Sir Howard Douglas (1776-1861) was the son of Sir Charles Douglas, the commander of the naval force that relieved Quebec during the siege by the Americans under Generals Arnold and Montgomery in May of 1776. Douglas was born at Gosport, England, and graduated from the Royal Woolich Military Academy in 1794 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He survived the wreck of the troopship Phillis on the coast of Newfoundland in 1775, and the next year continued on to Quebec City and later Kingston, Upper Canada, before returning to England in 1798. In 1799, he married Anne Dundas of Edinburgh, Scotland, and they had a large family. During the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars, he saw military action in Spain and Holland with the Royal Artillery, and later became known as a military theorist, instructor, and inventor. In 1812 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. Douglas was promoted to the rank of major-general in 1821, and this rank qualified him for a colonial appointment as lieutenant-governor. He arrived in New Brunswick on 28 August 1824, and continued in office until 19 February 1831.
Sir Howard Douglas was energetic, personable, and an effective administrator who seemed genuinely interested in the community and its future. His term of office coincided with several years of great prosperity in the colony. He was by far the most popular of all the New Brunswick colonial governors and his lively family added much to the social life of Fredericton. In 1825, he visited the communities in the northeastern part of the colony, the first colonial governor to do so, reorganized the local government in that area, and created the counties of Kent and Gloucester from the huge expanse of Northumberland County. In the same year, disaster struck both the colony and Douglas personally. Government House burned on 19 September 1825, and on 7 October 1825 the massive Miramichi forest fire burned 6000 square miles, an area, roughly, from Miramichi Bay to Fredericton and the Oromocto River. One hundred and sixty people died, and many only saved themselves by seeking refuge in the rivers. Douglas coordinated relief efforts and gained great admiration from the public for his efforts.
With the border between Maine and New Brunswick still in dispute as a result of the failure of Britain and the United States to agree on the boundary line after the Treaty of Ghent, and because of the intrusions of Americans across the border into northern New Brunswick, Douglas reorganized the provincial militia and reported in 1831 to the Colonial Office that there were over 15,000 men ready for service if called upon.
In the field of education, he encouraged the government to establish schools, but is best remembered for being the founder of the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. The college received a Royal Charter in 1829 under the name, King's College, with Sir Howard Douglas as the first chancellor. A fund he established for an annual prize, the Douglas Gold Medal, is still presented at UNB. Douglas was a man of many talents who pursued projects that profoundly affected the colony, and the province, for years to come. He persuaded the legislature to build lighthouses along the coast, helped to lay out a new road between Saint John and Fredericton, promoted agricultural societies, a suspension bridge across the Reversing Falls in Saint John, and a canal across Chignecto Isthmus. In Fredericton, a military barracks and a new Government House built of stone were both constructed during his time in office, and are still in use today. In his dealings with the Colonial Assembly, he showed diplomacy and an ability for managing difficult political situations which included the problem of the power of Thomas Baillie, who had been appointed by the British Treasury as Commissioner of Crown Lands and Surveyor General in 1824 and was therefore virtually independent of the governor and the assembly in the management of Crown lands.
In 1831, Douglas resigned his position as Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick and returned to England where he waged a vigorous campaign against the British government's bill to lower duties on timber entering England from Baltic countries, which, in his view, would hinder colonial exports. His efforts were successful, the bill was defeated in the House of Commons, and Douglas was hailed as having saved the British North American timber trade. From 1835 until 1841 he served as Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, and from 1842-1847 as the member of parliament for Liverpool.
In his later years, he continued his interest in science and technology, in particular ship armour and the development of propellers for steamships. Many honours and decorations were bestowed upon him before his death, which occurred at Tunbridge Wells, England, on 9 November 1861.