Friday, June 28, 2013

Theodore Davie

Premier number ten was Theodore Davie, brother of B.C.'s eight premier, Alexander Edmund Batson Davie.  Born March 22, 1852 in Brixton (London) England, Theodore Davie initially tried a career at sea. However, he found the experience distasteful and soon joined his father in Victoria, B.C. in 1867. (The elder Davie had moved there five years previously.)

Theodore followed his brother's footsteps and studied law in the office of Robert Bishop. In 1873, Davie qualified as a solicitor and began working in the Cassiar district during its gold rush. He was called to the bar in 1877 and practised briefly in Nanaimo before returning to Victoria. In Victoria, Davie gained a formidable reputation as counsel, especially in criminal cases. 

Davie was already exhibiting traits that would be dominant in his future political career: dogged determination, limitless energy and intelligence. These traits were brilliantly displayed during the trial of Robert Sproule, who was charged with murdering a rival claimant to a valuable mining property. Davie defended the man in 1886 and he was persistent and clever. Unfortunately, he was not only unsuccessful but his procedural manoeuvres brought him in collision with Chief Justice Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie. (Remember, Begbie was the same judge who jailed John Robson in 1862 because of a letter that Robson printed which accused Begbie of accepting bribes.)
Here's a photo of Theodore Davie, which I obtained from Wikipedia.

This is a photo of Judge Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie
With all of Davie's talents, it was inevitable that he would enter politics. In 1882, he was elected to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly, representing Victoria. During that time, he was a supporter of the William Smithe government.  When his brother became premier in 1887, Theodore supported him.

During the John Robson's government, Davie served as attorney-general. When Robson died in 1892, Theodore Davie succeeded him as premier. In 1894, Davie introduced a Redistribution Bill, which gave increased representation to the mainland of B.C. He later provided controversial financial inducements to railways in order to stimulate economic growth. However, Davie's most notable achievement during his term as premier was the building of the splendid parliament buildings in Victoria. This was done with much opposition from the mainland.

Theodore Davie's political leanings were definably conservative but his political career was best suited to a time when governments were not formed on party lines but rather on clusters of followers around strong leaders.

 This is a photo of the parliament buildings taken by Richard H. Trueman in 1903. This photo was obtained from the City of Vancouver Archives.

Even while he served as premier, Davie continued his law practice. It seemed as if he had unflagging energy but in 1895, it became clear that the two professions were taking a toll on Davie's health. He resigned as premier on March 2 of that year and took the position of Chief Justice of British Columbia, succeeding Judge Begbie. 

Davie was sworn in on March 11 but didn't serve quite three years before dying of heart disease on March 7, 1898. 

His chief contribution to jurisprudence may have been the first revision and consolidation of the statutes of British Columbia. Davie was quite proud of this achievement and it had become effective less than a week before he died. The Victoria Daily Colonist summed Davie up as the "most energetic, practical statesman British Columbia has ever produced."

For Monday I am thinking of writing on the case of Robert Sproule. I realize that this is not Vancouver centered but some of it does affect our city and I think it is interesting. Don't you?

The information on Theodore Davie was gathered from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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  1. Nice pictures of the flowers. It is also fascinating what history views as relevant to what a man contributes or doesn't to politics.

    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

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