Government in Proto British Columbia: Company State, history, multiculturalism,  First Nations,


For 150 years the Nation State has been
the dominant form of government. People today can hardly imagine anything else. But for most of history a host of other forms have thrived. The Company State was
both fully business and fully government . The Hudson Bay Company and East India
Company were the largest. Between them they governed ten percent of the Earth’s
surface and population. As governments they held the title ‘Honorable’. Their
headquarters were next to each other in London. They shared both people and ideas. These Company States protected their interests from the Nation State. They
occasionally turned their guns on the Royal Navy and had different foreign
policies. The HBC government was neutral toward Russia in Alaska while Britain
fought it in the Crimea. Company States were not just state-like or
quasi-governmental nor ‘imitations’ or ‘extensions’ of the Nation State. They
should be understood as governments on their own terms. The Honorable Hudson Bay
Company was the legal government in the Hudson Bay watershed and it governed
Columbia to the Pacific Ocean through 21-year agreements. In proto British
Columbia it created and defended settlements, managed the economy and
administered transportation, communication and legal systems. It was
not a Nation State with total sovereignty over bound territory. It
shared overlapping heteronomy with First Nations and it respected their
legitimacy. Its economic success depended on healthy Native communities and
cultures. Many Aboriginal people embraced the global economy, welcomed manufactured
products and provided export goods. Some became the Home Guard around each
trading community, acting as middlemen for trade and providing defence. The
Hudson Bay Company state was secular banned missionaries, encouraged mixed-race
marriages and restricted European settlement. It practiced harm reduction
over prohibition, it managed resources to protect the environment refusing to
purchase endangered animals. The medical and education it provided for free. It
gave food and shelter to those in difficulty. The beginnings of our Welfare
State can be found here. Britain empowered it to administer criminal and
civil law in Columbia with limits. The Company declared the limits ‘Repugnant’
and ignored them. A Canadian court later validated this position. The Honourable
Company had fought France years earlier . When it seemed war would decide the US
border, the Company committed to raising an army of two thousand to defend
Columbia. It wanted its army led by British officers. Britain wanted the
Company Army led by company officers. Britain replaced company government on
Vancouver Island by appointing its own Governor. He had the Royal Navy bomb a
native village, lost the respect of the Company and resigned. Britain asked the HBC
to take back government but on its behalf. Britain declared jurisdiction
over the islands but not the mainland until its 21 year agreement expired.
Douglas began treaties with First Nations offering annual payments in
perpetuity. The Chiefs wanted lump sum payments instead. Enemies of the Company
State grew stronger in Britain. On the same day, August 2, 1858 it abolished
the powers of government of both the East India Company and Hudson Bay
Company in British Columbia. The HBC took over East India Company buildings in
London. Newly arrived settlers overturned HBC policies. They took land without
treaty forced Aboriginal children into residential schools and banned cultural
practices like the potlatch and passed racist legislation. In 1869 the Company
relinquished its charter territory government and “all the rights of
government exercised or assumed in other parts of British North America”. When told
that Canada had taken over government Aboriginal people under Louis Riel
rebelled. Riel said they “would not admit any Governor unless he was appointed by
the Hudson Bay Company”. The first Victoria Parliament Buildings were in
the East India Company style. When the hybrid/government corporation split, the
Honourable part became the BC government while the Hudson Bay Company part spun
off into many important businesses giving us the British Columbia we know
today.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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