British Columbia - Podcasts - Blanshard Series

Barry Gough on Governor Richard Blanshard

Alexander Mackenzie
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Davide Thompson
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James Cook
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In 1850, the colony of Vancouver Island was a nascent settlement with promising potential, situated along the rugged west coast of North America. The year marked the arrival of its first governor, Richard Blanshard, appointed by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) which held the trading rights to the region. Blanshard's appointment was met with anticipation, as he was tasked with establishing a functioning colonial administration and fostering economic growth. However, his tenure was fraught with conflict, particularly with the powerful Hudson's Bay Company. Blanshard found himself at odds with the company's dominance over trade and land allocation, as he aimed to promote settlement and encourage private enterprise. The tensions escalated as Blanshard struggled to assert his authority and fulfill his responsibilities, eventually leading to his resignation in 1851. While his time as governor was short-lived, Blanshard's struggles highlighted the complexities of colonial governance and the delicate balance between administrative authority and corporate interests during this pivotal period in the history of Vancouver Island.

In Barry Gough's insightful analysis of the arrival of Governor Richard Blanshard, the embryonic colony of Vancouver Island in 1850 emerges as a focal point of historical significance. Gough delves into the intricacies of Blanshard's appointment as Governor and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) participation, an event that initially held great promise for the fledgling settlement on the Pacific coast. As Gough adeptly explores, Blanshard's governorship was marked by a complex interplay of factors, including the clash of administrative ambitions and the formidable presence of the HBC. In his meticulous examination, Gough illuminates the pivotal moments of conflict and tension between Blanshard and the Hudson's Bay Company, shedding light on the intricate dynamics that shaped the trajectory of Vancouver Island's early colonial history. In this multi-part podcast series about Governor Blanshard, Part I is an overview of the situation.

Timeline

  • Early Life: 1817:

  • Richard Blanshard was born in England.
  • He was educated at Downing College, Cambridge, where he studied law and graduated in 1838.


  • Pre-Governorship:

  • After his graduation, Blanshard traveled and lived abroad, including periods in the West Indies and Spain.
  • Before his appointment as governor, he was a relatively unknown figure in British politics and colonial affairs. His appointment was somewhat unexpected, as he lacked experience in colonial administration.


  • Governorship

    1849:

  • The Colony of Vancouver Island was established, with the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) given the exclusive right to trade with the Indigenous peoples and mine for coal.
  • Richard Blanshard was appointed as the first governor.


  • 1850:

  • Blanshard arrives in the colony aboard the HMS Driver.
  • He finds that James Douglas, the chief factor of the HBC at Fort Victoria (and later governor), has already established himself as the dominant authority figure in the region. This sets the stage for a power struggle between Blanshard and the HBC.


  • 1850-1851:

  • Blanshard faces several challenges during his tenure. His authority is constantly undermined by the HBC and James Douglas. He receives little support from settlers, most of whom are connected with the HBC.
  • He has conflicts with settlers over land issues and other matters. The colony's lack of infrastructure, the paucity of European settlers, and the dominance of the HBC make effective governance difficult.


  • 1851:

  • Frustrated by the lack of support and the challenges of governing, Blanshard resigns as governor. He writes to the Colonial Office, explaining the issues he faced, particularly the influence and control of the HBC in the colony's affairs.
  • James Douglas is appointed as his successor. Given Douglas's dual role as the HBC's chief factor, this effectively consolidates the company's power in the colony.


  • 1849:

  • Appointed as the first governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island.
  • 1850-1851:

  • Faced challenges during his tenure, mainly due to the dominance of the Hudson's Bay Company. Resigned in 1851. Post-Governorship:


  • 1857:

  • Richard Blanshard did provide testimony regarding his experiences to a British parliamentary committee. He gave evidence to the Select Committee on the Hudson's Bay Company in 1857. In his testimony, he detailed the issues he faced during his tenure, especially the significant influence and dominance of the Hudson's Bay Company in the colony's affairs. Blanshard's testimony helped shed light on the challenges of establishing British colonial governance in regions where powerful companies had significant control.
  • After resigning, Blanshard returned to England.
  • He lived relatively quietly and did not take on any significant public roles following his experience in Vancouver Island. Death:


  • Richard Blanshard passed away in 1894.

Culture & Politics

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Reference: Article by Greg Scott (Staff Historian), 2022

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