Cupid De Cosmos

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cupid De Cosmos

Amor De Cosmos (born August 20, 1825 in Windsor , Nova Scotia as William Alexander Smith , † July 4, 1897 in Victoria ) was a Canadian politician and journalist . He was considered very eccentric and had his original name changed to express his "love for the universe". De Cosmos was one of the most influential figures in the history of British Columbia : He was instrumental in the accession of this colony to the Canadian Confederation and was Provincial Prime Minister from December 23, 1872 to February 11, 1874. He was also a member of the Canada's House of Commons for eleven years .

Early life

Smith received his education first at a private school, then he attended King's College in Windsor, Nova Scotia , the oldest independent school in the Commonwealth outside of Great Britain . Around 1840 his family moved to Halifax , where he worked as a commercial clerk in a vegetable trading company. He attended evening classes and joined the debating club at Dalhousie University , where reformer Joseph Howe influenced him politically.

After twelve years, Smith, attracted by the California gold rush , moved to Placerville in northern California , where he arrived in June 1853. The avid amateur photographer began to take photos of the prospectors and their work. He opened one of the first photo studios in the state, which turned out to be very profitable. In 1854 he went to Oroville with his brother Charles , where they did little business.

In the same year, William Alexander Smith asked the Californian parliament to officially change his name to Amor De Cosmos (translated by himself imprecisely as "lover of the universe"). In front of parliament he said that this name symbolizes the things he loves most: "The love of order, beauty, the world, the universe." The amused MPs accepted his request.

Journalist and reformer

In January 1858, shortly before the Fraser Canyon gold rush , his brother moved to Victoria , then still the capital of the Vancouver Island colony in western British North America . De Cosmos followed him in June. The city was experiencing explosive growth, triggered by the gold discoveries on the Fraser River on the opposite mainland. De Cosmos founded the newspaper The Daily British Colonist , which appeared for the first time on December 11, 1858 and still exists today under the name Times-Colonist .

De Cosmos remained editor-in-chief of the Colonist until 1863 and quickly established himself as an opponent of the administration under James Douglas , the governor of the colony and former branch manager of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) on Vancouver Island . He condemned the clique of HBC representatives as well as Douglas' relatives and friends, who even after his resignation in 1864 controlled the political and economic development of the colony. This group distrusted representative, democratically elected state organs and preferred a hierarchical social order supported by the church, the nobility and private schools.

De Cosmos was a liberal reformer who advocated the teachings of John Locke and John Stuart Mill . He was passionate about public schools, the end of economic and political privileges and, in particular, the introduction of self-government by elected representatives. In keeping with the Victorian zeitgeist, he was convinced that property and social stability were prerequisites for a policy of self-determination. He therefore rejected universal suffrage for all male citizens; Voters should also pay taxes and be of benefit to society. De Cosmos viewed agriculture as the basis for the colony's prosperity, but also called for diversification of the economy.

Colonial and Provincial Policy

As a descendant of loyalists who fled during the American Revolutionary War , De Cosmos developed a distinct Canadian nationalism. He therefore advocated protectionist measures to protect the economy of the colonies in British North America from the influence of the United States . The colonies should be able to support themselves, develop their own identity and form a political and economic union.

From these ideas De Cosmos developed two goals to strive for: first the unification of the colonies Vancouver Island and British Columbia, then the accession to a confederation. To achieve the first goal, he gave up his journalistic activities and became a member of the Legislative Council of the Vancouver Island Colony, of which he was a member until unification with the British Columbia Colony . The second goal he sought to achieve as a member of the council of the United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia (1867–68 and 1870–71). Together with Robert Beaven and John Robson he founded the Confederation League in 1868 , which campaigned for the unified colony to join the Canadian Confederation . Because of his leading role in this political process, De Cosmos is considered one of the fathers of the Confederation .

With the accession of British Columbia as a province of Canada on July 20, 1871, De Cosmos had achieved his goal. In October, he was elected MP for the Victoria District in the first election to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly (there were no provincial parties at the time). A month later, he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons , where he belonged to the Liberal Party . From 1870 to 1873 he was also editor of the Victoria Daily Standard newspaper .

prime minister

Despite his notoriety, De Cosmos was not appointed first prime minister of the province by the lieutenant governor, but John Foster McCreight . De Cosmos' character may have played a role, because he was considered rebellious and had a quick temper. McCreight's government failed on a vote of no confidence and resigned on December 23, 1872. Lieutenant Governor Joseph William Trutch then installed De Cosmos as prime minister.

De Cosmos' government consisted mostly of people who were born in North America and who did not belong to the previously dominant British elite. The economy was to be promoted with an extensive reform program and public institutions - especially in the education system - to be expanded. De Cosmos also wanted the rapid start of construction of a transcontinental railway line, as had been agreed in the accession treaty. However, because of his double mandate , he spent most of the time in Ottawa and London , so that hardly any of the intended goals could be achieved.

To boost the economy, De Cosmos wanted to build port facilities in Victoria. He negotiated a £ 1 million loan with the federal government of John Macdonald (confirmed by his successor Alexander Mackenzie ) to finance infrastructure projects. When he returned to Victoria in January 1874, however, his political opponents criticized him heavily. They were convinced that because of the planned port, the transcontinental railroad would not run to Victoria as promised.

The opposition, which included De Cosmos' former comrades-in-arms John Robson and John Sebastian Helmcken , made allegations that he had illegally received money from Macdonald and abused his public office to promote his own iron mine on Texada Island . De Cosmos resigned on February 11, 1874 as Prime Minister and Provincial MP. In the general election of 1874 , which had taken place three weeks earlier, he defended his seat by just four votes. A commission of inquiry later came to the conclusion that De Cosmos could not prove any wrongdoing.

Member of the House of Commons

The accusation raised by the opposition of having betrayed the interests of Vancouver Island drove De Cosmos to campaign even more strongly in the House of Commons for the early start of construction of the transcontinental railroad, with Victoria as the terminus. But then Vancouver was determined as the end point and Vancouver Island received only one branch line with a long delay, the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway , which opened in 1886 .

De Cosmos also resisted concessions to the province's First Nations on land use issues. He saw any accommodation as an obstacle to economic development and the settlement of immigrants of European origin. He viewed Chinese workers as cheap competition to European workers. In 1879, he submitted a petition in the House of Commons calling for stricter immigration regulations for Asians. In general, he was little noticed in parliament because he limited himself to representing the interests of his constituency. In the general election in June 1882 , he was not re-elected.

Withdrawal from politics

After the election defeat, De Cosmos withdrew from politics. His contemporaries described him as a moving speaker, effective debater, and man of high intelligence, but he was also considered a choleric eccentric . He had remained a bachelor, had few friends, and was cocky. It is reported that because of his panic about electricity , he did not tolerate electrical wiring in his home and never took the tram.

As a heavy drinker, he tended to get caught up in noisy discussions and sometimes to fist differences of opinion. He also had several nervous breakdowns in public. As he got older, he became more and more eccentric. In 1895, after a brief return to political life (he had campaigned for a ferry connection), he was declared mentally ill. He passed away two years later.

Web links