BC Premier#8 – John Robson
The 8th Premier of the Province of British Columbia.
|Born:||March 14, 1824 in Perth, Ontario|
|Died:||June 29, 1892 in London, England|
|Held Office:||August 2, 1889 – June 29, 1892|
- Robson Street in Vancouver is named after him (as is Robson Cove in Burrard Inlet and Robson, a town in Kootenays)
- 1859: moved from Ontario, where he was a merchant, to the Colony of BC, to try to capitalize on the Fraser Valley Gold Rush, leaving behind his wife, Susan, and their 2 kids (Susan and the kids didn’t move to BC to join him until
- apparently he sucked at prospecting, so instead he helped his brother, Ebenezer, a minister, build a Methodist church in New Westminster
- was known as an advocate for responsible government, became the editor of the British Columbian (a newspaper)
- he was “briefly imprisoned” by Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie for publishing a letter that suggested Begbie took a bribe; this didn’t do much for Begbie’s popularity
- served on the New West town council and was later elected to the BC Legislative Council (the Council had some elected, and some appointed seats, and governed the newly united Colonies of BC and Vancouver Island).
- moved his paper to Victoria, where it was bought out by De Cosmos paper Daily British Colonist (which still exists today as the Victoria Times-Colonist)
- became an advocate for BC joining Confederation and so, along with De Cosmos and Robert Beaven, he founded the aptly named “Confederation League” which lobbied for BC to become part of Canada
- 1871: was elected to BC’s first legislative assembly (seat = Nanaimo)
- opposed his former ally, De Cosmos and the subsequent Premier, Walkem
- was ahead of his time by advocating for female suffrage: “Although in 1873 he had claimed “respectable women didn’t want the right” to vote, he later had second thoughts, and by 1885 he was championing the enfranchisement of women because of their good work in voting for school trustees and their support of morality. Almost every year thereafter Robson introduced a private member’s bill to enfranchise women; each time the legislature rejected it.”1
- like most of the politicians of his time, he supported racist policies against both Chinese and First Nations people; “He had been one of the first to call for a special tax on Chinese because they were “essentially different in their habits and destination,” did not contribute a fair share to the provincial treasury, and competed with “civilized labour.”” 1 and “Despite his belief that the native peoples would become “utterly extinct,” he argued that in the mean time the government had a responsibility to civilize and Christianize them. Thus they should be removed from the immoral towns and cities, protected from whisky traders, and made aware of the force of the law. He recognized Indians’ rights as the “original ‘lords of the soil’” but demanded that treaties be negotiated and reserves established so that Indians should not have more land than they could use well.” 1
- received a patronage appointment with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for his support of Alexander Mackenzie in the 1874 Canadian federal election
- 1882: returned to the provincial legislature (seat = New West)
- advocated for constructing the CPR terminus at Granville, and he got the legislature to name the Vancouver as “Vancouver” when it was incorporation in 1886
- during Premier Davie‘s long illness, Robson served as the acting Premier and, in 1889, was appointed Premier when Davie died
- switched from representing New West (a really busy, growing riding) to representing a riding in the Cariboo to reduce his workload, as he was worried for his health
- 1892: died of blood poisoning in office after he hurt his finger in the door of a hansom cab, becoming the third BC premier in a row to die in office
In summary, he died of hansom cab door-related mishap.
Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!