Willard E. Ireland.

BC Historical Quarterly. October 1940

The emergence of an annexationist movement in British Columbia was not a political phenomenon peculiar to our Province. Movements, very similar in character, existed elsewhere in British North America. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, for example, dissatisfaction with the newly-organized Canadian Confederation for a time assumed the form of a distinct agitation for annexation to the United States. Even in the Red River Settlement the same spirit existed among some of the leaders in the insurrection. It was, therefore, only natural—indeed, almost inevitable—that in British Columbia such a sentiment should arise during the crucial years which witnessed the transformation of a federation of eastern British American colonies into a transcontinental dominion.

British Columbia’s American heritage dates from the influx of miners drawn from California by the lure of Fraser River gold in 1858. Long after the main body of the rush had withdrawn there still remained a large proportion of Americans in the permanent population of the colonies. This was particularly true of Victoria, the commercial metropolis. Geographical isolation from the mother country, as well as from Canada, successfully hindered the augmentation of the British element in the population by any considerable immigration. In consequence, it was almost inevitable that within the colony there should be evinced a sympathetic response to the increasingly insistent propaganda of the “manifest destiny” school of American expansionists.

Moreover, there was much to dishearten even the most patriotic of the British residents of the colonies. Political discontent and economic depression were widespread. The union of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia in 1866, designed as an economy measure, had been bought at a high price —the loss of the representative assembly, and of the free port system on Vancouver Island. And, unfortunately, it had failed to act as a panacea for the ills of the country. In addition, the anti-imperialist statements of the “Little Englanders” then current gave rise to the uncomfortable idea that possibly the mother country was not desirous of retaining her colonial possessions. In direct contrast to this, the United States had given tangible proof of its interest in expansion in the North Pacific by the purchase of Alaska from Russia, in 1867.

 Such, then, was the background for the annexationist movement. Its history has often been told,[1] but now for the first time it is possible to analyse more fully its significance. The erroneous rumour of a negotiation pending between Great Britain and the United States, which contemplated the cession of British Columbia, or at least a portion of it, in settlement of the Alabama Claims,[2] followed closely the receipt of the news of the acquisition of Alaska by the United States[3] and brought the latent annexation sentiment to a head. In July 1867, a petition to the Queen circulated in Victoria, which sought: —

“Either, That Your Majesty’s Government may be pleased to relieve us immediately of the expense of our excessive staff of officials, assist the establishment of a British steam-line with Panama, so that immigration from England may reach us, and also assume the debts of the Colony. Or, That Your Majesty will graciously permit the Colony to become a portion of the United States.[4] “

In all probability the petition was never transmitted to the Queen, certainly not through the regular channels. Its existence, however, was not unknown to the Colonial Office, for in a private letter to the Duke of Buckingham, Governor Seymour had written: —

There is a systematic agitation going on in this town in favor of annexation to the United States. It is believed that money for its maintenance is provided from San Francisco. As yet, however, nothing has reached me officially on the subject, and should any petition on the subject, I will know how to answer it before I transmit the petition to your Grace. On the Main land the question of annexation is not mooted . . .[5] 

The reaction of the Colonial Office to the situation is to be gathered from a minute by Frederic Rogers, Permanent Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated September 16, 1867.

 “As to the future it is no doubt true that high taxation, distress and want of assistance from home, will probably cause the American population of these colonies to keep for annexation, a purpose which would soon become irresistible except at a cost far greater than the worth of the fee simple of the Colony. On the other hand if the Colonists ever find that the annexation threat is satisfactory in extracting money from us, they will plunder us indefinitely by it. . . . I suppose the question to be (in the long run) is B.C. to form part of the U.S. or of Canada; and if we desire to promote the latter alternative what form of expenditure or non-expenditure is likely to facilitate or pave the way for it.”[6]

Within the Colonial Office the decision favoured amalgamation of British Columbia with Canada, and from that time every effort was made to facilitate that end.

Annexation sentiment, however, died hard in the colony. The apathy of Governor Seymour to the cause of Confederation did little to destroy it. Moreover, economic conditions were still far from satisfactory. Consequently, there was an occasional resurgence of the movement; a typical example of which is to be found in a letter to the editor of the British Columbian, dated April 20, 1869, and signed “Anglo Saxon.”

“With a depleted treasury, revenue falling off, and the Colony suffering from a depression beyond all precedent, with no prospect, either present or remote, of immigration, what are we to do? . . . Were the inhabitants of British Columbia a thriving community, the question of annexation would not be popular; for the people are loyal and patriotic. The force of circumstances alone compels them to advocate a change of nationality. . . . I am a loyal Briton, and would prefer living under the institutions of my own country, were it practicable. But I, like the rest of the world of which we are each an atom, would prefer the flag and institutions of the United States with prosperity, to remaining as we are, with no prospect of succeeding as a British colony.[7]  Economic dissatisfaction was the basis of the movement. To many the alternative of confederation with Canada offered little hope of a satisfactory solution of the problems facing the colony. Just as twenty years earlier, in Montreal, discontent, bred of economic and political disillusionment, had resulted in the signing of the famous Annexation Manifesto,[8] so, in British Columbia, similar conditions produced similar results.

In the fall of 1869 there circulated in Victoria another petition, this time to the President of the United States, seeking his assistance in facilitating the annexation of British Columbia. In the issue of November 13, 1869, the British Colonist reported that the document had been entrusted to General Ihrie, a passenger on board the U.S.S. Newbern, for delivery to President Grant, and asserted that it had “less than forty signatures, principally those of foreigners.” In addition, it was claimed that the chief agent in circulating the petition was a “naturalized foreigner.”[9] Actually, however, the petition appears to have been handed to Vincent Collyer, special Indian Commissioner for Alaskan tribes, judging from an item in the San Francisco Morning Bulletin of November 17, 1869.

“Vincent Collyer, special Indian Commissioner for Alaska tribes, who arrived here from Alaska and British Columbia this morning, carried with him a petition signed by forty prominent business men of Victoria, addressed to President Grant, praying for the annexation of British Columbia to the United States. Another petition of similar import is to be forwarded to the Queen. The petition is very strongly worded, setting forth with much force and cogency of reasoning, the isolated and helpless condition of the colony, and the imperative necessity for forming a political alliance with its powerful and more prosperous neighbour. Mr. Collyer represents the feeling in favor of annexation as having received new impulse from the recent note of Earl Granville, urging the British Columbians to affiliate with the Canadian Dominion. This they regard as little less than insulting, as it would increase their burdens without affording them either political protection or material relief. Mr. Collyer is on his way to Washington and has promised to present the petition in person to the President with a statement of what seems to be the prevailing sentiment of the people.[10]

On December 29, 1869, the petition was formally presented to the President. The press dispatch announcing the event merits reproduction.

Washington, Dec. 30. Vincent Collyer yesterday handed to the President a memorial signed by a number of property holders and businessmen in Victoria to be followed by another which will contain the names of all the British merchants and others at Victoria, Nanaimo and other places, in favor of the transfer of British Columbia to the United States. The President to-day returned Collyer a verbal reply that he had received it with great interest and sent it to the Secretary of State. Collyer also showed a memorial to Senator Sumner, Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Rela tions, who, after reading it, said the movement was important and could have but one termination. Meanwhile the government waits the movement of England, which is fast seeing the uselessness and impracticability of European empire on this hemisphere. Both the President and Sumner desired their replies to be made known to the memorialists.[11]  

The petition itself was found in the Miscellaneous Letters to the Department of State in the Archives of the Department of State, Washington, D.C.[12] It is herewith printed for the first time, complete with forty-three signatures.

“To His Excellency, the President of the United States of America.

Your Memorialists beg leave most respectfully to represent, that we are residents of the Colony of British Columbia—many of us British subjects and all deeply interested in the welfare and progress of our adopted country.

That those that are British Subjects are penetrated with the most profound feelings of loyalty and devotion to Her Majesty and Her Majesty’s Government and that all entertain for Her, feelings of the greatest respect as well as attachment to the country.

That while we thus indulge such feelings, we are constrained by the duty we owe to ourselves and families, in view of the contemplated severance of the political ties which unite this Colony to the “Mother Country “, to seek for such political and commercial affinity and connection, as will insure the immediate and continued prosperity and wellbeing of this our adopted home.

That this Colony is now suffering great depression, owing to its isolation, a scarcity of population and other causes too numerous to mention.

That we view with feelings of alarm the avowed intention of Her Majesty’s Government to confederate this Colony with the Dominion of Canada, as we believe such a measure can only tend to still further depression and ultimate injury for the following reasons, viz:—

 That confederation cannot give us protection against internal enemies or foreign foes, owing to the distance of this Colony from Ottawa.

That it cannot open to us a market for the produce of our lands, our forests, our mines or our waters.

That it cannot bring us population, (our greatest need) as the Dominion itself is suffering from lack of it.

That our connection with the Dominion can satisfy no sentiment of loyalty or devotion.

That her commercial and industrial interests are opposed to ours.

That the tariff of the Dominion will be the ruin of our farmers and the commerce of our chief cities.

That we are instigated by every sentiment of loyalty to Her Majesty, by our attachment to the laws and institutions of Great Britain and our deep interest in the prosperity of our adopted country, to express our opposition to a severance from England and a confederation with Canada. We admit the Dominion may be aggrandized by confederation, but we can see no benefit either present or future, which can accrue to us therefrom.

That we desire a market for our Coal, our lumber and our fish and this the Dominion seeks for the same produce of her own soil, she can take nothing from us and supply us nothing in return.

That confederating this Colony with Canada, may relieve the mother country from the trouble and expense of fostering and protecting this isolated distant Colony, but it cannot free us from our long enduring depression, owing to the lack of population as aforesaid and the continued want of home markets for our produce.

 The only remedy for the evils which beset us, we believe to be in a close union with the adjoining States and Territories, we are already bound to them by a unity of object and interest; nearly all our commercial relations are with them; They furnish the Chief Markets we have for the products of our mines, lands and waters; They supply the Colony with most of the necessities of life; They furnish us the only means of communication with the outer world; and we are even dependent upon them for the means of learning the events in the mother Country or the Dominion of Canada.

 For these reasons we earnestly desire the ACQUISITION of this Colony by the United States. It would result at once in opening to us an unrestricted market for our produce, bring an influx of population and with it induce the investment of capital in our Coal and Quartz Mines and in our forests.

 It would insure us regular Mails and communication with the adjoining States and Territories and through them with the World at large.

 It would lessen the expense of Government, by giving us representative Institutions and immediate control of our domestic concerns, besides giving us protection against foreign enemies. And with all these, we should still be united to a People of our own kindred, religion and tongue and a people who for all time, must intimately affect us in all our relations for weal or woe.

That in view of these facts we respectfully request, that Your Excellency will cause this Memorial to be laid before the Government of the United States, that that in any negotiations which may be pending or undertaken between Your Government and that of Her Most Gracious Majesty, for the settlement of territorial and other questions, that you will endeavor to induce Her Majesty to consent to the transfer of this Colony to the United States. We believe that Her Majesty earnestly desires the welfare and happiness of all Her People, in view of the circumstances that for years she has consented to the annual exodus of tens of thousands of her subjects to the United States and that she will not let political traditions and sentiments influence her against a Measure, which is so earnestly desired by the People of this poor isolated Colony.

British Columbia November 1869.F. Heisterman Thos. Fowlis                                        H. M. Cohen
Emil Sutro                                                           A. Martin                                             David Shirpser
Jacob Morris                                                      William H. McNeill                           William Wale
L Lowenberg                                                      B. Ronssin [?]                                     G. R. Pardon
W. H. Oliver                                                        I. Oppenheim (Yale)                        John Swanson
Hry. Wolff                                                            Frank Sylvester                                 Jno. Dickson
Lewis Lewis                                                         Joseph Joseph (s]                             Louis Wolff
J. L. Jungermann                                               G. W. Boardman                               J. Kriemler
A. de Neuf                                                           David F. Fee                                        Thos. Chadwick
Thomas Geiger                                                  M. W. Waitt                                        R. H. Adams
P. Brady                                                               Samuel Stubbs                                   C. W. Kammerer
Archd. Turner                                                    Tulino Seitz                                         W. Farron
John G. Wirth                                                     Anton Vigelius                                   Henry Rudolph
Louis Vigelius                                                     G. C. Keays                                          P. Feuchs
Joseph Loewen

The press dispatch mentioned the probability of further signatures being forwarded. This was actually done, for in Washington, D.C., an additional list of sixty-one names was found. This supplementary list was forwarded to President Grant in a letter from T. G. Phelps, of the Collector’s Office, San Francisco, California, dated September 1, 1870, which read, as follows: —

“I have the honor to enclose a letter from Mr. Heisterman to W. H. Olliver [sic], Esq., a very prominent resident of Victoria, British Columbia, temporarily stopping in this city, relative to the resources of British Columbia, annexation, &c., also some additional names to a copy of the petition presented to you by Vincent Collyer, some time since. I trust Sir, you will not deem me too importunate in this matter. I feel that the advantages which would accrue to us from annexation are very great, and that this is the golden moment for bringing it about. That the great majority of the people are favourable to it, there is no doubt, but the office-holders—those who have a chance to make themselves heard and felt, will, and do oppose it. These men to retain their positions and power, are doing everything they can to forward confederation with Canada. Should Confederation take place, I greatly fear it will postpone annexation for many years, if it does not defeat it altogether. I am informed that copies of the petition enclosed were sent through British Columbia and very generally signed, but with the exception of the one enclosed, were destroyed by parties in the interest of confederation.[13]  

The enclosed letter from Mr. H. F. Heisterman, dated August 17, 1870, at Victoria, was an eloquent attempt to convince the Government of the United States, by detailed references to the agricultural and mineral resources of British Columbia, of the excellent bargain to be had in the acquisition of the colony. It read, in part: —

“Understanding that you are likely to have His Excellency President Grant among you some time this month and that you will likely have an opportunity, I herewith hand you a further list of names to the memorial presented in December ‘69 by Vincent Collyer, Esqr. It would have been sent then, but owing to the hostility shown to it by the Canadian Newspaper here it was not sent. I therefore transmit it t& you, to make whatever use of it you see fit in the premises. It is exasperating to me and to many of my fellow citizens, to see a country aggregating 405,000 square miles, of which 11,000 square miles come upon Vancouver Island and 6,000 square miles upon Queen Charlotte Island and the balance of 388,000 square miles upon the mainland of British Columbia, shut out as it were from the prosperity around it. The people of the Colony are too few to make an armed resistance to Confederation which seems from all accounts intended to be forced on us unless some countenance were given to parties who desire annexation to the United States by the Government of President Grant, in a proposal to settle the Alabama Claims by the transfer of this Colony, I don’t see how we can move in the matter.[14]

The additional list contained the following signatures: —

Charles Meloy                                                    B. La Bel                                               W. Hoffman
Edwin T. Percy                                                   Wm. C. Bryant                                   John Glassy
W. D. Lyts                                                            Henry La Fleur                                   Andrew Vigelius
P. W. Scully                                                         Thomas Holden                                 H. Passerard
Wm. Wolff                                                          Wm. Shepherd                                  J. Valentine
James Burns                                                       Henry Calbraith                                 Oliver Sweney [‘?]
Collin Rankin {?]                                                George Henderson                          Eli Harrison
Peter Walsh                                                        Thomas La Vuz                                  H. Laihauf [?]
Joseph Dwyer                                                    George Wilson                                   Joseph Lovett
Henry Malery [?]                                              Andrew Patten                                  Thomas H. Currie
Peter Ousterhout                                             L. A. Davis                                            T. N. Hibben
Emil A. Mihin [?]                                               Robert Snelling                                  M. W. Waitt
Alex. Hendry                                                      Henry N. Simpson                            B. S. Armstrong
John Stanoviz                                                     Bart. Dooling                                      J. A. Williams
H. T. Shepherd                                                  George Stelly                                     D. W. Chauncey
John Montebi                                                    John J. Murphy                                  John Fenerty
Charles Loring Reed                                        J. W. Williams                                    C. B. Sweeney
Wm. Davis                                                           T, J. Burnes                                         Henry Grunbaum
Edward Holman                                                J. F. Becker                                          Edward Grunbaum
John Sinclair                                                       Thos. Golden                                      David Jenner
Aime Leclair

The true significance of such a memorial depends upon the status of its signatories. Of the forty-three signatures on the original petition, forty-one have been identified. Wherever pos sible the attempt has been made to ascertain the nationality of the signatory, his occupation in 1869, and his ultimate relation to the colony. The result of an extensive research reveals the following information.[15]  

  1. F. Heisterman:
    Born July 22, 1882, in Bremen, Germany; removed to England in 1853, where he was naturalized in 1861. He arrived in Victoria in August 1862, and after an unsuccessful effort at mining in the Stickeen district established a reading-room in Victoria and later a wholesale paint and glass business. In 1864 he established the real estate business which he conducted until shortly before his death on August 29, 1896. In 1869 he was president of the Germania Sing Verein, and Grand Secretary of the Provincial Grand Lodge of British Columbia, A.F. and A.M.
    Emil Sutro:
    A German Jew, who arrived in the colony probably late in 1859. He was a partner of G. Sutro & Co., cigar and tobacco dealers and importers. He removed to San Francisco in November 1875.

Jacob Morris:
Partner of Wolff & Morris, boot and shoe dealers and clothiers, who presumably left the colony about 1871.

L [eopol] d Lowenberg:
Born in 1818, a native of Potsdam, Prussia. He was involved in an extensive law suit with the Hudson’s Bay Company over a land purchase in 1861. He was a real-estate agent and a man of considerable means. He died in Victoria, December 22, 1884, and Sir Matthew B. Begbie acted as one of his pall-bearers.

  1. H. Oliver:
    Probably arrived in the colony about 1863. He acted as agent of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco to disseminate information regarding the Big Bend gold district in 1866. Of him the British Colonist, June 23, 1870, wrote: “Mr. Oliver is one of our oldest and most respected American citizens and has given palpable evidence of the confidence he reposes in the future prospects of our beautiful city by the heavy investments he has made.”

H{en]ry Wolff:
Known to be in the colony in July 1869, when he was arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

Lewis Lewis:
Born in 1828 in Poland, removed to England in 1837 and thence to New York in 1845. After residing in Brazil and Peru he reached California in 1849 and came to British Columbia in June 1858. After visiting Yale, he opened a grocery business in Victoria in 1859, and in 1861 started the clothier’s establishment which he operated as late as 1890. He was a Mason and Oddfellow and a member of the Hebrew Society.

  1. L. Jungermann:
    Born in 1820, a native of Hesse Cassel, Germany. He arrived in Victoria in 1861, and established himself as a watchmaker and jeweller. He died in Victoria, May 28, 1879.
  2. de Neuf:
    An employee of J. L. Jungermann in 1869, who presumably left the colony in 1871.

Thomas Geiger:
A partner in Geiger & Becker, barber-shop.

  1. Brady:
    An employee of H. Mansell, bootmaker.

Arch [ibal] d Turner:
Also an employee of H. Mansell, bootmaker.

John G. Wirth:
A trader, resident of Hope, who was in the colony at least as early as 1860, and who, in 1870, was appointed postmaster at Hope.

Louis Vigelius:
A native of Bavaria, Germany, who arrived about 1866, and established the St. Nicholas hair-cutting saloon. In 1886 he became an alderman of the City of Victoria.

Thos. Fowlis:
An employee in the store of Fellows & Roscoe, iron merchants, who presumably left the colony in 1871.

  1. [J.] Martin:
    A general dealer and mariner. He was included in a list of “many old Victorians on board the Prince Alfred” in the British Colonist, August 17, 1871.

William H. McNeill:
A retired Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, born in Boston, Mass., in 1801. He first arrived on the coast in 1816 from China, and returned in 1826 on the brig Convoy, a trader for a Boston fur company. In 1832 he returned to the coast in command of the American brig Llama, and in April of that year entered the Hudson’s Bay Company’s service when his vessel was acquired by that company. He remained with the company until 1865 when he retired as a farmer, but evidently returned to command the steamer Enterprise for a time, from which position he retired in 1874. He died in Victoria, September 4, 1875.

  1. Ronssin:
    Signature indecipherable, no such person known.
  2. Oppenheim:
    A member of the famous firm of Oppenheimer Bros., dry-goods merchants, established at Yale in 1858. Signed his name variously as “Oppenheim” or “Oppenheimer.”

Frank Sylvester:
Born in New York in 1835, of Jewish parentage. He came out to California in 1853 and on to British Columbia in the gold-rush of 1858. After several years of mining in the Interior settled in Victoria. In 1869 he was employed by H. M. Cohen, clothier, but he later joined the firm of J. P. Davis & Co., auctioneers. Ultimately, he established himself as a private accountant. In 1869 he was secretary of the Board of Delegates, Victoria Fire Department. He died in Victoria, December 25, 1908.

Joseph Josephs:
Born in 1810, a native of Liverpool, England, of Jewish extraction. In 1869 he was messenger, City Council Chambers, and continued as such until his death, September 10, 1872.

  1. W. Boardman:
    A miner, known to have been in Victoria 1869 to 1871.

David F. Fee:
Born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. In 1851 he removed to California and came north to Victoria in 1861 on the Enterprise and continued on her as engineer at intervals until 1883. He also had charge of the engines of the Beaver, Otter, Yosemite, and Wilson G. Hunt at various times.

  1. W. Waitt:
    In 1869 an employee of T. N. Hibben & Co., booksellers and stationers, and S.G.O., Provincial Grand Lodge of British Columbia, A.F. and A.M.

Samuel Stubbs:
A foreman, employed by H. Mansell, bootmaker.

Tulino Seitz:

Anton Vigelius:
Born on September 24, 1847, at Kaiserlautern, Bavaria, Germany. He arrived in Victoria, June 15, 1868, and was employed by his brother in the St. Nicholas hair-cutting saloon.

  1. C. Kenys:
    An employee of Fellows, Roscoe & Co., iron merchants, and later mined in Omineca. He was a Past Master of the Vancouver Lodge, No. 421, A.F. and A.M.
  2. M. Cohen:
    Arrived in the colony about 1862, and operated a clothier’s establishment. In 1869 he was Vice-President of the French Benevolent Society and manager of the Jewish Cemetery.

David Shirpser:
Of Jewish extraction, came to the colony as early as 1860. He entered the dry-goods business in Victoria in 1862, and in 1867 opened a store in New Archangel, Alaska. The British Colonist, July 13, 1869, records that Major-General Thomas, then inspecting the American military stations on the coast, passed through Victoria en route to Sitka, and that “ Mr. Shirpser, formerly of this city, is interpreter for Gen. Thomas.”

  1. Wale:
    An employee of G. C. Gerow, wagon and carriage builder.
  2. R. Fardon:
    A native of Staffordshire, England, born in 1806. He migrated to New York and in 1849 to San Francisco, as a daguerreotypist, and is credited with the introduction of photography to that city. He came to Victoria in 1858 and established himself as a photographic artist and made important investments. He was a half-brother of Mr. A. J. Langley, J.P. He died in Victoria, August 20, 1886.

John Swanson:
A native of Rupert’s Land, who joined the Hudson’s Bay Company as a lad of 14 and came out to British Columbia about 1843 as an apprentice on the schooner Cadboro. He helped clear the site of the old Hudson’s Bay Company’s fort and stockade in Victoria. He was elected the first member of the Vancouver Island Assembly for Nanaimo in 1859, his constituency having only one qualified elector. He became a Chief Trader of the company in 1860 and commanded many of their vessels, including the Labouchere and Otter. He was a member of the B.C. Pilot Board in 1866 and Pilot Commissioner in 1867. In 1866 he assumed command of the Enterprise, on which he continued until his death October 21, 1872.

Jno. Dickson:
Born in 1827, a native of Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland. He claimed in 1862 that he was an American citizen. He was a stove and hardware dealer in Victoria, and one of the founders of the Fire Department, in which organization at one time or another he held the positions of foreman, treasurer, chief engineer, president, and delegate. In 1869, after two terms as chief engineer, he became head of the Board of Delegates. Later he was purser and part owner of the Stickeen river steamboat Glenora. He died at Wrangel, Alaska, June 2, 1875.

Louis Wolff:
A partner in Wolff & Morris, boot and shoe dealers and clothiers, which had a branch store in Barkerville.

  1. Kriemler:
    A native of Switzerland, who was in the colony as early as 1862. In 1869 he was a partner in Spratt & Kriemler, Albion Iron Works, and also chief engineer of the Victoria Fire Department and Treasurer of the French Benevolent Society. He was naturalized, July 5, 1872, and in 1874 removed to Guatemala, where he established himself in a very lucrative business.

Thos. Chadwick:
A saloon-keeper, formerly proprietor of the International. In 1868 he opened Garrick’s Head Saloon, and in 1871, the Blue Post.

  1. H. Adams:
    A partner of Robert Beaven, general outfitters, who arrived in the colony as early as 1863. In 1869 he was Sub Grand Master, Provincial Grand Lodge of British Columbia, A.F. and A.M. In 1870 he removed to San Francisco, where he entered the hat business.
  2. W. Kammerer:
    An employee of T. N. Hibben & Co., booksellers and stationers, and later a member of the firm. He took out naturalization papers along with T. N. Hibben, August 4, 1880.
  3. Farron:
    Born in 1840, a native of County Down, Ireland. He came to British Columbia in 1858 and was one of the holders of rich claims on Hill’s Bar, and subsequently went to Williams Creek and owned in the Aurora and other claims. He acquired considerable wealth which he invested in real estate in Victoria. In 1869 he owned the Yates Street Saloon. He was also a pioneer of the Omineca and Cassiar mines. He was drowned en route to Cassiar aboard the steamer Grappler, passing Ten-mile Point, May 1877.
  4. Rudolph:
    A native of Germany, and pioneer watchmaker and jeweller in Victoria, where he died, December 20, 1879.
  5. Feuchs:
    Employed by Wm. Lohse in the Bank Exchange Saloon.

Joseph Loewen:
Born in Ediger, Prussia, in June, 1832. He moved to New York in 1850 and to California in 1856 and arrived in British Columbia, July 4, 1858. In 1869 he was a partner with Joseph Lovett in the Bank Exchange Saloon, and also librarian of the Germania Sing Verein. In 1871 he became a partner in Erb & Loewen, Victoria Brewery, in which business he continued until his death in 1906.

Of the sixty-one signatures on the supplementary list, it has been possible to identify only forty, but of these it can be said that they are representative of much the same elements of the population of the colony as is indicated by the preceding analysis of the original signatories. A few of the more important are singled out for special note.

George Stelly:
Born in Bettlach, Switzerland, in 1829. He went to New Orleans in 1852 and eventually to California by way of Illinois and Iowa. In May, 1858, he arrived in Victoria, and after mining unsuccessfully at Hill’s and Emory’s Bars, returned to Victoria and commenced business as a contractor and transfer agent. He was also a pioneer farmer of Saanich district. He died in Victoria, May 28, 1913.

  1. W. Williams:
    Born in 1830, a native of New York, who came to Victoria in 1859. He possessed considerable property in Victoria and San Francisco, and served four years on the City Council, and represented Victoria City in the local legislature from 1878 to 1882. He was naturalized in November 1872. He died in San Bernadino, California, January 24, 1887.
  2. J. Burnes:
    A native of Dublin, Ireland, born about 1832. He came to Victoria in 1858 from San Francisco where he had resided since 1854. For some time, he was a member of the Customs House staff of the colony, but later engaged in the hotel business, owning the American Hotel in 1869, at which time he was also foreman of the Tiger, No. 2 Company of the Victoria Fire Department. As late as 1907 he re-entered the Customs service.

Thos. Golden:
Proprietor of the Brown Jug saloon and Treasurer of the I.O.O.F. Victoria Lodge, No. 1, in 1869. In 1871 he removed to San Francisco.

Eli Harrison:
Born in September, 1822, in Cheshire, England. He went to Macon, Georgia, in 1850, and shortly afterwards removed to San Francisco and to Victoria, June 18, 1858, where he established himself as a house and sign-painter. From 1878 to 1881 he was Grand Master of the Masonic order in the Province, and served for several years as a Justice of the Peace in Victoria. He died in Victoria in September 1907.

  1. N. Hibben:
    A native of Charleston, N.C., born in 1828. He went to California in the gold-rush of 1849 and subsequently established a stationery business in San Francisco which he sold to H. H. Bancroft, the historian, in 1858, on his departure for Victoria, where he established himself as an importing stationer and bookseller. He was naturalized, August 3, 1880. He died in Victoria, January 10, 1890.
  2. W. Chauncey:
    Born in 1830, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He went to San Francisco in the rush of 1849 and on to British Columbia in 1858. He was a carpenter and joiner by trade and at one time was considered a wealthy man. He was a brother of the Chaunceys who were extensive steamboat operators on the Hudson River. He died at Victoria, May 2, 1887.

Because of the relatively small number of signatures, it could hardly be maintained that the petition was representative of the opinion of the majority of the residents of British Columbia. Certain observations, however, can be made with reasonable accuracy. There can be no doubting the sincerity of the signatories of the petition,[16] nor is it reasonable to levy the charge of disloyalty against the signers of the petition. They were motivated by the conditions in the colony and considered annexation to the United States a preferable solution to the alternative of confederation with Canada. It is to be noted that most of those signing remained in the colony long after Confederation was accomplished, some rising to positions of considerable importance. From the petition it is apparent that the annexation sentiment was confined mainly to Victoria, and even there drew its main support from the non-British element in the population. Indeed, most of those concerned were not even Americans. Germans and Jews provided the main support for the movement and lead one to suspect that it was a foreign move purely and simply. It did, however, have a broad base, for the signatures are a fairly adequate sampling of the various elements of the population, constituting, as they do, a curious blend of prominent and public-spirited businessmen and inconsequential characters of doubtful reputation. Moreover, the petition is remarkable for the absence of the signatures of certain Victorians who might have been expected to sign, notably Dr. J. S. Helmcken, who gained the reputation of being annexationist in sympathy, though actually there is little to substantiate the accusation, and J. Despard Pemberton, ex-Colonial Surveyor of Vancouver Island, whose three letters on separation from the mother country,[17] appearing in the British Colonist on January 26 and 29, and February 1, 1870, provoked such a storm of controversy in the colonial press. In the colony itself the petition did not arouse a great deal of interest. The Victoria Evening News reproduced it in its issue of November 15, 1869, and continued to moot the subject—a policy which contributed greatly to its demise in June 1870, after a precarious existence of only fourteen months. The British Colonist, strong advocate of Confederation, dubbed the movement a “sublime bit of cheek,” but none the less recognized the urgency of the local conditions which had given rise to the spirit of annexation.

“We cannot say we are surprised that some colonists should desire annexation to the United States. The loyalty of British subjects in this colony has been submitted to far too severe a test, one under which the loyalty of most persons in the Mother Country would long since have broken down; and all that can be said regarding the present movement is that the fruits of mis government and neglect have made their appearance in a less harmful form than open revolt. The feasibility of the movement and the advantages promised by the sought for change are, however, a very different affair.[18]

 From an official point of view the cause of annexation was hopeless. Governor Musgrave had been appointed to British Columbia for the specific task of bringing about Confederation. By the publication of Lord Granville’s dispatch of August 14, 1869, in the Government Gazette on October 30, 1869,[19] he had revealed to the people of British Columbia that the Colonial Office was irrevocably determined upon seeing Confederation accomplished. Governor Musgrave chose to ignore the whole question of annexation. His only report on the incident occurred in a dispatch to Sir Edward Thornton, British Minister in Washing ton, who had been shown the petition by the American Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish.[20]  Musgrave wrote (it is to be noted none too accurately): —

“I am not aware that any such memorial was ever forwarded. It was known some time ago that a foolish Petition to the President of the United States was said to have been entrusted to Mr. Colyer (sic) from about forty foreign residents in Victoria, but the matter was indeed of so little importance that I did not think it necessary even to mention it to the Secretary of State in my despatches. The names you give are known here but they are not those of British subjects or of persons of any standing or influence what ever in the Community. I do not believe that a single British subject signed the Petition. The frequent notice of this matter in the American Papers have been a fruitful source of pleasantry in the Colony.[21]

 With the imprimatur of the Colonial Office on Confederation, with Canada anxious to obtain a Pacific outlet, and with the mainland of British Columbia strongly advocating the cause of Confederation, it is not to be wondered that the British Colonist should counsel :—

“Knowing, as we do, that Annexation is impossible, even if it were desirable, and that Confederation is inevitable, even if it were undesirable, would not all of us be more profitably employed in seeking to secure the best possible terms for this Colony as a province of the Dominion.[22]

The advice thus tendered was evidently taken to heart, judging by the terms of confederation finally agreed upon.[23]

 In the United States, however, the petition aroused a more sympathetic response. Numerous press references are made to the movement in all parts of the country,[24] and the petition was frequently printed in full. In Washington Territory consider able interest was evoked.[25]  The Olympia Pacific Tribune became particularly belligerent over a rumour to the effect that the ruling powers in British Columbia planned to arrest the leaders of the movement, which act, it prophesied, “would fan into flame a fire long smouldering in our midst, and bring upon the people of that country a force of filibusters who, under the pretext of releasing the prisoners, would really seek the overthrow of British Dominion on this coast.”[26] The British Colonist, more over, reported that the Legislature of Washington on November 23, 1869, had passed a memorial relative to the annexation of British Columbia.[27]

The receipt of the petition by the President was a signal for the renewal of the legislative schemes for the annexation of at least a portion of British America in settlement of the “Alabama Claims.” This fact was made apparent to the Foreign Office by a dispatch from the British Minister in Washington, who, referring directly to the British Columbia annexation petition, wrote: —

This circumstance, the existing disturbance in the Hudson’s Bay settlement, and the asserted disaffection in Nova Scotia, are much commented on by the newspapers of this country and are looked upon as the beginning of a separation of the British Provinces from the mother country, and of their early annexation to the United States. This view of the matter is put in connexion with the settlement of the differences with us arising out of the “Alabama” affair, and Senators are evidently indulging in the [i]llusive hope that England has it in her power and might not be unwilling to come to an amicable settlement of those differences on the basis of the cession of our territory on this Continent to the United States.[28]  

The resolutions introduced to this effect by Senator Corbett, of Oregon, on January 10, 1870, made an extensive quotation from the petition,[29] and the subsequent resolutions of Senator Ramsey, of Minnesota, on February 1, 1870,[30] probably were much encouraged by its publication.

The American Government, however, was more loath to take direct official notice of British Columbia’s plea. To be sure, a copy of the petition was forwarded to the American Minister in London, John L. Motley, but the accompanying instructions as to the action he was to take were extremely vague.

“I enclose a copy of a paper purporting to be a memorial from Inhabitants of British Columbia urging the transfer of that colony to the United States, which has been presented to the President, and which has already been printed in the public papers of this city and elsewhere through the agency of the parties charged with its presentation.

 In an informal conversation with Mr. Thornton, he referred to this petition, and I showed him the original. As Mr. Thornton had very frequently and very openly, not only to me, but in the presence of others, expressed the willingness of the British Government to terminate its political connection with the Provinces on this Continent, whenever it should appear that a separation was desired by its present dependencies, I took occasion to suggest that possibly the desire indicated by these petitioners, taken in connection with the troubles in the Red River or Selkirk Settlement, and the strong opposition to confederation manifested in the Maritime Provinces, might induce his Government to consider whether the time was not near when the future relations of the colonies to Great Britain must be contemplated with reference to these manifestations of restlessness, and to some extent, of dissatisfaction, with their present condition.

It is not impossible that Mr. Thornton may have communicated to Lord Clarendon, the substance of the conversation to which I have referred. Should the subject of the Red River troubles, or of the petition before mentioned be referred to, at any time, by Lord Clarendon, you will express the anxiety of this Government that the Indians remain quiet.

You will exercise your discretion in reference to this question availing yourself of every opportunity to obtain information as to the real sentiments of the British Government on the question of the separation of the colonies from the Mother Country, and when opportunity offers, indicating the facts which seem to make such separation a necessity.[31]

 Such an opportunity did arise on February 19, 1870, at the home of the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Clarendon, on which occasion an interview took place “so informal, intimate and unrestrained” that Motley thought it “improper to record the conversation, even if I could report it accurately, in an official despatch, which might come before the public.” Of the sub stance of the conversation relative to British Columbia he wrote: —

“We talked fully of the Red River Insurrection, the annexation petition from British Columbia and the opposition manifested by the Maritime provinces of British America to Confederation.

“I did not find his views materially different from those which are set forth in your despatch and from the opinions which I have myself always entertained on these grave subjects. Substantially he said that the British government would never use force to retain them whenever they decided to set up for themselves and assert their independence. He observed that a pro-colonial feeling had of late got up. in certain quarters and rather energetically manifested; but I gathered from the tone of his remarks that he had no great sympathy with it; considering it rather a transient than a permanent symptom of the public humor. .

“On the general subject of independence and annexation I talked very unreservedly; expressing my conviction that the natural course of events within a period that is rapidly diminishing in extent must bring about the independence of all the British Colonies in North America and that further more independence would lead naturally to amicable annexation to the Union.

“An independent, separate confederacy stretching across the continent and conterminous with our own Republic would have no special reason for existing. So soon as the slight and much-relaxed cord which now bound these colonial possessions to the far distant Crown had been voluntarily severed, they would gravitate to the Union through a community of interests and circumstances.

“He expressed no dissent whatever from these views and contemplated such a fortune without regret; observing however that attempts at conquest and violent annexation of those territories by the United States were much to be deprecated.[32]

 Whatever may have been the personal views of both the British and American statesmen on the question of the future position of the British colonial possessions in North America,[33] there were foreshadowings of an important shift in opinion. No clearer statement of the new attitude is to be found than that offered in the editorial columns of the New York Times.

“The future political and material destinies of the vast region lying to the north of the United. States, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, have long been topics of no ordinary interest to the advanced thinkers of both countries. . . . Sooner or later the whole continent must be brought to the recognition and adoption of one harmonious policy, in which not only the general interest but the allied championship of all by all shall be assured. Such a policy by no means implies absorption into the United States, so far as Canada is concerned. We are believers in “manifest destiny,” but our faith does not necessarily carry us to that extent. We are content with the assertion of a purely American civilization, in which the principles upon which our institutions are based shall be established and perpetuated from the Pole to the Isthmus. Outside our own boundaries we should not presume to dictate in the matter of details beyond the point of European interference or aggression. In that respect we stand frankly upon the Monroe doctrine.[34]  

The wise policy, thus advocated, was adopted and has become a guiding principle of Canadian-American relations. The Treaty of Washington of 1871 rang down the curtain on the issue of annexation by removing the many diplomatic problems which had troubled British-American relations since the American Civil War. But of far greater significance than its actual clauses, is the fact that the Treaty of Washington gave the tacit consent of the American Government and people to the right of the British possessions in North America to pursue their own national destiny.

[1] Sage, W. N., “The Annexationist Movement in British Columbia,” Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 3rd ser., XXI., see. ii. (1927), pp. 97—110; Sage, W. N., “The Critical Period of British Columbia History, 1866—1871,” Pacific Historical Review, I. (1932), pp. 424—443; Keenleyside, Hugh L., “British Columbia—Annexation or Confederation,” Canadian His torical Association Report, 1928, pp. 34—40.

[2] British Colonist, April 25, 1867.

[3] Ibid., April 3, 1867.

[4] Annexation Petition, July 1867, enclosed in Allan Francis to F. H. Seward, July 2, 1867, Consular Letters from Victoria, Vancouver Island, Department of State, Archives, Washington, D.C., vol. 1

[5] Seymour to Buckingham, June 26, 1867, private, C.O. 60/28.

[6] Minute, signed F. R., September 16, on Seymour to Buckingham, July 15, 1867, C.O. 60/28.

[7] British Columbian, April 30, 1869.

[8] Allin, C. D., & Jones, G.M., Annexation, Preferential Trade and Reciprocity, Toronto [1911], passim.

[9] British Colonist, November 13, 1869.

[10] San Francisco Morning Bulletin, November 17, 1869.

[11] British Colonist, January 11, 1870.

[12] Now in the National Archives, Washington, D.C. A photostat copy of this petition was presented by the writer to the Archives of British Columbia.

[13] T. G. Phelps to President Grant, September 1, 1870, Miscellaneous Letters to the Department of State, Department of State, Archives, Washington, D.C.

[14] H. F. Heisterman to W. H. Oliver, August 17, 1870, enclosed in T. G. Phelps to President Grant, September 1, 1870, ibid.

[15] Biographical information was obtained principally from the following sources: Scholefield, E. 0. S., and Howay, F. W., Vancouver, 1914, III. and IV.; Kerr, J. B., Biographical Dictionary of well known British Columbians, Vancouver, 1890; Mallandaine, Edw., First Victoria directory, 2n.d, 3rd, and 4th issues, Victoria, 1868, 1869, 1871, respectively; and Victoria British Colonist.

[16] Some of the leading signatories of the petition were also active in a movement amongst the Masons, the object of which was to secure an independent Grand Lodge for British Columbia. The point is of some interest, and will be dealt with in a subsequent issue of this Quarterly

[17] British Colonist, January 26, January 29, February 1, 1870.

[18] Ibid., November 18, 1869.

[19] British Columbia Government Gazette, October 30, 1869, reprinted in the British Colonist, October 31, 1869.

[20] ) Thornton to Musgrave, January 12, 1870, enclosed in Musgrave to Granville, March 7, 1870, confidential, C.O. 60/38. Thornton reported there were forty-three signatures, but having only seen it for a moment only remembered that the first name was Heisterman and that the names of Wolff and Adams also occurred.

[21] Musgrave to Thornton, February 23, 1870, enclosed in Musgrave to Granville, March 7, 1870, confidential, C.O. 60/38. In the covering dispatch Musgrave wrote: “My reply to him contains all that really need be said upon a matter, which I believe to be of no importance.” The whole correspondence arose from Granville to Musgrave, February 3, 1870, confidential, C.O. 398/5 in which were forwarded two letters from the Foreign Office containing Thornton’s reports on matters in Washington. Similar information was sent to Canada, vide, Granville to Monck, February 5, 1870, confidential, C.O. 43/156.

[22] British Colonist, November 20, 1869.

[23] Vide, Ireland, W. E., “Helmcken’s Diary of the Confederation Negotiation, 1870,” British Columbia Historical Quarterly, IV. (1940), pp. 111—128.

[24] ) Cf., Detroit Free Press, January 2, 1870; St. Paul Press, December 23, 1869 (which reprinted the earlier petition to the Queen); New York Tribune, January 6, 1870; New York Times, December 31, 1869; San Fran cisco Alta California, January 21, 1870. Even the London Times, January 1, 1870, carried the news dispatch. The Toronto Leader, January 5, 1870, mentioned the petition and returned to deprecate its importance in the issue of January 20, 1870.

[25] Olympia Transcript, November 20, 1869; Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, November 22, 1869; Olympia Washington Standard, February 5, 1870.

[26] Olympia Pacific Tribune, November 20, 1869.

[27] British Colonist, December 1, 1869. No further reference to this memorial has been found at the time of writing.

[28] Thornton to Clarendon, January 3, 1870, F.O. 5/1191.

[29] Congressional Globe, 41 Cong., 2 Sess., part I., pp. 324—325. Cf. also, Thornton to Clarendon, January 11, 1870, F.O. 115/506.

[30] Congressional Globe, 41 Cong., 2 Sess., part I., pp. 931—934.

[31] Fish to Motley, January 14, 1870, Instructions to the United States Minister in London from the Secretajry of Stcte, Department of State, Archives, Washington, D.C., vol. 22.

[32] Motley to Fish, February 21, 1870, confidential, Despatches from the United States Minister in London to the Secretary of State, Department of State, Archives, Washington, D.C., vol. 102

[33] For a recent detailed discussion of this question, ride, Shippee, L. B., Canadian-American Relations, 1849—1874, New Haven, 1939, pp. 180—212, 472—478, in particular.

[34] New York Times, April 1, 1870.

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