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Sir James Douglas
Chapter III - New Caledonia


CONCERNING the early life of Sir James Douglas, little is known. He was not in his youth a keeper of diaries, and there are few records of the long period of his apprenticeship to the North-West and Hudson's Bay Companies, prior to his assumption of command at Fort Vancouver. The generation which knew him in the flesh has passed away. In the family circle he was not a purveyor of official small news. Neither was he given to reminiscence or to talk of himself or of his exploits. When he passed from the scene he did not leave behind him a single purely personal record either of his actions or of the opinions and early experiences on which they were based.

This might at first appear remarkable in a man who at all times so fully recognized the importance of his position in so far as mere forms were concerned. How seriously he could consider this aspect is well illustrated in a letter which he wrote in May, 1859, to the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. It was evident that he could not occupy the dual position of governor of the Pacific colonies and representative of the company, and it was necessary, therefore, that he should retire from the service of the latter. This he was willing to do, conditional on the payment of 3,500 as a retiring interest:

"In the event of the rejection of that offer [he wrote], I must resign my office of governor, as the salary offered, 1,800 per annum, is altogether inadequate to my support in a becoming manner.

"As a private individual I can live in a style befitting the fortune I possess; but as governor for the Crown, there is no choice: one must live in a manner becoming the representative of the Crown, and I could never consent to represent Her Majesty in a shabby way."

The fact is that the manner of a chief factor clung to him to the last in governmental, company, and domestic relations. This was second nature to all Hudson's Bay Company officials. Douglas, however, was to an exceptional degree steeped in the ceremonial of official life, and the fact has led to not a little misinterpretation of his character. The fondness of display and the autocratic methods with which he has been charged were in fact the natural outcome of his long and devoted service to an organization famed the world over for its iron discipline, joined to the trait which he displayed from first to last of taking high and serious ground even in small things. His early training, acting upon a spirit essentially religious, shaped his whole after career to this pattern of conduct and bearing. It would have been easy for a nature, nourished as his had been in mountain solitudes to exaggerate the importance of command. Yet Douglas was remarkable throughout his whole career for nothing more than for his sane self-knowledge.

An evidence that his self-assertiveness was on the surface merely may be deduced from the fact that he failed entirely to foresee the interest which the historian would one day attach to his life and personality. He did not apparently realize that, as a chief factor of the Hudson's Bay Company on the Pacific coast for many years, and as the first governor of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, he was moulding future events and must one day stand as the central figure of his time. Official statements he put forth in plenty; but the record of his life, as a whole, as throwing light upon the most interesting half century in western history, he invariably refused to compile, nor could he ever be brought to see anything in the success he had achieved which would add interest to his personal opinions or actions. A natural repugnance to publicity in part accounted for this. He was a man of great reserve, though of strong passions and deep feelings. But, above all, the unwritten law of the company stood in the way; it is easy to appreciate how such an obstacle appealed to James Douglas. Unbroken silence on all matters of its internal economy, is the rule of the company for its servants. Reminiscences, even of the purely literary kind, were never encouraged; and there are volumes of unwritten history in the archives of the company to-day, which have never become accessible to the student.

Of those invaluable aids to the historian, therefore, —the memoir, the sheaf of letters, the diary, written solely from the personal standpoint,—we have few at hand, in the early years especially, for use in writing the life of Sir James Douglas. The loss is great. With the events of the period during which he ruled on the coast, he was more familiar than any other man. A history by Douglas of the fur trade in the country west of the Rocky Mountains, or of the early colonial period on the Pacific, would have been a document the most valuable of its kind. As a lover of biography, and a careful student of politics, he might have been expected to employ the leisure of his later years in literature and to have enriched it from his own unique experience. He was possessed, besides, of a gift of style, as his State papers show. That he passed from the scene in silence is one of the most striking instances we have of a not uncommon phenomenon—the indifference of the men who bore the brunt of the early battle with the wilderness, and who solved the earliest problems of social organization and government, to everything but the practical and immediately important side of the events in which they played so large a part.

The greatest of men are creatures of circumstance; but they are also springs of action; and what we commonly term destiny is often only a convenient word for the complex relationship of man and his environment. Political history, thus conceived, becomes the biography of the makers of nations. Every man is the product of his age; but every age is what its greatest men have made of it. It is in this spirit that the present life of Douglas, shorn largely from necessity of personal detail, has been written. He, more than any other man, gave form to British Columbia. As the legend in the great London cathedral bids the reader look around if he would see the monument of him whose mind conceived the majestic pile; so, if one would seek a measure of the achievement of Sir James Douglas, let him behold the fair province of the mountains and the Pacific, whose sturdy growth bore in its early fashioning the lasting impress of his handiwork. The life of Douglas, therefore, serves as no other would for text from which to hang a connected narrative of the origin and progress of British Columbia, youngest perhaps of all the provinces in that her present but feebly foreshadows her great future, yet bringing our history into vital touch with the far-off time of the greatness of Spain, beginning even with that fateful day on which Balboa first.....

"Stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent upon a peak in Darien."

James Douglas was born at Demerara, British Guiana, August 15th, 1803. His father was a descendant of the Earl of Angus, the "Black Douglas" of Scottish history. Little is known of the father's youth or parentage, except that he was the son of one John Douglas, merchant, of Glasgow. A search of the Registry Office at Edinburgh reveals nothing of his earlier ancestry, John Douglas being a familiar name and frequently appearing in the Glasgow records.

Lieutenant-General Sir Neil Douglas, K.C.B., colonel of the 78th Regiment, who took part in the battles of Busaco, the Pyrenees, Seville and Toulouse, and whose gallantry on the field of Waterloo obtained for him the Austrian order of Maria-Theresa and the Russian order of St. Vladimir, was a cousin of James Douglas and has been described as the "fifth son of the late John Douglas, Esq., of Glasgow, whose grandfather, Douglas of Cruxton and Stobbs, descended lineally from the famous Earls of Angus." The lineage of Douglas was well known to his companions of the fur company, and he went for many years by the sobriquet of the "Black Douglas," a title for which his swarthy skin and stern cast of features was in part responsible.

James was taken at an early age to Scotland, where he was educated in a private school at Lanark. He was a studious youth, conscientious and of regular habits, traits which characterized him through life. We are indebted to family tradition for the statement that his French tutor was an exiled nobleman of France who was the means of furnishing an accomplishment which Douglas was soon after to turn to very practical account. In a new country, engaged in a trade which brought him into daily contact with the French-Canadian voyageur, it was the most immediately useful part of his education. Nearly all the Hudson Bay traders spoke French fluently, and when Sir James made a tour of the continent after his retirement as governor, he was still able to converse in French with a good accent.

It was in the year 1820 that Douglas left Scotland to seek his fortune in the service of the North-West Company. The origin of his choice of a career is in obscurity, but two brothers appear to have preceded him in the same field. Although in his seventeenth year only, he was already tall and well developed, "with ideas beyond his age." That he had courage to leave kith and kin to plunge into the wilderness of the New World goes without saying. He reported at Fort William, the headquarters of the company, then under the rule of the celebrated John McLoughlin, who seems to have been struck immediately with the promise of the lad. But the career thus launched was destined to an early interruption. In 1821, the North-West Company was absorbed by the Hudson's Bay Company (in what manner need not delay us here), and Douglas was of the party which regarded the terms of union with dissatisfaction. He was on the point of returning to Scotland with his brothers, when McLoughlin persuaded him to throw in his lot with the new regime. The friendship of the older for the younger man, which was to bear such rich fruits later, was already firmly planted, in the soil of a warm and appreciative nature on the one hand, and of sterling merit on the other. McLoughlin was to have charge, under the new arrangement, of the vast territory lying west of the Rocky Mountains, then termed the Columbia Department, and he wrote to the directory to ask that Douglas might accompany him. The request was granted. In less than two years service, and before he had reached his twentieth year, Douglas had won the trust and friendship of the man who ruled an empire equal in area to a third of Europe and, though still in a state of savage nature, rich beyond measure in political and industrial possibilities. Great indeed was the opportunity; as will be seen, no part of it was thrown away.

McLoughlin had had a history of his own which is typical of the day and place. Born in 1784 at Riviere du Loup, he had lost his father while still a boy, and had grown up with his brother David in the gray stone mansion of his grandfather, Malcolm Fraser, overlooking the St. Lawrence where it widens to the sea. The children early caught a military bearing from the grandsire who had brought a Highland regiment to Canada and who had settled later on a St. Lawrence seigniory. It was a discipline, too, of a thoroughly Scottish savour. Scottish books were read ; Scottish tales were told; the bagpipes droned in the hall; and the kilts were often worn. When the boys grew up, they were sent overseas, destined to the study of medicine at Edinburgh. But Napoleon had begun the war with England, and David fled his gallipots to follow the Iron Duke to Waterloo. John took another course. "I never could fight Napoleon—I admire him too much," he said, and returned to Canada. Arrived there, he had still his future before him. A story is told of the incident which sent him into the service of the North-West Company—a quarrel with an English officer who had shown discourtesy to a lady on the streets of Quebec. But his uncles were high in the company, and the life might have appealed to him on other grounds. Birth, talent, and, above all, his splendid presence, brought rapid promotion. His first important command was at Sault Ste. Marie: it was in Mclaughlin's time that the post was burned during the War of 1812. Here he had married the widow of his friend McKay. (McKay had crossed the continent with Alexander Mackenzie and had been one of those engaged by Astor in Montreal for his venture on the Pacific—a voyage from which McKay never returned, having been slain by the Indians on the ill-fated Tonqvin.) Thence he passed to Fort William, the metropolitan post of the company, then in its time of greatest splendour,—his hair white before he was thirty from an accident in Lake Superior, in which all but himself were lost. Of the remainder of his life there will be more in the sequel.

It was a part of McLoughlin's plans for Douglas, when, on the amalgamation of the companies, the faces of the two were turned westward, that he should not be confined too closely to any one branch, but that by a succession of duties he might become conversant with the entire range of the service. Consistent with his duty to the company, McLoughlin seems to have spared no favour that inured to the advancement of his protege'. Douglas was already an excellent accountant; he had moreover a thorough command of the language of the voyageur. The time was come, therefore, when he must learn at first hand the ponderous yet minute organization by which the operations of the united companies were conducted in the field. New Caledonia, the nucleus from which the present province of British Columbia was to evolve, was at the moment the most distant and difficult of McLoughlin's outlying departments. To New Caledonia, accordingly, went Douglas, after an interval spent with McLoughlin himself in the Athabaska district, for the very sake of the difficulties which offered there and the experience to be gained in encountering them. This was in 1823 or 1824.

A glance at the natural conditions and the state of development which awaited the young trader in New Caledonia will be of interest here. Dotted with innumerable lakes; thridded by a network of rivers, with the Fraser for central waterway; hemmed in and intersected throughout by mountains, clad in the south with the Douglas fir and in the north with spruce and pine; New Caledonia embraced, roughly, the whole of the territory between the Rockies and the coast range of mountains, from the valley of the Thompson on the south to the northern sources of the Peace. The interminable forest with which the district was covered yielded no food save berries, roots, and the flesh of animals; but the lakes and rivers abounded in fish and waterfowl. From time immemorial the region had been peopled by the western Dene Indians, the main branches of which were the Nahanais and Sekanais in the extreme north and east, the Babines and Carriers in the west and centre, and the Chilcotins in the south and west. They, as well as the white men who first entered the country, depended almost wholly upon the salmon for their food, so much so that the damming of a stream by a fall of rock would cause an entire tribe to remove. How Mackenzie discovered and how Fraser took possession of the country, has been already described. Rocky Mountain Portage, the first post of Fraser, was built in 1805. McLeod, the first permanent station ever erected in British Columbia west of the mountains, still standing without a year of interruption, had been established soon after. The discovery of Stuart Lake followed; and Fort St. James, destined as the depot of the new district, arose on its banks in one of the most beautiful spots of that land of surpassing natural beauty. Fort Fraser, on Fraser Lake, and Fort George, on the Fraser River, were built in the same year. For three years longer, which included the famous descent of the great central river, the pioneers of the company laboured on the foundations of the new district. In 1809, Fraser returned east, to assume command in 1811 of the Red River Department. Too poor to accept the knighthood which was offered to him, he died in 1862 at the great age of eighty-six. Stuart, the right hand, according to some the brain, of Fraser's enterprise, succeeded him in New Caledonia, with Harmon as first lieutenant. Stuart was still in command on the amalgamation of the companies in 1821, and to a large extent directed the expansion and multiplication of posts which immediately followed. Kamloops, the centre of the Thompson River district, had been built in 1813, the year in which communications were first established between the Columbia and the Fraser; and in 1821 the building of Fort Alexandria, on the Fraser, still further facilitated the bringing in of supplies by the new route from the south instead of by the old and laborious passage from the east. Babine, famous for its salmon, on the northern lake of the same name, was built in the following year, and Chilcotin, an outpost of Alexandria, situated among a tribe notable for its ferocity, about the same time. In 1824, however, the year from which the connection of Douglas with New Caledonia is dated, Stuart withdrew to the Mackenzie, and in his stead William Conolly, an Irishman of long experience in the trade, was appointed chief factor. Douglas who had been placed under the command of the new officer while McLoughlin went forward to the Columbia, was of the party which accompanied Conolly across the mountains when the latter first took office. With them were the wife and half-breed family of the chief factor, a convoy of twenty-four men, and the usual quota of supplies for the district.

At the time of Douglas's arrival, three clerks whose names are of frequent appearance in the later history of British Columbia, made up the staff of the chief factor at Stuart Lake—McDougall, Pam-brun and Yale. At Fraser Lake, McDonnell was in charge, with an assistant clerk. At McLeod Lake, Alexandria, and Babine, the other important posts of the district, Tod, McDougall, and Brown were in command. The district was already very prosperous. Beside furs, such commodities as birch bark, pitch, sturgeon oil, pemmican, Indian rice, buffalo robes, snowshoes, parchment for windows, dressed buffalo and moose skins and buffalo tongues entered into the trade of the country, and returned good profits to the company. There were more than the usual dangers and hardships in the service of that isolated district, and the fragments of old journals that have survived are replete with tales of suffering. The question of supplies pressed unceasingly; and the treachery of the natives constituted a ceaseless menace. Sickness and desertions among the men were on a corresponding scale.

The record of Douglas's stay in New Caledonia is involved in much confusion and obscurity, some of which, at this date, is inexplicable. The leading incidents, however, stand out in greater or less relief; and it is possible to construct from them a narrative that is intelligible, if not at every point consecutive.

He remained at first with Conolly at Fort St. James, to the temporary command of which he succeeded from time to time during the absences of his chief. Later he served as clerk at McLeod Lake to John Tod, famed as a controversialist and writer of letters, and, as he gave satisfaction, we find in due course the annual council of the company recommending that he "be engaged for a term of three years from the expiration of his contract, at 60 a year." But he soon returned to the more important duties of Stuart Lake. Of his activities here some interesting details are given in the MS. journal of the fort, which, as they shed light upon the general nature of the life in New Caledonia, may be quoted here. As was said above, the maintenance of a constant supply of provisions was the first care of the early trading-posts. In this connection a fishery had been established at the mouth of a small stream on Stuart Lake, where, in 1806, the company had met the first Indians of the country. The catch, however, had been uncertain, and it was finally resolved to establish a second station on the headwaters of another river falling into the same reservoir. Douglas was placed in charge of the new fishery, and the journal contains the following references to his operations :

Saturday, November 10th, 1827,—"Received from the [old] fishery fifty-nine whitefish, the produce of two nights. Clermont brought over the greater part of the nets.....To-morrow Mr. Douglas, with two fishermen, Bichon and Clermont, and two men to assist them will proceed to Yukogh (or Petit Lac) to establish the fishery there. This gentleman will not only superintend the fishery, but will also collect the fish which the Indians may have to dispose of immediately, for which purpose he is provided with leather [dressed skins] and other articles of trade."

Sunday, 11th,—"Mr. Douglas, with five men, set out for the fishery of Yukogh. They are well provided with nets, having eight of small thread, three of willow, and four of Holland twine......Most of the dogs are also sent to the fishery."

Wednesday, 14th,—"Vadeboncceur came from the fishery and informed me that these two days back they had not taken a sufficiency for their consumption. I ordered them to come across tomorrow to prepare to go and join Mr. Douglas at the other fishery."

From that date on we have frequent glimpses of the future governor hauling with dog sledges the fish he had taken at his station or had purchased from the Indians. The life was one of incessant toil and hardship even for the officers. To the end of his stay in New Caledonia, which was prolonged for six years, Douglas was busy with fish and furs, as the following entry in the journal made on the eve of his departure for Fort Vancouver shows:

January 1st, 18S0,—" .... Mr. Douglas also returned from his trip. In the way of furs he was more successful than had been expected, having collected, principally among the Kuzche Indians, about one hundred and ten pounds' weight of excellent furs, chiefly beaver and martin. But the fish trade has entirely disappointed us, only about one thousand and six hundred having been procured, part of which the dogs have brought to the fort by Mr. Douglas's men."

For the rest, the story of Douglas's life in New Caledonia is involved in many discrepancies. In the main, it groups itself about two or three well defined incidents, which may be dealt with as nearly as possible in chronological order.

It was probably soon after his arrival at Stuart Lake that the young officer took to wife Amelia Conolly, the daughter of the chief factor of New Caledonia. She was then in her sixteenth year, described as a shy, sweet and lovable girl, "modest as the wood violet," and having in addition to personal beauty, the blood of native heroes in her veins. A younger sister Julia, who also married an officer of the company, shared in the family attractiveness, as her portrait by an artist who accompanied the first expedition of Sir John Franklin shows. Beautiful and accomplished, the sisters were admired of all. The stay of the young wife in New Caledonia after her marriage was of short duration. Following her husband to Fort Vancouver, there happened one of those perilous chances to which women as well as men in that stern period were exposed, her boat upsetting in the dangerous passage of the Fraser.

A description of the domestic life of the family in the later years of Fort Vancouver shows her ripened into a comely matron, her children about her knees, while Douglas on a Sabbath evening read to them from his Bible on the flower-decked porch of the officers' quarters. The eldest daughter of the family in after years married Dallas, who subsequently became governor of the company at Winnipeg. It may be added in passing that the status of Indian marriages had a personal bearing for Douglas from the fact that Conolly, his father-in-law, on his retirement separated from his Indian wife and married again. Important legal proceedings followed, with the result that the first marriages in such cases were declared binding and the children legitimate.

There has been some debate as to the exact share borne by Douglas in the extension of the company's operations in New Caledonia during the period of his service there. That he was prominent in the work is the evidence of several. Interest has centred in this connection in the erection of Fort Conolly, so named from the chief factor, and designed to facilitate from its situation on Bear Lake the trade with the Sekanais Indians. Douglas has been considered by many as the guiding spirit in that enterprise. On other evidence, however, he was operating in a region remote from Bear Lake in the year in which Fort Conolly was founded. The fact is not of first importance, knowing as we do the general activity of Douglas in exploration, and having the assurance from indubitable sources that for six years crowded with incident he lived the full life of the district. His mastery of the Indian languages is but one evidence of the energy with which he threw himself into the work; and on his retirement from New Caledonia he had already laid the foundations of a knowledge of the Pacific slope that was later to be unrivalled. One of the many vicissitudes that befell him at this period, easily the most fateful in his early life, may be referred to in some detail, not for its intrinsic importance, but as illustrating the character of the man, the life of the place and the precarious nature of the evidence on which it is necessary to rely in this portion of the narrative.

In 1823, Yale, who was in command of Fort George, had occasion to pay a visit to Stuart Lake. On his return the mangled bodies of his two assistants were found in an outhouse, at their side one of the company's axes with which they had been done to death by two Fraser Lake Indians. The motive of the deed is unrecorded. Yale was temporarily suspended on the ground of negligence, but on full investigation was reinstated. One of the murderers soon after paid the penalty of his crime. Several years elapsed, when in the summer of 1828, the survivor, Tzoelhnolle by name, hazarded a visit to Stuart Lake. Concerning the sequel we may note the versions of the more important writers who have considered the matter worthy of minute description.

Bancroft, whose informant was John Tod of Fort McLeod,—an excellent authority, though over eighty miles distant at the time of the occurrence,— states that the occasion of the Indian's visit to Fort St. James was a native celebration, at a time when Douglas was in charge. The latter having been informed of the fact, immediately went in search of the murderer who took refuge under a pile of camp equipage. Though an arrow-point stared him in the face, Douglas and young Conolly seized the wretch and killed him, in requital of which the former was taken prisoner soon after by two hundred savages with blackened faces and compelled to pay compensation.

McLean1 relates the incident somewhat as follows: The Indian having visited Fort St. James when Douglas was in command, and the latter, though with a weak garrison, having executed "wildjustice" on the murderer, the tribe, thoroughly incensed, determined to obtain reprisal through a stratagem. The old chief came alone to the fort and was admitted; the matter was discussed at length, and seemed in a fair way of being settled when a knock was heard at the gate. "It is my brother," said the chief, "come to hear what you have to say." The gate was opened, when the whole of the Nekasey tribe rushed in. The men of the fort were overpowered; and though Douglas seized a wall piece, he was speedily borne down. His life was in the utmost peril as he was held by the chief while thirty or forty Indians surrounded him brandishing knives and shouting "Shall we strike?" The chief hesitated, and the life of Douglas was saved only by the prompt courage of the wife of the interpreter of the fort who harangued the Indians and secured his release.

Father Morice, who, in knowledge of the northern interior of British Columbia is without a peer, gives an entirely different account from the foregoing, quoting from native eye-witnesses. One of the murderers, according to Morice, had already paid the penalty of his crime, having been secretly slain by the company's servants who burned the remains in such a way as to suggest an accident, when the survivor visited Stuart Lake, Douglas being in charge. Hearing of his arrival, Douglas went in search, and Tzoelhnolle, though he hid under some skins, was quickly discovered. After an angry altercation, Douglas seized the murderer by the hair and fired at him with his blunderbuss, but the bullet flew wide; whereupon his men beat the life out of the Indian with hoes and clubs. The body was dragged out and left in the open; Morice adds that it was left to the dogs. Several days afterwards, the chief with the father of Tzoelhnolle arrived; Douglas was seized within the precincts of the fort; and the chiefs nephew pointing a dagger at his breast impatiently asked, "Shall I strike?" A brave attempt at rescue by the young wife of Douglas was overpowered. Thereupon the women of the fort threw tobacco, clothing and other goods into the crowd, securing the release of Douglas.

These are only three of a great number of descriptions of an affair which has been given an altogether disproportionate importance. With reference to the last account, which is that of an unbending critic of the Hudson's Bay Company, some doubt may be permitted, notwithstanding the unrivalled knowledge of the author's, to a statement based on the traditions of local tribes and involving the ability of the native to recall at a date removed by half a century the circumstances of an incident concerning which he would have many temptations to fashion a version to his own credit. In any event, it would seem precipitate to base on this and other incidents in the early career of Douglas, the hypothesis that his removal to Fort Vancouver-—the next great step in his career— came as a result of his inability to work in harmony with the Indians. Every reasonable estimate we have of the character of Douglas and of his value as an official is opposed to such a view. The change, as there is cause to believe, was in the way of preferment for success well earned in a difficult branch of the service, and for abilities already proved and now required in a larger field. It was carried out under the immediate direction of the governor, who, if any man, would be aware of the facts of the case, and would scarcely recommend for honour one who had jeopardized the company's interests in their most vital particular. We need hold no brief for either Douglas or the company in the method in which justice was meted to the wretched native of the story ; but that the result was of far-reaching import to the career of the leading actor or to the relations of the company with the Indians, is perhaps beyond the ability of the historian at this date to demonstrate.

Before the transfer of Douglas to Fort Vancouver, he had the opportunity of receiving in New Caledonia no less a personage than the governor of the company, Sir George Simpson, then on his tour of inspection of the posts in 1828. A somewhat detailed account of the ceremonies of the occasion has survived. To impress the savage mind, it was thought advisable that the governor should make his entry into Fort St. James with even more than the usual amount of display. Within a mile of the lake the party halted, breakfasted, and decorated. The order of march was then arranged. The British ensign, fluttering to the breeze, was borne by a guide at the head of the procession. A band of buglers and bagpipers followed. Behind rode the governor, supported by the doctor of the party and a neighbouring chief factor, also mounted. Twenty men packing burdens next formed the line, while another officer with his wife and family brought up the rear. Arriving in view of the fort itself, the bugles sounded and the bagpipes struck up a famous march of the clans. Douglas replied with canon and musketry, advancing to receive his distinguished visitor. The first exchange of civilities ended, the line reformed, pipers and buglers entered the enclosure, and, marching along the gallery contiguous to the palisade, paraded in view of the wondering natives. A dozen years later when the governor was on his famous voyage around the world, Douglas had a second time the honour of welcoming him to a post of the company. The scene was at Fort Vancouver, and Douglas had by this time risen to all but the first rank in the most important station of the company west of the Rocky Mountains.

The change to Fort Vancouver came in 1830. It marks the beginning of the career of Douglas as an officer of real importance to the company. McLoughlin's suggestion doubtless lay at the root of the transfer. A good accountant, possessed of administrative ability and capable of lightening the responsibility of the chief factor in minor affairs, was called for. Simpson himself had noted the capacity of Douglas during his visit to New Caledonia. The important nature of the post made the question of its officers a vital one. Ninety miles inland from the sea, on a green terrace sloping from the northern bank of the Columbia, Fort Vancouver, like a mediaeval castle, was at once a refuge in time of danger, an oasis of civilization in a surrounding desert of barbarism, and a capital from which its commander ruled the adjacent territory. The fur country immediately tributary was wide and rich ; and the Indian tribes to develop its resources were numerous. But it was more than this. Built by McLoughlin in 1824-5 on the abandonment of Astoria, Fort Vancouver had the threefold advantage of a central location, a surrounding country adapted to agriculture, and accessibility to sea-going ships. The fort, accordingly, for nearly a quarter of a century, was the emporium not only of the company's vast interior trade, but of the traffic by sea both coastwise and with England and the Orient. It formed the counterpart of York on Hudson Bay, with an even wider range of operations and involving even greater responsibilities, on account of its distance from Great Britain. McLoughlin for this reason was invested with more than the usual powers of chief factor, having to act to a great extent on his own initiative. In many ways he was as supreme even as the governor at Fort Garry. For twenty years his rule was that of a Czar over the territory that stretched from Alaska to California, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Uncounted thousands of Indians—Cayuses, Walla Wallas, Okanagans, Nez Perce's, Flatheads, Spokanes, Klickitats, Wascopams, Molallas, Callapooias, Tillamooks, Chinooks, Clatsops,—obeyed his behests and feared his displeasure. Over every waterway in that immense region he sent his Canadian voyageurs ; through hundreds of miles of forest he dispatched his trappers and traders ; in and out of the fringing north-west islands, to Sitka itself, his schooners plied; throughout the San Joaquin and Tulare valleys, over the Shoshone country, on the shores of Salt Lake and in the Yellowstone itself, his brigades pitched their tents; all alike bringing home rich tribute to the company, and restlessly seeking further and ever further regions to subdue. To share in this command, the first coadjutor of McLoughlin, Douglas, young as he was, had been chosen. It was an office great in its present powers and responsibilities; in the hands of Douglas, its future was to lead him to still higher place and honour.


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