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- European Background Of American History - 20/42 -
5. They could buy land without limitation in amount, and as a matter of fact the company gained its first foothold in each of its stations in the East by buying a small piece of land from the native government.
6. The company could send out yearly "six good ships and six pinnaces with five hundred mariners, unless the royal navy goes forth," and these ships should not be seized even in times of special naval restraint, unless the queen's need was extreme and was announced to the company three months before the ships were impressed.
7. They had the right, in assemblies of the company held in any part of the queen's dominions or outside of them, to make all reasonable laws for their government not in opposition to the laws of England, and they could punish by fine and imprisonment all offenders against these laws. 8. Nothing is said in the original charter of the powers of offence and defence, alliance and military organization; but these were probably taken for granted, as they were so generally used by merchants and navigators at the time, and were, as a matter of fact, exercised without limitation by the company from its first voyage.
9. Especial privileges and exemptions were granted to the company by freeing its members from the payment of customs for the first four voyages, by giving them from six to twelve months' postponement of the payment of subsequent import duties, and by allowing them re-export of Indian goods free from customs duties. The laws against the export of bullion were also suspended in their favor to the extent of allowing them to send out on each voyage 30,000 pounds in coin.
10. The organization of this company was comparatively simple, consisting of a governor, deputy governor, and twenty-four members of a directing board, "to be called committees," [Footnote: The word "committee" at that time was used for a single person, as in the case of "trustee," "nominee," "employee," and similar terms] all to be elected annually in a general assembly or court of the company. The governor and committees must all take the oath of allegiance to the English sovereign.
The East India Company remained for some years a somewhat variable body, as each voyage was made on the basis of a separate investment, by different stockholders, and in varying amounts. But in 1609 the charter was renewed, and in 1612 a longer joint-stock investment fixed the membership more definitely. By this time the company had become, in fact, as permitted by its charter, a closely organized corporation, with well-understood and clearly defined rights and powers, and it was soon started on its career of trade, settlement, conquest, and domination. [Footnote: Hunter, "Hist of British India," I, 270-305.] A new type of commercial organization had become clearly dominant.
TYPICAL AMERICAN COLONIZING COMPANIES (1600-1628)
An exactly typical chartered commercial company, which combined all the characteristics of such companies, of course did not exist. The countries with which they expected to trade ranged all the way from India to Canada; the political services which their governments imposed upon them varied from the production of tar, pitch, and turpentine to the weakening of naval rivals; while the personal qualities of the founders of the companies, and the sovereigns or ministers who gave the charters differed widely. Moreover, the later development of many of these companies had but little to do with the settlement of America. Nevertheless, three companies may be chosen which exerted a deep influence on American colonization, and which, with the English East India Company described in the last chapter, are fairly typical of the general system. These are the English Virginia Company, the Dutch West India Company, and the French Company of New France.
The charter of 1606 granted to the London and Plymouth companies was of an incomplete and transitional character; [Footnote: H. L. Osgood, "The Colonial Corporation" (Political Science Quarterly, XL, 264-268). This charter is printed in Stith, Hist, of Virginia, App. I.; in Brown, Genesis of the United States, and elsewhere.] the second Virginia charter, [Footnote: Printed in full in Stith, Hist, of Virginia, App. II., and, with a few omissions, in Brown, Genesis of the United States, I., 208-237.] however, which was granted at the request of the company, May 23, 1609, created a corporate trading and colonizing company closely analogous to the East India Company, as will appear from the following analysis: 1. The company was chartered under the name, "The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the First Colony in Virginia." It was fully incorporated, with a seal and all legal corporate powers and liabilities. In the charter itself were named some twenty-one peers, ninety-six knights, eighty-six of the lesser gentry, a large number of citizens, merchants, sea- captains, and others, and fifty-six of the London companies--in all, seven hundred and fifteen persons and organizations. They included a large proportion of the enlightenment, enterprise, and wealth of the capital, and, indeed, of all England. The grant was made to the company in perpetuity, although, as will be seen, some of its special exemptions and privileges were for a shorter term only.
2. The region to which the grant applied was the territory stretching four hundred miles along the coast, north and south from Chesapeake Bay, and "up into the land, from sea to sea westward and northward."
The possession of the soil was given to the company by the most complete title known to the English law, but with the requirement that it be distributed by the company to those who should have contributed money, services, or their presence to the colony.
3. Its commercial powers extended to the exploitation of all the resources of the country, including mines, fisheries, and forests, as well as agricultural products; and to the requirement that all Englishmen not members of the company should pay a subsidy of five per cent, of the value of all goods brought into or taken out of the company's territory, and all foreigners ten per cent, of the value of the goojis. The company might send to Virginia all shipping, weapons, victuals, articles of trade, and other equipment that might be necessary, and also all such colonists as should be willing to go.
4. Powers of government in its territory were granted to the company with considerable completeness, the charter declaring that it might make all orders, laws, directions, and other provisions fit and necessary for the government of the colony, and that the governor and other officers might, "within the said precincts of Virginia or in the way by sea thither and from thence, have full and absolute power and authority to correct, punish, pardon, govern, and rule" all the inhabitants of the colony, in accordance with its laws already made.
As to offensive and defensive powers, it had the right to repel or expel by military force all persons attempting to force their way into its territories and all persons attempting any hurt or annoyance to the colony. The governor might exercise martial law in the colony, and was provided with the general military powers of a lord-lieutenant of one of the English counties. Thus the company and its colony were organized not exactly as an imperium in imperio, but at least as an outlying imperium.
5. As for special subsidies and privileges, the government of King James was scarcely in a position to make money contributions for such an enterprise, or to give to it ships such as the continental governments might give to their companies; but for seven years the company was allowed to take out all that was necessary for the support, equipment, and defence of its colonists, and for trade with the natives, free of all tax or duty; and for twenty years it should be free from customs on goods imported into Virginia, and should forever pay only five per cent import duty on goods brought from Virginia to England. Among privileges of less material value, but long after remembered for other reasons, the charter promised to the company that all the king's subjects whom it should take to inhabit the colony, with their children and their posterity, should have and enjoy all liberties, franchises, and immunities of free-born Englishmen and natural subjects of the king just as if they had remained or been born in England itself.
6. The duties to be performed by the company as respects the government were very few. In recognition of the socage tenure on which the land was held, a payment of one-tenth of all gold and silver was required; and the members of the council of the company were required to take an oath of allegiance to the king in the name of the company. The main requirement from the company was colonization. It was fully anticipated, and in the preamble expressed, that the process of taking out settlers should be a continuous one; and a failure to transport colonists by the company's efforts would certainly have been a failure to fulfil the conditions of its charter.
7. Although there was no requirement of absolute conformity with the established church of England, yet on the ground of the desire to carry only true religion to the natives it was made the duty of the officials of the company to tender the oath of supremacy to every prospective colonist before he sailed, and thus to insure the Protestantism of the settlers.
8. The form of government of the company in England received much attention in the charter, as well it might, after the failure of the arrangements of the former charter. The membership, quarterly assemblies of the general body of the members, more frequent meetings of a governing council of fifty-three officers, and their duties, were all minutely formulated; and the supremacy of this council, so consonant with the ideas of King James, and so opposed to the needs and the tendencies of the times, was carefully but, as it proved, unsuccessfully provided for. [Footnote: Osgood, "The Colonial Corporation" (Political Science Quarterly, XI., 369-273).] The charter of the Dutch West India Company was granted by "The High and Mighty Lords, the Lords States-General of the United Netherlands," June 3, 1621. It had already been under discussion in the various representative bodies of the Netherlands for fifteen years, and had been a fixed idea in the brain of its projector, William Usselinx, for at least fourteen years before that, [Footnote: Jameson, Usselinx, 21, 28, 70.] advocated in a dozen pamphlets and a hundred memorials and communications, written and oral, to the States-General; and it had the advantage of the state's experience with the Dutch East India Company. The shape given to the West India Company in its charter was not, therefore, merely an outcome of the plans of an individual, but a resultant also of the influence of the earlier commercial companies, of the political conditions of the time, and of the ambitions, economic and political, of the influential merchant-rulers of the Netherlands. [Footnote: Ibid, 2-4.]
1. The company was given for twenty-four years, during which no stockholders could withdraw and no new subscriptions would be received, the monopoly of the Dutch trade on the west coast of Africa, from Cape Verd to the Cape of Good Hope; in all the islands lying in the Atlantic Ocean; on the east coast of America from Newfoundland to the Straits of Magellan; and even beyond the straits on its west coast, and in the southern lands which at that time were still believed to stretch from Cape Horn across the South Pacific to New Guinea. All the non-European
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