Cary, Attorney General George Hunter
b. 1832-01-16
d. 1866
George Hunter Cary was born 16 January 1832 in Woodford-Essex, Great Britain. Cary studied Law at Inner Temple and was called to the bar in 1854.1 His legal and political activities caught the attention of certain officials, and by 1859 he was recommended to British Colonial Secretary Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton for the office of Attorney General of British Columbia. Cary travelled to Victoria in 1859, and was officially appointed to the position in July.2
Cary held various prestigious offices during his six years of residence in Victoria. He was the Attorney General of British Columbia from 1859 until 1861. Because he prefered to stay on Vancouver Island, as opposed to moving to the mainland, he stepped down to become the Attorney General of Vancouver Island.3 Cary was elected to the Second House of Assembly of Vancouver Island as the representative from Victoria in 1859.4 He was respected in the Assembly for his oratory ability and effectiveness, serving as the Minister of Finance under Governor James Douglas from 1860 to 1863. However, Cary ended his professional career in 1864 when he was accused of mishandling legal finances; instead of defending his position, Cary left his post as Attorney General of Vancouver Island.5
Cary worked closely with Governor Douglas from 1859 to 1863 on various diplomatic issues. He travelled to the San Juan Islands in 1859, reporting to Douglas that the American military would pose a larger threat in the “San Juan Question” than previously anticipated.6 In 1860, he was involved in a legal disagreement between Edward E. Langford and Joseph D. Pemberton regarding the supposed unfair sale practices of lands around Victoria by Pemberton. Langford went on to accuse Douglas of nepotism and Cary of fraud; however, nothing came of these accusations.7 Cary played a large role in passing legislation protecting the rights of widowed women, as well as the ownership rights of immigrants to the colony.8 In 1863, he aided Governor Douglas in his complaint to Newcastle about the acquisition of land around Victoria by the Hudson's Bay Company.9
Cary's personal life often garnered public attention. In July of 1861, He was charged with riding his horse over the James Bay Bridge at an excessive speed.10 The following month, barrister D. B. Ring caused controversy when he reportedly called Cary a coward. Cary responded by challenging Ring to a duel, but he was arrested before the duel took place.11 Cary was told to keep the peace by the authorities, but refused and was jailed.12 The same year, Cary prompted public outcry when he attempted to purchase the natural springs that provided Victoria with its clean water supply.13 In 1863, he left Victoria for the Cariboo to search for gold, reportedly interested in acquiring enough wealth to move to the countryside and retire.14 However, his mental health continued to deteriorate. After much public speculation, Cary was certified as insane by Dr. John Ash in 1865.15 He was lured back to England with the false promise of a position as Lord Chancellor in 1865, and left Victoria in 1865. He died of a nervous disorder in 1866.16
Cary's lasting legacy in Victoria was Cary Castle. He had begun construction on an extravagant countryside home overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca shortly after his arrival in 1859.17 However, by 1864 Cary could no longer afford to finance the construction of the home. The property was seized and completed by the state the following year, and would be used as the residence of the Governor General until it burnt down in 1899.18
  • 1. J. E. Hendrickson. Cary, George Hunter, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
  • 2. Ibid. ; Douglas to Lytton, 4 June 1859, No. 163, 7334, CO 60/4, 431.
  • 3. Hendrickson, Cary, George Hunter.
  • 4. Douglas to Newcastle, 25 January 1860, No. 4, 2760, CO 305/14, 10.
  • 5. Hendrickson, Cary, George Hunter.
  • 6. Douglas to Lytton, 1 August 1859, No. 30, 9569, CO 305/11, 1.
  • 7. Douglas to Newcastle, 23 March 1860, No. 14, Miscellaneous, 4817, CO 305/14, 86. ; Newcastle to Douglas, 19 June 1862, No. 106, NAC, RG7, G8C/3, 104 (CO 410/1, 377).
  • 8. Douglas to Newcastle, 24 July 1862, No. 38, Legislative, 8830, CO 305/19, 220; Douglas to Newcastle, 25 November 1861, No. 73, Legislative, 1167, CO 305/17, 523.
  • 9. Douglas to Newcastle, 20 April 1863, No. 11, 5737, CO 305/20, 137.
  • 10. Hendrickson, Cary, George Hunter.
  • 11. Rosemary Neering, British Columbia Bizzare: Stories, Whimsies, Facts and a Few Outright Lies from Canada's Wacky West Coast, (Vancouver: BC: Touchwood Editions, 2011), 50-52.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Hendrickson, Cary, George Hunter.
  • 14. Douglas to Newcastle, 22 May 1863, No. 17, 6923, CO 305/20, 186.
  • 15. Hendrickson, Cary, George Hunter.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. Ibid.
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