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Sir James Douglas
Chapter VI - Victoria


THE year 1843 was a turning point in the history of the north-west coast. Fate had by that time unequivocally declared that the north and not the Columbia must be the final abode of the fur trade and the nation whose protection it enjoyed. The company read the signs of the times, and had begun to prepare for the inevitable. Long before the boundary had been named, the desirability of shifting the chief seat of the trade northward had become manifest. It was impossible to secure peltries on the Columbia in the face of increasing settlement; and for some time past a point of strategic and commercial advantage, beyond reach of the conditions that were rendering Vancouver untenable, had been diligently sought by the company. There were many reasons why Camosun, the Indian village on the site of which the city of Victoria now stands, should have attracted the attention of the traders. Esquimalt, where a more commodious harbour exists, might have been deemed more suitable for a city; it was not, however, a city that the company thought to establish, but a post for the prosecution of the fur trade. As early as 1837, McNeill had explored the southern end of Vancouver Island and had found an excellent harbour and fine open country, apparently well adapted for tillage and pasturage, along the shore. Simpson himself, during the voyage previously referred to, had noted the fertile soil, the abundance of timber, and the equable climate of Camosun, and had predicted that the place would become in time "the most valuable section of the coast above California." Douglas, finally, in 1842, had made a careful examination of the locality and had reported favourably. The agricultural possibilities of the region, which rendered the vicinity of Fort Vancouver of such value, were insisted upon, the requirements of the Puget Sound Company having now to be consulted no less than those of the Hudson's Bay Company proper. On the whole, the directorate in London had unrivalled information at its command before resolving on any change. McLoughlin, Douglas, Work, Ogden, Tolmie, Finlayson, Anderson and McNeill formed a body of men whose local knowledge might he regarded as perfect; while at home the company's management included several to whom every project in the councils of the nation was well-known. Fortified with the approval of both London and Vancouver, official sanction to the establishment of a fort at Camosun was soon given. The new post would be near the ocean, yet protected from it. A great island lay to the northward ; and to a huge continent it formed the natural entrepot. It stood at a crossways of the waters, to the west being the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the south Puget Sound, and to the north the Gulf of Georgia. It commanded the first good harbour north of San Francisco, the entrance to the Columbia having proved difficult even to the ships of that period. Some idea, too, of the trade possibilities of Alaska, the Northern Interior, the Orient, the Pacific Islands, and South America, doubtless crossed the minds of the men who sat in the council chamber of Lime Street, London. Moreover, it was a point of great natural beauty, Victoria taking rank to-day as the most picturesque of all the cities of the Pacific shore.

The expedition which was dispatched to establish the post set sail from Fort Vancouver on March 1st, 1843. It consisted of fifteen men, and it was under the command of James Douglas. Nisqually and the Cowlitz country were visited for supplies; and at New Dungeness the Indians were notified of the intended action of the company. Crossing Fuca Strait, the party cast anchor within Shoal Point on March 14th. According to tradition, the spot on which Douglas first landed was knee-deep in clover at the time, from which it received the name by which it is still known—Clover Point. The native Songhees, who had a stockade at the head of the harbour, showed surprise, but no hostility, surrounding the steamship Beaver, which had brought the party, with a swarm of welcoming canoes.

Considerations of detail at once engaged the attention of Douglas. The selection of a site and the obtaining of a supply of timber for the projected fort were the first steps necessary. The question of an anchorage apparently decided the former, the post being placed where the present Court House of Victoria stands on Bastion Square. A steamer of the draught of the Beaver found no difficulty, in 1843, in casting anchor off the site of the present wharf of the Hudson's Bay Company. By March 16th, the men were already at work squaring timbers and digging wells. The natives, pleased at the prospect of trade, were given employment making pickets, each picket to be twenty-two feet long and three feet in circumference, axes and other tools being lent them for the purpose and payment being made at the rate of one blanket for forty pickets. These preliminaries under way, Douglas steamed northward in April to Forts Taku and McLoughlin, which it had been decided at headquarters to abandon, and the crews of which were needed to augment the scanty force at Fort Camosun.

With Douglas to Victoria came Bolduc, the Jesuit missionary, reputed the first priest to set foot on Vancouver Island. The natives proved ready converts; over twelve hundred Songhees, Clallams and Cowichans were baptised after the first mass, which was celebrated in a chapel of pine branches and boat's canvas on March 19th, 1843. Bolduc afterwards passed to Whidby Island, where, though conversions were numerous, attempts to reform the habits of the savages met with indifferent success. By April 3rd, the missionary was back at Nisqually.

It was on the first of June that the Beaver returned from her northern voyage. Taku and Mc-Loughlin had been dismantled, and with the reinforcements thus obtained some fifty men were available for the work at Camosun. Within three months, in the prevailing pleasant weather, the stockade, one hundred and fifty yards square and eighteen feet in height, with blockhouse or bastion (thirty feet high and armed with nine-pounders, blunderbusses and cutlasses), at each corner, was finished. As finally completed, the stores, five in number, together with the post-office, smithy, carpenter shops, sleeping quarters for the men, officers' quarters, chapel, powder magazine, etc., were all within the stockade. For the sake of economy, the fort was built without nails or spikes, wooden pegs alone being used. The site selected was an open glade of oak trees, in the midst of the dense forest which ran down to the harbour and inlet. Flocks of Indians from Vancouver Island, the neighbouring archipelago, and the mainland, attentively watched proceedings, but in the face of constant vigilance offered no opposition beyond acts of petty theft. Later they too began to erect lodges along the harbour bank. The schooner Cadboro arrived with further supplies from Fort Vancouver while the work was in progress; and by October, Douglas, regarding the establishment as capable of self-defence, set sail with the Beaver and Cadboro for the Columbia. Charles Ross, who had been in charge at Fort McLoughlin, was left as senior officer, with Roderick Finlayson, transferred from Fort Simpson, second in command. Finlayson, whose duties included the supervision of construction operations, thus became the first builder of houses on Vancouver Island.

A word apart should surely be spared in honour of those staunch and trim little vessels, the Cadboro and the Heaver, whose doings have already figured prominently in this narrative. For nearly forty years their names appear in almost every record of the company's seaward movements. Every island and canal of that dangerous labyrinth of waters which lies, a by-word to sailors, between Sitka and Fort Vancouver, was known to their captains as a book. The schooner Cadboro, seventy-two tons burden. had been built at Rye in 1824. Before her destruction in 1862, every soul but one of the thirty servants of the company whom she brought on her maiden voyage from England had been buried. With her picked crew of thirty-five and her six guns, she did the work of many men in the spread of civilization on the Pacific. The Beaver, which had the unique distinction of being the first steamship to navigate the great western ocean, was also built for the company in Great Britain. In August 1835, with her escort, the Columbia, she was pointed for Cape Horn, rounding which she buffeted her way northward for four months under sail, her machinery not being installed until she reached Fort Vancouver. Built of live oak and teak, with engines the best of their day, for forty-three years of hard and constant usage she plied the thousand bays and estuaries of the coast. She was still sound in every timber in spite of adventures innumerable with rock and reef when, on a dark night in 1888, she met her doom at the entrance to Burrard Inlet.

In the spring of 1844, Ross, who was in charge at Fort Camosun, died, and Finlayson was appointed in his stead, the son of Ross being sent as second in command. Of Scottish birth, Finlayson had joined the company in 1837, and had seen hard service at Taku, Stikien and Simpson. Shrewd and kindly, he had commended himself to Douglas by his rigid devotion to duty. His narrative of the events that culminated in the founding of Fort Camosun is among the most valuable of the contemporary documents that have survived and are available relative to the history of the north-west coast during the first half of the nineteenth century. Events proceeded smoothly at Camosun for some time after the accession of Finlayson. The first serious test of the defences of the post arose through the restlessness of the neighbouring Indians. Directly opposite the fort, at a distance of four hundred yards, lay the village of the Songhees, under their chief Tsilalthach. Communication was constant between the points by means of boats. A wandering band of Cowichans under Tsoughilam were encamped near by. The cattle of the fur-traders feeding in the open spaces about the fort, proved too great a temptation to the savages and a number were slaughtered and eaten. The company had not made the animals, they averred, nor did it own the fields that fattened them. A demand for payment provoked at first surprise, then anger, ending in a united but ineffectual attack upon the fort. Finlayson contented himself in reply with revealing the deadly powers of the company's nine-pounders by blowing to pieces a lodge from which he had previously taken care to remove the occupants. The effect was instantaneous; on the following day full payment for the cattle was made. Shortly after, danger from fire having been caused in the vicinity of the fort, Finlayson compelled the Indians, not without angry parleyings, to remove to the other side of the harbour, thus originating the present Indian reserve at Victoria. In the spring of 1845, again, a party of Skagits from the mainland coming to trade at the fort were waylaid by the Songhees at Clover Point and their goods stolen. Whereupon Finlayson again interfered and compelled the restitution of the goods. A demonstration of the powers of the great gun being a second time asked for, Finlayson directed that a canoe be placed in the harbour opposite the bastion. Pointing the canon at the object, he fired, the ball passing through and bounding to the opposite shore. The lesson had its effect.

Next in importance to relations with the Indians in the early annals of the post was the birth and progress of its shipping. It was in the spring of 1845 that the first vessel consigned to Fort Victoria direct from England arrived in the harbour. This was the bark Vancouver belonging to the company. With the Cowlitz and the Columbia she made yearly voyages thereafter from London, bringing outfits for a twelvemonth in advance. In the same year also occurred the visit of the frigate America with Captain the Hon. John Gordon, brother of the Earl of Aberdeen, then Prime Minister of England, on board. Gordon's mission was to examine into and report on the value of Oregon, including Vancouver Island, the controversy concerning which with the United States was at the moment entering upon its final stage. An incident related by Finlayson of his visitor's ill-success at salmon fishing gave currency to the popular fiction that Oregon was lost to Britain because the sockeye would not rise to a fly. That Gordon's prejudices, however, and the unfavourable impression carried away by his party concerning the Columbia valley did not assist the home authorities in attaching a proper importance to the country, may be assumed. From the year 1845, also, the American whalers of the North Pacific touched occasionally at Victoria for supplies, until the Hawaiian Islands were found to afford a more convenient port of call. About the same time, while the cry "fifty-four forty or fight," was still reechoing through the United States and excitement ran high in Great Britain as well, H.M.S. Constance, with five hundred men and officers, arrived at Esquimalt. Finlayson seized the opportunity for a military display, for the sake of the effect upon the Indians. The frigate Fisguard also visited Victoria in the same year and exercised her men on shore with a similar object in view. Two surveying ships, the Herald and Pandora came in the following season, and re-mapped the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the harbours of Esquimalt and Victoria, the Canal de Haro and other waters. These and other ships of war despatched for the protection of national rights were supplied with beef and vegetables from the farms of the company. Meanwhile the general trade, which during the preceding twenty years had converged upon the Columbia and Fort Vancouver, came gradually more and more to centre at Victoria.

The farming operations of the company had engaged attention from the first. Even before the fort itself had been completed, a number of men were set to work at clearing the surrounding land for the raising of vegetables and cereals. Wooden implements alone were available the first year, an example of the thrift of Douglas, and the corn was trodden out by cattle in the barn. Some of the younger natives were employed at the work, proving useful ox-drivers. They were paid, as usual, in goods. Horses and cattle were imported later from Nisqually, by the ever active Beaver and Cadboro, and a farm of several hundred acres was eventually opened in the immediate vicinity of Victoria. In all, the company's farms on the island were three in number; the Fort Farm as it was called, on the level space where the city now stands; Beckley Farm, in the neighbourhood of James Bay;and the North Dairy Farm, which was situated inland. The latter, as the name would imply, was devoted chiefly to dairying which would seem to have received special attention; three dairies, each with seventy milch cows, producing seventy kegs of butter each in a season, being in full working order within four years of the beginning of operations. Oats, barley, pease and potatoes were also raised; and forty bushels of wheat to the acre was a not uncommon yield. The price obtained for the latter from the Russians was four shillings and twopence per bushel, paid by bills on St. Petersburg. A large wooden building, long to be seen at the company's wharf at Victoria, was used as a granary, wherein the grain from Port Vancouver, Puget Sound and Langley, as well as that grown on the island itself, was held for shipment to Sitka. Both Russian and British vessels were engaged in the traffic. The profitableness of the agricultural venture on Vancouver Island was assured throughout by the abundant supply and cheap price of labour. The natural increase of the cattle, moreover, was such that it was soon found impossible to herd them, many escaping into the woods, where they were found years afterwards by hunters in the interior of the island.

In 1848, the brigades from the northern interior, instead of descending to the Columbia by way of Kamloops and Okanagan as usual, followed the more direct route of the Fraser Valley to Lang-ley. A year before the settlement of the Oregon boundary, Anderson, who was then in charge at Alexandria, had foreseen the necessity of the change and had carefully explored the country between Kamloops and the Lower Fraser, notwithstanding the stupendous obstacles interposed by nature. Fort Yale was founded as a result in 1848 and Fort Hope a short time later. For the decade which followed these events, the main route to the interior lay from Langley to Fort Hope by water, thence by trail across the defile of the Coquihalla River to the Thompson.

The completion of this arrangement marks all but the end of Fort Vancouver. With the levying of American duties, its days were numbered. The great McLoughlin had passed from the scene, the victim, as has already been described, of forces which he had neither the will nor the power to resist. To curb his influence, a board, of which Douglas and Ogden were the other members, had been appointed some time earlier for the management of the Western Department. The end came in 1846 when his resignation followed a report by a commission sent by the British government to make inquiry into the military conditions of Oregon, with a mandate from the company as well. Douglas thereafter became the senior officer of the Western Department, McKay being given the supervision of the northern posts which till then had been under the immediate eye of Douglas. McLoughlin passed to Oregon City, then rising at the falls of the Willamette. Sorrow ended his days. He had renounced, after the quarrel with the company, his allegiance to Great Britain. But his new countrymen would have none of him. His lands were taken from him by the United States and restitution deferred until he himself was beyond caring. He was the patriarch, as Whitman was the martyr, of Oregon. There was a time when a word from McLoughlin would have hurled the American immigrant across the mountains and left to the United States no other alternative but a conquest by arms. Yet who would name him traitor? His humanity lifts him above common men.

With the year 1849 an important period is reached in the history of Victoria and British Columbia. With the events of that year and their immediate results, the city enlarges into a colony. Briefly, these events included the final removal of the chief emporium of the company from Fort Vancouver to Victoria; the discovery of gold in California; the opening of the first coal mines on Vancouver Island; the acquisition of Vancouver Island by the Hudson's Bay Company; the conversion of the island into a Crown colony; and the appointment of a governor from England. To each of these developments in turn a word must be given.

The abandonment of Fort Vancouver was marked by the removal of Douglas with his wife and family to Victoria. They came by the ship Cadboro, having crossed by horses from the Columbia to Puget Sound. The family at first took up its abode in the fort, in the absence of a separate residence for the chief factor. Finlayson, on the assumption by Douglas of the chief command, was made the head accountant for the Western Department, a position which he held until 1862. Another notable arrival of the year was the Rev. R. J. Staines, of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, who came as chaplain to the company, and whose eccentricities, tribulations and death form a strange mixture of the ridiculous and the tragic. Helmcken, the future speaker of the legislature and son-in-law of Douglas, was a second arrival of the same year. Victoria henceforth became the centre of the Hudson's Bay Company's interests west of the Rocky Mountains.

Victoria being after San Francisco almost the only point on the north Pacific coast from which supplies could be obtained, the effect of the gold discoveries of 1848-9 in California on the life of the place was immediate. Prices rose to an exorbitant degree at San Francisco and the miners employed the winter months, when work on the placers was Impossible, in the search for a cheaper market. Finlayson mistook the first contingent for pirates. Their mission explained, however, they were allowed to purchase such goods as were less immediately required for the company's trade at the rate of eleven dollars per ounce for their gold. Gold in its native state had never before been seen by Finlayson, and the transaction gave him serious doubts until he had communicated with headquarters. The reply received was that more goods would be sent for the new demand. The traffic however, was not without its disadvantages, as the excitement caused among the company's employees seriously disorganized the service, a large number leaving for the diggings, while the pay of others had to be increased in order to induce them to remain. Indians were employed to replace the stragglers. Finlayson himself was offered a thousand dollars a month to take charge of a store in San Francisco, an offer which he declined, for the reason that though his salary was but one hundred pounds per annum from the company, he was under an engagement to give twelve months' notice before quitting the service.

In 1849, the development of the first coal mine in British Columbia was begun. Outcroppings of the mineral had been noted years before in several localities; at Beaver Harbour, where Fort Rupert was erected after the abandonment of Fort McLoughlin, considerable quantities had been known to exist. Fort Rupert was uncompleted when Michael Muir, a Scottish miner, with his wife, a family of sons and daughters, and a small party of miners, was sent by the company to establish workings on the deposits. Upon sinking a shaft ninety feet, however, Muir declared the seam too small to be workable, and, complications with the Indians arising, the miners left for California. The Muir shaft was continued later to a depth of one hundred and twenty-five feet, but without favourable result. Additional and better mining machinery arrived in 1851, but more promising deposits having been disclosed by the Indians at Nanaimo, the plant was removed thither, and the beginning of what was destined to be one of the most important industries of the Pacific slope was made. The famous Douglas seam was located in 1852. In the same year, Fort Nanaimo was erected in the neighbourhood. Two thousand tons were shipped in the following year, bringing eleven dollars per ton at Nanaimo, and twenty-eight at San Francisco. Coal outcroppings were subsequently discovered at various points on the island, on the contiguous coast of the mainland and on the Queen Charlotte Islands, but the fields in the vicinity of Nanaimo were the only ones on the coast that became of commercial value. The Muir family, it would seem, retired eventually from the service of the company, as the names of five of them are attached to a petition of the independent settlers which was presented to the first governor of the colony on his departure for England.

There remains to be dealt with the highly important series of incidents that group themselves about the acquisition of Vancouver Island by the Hudson's Bay Company, the first attempt at colonization, and the first and tentative establishment of civil government. The three divisions of the subject are inextricably interwoven.

In 1838, the license which had been granted to the company in 1821 to trade, to the exclusion of all other British subjects, in the territory owned by Great Britain north and west of Canada and the United States, was renewed, with certain important additions, for a further period of twenty-one years. The additions bound the company among other things to enforce the execution of criminal processes, and to frame rules and regulations for the moral and religious improvement of the Indians. To the government the right to erect colonies or provinces within the territories included in the grant was retained, together with the privilege of applying thereto any form of civil government, independent of the company, which might be deemed proper. Though this license, as will be seen, did not expire until 1859, the question as to the policy to be adopted by the government with regard to the colonizing of the country arose at a much earlier date. Almost immediately upon the arrangement of the international boundary, the example afforded by events on the Columbia had its effect in England. Immigrants were pouring into that favoured region, towns were springing into being, and industry was expanding with a speed that was full of meaning to the overcrowded population of Great Britain. From the company's standpoint also, the moment was an anxious one. There seemed every prospect that the wave of settlement which had driven the trade north of the 49th parallel would follow it even further. The company's conduct in Rupert's land, moreover, had recently come in for severe criticism. Yet concessions must be obtained if the monopoly was to be saved with any semblance of its old-time power. Closely in touch as the directorate was with the official mind of Great Britain, it was realized that the time for action was before the settler had appeared and the subject had achieved prominence. It was shrewdly perceived also that the company would best attain its object, not by opposing colonization, which was now seen to be inevitable, but by securing control of the colonizing process so that it might retard or direct it at pleasure. The government was, therefore, approached with a proposal on the part of the company to undertake the rule and colonization of its various territories in North America. The magnitude of the suggestion apparently startled the cabinet, which, with the recent troubles of Lord Selkirk's colony on the Red River in mind, had now clear knowledge of the relations which the settler bore to the fur trader. The negotiations were suspended, in something not unlike alarm; whereupon the company adroitly diminished its proposals to include only the territory west of the Rocky Mountains. Failing that, even Vancouver Island alone, it was intimated, would be accepted. Colonization, the company affirmed as a part of its suggestion, would be assisted in every way possible, and all moneys received for lands or minerals would be applied to the improvement of the country. The question was considered by the government with reference solely to Vancouver Island. Parliament debated the proposal, Gladstone being among those who spoke against it. In the end the government declared itself in favour of concluding an arrangement with the company. No other agency had the necessary capital, organization and experience for the undertaking, and the company already possessed the exclusive right of trade in the Indian territory for eleven years longer. It was willing, moreover, to vest the appointment of a governor in the Crown. After protracted negotiations as to terms, the grant was consummated on January 13th, 1849. Vancouver Island, with the royalties of its seas and mines, was handed over to the Hudson's Bay Company, in perpetuity, subject only to the domination of the Crown, and to a rental of seven shillings payable on the first day of each year. The company was to settle a colony of British subjects within five years; to sell the land at a reasonable price, retaining only ten per cent, of the proceeds and applying the balance to improvements; to reserve such lands as might be necessary for naval stations and government establishments; to report every two years with regard to the number of colonists settled and the acreage of lands sold; and to defray the expenses of all civil and military establishments, except during hostilities between Great Britain and a foreign power. The grant, it was stipulated, would be forfeited if no settlement were effected within five years. The imperial government reserved the right to recover the island, at the expiry of the company's exclusive license, by payment of the sum actually expended by the company in colonization.

The wisdom of the grant was widely questioned. Undoubtedly the desire of the company was to control rather than to promote the settlement of the coast. This was shown at once by the prospectus and advertisement which it published on the conclusion of the arrangement. A reasonable price for land, it appeared, was, in the company's view, one pound per acre. Moreover, for every hundred acres so purchased the buyer was to convey at his own expense three families or six single settlers to the colony.

Needless to say, these conditions placed a hopeless burden on settlement. It is not to be thought that they were ever intended to do otherwise. Colonization was incompatible with the fur trade. As a business matter, the agreement was very profitable. It continued to the company the use of the country; and vested rights were created for which, in the end, the traders were well paid.

Even apart from the above, the methods which were adopted to induce immigration to the new colony were worthy of censure. It would not be fair to say that the company did not want settlers on Vancouver Island: a certain number were needed to preserve the semblance of good faith; moreover, servants for the Puget Sound Agricultural Company were a necessity. In the representations made, however, to the few who were rich enough to undertake the company's terms, and to those sent out as employees, an impression was conveyed as to the state of affairs in the colony, which, if not actually contrary to fact, led the people to expect entirely different conditions from those which prevailed. The directors in London, of course, knew little of the life of the colony; while the officials on the ground had been graduated in a school of hardship which prevented them from appreciating the feelings of men and women transplanted from the garden of civilization to an unbroken wilderness. The situation of the American settler in Oregon, where land without money and almost without conditions was to be had, did not tend by comparison to increase satisfaction. The California gold fields, too, exercised their lure and did much to retard the settlement of the British colony.

The first settler on Vancouver Island under the terms of the agreement was W. Colquhoun Grant. Hearing of the project, he had sold his commission in an English cavalry regiment, and with a party of eight persons, fitted out at his own expense, arrived on the island. After careful examination of the country, he chose a location at the head of Sooke Inlet, twenty miles north-west of Victoria. After two years he tired of the life, and leased his farm to the labourers he had brought out. Under their tenure the place fell into neglect, and was subsequently sold to the Muir family. Grant's purpose, according to Finlayson, was to form a purely Scottish settlement; the plan, it was even said, included a Gaelic schoolmaster and a Highland piper. James Cooper was a second early arrival who was to figure for a longer time in the history of the colony. Landing in 1851, he brought from England a small iron vessel in sections, to be put together at Victoria. He had previously been in the service of the company as commander of a vessel between London and Fort Vancouver, and his object now was to carry on an independent trade, for which his experience had well fitted him. In 1852 he launched a scheme for buying cranberries from the natives of the Fraser River for the San Francisco market, where under the prevailing conditions he could obtain as high as one dollar per gallon for the produce. The Hudson's Bay Company, however, had no mind for enterprises of this nature. Cooper had no sooner opened his traffic than Douglas sent instructions to Fort Langley to buy all the cranberries the Indians offered at a price beyond the reach of other traders. Cooper thereupon took up land at Metchosin and farmed three hundred acres for some years in partnership with one Thomas Blenkhorn.

Other early arrivals were eight coal miners and two labourers on the Harpooner in June 1849; eight emigrants on the bark Norinan Morrison in 1850; and one hundred and twenty hired labourers on the Tory in June 1851. A number of the latter were sent to Fort Rupert to work in the coal mines. By this time, there were, according to contemporary reports, some seven independent settlers in the vicinity of Victoria, three of whom had previously been in the company's service. Victoria itself was laid out in streets in 1852, though where the city now stands was still forest with only occasional spaces of cultivated ground. In addition to the fort, only twelve houses stood within the surveyed limits. At the end of 1853, it was estimated that, apart from seventeen thousand natives, there was on the island a total population of four hundred and fifty persons of all nationalities, three hundred of whom were divided between Victoria and Sooke, with one hundred and twenty-five at Nanaimo and the rest at Fort Rupert. Up to the same date, nineteen thousand eight hundred and seven acres had been applied for, but of this no less than ten thousand one hundred and seventy-two acres had been claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company, and two thousand three hundred and seventy-four acres by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. At the beginning of 1854, according to Bancroft, not more than five hundred acres at the most were under cultivation on the island, and of this all but thirty acres at Sooke and ten acres at Metchosin were under the immediate management of the company.

From the outset, open quarrels were incessant between the settlers and the company. The first and leading cause lay in the conditions under which the colonists were placed upon the land, the onerous nature of which has been already indicated. The land itself, the more so as the company had appropriated the best of it, was not inviting. Fear of the Indians pressed constantly, and there was loud complaint over the lack of properly constituted courts of justice. The company's time-honoured method of barter was hateful and unjust. It was a grievance, too, that the island was not included in the reciprocity treaty between Canada and the United States. Besides these matters, which were of general application, a multitude of individual woes filled the cup to overflowing. A single example will show the lengths to which the strife proceeded.

Three miles distant from the fort, Captain Lang-ford, from whom Langford Plains and Langford Lake received their names, worked on the lands of the Puget Sound Company as one of four bailiffs. He had been a Kentish farmer, and for a time an officer of the British army, but he was induced to enlist in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, to open, as he supposed, a farm on Vancouver Island. On his arrival he found to his disappointment that he had bound himself to the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, and that the quarters allotted to him consisted of but two log huts, of a single room each—one for himself and his family, the other for his men. Langford was a distant relative of Blanshard, the first governor of the colony, and he was not slow to complain. The colonial office was soon deluged with indictments of the Hudson's Bay Company and its officials, and though the statements of Langford do not appear to have received full credence in England, their matter is of interest as throwing light on the relations in general of the company with the settlers. Langford's bitterest grievance was that the colonial surveyor had informed him when applying for a certain tract that the land in question was already sold to Dallas, the son-in-law of Douglas. But apparently the land at the time had not been sold, and Langford was therefore mulcted of a prospective profit. He further complained that although he had applied to Douglas for an immediate inquiry into the matter, the erring official had been permitted to leave the colony for England without explanation. In addition, Langford had been hardly used in court in the matter of a libel which had been printed concerning him, and he inveighed against the fitness of David Cameron, a linen draper and brother-in-law to Douglas, who had been appointed the first chief-justice of the colony. The report of Douglas as governor on the subject of Langford's charges had at least the effect of eliciting an expression of confidence on the part of the home authorities in the various officials of the colony. That Langford's onslaught upon Cameron had not the sympathy of the entire community is shown by a document which was presented by a number of the leading proprietors of the island to the governor, in which a protest is entered against the petition requesting the annulment of his appointment.

Some interesting particulars having an important bearing on the same feature in the history of the island appear in the minutes of evidence taken before a select committee of the British House of Commons which was appointed in 1853 to consider the state of the British possessions in North America then under the administration of the Hudson's Bay Company. One of the recommendations made by the committee after due deliberation was that the connection of the company with Vancouver Island should be terminated and that provision should be made for the ultimate extension of the colony over the adjoining mainland west of the Rocky Mountains. The report was dated July 31st, 1857, and the recommendations were given effect in the following year, a step considerably hastened by the discovery of gold on the Thompson and Fraser Rivers. It was alleged by the committee as the basis of its findings, that the population under the company's regime had decreased instead of increasing; that the price placed upon the land was much too high; that the company's monopoly of the trade of the country had stifled all competition ; that settlers having no money were compelled to barter with the company for goods at exorbitant prices; that no proper protection was afforded from the Indians, there being only one constable and no military force on the island; that there was no restriction on the sale of liquors; that no means were provided for transmitting money to England, or for banking or for the marketing of farm produce; that the company had done nothing to civilize the Indians, though due credit was given to the humanity of its policy in this connection; that no survey of lands had been made except of those belonging to the company's employees; that the company was directly responsible for the slow progress of settlement; that the company evaded the export of goods other than its own in its ships from England; that settlers had been in specified cases induced to come to Vancouver Island as servants under misrepresentations; and that in general the powerful influence of the Hudson's Bay Company was in favour throughout of its own interests and opposed to those of free and independent land-holders. Added to this arraignment of social and political conditions in the island, was a mass of useful and interesting information concerning its climatic and natural resources. With regard to its future, the witnesses examined by the committee were with one accord sanguine, provided that a suitable form of government were granted and a favourable opportunity offered for the process of industrial development.

The history of the early years of settlement on Vancouver Island, apart from the above, had few features of interest. The first governor of the colony, Richard Blanshard, was appointed in 1849. It is difficult to discuss his tenure of office seriously. An independent governor was not a part of the scheme which the company had in view. The directorate had, in fact, suggested Douglas for the position; but the nomination was discretely withdrawn on the intimation of the prime minister that at least the first governor of the colony should represent the Crown. Blanshard was accordingly accepted with equanimity by the company, as an instrument which might be used for a time and cast aside. The company, with or without the governor, was master of the situation. Blanshard had been educated as a barrister, and had had some previous experience in colonial administration. He was ambitious, and he accepted the office at its apparent value, undoubtedly without exact knowledge of its nature. Under the terms of the grant of Vancouver Island, the company was required to pay the expenses of all civil and military establishments during peace. Beyond this, however, Blanshard seems to have had no definite understanding. A thousand acres of land had been promised him by the home government; the promise, however, was construed by Douglas as applying only to lands for the governor's temporary use while holding office. On arriving at Victoria on March 10th, 1850, Blanshard read the proclamation of his appointment to an audience composed of the officers of the ships which had brought him and the servants and officials of the company; but having no quarters allotted to him at the fort he was obliged almost immediately to return on board his vessel. Thereafter, for some time, the seat of government moved with the exigencies of the ship which bore the governor. The island was coasted and Fort Rupert and other points of interest visited. At Beaver Harbour, the coal workings, which were then engaging the attention of the company, were inspected, the judgment of Blanshard being unfavourable as to their success. The condition of the miners and natives having been investigated, the governor returned to Victoria. Without salary, without allowance for expenses, without clerical assistance of any kind, without evidence of the promise of the land he was to receive, without official residence, without the sympathy or cooperation of the officials of the company with whom he was speedily in open antagonism, without even duties to perform beyond the settlement of disputes between the settlers and the company, one course only was open—to resign. Before leaving he nominated a provisional government of three, consisting of Douglas, Cooper and Tod, and September 1st, 1851, saw his departure from Vancouver Island. The experiment of an independent governor had been tried and had failed. A more cruelly treated officer of his rank it would be hard to find in the history of British colonial institutions.

James Douglas was appointed governor of Vancouver Island in the place of Blanshard. No one outside of the company was available; and there were indeed few interests other than those of the corporation to render outside representation advisable. Until population became more numerous and industry more diversified, the machinery of government was, in truth, seldom needed. At most it served but to symbolize the supreme authority of the Crown. Meanwhile, the autocratic rule which Douglas in his capacity of governor and chief factor in one was able to enforce, was on the whole well suited to the conditions. A man more competent it would have been impossible to find. His knowledge of the country was unrivalled, his control of the officials and servants of the company absolute, and his influence with the Indians, whose goodwill was essential, almost unlimited. The situation was anomalous: from many points of view it was indefensible. But the time to end the domination of the company was not yet come,—did not, in fact, arrive till the discovery of gold on the Fraser gave an entirely new aspect to government and affairs in British Columbia.


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