Wed . 18 Dec 2018

Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk

thomas douglas 5th earl of selkirk
Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk FRS FRSE 20 June 1771 – 8 April 1820 was a Scottish peer He was noteworthy as a Scottish philanthropist who sponsored immigrant settlements in Canada at the Red River Colony

Contents

  • 1 Early background
  • 2 Involvement in Canada
  • 3 Legacy
  • 4 Selkirk and John Paul Jones
  • 5 Marriage and family
  • 6 Death
  • 7 Works
  • 8 See also
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 References
  • 11 External links

Early background

He was born at Saint Mary's Isle, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, the seventh son of Dunbar Douglas, 4th Earl of Selkirk, and his wife Helen Hamilton 1738–1802, granddaughter of Thomas Hamilton, 6th Earl of Haddington His brother was Basil William Douglas, Lord Daer

His early education was at the Palgrave Academy, Suffolk As he had not expected to inherit the family estate, he went to the University of Edinburgh to study to become a lawyer While there, he noticed poor Scottish crofters who were being displaced by their landlords Seeing their plight, he investigated ways he could help them find new land in the then British colonies In 1794, on the death of his brother Basil, Thomas became Lord Daer After his father's death in 1799, Douglas, the last surviving son two brothers died in infancy, two died of tuberculosis and two died of yellow fever, became the 5th Earl of Selkirk

In 1798 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh his proposers being Dugald Stewart, Andrew Coventry, and John Playfair

Involvement in Canada

When Thomas unexpectedly inherited the Selkirk title and estates in 1799, he used his money and political connections to purchase land and settle poor Scottish farmers in Belfast, Prince Edward Island, in 1803 and Baldoon, Upper Canada in 1804 See Highland Clearances for more on the emigration of poor Scots In 1804, he was in Halifax and became a member of the North British Society He travelled extensively in North America, and his approach and work gained him some fame; in 1807 he was named Lord-Lieutenant of Kirkcudbright, Scotland, and in 1808 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London

Landing of the Selkirk Settlers, Red River, 1812

In order to continue his work re-settling Scottish farmers, Selkirk asked the British government for a land grant in the Red River Valley, a part of Rupert's Land The government refused, as the Hudson's Bay Company HBC had been granted a fur trading monopoly on that land However, Selkirk was very determined, and together with Sir Alexander Mackenzie bought enough shares in HBC to let them gain control of the land This position of power, along with his marriage connections his wife Jean was the sister of Andrew Wedderburn, a member of the HBC governing committee allowed him to acquire a land grant called Assiniboia to serve as an agricultural settlement for the company As part of the agreement for the land grant, Selkirk agreed to supply the Hudson's Bay Company with 200 men each year He also agreed that the settlers would not be allowed to participate in the fur trade

As part owner of HBC, Selkirk also wanted to stop the North West Company NWC from competing with HBC for furs in the region By placing the Red River Colony astride the trade routes used by the NWC coureurs des bois, Selkirk could cut off the easy flow of furs However, the local Métis people who already inhabited the area had long-standing ties with the NWC and refused to accept Selkirk's control over the area

The first colonization attempt started in 1812, consisting of 128 men led by the new governor, Miles Macdonell Arriving late in the season they had just arrived and built homes when the winter cut off any hope of planting, and the colony became reliant on the support of the Métis Even with a full growing season the next year, the colony never thrived Because of a shortage of food in 1814, Macdonell issued the Pemmican Proclamation, prohibiting the export of food from the entire area The Métis, who made a living selling pemmican to the NWC traders, responded by arresting Macdonell and burning the settlement

Robert Semple was appointed as governor of the Red River Colony By 1816, the violence intensified between the Métis and the newcomers, which resulted in the Battle of Seven Oaks, causing the deaths of 21 of Lord Selkirk's men, including the newly appointed governor, and one Métis NWC partners were accused of having aided the Métis attackers

Selkirk and his men responded to the Battle of Seven Oaks by seizing Fort William, a trading post that belonged to the North West Company In the aftermath, Selkirk was ordered to appear in court in Montreal and was charged with four separate offences, all of which related to the alleged unlawful occupation of Fort William Selkirk reportedly spent most of his acquired fortune defending himself in court, shortly before his death in 1820 at Pau, France The two companies were merged in 1821

Legacy

Selkirk's colonizing ambitions have been memorialized in the names of the City of Selkirk and the Village of East Selkirk, as well as the Winnipeg neighborhood of Point Douglas, the city's Fort Douglas Park on Waterfront Drive where Fort Douglas once stood and Winnipeg's Selkirk Avenue The City of Selkirk is served by the Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School, which is administered by the Lord Selkirk School Division The Lord Selkirk Highway runs from the international boundary between Manitoba and North Dakota, where it connects with Interstate Highway 29 in the United States, to the city of Winnipeg

The Métis peoples cite Lord Selkirk's intrusion as the period of time their identity as a people came into existence The Métis existed prior to the confrontations with Lord Selkirk's men but their armed resistance to foreign encroachment became a rallying point for their shared identity A flag and a national anthem were born during this period in time A Manitoba Historical Plaque was erected in Winnipeg, Manitoba by the province to commemorate Lord Selkirk's role in Manitoba's heritage

Selkirk and John Paul Jones

At the age of seven, Thomas was almost kidnapped by John Paul Jones, commander of an American ship Peter C Newman tells the story as follows in his history The Empire of the Bay

In 1778, John Paul Jones, in the sloop Ranger, was cruising between Scotland and Ireland looking for prizes Benjamin Franklin had suggested that he might capture a British nobleman to exchange for American prisoners Having been born near the Selkirk estates, Jones selected the elder Lord Selkirk

At the last moment, Jones decided not to go himself, but to assign the duty to two lieutenants and a boatload of sailors As the Americans approached the Selkirk mansion, a governess saw them coming and removed young Thomas to safety The Americans knocked on the front door and were greeted by the butler Lady Selkirk came from the breakfast room to see what the fuss was about She invited the American officers into the drawing room, told the butler to make tea and to find some whisky for the sailors who were waiting outside When they explained that they had come to kidnap her husband, Lady Selkirk replied that unfortunately Lord Selkirk was not at home When Lieutenant Wallingford suggested that instead, they might take the young gentleman they saw on the way to the house, Lady Selkirk replied that they would have to kill her first After more discussion, Lady Selkirk suggested that, so that their mission would not be a complete failure, they might steal the family silver The officers allowed as how that might be the best solution, so Lady Selkirk ordered the butler to provide the American gentlemen with what they needed He filled a sack half full of coal, filled the top half with silverware and presented it to the officers After drinking a toast to Lady Selkirk, they returned to their ship and presented their captain with his sack full of coal and silverware

Jones wrote Lady Selkirk a flowery letter of apology, proposing himself to buy back the booty from the Navy and return it to the Selkirks Lord Selkirk wrote back that he could not possibly countenance the return of his silver without the consent of the Continental Congress The objects, which became the subject of protracted legal negotiations, were returned seven years later

Marriage and family

Lord Selkirk married Jean Wedderburn-Colville, sister to Andrew Colville, in 1807, and fathered:

  • Dunbar Douglas, 6th Earl of Selkirk 1809–1885
  • Lady Isabella Helen Douglas 1811–1893, married Charles Hope
  • Lady Katherine Jean Douglas 1816–1863, married Loftus Wigram

Death

On his death in Canada, his heir and successor Dunbar was only 10 years old and thus Selkirk's estates were put into a trust and managed by four executors named in his will The Board of Trustees consisted of Andrew Colville Colvile of Achiltrie and Crommie, John Hallbrith Halkett of Waring, Adam Maitland of Dundrennan, and Sir James Montgomery, 2nd Baronet

Works

  • Observations on the present state of the Highlands of Scotland, with a view of the causes and probable consequences of emigration London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme 1805 
  • Sketch of the British Fur Trade in North America 1816

See also

  • James Douglas governor, 1803 – 1877, a high-ranking Hudson's Bay Company officer and later governor of Vancouver Island

Further reading

  • White, Patrick 1958 Lord Selkirk's Diary, 1803–1804: A Journal of His Travels in British North American and the Northeastern United States Toronto: Champlain Society Publications
  • Campey, Lucille H 2003 The Silver Chief: Lord Selkirk and the Scottish Pioneers of Belfast, Baldoon and Red River Natural Heritage Books ISBN 1-896219-88-8 
  • Bumsted, J M 2008 Lord Selkirk: A Life Winnipeg, Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press p 517 ISBN 978-0-88755-184-0  scholarly biography

References

  1. ^ Douglas, Thomas 1984 Bumsted, J M, ed The Collected Writings of Lord Selkirk 1799–1809; Volume I in the Writings and Papers of Thomas Douglas, Fifth Earl of Selkirk PDF Winnipeg: Manitoba Record Society p 7 ISBN 0-96921011-6 
  2. ^ Annals: North British Society
  3. ^ BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 PDF The Royal Society of Edinburgh July 2006 ISBN 0 902 198 84 X 
  4. ^  Stephen, Leslie, ed 1888 "Douglas, Thomas 1771–1820" Dictionary of National Biography 15 London: Smith, Elder & Co 
  5. ^ Carter, George E Winter 1968 "Lord Selkirk and the Red River Colony" Montana: the Magazine of Western History 18 1: 60–69 JSTOR 4517222 
  6. ^ Francis, R Douglas; Jones, Richard; Smith, Donald B 2000 Origins: Canadian History to Confederation 4th ed Toronto: Harcourt Canada pp 434–5 ISBN 978-0-17644-243-9 
  7. ^ Bryce, George 1912 Life of Lord Selkirk Toronto: The Musson Book Company p 81 
  8. ^ Henderson, Anne Matheson 1968 "The Lord Selkirk Settlement at Red River, Part 2" Manitoba Pageant Manitoba Historical Society 13
  9. ^ Chartrand, Larry 2004 The Definition of Métis Peoples in Section 352 of the Constitution Act, 1982 University of Ottawa – Common Law Section SSRN 2323669  
  10. ^ Manitoba Plaque Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk Check |url= value help Manitoba Heritage Council Commemorative Plaques 1958 
  11. ^ Newman, Peter C 2000 The Empire of the Bay: The Company of Adventurers that Seized a Continent Penguin p 383 ISBN 978-0-14029-987-8 
  • Phyllis A Arnold Canada Revisited 8, Arnold Publishing Ltd
  •  Gilman, D C; Peck, H T; Colby, F M, eds 1905 "Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, fifth Earl of" New International Encyclopedia 1st ed New York: Dodd, Mead 

External links

  • Detailed biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  • The Romantic Settlement of Lord Selkirk's Colonists at Project Gutenberg, by George Bryce 1909
  • Peerage of Thomas Douglas
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The 7th Earl of Galloway
Lord Lieutenant of Kirkcudbright
1807–1820
Succeeded by
The 8th Earl of Galloway
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Dunbar Douglas

Earl of Selkirk

1799–1820
Succeeded by
Dunbar James Douglas

thomas douglas 5th earl of selkirk


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