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Memorable Manitobans: William Bachelor Coltman (?-1826)

Merchant.

Born in England, Coltman came to Quebec in 1799 and soon established himself as a merchant. He was appointed to the Lower Canadian Executive Council in 1812. In 1816 he and John Fletcher were appointed as justices of the peace for the Indian territory of the Northwest by Governor Sherbrooke. Subsequently they were given a special commission to investigate the fur-trade war in the West, which had recently produced the Battle of Seven Oaks. Coltman’s trading companies had supplied the fur trade, and both sides thought he would be sympathetic. Both Fletcher and Coltman headed west, but only Coltman carried on to Red River, where he arrested Lord Selkirk and took thousands of pages of deposition. To Selkirk’s chagrin, Coltman’s subsequent 1818 report not only refused to support the legal position of the Hudson's Bay Company in the dispute but sympathized with the North West Company’s position while condemning the use of violence by both sides. The report (“A General Statement and Report Relative to the Disturbances in the Indian Territories of British North America ...,” reprinted in G. B. Parliament, House of Commons Paper, 1819, 18, no. 584: 1-288) provides one of the best sources of documentation for the fur-trade war. Coltman later advocated the legislative union of Upper and Lower Canada. He died in London.

More information:

William Bachelor Coltman, Dictionary of Canadian Biography VI, 166-68.

Sources:

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Page revised: 31 July 2008

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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