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CHARTER—CHARTERED COMPANIES

been received from the labours of French, Spanish, Dutch and American surveyors. Important work is done by the Hydrographic Office of the American navy, and the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. The admiralty charts are published with the view of meeting the wants of the sailor in all parts of the world. They may be classed under five heads, viz. ocean, general, and coast charts, harbour plans and physical charts; for instance, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, approaches to Plymouth, Plymouth Sound and wind and current charts. The harbour plans and coast sheets are constructed on the simple principles of plane trigonometry by the surveying officers. (See Surveying: Nautical.) That important feature, the depth of the sea, is obtained by the ordinary sounding line or wire; all soundings are reduced to low water of ordinary spring tides. The times and heights of the tides, with the direction and velocity of the tidal streams, are also ascertained. These MS. charts are forwarded to the admiralty, and form the foundation of the hydrography of the world. The ocean and general charts are compiled and drawn at the hydrographic office, and as originals, existing charts, latest surveys and maps, have to be consulted, their compilation requires considerable experience and is a painstaking work, for the compiler has to decide what to omit, what to insert, and to arrange the necessary names in such a manner that while full information is given, the features of the coast are not interfered with. As a very slight error in the position of a light or buoy, dot, cross or figure, might lead to grave disaster, every symbol on the admiralty chart has been delineated with great care and consideration, and no pains are spared in the effort to lay before the public the labours of the nautical surveyors and explorers not only of England, but of the maritime world; reducing their various styles into a comprehensive system furnishing the intelligent seaman with an intelligible guide, which common industry will soon enable him to appreciate and take full advantage of.

As certain abbreviations are used in the charts, attention is called to the “signs and abbreviations adopted in the charts published by the admiralty.” Certain parts of the world are still unsurveyed, or not surveyed in sufficient detail for the requirements that steamships now demand. Charts of these localities are therefore drawn in a light hair-line and unfinished manner, so that the experienced seaman sees at a glance that less trust is to be reposed upon charts drawn in this manner. The charts given to the public are only correct up to the time of their actual publication. They have to be kept up to date. Recent publications by foreign governments, newly reported dangers, changes in character or position of lights and buoys, are as soon as practicable inserted on the charts and due notice given of such insertions in the admiralty “Notices to Mariners.”

The charts are supplemented by the Admiralty Pilots, or books of sailing directions, with tide tables, and lists of lighthouses, light vessels, &c., for the coasts to which a ship may be bound. The physical charts are the continuation of the work so ably begun by Maury of the United States and FitzRoy of the British navy, and give the sailor a good general idea of the world’s ocean winds and currents at the different periods of the year; the probable tracks and seasons of the tropical revolving or cyclonic storms; the coastal winds; the extent or months of the rainy seasons; localities and times where ice may be fallen in with; and, lastly, the direction and force of the stream and drift currents of the oceans.  (T. A. H.) 


CHARTER (Lat. charta, carta, from Gr. χάρτης, originally for papyrus, material for writing, thence transferred to paper and from this material to the document, in O. Eng. boc, book), a written instrument, contract or convention by which cessions of sales of property or of rights and privileges are confirmed and held, and which may be produced by the grantees in proof of lawful possession. The use of the word for any written document is obsolete in England, but is preserved in France, e.g. the École des Chartes at Paris. In feudal times charters of privileges were granted, not only by the crown, but by mesne lords both lay and ecclesiastical, as well to communities, such as boroughs, gilds and religious foundations, as to individuals. In modern usage grants by charter have become all but obsolete, though in England this form is still used in the incorporation by the crown of such societies as the British Academy.

The grant of the Great Charter by King John in 1215 (see Magna Carta), which guaranteed the preservation of English liberties, led to a special association of the word with constitutional privileges, and so in modern times it has been applied to constitutions granted by sovereigns to their subjects, in contradistinction to those based on “the will of the people.” Such was the Charter (Charte) granted by Louis XVIII. to France in 1814. In Portugal the constitution granted by Dom Pedro in 1826 was called by the French party the “Charter,” while that devised by the Cortes in 1821 was known as the “Constitution.” Magna Carta also suggested to the English radicals in 1838 the name “People’s Charter,” which they gave to their published programme of reforms (see Chartism). This association of the idea of liberty with the word charter led to its figurative use in the sense of freedom or licence. This is, however, rare; the most common use being in the phrase “chartered libertine” (Shakespeare, Henry V. Act i. Sc. 1) from the derivative verb “to charter,” e.g. to grant a charter. The common colloquialism “to charter,” in the sense of to take, or hire, is derived from the special use of “to charter” as to hire (a ship) by charter-party.


CHARTERED COMPANIES. A chartered company is a trading corporation enjoying certain rights and privileges, and bound by certain obligations under a special charter granted to it by the sovereign authority of the state, such charter defining and limiting those rights, privileges and obligations, and the localities in which they are to be exercised. Such companies existed in early times, but have undergone changes and modifications in accordance with the developments which have taken place in the economic history of the states where they have existed. In Great Britain the first trading charters were granted, not to English companies, which were then non-existent, but to branches of the Hanseatic League (q.v.), and it was not till 1597 that England was finally relieved from the presence of a foreign chartered company. In that year Queen Elizabeth closed the steel-yard where Teutons had been established for 700 years.

The origin of all English trading companies is to be sought in the Merchants of the Staple. They lingered on into the 18th century, but only as a name, for their business was solely to export English products which, as English manufactures grew, were wanted at home. Of all early English chartered companies, the “Merchant Adventurers” conducted its operations the most widely. Itself a development of very early trading gilds, at the height of its prosperity it employed as many as 50,000 persons in the Netherlands, and the enormous influence it was able to exercise undoubtedly saved Antwerp from the institution of the Inquisition within its walls in the time of Charles V. In the reign of Elizabeth British trade with the Netherlands reached in one year 12,000,000 ducats, and in that of James I. the company’s yearly commerce with Germany and the Netherlands was as much as £1,000,000. Hamburg afterwards was its principal depot, and it became known as the “Hamburg Company.” In the “Merchant Adventurers’” enterprises is to be seen the germ of the trading companies which had so remarkable a development in the 16th and 17th centuries. These old regulated trade gilds passed gradually into joint-stock associations, which were capable of far greater extension, both as to the number of members and amount of stock, each member being only accountable for the amount of his own stock, and being able to transfer it at will to any other person.

It was in the age of Elizabeth and the early Stuarts that the chartered company, in the modern sense of the term, had its rise. The discovery of the New World, and the opening out of fresh trading routes to the Indies, gave an extraordinary impulse to shipping, commerce and industrial enterprise throughout western Europe. The English, French and Dutch governments were ready to assist trade by the granting of charters to trading associations. It is to the “Russia Company,” which received its first charter in 1554, that Great Britain owed its first intercourse with an empire then almost unknown. The first recorded instance of a purely chartered company annexing territory is to be found in the action of this company in setting