Seymour, Governor Frederick
b. 1820-09-06
d. 1869-06-10
Frederick Seymour was born 6 September 1820 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father, Henry Augustus Seymour, was denied his inheritance and estate and thus Frederick did not receive a conventional upper-class education. Instead, Frederick’s eldest brother, who had befriended Prince Albert, arranged an appointment for him in the Colonial Office.1 Seymour was placed in a minor role in Van Diemen's Land, modern day Tasmania, before uprisings in the region led to the abolition of colonial offices.2 In 1848, Seymour was transferred to Antigua where he acted as a special magistrate. Professional promotions continued when in 1853 he was appointed President of Nevis, in 1857 as Superintendent of British Honduras, and in 1862 as Lieutenant Governor of British Honduras, modern day Belize.3
While in London in 1863, the Duke of Newcastle offered Seymour the position of Governor of British Columbia. Seymour accepted and travelled to British Columbia with his secretary, Arthur Nonus Birch, the same year.4 Within two weeks of his arrival, the Chilcotin War broke out in the interior region. The war began when native tribesmen attacked British workers, as they believed the British were responsible for a previous outbreak of smallpox in their tribe.5 Concerned about the development of a road from Bute Inlet to the Cariboo, Seymour travelled inland to put the eight responsible natives on trial with the help of Alfred P. Waddington and William George Cox. The war ended, with what Seymour regarded as acceptable terms.6 Native relations became very important for Seymour, and he was ultimately able to achieve success similar to that of Governor Douglas on Vancouver Island.7
Economic stagnation and recession would come to define Seymour’s term as Governor of British Columbia.8 Firstly, the construction of a roads system in the interior proved expensive and extremely problematic. Then, the number of miners travelling to the Cariboo in 1865 were disappointing and unexpected.9 The problem was aggravated by loans taken out by Governor Douglas in 1862, and 1863. The deficit continued to grow until 1868, when the colony faced depression and stagnation of colonial projects.10 The economic situation would ultimately only be solved in the long term by the colonies entry into the Canadian Confederation in 1871.11
Upon his arrival in British Columbia, Seymour had intended to pursue a union between Vancouver Island and British Columbia. However, Seymour was concerned about the role that BC institutions would play in the newly formed colony.12 Seymour was also concerned about the location of the new capital, advocating against it being Victoria. Yet, Seymour was also unenthusiastic about the state of New Westminster and its future prospects.13 Nonetheless, Seymour would oversee the eventual merger of the colonies, which occurred officially on 6 August 1866, despite low enthusiasm on both sides.14 Most of Seymour’s points were adopted, as British Columbian institutions would come to dominate the union, and he would remain governor. Seymour was disheartened by the adoption of Victoria as the capital in April of 1868.15
Economic issues continued to loom over the newly unified colony of British Columbia. Many Victorians had suggested the annexation of the colony by the United States as a solution.16 However, in the first session of legislative assembly, Amor De Cosmos asked Governor Seymour that the colony join the Canadian Confederation. The suggestion was adopted, and work began in planning entry into confederation the same year.17 However, the movement quickly lost traction as land still belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company had yet to be dealt with.18 John A. Macdonald would even criticize Seymour for being unable to secure early entry into the confederation.19 British Columbia’s entry into the confederation would not be achieved under Governor Seymour.
By 1869, the British Columbian economy began to recover as Seymour managed the deficit and promoted colonial development.20 Due to declining health, Seymour stepped down from his position as governor in 1869.21 He travelled northward to deal with a new conflict between native tribes on the Nass River. As one of his last acts, Seymour was able to broker a peace.22 He died on 10 June 1869 in Bella Coola. Seymour was buried in Esquimalt, in a lavish ceremony attended by Douglas. Mount Seymour in North Vancouver is one of many locations named after the governor.23
  • 1. Margaret A. Ormsby, Seymour, Frederick, Dictionary Of Canadian Biography. \
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Shivlock, Winston A. The Chilcotin War, British Columbia Historical News 25.3 (1992): 5-6.
  • 6. Ibid. ; Ormsby, Seymour, Frederick.
  • 7. Ormsby, Seymour, Frederick.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. Ibid.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Ibid.
Mentions of this person in the documents
The Colonial Despatches Team. Seymour, Governor Frederick. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/seymour_f.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)