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692

CHARTERED

COMPANIES

These old regulated trade guilds passed gradually into 1599 to 1789, more than 70 of such companies came ioint stock associations, which were capable of far greater into existence, but after 1770, when the great “Compagnie extension, both as to the number of members and amount des Indes Orientales ” went into liquidation, they were of stock, each member being only accountable for. the almost abandoned, and finally perished in the general amount of his own stock, and being able to transfer it at sweeping away of privileges which followed on the outbreak of the Revolution. will to any other person. If we inquire into the economic ideas which induced It was in the age of Elizabeth and the early Stuarts that the chartered company, in the modern sense of the term, the granting of charters to these earlier companies and had its rise. The discovery of the New World, and the animated their promoters, we shall find that Econom!c opening out of fresh trading routes to the Indies, gave they were entirely consistent with the general principles an extraordinary impulse to shipping, commerce, and principles of government at the time and what of the ^ industrial enterprise throughout Western Europe. The were then held to be sound commercial views, earlier com an,es P ’ English, French, and Dutch Governments were ready Under the old regime everything was a matter of monopoly and privilege, and to this state of things to assist trade by the granting of charters to trading associations. It is to the “ Russia Company, which the constitution of the old companies corresponded, the received its first charter in 1554, that Great Britain owed sovereign rights accorded to them being also quite in its first intercourse with an empire then almost unknown accordance with the views of the time. It would have (see art. Russia, Ency. Brit. vol. xxi.). The first re- been thought impossible then that private individuals corded instance of a purely chartered company annexing could have found the funds or maintained the magnitude territory is to be found in the action of this company in of such enterprises. It was only this necessity which setting up a cross at Spitzbergen in 1613 with King induced statesmen like Colbert to countenance them, and James’s arms upon it. Among other associations trading Montesquieu took the same view {Esprit des Lois, t. xx. to the continent of Europe, receiving charters at this time, c. 10). John de Witt’s view was that such companies were the Turkey Company and the Eastland Company. were not useful for colonization properly so called, because Both the Russia and Turkey Companies had an important they want quick returns to pay their dividends. So, even effect upon British relations with those empires. They in France and Holland, opinion was by no means settled maintained British influence in those countries, and even as to their utility. In England historic protests were paid the expenses of the embassies which were sent out made against such monopolies, but the chartered comby the English Government to their courts. The Russia panies were less exclusive in England than in either Company carried on a large trade with Persia through France or Holland, the governors of provinces almost Russian territory; but from various causes their business always allowing strangers to trade on receiving some gradually declined, though the Turkey Company existed pecuniary inducement. French commercial companies were more privileged, exclusive, and artificial than those in name until 1825. The chartered companies which were formed during this in Holland and England. Those of Holland may be said period for trade with the Indies and the New World ha,ve to have been national enterprises. French companies had a more wide-reaching influence in history. The extra- rested more than did their rivals on false principlesthey ordinary career of the East India Company is told in Ency. were more fettered by the royal power, and had less initiative of their own, and therefore had less chance of surBrit. vol. xii. p. 798. Charters were given to companies trading to Guinea, viving. As an example of the kind of rules which Morocco, Guiana, and the Canaries, but none of these prevented the growth of the French companies, it may be enjoyed a very long or prosperous existence, principally pointed out that no Protestants were allowed to take part owing to the difficulties caused by foreign competition. in them. State subventions, rather than commerce or It is'when we turn to North America that the importance colonization, were often their object; but that has been of the chartered company, as a colonizing rather than a a characteristic of French colonial enterprise at all times. Such companies, however, under the old commercial trading agency, is seen in its full development. The “ Hudson Bay Company,” which still exists as a com- system could hardly have come into existence without mercial concern, is dealt with in detail in Ency. Brit. vol. exclusive privileges. Their existence might have been xii. p. 333, but most of the thirteen British North American prolonged had the whole people in time been allowed the colonies were in their inception chartered companies very chance of participating in them. To sum up the causes of failure of the old chartered much in the modern acceptation of the term. The history of these companies will be found under the heading of the companies, they are to be attributed to (1) bad adminisdifferent colonies of which they were the origin. It is tration ; (2) want of capital and credit; (3) bad economic necessary, however, to bear in mind that two classes of organization ; (4) distribution of dividends made premacharters are to be found in force among the early American turely or fictitiously. But those survived the longest colonies : (1) Those granted to trading associations, which which extended the most widely their privileges to outwere often useful when the colony was first founded, but siders. According to contemporary protests, they had a which formed a serious obstacle to its progress when the most injurious effect on the commerce of the countries country had become settled and was looking forward to where they had their rise. They were monopolies, and commercial expansion; the existence of these charters therefore, of course, obnoxious; and it is undoubted that then often led to serious conflicts between the grantees of the colonies they founded only became prosperous when the charter and the colonists ; ultimately elective assem- they had escaped from their yoke. On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that they blies everywhere superseded control by trading companies. contributed in no small degree to the commercial progress (2) The second class of charters were those granted to.the of their, own states. They gave colonies to the mother settlers themselves, to protect them against the oppressions country, and an impulse to the development of its fleet. of the Crown and the provincial governors. These were In the case of England and Holland, the enterprise of the highly prized by the colonists. Prance and Holland, no less than in England, the companies saved them from suffering from the monopolies institution of chartered companies became a settled of Spain and Portugal, and the wars of the English, and principle of the Governments of those countries during those of the Dutch in the Indies with Spain and. Portugal, the whole of the period in question. In France, from were paid for by the companies. They furnished the