The area now known as New Westminster was originally inhabited by Kwantlen First Nation. The discovery of gold in BC and the arrival of gold seekers from the south prompted fear amongst the settlers that Americans may invade to take over this land.
Richard Clement Moody arrived in British Columbia in December 1858, at the head of the Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment, having been hand picked to "found a second England on the shores of the Pacific". Moody "wanted to build a city of beauty in the wilderness" and planned his city as an iconic visual metaphor for British dominance, "styled and located with the objective of reinforcing the authority of the Crown and of the robe". Subsequent to the enactment of the Pre-emption Act of 1860, Moody settled the Lower Mainland and selected the site and founded the new capital, New Westminster. Moody and the Royal Engineers were trained in settlement and selected the site because of its defensibility: it was farther from the American border than the site of the colony's proclamation, Fort Langley, possessed "great facilities for communication by water, as well as by future great trunk railways into the interior", and possessed an excellent port. Moody was also struck by the majestic beauty of the site, writing in his letter to Blackwood:
The entrance to the Fraser is very striking—Extending miles to the right & left are low marsh lands (apparently of very rich qualities) & yet fr [sic] the Background of Superb Mountains—Swiss in outline, dark in woods, grandly towering into the clouds there is a sublimity that deeply impresses you. Everything is large and magnificent, worthy of the entrance to the Queen of England's dominions on the Pacific mainland. My imagination converted the silent marshes into Cuyp-like pictures of horses and cattle lazily fattening in rich meadows in a glowing sunset. The water of the deep clear Frazer was of a glassy stillness, not a ripple before us, except when a fish rose to the surface or broods of wild ducks fluttered away.