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Also, when the colonial posting for British Columbia became available and was offered him, Begbie wrote "Looking to my position and standing at the Bar...I think I am justified in stipulating that the salary shall be £1000 per annum..." although he didn't get that amount the statement shows that he was quite confident in his skills and reputation and was rather in a position of bargaining than begging. So, although he was perhaps not as prolific or renowned as some of his colleagues, he was, nonetheless, successful in the eyes of his peers as well as his own.

What were the circumstances of Begbie's coming to British Columbia? There is much speculation as to how this event transpired and, as is common in history, little known fact. We do know that in 1857, news of gold discoveries on Fraser's River had spread to San Francisco, chief city of the then depressed California Gold Rush. This news incited between 25-30,000 miners from that region to flood the colony by 1858. James Douglas, Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company, immediately recognized the threat that this influx of Americans posed to the fledgling British colony and wrote the Colonial Office in London to request that aid be forthcoming. London's response was to send Magistrate Begbie (later on the Royal Engineers and Chartres Brew, head of the colonial constabulary, joined him).

As for Begbie's own initiative, one fellow, D. W. Higgins, former editor of theVictoria Colonist quoted barrister William Kelly as saying that Begbie "...laid himself out to please the Lord Chancellor...an acquaintance sprang up between the two, and when the British Columbia appointment [presented itself...Begbie's name was] too." However, this scenario, interesting as it is, proves unlikely when inspected more closely. First, judicial and other government appointments to the colonies and departments of the British Empire were made solely by the Colonial Office and not, as Kelly suggests, by the Lord Chancellor. Second, William Kelly was an avowed enemy of Begbie, making him, at best, a dubious and biased witness. Kelly eventually quit the colony after several unpleasant court encounters with Begbie, writing that "the Supreme Court of British Columbia as at present constituted is a mockery, a delusion and a snare, in fact a disgraceful parody on the venerable parent institution."

Another writer has suggested that Begbie left England for British Columbia because his younger brother, Thomas, had supplanted him in a lady's affections. This too, appears to be unlikely, as Thomas had been married some eleven years by the time Matthew made the decision to part for the colony.

Looking back over his illustrious career we see that he was nothing if not a great traveler, spending much time all over Europe when residing in London and most of his time riding circuit throughout the vastness of British Columbia when there. His lust for travel and adventure was probably one of, if not the, motivation for his acceptance of the post of 'Stipendiary Magistrate of British Columbia'.

Matthew Begbie left Liverpool on board the Cunard Line steamer Niagara on September 11, 1858. He traveled lightly, sending most of his heavier possessions along with the Royal Engineers, who were to come later. At New York he changed ships and carried on to the Isthmus of Panama, crossing by narrow-gauge railway to the Pacific side.

(Editor's note: Readers pleased be reminded that the canal, whose existence is but common knowledge today, was little more than a idea in the head of a Frenchman during Begbie's journey).

The next stage of his trip involved taking a mail steamer from Panama to San Francisco, where, it has been speculated, he disembarked for a short stay to survey the likes of the miners he would be dealing with in Cariboo.

On November 16, a little over nine weeks since his Liverpool departure, Matthew Baillie Begbie stepped off the vessel Panama and on to colonial soil in Esquimalt, several miles from Victoria. He was greeted by James Douglas, Governor of Vancouver Island. The pair left almost immediately for Fort Langley where a small ceremony took place that made Douglas, Governor of the colony of British Columbia as well as Vancouver Island; Begbie, a colonial magistrate, and proclaimed an end to the monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company in the area (James Douglas had earlier agreed to give up employment with the HBC as a condition to becoming Governor of British Columbia). Such was the entrance of Begbie to the colony in 1858.

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