Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DOUGLAS, Sir James, colonial governor, born in Demerara, British Guiana, 14 August 1803; died in Victoria, British Columbia, 2 August 1877. He was the son of a poor Scotchman, who had immigrated to the colony a short time previous to his birth, and was early left an orphan. At the age of twelve he set out with an eider brother to push his fortunes in the British possessions of North America. At that time the rivalry between the Hudson Bay and Northwest companies was very keen. Young Douglas entered the service of the latter, bringing to his duties remarkable powers of endurance, an iron constitution, and a resolute spirit. He soon displayed prudence, determination, and executive capacity in the arduous service in which he was engaged, and his business ability and the tact that he exhibited in his intercourse with the Indians secured him rapid advancement. After the consolidation of the rival companies, he was appointed chief factor, the duties of which office compelled him to visit the remotest outposts and undergo many hardships. He was once captured and held for weeks by a tribe of Indians. Having at length succeeded in escaping, he made his way back after much suffering to one of the company's forts. He had for some time been given up as dead. In 1833 he was appointed to the chief agency for the region west of the Rocky mountains. In 1843, his headquarters being at Fort Vancouver, Oregon territory, a company of forty men landed by his orders at what is now Victoria (called Tsomus by the natives), and negotiations were concluded for the erection of a fort. In 1851 he became governor of the infant colony, and in 1857 his commission was renewed for a further period of six years.
In 1859 Vancouver Island was constituted a crown colony, with Victoria as its capital, and Mr. Douglas was appointed governor, and received the dignity of C.B. British Columbia having been organized as a colony the year previous, and the governorship also vested in Mr. Douglas, he exercised the arduous and responsible duties of his double office so well that in 1863 he was knighted. The following year he retired from public life, on the expiration of his term of office, and, after making the tour of Europe, returned to end his days in the land for which he had done so much. He married in 1827, and for some years his eldest and only surviving son represented Victoria in the provincial legislature.
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