Dogwood Days: Amor De Cosmos, Father of Confederation

Amor de Cosmos

Amor De Cosmos, Father of Confederation

Born William Alexander Smith in Windsor, Nova Scotia, on 20 August 1825, Amor De Cosmos (loosely translated as Lover of the Universe) was British Columbia’s second Premier. Founder of The Daily British Colonist (currently the Victoria Times-Colonist), De Cosmos was a liberal reformer and an advocate for unrestricted free enterprise, public education, the elimination of economic and political privileges, and the institution of responsible government through an elected assembly. He was a staunch opponent of Sir James Douglas and the “family-company compact” of Hudson’s Bay men and Douglas associates in control of the political and social affairs of the Colony of Vancouver Island.

Perhaps due to his Nova Scotian upbringing or the fact that his parents were American refugees, De Cosmos had a intense nationalist sentiment. This was expressed in a belief of economic protectionism and the view that the colonies of British North America needed to be united, self-supporting, have a distinct identity, and form a political and economic union. After leaving journalism to pursue politics in 1863, Amor De Cosmos was instrumental in both the union of Vancouver Island and British Columbia and in the merged colony’s entry into Confederation in 1871. As such, he is British Columbia’s Father of Confederation.

Despite this, De Cosmos enjoyed a very short tenure as British Columbia’s Premier (1872 – 1874) as he was forced to resign amid accusations of political impropriety after he attempted to alter the Terms of Union to obtain monetary guarantees to complete a dry dock at Esquimalt. As well, he was an opponent of land concessions to First Nations in the province, seeing it as a hindrance to British Columbia’s economic growth and settlement by those of European descent. Considered eccentric throughout his life (he had unusual phobias including a fear of electricity and a violent temper), as he aged his eccentricities intensified and he was declared insane in 1895.

Amor De Cosmos in the CBC Digital Archives
Amor De Cosmos in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Amor De Cosmos on Tumblr
Amor De Cosmos in noise/sound dance culture

Dogwood Days: Snapshots in BC’s Political History is a new monthly feature on BC Vote dedicated to the people, places and events that made British Columbia what it is today. Politics is about people, and one of the objectives of BC Vote is to celebrate people who make a difference. If there’s someone or something you think we ought to profile in the future, drop us a line. Otherwise, let us know what you think!

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