The Virginia Company of London governed the affairs of Jamestown for 18 years. This work, a verbatim transcription of the three successful charters defining the scope and authority of the Company and listing its stockholders in England and Virginia, sheds light on the budding libertarian and entrepreneurial thinking which helped to sire the first British colony in North America.
The 10 documents transcribed for this publication are: The First Charter, April 10, 1606; Articles, Instructions and Orders, November 20, 1606; Ordinance and Constitution, March 9, 1607; The Second Charter, May 23, 1609; Virginia Council Instructions to Sir Thomas Gates, May 1609; Virginia Council Instructions to Sir Thomas West, 1609/10; The Third Charter, March 12, 1612; Virginia Company Instructions to Sir George Yeardley, November 18, 1618 (sometimes called “The Great Charter”); Virginia Company Instructions to Governor and Council in Virginia, July 24, 1621; and Treasurer and Company, An Ordinance and Constitution for Council and Assembly in Virginia, July 24, 1621.
The text of the charters is taken from a contemporary copy discovered among the Chancery Rolls of the Public Record Office in London shortly before this work’s original publication, which marked the first time the charters had been published as a unit. The accompanying documents serve to illustrate some of the practical issues pertaining to the administration of the colony, and, taken together, this collection may be construed as the Virginia “constitution” for the colony’s first 15 years of existence.
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