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The Gold Rush had brought prosperity and incredible growth to the west coast but by 1864 the gold had become harder to find and more expensive to extract. The union of Vancouver Island and British Columbia began to unravel and they decided to go their own way. By 1866 with an increasingly devastating economic slowdown and many gold mining ventures and supplying merchants going under, the two colonies began to reconsider the relationship. Amor de Cosmos changed sides and began to campaign for a union of the colonies and in August of 1866 the British Government passed the Act of Union which once again brought the two colonies together as the colony of British Columbia with it's capital in Victoria and 23 members in the legislative council.

With the collapse of the Hudson Bay Company in British Columbia many of the ties that the west coast had with Canada to the east had been severed. A competition for the colony now began in earnest between Canada and the United States. The US had absorbed the Oregon and Washington territories and in 1867 with the purchase of Alaska virtually surrounded British Columbia. Canada needed British Columbia to complete its coast to coast unification of British colonies and to stop the march of American calls of manifest destiny which was the belief that eventually all of North America would become a part of the United States. J.S. Helmcken, one of the recognized leaders of British Columbia, led the movement for annexation into the United States. His group petitioned the British Government for permission to join the US and President Johnson to accept the territory.

Amor de Cosmos took up the challenge and formed a pro-confederation league and in 1867 had encouraged the Legislative Council to pass a resolution that stated the intention of the colony to join Confederation. Britain, however, was intent on settling the status of the northwest and informed British Columbia that it would have to wait until that issue was dealt with. de Cosmos began to form pro-confederation  leagues throughout the colony.

American annexation took a positive turn on May 10th, 1869 when the trans-continental railway was completed in the US and the Northern Pacific railway was being built to Puget Sound just south of Victoria on the mainland. It looked as though the natural economic, industrial, communication, and transportation forces were coming together to overwhelm the pro-confederation forces but at this point de Cosmos found the ally he needed to turn he tide in Canada. This ally was John A Macdonald. In 1869 the Northwest issue was substantively settled and Macdonald began to pressure the British Government to add British Columbia to the Canadian Dominion.

Debate in the British Columbia Legislature was intense with Helmcken and de Cosmos leading the charge for annexation and confederation. When the vote for action came the ties and loyalty to the British Empire was triumphant and British Columbia voted to negotiate entry into Canada.

On May 10th 1870 the three British Columbia delegates, R.W.W. Carroll, Joseph Trutch and the anti-confederationist J.S. Helmcken departed for Canada to make the deal. They met with Cartier and the agreement was quickly reached. Canada would absorb the British Columbia debt, BC would have 3 senators and 6 MP's and most importantly, a railway would be built from Canada to British Columbia within 10 years or entry into Confederation.

The entry date was set as July 20th, 1871 and on that date the dream of a Canada which stretched from Atlantic to Pacific to the Arctic Ocean had become a reality.

By G Scott staff writter,  2012 - Canadahistory.com - section:eras, subsection Nation Building




Source:
Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/eras.html