Blanshard, Governor Richard
b. 1817-10-19
d. 1894-06-05
Richard Blanshard was born 19 October 1817, in London. He schooled at Cambridge, then, briefly, practiced law until duty called him to serve in the Sikh War of 1848-49, after which he was decorated for bravery, a quality required, apparently, for his most famous assignment, that of first governor of Vancouver Island.
Blanshard's appointment was tethered on all sides to burdens, from the pragmatic to the personal. He accepted the position without pay, in lieu of which he expected to receive one thousand acres of colony land. Blanshard set off for his new post not on an HBC supply ship, but rather, a mail ship—Pelly, a relative of Blanshard, reports this to Grey in this despatch. As a result of ill-timed transfers, Blanshard was, more or less, marooned in Panama until he made his way to the Driver, a ship that would sail him to Vancouver Island.
He arrived at Fort Victoria on March 11th, following a freak snow storm. Douglas, then chief factor for the HBC, had neither resources or labour to construct Blanshard's appointed accommodations of a proper government house. Blanshard lived aboard the Driver until he was relocated, rather inauspiciously, to an empty storehouse in the fort. Politically, things were worse. Blanshard was handed a conundrum: to assemble some form of government from non-HBC men in a colony made up exclusively of the same.
Blanshard spent seven days in an open canoe—in November—from Fort Rupert to Fort Victoria after settling, rather clumsily and brutally, the murder case at Fort Rupert. Thereafter, he suffered what he describes as continual attacks of ague and subsequent relapses.
Blanshard resigned and asked to leave the colony, but it took nine months for him to receive confirmation of his resignation. All the while, he was plagued by the blatant inequities of the HBC: they were rapacious for land, price-gouging the Indigenous populations, and, as far as Blanshard was concerned, doing everything possibly to deter colonial settlement. However, on 30 August 1851, two days before his departure on the Daphne, Blanshard appointed a provisional council consisting of Douglas, Tod, and Cooper, men all inextricably linked to the HBC.
Blanshard lost his luggage in a shipwreck on the way home, and, when he finally arrived in London, he learned that he had to pay £300 for his return passage—roughly $52,000 in current Canadian dollars. This despatch summarizes much of Blanshard's history and travails.
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