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The Scottish Nation
Simpson


SIMPSON, SIR GEORGE, governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s territories, only son of Mr. George Simpson, Lochbroom, Ross-shire, was born there in 1792. In early youth he was received into the counting-house of a London firm, extensively engaged in the West India trade. His active and energetic habits soon attracted the notice of the earl of Selkirk, then at the head of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Mr. Andrew Colville, a large stockholder, and through their influence he was selected to superintend the affairs of the Company at their settlements in British North America. He accordingly proceeded thither in February 1820. A troublous warfare was then carried on between the Hudson’s Bay Company, which was chartered, and the North West Fur Company, unchartered, but owing to Mr. Simpson’s tact and daring, ability, energy, and uprightness, in 1821 a coalition of the rival Companies took place, whereby the North-West Company retained over one-half of the capital stock of the united association, and secured more than half of the offices in the territory for their resident associates. The charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company had originally been granted by Charles II. in 1670, to Prince Rupert and others, empowering them to trade exclusively with the aborigines on and about Hudson’s Bay. The North-West Fur Company was formed at Montreal in the winter of 1783-4. It disputed the right of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and actively opposed it. When the companies united, the new association became known as the Hudson’s Bay Fur Company. Mr. Simpson was immediately appointed resident governor at Rupert Land, one of the divisions of the country held by the united companies. In this situation he exhibited so much address and dexterity that, a few years afterwards, he was appointed governor of the whole of what is called the Hudson’s Bay company’s territories.

In 1836, when the renewal of the charter of the Company became necessary, Mr. Simpson was instructed by the directors to fit out an expedition to connect the discoveries of Captains Ross and Back in the Arctic Regions, with the view of inquiring into the nature of the country itself and the resources of the surrounding territory, and reporting to the British government. Under the conduct of his nephew, Mr. Thomas Simpson, noted in Arctic discovery, the expedition was entirely successful. During a period of three years, it traced the Arctic coast of America, from the mouth of the Mackenzie river to Point Barrow, and from the mouth of the Coppermine river to the gulf of Boothia. “His experience in the Indian country,” said Sir Roderick Impey Murchison, vice-president of the London Geographical Society, speaking of Sir George, in his address delivered at the anniversary meeting of the Society, May 27, 1861, “his intimate knowledge of its resources, and his influence both with the white and Indian population, tended greatly to facilitate the progress through it of the land Arctic expeditions, and to lessen the hardships and privations they had to encounter. The Arctic expeditions undertaken by the Hudson’s Bay Company were planned and fitted out under his immediate direction, and the instructions which he gave to their respective commanders, independently of their admirable adaptation to the ends in view, were eminently calculated to promote the objects for which they were issued.” In consideration of the services of these Arctic expeditions, he had the honour of knighthood conferred on him in 1841. On March 3 of that year he set out from London on an overland journey round the world, which he accomplished in 19 months and 26 days. Of this journey he published an interesting account, under the name of ‘Narrative of a Journey Round the World.’ 2 vols, 8vo, London, 1847.

His suavity of manners, patience, resolution, and energy amidst scenes of trial and difficulty, and devotion to business, with the amazing accuracy and extent of his knowledge of the Company’s affairs, and the masterly readiness and precision with which he invariably applied it, rendered him eminently qualified for the important situation he held. He died at his residence, La Chine, near Montreal, Sept. 7, 1860, a few days after he had hospitably entertained the Prince of Wales and his suite, on their passage through Canada. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He married, in 1827, Frances Ramsay, second daughter of Mr. Geddes Mackenzie Simpson, of Great Tower Hill, London, and Stamford Hill, Middlesex, and left a son and three daughters.


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