Royal Charters and beautiful plague

One of the instruments used by the British crown to advance its imperial interests was the issuance of Royal Charters authorizing the creation of corporations to advance the perceived interests of the crown and their loyal supporters. The Hudson Bay Company was a good example in Canada.  The East Indian company was another example. These were used around the world. These corporations were often given monopolistic authority to exploit the people and resources of the new territories. Of course those authorities were always granted by the crown without consulting the wishes of the people who inhabited those territories. Rarely did the European monarchs acknowledge that the indigenous people had any rights to oppose their desire or to own the land or resources even though they had occupied the land for millennia.

The English crown relied entirely on the right of “discovery” in the early phases of their colonial exploitation of the new continent. This is based on the false assumption that the land was “empty” before Europeans arrived.   The doctrine refers to “savages having no knowledge of the Divine Being” and whose ancestral territories were “hitherto uncultivated.” The colonists were royally authorized to wage war against these “barbarians” if necessary and even “to pursue them beyond the limits of their province.” The King even said that if necessary the settlers could “If God grant it, to vanquish and captivate the Indians; and the captives to put to death, or, according to their discretion to save.”

The European colonists took this as a license to do what they felt was necessary—anything and everything—in the pursuit of their exploitation. It is hardly surprising that genocidal actions ensued by those engaged in hot-blooded exploitation. As historian Anthony Hall said,

“Many of those engaged in colonization interpreted the plagues and diseases that had dramatically thinned much of the Aboriginal populations along the eastern seaboard as divine sanction for the effective extinguishment of Indian rights and title in the early charters. In 1631, for instance, Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts explained, “God hath consumed the natives with miraculous plague, whereby the greater part of the country is left void of inhabitants.”

Some might call it beautiful plague.

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