Douglas, Sir James, 1803–77, Canadian fur trader and colonial governor, b. British Guiana (now Guyana). As a young man, he went to Canada in the service of the North West Company; soon after its merger (1821) with the Hudson's Bay Company, he accompanied the noted John McLoughlin to the Columbia River country. Rising eventually to chief factor, he succeeded (1846) McLoughlin in command of the Hudson's Bay Company territory W of the Rockies. On Vancouver Island, on the site of the present Victoria, he built (1843) Fort Camosun (later Fort Victoria), which became (1849) the western headquarters for the company. In 1851 he was appointed governor of Vancouver Island, and in 1858 he also became governor of the new colony of British Columbia on the mainland. At this time Douglas severed his long association with the Hudson's Bay Company. His governorship, which extended until 1864, was marked by a firm control of the colonies' affairs, made particularly turbulent by the gold rushes to the Fraser River and to the Cariboo region. Shortly before his retirement he was knighted (1863).
See biographies by R. H. Coats and R. E. Gosnell (rev. ed. 1926), W. N. Sage (1930), and D. Pethick (1969).