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LANGFORD, EDWARD EDWARDS, farm manager and magistrate; b. 23 Nov. 1809 in Brighton, England; m. Flora Phillips, and they had five daughters and one son; d. 23 March 1895 in Wallington (London), England.

After retiring from the British army in 1834 with the rank of captain (he had served in the 73rd Foot), Edward Edwards Langford became a gentleman farmer on a property of 200 acres called Colwood, near Slaugham, Sussex. Ambitious, restless, and perhaps dissatisfied with conditions in England, Captain Langford decided to emigrate. A distant relative of Richard Blanshard, governor of the recently created colony of Vancouver Island, Langford secured a position there as bailiff of Esquimalt Farm, a property of some 600 acres, and on 10 May 1851 he arrived at Fort Victoria (Victoria) on the Tory with his wife and daughters.

The farm, which Langford called Colwood, was the first of four established in the vicinity of the fort by the Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company, a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The position of bailiff was an attractive one, for the company paid Langford’s passage to the island, built his house, barns, and stables, stocked the farm, and provided labourers. Langford’s salary was £60 a year and a third of the profits, and he was given unlimited credit at Fort Victoria. He spent four years developing the property, and under his supervision 190 acres of land were cleared and 11 cottages were built for the farm-hands. However, since he possessed neither judgement nor restraint, Langford imposed a financial burden on the farm far in excess of its returns. He lived luxuriously and entertained lavishly, and he built a fine house and expensive buildings, which he later extended without consulting his employers. When short of cash, he appears to have turned to the company, and in 1853 alone he was advanced a sum almost eight times his salary. By 1855 the company, having had similar experiences with its other three bailiffs, Kenneth McKenzie*, Thomas Skinner, and Donald Macaulay, served notice on Langford that his agreement would be terminated in five years.

In 1853 Governor James Douglas* had named Langford, Skinner, and McKenzie magistrates, but almost immediately they were found to be incompetent. The governor intervened and limited their jurisdiction by establishing the Supreme Court of Civil Justice for Vancouver Island on 2 Dec. 1853 and appointing his brother-in-law David Cameron* its chief justice. The appointment was the occasion of much protest and agitation in the colony. A group of disgruntled settlers and HBC men, led by Langford, Skinner, James Cooper*, and the Reverend Robert John Staines*, saw the action as a clear example of nepotism. The following year they sent petitions to England requesting an inquiry into the new court and Cameron’s appointment, and they further complained that in his dual capacity as governor of Vancouver Island and chief factor of the HBC, Douglas subordinated the interests of the colony to those of the company.

The opposition to Douglas was soon carried into the political arena. In August 1856 Langford, now leader of the reform faction, was elected to represent Victoria District in the first House of Assembly of Vancouver Island. When Cameron, recently confirmed as chief justice by the British government, administered the oaths of allegiance to the delegates, it was discovered that Langford lacked the necessary qualification of immovable property with a value of £300. Despite Langford’s protests that the requirement was unconstitutional until approved by the house, his election was declared null and void, and Joseph William McKay was elected in his stead. In late 1859 Langford again presented himself as a candidate, this time for Victoria Town, and published an address attacking Douglas and his administration. A parody pointing out Langford’s unwarranted self-esteem and incompetence was issued anonymously and circulated throughout the town. Discredited, Langford withdrew from the election on 5 Jan. 1860, urging his supporters to vote for Amor De Cosmos, and sued the printer of the pamphlet, Edward Hammond King*, for libel.

The case was heard before Chief Justice Cameron in April. Langford refused to answer questions in cross-examination, and a nonsuit was entered. Since Langford continued to remain silent, Cameron found him in contempt of court and ordered a 24-hour imprisonment and a £10 fine. Friends interceded on his behalf, however, and the imprisonment was rescinded. When Langford failed to pay the fine and ignored an order to appear in court the next day, Cameron had him arrested and charged him once again with contempt, but deferred judgement on compassionate grounds. Langford’s friends paid the costs of his unsuccessful suit, and the matter was dropped. About three months later Langford initiated a similarly disastrous suit against King’s solicitor, George Hunter Cary*. Magistrate Augustus Frederick Pemberton dismissed the case, censuring Langford severely. Langford later launched complaints against judge Matthew Baillie Begbie and Charles Good, chief clerk in the colonial secretary’s office, who he believed were responsible for the squib.

By 1860 Langford’s incompetence and folly had led him to disaster in all his enterprises. He had been dismissed and he was penniless and, no doubt, in debt. According to Begbie, friends and enemies alike made it possible for the embittered man to leave the colony. The Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company extended what Begbie called “undeserved mercy” to him and his family. Friends probably provided money for the journey to England, and on 12 Jan. 1861 the Langfords sailed for London. Upon arrival Langford continued to press his charges of libel against Begbie and Good, but two years later he finally accepted defeat. Nothing further is known about him except that, according to his death certificate, he died a man of “Independent Means.”

Sydney G. Pettit

The parody of Langford’s election address was published under the title “To the electors of Victoria” and signed “E. E. Longford” (broadside, [Victoria, 1859]; copy at PABC); it is reproduced in the author’s article “The trials and tribulations of Edward Edwards Langford,” BCHQ, 17 (1953): 5–40, facing p.17.

GRO (London), Death certificate, E. E. Langford, 23 March 1895. PABC, Add. mss 2431; GR.1372, F142, esp. Begbie to W. A. G. Young, 23 Dec. 1862. G.B., Parl., House of Commons paper, 1863, 38, no.507: 487–540, Miscellaneous papers relating to Vancouver Island, 1848–1863. . . . Helmcken, Reminiscences (Blakey Smith and Lamb). Vancouver Island, House of Assembly, Minutes . . . August 12th, 1856, to September 25th, 1858 (Victoria, 1918). British Colonist (Victoria), 5 Jan., 19 April, 24 July 1860. Daily British Colonist (Victoria), 6 Nov. 1860. G.B., War Office, A list of the general and field-officers, as they rank in the army . . . (London), 1829–34. Walbran, B.C. coast names, 391. A. S. Morton, A history of the Canadian west to 1870–71 . . . (London and Toronto, [1939]). W. N. Sage, Sir James Douglas and British Columbia (Toronto, 1930).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Sydney G. Pettit, “LANGFORD, EDWARD EDWARDS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 10, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/langford_edward_edwards_12E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/langford_edward_edwards_12E.html
Author of Article:   Sydney G. Pettit
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1990
Year of revision:   1990
Access Date:   December 10, 2023