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“… he had More Fun than any Other Man in B.C.

19 Nov
English: Matthew Baillie Begbie, image from th...

Matthew Baillie Begbie, image from the British Columbia Archives http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reposted and updated post from November 19, 2012.

November 19 was an important day for British Columbia. On this date in 1858, the mainland was made a separate colony. James Douglas, who was already Governor of Vancouver Island, was sworn in as Governor of British Columbia at a ceremony at Fort Langley, which was intended to be the capital.

The colony creation  was necessary because thousands of American gold miners were arriving, and there was a danger that the United States might try to take over the territory unless it were governed by Britain.

One of the most remarkable figures in Canadian history presided at the swearing-in ceremony. He was Matthew Baillie Begbie. Bruce Hutchinson, in his book The Fraser, wrote, “And in his twenty-six years of judging, riding, walking, feuding and praying he had more fun than any other man in British Columbia.”

Douglas had asked the British Government to send him a judge to help keep order. Begbie proved to be the ideal man for the job, although he had no experience as a judge, and very little as a lawyer. At the time of his appointment he had no law practice,  but was a reporter for the Law Times.

Matthew Begbie wanted to leave Britain because his brother had stolen his fiancé!

Begbie, “a government on horseback,” held courts everywhere. Although he was ruthless, he was known to be fair, and the miners understood his sense of justice. His bête noire was juries who failed to convict men of murder when Begbie felt they were guilty. On one occasion when the jury brought a verdict of “not guilty” in the case of a man who had sandbagged a companion in a drunken brawl, Begbie said, “You can go, and I devoutly hope the next man you sandbag will be one of the jury.” Actually, his bark was worse than his bite. He disliked having to sentence men to death and had a chaplain at his side when he had to do so.

November 19 was also chosen as the date when the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island would be united in 1866. Historian Dr. Margaret Ormsby believes the choice of November 19 was sentimental than coincidental.  Margaret Ormsby is the author of British Columbia: A history.

If you would like to read more about today’s post, I suggest going to The Other Blokes Blog, and the Manitoba Historical Society, and finally, there’s an interesting article at Canada.com.

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15 Comments

Posted by on November 19, 2013 in On This Day

 

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15 responses to ““… he had More Fun than any Other Man in B.C.

  1. afterthekidsleave

    November 23, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    My great-grandfather, Paulus Aemilius Irving, worked with Matthew Baillie Begbie in BC’s early days. Paulus was the son of Aemilius Irving of Toronto, a famous lawyer at the time, and left because “Ontario already has quite enough lawyers!” BC was a pretty lawless place back then, and has a fascinating history.

     
    • tkmorin

      November 24, 2013 at 9:29 am

      Wow, what a joy it must be to know about your family history. Interesting about there being “enough” lawyers in Ontario …
      Thank you for commenting! 🙂

       
      • afterthekidsleave

        November 24, 2013 at 9:32 am

        I realize we’re really lucky to have access to so much info. Part of it is due to my great-great grandfather, who wrote a book on the family in the 1800s.

         
        • tkmorin

          November 24, 2013 at 9:40 am

          He sounds like the kind of man I would have liked to meet, to plan ahead like that. What a gift he left you! 🙂

           
          • afterthekidsleave

            November 24, 2013 at 9:51 am

            What amazes me is how much info he gleaned…without the Internet!

             
  2. hermitsdoor

    November 23, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Gold rushes, and other get-rich-quick schemes, have factored into our nations’ expansions, as well as redistribution of populations all over the world (South Africa is another good example of mineral wealth attracting people from all over a continent). Tough on the Central Planners. Of course, silcon and high tech industries may be the gold-rushes of the 21st century. Dot-Com, anyone?
    Oscar

     
    • tkmorin

      November 23, 2013 at 8:55 am

      We’re definitely more global than we once were. I think that’s a good thing.

      Thanks, Oscar, for stopping by again today! I always enjoy your comments! 🙂

       
  3. seeker

    November 19, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    what do you mean by “bête noire”. Oh, another school we have bearing his name.

     
    • tkmorin

      November 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      What I thought was clever, was my way of saying that he has a dislike for juries who consistently find the “obvious” guilty with a non-guilty verdict. He had difficulty accepting the verdict.
      🙂

       
      • seeker

        November 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm

        Ah see, that is awkward.

         
  4. Leslie Welsh Robinson

    November 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    If you’re interested, here’s a post on Carnarvon Street in New Westminster from my photo blog that contains a photo of Begbie Court and a statue of the so-called “Hanging Judge” himself outside the law courts. As you can see, the statue appears to have been modelled after the photo you’ve included in your post.

    http://leslierobinsonphoto.com/2013/04/08/carnarvon-street-new-westminster-part-1/

     
    • tkmorin

      November 19, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      Very cool! … and like I wrote on your blog: what a lot of stairs! Loved it, and I really like your photos! Even the slug was kinda … not revolting! LOL 🙂

       
  5. weggieboy

    November 19, 2013 at 9:25 am

    On one occasion when the jury brought a verdict of “not guilty” in the case of a man who had sandbagged a companion in a drunken brawl, Begbie said, “You can go, and I devoutly hope the next man you sandbag will be one of the jury.”

    ~ I confess to thinking this very thought myself!

     
    • tkmorin

      November 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      Oh, I love anecdotes like that! Not one I’m likely to forget, either. Thank you! 🙂

       

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