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Mon, 08.15.1803

Sir James Douglass, Statesman, and Businessman born

Sir James Douglass

*Sir James Douglas was born on this date in 1803.  He was a Black Canadian Statesman. 

Born in Demerara, British Guiana, he was the son of John Douglas and Miss Ritchie, a "Creole" woman from Barbados.  The couple had three children, Alexander, James, and Cecilia Eliza. John Douglas' second family was with Jane Hamilton Douglas, and they had one child Jessie Hamilton. A "Scotch West Indian" fur trader, Douglas joined the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821 and became a senior board member. Located in Oregon, he oversaw operations west of the Rocky Mountains.

After establishing the southwestern boundary with the United States, the company's headquarters moved to Vancouver Island in 1849. As governor of Vancouver Island, he extended his authority to the mainland when gold was discovered on the Fraser River in 1858. This action was to preserve Britain's foothold on the Pacific in the face of settlers from the United States. His effort was approved by the British government, which then created the colony of British Columbia. In April 1858, Douglas sent an invitation to the Black community in San Francisco via Jeremiah Nagle, captain of the steamship Commodore that regularly sailed from Victoria to San Francisco. On April 25, 1858, the Pioneer Committee of 35 Blacks from San Francisco arrived in Victoria to meet with James Douglas.

The climate against slavery grew in the United States, leading to the American Civil War. Some people were skeptical, saying that one year in a northern environment or failing crops would send the settlers back toward the south. However, the blacks who came at Douglas's invitation were looking for a place to raise their families, buy land to farm, build homes, churches, and schools, conduct business, and work productively in the trades.  In 1977 the Government of Canada recognized this migration as an Event of National Historic Significance. The settlers succeeded, as did James Douglas and British Columbia.

Queen Victoria knighted Douglas in 1863 for his invaluable service to the Crowns. In 1866, Vancouver Island and British Columbia colonies were amalgamated as the Colony of British Columbia. In 1871 this Colony of British Columbia became the 6th province of Canada. Douglas became its governor in 1858 after severing his connection with the Hudson's Bay Company. He was knighted in 1863 and retired in 1864. Canadian statesman was known as "the father of British Columbia." James Douglas died August 2, 1877, in Victoria, B.C. 

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