A Progression of Judges: A History of the Supreme Court of British Columbia

By David R. Verchere | Go to book overview

ONE
Introduction

When Sir Francis Drake ventured into the northern Pacific Ocean in 1579, he may well have seen at least some part of the land we now know as British Columbia. But there is no evidence to support the early assertions that he anchored in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 1 The first Jocumented voyage of discovery to what became known, until 1860 or thereabouts, as Vancouver's Island (despite Spanish assertions to the contrary) is that of Captain James Cook, who landed in March 1778 at Hope Bay on Nootka Sound. But he cannot have the distinction of being the founder of this province either. Those origins take one into the comparatively unadventurous legal proceedings between Spain and Great Britain that followed the former's attempt to enforce its claimed sovereignty over the Pacific coast and the resulting Nootka Convention of 1790 signed at Madrid on 11 January 1794. In it, Spain acknowledged the rights of British subjects to fish, trade, and settle in parts of the Pacific coast not already occupied. Without much delay, the coastal area between northern Mexico and the southern limit of Russian penetration (about latitude 54* 40′ North) opened to traders and adventurers who came, looking for gain, first from Great Britain and then, with slight delay after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, from her seceded American colonies.

The contribution by explorers coming by land must be also recognized. In the north, Alexander Mackenzie (later Sir) left Lake Athabasca on the second of his great journeys and traversed the vast region lying west of

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