strong for the lawyer to resist. He still practised law but in July of 1882, he was elected to the provincial seat for Lillooet.
The following January, Alexander became attorney general in William Smithe's newly formed government. During the by- election on February 15, 1883, Davie returned with acclamation. This appointment recognized his legal ability. In September of 1883, Davie was honoured again in September 1883 when he was made Queen Counsel.

In 1884, he headed a three-man commission (Elliot also sat on the commission) to investigate the disturbances at William Duncan's mission at Metlakatla caused by the demands of the Tsimshian Indians, which included compensation for their lands.

In 1884, Davie argued for the provincial rights before the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the Canada Temperance Act of 1878. B.C.'s attorney general felt that the provinces had the right under the British North America Act to regulate its own liquor sales. (The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the provinces.)

However, Alexander Davie's most significant contribution was in the area of legal reform. The gold-rush era had been chaotic and had resulted in many hasty, ill-conceived laws that had to be modernized. Not only did Davie work to consolidate and bring those laws into the right era, he also established regular sittings of the various courts.

Premier Smithe died on March 28, 1887 and lieutenant governor, Hugh Nelson, asked Davie to form a new government. Even though he was now premier, Alexander held his position as attorney general.

It didn't take long for his health to break down. On October 11, Davie left Victoria for a stay in California and the south western states to recuperate. The provincial secretary, John Robson, requested that the assembly grant permission for Davie to take an extended leave instead of forfeiting his seat. The assembly agreed and Davie expressed his view on policies and current issues through letters to Robson who essentially ran the government in Davie's absence.
Davie attempted to be an active premier when he returned on May 21, 1888 but it soon became obvious that his health had not improved. In July of 1889, Alexander Davie declined the position of justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He did stay on as premier.

In 1882, Davie had joined the Roman Catholic Church. On August 1, 1889, he received the last rites and died of phthisis (consumption, tuberculosis). He wasn't a rich man, leaving an estate of $14,000 and a lot worth $1,500. The Vancouver Daily newspaper said he was a 'true Christian gentleman' devoted to his family.

Thanks once again to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. I hope you find the beauty around you.

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