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A History of British Columbia
Chapter X - British Columbia and the Canadian Pacific Railway


On July 23rd, 1871, Governor Musgrave bade farewell to the province. His Excellency had been appointed for the special purpose of preparing the way for the entrance of British Columbia into the Canadian Confederation, and it must be admitted that he performed his delicate and difficult mission with diplomatic skill and ability. Thus another chapter in the history of the country was completed.

The next great task to be performed, in order to give full effect to the treaty just completed, was the construction of the railway which was the very issue of the bond. Here we enter upon the consideration of a phase of provincial history as important as any we shall probably ever have to deal with, and an endeavor will be made to set forth clearly the chief points in the longstanding and, at times, bitter dispute between the province and the Dominion of Canada which arose out of the efforts of the former to secure the fulfillment of the contract with respect to the promised communication by rail from east to west. If Confederation in British Columbia was difficult to bring about, the carrying out of the terms proved to be still more difficult and was productive of so much delay and irritation that at one time there threatened to be an abortive ending of the hopes of all those who had labored for the union. As the Imperial authorities had intervened to smooth the way for British Columbia entering the Dominion, so it was afterwards found expedient that they should assist in smoothing her pathway in the Dominion. As all things end, so in this instance, there was an end to dispute and a happy consummation was reached in the commencement of the railway, which heralded the dawn of new hopes and foretold prosperity. The hatchet was buried, old feuds were forgotten and thereafter the province held loyally to Confederation.

In committing itself to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway within ten years it is undoubtedly true that Canada had undertaken a task which seemed almost impossible of fulfillment, and little time had elapsed before it became apparent that the Dominion Government was not prepared to comply with the letter of the compact. Sir John A. Macdonald, in his anxiety to bring about the union of the British North American possessions, had acceded to the wishes of the province, but in so doing had evidently underestimated the tremendous engineering difficulties which would have to be overcome before the road was an accomplished fact. Canada had entered into the agreement with entire sincerity, but also in ignorance of the character of the country to be traversed by the railway. It is, therefore, not surprising that many and great delays occurred. British Columbia contended, and rightfully so, that the construction, or at least the commencement, of the railway within a reasonable period was of the gravest importance, and indeed railway communication with the east had been practically the sole inducement that led the province to enter Confederation. Her public men, in common with the people of Eastern Canada, recognized that it would be impossible to hold Canada responsible for the exact fulfillment of Section II of the Terms of Union. All that they desired was that an earnest should be given of the good faith of the Dominion in complying with its spirit.

In June, 1873, an Order-in-Council was passed fixing Esquimalt on Vancouver Island as the western terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and it further provided that a line of railway should be built between that point and Seymour Narrows. The order also recommended that British Columbia should convey to the Dominion Government a strip of twenty miles in width on the east coast of Vancouver Island, along the proposed route of the railway. Much satisfaction was expressed by the people of the province at this evidence of the willingness of the Canadian Government to fulfill the Terms of Union. Two years, however, had elapsed and beyond the expenditure of some $400,000 in preliminary surveys, nothing had been done by Canada, and the people of British Columbia did not attempt to hide their disappointment.

Mr. Edgar's Mission.

In July, 1873, the Executive Council of the province, through the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Joseph Trutch, entered a strong protest against further delay in the matter of the fulfillment of the Terms of Union, and it became apparent to the Dominion Government that no small amount of dissatisfaction existed in the western province.

In September of this year Premier De Cosmos proceeded to Ottawa and afterwards to London as a special delegate from the Government of British Columbia to negotiate in connection with the construction of the graving dock at Esquimalt. He arranged that British Columbia should receive $250,000 in lieu of a guarantee of interest on $500,000 for ten years after the construction of the dock. Mr. De Cosmos' report was laid on the table during the session of the following year, when another protest against delay was passed and forwarded to Ottawa.

In the meanwhile the Government of Sir John A. Macdonald had become involved in the famous "Pacific Scandal." Sir John was forced to resign in November, 1873, and Mr. Alexander Mackenzie was called upon by the Earl of Dufferin, then Governor-General of Canada, to form a Ministry. On taking office he found himself heir to the problem of building a trans-continental railway, as provided in the treaty with British Columbia. At the inception of his management of affairs, he made, tactically at least, a very grave mistake by boldly outlining in a public speech at Sarnia the policy which he intended to pursue in that matter, and from his remarks on this occasion it was easy to infer that he deemed it impossible to carry out the Terms of Union in their entirety as they affected railway construction. In the meantime, public feeling in British Columbia was becoming roused and Mr. Mackenzie decided to despatch Mr. J. D. Edgar to the Pacific Coast to examine into and fully report upon the whole question. Mr. Edgar was empowered to make certain proposals to the provincial authorities with a view to an ultimate settlement of matters in dispute. He was also instructed to point out that it was impossible to construct the road within the time specified, and that any attempt to do so would only result in "very great useless expense and financial disorder"; and to state that it was the intention of the Dominion to reach the seaboard of the Pacific only, not Esquimalt or Nanaimo. It was also to be intimated that "any further extension beyond the headwaters of Bute Inlet or whatever portion of. the sea waters may be reached, may depend entirely on the spirit shown by themselves in consenting to a reasonable time or a modification of the terms originally agreed to." It must not be forgotten that the Dominion Government had gone beyond the Terms of Union in the matter of the graving dock at Esquimalt, and had also agreed to advance in cash the balance of the amount of debt with which the province had entered Confederation. The Dominion, therefore, not unreasonably perhaps, expected that British Columbia would be actuated by a similar tolerant spirit. But the Federal Ministry apparently entirely failed to comprehend the intense feeling on the subject in the province where the railway was considered, as indeed it was, of vital importance. With regard to the proposals which Mr. Edgar had been empowered to make in behalf of the Canadian Government to the provincial authorities, it may be added that they were briefly as follows: The Dominion Government would undertake the commencement of a railway on Vancouver Island, traversing northward to the point of crossing; to provide for the diligent prosecution of surveys on the Mainland; and that as soon as the railway could be placed under construction no less than $1,500,000 would be spent annually.

Mr. Edgar reached Victoria in May, 1874, and immediately entered into communication with the Honorable George A. Walkem, then Attorney-General. He endeavored, in addition to the work involved by tedious negotiations, to ascertain the popular view on the railway question by traveling and mingling with the people on the Mainland. Unfortunately, the representative of the Dominion, though an able and conscientious man, accomplished nothing, and it is quite clear from his method of procedure that diplomacy was not his forte. After the negotiations had been continued for some time, the local Government, through Mr. Walkem, informed Mr. Edgar that they were not satisfied as to his status, and desired the authorities at Ottawa to state whether their representative was clothed with full power to negotiate, and whether proposals made by him would be considered as binding by the Government of Canada. Mr. Mackenzie intimated in reply that the position of Mr. Edgar had been plainly indicated. The latter, however, was immediately recalled, his mission, if anything, having rather increased than lessened the difficulties of the situation. The failure of Mr. Edgar to procure an amicable settlement only tended to increase the friction between the two Governments, which now assumed threatening proportions. A profound anxiety was expressed by Mr. Walkem and his colleagues regarding the intentions of the Canadian Ministry, and the dilatory action of the Dominion was viewed with alarm and disappointment. The Ottawa authorities were anxious that a change should be made in the railway terms, and contended that they could not be called upon to carry out the original provisions, in view of the fact that the route of the railway had not yet been determined, although every effort had been made to settle this all-important point. The Provincial Government, on the other hand, while evincing no desire to hold Canada, in face of the opposition of the majority of its people, responsible for the carrying out of these terms to the letter, did not hesitate to demand that the Ministry should give a definite assurance with regard to the commencement of construction and the completion of this great work.

Mr. Mackenzie's opinion of the promise of the Dominion Government to construct the Canadian Pacific Railway is clearly shown in the following excerpt from his letter of instructions to Mr. Edgar: "You will also put them in remembrance of the terms they themselves proposed, which terms were assented to by their local Legislature, and point out that it was only the insane act of the administration here which gave such conditions of union to Columbia; that it could only have been because that administration sought additional means of procuring extensive patronage immediately before the general election, and saw in coming contests the means of carrying the elections, that the province obtained on paper terms which at the time were known to be impossible of fulfillment." He was evidently appalled by the immensity of the undertaking, and to his cautious mind it meant financial disaster to the Dominion. Though great in rectitude, Mackenzie did not possess the wider vision or inspiring imagination of his predecessor; nor did he realize the resources and possibilities of the far west. There were indeed few Canadians at the time who did.

The Great Dispute.

Mr. Mackenzie, in view of what appeared to him to be insuperable difficulties, on several occasions endeavored to obtain the consent of the Provincial Government to a modification of the terms. The province, however, was strenuously opposed to his proposals. Their mere suggestion aroused intense feeling, and although the Dominion Government averred that it was their intention to push forward the work of construction with all possible despatch, and that they had not the slightest desire to repudiate their obligations to the province, such assurances were received with no little distrust. Indeed, feeling became so strong in Victoria that a public meeting was called in February, 1874, to protest against the Government of Mr. De Cosmos assenting to any modification of the railway terms. The terms of the resolutions passed and the sequel, as it affected the local legislature, are given in the previous chapter by Mr. Higgins.

As previously mentioned, it had been provided by an Order-in-Council, passed in June, 1873, that Esquimalt should be the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and-in order to make this possible it was decided that the line should be carried across Seymour Narrows. This decision, in the light of later events, proved, to say the least, premature. The residents of Vancouver Island, who at first were naturally elated at the determination of the Dominion, evinced the greatest hostility to a change of route, even when the enormous cost and the difficulty of bridging the Narrows eventually proved that the scheme was, for the time being, impracticable. The selection of a terminus proved a fruitful source of friction between the two Governments. . The British Columbia administration strenuously endeavored to secure the construction of the Island Railway as a portion of the main line, as indeed, from the tenor of certain despatches, had evidently been the original intention of Sir John A. Macdonald. At a later date, however, the Dominion Government asserted that the construction of a line of railway on Vancouver Island was intended only as a local work, which it was proposed should in some measure indemnify the province for the loss sustained by the non-fulfillment of the Terms of Union. Mr. Walkem on the part of the province combated with much acumen and force any such interpretation of the action of the Federal Government. However, as will be shown later, it was at last settled by mutual consent that the terminus should be on Burrard Inlet. Throughout the whole discussion the city of Victoria, for obvious reasons, had endeavored in every possible way to secure the location of the terminus at Esquimalt, and was opposed to any modification of the terms that would interfere with the fulfillment of the cherished desire of its citizens. While the Island, through "The Terms of Union Preservation League," strenuously opposed the alteration or modification of the terms and conditions upon which the province had entered Confederation, the Mainland was not at all unanimous on the question. In fact, a numerously signed petition was forwarded to his Excellency the Governor-General in the summer of 1874 by the residents of the latter portion of the Province, which stated that in their opinion "the Order of the Privy Council of Canada, of June 7th, 1873, is in no way binding on Your Excellency's present Government and that a line of railway along the seaboard of Vancouver Island to Esquimalt is no part of the Terms of Union." The document in question then recited "that in any arrangement which may be entered into for an extension of time for the commencement or completion of the railway, any consideration granted by the Dominion Government to the Province of British Columbia, should be such as would be generally advantageous to the whole Province, and not of merely a local nature, benefiting only a section thereof." The petitioners also added that in their opinion it would be "unwise, impolitic, and unjust to select any line for the railway until time be given for a thorough survey of the different routes on the Mainland," as it was beIieved that such surveys would result "in the selection of the Fraser Valley route, which is the only one that connects the fertile districts of the interior with the seaboard." It will thus be seen that sectional feeling had been aroused, which unfortunately continued to exist long after its direct cause had been removed.

In order to arrive at an impartial conclusion respecting the situation as it actually existed, it is necessary to examine the conditions, circumstances and state of public feeling at the time, both in British Columbia and in Eastern Canada. When the people of the Province entered Confederation, expectations were high and anticipations eager and sanguine. The change betokened to them an era of development and prosperity, such as they had not experienced since the early gold mining days. Buoyed up with such hopes they did not realize the difficulties imposed on the Government of Canada and the attitude towards the building of a trans-continental line of railway, in the circumstances and for the objects to be gained, assumed by the great majority of the people of older Canada. As time passed and their expectations were not realized, distrust and disappointment succeeded hope.

Day by clay it became more evident that the Dominion Government were loath to carry out the obligations assumed in behalf of British Columbia, and a bitterness of feeling developed that boded no good for the future of the relations between the West and the East. Isolated as the Province was, with declining trade, and mining, except in fitful bursts of excitement as new finds were made, stagnant, it is not difficult to understand that its people regarded the failure to proceed with construction of the railway as an absolute and unjustifiable breach of faith and the violation of the terms of a solemn treaty. On the other hand, the people of Eastern Canada, without knowledge of the country and not realizing what the West had in store for them, looked askance at the proposition and honestly believed that Sir John Macdonald had bartered natural solvency in a bargain that had little else than sentimental considerations to justify it. In those days Canada was in an experimental stage as a Confederacy and the task of bridging a continent by a line of railway, which today is undertaken without fear, seemed beyond the limits of practicability—a hair-brained scheme. There were men of imagination, enthusiasts, who, fired with zeal by an undertaking so pregnant with possibilities for the Dominion and who, bounding over physical obstacles and eliminating time and distance, reached what we have already realized; but they were here and there. Alexander Mackenzie did not belong to that class of statesmen; he had been moulded in the school of hard facts, and rocks and mountains and long distances were verities to him not to be overcome by any effort of the imagination. He was as prosaic as he was honest, and was deeply imbued with the idea that the construction of this enormous work was impossible unless it should be spread over a number of years. He did not hesitate to affirm that it was a physical impossibility to build the railway in accordance with the terms agreed upon, and that any attempt to do so could only result in grave financial peril. Mackenzie represented the conservative element, who looked askance at big things without the money in hand to see them through. As between British Columbia and Eastern Canada neither one could put itself in the mental attitude of the other, and so the breach grew wider. With the people of the former the building of a railway was the one object of their living, the summum bonum of their hopes, their financial salvation. The Dominion made overtures, and offered certain concessions in order that the Province might be compensated for the loss it had suffered through the inability of Canada to fulfill what were treaty obligations. These overtures, however, were rejected by the Provincial administration as it was feared that their acceptance would jeopardize the right of the Province to demand the immediate commencement of the more important work on the Mainland. The Dominion would not accede to the Provincial demands and a dead-lock consequently ensued. The discontent at last became so great that the administration determined to dispatch a petition to Her Majesty, the Queen. , A memorial was therefore drawn up, complaining of the non-fulfillment of the Terms of Union on the part of the Dominion Government, and setting forth clearly and concisely the grievances of the Province, and the hardships that it had endured on account of the dilatoriness of the authorities at Ottawa. The petition concluded with the following paragraphs:

"That British Columbia has fulfilled all the conditions of her agreement under the Terms of Union:

"That the Dominion has not completed the necessary railway explorations and surveys; nor since 1872 has any effort, at all adequate to the undertaking, been made up to the present time:

"That notwithstanding the fact on the seventh day of June, 1873, by Order of the Privy Council 'Esquimalt' was 'fixed' as the point of commencement on the Pacific, and it was decided that a line should 'be located between that harbor and Seymour Narrows;' and notwithstanding, further, that a valuable belt of land, along the line indicated, has ever since been reserved by British Columbia, at the instance of the Dominion, and for the purposes, ostensibly, of immediate construction, the Dominion Government have failed and neglected to commence construction up to the present time:

"That although the Government of the Dominion admit that the agreement with British Columbia has been violated, and acknowledged that immediate construction might be commenced at Esquimalt, and active work vigorously prosecuted upon ' that portion of the railway' between Esquimalt and Nanaimo, yet they virtually refuse to commence such construction unless British Columbia consents to materially change the Railway Clause of the Treaty:

"That, in consequence of the course pursued by the Dominion, British Columbia is suffering great loss; her trade has been damaged and unsettled; her general prosperity has become seriously affected; her people have become discontented; a feeling of depression has taken the place of the confident anticipations of commercial and political advantages to be derived from the speedy construction of a great railway, uniting the Atlantic and Pacific shores of Your Majesty's Dominion on the Continent of North America."

The Carnarvon Terms.

It was furthermore decided that the Honorable George A. Walkem, Attorney General, who, by the way, had always displayed the utmost diligence in pressing upon the Dominion the necessity of complying with the Terms of Union, should proceed immediately to Ottawa and from thence to London to press the claims of the Province. The petition to Her Majesty was in due course forwarded to the Earl of Carnarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies, who was also informed of Mr. Walkem's departure for England. Earl Carnarvon in a dispatch (June 18th, 1874) to His Excellency the Governor General, intimated that although he had no desire to interfere in the affairs of Canada he would gladly waive all considerations of delicacy, as he was strongly impressed with the great importance of effecting a speedy and amicable settlement of the matters in dispute between the Provincial and Dominion Governments. He, therefore, signified his willingness to tender his good offices as arbitrator, provided that all concerned were agreeable to the proposal and that his decision should be accepted as final. Each party was requested to furnish a statement, and on these written reports a decision would be rendered. Both the Dominion and Provincial administrations accepted Earl Carnarvon's generous offer and also agreed to be bound by his decision. Thus it seemed that the unhappy controversy which had been carried on with more or less bitterness by both sides, was in a fair way to be settled in a friendly manner.

The Dominion Government in a report of the Privy Council dated July 8th, 1874, replied at some length to the charges preferred by British Columbia. It was carefully pointed out, and much was made of the fact, that the passage of the section in the Terms of Union relating to the construction of the Pacific Railway had been strongly opposed in Parliament, and was only carried by a small majority of ten. It was also claimed that even to obtain this majority the Government of the day had been obliged to propose a resolution that distinctly laid down that the railway should be "constructed and worked by private enterprise, and not by the Dominion Government, and that the public aid given to secure that undertaking should consist of such liberal grants of land, and such subsidy in money or other aid, not increasing the present rate of taxation, as the Parliament of Canada shall hereafter determine."

Mr. Joseph Trutch, the Provincial delegate, who had been at Ottawa when the Terms were discussed, had, as already stated, intimated at a public meeting that the Province did not regard the Terms of Union as to a railway binding to the letter, but all that was required was that the railway should be built as soon and with as little delay as possible. The Federal Ministry contended that such statements showed very clearly that the "Terms were directory rather than mandatory." Furthermore it was pointed out that over one million dollars had been voted for surveys, more than one-half of which had been spent in British Columbia. In spite of strenuous exertions, however, the engineers had not been able to locate any portion of the line, and, therefore, it had been impossible to vigorously prosecute the work of construction.

It was also mentioned that in March, 1873, Sir Hugh Allan had formed a company which had undertaken to complete the line for a grant of $30,-000,000 and 20,000 acres of land per mile. Sir Hugh journeyed to London, where he endeavored to obtain financial assistance, but his efforts resulted in failure and in consequence the company relinquished their charter.

The Dominion also referred to the fact, that in their solicitude fori the welfare of the Province, Mr. Edgar had been dispatched on a special mission to the Government of British Columbia, and although Mr. Edgar had been empowered to make certain proposals regarding an amelioration of the railway conditions, the Executive Council of the Province refused to enter into negotiations with him on the ground that he was not a duly accredited agent. The Dominion Government stigmatized the action of British Columbia in this connection as a "mere technical pretense." Again it was contended that the public feeling of the whole Dominion was so strongly against "the fatal extravagance involved in the terms agreed to by the late Government, that no Government could live that would attempt or rather pretend to attempt their literal fulfillment." It was averred that public meetings had been held both on Vancouver Island and the Mainland which had condemned the action of the Provincial Executive in not acceding to the proposed modifications. The report concludes with a reference to the action of the Government respecting the Graving Dock at Esquimalt which, it is argued, clearly demonstrates that the Canadian Ministry had always exhibited a profound desire to act in accordance with the Terms of Union, and even to go beyond them when circumstances warranted such behavior. Under the Terms of Union the Dominion was bound to guarantee five per cent on $500,000 for ten years after the construction of the dock. The Local Government, however, on finding that it was impossible to have the- work performed on the basis of this subsidy, solicited further aid from Ottawa and in order to comply with this request the Dominion Government obtained authority from Parliament to' advance the sum of $250,000 as the work progressed.

Mr. Mackenzie certainly prepared a careful and plausible statement of the case from the Dominion standpoint. Briefly, he contended that, although it had been ascertained that the literal fulfillment of the Terms of Union was impossible, Canada had always conscientiously endeavored to keep faith with British Columbia, and that in face of tremendous difficulties the work of mapping out the route of the Pacific Railway had been prosecuted with all diligence, and. further, that no expense had been spared that was compatible with the means at the disposal of the Government.

Upon arriving in London Mr. Walkem immediately proceeded to lay before the Earl of Carnarvon the case for British Columbia. The main points of the controversy were fully discussed and the Secretary of State for the Colonies expressed satisfaction at the moderate statement made on behalf of the Province. Mr. Walkem's tact and knowledge certainly cleared the way for a prompt solution of the problem. The Dominion Government presented their side of the case in a Minute of Council, dealing at length with the whole question.

After a delay of a few weeks, during which period both parties to the dispute laid counter statements before the Earl of Carnarvon, a decision was rendered which was embodied in a dispatch to the Earl of Dufferin, then Governor General. After expressing satisfaction at the clear and complete statements furnished by the Dominion and Provincial Governments, and at the temperate and forbearing manner in which both sides of the case had been presented, the Secretary of State remarked that any decision he might render must of necessity partake of the nature of a compromise, and as such it was not improbable that he might fall short of giving complete satisfaction to either side. It was also pointed out that under the amended terms British Columbia would, after all, receive substantial advantages from the union with Canada, while on the other hand, the Dominion would be delivered of no inconsiderable part of those obligations which had been all too| hastily assumed in the first instance, without sufficient knowledge of the conditions under which so great and important a work could be carried into effect. Briefly the remarks of the Earl of Carnarvon, in handing down his decision, were as follows:

1. That the railway from Esquimalt to Nanaimo shall be commenced as soon as possible, and completed with all practicable despatch.

2. That the surveys on the Mainland shall be pushed on with the utmost vigor. On this point, after considering the representations of your. ministers, I feel that I have no alternative but to reply, as I do most fully and readily, upon their assurance that no legitimate effort or expense will] be spared, first, to determine the best route for the line, and secondly, to proceed with the details of the engineering work. It would be distasteful to me, if, indeed, it were not impossible, to prescribe strictly any minimum of time or expenditure with regard to work of so uncertain a nature; but, happily, it is equally impossible for me to doubt that your Government will loyally do its best in every way to accelerate the completion of a duty left freely to its sense of honor and justice.

3. That the wagon road and telegraph line shall be immediately constructed. There seems here to be some difference of opinion as to the special value to the Province of the undertaking to complete these two works, but after considering what has been said, I am of opinion that they should both be proceeded with at once, as indeed is suggested by your ministers.

4. That $2,000,000 a year, and not $1,500,000, shall be the minimum expenditure on railway works within the Province from the date at which the surveys are sufficiently completed to enable that amount to be expended on construction. In naming this amount I understand that it being alike the interest and the wish of the Dominion Government to urge on with all speed the completion of the works now to be undertaken, the annual expenditure will be as much in excess of the minimum of $2,000,000 as in any year may be found practicable.

5. Lastly, that on or before December 31st, 1898, the railway shall be completed and open for traffic from the Pacific seaboard to a point at the western end of Lake Superior, at which it will fall into connection with the existing lines of railway through a portion of the United States, and also with the navigation of Canadian waters. To proceed at present with the remainder of the railway extending, by the country northward of Lake Superior, to the existing Canadian lines, ought not, in my opinion, to be required, and the time for undertaking that work must be determined by the development of settlement and the changing circumstances of the country. The day is, however, I hope, not very distant when a continuous line of railway through Canadian territory will be practicable, and I therefore look upon this portion of the scheme as postponed rather than abandoned.

The decision gave satisfaction not only to the Province but also to the Dominion, in fact, the latter maintained in a report of the Privy Council, accepting the new terms, and approved by the Governor General on December 18th, 1874, that "the conclusion at which His Lordship has arrived 'upholds,' as he remarks, in the main, and subject only to some modification of detail, the policy adopted by this Government on this most embarrassing question."

It was now hoped that the "Carnarvon Terms," a name by which the agreement in question was familiarly known, would once for all settle the problem of railway construction, and great was the rejoicing in British Columbia thereat. Once again the people were doomed to disappointment.

Further Delays.

Two years went by and the construction of the railway had not been commenced in the Province, although a certain amount of preliminary work had been accomplished. The Government of British Columbia repeatedly demanded that the Dominion should give effect to the "Carnarvon Terms," but without avail. Matters went from bad to worse and discontent became so general in the Province that secession was openly talked of.

In January, 1876, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia once again resorted to the expedient of petitioning Her Majesty to compel the Canadian Government to redress the grievances of the Province. The petition cited the fact that although the Dominion Government had distinctly consented to be bound by the decision of the Earl of Carnarvon in 1874, no real attempt had been made to carry out the solemn obligations imposed by that agreement; that the action of the Dominion Government in refusing to make an annual railway expenditure of two million dollars in the Province. in spite of the agreement to do so, if the performance of this promise should interfere with the conditions of a resolution passed in the House of Commons in 1871, after the Terms of Union had been assented to, created great dissatisfaction; that in effect the resolution in question provided that the railway should be constructed and worked by private enterprise, and not by the Government, and that subsidies in land and money, to an extent that would not increase the existing rate of taxation, should be given in aid of the work; that the terms of this resolution were abandoned in 1874, the rate of taxation having been increased and the work undertaken by the .Dominion instead of being confined to private enterprise, in accordance with the expressed demand of Parliament; that the residents of Vancouver Island still held fast to the hope tint Sir John A. Macdonald's assurance would be adhered to, that a section of the main line would run from Nanaimo to Esquimalt, was clearly indicated by a passage in the petition to the effect that no compensation had been offered by the Dominion Government for the abandonment of this portion of the railway. After adverting to various other matters wherein the Canadian Government had failed to fulfill its promises, it was urged that the Province had entered confederation upon the distinct and specific agreement that as "no real union could exist" without "speedy communication" between "British Columbia and the eastern provinces through British territory, it was necessary that the Canadian Pacific Railway should be built by the Dominion as a work of political and commercial necessity."

British Columbia, it was pointed out, had conscientiously fulfilled all the conditions of her agreement with Canada. The last section but one of the petition eloquently stated "that by reason of the repeated violations by Canada of its railway engagements with this Province, all classes of our population have suffered loss; confident anticipations based on these engagements have resulted in unexepected and undeserved failure, and in disappointment of a grave and damaging character; distrust has been created where trust and confidence should have been inspired; trade and commerce have been mischievously unsettled and disturbed; the progress of the Province has been seriously checked, and a feeling of depression has taken the place of the confident anticipations of commercial and political advantage to be derived from the speedy construction of a railway which should practically unite the Atlantic and Pacific shores of Your Majesty's Dominion on the continent of North America."

In answer to this indictment the Privy Council of Canada prepared a long report, contending that from the first the Government of the Dominion had been animated by a desire to honorably fulfill the engagements to which the country had been committed. The Imperial Authorities were asked to believe that British Columbia, ignoring the general welfare of the country, of which it had become an integral portion in 1871, and actuated by purely selfish motives, urgently pressed for an enormous annual expenditure in order that the small population dwelling in the West might reap vast profits. It was maintained that the behavior of the Province could hardly be calculated to induce people of Canada to "second the efforts of the administration to redeem, as far as they can, the appalling obligations to which, by the Terms of Union, the country was committed." The Government repeated their assertion that they would endeavor to construct the Canadian Pacific Railway as rapidly as the resources of the country would permit.

Lord Dufferin's Visit.

The Earl of Dufferin, who later achieved fame and success as a diplomatist and ambassador in Russia and France and as Viceroy of India, had from his inception of office displayed the greatest interest in the unfortunate dispute between his ministers and the youngest member of the Canadian family. He fully realized the difficulties that beset the path of the administration with regard to its railway policy as it affected the West, and desired to prevent, if possible, the disruption of the Dominion. This far-seeing statesman clearly understood that Canada's future welfare depended to a great extent on her trade relations with the Pacific. He intelligently studied the whole question and came to the conclusion that at all hazards British Columbia must form a part of the Dominion, in order that the British possessions in North America might become a great, powerful and united country, reaching from sea to sea. He perceived that an all-rail connection with the Pacific Coast would in the future open rich avenues of trade with the Far East. Canada would be able to exchange the products of her forests, mines and farms for the spices, silks and tea of the Orient. The newest portion of the New World would enter into communication with a civilization rivalling Greece and Egypt in antiquity—the Far East and the Far West would join hands across the sea. Bearing this in mind he decided to visit the Province with the intention of using his influence with the Provincial administration to bring about an amicable settlement of the matters in dispute. He left Ottawa in 1876 and arrived at Victoria after a pleasant journey across the continent.

During his brief sojourn at Victoria His Excellency took no little trouble to ascertain public opinion concerning the all-important railway question. He mingled freely with the people, received deputations and a a number of petitions, and endeavored to become familiar with the question from a Provincial standpoint. While he frankly admitted that lie had not come on a diplomatic mission for the purpose of removing obstacles, he stated that he was particularly anxious to establish a better understanding between the two Governments by pointing out some of the difficulties it would be necessary to overcome before the road could be built. He was fully aware of the gravity of the charge that Canada had broken her solemn pledges regarding the construction of a trans-continental line, made at the time when British Columbia entered confederation. His Excellency also fully appreciated the disappointment of the Province at the non-fulfillment of the Terms of Union, which as he stated had the force of an international treaty; yet, he contended that the tremendous difficulties in the way of completing the line within the stipulated time had not been fully realized, either by the Provincial or Dominion authorities. In passing we must not forget to refer to the memorable speech delivered at Government House, Victoria, in which he ably and eloquently outlined the history of the whole affair. This speech has always been reckoned as a masterpiece of oratory. It was a statesmanlike utterance and the points in dispute were handled so carefully that little offense was given. In expressing sympathy with the Province, he. was extremely careful to refrain from making statements which might reflect upon the integrity of his ministers. In fact, he rather sought to relieve the Government of Canada from the charge of negligence and lack of interest, by dwelling at considerable length on the engineering difficulties of the route of the railway. He referred to the fact that although survey parties had been in the field for several years it had been impossible, upon the data acquired, to decide as to the best course for the line. The difficulty of locating a feasible pass through the Rocky Mountains was also mentioned. Although openly avowing that he had no right to speak for the Canadian Ministry, he did not hesitate to take up the cudgels in behalf of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and he particularly disclaimed that there was the least desire to break faith with the Province. In discussing the question, remembering perhaps that his hearers were residents of Vancouver Island, he did not forget to state that he was under the impression that if Bute Inlet was selected as the Mainland terminus of the railway it would not be possible for it to stop there. The railway, he said, must under these circumstances be prolonged to Esqiiimalt.

Of course it was well known that the inhabitants of Vancouver Island, for obvious reasons, were particularly anxious to have Esquimalt made the * terminus. From the earliest years the voice of the Island had been supreme in the Councils of the Province, owing to .its population and political influence being far greater than that of the Mainland. It was openly stated by leaders of public opinion on the Island that unless the decision of Sir John A. Macdonald to make Esqiuimalt the terminus should be adhered to, they would take British Columbia out of confederation. It is certainly true that the Governor General lessened to a great extent the irritation caused by the action .of the Dominion, and his explanation did no little to allay sectional feeling which unfortunately had already tinged with bitterness the relations of the Island and Mainland portions of the Province.

It is not necessary to follow further the ramifications of the dispute between the two Governments. Let it suffice that after much correspondence, and statements and counter-statements, in 1878, the problem was scarcely nearer solution than it had been in 1874, when the Earl of Carnarvon accepted the responsibility of arbitrating in the matter. In 1878, a general election took place and Sir Alexander Mackenzie's Government was hopelessly defeated at the polls.

Sir John Macdonald evinced a strong desire to accede to the wishes of British Columbia with regard to railway construction. With an insight eminently characteristic of the man, he recognized that not only was it necessary to build the Canadian Pacific Railway in order to keep faith with the western Province, but that this line was also greatly needed to open up for settlement the vast extent of agricultural lands in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. The settlement of these lands would ensure a large growing market to the eastern manufacturers, who, since the repeal of the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States, had been obliged to seek new fields for the disposal of their wares.

Surveys and Construction.

In the meantime, Sir Sandford Fleming, with an able staff of assistant engineers, had been diligently prosecuting exploratory surveys along the different routes which, from time to time, had been advocated for the line. In 1879, it was at last definitely decided that the route of the Pacific Railway through British Columbia should terminate at a point on or near Burrard Inlet. In January, 1880, British Columbia was requested by the Imperial authorities to convey, without unnecessary delay to the Dominion Government the lands for twenty miles on each side of the railway line, in accordance with the eleventh section of the Terms of Union. Towards the end of December, 1880, the Honorable Mr. Walkem left for Ottawa in order to make final arrangements with regard to the commencement of construction in the Province, and to press upon the Government the loss and injury which would be inflicted upon the Southern portion of British Columbia by further delaying the construction of the Esquimalt-Nanaimo section. Mr. Walkem pointed out that the Dominion Government had offered in 1874 to construct the work as a "portion of the railway" and furthermore that a solemn engagement had been entered into with England and the Province in 1875 to commence it "as soon as possible" and complete it with "all possible despatch." In reply the Prime Minister remarked that the whole subject had been carefully considered and that the contracts for the mainland work had been let. He also intimated that the Government were of the opinion that it was impossible to do more at present. It thus appeared that at last the controversy with regard to the Canadian Pacific Railway, which had been carried on for nearly nine years with great bitterness on both sides, was in a fair way to be settled.

Mr. Onderdonk, the well known financier of San Francisco, secured the contract for building the first one hundred and twenty-eight miles of line on the mainland, from Emory's Bar to Savona. The contract was divided as follows:

Sub-section A, Emory's Bar to Boston Bar, 29 miles; to be completed December 1st, 1883 .....................$2,727,300.00

Sub-section B, Boston Bar to Lytton, 29^ miles; to be completed June 30th, 1884.............................. 2,573,640.00

Sub-section C, Lytton to Junction Flat, 29 miles; to be completed December 31st, 1884. . . .,.......................2,056,950.00

Sub-section D, Junction Flat to Savona, 403/2 miles, to be completed June 30th, 1885................,......... 1,809,150.00 Total $9,167,040.00

The Terms of Union provided that the railway should be commenced, simultaneously from each end within two years of the ratification of the agreement. So far as the Eastern section of the line was concerned, it was a comparatively easy matter to select a suitable route. Neither Ontario nor the prairies westward of that Province contained any very serious obstacles from an engineering standpoint. It was only when the huge chain of Rockies was reached that the difficulties really commenced, and the magnitude of the work involved in crossing the "sea of mountains" to the Pacific became fully apparent. At first sight it appeared that it would be impossible to find a practicable route through this tremendous barrier.

The engineers and explorers who were dispatched to ascertain the most feasible route across Canada had little trouble until they arrived at the foothills of the Rockies. From this time on, however, a divergence of opinion existed as to the most likely pass through the mountains. As early as 1793 Sir Alexander Mackenzie, then Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, had discovered the Peace River, and traced it to its source. Time and space forbid an account of this heroic journey across a country that was then, and is now, comparatively an unknown land. In 1828, Sir George Simpson, also a Governor of the Company of Adventurers Trading into Hudson's Bay, in a remarkable journey explored a considerable portion of the Peace River, and finally reached the Pacific Coast. To these illustrious travelers we are indebted for our first knowledge of this grand river and the country through which it flows. Still, as can readily be imagined, the data acquired by Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Sir George Simpson were altogether insufficient for the purpose of basing a decision as to the desirability of the country for settlement and railway construction. Eventually three passes were explored —the Peace River Pass, Yellowhead Pass and Pine River Pass—with the result that it was proved in many ways the Yellowhead was the most practicable opening in the mountains by which to reach British Columbia. To the untoward delays that occurred in deciding upon the merits of the various passes, the discontent that existed in British Columbia was mainly due. Sir Sandford Fleming early in the day recognized the Yellowhead Pass as an important objective point affording an easy entrance to British Columbia through mountains which heretofore had been pronounced impenetrable. Although he had come to this conclusion in 1872 he did not deem it advisable to commence construction without first carefully examining the passes to the northward. In addition to the difficulty of selecting a pass through the mountains, a difficulty almost as great was encountered in choosing the western terminal point. Opinion differed vastly with regard to the harbor offering the best facilities as a terminus for a trans-continental line. Waddington Harbor, on Bute Inlet, Port Simpson, Port Essington and Port Moody, on Burrard Inlet, all had their supporters, and as previously mentioned, the residents of Vancouver Island claimed that Esquimalt was the most convenient place. In 1887, Mr. Cambie followed the Skeena River from its mouth to the country drained by its southern branch, the Watsonquah. The examination was continued until Fort George was reached. In the same year Mr. Joseph Hunter crossed the mountains by the Pine River Pass. These explorations, however, only tended to confirm Sir Sandford Fleming in the opinion that the Yellowhead route was the most practicable.

Mr. Marcus Smith had special charge of the surveys on the Pacific Coast, and during the four years which he spent in this region he was chiefly engaged in exploring the harbors at the various suggested termini. Every harbor was examined and with the assistance of admiralty charts and from conversations with officers of the Royal Navy and officials of the Hudson's Bay Company, much valuable information was gained. Mr. Smith stated in a report, dated March 29th, 1878, that there was no harbor on the Coast of the Mainland of British Columbia, with the exception of Port Simpson, suitably located for purposes of foreign commerce. He added, however, that on the coast of Vancouver Island there were several harbors well situated for commerce with Asia. Port Simpson, he pointed out, is easily approached from the ocean and is fully 500 miles nearer Yokohama than Holme's harbor in Puget Sound. But he added that this harbor is remote from the industrial centers of the Province, and could only be looked upon as the station to which the railway might ultimately proceed, providing the competition for the trade of China and Japan should warrant such an extension. In the light of current events, it is curious that so little importance was placed upon the value of Burrard Inlet as a great harbor for commerce. It is worthy of remark that the one harbor of the coast which attracted the least attention from the surveyors and explorers should have become the chief port of the western coast of British North America.

From 1871 until 1878 exploratory parties were sent out in all directions through the Province. Some nine different routes were explored through a country the natural barriers of which would have discouraged and barred the progress of any but the most determined of men. When the history of the Province shall come to be written in detail, the story of the adventures and experiences of these who mapped out routes for our national highway will not be its least interesting chapter.

Sandford Fleming was extremely loath to recommend that the line should follow any particular route until careful examination could be made of the whole country. As he pointed out on more than one occasion it was a matter of the very gravest importance that the line should be built as economically as possible and through a country which it would be possible to settle. In his report of 1880, he remarked that irreparable injury might have been done to Canada by an unseemly haste in the selection of a route. If the railway had been constructed and later a better route found, the loss to the Dominion would have been incalculable.

After passing through the Rockies there still remained the Cascade chain to pierce: This range rises between the central plateau on the one side and the coast on the other, and everywhere presents formidable difficulties, Through these mountains twelve passes were discovered and surveyed, eight of which were found practicable for railway construction. The route eventually decided upon followed the Fraser River canon to the Coast. Generally speaking there were four main routes suitable for the construction of the railway. They were as follows:

1. Through the Peace River Pass to the Northern Coast of British Columbia at Port Simpson.
2. Through the Yellowhead Pass to Port Essington.
3. Through the Yellowhead Pass to Bute Inlet.
4. Through Yellowhead Pass via Thompson River and Fraser River to Burrard Inlet.

It was not until 1878 that the Government finally decided upon the last mentioned route, and a contract was signed with Mr. Onderdonk for the first portion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the following year, as stated in. the foregoing. Yellowhead Pass, however, was subsequently abandoned for one through the Bow River and the Kicking Horse Passes, regarding which it may be said that there ever will remain a dispute as to the wisdom of such a course. The C. P. R. certainly obtained a route which for scenic beauty and grandeur is unequalled on the continent of America and probably in the world, but what it gained in that respect it lost in grades, the advantage of which in the cost of hauling traffic is of the utmost importance. Sooner or later, and probably very soon, the Yellowhead Pass will be utilized by one or more trans-continental railways, either the Grand Trunk Pacific or the Canadian Northern, or both.

In the year 1880 the Government of Canada was successful in organizing -a syndicate, which under certain terms undertook to construct the railway and complete it by the first of May, 1891. It is unnecessary here to refer to the terms, except that $25,000,000 in cash and 25,000,000 acres of land were given as a bonus, with certain exemptions and privileges. The great work, which has been the most important factor in Canadian development, was prosecuted with such extraordinary vigor that it was completed in 1885, or five years before the time specified. History will not record anything more remarkable so far as the Dominion of Canada is concerned than the manner in which the undertaking was carried out. Especially in the canons and mountain fastnesses was it marked by great engineering feats and attended by perils to life. There was an army of men employed. It was a contest between the ingenuity, skill and daring of men against huge natural obstacles in which the former won a -notable victory. It is the constant wonder of travelers as they view the mountainous environments and the engineering accomplishments how it was all done. Not less even were the mechanical difficulties than the financial ability necessary to carry the work through to completion. There was a time when the fate of the enterprise and that of Canada hung in the balance. The promoters, who, though they ultimately reaped a, harvest from its construction, backed it to the utmost of their credit and resources, and might even then have failed had not the Government, whose credit and that of the country were at stake as well, come to their rescue with a temporary loan, which, by the way, was all repaid in due time.

The completion of this gigantic undertaking was the practical fulfillment of the Terms of Union. There was, however, another part of these which was fulfilled about the same time. The Carnarvon terms provided that a line of railway should be built on the Island of Vancouver, and the failure of the Dominion Government to carry out its agreement was a standing and a substantial grievance. Mr. Higgins has in a previous chapter given a great many details of the settlement. In 1883 the terms of what is known as the Settlement Act were arranged, by which all the outstanding issues between the Province and the Dominion were disposed of. By this act a subsidy of $750,000 was pledged by the Dominion Government for the construction of the island railway, which, with a liberal grant of land from the Provincial Government, secured the construction and completion of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. By the act in question the dry dock at Esquimalt, construction of which had been begun under the Walkem-Beaven, administration, provided that upon its completion the Government of Canada should take it over and operate it as a Dominion work; that the Dominion Government should be entitled to have conveyed to it all lands belonging thereto, together with the Imperial appropriation, and pay to the Province as the price thereof $250,000 in addition to the amounts that had been expended or remained due up to the passing of the act. The province, as an equivalent for the $750,000 bonus in cash to the E. & N. Railway Company, agreed to convey to the Dominion Government 3,500,000 acres in the Peace River district, the whole area to be selected in one rectangular block. The entering into confederation in 1870 was merely formal, the reality came about and the Province was satisfied only when it was assured beyond all doubt that the railway for which it bargained with the Dominion would be completed. As stated in the chapter on Confederation there was very little sentiment involved. Now, however, the commercial spirit that propelled the movement from its inception until its consummation has been largely eliminated, and the people of British Columbia, in common with the people of the rest of Canada, share in that feeling of brotherhood that should actuate the whole of the citizens of one nation.

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