Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Robson Fights for Responsible Government

I am still looking at the life and times of British Columbia's ninth premier, John Robson. Personally, I like this guy. He seems to have been a true rebel and someone who was interested in advancing the province for the good of the people.

When I left off Monday, a new council had been appointed and these men were against joining the confederation of Canada - something that Robson fully supported. He continued to strongly encourage the people of the colony to support becoming a province of Canada. 

Robson had moved in early 1869 from New Westminster to Victoria and there people were either apathetic or against the idea of joining the Dominion of Canada. Robson stressed the possible economic advantages for Vancouver Island such as lower tariffs, the restoration of Victoria's free port status, improved communications, reduced administrative costs, the transfer of Britain's main Pacific naval base, a thorough geological survey, and even a low-interest loan to pay for improvements to Victoria's drainage, sewage and water systems.

There was good news for Robson when the Legislative Council met in February of 1870. Governor Seymour had died (that isn't the good news) and he had been replaced by Anthony Musgrave. Musgrave was not only Sir John A. MacDonald's personal choice but he also arrived with instructions to promote confederation - a situation that must have made John Robson very happy.

Robson said that the union with Canada was now a "foregone conclusion". And Robson was in favour of most of the proposed terms of the union although he protested against the colonial secretary's assertion that British Columbia was not ready for responsible government. “No union,” he explained, “can be equitable and just which does not give the colony equal political power – equal control over their own local affairs with that possessed by the people of the provinces with which it is to unite.”

A delegation from British Columbia was sent to Ottawa in May of 1870. Apparently, Governor Musgrave invited Robson to be part of that team then later withdrew the offer so that John Sebastian Helmcken. Much later, Robson said he had to withdraw due to business reasons.

Robson wasn't happy with the choices for the delegation because, Helmcken, Joseph William Trutch and Robert William Weir Carrall opposed responsible government.

David Higgins - Robson's publisher - agreed with the editor and politician. Together, the two men guaranteed the expenses of lobbyist, Henry E. Seelye, to inform the federal government that any terms that excluded responsible government would not be agreeable to the people of British Columbia.  A compromise solution allowed the province to adopt responsible government if it wished wasn't ideal but Robson accepted the new constitution. On July 20, 1871, British Columbia entered the confederation and became part of Canada.

So now B.C. is part of Canada. And John Robson has achieved what he had been fighting for - well mostly. On Friday, we'll look at more on John Robson.

As before, I am getting my information from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

, , , , ,,,


  1. Really nice presentation. I have very much enjoyed your blogging.

    1. Thanks Lee. Like I said, I am enjoying writing on John Robson - he sounds like he was such an interesting man.