25 July

Where is the Railway?

Of all the conditions usually attached to a union. of this colony with Canada, that of early establishment of railroad communication from sea to sea is the most important. If the railroad scheme is utopian, so is Confederation. The two must stand or fall together.

                                                                                                       -British Columbian, 1870

British Columbia became part of Canada in 1871 (see July 20). The terms included a stipulation that a transcontinental railway would be started within two years, and completed in ten years. There was, however, a private agreement among the negotiators that British Columbia would not insist on a literal fulfillment of the deal if it caused too great a strain on Canadian finances. Some of the Ontario members wanted to include the clause: "within ten years if the financial ability of the Dominion will permit." This amendment might have led to the defeat of the government, and so the gentlemen's agreement was made and outlined to a caucus of Conservative members.

Two years went by and nothing had happened, except a symbolic turning of the sod at Esquimalt on Vancouver Island on July 19, 1873, one day before the deadline! Rumblings of trouble began to be heard. It was forgotten that the agreement did not have to be adhered to strictly if it imposed financial strain. In fact that part of the agreement had been given very little publicity.

The rumblings gradually grew into a roar. beginning with an official protest on July 25, 1873. By the end of the year, Sir John A. Macdonald's government had been beaten and cautious Alexander Mackenzie (no relation to the explorer) had become prime minister. He wanted more time and asked for it. By 1874, many British Columbians were so angry that they invaded the Legislature (see February 7).

De Cosmos was the premier, and the people suspected that he was willing to change the terms of the agreement with the Federal Government. As a result, his career in provincial politics came to an abrupt end.

By 1878 the discontent had grown to such an extent that the British Columbia Legislature passed a resolution by fourteen to nine to secede from the Dominion if the railway were not started by May 1879. Future stories will describe the various developments and how they were solved.


25 July

-1680    Dulhut rescued Father Hennepin from the Sioux Indians.

-1715    Acadians appeared again before the Council of Nova Scotia at Halifax, and refused to take the oath of allegiance. Their deportation followed later in the year.

-1759    Wolfe issued a warning to Canadians at Quebec to keep out of any fighting.

-1787    Captain John Dixon named the Queen Charlotte Islands.

-1871    Anthony Musgrave left British Columbia. He was the last colonial governor.

-1917    Finance Minister Sir Thomas White introduced income tax legislation as a "temporary war-time measure."

-1956    The Prime Minister of Australia, the Right Honourable R. G. Menzies, and his wife were guests of Canada until July 29.

-1958    An agreement was signed to develop the South Saskatchewan River.