Biography of Sir James Douglas, K. C. B.
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SIR JAMES DOUGLAS, K.C.B. – The first governor of British Columbia is worthy of more than a passing notice in this work. With a peculiar though undesigned poetical fitness, he first came to the land of his fame on the famous old steamer Beaver. On her he came to Esquaimalt harbor in the summer of 1849. He had gone from Fort Vancouver, where he had been head clerk, to be chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in British Columbia. Having founded the city of Victoria, he made his home there, conducting with great ability the work of the company.
In 1849 the first governor, Blanchard, had arrived from England; but owing to ill health he resigned in two years and returned home. Douglas was appointed his successor, and took the oath of office in November, 1851. His first official act was to summon all the Indians around Victoria, and pay them in full for their lands. This was one of the numerous similar acts which showed the strong sense of justice possessed by the man. On the other hand, he conducted a most vigorous administration. He restrained outbreaks with a strong hand, and brought offenders to justice with prompt impartiality. The result was that acts of injustice and violence were rare, though a ruffian horde from California tried to manage affairs to suit themselves. But the Governor was firm as a rock with the lawless crew, and exercised an almost despotic sway, which, to his great credit be it said, was never abused.
In 1857 his commission as governor was renewed for another term of six years. He had at that time two provinces to govern, British Columbia and Vancouver Island. The latter became a separate province in 1864, in which year Douglas was succeeded by Governor Seymour. After his retirement from office, Governor Douglas made his home at Victoria, and there remained till his death on the third of August, 1877. His last years were spent in well merited rest amid the scenes which had witnessed so many struggles in early times, and in the enjoyment of the universal esteem of his fellow citizens. In 1859 he had been created C.B.; and in October, 1863, he was knighted by Queen Victoria in recognition of his eminent services.
Governor Douglas was born in Demerara, Scotland, on the 14th of August, 1803. Having been left an orphan, he accompanied an older brother to this coast, and at the age of fifteen entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1827 he married a daughter of Mr. Connolly, Chief Factor at Red River. In 1832 he became head clerk at Vancouver, and there remained for seventeen years. His career after that was onward and upward, and in his death the people of the coast mourned the death of a great and good man. In recognition of his worth, the citizens of Victoria have erected an imposing monument to his memory; and as they fondly point it out to strangers they love to dwell on the esteem in which he was held by all.