Swanston, Robert S.
Swanston was a merchant who travelled between San Francisco and Vancouver Island transporting timber and salt fish.1 In 1854, one of Swanston’s cargo ships, the Brig William, was wrecked off the east coast of Vancouver Island.2 After this incident, Swanston was requested in Douglas’s court to discuss his observations.3 He did not show up in court when called upon to witness and was, therefore, put into jail.4 Furthermore, Swanston refused to pay the crew their wages and mentioned that he had heard rumours which led him to imagine that there may have been foul play about the wreck of the William.5 Upon further investigation, the colonial staff discovered that Douglas’s actions were inappropriate because he did not have the power to call a Court of Vice Admiralty.6
Later in 1854, Swanston was denied compliance by Sangster, the Collector of Customs, to bring the William Allen to the west coast of Vancouver Island.7 He wrote many letters complaining that Sangster treated him unfairly. However, Douglas and other colonial staff agreed that Sangster acted professionally in refusing Swanston’s request.8
Overall, it appears that the relationship between Swanston and Douglas was rocky, considering that Douglas says Swanston’s friends are few in number and certainly do not represent the respectable part of this community nor their real wants and sentiments.9 Swanston was considered a rumour-monger and created tension among the officers and staff of the colony.10
Mentions of this person in the documents
People in this document

Douglas, James

Sangster, James

Vessels in this document

Brig William

William Allen

Places in this document

Vancouver Island

The Colonial Despatches Team. Swanston, Robert S.. 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/swanston.html.

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