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The Three Charters of the Virginia Company of London With Seven Related Documents; 1606-1621   By:

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First Page:


With Seven Related Documents;

1606 1621

With an introduction by

Samuel M. Bemiss President, Virginia Historical Society



Jamestown 350th Anniversary Historical Booklet Number 4


Introduction v

The First Charter, April 10, 1606 1

Articles, Instructions and Orders November 20, 1606 13

Ordinance and Constitution, March 9, 1607 23

The Second Charter, May 23, 1609 27

Virginia Council Instructions to Sir Thomas Gates, May, 1609 55

Virginia Council Instructions to Sir Thomas West, 1609/10 70

The Third Charter, March 12, 1612 76

Virginia Company Instructions to Sir George Yeardley, November 18, 1618 95 (Sometimes called "The Great Charter")

Virginia Company Instructions to Governor and Council in Virginia, July 24, 1621 109

Treasurer and Company. An Ordinance and Constitution for Council and Assembly in Virginia, July 24, 1621 126


Historians may trace in the Royal charters issued to the Virginia Company of London a course of empire; a Company organized for profit by the ablest businessmen of their time merchants, manufacturers, statesmen, and artists who bound themselves together in a joint stock enterprise. The historian may also find in the three charters here published a pattern for a parliamentary system and its development into the American form of government. He might even perceive the inception of a new society.

The origin of the joint stock company was probably primitive. Its later genesis may readily be seen in the medieval guild. It became an English institution in its application by Sir Walter Raleigh to his magnificent adventures in both honest trade and romantic piracy.

The Company provided an agency for assembling adventure capital and supplying able management to enterprises of great moment. It offered an invitation to the industrious to participate in the growing wealth and expanding power of the great English middle class. It supplied an opportunity to small investors and it limited their liability. It was an adaptation by practical people to practical problems.

Subscribers, or shareholders, met in their quarterly courts to discuss the business of the Company and participate in its management. These courts were the counterpart of our present day corporate stockholders' meetings and were characterized by the same sort of discussions. King James could protest vehemently against the "democratical principles of the Company." He could see in their charters the final death warrant of feudalism. He could execute Raleigh "chiefly for giving satisfaction to the King of Spain." He could revoke the charters in 1624, but he could not stop the rising tide of representative institutions nor darken the great vision of the liberal Elizabethans. A new day had dawned.

The General Assembly which met at Jamestown in 1619 was the natural child of the Company. Some of the planters along the James River were shareholders in the Company. They had a voice in its management. In the management of the civil affairs of the Colony it was, therefore, logical that the plantations should elect their representatives to the local governing body. It was thus that the first freely elected parliament of a self governing people in the Western World came into existence. Its principles were based on those of the corporation chartered and organized for profit by businessmen... Continue reading book >>

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