UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

John Robson and the British Columbian a study of a pioneer editor in British Columbia Reid, James Gordon


John Robson, one of the most forceful and dynamic personalities of British Columbia's history, was editor and proprietor of the New Westminster British Columbian during the colonial period. This thesis is an attempt to appraise the importance of Robson in the development of the colony primarily from a study of his newspaper writings from 1861 to 1869. Such a study has distinct limitations: it is not possible to delineate accurately Robson's personality solely from what is revealed in his newspaper, and one cannot claim to arrive at specific conclusions without abandoning fundamental principles of historical research. Nevertheless it is hoped that some appreciation of Robson's importance can be gained from a close study of his newspaper over an eight-year period. Because of the veritable mine of information that is revealed in Robson's writings, it has been necessary to limit the topic considerably. No attempt has been made to embrace the multitude of subjects which Robson discussed in his journal. Those selected for consideration are subjects which illustrate to advantage Robson's attitude toward the question of developing the colony's resources and his opinions on matters of economic, social, and political importance. Since this work is concerned only with an appraisal of the editor's attitude to these subjects, and since some of them are but minor threads in the fabric of the region’s history, no attempt has been made to trace the history of each topic. An introductory chapter opens the work. In it the geographical environment is discussed, to indicate the importance of geography in the colony's development. This is followed by brief comments upon the character of the men who were drawn to the region during the colonial period, and leads to a section of approximately twenty pages which outlines the history of the colony from 1855, when gold was first found in the region, to 1861, the year of the founding of Robson's newspaper. In the second chapter an attempt has been made to gather together the known facts of Robson's youth and formative years to serve as an introduction to this important personality. Because of the paucity of available material on his early life, the section of Robson is necessarily brief and incomplete. The second part of this chapter is devoted to a brief discussion of Robson's newspaper, to indicate the medium through which the editor presented his views. Embodied in this section is a sketch of the history of the newspaper from 1861 to 1869. In chapter three Robson's attitude toward the development of the colony's resources is discussed. Seven aspects of this topic are considered: immigration, surveying the colony's resources, agriculture, land policy, lumbering, fishing, and manufacturing (these three being considered together), mining, and roads. Considerable use was" made of quotations from The British Columbian in this chapter and in chapter four: the latter considers the editor's attitude toward eight other questions of public importance during the colonial period. These include Robson's opinions on an export tax on gold, retrenchment in government expenditures, a northern route to the interior, the Indian question, education, union of the colonies, Confederation with Canada, and the location of the capital of the united colony. In conclusion, an attempt is made to appraise Robson's writings and to indicate those qualities of this pioneer editor which are revealed in his newspaper. A bibliographical note, in which emphasis is placed upon The British Columbian as the most important source for the thesis, concludes this study of a pioneer British Columbia editor and his newspaper.

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