Sir James Douglas

1803 - 1877

Fur trader, governor of Vancouver Island (1851 - 1863), governor of British Columbia (1858 - 1864).

Sir James Douglas Douglas was a chief factor in the Hudson's Bay Company and was responsible for the construction of Fort Victoria in 1843. He became governor of the colony of Vancouver Island in October 1851. A month after his appointment, he raised the question of providing a school for the colony in a letter to Archibald Barclay, the Company's secretary in London:

"I...take the liberty of calling the attention of the Governor and Committee [of the Hudson's Bay Company] to the subject of education by recommending the establishment of one or two elementary schools in the Colony to give a proper moral and religious training to the children of settlers who are at present growing up in ignorance, and in utter neglect of all their duties to God and to Society....

One school at Victoria and one at Esquimalt will provide for the present wants of the settlements and a fixed salary of 50 [English pounds] a year to be paid by the Colony with an annual payment by the Parents of a certain sum not to exceed thirty shillings for each child, with a free house and garden [for the school master] is the plan and amount of remuneration I would propose to the Committee.

In regard to the character of the Teachers, I would venture to recommend a middle aged married couple for each school of strictly religious principles and unblemished character capable of giving a good sound English education and nothing more, these schools being intended for the children of the labouring and poorer classes...

...children of promising talents, or whom their parents may wish to educate further, may pursue their studies and acquire the other branches of knowledge at the Company's School conducted by the Rev'd. Mr. Staines."

Several months later (March 1852), Douglas informed Barclay that a schoolroom had been established for the children of the Company's "labouring servants" and that Charles Bailey, an English bachelor who had come to the settlement as a labourer, had been appointed schoolmaster.

In his letter to Barclay, Douglas reported that eighteen boys were enrolled in the school and that they were making "fair progress in their learning." "The Parents furnish Books and stationery and pay [1 pound sterling] annually for each child, which goes into a fund for support of the schoolmaster and he also receives his wages and provisions from the Company, who are put to no other expense for the institution."

In 1853, Douglas and his Council allocated a sum of five hundred pounds to erect a school building on land reserved for school purposes about a mile from Fort Victoria. The Colonial School, as the new school was known, was completed in the summer of 1853.

When the Victoria Colonial school opened, it was under the management of Robert Barr. Charles Bailey - or Baillie, as Douglas called him - was transferred up Island, to take charge of the colonial school in Nanaimo.

The Royal British Columbia Museum's web site also features biographical information on Douglas. [Use the back arrow to return to The Homeroom.]