Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Vancouver, Charles

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VANCOUVER, CHARLES (fl. 1785–1813), agriculturist, was an American by birth, though he can hardly have been, as is sometimes stated, ‘Of Vancouver's Island,’ as that island was named after George Vancouver [q. v.] in 1794. His first book, ‘A general Compendium of Chemical, Experimental, and Natural Philosophy, with a complete System of Commerce,’ was published at Philadelphia in 1785 (see Catalogue of the Boston Athenæum), and in 1786 he is described as ‘Vancouver of Philadelphia’ in Young's ‘Annals of Agriculture,’ to which he contributed an account of the farming of Kentucky. Kentucky was being settled at this time chiefly by emigrants from Virginia and Maryland, and Vancouver had taken up fifty-three thousand acres in that district. His letter to Young is practically an invitation to English settlers to come out to America and farm portions of this vast area (Annals of Agriculture, 1786, vi. 405).

Between 1786 and 1793 he came to England, and, on the establishment of the board of agriculture, he was engaged by Sir John Sinclair [q. v.] to write reports on the state of agriculture in different English counties.

The board published in 1794 an account of Vancouver's tour in Cambridgeshire, and in 1795 an account of a similar tour in Essex. He also visited Sussex for the purpose of a survey. Maria Josepha Holroyd, daughter of Lord Sheffield, speaks of him in July 1795 as a sensible well-informed man, who had visited several countries and profited by his travels (Girlhood of Maria Josepha Holroyd, 1896, p. 326).

Apparently about the end of the century Vancouver returned to his American estates, and he says in 1807 that he has been long engaged in ‘cutting down the woodland and clearing the forests in Kentucky.’ In 1806 he was again in England, and Arthur Young mentions that he was consulted by the secretary of the treasury, Nicholas Vansittart (afterwards Baron Bexley) [q. v.] concerning his tour scheme, of which Vancouver did not approve (Autobiography of Arthur Young, 1898).

Vancouver wrote two more county reports for the board of agriculture: on the county of Devon, 1808 (republished in 1813); and on Hampshire, 1813. William Marshall (1745–1818) [q. v.], who criticised most severely the majority of the board's reports, spoke of Vancouver's ‘Cambridgeshire’ with approval, but regarded his Essex report with less favour, and was yet more qualified in his praise of the Hampshire and Devonshire reports (Marshall, Review, vol. iii., Eastern Department, 1818, pp. 226–7, 473; Gent. Mag. 1818, i. 59). Vancouver also wrote, in 1794, a paper on the drainage of the fens of the Great Level, and especially of Cambridgeshire. This remained unprinted for seventeen years, and was finally issued as an appendix to the octavo Huntingdon report. The date of Vancouver's death is unknown.

[Vancouver's Reports; authorities cited in the text.]

E. C.-e.