powers. The Casa de la Contratacion de las Indias, established soon after the discovery of South America, was organized in 1503. It granted licenses, equipped and despatched fleets, received merchandise for export and cargoes imported and contracted for their sale. It controlled the trade with Barbary and the Canaries and supervised the shipping-business of Cadiz and Seville. Taking cognizance of all questions concerning marine trade, it was advised by two jurists. It also kept the Spanish government informed of all that concerned the colonies. It was a general board of colonial marine trade, and such it remained even when, a few years later, its more important colonial functions were absorbed by a higher department.
Where the colony has been founded by a commercial or by a colonizing company, the mother country controls the colony through the directors of the company; the office of the company is pro tanto the Colonial Office. Yet the later colonial department, as an organ of government, is not a development of these shipping, commercial or colonizing boards. It is a delegation of the sovereign authority. This is at first exercised directly by the sovereign as it was notably by Isabella and Ferdinand. It is next delegated, like almost all functions of the ruler, to his privy council, which assigns the business of colonies to a committee, which again may be set apart as an independent administrative body. The Spanish Council of the Indies, the separate English privy council for colonial affairs contemplated in the first Virginian charter, the Council of Nine appointed by the States-General of the Netherlands, the Swedish royal council, were such bodies. Their powers are everywhere the same. The superintendence of the whole colonial system is entrusted to them. They have supreme jurisdiction over all the colonies. They appoint and may recall viceroys, governors-general, governors and other local officers. They can veto laws and ordinances made by colonial rulers or legislatures. They frame constitutions for the colonies and enact laws. Through the governors and other officers sent out by them, they minutely supervise and incessantly interfere with the whole internal administration of each colony. The tendency of this supreme council is to divorce itself evermore from the privy council and become independent, till at last it is transformed into a ministerial department. Yet an amicable relationship (such as sometimes survives the divorce court) long remains. The Colonial Committee of the privy council in England was summoned as late as 1819, and the Judicial Committee still hears appeals from colonial courts of justice. The government of the commonwealth was naturally averse to the king's council, and a body of special commissioners (Cromwell and Pym and Vane among them) was appointed to govern the colonies.
The Restoration did not at once return to the old system. On the