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ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO - The Searchers For Franklin

George Simpson (1792-1860)

A Portrait of George Simpson

Simpson's mother was unmarried (Heavens!) and this fact accounts for the fact that he was brought up by his aunt and his grandfather, a Presbyterian minister, in Inverness, Scotland. Little is known of his early life; some claim he purposely destroyed the records relating to his early life.1

However, what is clear in the records, he became the Canadian governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. For years he worked for the company in every capacity one might imagine. His experience in traveling through the then wilderness encompassing western Canada; no one knew these wilderness areas any better, including John Rae who was to become his young protegee in later years.

During his years, 1820-60, as the Canadian governor, the Hudson's Bay Company was at its greatest peak of power and profitability. The territory, over which it exercised its power, government-like, covered the whole of Western Canada, indeed parts of the north-western States as they exist today.

"Simpson was one of the principal architects of the HBC monopoly which came to dominate the North American fur trade in the 19th century. At the time of his death the companyís fortunes were still buoyant, but its future was increasingly threatened by the free-trade movement at Red River, demands for annexation of Rupertís Land to Canada, and the impetus to open up the territory to agricultural settlement by the extension of the railway system across British North America. Simpson foresaw the impact that these developments would have upon the fur trade but he died before it materialized. He was a controversial figure, sometimes ruthless, sometimes unscrupulous ... On one aspect of his character, however, there is unanimity: he served the HBC with great ability and with consummate devotion ..."2

1 "[He] contrived to eradicate so much of the historical record that even his biographers know little about his youth and early manhood." (McGoogan, Fatal Passage: The Story of John Rae ..., p. 44.


[A LISTING OF The Searchers For Franklin]

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Peter Landry