John Foster McCreight
|John Foster McCreight|
|Hon. John Foster McCreight|
|1st Premier of British Columbia|
November 14, 1871 – December 23, 1872
|Lieutenant Governor||Joseph Trutch|
|Succeeded by||Amor De Cosmos|
|Born||1827 (Bap. Sept. 3)
Caledon, County Tyrone, Ireland
|Died||November 18, 1913
Hastings, East Sussex, United Kingdom
|Religion||Anglican, then Roman Catholic|
McCreight was born in Caledon, County Tyrone, Ireland to a well-established and well-connected family. After completing law studies at Trinity College, Dublin, McCreight was called to the bar in 1852. Shortly thereafter, McCreight left Ireland to establish a practice in Melbourne, Australia. For unknown reasons, McCreight left Australia in 1859 and sailed first to San Francisco, and then to Victoria, British Columbia.
Life and career in British Columbia
At the time of McCreight's arrival in Victoria in 1860, it was the capital of the Colony of Vancouver Island, which at the time was governed by the powerful and autocratic Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Sir James Douglas. In 1862, McCreight was called to the British Columbia bar, and opened a practice in Victoria. By all accounts, he led a quiet and solitary life in the city, his main occupations outside of his work being his involvement in the local Masonic Lodge and as an active layperson in the congregation of the local Anglican cathedral.
By 1866, the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia had merged. Although the united colony did not join the Canadian confederation when it was effected in 1867, the worrisome economic and strategic situation soon made such an arrangement attractive. British Columbia joined confederation on July 20, 1871, and McCreight joined the interim transitional cabinet as Attorney General. During the first provincial general election that October, McCreight won a seat for Victoria City in the legislature, and Sir Joseph Trutch, the Lieutenant Governor, chose him to be British Columbia’s first premier. He continued to hold the attorney-generalship as well.
By all accounts, McCreight was temperamentally ill-suited to public life. His colleague, Henry Pering Pellew Crease, described the Premier as "bad tempered and queer...by fits & turns extremely credulous & extremely suspicious...excessively obstinate in the wrong places...close and reserved in his daily life...[and] utterly ignorant of politics". Nonetheless, McCreight's administration was a productive one, passing three dozen pieces of legislation in less than a year. His inability to form alliances and mollify the sometimes narrow and sectional interests of MLAs led to a loss of support, however, and in 1872 he resigned after losing a motion of no confidence following the Speech from the Throne.
Supreme Court Justice and retirement
McCreight remained in the legislature until 1875, after which he returned to his law practice as a Queen's Counsel. Five years later, he was made a justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In that capacity, he served in the Cariboo, Victoria, and finally - in 1883 - New Westminster before retiring in 1897, at the age of 70. McCreight returned to the United Kingdom, dying at Hastings, East Sussex at the age of 86.
- He was baptised at Caledon on 3 Sept. 1827. Canon J. B. Leslie, Armagh Clergy and Parishes … (Dundalk, 1911), p 315. https://archive.org/stream/armaghclergypari00lesl#page/314/mode/2up
- Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online at www.biographi.ca