88. GRANTS FOR TRADE AND COLONIES (1578-1601)

(A) Letters Patent to Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1578)

Elizabeth, by the grace of God, queen of England, etc.... Know ye that ... we have given and granted ... , for us, our heirs, and successors ... , to our trusty and well-beloved servant, Sir Humphrey Gilbert of Compton ... , and to his heirs and assigns forever, free liberty and licence ... at all times forever hereafter to discover, find, search out, and view such remote, heathen, and barbarous lands, countries, and territories, not actually possessed of any Christian prince or people, as to him ... shall seem good; and the same to have ... and enjoy to him, his heirs and assigns forever, with all commodities, jurisdictions, and royalties both by sea and land; and the said Sir Humphrey, and all such as from time to time by licence of us [etc.] shall go and travel thither, to inhabit or remain there, to build and fortify at the discretion of the said Sir Humphrey [etc.] ...

And further that he, the said Humphrey [etc.] ... , shall have ... and enjoy to him [etc.] ... all the soil of all such lands, countries, and territories so to be discovered or possessed as aforesaid ... , to be had or used with full power to dispose thereof, and of every part thereof in fee simple or otherwise according to the order of the laws of England, as near as the same conveniently may be ...; paying unto us for all services, duties, and demands the fifth part of all the ore of gold and silver that ... shall be there gotten....

And for uniting in more perfect league and amity of such countries, lands, and territories so to be possessed and inhabited as aforesaid with our realms of England and Ireland, and for the better encouragement of men to this enterprise, we do by these presents grant and declare that all such countries, so hereafter to be possessed and inhabited as aforesaid, from thenceforth shall be of the allegiance of us, our heirs, and successors, and we do grant to the said Sir Humphrey [etc.] ... , and to all and every other person and persons being of our allegiance ... that with the assent of the said Sir Humphrey [etc.] ... shall now in this voyage for discovery, or in the second journey for conquest, hereafter travel to such lands ... as aforesaid ... , that they ... shall and may have ... all the privileges of free denizens and persons native of England and within our allegiance....

And forasmuch as, upon the ... inhabiting of such remote lands ... , it shall be necessary for the safety of all men ... to determine to live together in Christian peace and civil quietness each with other ... , we ... are likewise pleased ... [to] grant to the said Sir Humphrey [etc.] ... that he and they ... may from time to time ... within the said mentioned remote lands ... have full and mere power and authority to correct, punish, pardon, govern, and rule by their ... good discretions and policies, as well in causes capital or criminal as civil ... , all such our subjects and others as shall ... hereafter adventure themselves in the said ... voyages ... or ... inhabit any such lands ... , according to such statutes, laws, and ordinances as shall be by him, the said Sir Humphrey [etc.] ... , devised or established for the better government of the said people ...; so always that the said statutes [etc.] ... may be, as near as conveniently may, agreeable to the form of the laws and policy of England, and also that they be not against the true Christian faith or religion now professed in the Church of England....

Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, VIII, 17 f.

(B) Charter to the East India Company (1601)

Elizabeth, by the grace of God, etc.... Whereas our most dear and loving cousin, George, earl of Cumberland, and our well-beloved subjects, Sir John Hart, of London, knight, [and 217 others] have ... been petitioners unto us for our royal assent and licence to be granted unto them, that they, at their own adventures, costs, and charges ... , might adventure and set forth one or more voyages, with convenient number of ships and pinnaces, by way of traffic and merchandise to the East Indies, in the countries and parts of Asia and Africa, and to as many of the islands, ports, cities, towns and places thereabouts as where trade and traffic may by all likelihood be ... had; divers of which countries and many of the islands, cities and ports thereof, have long since been discovered by others of our subjects, albeit not frequented in trade of merchandise: know ye therefore that we, greatly tendering the honour of our nation, the wealth of our people, and the encouragement of them and others of our loving subjects in their good enterprises, for the increase of our navigation and the advancement of lawful traffic to the benefit of our commonwealth, have ... granted ... unto our said loving subjects ... that they ... from henceforth be ... one body corporate and politic, in deed and in name, by the name of the Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies ...; and that by the same name ... they shall have succession; and that they and their successors ... shall be at all times hereafter ... capable in law to have ... and retain lands, rents, privileges, liberties, jurisdictions, franchises, and hereditaments of whatsoever kind ... , and also to give ... and dispose lands, tenements, and hereditaments, and to do and execute all ... other things, by the same name, that to them shall appertain to do; and that they and their successors ... may plead and be impleaded ... in whatsoever courts and places ... in all ... actions ... , causes, and demands whatsoever....

And ... we do ordain that there shall be from henceforth one of the same company ... , which shall be called the governor of the said company; and that there shall be from henceforth twenty-four of the said company ... , which shall be called the committee of the said company, who, together with the governor ... , shall have the direction of the voyages of or for the said company, and the provision of the shipping and merchandises thereto belonging, and also the sale of all merchandises returned in the voyages ... , and the managing and handling of all other things belonging to the said company. And for the better execution of this our will and grant in this behalf, we have assigned ... and make the said Thomas Smith, alderman of London, to be the first and present governor of the said company ...; and also we have assigned ... and make the said Paul Banning [and twenty-three others] to be the twenty-four first and present committees of the said company....

And further we will ... that it shall ... be lawful to and for the said governor and company ... present at any public assembly, commonly called the court, holden for the said company ... to elect ... one of the said company to be deputy to the said governor.... And further we will and grant ... unto the said governor and company ... that they ... shall ... have authority and power yearly ... to elect and nominate one of the said company which shall be governor ... for one whole year....[1]

And further we ... grant unto the said governor and company ... that they ... and all the sons of them ... , at their several ages of one-and-twenty years or upwards, and further all such the apprentices, factors, and servants of them ... , which hereafter shall be employed by the said governor and company ... , may, by the space of fifteen years ... , freely traffic and use the trade of merchandise by seas, in and by such ways and passages ... as they shall esteem and take to be fittest, into and from the said East Indies, in the countries and parts of Asia and Africa ... in such order ... as shall be from time to time at any public assembly or court held by or for the said governor and company ... limited and agreed, and not otherwise ...; so always the same trade be not undertaken nor addressed to any country ... or place already in the lawful and actual possession of any such Christian prince or state as at this present is or at any time hereafter shall be in league or amity with us, our heirs, or successors, and who doth not or will not accept of such trade, but doth overtly declare ... the same to be utterly against his or their goodwill and liking.

And further ... we do grant ... that it shall and may be lawful to and for the said governor and company ... to hold court for the said company and the affairs thereof; and that also it shall and may be lawful to and for them ... to make, ordain, and constitute such and so many reasonable laws ... as to them ... shall seem necessary and convenient for the good government of the same company and of all factors, masters, mariners, and other officers employed or to be employed in any of their voyages ...; so always as the said laws ... be reasonable and not contrary to the laws, statutes, or customs of this our realm....

And we ... grant to the said governor and company ... that the said East Indies ... shall not be visited ... by any of the subjects of us ... during the said term of fifteen years, contrary to the true meaning of these presents. And by virtue of our prerogative royal, which we will not in that behalf have argued or brought in question, we straitly charge ... all the subjects of us ....that none of them, directly or indirectly, do visit ... or trade .... into or from any of the said East Indies, or into or from any the ... places aforesaid, other than the said governor and company ... , unless it be by ... licence and agreement of the said governor....[2]

Charters Granted to the East India Company, pp. 3 f.


[1] Members of the committee were also to be annually elected.

[2] Other articles provide penalties and allow for the revocation or continuance of the charter.


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