Borders of British Columbia

If British Columbia were a country it would
rank 31st in size. It is bigger than France and Germany combined. Four times the size of Britain. Almost three times Japan. The US purchased the Louisiana territory from
France. The Hudson Bay Company state was granted it’s watershed from Britain. They agreed to
compromise at a 49th parallel border, extended to the Pacific Ocean, around Vancouver Island. Britain neglected to clarify the San Juan Islands. German Kaiser Wilhelm was asked to
arbitrate. He gave the islands to the US. Britain declared Vancouver Island a colony in 1849. In 1851 a minor gold rush in Haida Gwaii led Britain to declare it a Crown Colony. The Honorable Hudon’s Bay Company governed to the coast until it’s agreement expired in 1859. The Fraser Canyon gold rush led Britain to declare New Caledonia a colony to the Finlay and Nass Rivers. It was renamed British Columbia after the lost territory south of the 49th. To secure the US border, Benjamin Disraeli and Edward Lytton sent 220 elite Royal Engineers
and moved Britain’s Pacific Fleet to Esquimalt. The Stikeene gold rush led Britain to add
the northwest up to the 60th parallel. When gold was discovered in the Omineca and Peace
Rivers it added the northeast up to longitude 120, just outside the territory the Honorable
Company governed. Russian Czar Paul 1 had claimed land to the 55th parallel. Because this cut through Prince of Wales Island it was adjusted to 54 40. The Alaska Panhandle
was leased from Russia by the Honorable Company, but when the US purchased Alaska it was lost. Now that it had Alaska the US wanted to annex the whole West Coast. It demanded Civil War
disputes with Britain be settled in exchange for British Columbia. Local agitators petitioned
the US congress to annex BC. Colonial Secretary Earl Granville refused and paid the US $15 million instead. Vancouver was originally named Granville in his honour, Granville Street remains as a reminder. The details of the Alaska Border were settled in favour of the US after President Roosevelt threatened to invade. With all BC borders secured and the
Province integrated into Canada the British fleet left Esquimalt. Britain expanded the
boundaries of British Columbia to almost 1 million square Kilometers and paid the cost to defend it in part because of it’s confidence in James Douglas. Together they secured the
future of the place we call British Columbia.

Stephen Childs

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