The Open Collections website will be unavailable July 27 from 2100-2200 PST ahead of planned usability and performance enhancements on July 28. More information here.

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

Sir James Douglas and British Columbia Sage, W. N. (Walter Noble), 1888-1963 1930

Item Metadata


JSON: bcbooks-1.0375702.json
JSON-LD: bcbooks-1.0375702-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): bcbooks-1.0375702-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: bcbooks-1.0375702-rdf.json
Turtle: bcbooks-1.0375702-turtle.txt
N-Triples: bcbooks-1.0375702-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: bcbooks-1.0375702-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

     laniversit? of {Toronto Stuoies
chap. page
Preface  7
Abbreviations  8
I.   Early Years (1803-1825)  9
II.   New Caledonia (1825-1830)  28
III. The Accountant at Fort Vancouver (1830-1835).. 53
IV. Chief Trader James Douglas (1835-1840)  71
V.   Last Days on the Columbia (1840-1849)  103
VI.   The Colony of Vancouver Island (1849-1858).... 139
VII.   The Gold Rush and the Gold Colony (1858)  203
VIII.   An Old Colonial Governor and the San Juan
Controversy (1858-1859)  235
IX.   The Two Colonies and Governor Douglas (1859-
1864)  281
X.   Later Years and Death (1864-1877)     333
Appendix A, List of Authorities  355
Appendix B, Douglas's Notes in the Old Account
Book  363
Index  365
IN preparing this study of the life and times of Sir James
Douglas, an attempt has been made to base the narrative as
far as possible on original sources. Where these have not been
available, recourse to the standard works on the history of British
Columbia has been necessary.
The Archives of British Columbia at Victoria, B.C., have been
a veritable mine qf information regarding Douglas, and sincere
thanks are extended to Messrs. Forsyth and Hosie, the former
and present archivists, and to Miss Russell and Mrs. Cree of the
Archives staff for their untiring assistance. Material has also been
gathered from other public and private libraries.
Much obscurity has existed in the past concerning the early
life of Sir James Douglas. Through the assistance of members of
the Douglas family, it has been my good fortune to clear
up much of this confusion. The late Mrs. Arthur T. Bushby and
Mrs. Dennis Harris, daughters of Sir James and Lady Douglas
furnished information which could not have been obtained elsewhere. Two granddaughters, Mrs. Fitzherbert Bullen and Mrs.
W. W. Bolton, both of Victoria, B.C., were also most helpful,
while to Mrs. J. C. Keith, of Vancouver, daughter of Chief Factor
Roderick Finlayson, who vividly recalled her childhood days in
old Fort Victoria my gratitude is mingled with intense pleasure.
To His Honour Judge F. W. Howay and to Professor George M.
Wrong, I owe a debt which can never be paid. To them
I can only offer inadequate thanks and sincere gratitude. Nor can
I ever forget the kind suggestions and co-operation of Mr. T. C.
Elliott, the Honourable Mr. Justice Murphy, Mr. Robie L. Reid,
Professor A. S. Morton, Mr. William Smith of the Public Archives
of Canada, Professor H. E. Bolton, Mr. C. B. Bagley and Mr. J.
Rodway of British Guiana. To my colleague Professor Frederic
H. Soward of the University of British Columbia, I wish to convey
my thanks for his kindness in reading proof and helpful suggestions.
To my Alma Mater, under whose auspices this volume is published I can merely tender my homage which deepens with the
W. N. S.
Vancouver, B.C.,
March 15, 1930
The following abbreviations have been employed in the Text:
B.C. Archives, for Archives of British Columbia.
E.L., for Ermatinger Letters.
E.P., for Ermatinger Papers.
O.H.S.Q., for Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society.
W.H.Q., for Washington Historical Quarterly.
Masson, Esquisse, for Masson L. R., Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest
avec une Esquisse.
Transactions R.S.C. for Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada.
Report (1857), for Report from the Select Committee on the Hudson's Bay Company,
Early Years, the North West Company, Isle a la Crosse
TWO chief factors, holding the highest commission in the service
of the Hudson's Bay Company played a great part in the development of the North-Western Pacific region of North
America. They were John McLoughlin and James Douglas. The
one is well known as the "Father of Oregon". The other, James
Douglas, remained a British subject, abandoned Oregon and later
became the second Governor of Vancouver Island and the first Governor of the Crown Colony of British Columbia. To him the Pacific
Province of the Canadian Dominion will always owe a great debt.
McLoughlin and Douglas were both fur-traders who were forced
by the influx of American settlers into Oregon during the early
jj 'forties" of the nineteenth century to play a not insignificant part
in North American affairs. They came into the Oregon country,
that vast but little known territory which lay to the west of the
Rocky Mountains and extended from the northern boundary of
Mexico as far north as Russian America, when the whole of that
country was merely a game preserve: in which, theoretically, both
American citizens and British subjects could trade on equal terms,
but which actually was controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company.
They had witnessed the arrival of the first American settlers in
Oregon, and they lived to see the Stars and Stripes float over the
whole territory south of the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude,
excepting, of course, the southern extremity of Vancouver Island.
For it was then, after the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which divided
the Oregon country between Great Britain and the United States
of America, that McLoughlin elected to become an American
citizen—he had already in the same year retired from the service
of the Hudson's Bay Company—and settled in Oregon City, where
he died in 1857, rather embittered by the treatment he had received
at the hands of some of his fellow-citizens in Oregon. McLoughlin,
who was a Canadian of Irish-Scottish origin, had for years been
sympathetic towards the Americans who came into Oregon.    He
 10 Sir James Douglas and British Columbia
had also had difficulties with the chief officials of the Hudson's Bay
Company in London, and his hatred of Sir George Simpson, the
Governor of Rupert's Land, especially after the murder of his son,
John McLoughlin Jr., at Fort Stikine in 1842, was very marked.
Simpson had failed to bring the slayers of young McLoughlin to
justice and the "Old Doctor" never forgave him. McLoughlin,
who had been born in Quebec and educated in Edinburgh, had
taken Papineau's side in the Rebellion of 1837. The change of
allegiance did not, therefore, at the time, cause him much sorrow,
although he afterwards had occasion to regret it. Douglas, on the
other hand, Scottish by birth and thoroughly British in feeling,
remained in the service of the Great Company, went north in 1849
from Fort Vancouver, the capital of McLoughlin's fur-trading
empire, to Fort Victoria, the post which he had himself founded in
1843, and which has since expanded into the picturesque and old-
world capital of the province of British Columbia. He was there
to play no inconspicuous r61e as chief factor of the Hudson's Bay
Company and later as a colonial governor.
While on the Columbia with McLoughlin, James Douglas
always held a secondary position. He was merely chief of staff
to the "Great White Eagle", as the Indians loved to call McLoughlin
on account of his long white hair and stately bearing. Douglas
was sixteen years under McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver, from 1830
to 1846, and during that time he learned much. When, at length,
his time came to assume command he showed that he had profited
by McLoughlin's instructions and example. Douglas lacked McLoughlin's Irish charm, a quality which enabled the latter to hide
to some extent the despotic power he wielded, but the "braw Scot"
possessed all the autocratic characteristics required by a successful
officer of the Hudson's Bay Company.
For "The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England
trading into Hudson's Bay" were during the years from 1821 to
1846 the real rulers of nearly half the North American continent.
To the west of the Rockies they shared the control over the Oregon
country with the United States of America, but east of that mountain barrier and north of the forty-ninth parallel, as far north as
the Arctic Ocean and as far east as Labrador, they had no rivals.
 Early Years, the North West Company 11
The charter of 1670 had conferred upon the company "The sole
trade and commerce in all those seas, straits, bays, rivers, lakes,
creeks and sounds, in whatsoever latitude they shall be, that lie
within the entrance of the straits commonly called Hudson's Straits,
together with all the lands, countries and territories upon the coasts
and confines of the seas, straits, bays, lakes, rivers, creeks and
sounds aforesaid, which are not actually possessed by any of
our subjects, or by the subjects of any other Christian Prince or
State."1 The same instrument also constituted "the Governor
and Company . . . the true and absolute lords and proprietors
of the same territory, limits and places ... in free and common
soccage, and not in capite or by Knight's service; YIELDING
AND PAYING to us, our heirs and successors, for the same, two
elks and two black beavers, whensoever and as often as we, our
heirs and successors shall happen to enter into the said countries,
territories and regions hereby granted."2
Thus the charter placed the vast regions of the Hudson's Bay
territories, or Rupert's Land, as they were also termed, under the
control of the Hudson's Bay Company, but Charles II granted
powers and authority which it was difficult indeed for the Governor
and Company to enforce. At that time the French held Canada
and Louisiana and controlled the fur-trade of the region of the
Great Lakes. They even made war on the English company's
posts on Hudson Bay and James Bay, and it was not until 1713
that French claims to the Hudson's Bay territories were abandoned.
After that French traders entered the Saskatchewan country and
established trading posts there. But the Seven Years' War and
the cession of Canada to the British put an end to French dreams
in that quarter, and freed the Hudson's Bay Company from these
energetic opponents.
But after the Peace of Paris, 1763, the Hudson's Bay Company
had to face still more serious rivalry from the Canadian fur-traders,
xThe Royal Charter for incorporating the Hudson's Bay Compa/iy, granted by
His Majesty King Charles the Second, in the 22nd year of his reign, A,D. 1670,
as printed in the Report from the Select Committee on the Hudson's Bay Company,
1857, p. 408.
Hbid., p. 411.
 12 Sir James Douglas and British Columbia
and especially from the North West Company. This fur-trading
organization was formed in 1783-84 by several Montreal merchants,
headed by Benjamin and Joseph Frobisher and Simon McTavish.
It was not a chartered company, but "purely a partnership with
transferable shares."1 It was a bold attempt to unite in one concern the hitherto conflicting interests in the Canadian fur-trade.
It had to face strenuous opposition from many quarters, and not
merely from the Hudson's Bay Company, which remained, until
the coalition of 1821, its most uncompromising rival. Two Canadian concerns, at different times, menaced the trade of the North
West Company. The first, which was headed by Peter Pangman
and the firm of Gregory and McLeod, was organized in 1785 and
continued for two years a most successful opposition to the Nor'
Westers.2 At the end of that time, in 1787; an amalgamation took
place and a new North West Company was formed. The other
Canadian rival was the so-called X Y Company, formed in 1798 by
a cecession from the ranks of the Nor' Westers of certain partners
who were opposed to the rather autocrati