Commission of 1st Governor of the Colony of British Columbia
This document, known as the Douglas Commission, appointed James Douglas as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the newly created Colony of British Columbia. Issued in September 1858, the document consists of three large parchment pages attached to the Great Seal of Queen Victoria. Provincial Archivist Willard Ireland (1940-1974) deemed it to be as valuable to BC as the handwritten US constitution to Americans. It has been described by constitutional authorities as one of the most important documents in BC’s history.
Douglas was sworn in on November 19, 1858, the date considered to be the birth of our present-day province. His authority derived from the commission, which gave him almost unlimited power “to make ordain and establish all such laws institutions and ordinances as may be necessary for the peace order and good government of Our Subjects”.
One of Douglas’ first actions as governor was to proclaim into force some British Acts, notably the one which had created the mainland Colony of British Columbia and one which applied English law as it then existed to the new colony. The commission therefore represents the introduction of colonial government and English law, which formed the basis of BC’s constitution and laws.