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Thomas Douglas Selkirk, 5th earl of

Selkirk, Thomas Douglas, 5th earl of, 1771–1820, Scottish philanthropist, founder of the Red River Settlement. Emigration to America seemed to him the best solution for the poverty of his countrymen, especially the Highlanders who had been evicted from their small holdings. He obtained land on Prince Edward Island and supervised (1803) the founding of a successful settlement there. In 1811 he acquired a large tract in Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company, in which he had bought a controlling interest, and established the Red River Settlement. The planting (1812–16) of this colony led to bloodshed between the settlers and the North West Company, a rival of the Hudson's Bay Company. After Selkirk's return to Upper Canada, lawsuits were brought against him by the North West Company, and he was forced to pay damages. Having sacrificed his health and most of his fortune to his philanthropic enterprises, he returned home in 1818 and died in France two years later. He wrote Observations on the Present State of the Highlands of Scotland (1805) and A Sketch of the British Fur Trade in North America (1816).

See his Diary, 1803–1804, ed. by P. C. White (1958); biography by J. M. Gray (1963); C. Martin, Lord Selkirk's Work in Canada (1916); G. Bryce, Mackenzie, Selkirk, Simpson (rev. ed. 1926); H. Bowsfield, Selkirk (1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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