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

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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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in On This Day

 

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Blanshard Arrives to Govern Vancouver Island

Richard Blanshard, Governor of Vancouver Islan...

Richard Blanshard, Governor of Vancouver Island, 1849-1851 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

_

Blanshard is the name of an important street in Victoria.  It commemorates Richard Blanshard, the first Governor of Vancouver Island which was made a British colony in 1849.  Previously it had been governed by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Richard Blanshard must have been one of the most disappointed  men who ever came to Canada.  He was a London merchant who had spent some time in the West Indies and India, and became ambitious to make a name for himself in the British diplomatic service.  When Vancouver Island became a colony, he applied for the job of governor, even though it meant serving without pay.  There was some talk in London, though, that he would be given a beautiful mansion and an estate of 1,000 acres with beautiful lawns and gardens.

His chagrin can be imagined when he stepped on shore from H.M.S. Driver on March 11, 1850, and read the proclamation establishing the new colony with himself as  governor.  It was a dreary day, mixed with rain and snow.  The only estate available for Blanshard was 1,000 acres of unclear land  which he was expected to develop at this own expense.  There wasn’t a place for him to live on shore, let alone a mansion and he had to go back to the ship.

In one of his first letters to the Colonial Office, he complained that there were only three other settlers on the island.  One of them, Captain Colquhon Grant, had arrived the previous year with coaches and carriages, only to learn that there were no roads.  He also brought equipment  for playing cricket, which requires a smoother surface than a baseball diamond!

Blanshard only lasted until November when he resigned.  James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s  Bay Company, was appointed governor in his place.  It was a good thing, because Douglas had seen the United States take over Oregon and knew the steps that had to be taken to keep British Columbia from annexation.

Did I whet your appetite?  To read more about this, there are a few good sites to visit.  The first I’d recommend is Birds of a Feather – Victoria B & B’s History of Victoria and Vancouver Island; then you can head on to Google Docto read Bob Reid’s extensive article about The Colony of Vancouver Island 1849-1855; there’s a bit about Fort Victoria at The Canadian Encyclopedia; Richard Blanshard at Wikipedia, also at Wikipedia, there’s more information about the Colony at Vancouver Island.

Happy hunting, everyone — there’s a lot more out there!

 

 

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And The Lion – See It Cowers

Sir James Douglas (1803-1877), Governor of Bri...

Sir James Douglas (1803-1877), Governor of British Columbia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Scotsman who was born in British Guiana and came to Canada to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company when he was fifteen years old was largely responsible for British Columbia’s being part of Canada today.

The first governor sent out by Britain to Vancouver Island when it was made a Crown Colony in 1850 was a failure, and James Douglas, Chief Factor of the western division of the Hudson’s Bay Company, was asked to take over.

It was a fortunate choice.  While working with the company, Douglas had seen how the United States took over what is now the Washington.  Had there been more foresight, it might now be part of Canada.   When gold was discovered in the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1851, Douglas sensed the danger of an influx of prospectors from the States which could have led to the loss of British Columbia.

The Queen Charlotte gold strike was a minor affair compared with the 1855 strike which led to a gold rush along the Fraser and Thompson rivers that reached a climax in 1858.

Douglas had acted in time, urging the British government to send troops.  A detachment of Royal Engineers arrived late in 1858, and a force of marines from Hong Kong arrived at Esquimalt naval base on February 13, 1859.  They were just in time to help Douglas maintain order.  It was a big job because at the height of the gold rush, there was an influx of 30,000 gold seekers, most of them Americans.

The United States was aware of the opportunity to take over British Columbia if there was trouble and sent a special agent, John Nugent, to Victoria.  He issued a proclamation to Americans working in British Columbia promising them protection against injustice.

The American miners themselves were singing:

“Soon our banner will be streaming,

Soon the eagle will be screaming

And the lion – see it cowers,

Hurrrah – boys, the river’s ours.”

Douglas did keep order in a most remarkable way and British Columbia was saved for Britain, and later Canada.

To read more about James Douglas, I recommend Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online and Wikipedia.  If you’d like to know more about John Nugent, I suggest Time Magazine and Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

 
 

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A Government on Horseback!

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)

November 19 was an important day for British Columbia. On this date in 1958, 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 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 whenever 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 rather than coincidental.

 

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