BC Premier#12 – The Premier From Milton!

Hey, remember when I used to write postings every Sunday about BC Premiers? And then I got all busy and such and said I was proroguing my series until the classes I was teaching were done?  And then my classes ended by I’ve just been lazy since then?  Yeah, while I’m totally making a comeback, and it’s only a month and bit late! w00t w00t!  I know you are all very excited that the BC Premiers Series is back!  So here we go with BC Premier #12: Fightin’ Joe Martin.

File:Joseph Martin.png Name Joseph Martin
Born: September 24, 1852 in Milton, Ontario
Died: March 2, 1923 in Vancouver, BC
Party: none (but he was later a Liberal, as the province of BC instituted the party system just after he stopped being the Premer, and then later ran as part of the Asian Exclusion League, because he is a racist)
Held Office: February 29, 1900 – June 15, 1900
  • OH MY GOD, this guy was born in the town where I grew up!! I’m pretty this means I will be the Premier of BC.
  • There’s a street in Milton called Martin St., named after the town founder, Jasper Martin1. I wonder if he’s related?
  • His wife, Elizabeth Jane Reilly Eaton, was the widow of George Washington Eaton – I wonder if he was from the famous Eaton family?
  • Schools attended:
    • public school in Milton until 1865
    • Michigan State Normal School2,
    • Toronto Normal School2, from which he got expelled for “unruly behaviour”
    • University of Toronto (from which he did not graduate)
  • Somehow after being expelled from the TNS, which is a teachers college, he was hired as a teacher in Ottawa, where he “embraced liberalism and developed strong anti-French sentiments”4 (you’ll see that this combo of liberalism + racism is a bit of theme with Fightin’ Joe)
  • Then somehow after not getting a degree at U of T, he went on to practice law, being called to the bar in Manitoba in 1882.
  • His random assortment of jobs included telegraph operator, teacher, principal, lawyer, politician, newspaper founder.
  • Political Life:
    • Member of Parliament (provincial) in Manitoba:
      • he ran as a “Provincial Rights Party” candidate in Portage la Prairie in 1883; he won at first, but the results were overtuned
      • won the 1883 by-election
      • in 1888 was appointed Attorney General and Commissioner of Railways
      • in 1889 he employed his French-hating ways by announcing that his government would  “reform the dual public school system [I believe this means that he wanted to eliminate French schools in Manitoba] and end government printing in French”4
    • Member of Parliament (federal):
      • lost the 1891 election as an Liberal candidate for Selkirk
      • won a by-election for a seat in Winnipeg in 1893.
      • then he lost the 1896 election when he tried running in Selkirk again.
      • then he lost the 1908 election in which he ran as a candidate for the Asian Exclusion League (there’s that racism again) the Vancouver City riding.
    • Member of the Legislative Assembly (BC):
      • in 1898 he won election in Vancouver City and became Attorney General and Acting Minister of Education under Premier Semlin
      • became the Premier in 1900 (officially taking over on Leap Year Day that year)
      • in the 1900 election he ran in two ridings (who knew that was possible?), losing in Victoria but winning in Vancouver; he also lost the Premiership in this election
      • served as the Opposition leader until 1903, when he resigned (fearing that he was going to be ousted anyway) and then lost his seat that year
    • Member of Parliament (federal, United Kingdom):
      • within days of moving to Britian (in either 1909 or 1910 – my sources aren’t very clear on this), he won the Liberal nomination in the Warwickshire, Stratford-on-Avon Division, calling for “abolition of the House of Lords, votes for women, a land tax, and free trade”4 ; he lost that election.
      • he won a seat in St Pancras East in the UK Parliament in 1910 and stayed there until 1918
      • just to keep things interesting, he crossed the floor to the Labour Party just before the 1918, but then didn’t run in that election (probably ‘cuz his riding was eliminated)
    • mayoralty of Vancouver:
      • ran and lost in 1914 (yeah, he was still a representative in Britian at this time)
  • He moved from Manitoba to BC when he was appointed the solicitor for the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Apparently BC didn’t really want him, with one newspaper editorial suggesting that BC would rather Manitoba sent one of their blizzards to BC instead!
  • He passed legislation legalizing champerty (“a sharing in the proceeds of litigation by one who agrees with either the plaintiff or defendant to help promote it or carry it on“)  in both Manitoba and BC (I’m sure it’s totally coincidence that he happened to be a lawyer who stood to gain financially from this legalization).
  • He was apparently liberal (e.g., pro-labour (introducing “controversial” legislation supporting a mere 8-hour work day, which the mine owners weren’t too happy about) and pro-women’s rights (calling for the vote for women when he was a British politician)) and a racist (introducing the Alien Exclusion Act “to prevent Chinese from owning mining claims”3, adding clauses to the properties that he owned in BC preventing them from being sold or leased to Asians, and running in the 1908 federal election as part of the “Asiatic Exclusion League”)
  • Premier Semlin asked for his resignation because he “neglected departmental business to work on his own legal practice, had revealed cabinet’s private business, and, “while the worse for liquor,” had lost his temper when heckled by irate mine owners at a banquet”.  Martin didn’t like this too much, vowing “vengence” against those he felt were responsible and so he got all up in Semlin’s face, leading a strong opposition against him. In 1900, the Lieutenant-Governor, Thomas R. McGinnis, dismissed Semlin and asked Martin to form the government.  It really didn’t go all that well – like a 28-1 non-confidence vote against him not well (gee, I wonder who the one vote in favour of him was?).
  • James Dunsmuir was the only one who could form a government after that election and Martin was the leader of the Opposition until he lost the next election in 1903.
  • Best Martin story: the 1903 BC provincial election was the first one in which they had actual parties. Martin was the leader of the Liberal Party and believed he was the leader of the Opposition. Unfortunately leader of the Conservative Party, Richard McBride, also claimed to be the leader of the Opposition.  So they got into a shoving match over the possesion of the Opposition Leader’s chair.  Like the actual physical possession of the actual physical chair, right in the chamber of the Legislative Assembly! Why do our politicians these days never get into shoving matchs?
  • Random interesting fact: he was the first person in Vancouver to be treated with insulin.  Go Banting & Best!

Image credit: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

1Jasper Martin is totally the Jebidiah Springfield of Milton.
2You know, as opposed to the Michigan State and Toronto Abnormal Schools.

3Wikipedia, the reference of champions
4Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

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