Pelly, Sir John Henry
b. 1777-03-31
d. 1852-08-15
Sir John Henry Pelly was born John Henry Pelly on March 31, 1777 to father Captain Henry Hinde Pelly and mother Sally Hitchen. His father and paternal grandfather having both worked for the East India Company, John Pelly himself is thought to also have worked with the company, thus gaining nautical experience. However, John Pelly settled into business in London and in 1806, he became director of the Hudson's Bay Company.1
On July 13, 1807, John Pelly married Emma, daughter of Henry Boulton of Thorncroft, the governor of the Corporation of Working Mines and Metals in Scotland. Together, John and Emma Pelly had ten children; eight sons and two daughters. In 1823, Pelly was elected elder brother of Trinity House, and, some years later, deputy master. In addition, John Pelly became a director of the Bank of England in 1840, and one year later, governor.2
Furthermore, since attaining the position as governor of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1835, Pelly organized many important exploration parties, including those of Peter Warren Dease and Thomas Simpson, which did so much for the discovery of the north-west passage and of the coastline of North America. In addition, from his negotiations with Baron von Wrangel of the Russian American Company, John Pelly was able to lease the Russian owned Alaskan peninsula for the HBC's use in 1839.3
Pelly was the HBC executive most accountable for the company assuming responsibility for the colonization of Vancouver Island in 1849, at the British government's request. He made this decision in the face of fierce opposition from the rest of the HBC board and Sir George Simpson, who believed colonists would only interfere with company operations and reduce profits. Pelly argued successfully that, should the company refuse the British government's request, another joint stock company would inevitably fill the void, thus endangering the HBC monopoly—far more damaging to profits than the handful of colonists likely to arrive during the HBC's tenure.4
On July 6, 1840, from the recommendation of Lord Melbourne, John Pelly was able to add to his successful career the title of baronet. He died at his residence, Upton House, on August 13, 1852.5
  • 1. J. K. Laughton and Elizabeth Baigent, Pelly, John Henry, first baronet, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. John S. Galbraith, The Hudson's Bay Company as an Imperial Factor, 1821-1869, (New York: Octagon Books, [1957] 1977), 287; Sir John Henry Pelly, Hudson's Bay Company History Foundation.
  • 5. Laughton and Baigent, Pelly, John Henry, first baronet.
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Simpson, George

Wrangel, Ferdinand

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Hudson's Bay Company

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Vancouver Island