Dallas, Alexander Grant
b. 1816-07-25
d. 1882-01-03
Alexander Grant Dallas was born 25 July 1816 in Berbice, British Guiana. After his birth, his family then returned to Scotland during Dallas's childhood. As an adult, Dallas flourished within the financial circles of Liverpool and London. He had a successful career with Jardine, Matheson and Company and worked for their offices in China. An illness forced Dallas to return to Britain, where he joined the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) in 1856. The HBC feared for the stability of their subsidiary, Puget Sound Agricultural Company, and sent Dallas to Victoria in 1857 to investigate. After the Fraser River gold rush began, Dallas extended his trip due to worries over HBC interests on Vancouver Island.1
Dallas quickly clashed with James Douglas, who juggled loyalties between the colonies and the HBC. Dallas primarily concerned himself with company interests and their animosity towards one another became well-known. In 1859, after Douglas became governor of British Columbia, the HBC instructed Douglas to transfer authority of the Western Department to Dallas. Despite their ill-will towards one another, Dallas married Douglas's daughter Jane shortly after arriving in Victoria.2
Dallas became known for his sharp practice[s] and was often involved in land disputes between the Crown and the HBC.3 In 1859, Dallas argued for company claim over extensive land in British Columbia, which sparked a two year negotiation. In 1861, Dallas attempted to sell the last waterfront land in the Victoria's business area, despite Douglas's desire to build government offices in that space. Dallas also sold a plot of land to Leopold Lowenberg in 1861. Questions around the legitimacy of this sale resulted in fours years of debate.
After representing HBC interests at negotiations in London, Dallas returned to Canada in 1862, freshly promoted to governor-in-chief of Rupert's Land. In 1864, Dallas retired to Scotland. He served the HBC as an adviser until 1866.4 His final acts in the Crown-company land dispute issue came in 1864, when a surveyor general of the colony took the HBC to court over land claims, and in 1865, when Dallas defended himself and Mr. Finlayson from accusations of a public park infringement in 1862.
In later years, Dallas co-founded the London Committee for Watching the Affairs of British Columbia with Donald Fraser and Gilbert Malcolm Sproat. The group unsuccessfully tried to prevent the absorption of Vancouver Island into British Columbia.5 Dallas also published San Juan, Alaska, and the North-West Boundary in 1873, where he tried to defend the surrender of San Juan to the United States after the San Juan Island Dispute. In 1859, amid arguments between British settlers and Americans over ownership of the island, an American settler shot a HBC pig. During this so-called “Pig War”, officials in Victoria apparently threatened to jail the American (Dallas denied these allegations), which prompted American military forces to land on the island.6 In his book, Dallas felt he needed to provide his version of events.7 Nine years later, in 1882, Dallas died in London.8
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