Colony of British Columbia Proclaimed November 19, 1858

Governor James Douglas

Governor James Douglas (creative commons image)

One hundred and fifty four years ago today, the colony of British Columbia was officially proclaimed at Fort Langley.

On July 1, 1858, Britain’s Colonial Secretary Edward B. Lytton introduced a bill in British Parliament to create a crown colony of the Hudson’s Bay Company territories west of the Rockies, referred to as New Caledonia.

One of the chief purposes of the bill was to force the Hudson’s Bay Company to relinquish its control over New Caledonia.

“The Hudson’s Bay Company have hitherto had an exclusive right to trade with the [First Nations] in the Fraser River territory but they have had no other right whatever. They have had no right to exclude strangers, no right of government, or of occupation of the soil.”

The land was re-named ‘British Columbia’ by Queen Victoria and she gave her royal assent on August 2, 1858.

On November 19, 1858, the Governor of Vancouver Island, James Douglas, was sworn in as the Governor of the colony of British Columbia by Judge Begbie at Fort Langley.

Here is a report of the event from the Victoria Gazette on November 25, 1858:

On Friday morning, the 19th instant, His Excellency [James Douglas], accompanied by the Captain Grant disembarked on the wet loamy bank of the Fort and the procession proceeded up the steep bank which leads to the palisade.  Arrived there, a salute of 18 guns commenced pealing from the [steamship] “Beaver” awakening all the echoes of the opposite mountains.  In another moment the flag of Britain was floating, or to speak the truth, dripped over the principal entrance.  Owing to the unpropitious state of the weather, the meeting which was intended to have been held in the open air was convened in the large room at the principal building.  About 100 persons were present.

“The ceremonies were commenced by His Excellency  addressing Mr. Begbie and delivering to him Her Majesty’s Commission as Judge in the Colony of British Columbia.  Mr. Begbie then took the oath of Allegiance and the usual oaths on taking office and then addressing His Excellency took up her Majesty’s Commission appointing him the Governor and proceeding to read it at length.  Mr. Begbie then administered to Governor Douglas the usual oaths of office, viz.: Allegiance, Abjuration, etc.  His Excellency being then duly appointed and sworn in, proceeded to issue the Proclamation of the same day, 19th instant, vis.: one (40) proclaiming the act; a second, indemnifying all the officers of the Government from any irregularities which may have been committed in the interval before this proclamation of the act; and a third, proclaiming English Law to be the Law of the Colony.  The reading of these was preceded by His Excellency’s Proclamation of the 3rd instant setting forth the Revocation of Her Majesty of all the exclusive privileges of the Hudson Bay Company.”