Amor de Cosmos was one of the most influential people of the Fraser River gold rush.
Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia on August 20, 1825, Amor de Cosmos changed his name from William Alexander Smith years later while living in California. Cosmos came to Victoria as soon as the Fraser River gold rush began in 1858.
At that time, there was only a pro-government publication located on the Hudson’s Bay Company Fort grounds called the Victoria Gazette, later known as the Daily Victoria Gazette, run by two publishers from California.
Cosmos started the British Colonist in December 1858 “to be published every Saturday.”
We intend…to make the “British Colonist” an independent paper, the organ of no clique nor party – a true index of public opinion.
Cosmos was very clear on his opinions and was critical of Governor Douglas’ administration and referred to the competing interests of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s dominance over Victoria as “exclusive”, “anti-British” and “belonging to a past age.” It wasn’t long before the opinions of the British Colonist gained interested readers. Six months later, the British Colonist was being printed three times a week.
Cosmos sold the newspaper to David Higgins in 1863 and campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat in the Legislature of Vancouver Island. Afterward, Cosmos lead the Confederation League which saw British Columbia become a province of the Dominion of Canada in 1871.
Cosmos served as the second premier of British Columbia from December 1872 until February 1874, when he was ousted after trying to change the terms of union. He continued as a Member of Legislative Assembly for Victoria until 1882.