5th Earl of Selkirk (1799-1820)
Born 1771 Died 1820
Thomas Douglas was born at St Mary's Isle, Kirkcudbrightshire, on the 20th of June 1771. He succeeded his father in 1799, his six elder brothers having predeceased him.
At this time the Highlands of Scotland were being changed into grazing land and deer forests. Selkirk took deep interest in the evicted peasants, and tried to organise emigration to the British colonies. In 1803-1804 he founded a large and prosperous settlement in Prince Edward Island, and at about the same time a smaller one at Baldoon in Upper Canada. He later turned his attention to the Canadian west, and gradually acquired control of the Hudson's Bay Company.
In May 1811 an immense tract was granted to him in the Red River valley, and he at once proceeded to send out settlers; but the hostility of the North-West Fur Company, with its headquarters at Montreal, eventually ruined the colony (see Red River Settlement), and the influence of his rivals led to the defeat of Selkirk in various legal proceedings. On the 8th of April 1820 he died broken-hearted at Pau. One of the most generous and disinterested men in the history of colonisation, he fell a victim to the predatory selfishness of his rivals.
Copies of his papers, most of which are unpublished, are in the Canadian Archives Department at Ottawa.
Being the entry for SELKIRK, THOMAS DOUGLAS, 5TH EARL OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.