Less than successful in politics and public life, Selkirk resumed his interest in settlement and in 1811 - he and his family having bought into the HUDSON'S BAY CO - received from the company a large land grant of ASSINIBOIA, in what is now Manitoba. An advance party, sent under Miles MACDONELL in 1811, established RED RIVER COLONY in 1812. Conflict with the NORTH WEST CO and local mixed bloods led to the colony's dispersal in 1815, and Selkirk arrived in Canada to supervise in person.
On his way to Red River in 1816 with a party of disbanded Swiss soldiers, Selkirk learned of the deaths of Governor Robert SEMPLE and a number of colonists at SEVEN OAKS; accordingly he occupied the NWC depot at Fort William. Embroiled in complex litigation with the NWC and Canadian opponents of his colony, Selkirk visited Red River in 1817 before returning to Canada to battle his opponents in the courts. Selkirk regarded as a stain upon his honour his inability to convince either the Canadian authorities or the British government that the western disputes resulted from a conspiracy against him and the HBC. Ill with consumption, he departed for Britain in 1818. Deteriorating health inhibited his efforts at vindication and he died in France, on his way to a more congenial climate.
Although his ventures were expensive failures in his lifetime, Selkirk is best remembered as an earnest and articulate advocate of the right of cultural minorities to preserve their way of life through resettlement in BNA, and as an early opponent of efforts by the British government to restrict emigration as a way of improving living standards.
Author J.M. BUMSTED
Links to Other Sites
Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk
A biography of Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk with photographs and other archival resources. This “Canadian Confederation” website is from Library and Archives Canada.
A description of the Red River and its role in the settlement of the Canadian West. Click on the links at the bottom of the page for more information. From the Canadian Council for Geographic Education.