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The annexation movement in British Columbia Sage, W. N. (Walter Noble), 1888-1963 1927

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   Section II, 1927 [97] Trans. R.S.C.
The Annexationist Movement in British Columbia
By Walter N. Sage
Presented by Judge F. W. Howay, F.R.S.C:
(Read May Meeting, 1927.)
The annexationist movement in British Columbia can be traced
to the influx of American citizens during the gold rush to Fraser
River in the spring and early summer of 1858.' It seemed as if
California were being transplanted bodily to the British colonies on
the north west coast. Between the months of April and August from
twenty-five to thirty thousand persons left San Francisco for the new
El Dorado of the north. Victoria, rudely awakened, was transformed
from a peaceful and lethargic British village, clustered around the
trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, to a city of tents filled
with Californians eager to follow the elusive "pay streak" along the
sand bars of the turbid Fraser.
It was indeed a motley throng which came north from California.
Although Judge Begbie, who upheld British justice among the gold
seekers on the Fraser, has recorded that "the lives of some of them
would not be worth an hour's purchase in any street in San Francisco,"
the majority was composed of law-abiding citizens, intent upon making
their fortunes in the new gold diggings. Many of these Americans
remained in Victoria and became the merchants, bankers, professional
men, newspaper editors and hotel keepers Of that city, imparting a
distinctly American tinge to that ultra-British community.
The gold seekers on the Fraser brought with them from California
admiration for American institutions and also a tradition of "direct
action." In July 1858,a miners' meeting in Yale took upon itself to
legislate against the sale of liquor in that vicinity and appointed a
committee to see that the resolutions of the meeting were carried
into effect. Governor Douglas, however, took charge of the situation,
visited the diggings, appointed magistrates, and even commissioned a
court to try a certain William King upon a charge of manslaughter.
The governor was actually exceeding his powers in the case of William
King, since no legal government was as yet established upon the mainland. Nevertheless his action had a tonic effect. upon the American
gold  seekers.    It showed  clearly that the  representative  of   Queen
Victoria, even though his authority did not then extend to the mainland, was determined to carry on government in the Queen's name.
James Douglas did not intend that the incoming Americans should establish de facto sovereignty in British Columbia as they had in Oregon
and California. The Imperial Government soon intervened, created
the Crown Colony of British Columbia and appointed Douglas as
The feuds of California were brought north to the diggings of the
Fraser. Judge Howay has proved in his "Early History of the Fraser
River Mines" that the so-called "Ned McGowan War" was merely a
recrudescence on British territory of the strife between the "Vigilantes"
and the "Law and Order" party of San Francisco. Ned McGowan
belonged to the latter group, which had obtained control of Hill's Bar,
one of the richest diggings on the Fraser. Yale was in the hands of
the "Vigilantes." The trouble which occurred during the winter of
1858-59 is to be traced directly to animosities engendered during the
stirring days of '56 in California.
The gold rush to the Fraser was, however, a prelude to greater
discoveries in Cariboo. From the beginning the express companies,
American for the most part, brought down the precious "dust" from
the mines to the assay office at New Westminster, or shipped it directly
to the mint at San Francisco. For a time the government maintained
a gold escort which strove unsuccessfully to compete with the express
companies. Although nearly all nations of the earth were represented
on the creeks of Cariboo, the Americans were in the majority. During
the enforced idleness of the winter months many miners left the diggings and hastened to spe*nd their earnings in Victoria or San Francisco.
California was, thus, the natural outlet for British Columbia.
There were regular sailings from Victoria to San Francisco. With
few exceptions—the most notable being the "Argonauts of 1862" who
came to Cariboo overland from Canada—the men of the pan and the
placer, , whatever the country of their origin, had called in at the Golden
Gate on their way to the British Columbia diggings. For years letters
sent from the post offices in Victoria and New Westminster bore
United States postage stamps. There was no postal connection
between the colonies and the United States, thus letters carried by
American vessels or express companies had to be prepaid in cash or
to bear United States stamps. Governor Anthony Musgrave in
December 1869 when asked by Mr. A. T. Bushby, Postmaster-General,
to procure $1,000 worth of United States stamps refused to do so,
remarking that he had "never heard of anything so undignified as importing the stamps of a foreign nation for use in a British Colony".1
American currency circulated at par, but for years after Confederation
the notes of the Bank of Montreal were at a discount in British Columbia. It was not until the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 that Canadian currency came into common use in the
Pacific province.
The national holidays of the United States were regularly observed
in Victoria. American flags were freely displayed, and some of the
business houses closed in honour of the day. Leading articles dealing
with American affairs appeared regularly in the Victoria British
Colonist. The political situation in the United States was closely followed and quotations from the American newspapers were common.
Great Britain was far away and Canada was even more inaccessible.
The United States was omnipresent. Washington Territory and
Oregon were close at hand and California was only a few days sail.
Need one wonder that an annexationist movement took shape in
British Columbia?
In addition the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia
were in economic straits. The net indebtedness of British Columbia
in 1866 was over $1,000,000; that of Vancouver Island nearly $300,000.
The cost of administration was terrific, approximately $1,000,000 a year
for the two governments. At the same time the gold supply of Cariboo,
the life blood of the colonies, was decreasing annually. The population
of the two colonies was going down each year; in 1866 it was less than
ten thousand. By June of that year the exodus from Victoria had
reached alarming proportions. The British Colonist for June 5 records
that the San Francisco steamer was taking away fourteen or fifteen
families, a staggering loss to the weakened colony. At the same time
taxation was grievously heavy. Imports greatly exceeded exports.
There was practically no industry except coal mining upon Vancouver
Island. The mainland was dependent upon gold mining, which, in
spite of the excitements in the Kootenay, the Big Bend, and Omineca,
was rapidly declining. Lumbering had scarcely commenced. Agriculture and fishing were in their infancy.
The British Government in 1866 passed legislation uniting the two
^Driginal letter in the Archives of British Columbia. According to Mr.
Stanley Deaville of Victoria, B.C., who is making a special study of the postal
history of British Columbia, letters were sent from Victoria to San Francisco
at the following tariff: Colonial rate, 3d., American rate, in U.S. stamps, 3
cents, express charge, 7 cents.
colonies. But the forced union did not bring relief. The governorship of Vancouver Island was abolished. Governor Seymour of
British Columbia, who was placed in charge of the united colony, was
not the type of man to initiate necessary economies in administration.
The colony was still taxed to support a host of unnecessary officials
whom the weak, but well intentioned governor would not dismiss.
Vancouver Island by the terms of the union lost her legislature and
her free port, was forced to accept the British Columbian tariff, and,
in a word, her identity was merged with that of British Columbia. For
a time New Westminster was the capital of the united colony, and it
was only after the most strenuous efforts on Victoria's part that the
seat of government was transferred in 1866 to the island city. The
condition of Vancouver Island under the union was well summed up
in the following passage taken from a leading article in the British
Colonist for March 14, 1867:
"Politically we are tied hand and foot; deprived of an adequate
representation, we are the laughing-stock of our neighbours, and the
object of contempt of our own countrymen. We have scarcely a voice
in our own affairs, and what little we have has been powerless to
prevent the voting of a. sum of money for the expense of a Government utterly beyond our power to pay."
One is not surprised that under such conditions an annexation
party grew Up in Victoria. Any relief from the burden of taxation
would be welcome, even if it involved breaking the British connection.
American influence was very powerful. Under the Stars and Stripes,
the annexationists argued, Victoria could regain her lost assembly,
obtain free commercial intercourse with the Pacific states and territories,
and, greatest boon of all, secure railway communication through the
Puget Sound ports with the eastern states. As one poetaster phrased
"You want the mail,
You want the rail,
You want the cars to hie on.
Come join us and we'll thread your land
With passage ways of iron."
During the years from 1866 to 1871 the political situation in
Victoria was complex. Confederation was supported by a minority of
Canadians and Nova Scotians headed by Amor De Cosmos. De
Cosmos, who had come up with the Californians in 1858, had chiefly
distinguished himself by his opposition to Governor Douglas and by
his advocacy of the union of the colonies. But this group alienated
the older British settlers by their importunities and by their demands
for responsible government. The men of the old regime, including the
government officials, opposed both responsible government and Confederation. Some of the recently arrived settlers from Great Britain
favoured union with Canada but objected to responsible government.
The annexation group was made up of Americans and of those British
subjects who despaired of the continuation of the British connection.
The attitude of the "Little Englanders" in the Mother Country
assisted the annexationists. The "period of pessimism" was not yet
over, and in the House of Commons and elsewhere the severance of
the North American Colonies from the Empire was openly proclaimed
to be inevitable. Many Englishmen of the period agreed with Lord
Granville when he expressed a wish that the British possessions in
North America "would propose to be independent and annex themselves" (sic). Granville was at the time Secretary of State for the
Colonies in Gladstone's first Cabinet and his statements may be considered as representing the views of his chief.2 The annexationists
very naturally made capital out of such statements and were especially
cheered by leading articles in the London "Times" and other newspapers opposing the retention of that unprofitable colony, British
The annexation question was brought forward by the notorious
Banks' Bill introduced into the American House of Representatives
by a certain Major Banks on July 2, 1866. This bill provided for the
"admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada
East, and Canada West, and for the organization of the Territories of
Selkirk, Saskatchewan and Columbia." The "Territory of Columbia,"
to be formed out of the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver
Island, was to be placed on the same footing as regards representation
as Montana. But the Banks' Bill failed to pass and, as has already
been recorded, the colonies were united by the fiat of the British
Government in November 1866. The Banks' Bill caused some stir in
British Columbia and seems to have obtained a little support, but at
heart the colony was loyal.
2On this subject cf. Lord Newton, Life of Lord Lyons, I. 292.; Lord Fitz-
maurice, Life of Lord Granville, II. 22.; Morley, Life of Gladstone, I. 535.; and
Bodelsen, Studies in Mid-Victorian Imperialism, 47. The above quotation is
from a letter of Granville to Lyons dated luly 1, 1870. The next sentence is
even more enlightening: "We cannot throw them off and it is very desirable that
we should part as friends."
The Fenian troubles of 1866, culminating in the invasion of
Canada and the skirmish at the Ridgeway, found their echo in far-off
British Columbia. The Fenian Brotherhood in California had enrolled between forty and fifty thousand members, and an invasion of
a few thousand armed Fenians might possibly have resulted in the
capture of the colonies. New Westminster took alarm, a new volunteer
corps was formed, many ex-Royal Engineers offered their services and
soon the mainland capital was guarded by one hundred and eighty of
its determined citizens. A British warship cruised around in the waters
of the Fraser. Victoria was better defended. The Royal Naval Establishment at Esquimalt had been created the previous year.3 But
the Fenians did not come and the colonists were little the worse for the
scare. The defenceless state of the mainland colony had been demonstrated, a fact not liable to be overlooked either by annexationists or
In April 1867 the good people of British Columbia were thunderstruck to read in a New York dispatch that negotiations were pending
between the United States and Great Britain for the cession of British
Columbia, or at least a portion of the colony, to the American Republic
as settlement of the Alabama Claims. The dispatch did not contain
reliable information and was not a statement of fact. But for a time
it was not contradicted and it was taken at its face value in British
The excitement was tremendous. John Robson, the able and
patriotic editor of the New Westminster British Columbian, bitterly
attacked the suggested cession, but several of the Victoria papers supported the proposal. The News, the leading annexationist orgart in
that city, after a spirited attack upon the government of the colony,
enquired: "Is it any wonder then, in view of such a state of affairs, that
the people generally would hail with satisfaction, if not loud demonstrations of joy, such a change as that which would be wrought by a
transference from the dominion of Great Britain to that of the United
States ?" It is not suggested that these views were entertained by many
or that the number of their supporters was increased by such articles,
but the fact that such statements were printed in the public press and
were discussed by prominent men is disconcerting and engenders a fear
that the propaganda might eventually be successful. The staid and sober
8Major F. V. Longstaff, The Beginning of the Pacific Naval Station and tht
Esquimalt Royal Naval Establishment in Third Annual Report of the British
Columbia Historical Association, Victoria, B.C., 1926, p. 40.
British Colonist which had recently been attacking Leonard McClure as
a "traitor," a "Fenian," and a "political Beelzebub" for daring even to
discuss the supposed advantages of annexation, now described the colonists as "casting their eyes across the imaginary line that divides them
from their Anglo-Saxon brethren, and longing for a closer connection
with the children of a Government that does so much to foster and
encourage the growth of every section of its vast domain." In justice
to the Colonist it should be added that when he knew that the dispatch
was "bogus" the editor of that paper denounced annexation and proceeded to attack the News.
The Nanaimo Tribune joined in the annexationist chorus, and re- •
presented the British connection as a "fast sinking ship" and the United
States as a "gallant new craft, good and strong, close alongside, inviting us to safety and success." Upon all these editors John Robson
poured the vials of his wrath. He claimed that the majority of the
inhabitants of Victoria and Nanaimo was not in favour of annexation,
and that the movement was supported by speculators and political demagogues who would stick at nothing.
But the News continued its campaign, advocating the calling of a
public meeting to discuss the question and urging a petition for annexation. A petition was prepared and circulated in Victoria, but it
obtained very few signatures. It was addressed to Her Majesty's
Government, and ran, in part, as follows:
"Either to relieve us immediately of the expense of an excessive
staff of officials, assist the establishment of a British line of steamers
to Panama so that emigrants from England may reach us, and also
assume the debts of the colony, or that Your Majesty will graciously
permit the colony to become a portion of the United States. That
every feeling of loyalty and cherished sentiments of our hearts prompt
us to cling to our present connection with the mother country, and to
count as our best inheritance our birthright as Britons; but that all our
commercial and business relations are so intimate with the neighbouring
American population that we see no other feasible help out of our
present difficulties than by being united with them, unless Your Majesty's government will help us as aforesaid."
The subsequent fate of the petition is none too clear. The News'
soon after suspended publication, and its editor who had been the prime
mover in the preparation of the petition withdrew to the United States.
But the United States Senate apparently obtained a copy of the petition, since its Committee on Pacific Railways quoted from that docu-
ment when making its report in 1869. The committee argued in
favour of the construction of a North Pacific railroad on the grounds
that it would "seal the destiny of the British possessions west of the
91st meridian."
In 1868 the question of Confederation with Canada was freely
debated in British Columbia. The people of the mainland favoured
union with the new Dominion, but in Victoria there was strong opposition to the scheme. Governor Frederick Seymour exerted his influence
in favour of the anti-Confederationists, and endeavoured in his
dispatches to the Colonial Office to belittle the work of the Yale Convention, which in September of that year endorsed Confederation. The
government officials in Victoria rallied to the assistance of the governor
and were joined by the influential members of the ultra-British group.
At this time the Legislative Council of the united colony was partly
elected and partly composed of government officials and magistrates.
An election for "popular" members representing Victoria and its vicinity was to be held in November 1868. This gave the governor and his
party a chance to overthrow Amor De Cosmos and his supporters. By
a proclamation issued on the 17th of October, Andrew Charles Elliott,
J.P., High Sheriff of British Columbia, altered the franchise in District
Numbers I and 2, embracing Victoria City, Esquimalt, and the suburban
districts. Hitherto the voters had been British subjects who possessed
a certain property qualification. Now the franchise was thrown open
to all residents with the exception of Indians and Chinese. There was
no registration; no oaths were administered at the polls. The result
was a victory for the government and the anti-Confederationists. The
British Colonist thus describes the elections, which were held on November 3rd for Victoria City and Esquimalt, and on November llth for
the suburban districts:
"There was a perfect Babel of languages and a world of prejudice
called to the polls to dictate to Englishmen how to rule their own
country. Among all the aliens, with rare exceptions, the cry was 'No
Confederation with Canada,' 'Give us Annexation to the States,' 'We'll
never have Annexation if Confederation takes place.' The selection
really turned on 'Annexation/ and that makes it the more discreditable
to the Government and Governor Seymour. What makes it more
censurable is the fact that it is well known that the foreign population
are annexationists. But to cap the climax, all the officials voted with
the annexationists."
The Legislative Council, under the guidance of Governor Sey-
mour, declared against Confederation, and until the timely death of
the governor in June 1869 nothing more could be done officially to
secure union with Canada. But events were moving towards Con-;
federation. The Dominion of Canada in 1869 annexed the Hudson's
Bay Territories and Sir John A. Macdonald was instrumental in having Anthony Musgrave appointed as successor to Frederick Seymour,
Musgrave was in favour of Confederation. A passage from one of
Sir John A. Macdonald's letters is illuminating.4
"Now that the Hudson's Bay Company has succumbed and it is
their interest to make things pleasant with the Canadian Government,
they will, I have no doubt, instruct their people to change their antiT
Confederate tone. We shall then have to fight only the Yankee adventurers and the annexation party proper, which there will be no
difficulty if we have a good man at the helm.
"It has been hinted to me that Mr. Musgrave, whose time is out
in Newfoundland, would have no objection to transfer his labours to
British Columbia. Such an appointment would be very agreeable to
the members of your Government, and to the country generally. Mr.
Musgrave has acted with great prudence, discretion and loyalty to the
cause of Confederation. He has made himself personally very popuiar
in Newfoundland, and I have no doubt would do so on the Pacific as
well, if he had the chance. Almost everything, I may say, depends
upon the choice of the Governor, as we found to our cost in New
Brunswick where we were thwarted and for a time defeated by the
Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Gordon, Lord Aberdeen's son, who took
strong grounds at first against us. All his subsequent endeavours on
the other side, after receiving instructions from the Colonial Office,
were fruitless, as his private opinion was known to every one; hence
the necessity of his removal to Trinidad, and the substitution of General
Annexation, however, was scotched but not yet killed in British
Columbia. It was entering upon its last phase. In the autumn of
1869 a second petition was circulated in Victoria. Once again there
were a few signatures, forty to fifty at most, of whom only five were
British subjects either by birth or naturalization. This petition was
addressed to the President of the United States, requesting him to
take steps to "acquire" British Columbia. A certain General Ihrie was
entrusted with a copy of the petition. The British Colonist, which was
not actively championing Confederation, waxed sarcastic and suggested
*Sir Joseph Pope, Life of Sir John A. Macdonald, II. 143, 144,      ..'%^V
that the loyal inhabitants of Victoria prepare a counter petition to
Queen Victoria "praying Her Majesty to annex all "the American
territory north of Columbia River—our natural boundary."5 But the
annexation petition in due time reached Washington, D.C., and was
formally presented to President Grant by a certain Vincent Collyer.
Collyer assured the President that this petition was to be followed by
another which was "to contain the names of all the British merchants
and others at Victoria and Nanaimo and other places in favour of the
transfer of British Columbia to the United States."6
Early in 1870 the annexation issue was freely debated in Victoria.
It was once more rumoured that Great Britain was considering the
cession of British Columbia as a settlement of the Alabama Claims.
The New York World reported that the British Government proposed
to transfer to the United States "all that territory lying west of Lake
Superior, including British Columbia and all her possessions on the
Pacific Coast in consideration of our paying a large sum of money
therefrom."7 Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken, one of the most influential
men in the colony, supported annexation. J. Despard Pemberton, ex-
Colonial Surveyor of Vancouver Island, wrote three letters to the
British Colonist in which he discussed separation from the Mother
Pemberton's letters are important as setting forth the views of
some of the ultra-British party. They show clearly the effects of the
teachings of the Manchester School. The ex-Colonial Surveyor is a true
born Briton, he would like to preserve the British connection if it were
to the mutual advantage of both Great Britain and British Columbia.
But the colony, owing to its remoteness and peculiar geographical position, "is a source of weakness and not of strength to England, commercially unprofitable in peace and undefendable in war." British
Ministers of State and Members of Parliament have announced that
Britain is desirous of parting with some of her more distant and unprofitable colonies. Therefore, Pemberton argues, it is the patriotic
duty of British Columbia to assist the over-burdened British taxpayer
by casting herself from the Mother Country.
To Pemberton there is practically no difference between British
^British Colonist, November 13, 1869.
*Ibid, January 13, 1870.
7Ibid, January 5, 1870.
*Ibid, January 26. January 29, February 1, 1870.
and American institutions; he has been "educated in the belief that
national distinctions are but relics of barbarism." The only dissimilarity to him between Canada and the United States is this: "Canada
is an English colony which has obtained its independence by peaceful
means, and the States an English colony which has obtained its independence by war forced upon it by tyranny and injustice." Canada,
he considers, is too far away, and the railway project is impossible on
account of cost. Great Britain will not undertake the financing of a
railway across the wilderness, and Canada is too poor to attempt it
alone. Without the railways British Columbia "might as well for all
practical purposes be confederated with the Pyramids of Egypt."
Even if the colony did federate with Canada, the Dominion would
be unable to undertake to defend her Pacific province. In case of
war with the United States an American army of 30,000 from San
Francisco could be landed three weeks after war was declared. "Would
you expect a Canadian Hannibal to lead an army across the mountains
to our rescue?", Pemberton sarcastically adds.
Arguments for annexation are not definitely stated in these letters,
but may be inferred from their general tenor. An American transcontinental railroad already exists, another is being planned which will
give access to Victoria through the Puget Sound ports. He argues
that Great Britain has held the colony at a loss for twenty years, that
Canada cannot afford to build a railway, that the colony must be annexed to the United States. The Colonist complains against American
steamboat service against American customs officials and against American miners who take their gold, won from the mines of British
Columbia, back to San Francisco. At the same time British Columbia
desired Reciprocity with the United States. Surely, Pemberton claims,
these constitute arguments for annexation.
But the ex-Colonial Surveyor's trump card was a quotation from
the London "Times" to the effect that if the people of British Columbia
after due reflection rejected Confederation as impracticable and desired
to join the United States the Mother Country would in no way seek to
prevent annexation. This statement by the "Times" caused a furore
in Victoria. The British Colonist devoted two leading articles to the
subject attempting to prove that the great London daily did not really
voice the sentiments of the British people. But even the Colonist had
to admit that annexation was rampant in the community. "It no longer
lurks in secret places; or shuns publicity; but with firm step, erect mien,
and almost defiant air, it walks our streets at noonday.    It is to be
seen in the counting-house and the hotel, and may not unlikely strut its
hour upon the public platform."9
The annexationists were further heartened by the arrival of news
early in February 1870 that the United States Senate had on January 10
considered the admission of British Columbia to the Union. Senatoi
Corbett had introduced a resolution favouring annexation on the
grounds that a large number of American citizens who were residents
of British Columbia desired it. A petition signed by only forty out ol
a population of say three thousand inhabitants of Victoria was presented to the Senate.10 This was, apparently, the same petition that Vincent Collyer had delivered to President Grant. The Senate referred the
matter to the Committee on Foreign Relations.
But the annexation movement had now run its course. In the
controversy provoked by Pemberton's letters and especially by the
"Times" leading article the Confederationists headed by Dr. I. W.
Powell and Robert Beaven had the better of the argument. Even
more important the Legislative Council under the pressure and guidance of Musgrave in March discussed and settled tentative terms of
union with Canada. Governor Musgrave had done his work well. Sir
John A. Macdonald had not been mistaken in his man. Even Pemberton in his last letter to the Colonist written as early as the first of
February had stated that the colony "was drifting steadily into unconditional Confederation" and had proposed terms equitable to British
Columbia. If Canada were not disposed to accept just and reasonable
terms then annexation was possible, Dr. Helmcken in the Confederation Debate prophesied the ultimate annexation of the Dominion of
Canada to the United States, but finally accepted Confederation and
served on the committee which journeyed to Ottawa to arrange the final
terms.    British Columbia had made its decision.
The annexation movement in British Columbia had failed. It
would have been difficult for it to have succeeded in view of the strong
support which the mainland gave to Confederation. But while it
lasted it was not entirely negligible. In the first place it was indicative
of the American background in British Columbian life. For as has
been shown many of the inhabitants of the colony were of American
birth, and British Columbia was bound by geographic and economic
'British Colonist, January 28. 1870.
10The Canada Year Book, 1926 ed. p. 119, gives the population of Victoria in
1871 as 3270.
ties to the Pacific states especially California. Americans were more
popular than Canadians who were frequently termed "North American
Chinamen" on account of their supposed propensity of sending their
earnings home to the land of their birth. Then, too, all rapid communication with the outside world was through American territory or
by American ships. Until a railway could be built across three thousand miles of wilderness direct intercourse with Canada was utterly
The annexationists gained strength from the attitude of the
governing class of Confederation. Governor Seymour definitely played into their hands when he enlarged the franchise in Victoria in
1868. The men of the old regime did not want union with Canada and
some of them were ready to accept annexation. In fact the whole
movement gained influence from the prominence of its advocates rather
than from the numbers of its supporters. The teachings of the Manchester School and the speeches of public men in Great Britain against
the retention of colonies also did much to convert members ot the ultra-
British party to the inevitability of separation from the Mother
Country. If the painter were cut poor little British Columbia would
be storm tossed until it reached a safe American harbour.
But the annexation movement could not succeed unless it could
convert the people of the mainland. This it could not do. The leading men of the mainland were either from the eastern British North
American Provinces or from the British Isles. They would never
accept separation from the Empire. Even on Vancouver Island the
annexationists were a minority, in fact with a noise out of all proportion to their numbers. Except in the election of 1868 when they were
allied with the government faction they never controlled the political
situation in Victoria or elsewhere.
It would seem that at best the movement was a counsel of despair.
Existing economic conditions were unbearable, Britain could not or
would not help. British Columbia was an unprofitable colony and the
men of Manchester were opposed to colonial possessions that did not
pay. Confederation was a dream which only the construction of a
railway could turn into a reality. Annexation appeared to them the .
only solution. The leaders of the Confederation party in British Columbia and the Canadian Ministers of State in Ottawa were men of
vision. They saw the possibility of uniting East and West. British Columbia needed Canada. Canada could not reach the Pacific unless
British Columbia entered federation.    The builders of the Canadian
Pacific Railway translated the vision of the Fathers of Confederation
into fact. At Craigellachie on November 7, 1885, the ghost of the ill-
nourished, short-lived annexationist movement in British Columbia was
forever laid.


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