Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Second Charter of the Virginia Company -- May 23, 1609

The Virginia Company of London, also known as "The London Company," was formally established by James I's royal charter, granted April 10, 1606. The plan in 1606 was to fund voyages to establish, supply, and resupply colonial outposts in North America. and to seek return through agriculture export, trade, [plunder], and discovery of mineral riches. The main venture became the Jamestown Colony (founded May 24, 1607).

The first few years at Jamestown were extremely difficult. Attrition to disease and hardship was steady and there were no profits to speak of. But it was deemed a national necessity to not let the venture flounder. As we still hear today, some things are too important to allow to fail.

By the spring of 1609 a new scheme was evolved to emphasize the profit potential and draw in a large group of wealthy investors as well as merchant-class men with a few pounds to risk. The Second Virginia Charter of May 23, 1609, created a joint stock company -- a group-invested business enterprise. Apparently, the buy-in price in May 1609 was £12 10s per share. Funds were managed by Treasurer of the Virginia Company Sir Thomas Smith.

The Virgina Company was not alone in the new world. It was in direct competition with the Plymouth Company, which had similar goals and corresponding rights.

At that point in time "Virgina" extended from the 34th parallel -- Cape Fear [North Carolina] -- all the way to the 41st parallel (Long Island). On the earliest English maps of the region, Virginia comprised all land north of Spanish Florida and south of "The Maine" or, essentially, the entire present-day US east coast minus FL and ME.

The first Plymouth colony was a failure. Their Popham Colony only lasted a year and, by 1609, the company was caput, leaving more territory available for the Virginia Company.

Jamestown and Virginia did not start showing any profits until about 1612, from improved tobacco exports, but the total debt of the Company and Colony mounted every year and the investors did not get the returns they were promised in 1609. In 1624 England took over Virginia from private company to Royal Colony, property of the crown.

Many familiar names are seen on the May 23, 1609, Charter.
Here are some notable names, many who who have already been mentioned on this chononology/blog.

Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury

Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton
William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke
Henry, Earl of Lincoln
Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery
Sir Henry Nevil
Sir Thomas Smith
Sir Anthony Cope
Sir Horatio Vere
Sir Thomas Gates
Sir Henry Carey
Sir Walter Cope
Sir Francis Wolley
Sir Francis Bacon
Sir George Somers
Sir Dudley Digges

The charter also names its ruling council, which I quote in full:

"...AND further, We ESTABLISH and ORDAIN, That Henry Earl of Southampton, William Earl of Pembroke, Henry Earl of Lincoln, Thomas, Earl of Exeter, Robert, Lord Viscount Lisle, Lord Theophilus Howard, James, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, Lord Edward Zouche, Thomas Lord Lawarr, William, Lord Mounteagle, Edmund, Lord Sheffield, Gray, Lord Chandois, John, Lord Stanhope, George, Lord Carew, Sir Humfrey Weld, Lord Mayor of London, Sir Edward Cecil, Sir William Wade, Sir Henry Nevil, Sir Thomas Smith, Sir Oliver Cromwell, Sir Peter Manwood, Sir Thomas Challoner, Sir Henry Hobert, Sir Francis Bacon, Sir George Coppin, Sir John Scot, Sir Henry Carey, Sir Robert Drury, Sir Horatio Vere, Sir Edward Conway, Sir Maurice Berkeley, Sir Thomas Gates, Sir Michael Sandys, Sir Robert Mansell, Sir John Trevor, Sir Amias Preston, Sir William Godolphin, Sir Walter Cope, Sir Robert Killigrew, Sir Henry Fanshaw, Sir Edwin Sandys, Sir John Watts, Sir Henry Montague, Sir William Homney, Sir Thomas Roe, Sir Baptist Hicks, Sir Richard Williamson, Sir Stephen Poole, Sir Dudley Digges, Christopher Brooke, Esq. John Eldred, and Jolm Wolstenholme shall be our Council for the said Company of Adventurers and Planters, in Virginia. AND the said Thomas Smith, We Do ORDAIN to be Treasurer of the said Company; which Treasurer shall have Authority to give Order for the Warning of the Council, and summoning the Company to their Courts and Meetings."

In the above, it has to be considered a remarkable coincidence that Henry Wriothesley and William Herbert are the first named Councillors, and each is a prime candidate for "Mr. WH."

Note also Sir William Homney -- yet another Mr WH!

The Booty (as promised)

"And we do also of our special Grace, certain Knowledge, and mere Motion, give, grant and confirm, unto the said Treasurer and Company, and their Successors, under the Reservations, Limitations, and. Declarations hereafter expressed, all those Lands, Countries, and Territories, situate, lying, and being in that Part of America, called Virginia, from the Point of Land, called Cape or Point Comfort, all along the Sea Coast to the Northward, two hundred miles, and from the said Point of Cape Comfort, all along the Sea Coast to the Southward, two hundred Miles, and all that Space and Circuit of Land, lying from the Sea Coast of the Precinct aforesaid, up into the Land throughout from Sea to Sea, West and Northwest; And also all the Islands lying within one hundred Miles along the Coast of both Seas of the Precinct aforesaid; Together with all the Soils, Grounds, Havens, and Ports, Mines, as well Royal Mines of Gold and Silver, as other Minerals, Pearls, and precious Stones, Quarries, Woods, Rivers, Waters, Fishings, Commodities, Jurisdictions, Royalties, Privileges, Franchises, and Preheminences within the said Territories, and the Precincts thereof, whatsoever, and thereto, and thereabouts both by Sea and Land, being, or in any sort belonging or appertaining, and which We, by our Letters Patents, may or can grant, in as ample Manner and Sort, as We, or any our noble Progenitors, have heretofore granted to any Company, Body Politic or Corporate, or to any Adventurer or Adventurers, Undertaker or Undertakers of any Discoveries, Plantations, or Traffic, of, in, or into any Foreign Parts whatsoever, and in as large and ample Manner, as if the same were herein particularly mentioned and expressed; To HAVE AND TO HOLD, possess and enjoy, all and singular the said Lands, Countries and Territories, with all and singular other the Premises heretofore by these Presents granted, or mentioned to be granted to them, the said Treasurer and Company, their Successors and Assigns forever To the sole and proper Use of them, the said Treasurer and Company, their Successors and Assigns forever; To BE HOLDEN of Us, our Heirs and Successors, as of our Manor of East-Greenwich, in free and common Soccage, and not in Capite; YIELDING and PAYING therefore, to Us, our Heirs and Successors, the fifth Part only of all Ore of Gold and Silver, that from Time to Time, and at all Times hereafter, shall be there gotten, had, or obtained, for all Manner of Services."

Royal Signoff and Date

"Although express Mention of true yearly Value or Certainty of the Premisses, or any of then), or of any other Gifts or Grants by Us, or any of our Progenitors or Predecessors to the aforesaid Treasurer and Company heretofore made in these Presents, is not made; Or any Act, Statute, Ordinance, Provision, Proclamation, or Restraint' to the contrary hereof had, made, ordained, or provided, or any other Thing, Cause, or Matter whatsoever in any wise notwithstanding. IN WITNESS whereof, We have caused these our Letters to be made Patent. Witness ourself at Westminster, the 23d Day of May, in the seventh Year of our Reign of England, France, and Ireland, and of Scotland the * * *

The full charter is here:


  1. Second charter of Virginia company is a great blog, I read the information and I remember the times of knights, dragons and gods.I think that is very interesting know about this tipic because It is general history,

  2. William Herbert is the most likely candidate for Mr.W.H. The second half of the Sonnet dedication playfully tells us this. The well-wishing adventurer in setting forth - i.e. An adventurer in The second Charter of Virginia 23 May 1609 who is typeset fourth in the list, William Herbert. In the order as they appear in the charter: Robert, Earl of Salisbury, Thomas, Earl of Suffolk, Henry, Earl of Southampton, William, Earl of Pembroke. The double meaning with 'setting forth' is repeated with 'well-wishing' as the adventurers (investors) were literally wishing for a well. The winter of 1609 was the Starving Time for Jamestown. Excavations dated the Jamestown well to 1609.

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