Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie

Upon BC entering Confederation in 1871, Begbie became its first chief justice.

Matthew Baillie Begbie, judge
As the first judge of the new colony of BC, Begbie quickly won a reputation as a resolute, but fair, upholder of British law and order (courtesy PABC).

Begbie, Sir Matthew Baillie

Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, judge, first chief justice of British Columbia (b at the Cape of Good Hope 9 May 1819; d at Victoria 11 June 1894). Sent from England in 1858 to be the first judge of the new colony of British Columbia, he quickly established his reputation as a resolute, but fair, upholder of British law and order in the scattered mining camps of the colony, the white population of which was largely American. His efforts and those of Governor James DOUGLAS ensured that the colony remained British, to become part of Canada.

Upon BC entering Confederation in 1871, Begbie became its first chief justice. He guided the judicial system of the province to an era of considerable sophistication, displaying characteristics unexpected of a Victorian judge: espousal of the rights of Chinese and native people; a lifelong interest in progressive law reforms and a tendency to take the side of the "little man." In later years he was the social lion of the genteel society of Victoria, where he lived in bachelor comfort.


Further Reading

  • David R. Williams, The Man For a New Country: Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie (1977).