Of the political institutions of Holland not so much need be said, for New Netherland was a commercial not a political creation, the factory of a trading company, not a self-governing colony. Yet, under the general control of the West India Company, municipal institutions were established at Manhattan, and in the form of the patroonships feudal powers were granted to large landholders along the Hudson and Long Island Sound; and in both these cases the models were drawn in large part from the home land.
The United Netherlands was a confederation of seven provinces, Holland being far the most influential. But Holland itself, as was true of the others, was in many respects a confederation of municipalities. The peculiar history of the country had been such that from a comparatively early period the towns and cities had obtained charters from their overlord, the count of Holland, or from lesser noblemen, granting them the most extensive rights and privileges. These rights had continued to be extended till the power of the count within the towns was narrowly restricted. His representative was the schout, but that official exercised rather a prosecuting and executing than an independent power, bringing offenders before a town court, [Footnote: Davies, History of Holland, I., 77.] and carrying out its judgments.
The schepens who made up this court, with two or more burgomasters and a certain number of prominent citizens, organized as a council or vroedschap, carried on the affairs of the city, making its laws, exercising its jurisdiction, and administering its finances in almost entire independence of the central government. [Footnote: Fruin, Geschiedniss der Staatsinstellingen in Nederland,68, 69.] The representatives of the larger towns, along with the deputies of the nobles, also made up the states of Holland, any one city having the right of veto in any proposed national action. [Footnote: Davies, History of Holland, I, 85.] Outside of the towns the open country was either domains of the count, or fiefs held from him by church corporations or nobles. On the latter many old feudal powers survived through the sixteenth century. The nobles exercised always low and sometimes high jurisdiction, they taxed their own tenants, they carried on private war with other nobles, and they enjoyed an exemption from the payment of taxes. The feudal conditions in these rural domains and the highly developed internal organization of the cities seem at first glance diametrically opposed; but, after all, their relation to the central government was much the same, the city being treated as a fief held by its council; [Footnote: Jameson, in Magazine of Am. Hist., VIII., chap, i, 316.] and as a matter of fact it was these two institutions which were introduced into New Netherland. [Footnote: O'Callaghan, Documentary History of New York, I., 385-394.]
THE SYSTEM OP CHARTERED COMMERCIAL COMPANIES
The priority of Portugal and Spain in distant adventure did not secure them from the competition of the other nations of Europe, whose awakening activity, ambition, and enterprise perceived clearly the advantages of the New World and of the new routes to the south and east. Almost within the first decade of the sixteenth century an Englishman cries out: "The Indies are discovered and vast treasures brought from thence every day. Let us, therefore, bend our endeavors thitherwards, and if the Spaniards or Portuguese suffer us not to join with them, there will be yet region enough for all to enjoy." [Footnote: Lord Herbert (1511), quoted in Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, II., 39.] Soon England, France, and the Netherlands were sending exploring and trading expeditions abroad, and somewhat later they all aimed at colonial empires comparable with that of Spain. These colonial settlements were chiefly made for commercial profit and depended closely on a new and peculiar type of commercial organization, the well-known chartered companies. It was these companies which established the greater number of American colonies, and the ideals, regulations, and administrative methods of corporate trading were interwoven into their political fabric.
Revolutions in commerce have been as frequent, as complete, and, in the long run, as influential as have been revolutions in political government. Europe in the fifteenth century had a clearly marked and well-established method of international commerce; yet before the sixteenth century was over a fundamentally different system grew up, which was destined not only to characterize trade during the next two hundred years, but, as has been said, to exercise a deep influence on the settlement and government of colonies in general and on the policy of their home governments.
A complete contrast exists between international trade in 1400 and 1600. The type of commerce characteristic of the earlier period was carried on by individual merchants; that belonging to the later period by joint-stock companies. Under the former, merchants depended on municipal support and encouragement; under the latter they acted under charters received from national governments. The individual merchants of the earlier period had only trading privileges; the organized companies of the later time had political powers also. In the fifteenth century the merchants from any one city or group of cities occupied a building, a quarter, or fondaco, in each of the foreign cities with which they traded; in the seventeenth they more usually possessed independent colonies or fortified establishments of their own on the coasts of foreign countries. In the earlier period trading operations were restricted to Europe; in the later they extended over the whole world.
The essential elements of the organization of trade at the period chosen for this description are its individual character, its restriction to well-marked European limits, and its foundation upon concessions obtained by town governments.
At the beginning of the fifteenth century there were five principal groups of trading cities, whose merchants carried on probably nine- tenths of the commerce of Europe. These groups were situated: (1) in northern Italy; (2) in southern France and Catalonia; (3) in southern Germany; (4) in northern France and Flanders; (5) in northern Germany. Two of them were in the south of Europe, and found their most considerable function in transmitting goods between the Levant and Europe; the Hanse towns of northern Germany, at the other extremity of Europe, carried the productions of the Baltic lands to the centre and south; the Flemish and south German groups, intermediate between the two, exchanged among themselves and transmitted goods from one part of Europe to another. There were of course, vast differences of organization among the trading towns. Venice and Cologne, Barcelona and Augsburg, Bruges and Lubeck were too far separated in distance, nationality, the nature of their trade, and the degree of their development to have the same institutions. And yet there were many similarities.
The city authorities obtained for their citizens the privileges of buying and selling within certain districts and under certain restrictions, and very frequently of having their own warehouses, dwelling houses, and selling-places. Examples are to be found in the fondachi of Venice, Genoa, and other Italian, French, and Catalan cities, established in the Greek and Mohammedan districts of the eastern Mediterranean, on the basis of grants given by the rulers of those lands and cities. Just as characteristic examples can be found in western Europe; in London the "Steelyard" was a group of warehouses, offices, dwellings, and court-yards owned jointly by the towns of the Hanseatic League, and occupied by merchants from those towns who came to England to trade under the concessions granted them by the English government. [Footnote: Lappenberg, Geschichte des Hansischen Stahlhofes zu London.] The south Germans had their fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, and the north Germans their "St. Peter's Yard" in Novgorod. The Venetian merchants trading to the city of Bruges usually met for mercantile purposes in the house of a Flemish family named Van de Burse, a name which is said to have given the word "bourse" to the languages of modern Europe. [Footnote: Mayr, in Helmolt, History of the World, VII., 81.]
The union among the merchants of any one city or league was one for joint trading privileges only, not for corporate investment or syndicated business. Each merchant or firm traded separately and independently, simply using the warehouse and office facilities secured by the efforts of the home government, and enjoying the permission to trade, exemption from duties, and whatever other privileges might have been obtained for its merchants by the same power. The necessity for obtaining such concessions arose from the habit of looking at all international intercourse as to a certain degree abnormal, and of disliking and ill-treating foreigners. Hence the Germans in London, the Venetians in Alexandria, the Genoese in Constantinople, for instance, needed to have permission respectively from the English, the Mameluke, and the Greek governments to carry on their trade. Although they found it highly desirable for many reasons to hold a local settlement of their own in those cities, such a possession was not a necessary accompaniment of the individual and municipally regulated commerce of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. Where but a few traders made their way to any one market, and that only irregularly, they lodged with natives, sold their goods in the open market-place, organized no permanent establishment, and had no consulate. On the other hand, where trade was extensive and constant, the settlement was like a part of the home land located in the midst of a foreign population.
As the fifteenth century progressed many influences combined to bring about a change in this system. The most important one of these influences was the growth of centralized states in the north, centre, and west of Europe. As Russia, Denmark, Sweden, England, Burgundy, and France became strong, the self-governing cities within these countries necessarily became politically weak; and the trading arrangements they had made among themselves became insecure. Strong nationalities were impatient of the claims of privilege made by foreigners settled or habitually trading in their cities; the interests of their own international policy often indicated the desirability of either favoring or opposing bodies of merchants, which in the time of their weakness the governments had treated with exactly the opposite policy; finally, the desire of their own citizens for the advantages of their own foreign trade often commended itself to the rulers as an object of settled policy. [Footnote: Schanz, Englische Handelspolitik.] In other words, national interests and municipal interests were often opposed to one another.
Internal difficulties in many cities and internal dissensions in the leagues of cities helped to weaken the towns as guarantors of the trade of their citizens. As a result of these political influences, before the fifteenth century was over the distribution of commerce was much changed and municipal control was distinctly weakened. The Italian and the German cities became less active and wealthy, while London, Lisbon, Antwerp, and many other centres grew richer. Individual cities and even leagues of cities ceased to be able to negotiate with other municipalities or with potentates to obtain trading privileges for their citizens, since such matters were now provided for by commercial treaties formed by national governments. One of the main characteristics of earlier commerce, its dependence on city governments, thus passed away.
Then came the opening up of direct commerce by sea with the East Indies, the discovery of America, and the awakening of ambition, enterprise, and effort on the part of new nations to make still further explorations and to develop new lines of commerce. The old organization of commerce was profoundly altered when its centre of gravity was shifted westward to the Atlantic seaboard, and Europe got its Oriental products for the most part by an ocean route. Cities which had for ages had the advantage of a good situation were now unfavorably placed. Venice, Augsburg, Cologne, and a hundred other towns which had been on the main highways of trade were now on its byways. Many of these towns made strenuous, and in some cases and for a time successful, efforts to conform to the new conditions. [Footnote: Mayr, in Helmolt, History of the World, VII, 64-66.] Vigorous industry, trade, and commerce continued to exist in many of the old centres, and some of the most famous "merchant princes" of history, such as the Fuggers and the Medici, built up their fortunes in the old commercial cities in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Nevertheless, these were the exception rather than the rule, and such successes were due to financial rather than commercial operations. In a general sense the old commerce of Europe, so far as it followed its accustomed lines, suffered a grievous decline. More important than the decay of the old method was the growth of the new. A vast mass of new trade came into existence; spices and other Oriental products, now that they were imported by the Portuguese and afterwards by Spanish, Dutch, French, and English, by direct routes and by water carriage, were greatly cheapened in price, and thus made attainable by many more people and much more extensively consumed. The early explorers of America failed to find either the route to the East or the Eastern goods which they sought, but they found other articles for which a demand in Europe either already existed or was ultimately created. Sea-fish abounded on the northeastern coasts of America to a degree that partially made up their loss to the disappointed seekers for a northwest passage. Whale oil and whalebone were obtained in the same waters. Dye-woods, timber, and ship stores were found on the coasts farther south. Furs became one of the most valued and most permanent imports from America. Gradually, as habits in Europe changed, other products came to be of enormous production and value. Sugar stands in the first rank of these later products; tobacco, cocoa, and many others followed close upon it. As colonists from Europe became established in the New World they must be provided with European and Asiatic goods, and this gave additional material for commerce. Besides creating an increased commerce with the East and a new commerce with the West, the awakened spirit of enterprise and the new discoveries widened the radius of trade of each nation. Men learned to be bold, and the merchants of each European country carried their national commerce over all parts of Europe and far beyond its limits to the newly discovered lands. English, Dutch, French, and Danish merchants met in the ports of the White Sea and in those of the Mediterranean, and competed with one another for the commerce of the East and the New World. Trading to a distance was the chief commercial phenomenon of the sixteenth century, and was more influential than any other one factor in the transformation of commerce then in progress. Distant trading proved to have different requirements from anything that had gone before: it needed the political backing of some strong national government; it needed, or was considered to need, a monopoly of trade; and it needed the capital of many men.
These requirements were not felt in Portugal and Spain as they were in the other countries of Europe, because each of those countries had control of an extensive and lucrative field of commerce, and because in them government itself took the direction of all distant trading. The Portuguese monopoly of the trade with the coast of India and with the Spice Islands was practically complete. Through most of the sixteenth century her ships alone rounded the Cape of Good Hope; her only rivals in trade in the East were the Arabs, who had been there long before her, and their traffic was restricted to a continually diminishing field.
Until Portugal was united with Spain in 1580, and after that until Holland broke in on the Portuguese-Spanish monopoly of the East Indies in 1595, her control of Eastern commerce was as nearly perfect as could be wished. [Footnote: Cunningham, Western Civilization, II., 183-190.] Government regulation of this commerce extended almost to the entire exclusion of individual enterprise. The fleets which sailed to the East Indies were determined upon, fitted out, and officered by the government, just as those of Venice were. [Footnote: Saalfeld, Geschichte des Portugessche Kolonialwesens, 138, etc., quoted in Cunningham, II., 187.] The Portuguese annual fleet sent to the Indies counted sometimes as many as twenty vessels. In the one hundred and fifteen years between 1497 and 1612 eight hundred and six ships were sent from Portugal to India, [Footnote: Hunter, Hist. of British India, I., 165.] all equipped for the voyage and fitted out by the government with cannon and provided with armed forces.
The management of the fleet was in the hands of the government office known as the Casa da India. The merchants who shipped goods in these vessels and brought cargoes home in them were, it is true, independent traders, carrying on their business as a matter of private enterprise;[Footnote: Cunningham, Western Civilization, II., 187.] but they were subject to government regulations at every turn and supported by government at every step. At first foreign merchants were admitted to the Eastern trade under these conditions, but subsequently it was restricted to Portuguese, and ultimately became a government monopoly. Under this system Lisbon became one of the greatest commercial cities of the world. Venetian, Florentine, German, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Hanse merchants took up their residence in Lisbon, purchased East Indian goods from the merchants who imported them, and dealt in other imports and exports resulting from this activity of trade.[Footnote: Mayr, in Helmolt, History of the World, VII., 70.] In Spain the government regulation of commerce was scarcely less close. All goods which were sent from Spain to America must be shipped from the one port of Seville, and they must be landed at either one or other of two American ports—Vera Cruz, in Mexico, or Portobello, on the Isthmus of Panama. Two fleets were sent from Seville each year, one for each of these destinations. All arrangements for these fleets, all licenses for those who shipped goods in them, and all jurisdiction over offences committed upon them were in the hands of the government establishment of the Casa de Contractacion at Seville. [Footnote: Veitia Linage, Spanish Rule of Trade to the West Indies, book I., chap. iii.] No intruders were allowed in the Spanish colonies; the only persons who could take part in the trade were merchants of Seville, native or foreign, who were specially licensed by the government. Monopoly as well as government support was thus secured to the distant traders between Spain and her colonies in the West and in the East Indies.
For two hundred years this system of government fleets in Portugal and Spain was kept almost intact. Since the government provided merchants with military defence and economic regulation, since it minimized competition among them and guaranteed to them a monopoly of commerce in the regions with which they traded, there was small need of organization or of a union of forces among them. Consequently commercial companies are almost unknown in Portuguese and Spanish history. [Footnote: Moses, Spanish Rule in America, 166-171.] In Spain and Portugal government control of trade was at a maximum. In the other countries of Europe, notwithstanding occasional plans for such control, as in the Netherlands in 1608, [Footnote: Jameson, Usselinx,43.] the part which government took in commercial matters was much less, the part taken by private merchants was far greater. In fact, many of the earliest trading ventures were of an almost purely individual character. The patent given by Henry VII. to the Cabots in 1497, similar letters granted in 1502 to certain merchants of Bristol, [Footnote: Rymer, Faidera (2d ed.), XIII., 37.] a grant to Robert Thorne in 1527, the long series of authorized expeditions from 1575 to 1632 in search of the northwest passage, the charters given to Humphrey Gilbert in 1578 and to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584, and many other patents made out in the sixteenth century to prospective colony builders, all were granted to individuals or to groups of loosely organized adventurers. [Footnote: Brown, Genesis of the United States, I., 1-28.] In contrast both with government—controlled commerce and with purely private trading and enterprise, the chartered companies of England, Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark arose. They were by no means self-controlled and independent companies; they were dependent on their governments for many rights and privileges and for constant support, protection, and subsidy. On the other hand, the governments expected them not only to develop a profitable trade but to furnish certain advantages to the nation, such as the creation of colonies, the increase of shipping, the provision of materials for use in the navy, the humiliation of political rivals, the preservation of a favorable balance of trade, and ultimately the payment of imposts and the loan of funds. They stood, therefore, midway between unregulated individual trading, in which the government took no especial interest, and that complete government organization and control of trade which has been described as characterizing the policy of Portugal and Spain.
Some fifty or sixty such companies, nearly contemporaneous, and on the same broad lines of organization, are recorded as having been chartered by the five governments mentioned above, a few in the second half of the sixteenth century, the great proportion within the seventeenth century. [Footnote: Some are enumerated in Cawston and Keane, Early English Chartered Companies, a still larger number in Bonnassieux, Les Grandes Compagmes du Commerce.] Of course, some of these companies were still-born, never having gone beyond the charter received from the government; some existed only for a few years; and some were simply reorganizations. The formation of these companies marks a distinct stage of commercial development, and furnishes a valuable clew to the foundation and early government of European colonies in America.
England, Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark, as well as Scotland and Prussia, each had an "East India Company"; Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark each had a" West India Company"; England, Holland, and France each had a "Levant" or "Turkey Company"; England and France each had an "African Company"; and a date might readily be found in the seventeenth century when all these were in existence at the same time. The following list of such companies shows their number and simultaneity. The list cannot claim to be exhaustive or absolutely accurate, for the history of many such organizations is extremely obscure, the dates of their foundations questionable, and some companies chartered at the time were, perhaps, not commercial in their nature.
1554. (English) Russia or Muscovy Company.
1576. (English) Cathay Company (first).
1579. (English) Baltic or Eastland Company.
1581. (English) Turkey or Levant Company.
1585. (English) Morocco or Barbary Company.
1588. (English) African Company (first).
1594. (Dutch) Company for Distant Lands.
1596. (Dutch) Greenland Company.
1597-1599. (Dutch) East India Companies (early).
1598-1599. (French) Canadian Companies (early).
1600. (English) East India Company.
1602. (Dutch) East India Company.
1602. (French) Company of New France.
1604. (French) North African Company (first).
1604. (French) East India Company (first).
1606. (English) London and Plymouth Companies.
1609. (English) Guiana Company.
1610. (English) Newfoundland Company. 1611. (French) East India Company (second).
1612. (English) Bermuda Company.
1614. (Dutch) Company of the North, or Greenland Company.
1615. (French) East India Company (third).
1616. (Danish) East India Company (first).
1618. (English) African Company (second).
1619. (Danish) Iceland Company (first).
1620. (English) New England Company.
1620. (French) Montmorency Company.
1621. (Dutch) West India Company.
1624. (Swedish) Company for Asia, Africa, America, and Magellania.
1626. (French) Company of Senegal (first).
1626. (French) Company of Morbihan (first).
1626. (French) Company of Saint Christopher (first).
1626. (Swedish) South Sea Company.
1626. (Swedish) East India Company.
1628. (French) Company of One Hundred Associates of New France.
1628. (French) North African Company (second).
1629. (English) Company of Massachusetts Bay.
1629. (Dutch) Levant Company (first).
1631. (English) African Company (third).
1633. (French) West Africa Company (first)
1634. (Dutch) Surinam Company.
1634. (Danish) East India Company (second).
1635. (English) China or Cathay Company.
1635. (French) Company of West India Islands.
1640. (French) Company of East Africa.
1643. (French) Company of North Cape of South America.
1644. (French) Company of St. Jean de Luz.
1644. (French) Baltic Company.
1647. (Danish) Iceland Company (second).
1650. (Dutch) Levant Company (second).
1651. (French) Cayenne Company.
1655. (French) West Africa Company (second).
1660. (French) China Company.
1662. (English) African Company (fourth).
1664. (French) East India Company (last).
1664. (French) West India Company (last).
1664. (English) Canary Company.
1669. (French) Northern Company (last).
1670. (French) Levant Company.
1670. (English) Hudson Bay Company.
1671. (Danish) West India Company.
1671. (French) Bordeaux-Canada Company.
1672. (English) African Company (last).
1673. (French) Senegal Company (last).
1683. (French) Acadia Company.
1684. (French) Louisiana Company.
1684. (French) Guinea Company.
1686. (Danish) East India Company (last).
1697. (French) China Company (last).
1698. (French) Santo Domingo Company.
When the English commercial companies were to be chartered, it was not necessary to invent an entirely new type of organization. A model already existed ready to hand in the Society of Merchants Adventurers, of which the origin goes back certainly to the fifteenth century, perhaps still earlier. [Footnote: Lingelbach, Brief Hist. of the Merchant Adventurers, xxi.-xxv.] The sphere of trade of this body of exporting merchants extended along the coasts of France, the Netherlands, and Germany, opposite England, and some distance into the interior. [Footnote: Ibid,, xxvi.] It is true that the Merchants Adventurers had many mediaeval features which assimilated them more to the old merchant and craft guilds than to the more modern type of chartered commercial companies which were about to come into existence. They had, like the craft guilds, a system of apprenticeship and different degrees of advancement in their membership. [Footnote: Lingelbach, Internal Organization of the Merchant Adventurers, 8-18.]
The members were all controlled by a "stint," according to which an apprentice in the last year of his term might ship one hundred pieces of cloth in the year; while a full freeman in the society could ship from four hundred to one thousand pieces a year, according to the length of time he had been a member. [Footnote: Lingelbach, Laws and Ordinances of the Merchant Adventurers, 67-74.] They were under strict regulations against forestalling and undue competition. They could display and sell their cloth only upon Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and "No person shall stand watchinge at the corners or ends of streetes, or at other mens' Packhouses or at the house or place where anie clothe merchant or draper ys lodged, nor seeinge anie such in the street shall run or follow after hym with Intent to Entyce or lead hym to his packhouse, upon pain of fyve pounds ster." [Footnote: Lingelbach, Laws and Ordinances of the Merchant Adventurers, 89, 91.]
In many respects, on the other hand, the Merchants Adventurers were quite similar to the later chartered companies, whose period of existence their own overlapped. In fact, considering the early date of their origin, the tardy development of English economic life, and the obstacles to trading in a foreign country even so near as the continental seaboard, the conditions which confronted them were much the same as those which the later companies had to meet, and they met them in much the same way. They obtained a charter of incorporation from the king; they possessed a monopoly of trade in a certain territory, as against other men of their own nation; they had a common treasury for joint expenses; and they acted as, and were even called, "the English nation," in the foreign country which was their abiding- place. [Footnote: Lingelbach, Internal Organization, 29-34; Laws and Ordinances, passim; and Charters of 1462 and 1564.] The Merchants Adventurers, therefore, might be looked upon as a late surviving mediaeval merchant guild, modified in form by the necessity of adapting itself to trading in a foreign country; or it might be considered as the earliest of the modern chartered commercial companies, still retaining in the seventeenth century some of its mediaeval features. Viewed in either aspect, the Merchants Adventurers were a living model for the organization of the new type of companies, and the powers and form of government of the latter show a similarity to the older company which is certainly not accidental.
The five or six English companies whose dates of foundation lie within the sixteenth century all yield in importance, interest, and later influence to the East India Company, which was destined to an almost imperial existence of two centuries and a half, and which may well serve as the representative of the English chartered companies. Its origin was closely connected with the international relations of the last decades of the sixteenth century.
The availability of the port of Lisbon as the western distributing centre for Eastern goods ceased in 1580, when Portugal became a part of the dominions of the king of Spain. As war already existed between Spain and the Netherlands, and was soon to break out between Spain and England, commerce was much disturbed; and after a few years of troubled intercourse that port was closed to the merchants of Holland and England. The union of the crowns of Spain and Portugal at this time had much the same effect on the supply of Eastern goods to these two Protestant seaboard states that the conquests of the Turks in the eastern Mediterranean had had for the Italian cities a century before.
It was not likely that the two most vigorous, free, and commercially enterprising states of Europe would allow themselves long to be excluded from the most attractive and lucrative trade in the world. After England, in her resistance to the Armada in 1588, applied the touchstone to the naval prestige of Spain and showed its hollowness, her merchants and mariners took heart and pressed directly to the East. In 1591 an English squadron of three ships, under Captains Raymond and Lancaster, with the queen's leave, sailed down the western coast of Africa, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, followed the east coast to Zanzibar, and then passed across to Cape Comorin, Ceylon, and the Malay peninsula. They had mixed fortune, but one vessel returned home laden with pepper, obtained for the most part from the hold of a Portuguese prize. In 1595 the first direct Dutch voyage was made along much the same route. Other English and Dutch voyages followed; and in 1600 and 1602, respectively the English and Dutch East India companies were chartered. The following analysis of the charter of the former of these companies will give the main characteristics of the new commercial system: [Footnote: Charters Granted to the East India Company, 3-26,]
1. The charter, granted by Queen Elizabeth on December 31, 1600, was addressed by name to the earl of Cumberland and two hundred and fifteen knights and merchants, whom it created a corporation and a body politic under the name of "The Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading to the East Indies."
2. The territory to which they were given privileges of trade consisted of all continents and islands lying between the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan—that is to say, the east coast of Africa, the southern shore of Asia, the islands of the Indian Ocean, and the west coast of America; so long as they made no attempt to trade with any port at the time of the charter in the possession of any prince in league with Elizabeth, who should protest against such trade.
3. The corporation was for all time; but the privileges of trade under the charter were granted for fifteen years, with a promise, if they should seem profitable to the crown and the realm, to extend them for fifteen years more; and with a reservation, on the other hard, of the power to terminate them on two years' notice.
4. The powers of the company were those of an ordinary corporation and body politic. The members of the company and their employees possessed a complete monopoly of trade in the regions described, so far as English subjects were concerned, having, moreover, the right to grant licenses to non-members to trade within their limits.
5. They could buy land without limitation in amount, and as a matter of fact the company gained its first foothold in each of its stations in the East by buying a small piece of land from the native government.
6. The company could send out yearly "six good ships and six pinnaces with five hundred mariners, unless the royal navy goes forth," and these ships should not be seized even in times of special naval restraint, unless the queen's need was extreme and was announced to the company three months before the ships were impressed.
7. They had the right, in assemblies of the company held in any part of the queen's dominions or outside of them, to make all reasonable laws for their government not in opposition to the laws of England, and they could punish by fine and imprisonment all offenders against these laws. 8. Nothing is said in the original charter of the powers of offence and defence, alliance and military organization; but these were probably taken for granted, as they were so generally used by merchants and navigators at the time, and were, as a matter of fact, exercised without limitation by the company from its first voyage.
9. Especial privileges and exemptions were granted to the company by freeing its members from the payment of customs for the first four voyages, by giving them from six to twelve months' postponement of the payment of subsequent import duties, and by allowing them re-export of Indian goods free from customs duties. The laws against the export of bullion were also suspended in their favor to the extent of allowing them to send out on each voyage 30,000 pounds in coin.
10. The organization of this company was comparatively simple, consisting of a governor, deputy governor, and twenty-four members of a directing board, "to be called committees," [Footnote: The word "committee" at that time was used for a single person, as in the case of "trustee," "nominee," "employee," and similar terms] all to be elected annually in a general assembly or court of the company. The governor and committees must all take the oath of allegiance to the English sovereign.
The East India Company remained for some years a somewhat variable body, as each voyage was made on the basis of a separate investment, by different stockholders, and in varying amounts. But in 1609 the charter was renewed, and in 1612 a longer joint-stock investment fixed the membership more definitely. By this time the company had become, in fact, as permitted by its charter, a closely organized corporation, with well-understood and clearly defined rights and powers, and it was soon started on its career of trade, settlement, conquest, and domination. [Footnote: Hunter, "Hist of British India," I, 270-305.] A new type of commercial organization had become clearly dominant.
TYPICAL AMERICAN COLONIZING COMPANIES (1600-1628)
An exactly typical chartered commercial company, which combined all the characteristics of such companies, of course did not exist. The countries with which they expected to trade ranged all the way from India to Canada; the political services which their governments imposed upon them varied from the production of tar, pitch, and turpentine to the weakening of naval rivals; while the personal qualities of the founders of the companies, and the sovereigns or ministers who gave the charters differed widely. Moreover, the later development of many of these companies had but little to do with the settlement of America. Nevertheless, three companies may be chosen which exerted a deep influence on American colonization, and which, with the English East India Company described in the last chapter, are fairly typical of the general system. These are the English Virginia Company, the Dutch West India Company, and the French Company of New France.
The charter of 1606 granted to the London and Plymouth companies was of an incomplete and transitional character; [Footnote: H. L. Osgood, "The Colonial Corporation" (Political Science Quarterly, XL, 264-268). This charter is printed in Stith, Hist, of Virginia, App. I.; in Brown, Genesis of the United States, and elsewhere.] the second Virginia charter, [Footnote: Printed in full in Stith, Hist, of Virginia, App. II., and, with a few omissions, in Brown, Genesis of the United States, I., 208-237.] however, which was granted at the request of the company, May 23, 1609, created a corporate trading and colonizing company closely analogous to the East India Company, as will appear from the following analysis: 1. The company was chartered under the name, "The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the First Colony in Virginia." It was fully incorporated, with a seal and all legal corporate powers and liabilities. In the charter itself were named some twenty-one peers, ninety-six knights, eighty-six of the lesser gentry, a large number of citizens, merchants, sea- captains, and others, and fifty-six of the London companies—in all, seven hundred and fifteen persons and organizations. They included a large proportion of the enlightenment, enterprise, and wealth of the capital, and, indeed, of all England. The grant was made to the company in perpetuity, although, as will be seen, some of its special exemptions and privileges were for a shorter term only.
2. The region to which the grant applied was the territory stretching four hundred miles along the coast, north and south from Chesapeake Bay, and "up into the land, from sea to sea westward and northward."
The possession of the soil was given to the company by the most complete title known to the English law, but with the requirement that it be distributed by the company to those who should have contributed money, services, or their presence to the colony.
3. Its commercial powers extended to the exploitation of all the resources of the country, including mines, fisheries, and forests, as well as agricultural products; and to the requirement that all Englishmen not members of the company should pay a subsidy of five per cent, of the value of all goods brought into or taken out of the company's territory, and all foreigners ten per cent, of the value of the goojis. The company might send to Virginia all shipping, weapons, victuals, articles of trade, and other equipment that might be necessary, and also all such colonists as should be willing to go.
4. Powers of government in its territory were granted to the company with considerable completeness, the charter declaring that it might make all orders, laws, directions, and other provisions fit and necessary for the government of the colony, and that the governor and other officers might, "within the said precincts of Virginia or in the way by sea thither and from thence, have full and absolute power and authority to correct, punish, pardon, govern, and rule" all the inhabitants of the colony, in accordance with its laws already made.
As to offensive and defensive powers, it had the right to repel or expel by military force all persons attempting to force their way into its territories and all persons attempting any hurt or annoyance to the colony. The governor might exercise martial law in the colony, and was provided with the general military powers of a lord-lieutenant of one of the English counties. Thus the company and its colony were organized not exactly as an imperium in imperio, but at least as an outlying imperium.
5. As for special subsidies and privileges, the government of King James was scarcely in a position to make money contributions for such an enterprise, or to give to it ships such as the continental governments might give to their companies; but for seven years the company was allowed to take out all that was necessary for the support, equipment, and defence of its colonists, and for trade with the natives, free of all tax or duty; and for twenty years it should be free from customs on goods imported into Virginia, and should forever pay only five per cent import duty on goods brought from Virginia to England. Among privileges of less material value, but long after remembered for other reasons, the charter promised to the company that all the king's subjects whom it should take to inhabit the colony, with their children and their posterity, should have and enjoy all liberties, franchises, and immunities of free-born Englishmen and natural subjects of the king just as if they had remained or been born in England itself.
6. The duties to be performed by the company as respects the government were very few. In recognition of the socage tenure on which the land was held, a payment of one-tenth of all gold and silver was required; and the members of the council of the company were required to take an oath of allegiance to the king in the name of the company. The main requirement from the company was colonization. It was fully anticipated, and in the preamble expressed, that the process of taking out settlers should be a continuous one; and a failure to transport colonists by the company's efforts would certainly have been a failure to fulfil the conditions of its charter.
7. Although there was no requirement of absolute conformity with the established church of England, yet on the ground of the desire to carry only true religion to the natives it was made the duty of the officials of the company to tender the oath of supremacy to every prospective colonist before he sailed, and thus to insure the Protestantism of the settlers.
8. The form of government of the company in England received much attention in the charter, as well it might, after the failure of the arrangements of the former charter. The membership, quarterly assemblies of the general body of the members, more frequent meetings of a governing council of fifty-three officers, and their duties, were all minutely formulated; and the supremacy of this council, so consonant with the ideas of King James, and so opposed to the needs and the tendencies of the times, was carefully but, as it proved, unsuccessfully provided for. [Footnote: Osgood, "The Colonial Corporation" (Political Science Quarterly, XI., 369-273).] The charter of the Dutch West India Company was granted by "The High and Mighty Lords, the Lords States-General of the United Netherlands," June 3, 1621. It had already been under discussion in the various representative bodies of the Netherlands for fifteen years, and had been a fixed idea in the brain of its projector, William Usselinx, for at least fourteen years before that, [Footnote: Jameson, Usselinx, 21, 28, 70.] advocated in a dozen pamphlets and a hundred memorials and communications, written and oral, to the States-General; and it had the advantage of the state's experience with the Dutch East India Company. The shape given to the West India Company in its charter was not, therefore, merely an outcome of the plans of an individual, but a resultant also of the influence of the earlier commercial companies, of the political conditions of the time, and of the ambitions, economic and political, of the influential merchant-rulers of the Netherlands. [Footnote: Ibid, 2-4.]
1. The company was given for twenty-four years, during which no stockholders could withdraw and no new subscriptions would be received, the monopoly of the Dutch trade on the west coast of Africa, from Cape Verd to the Cape of Good Hope; in all the islands lying in the Atlantic Ocean; on the east coast of America from Newfoundland to the Straits of Magellan; and even beyond the straits on its west coast, and in the southern lands which at that time were still believed to stretch from Cape Horn across the South Pacific to New Guinea. All the non-European regions of the globe were thus divided by the States-General, with even greater boldness than by Pope Alexander, between the East and West India Dutch chartered companies.
2. Its commercial privileges included a general monopoly and extended to all forms of advancement of trade.
3. As to colonization, the charter provided that the company "may advance the peopling of fruitful and unsettled parts." Usselinx, the original author and the persistent advocate of the plan, would gladly have made more adequate provision for the establishment of colonies, the stimulation of agriculture and mining, good government in these colonies, their religious life, and the conversion of the natives. He had a picture in his mind of a great commercial dominion, settled from Holland and other countries, forming a market for European manufactures, and producing colonial goods for the use of the Netherlands. [Footnote: Jameson, Usselinx, 43.] But the charter was granted in war time, and by a body of aristocratic traders, who, as Bacon says, "look ever to the present gain"; so that the capture of Spanish plate-fleets and the sacking of West Indian settlements are contemplated with as much assurance and interest as are colonization and more legitimate commerce.
4. In view of later disputes between England and her colonies, it is worthy of note that even such an enlightened advocate of a prosperous, self-governing colonial empire as Usselinx should have insisted, in 1618, that the colonists were to pay taxes to the home government, to trade with the Netherlands only, and to have no manufactures that would compete with those of the mother-country. [Footnote: Ibid., 63]
5. The political or semi-public powers of the company, according to the charter, were very extensive: it could form alliances and make war, so long as the war was defensive or retaliatory, could build forts, maintain troops, appoint officers, capture prizes, and arrest offenders on the high seas.
6. By way of subsidy the company was given one million florins, the use of sixteen government ships and four yachts, and exemption from all tolls and license dues on its ships.
7. The duties required of the company were an oath of fidelity to Prince Maurice, the stadtholder, and to the States-General, on the part of its officers; the provision of a number of vessels equal at least to those provided by the government; the return of its ships whenever practicable to the ports from which they had set out; the preservation for military purposes of all prizes captured from enemies of the States-General; the periodical publishing of accounts; and the division, after six years, of all surplus over ten per cent, in such a way that, in addition to what the shareholders received, one-tenth should go to the States-General and one-thirtieth to Count Maurice.
The government of the Dutch West India Company was very complicated, reflecting the political arrangements of the Netherlands and the jealousies of a merchant aristocracy distributed in provinces and cities. There was a governor-in-chief of the company's colonial possessions, but his powers were dependent on a general board of nineteen directors, who were the supreme authority in the regulation of the company's affairs. Below this central body were five territorial chambers, with a combined membership of seventy-eight. The numbers, powers, and influence on the policy of the company of these chambers were in proportion to the wealth of the cities they represented and to the amount of the stock subscribed from these cities. The Amsterdam chamber, which was to subscribe one-half the capital stock, was far the most influential and had the largest number of directors; after it in order came the chambers of Zealand, of the cities on the Meuse, of the cities of North Holland, and of the cities of Friesland and Groningen. These local boards elected the general board, one-third of their number, chosen by lot, retiring each year. [Footnote: Jameson, Usselinx, 33, 34.]
When Richelieu became prime-minister of France in 1624, one of the earliest definite lines of policy he initiated was the formation of privileged commercial companies. [Footnote: Edict of Reformation of 1627, art. 429; Isambert, Recueil General des Anciennes Lois Francaises, XVI., 329.] He saw with great clearness and formulated in a state paper [Footnote: Michaud et Poujoulat, Memoires, I., chap, xviii., 438.] the reasons for recognizing the superiority for distant commerce, under the conditions of that period, of chartered companies over individual traders. He was also much impressed with the power and success of the great East India companies of England and Holland. His first plan was a general French company of commerce, to include all the outlying sections of the world, and at least two such companies were chartered in succession. They came to nothing, and soon gave place to companies authorized each to carry on commerce with a specified part of America, Africa, Europe, or Asia.[Footnote: Pigeonneau, Hist. du Commerce, II., 426-431.] The most important of these was the company of Canada, chartered in 1628 on the plans of Champlain, and intended to take the place of all earlier companies and individual grantees having privileges in that region. The chartered powers and privileges of this company may be analyzed as follows:
1. The region to which they extended was "the fort and settlement of Quebec, with all the country of New France, called Canada." [Footnote: Isambert, Recueil General, XVI., 216-222.] It was described as extending along the Atlantic coast from Florida to the arctic circle, and from Newfoundland westward to the sources of the farthest rivers which fell into the St. Lawrence or the "Fresh Sea."
2. The power of the company over the soil was complete. It was allowed to sell or dispose of it in such portions and on such terms as it should see fit, except that if it should grant great fiefs such as duchies or baronies, letters of confirmation to the grantees should be sought from the crown.
3. The continuance of the company in its full form with all powers and duties was to be for fifteen years, while for other purposes its life was to be perpetual.
4. Its commercial privileges extended during this term of fifteen years to the complete monopoly of all kinds of commerce by sea or land, all former grants being withdrawn; and the company was empowered to confiscate any French or other vessels coming to trade within its dominions. The value of Canada as a source of supply for furs was already known, and the fur trade was placed under the special control of the company forever. The whale and seal fisheries, on the other hand, were exempted from its control, even for the fifteen years, and left free to all Frenchmen.
5. As a form of subsidy the king agreed to give the company two war- vessels of two hundred to three hundred tons, armed and equipped for a voyage; but they were to be victualled, supported, and, in case of loss, replaced by the company. He also presented them with certain cannon formerly the property of the East India Company. The nature of these gifts seems to intimate the possibility of warlike expeditions of the company against the king's enemies and its own, and prizes are referred to repeatedly as a possible source of income.
6. All goods of all kinds brought from New France were to be exempted for fifteen years from all duties and imposts; and all victuals, munitions of war, and all other necessaries exported from France to the colony should be likewise exempt. Other privileges were permission to nobles, clergymen, and officers to join the company without derogation from their rank, and an agreement to ennoble twelve prominent members of the company; full naturalization as French citizens of all colonists and converted natives; and the advancement of all artisans who should pursue their trades in the colony for six years, to full mastership in their respective occupations.
7. The duties the company was bound to fulfil in return for these concessions were primarily those of colonization. The company engaged to take over to New France two or three hundred colonists of both sexes within the year 1628, and altogether four thousand within fifteen years; to lodge, feed, and provide them with the necessaries of life for three years after their emigration; and then to assign to them enough cleared land for their support and enough grain to sow it and to feed them till the first harvest. These provisions showed a clear insight into the difficulties of settlement of a new country, but they also imposed upon the company a crushing burden of expense which required true Gallic optimism to contemplate with any assurance of success.
8. Next to peopling of the colony came the conversion of the heathen. Indeed, this object, with proper piety, was placed in the forefront of the edict creating the company. In each settlement the company was bound to provide at least three priests and give them support for fifteen years, or else provide them with cleared land sufficient for their support. After the expiration of the fifteen years, and for further missionary efforts, the religious needs of the colony were commended to the charity and devotion of the company and the colonists.
9. It was required that all colonists should be natural-born Frenchmen and Catholics. The absolute orthodoxy of this colony from its inception was in striking contrast with the freedom from religious restriction of the colonies planned by Coligny before the civil wars had forced the government to introduce rigorous conformity.
10. The company's rights over the colony were great: they could appoint officers of sovereign justice, who should be commissioned by the crown; and nominate military officials by sea and land over ships, troops, and fortresses, the king agreeing to appoint their nominees. They were empowered to build forts, forge cannon, make gunpowder, and do all things necessary for the security of the colony and its commerce.
11. The charter contained no provisions for the internal government of the company, simply recognizing the existing voluntary organization of one hundred associates, whom it describes as a "strong company for the establishment of a colony of native Frenchmen." As far as membership extends, they were allowed to join to themselves any additional number up to another hundred.
Thus was organized the company which, through the genius of Champlain and with much tribulation, laid the foundations of the colony of Canada.
Considering as types these four companies dating from 1600, 1609, 1621, and 1628, and representing England, Holland, and France, a comparison of their main characteristics leads to the following generalizations:
1. It is evident that there was in early modern times a movement for the organization and chartering of companies for distant commerce, closely dependent on their respective governments. These companies had their period of rise in the sixteenth century; a rapid and wide-spread development in the seventeenth; and a subsequent decline and discredit in the eighteenth. The movement was European; every country whose situation or ambitions would at all admit of distant trading, and whose system of commerce was not, like that of Spain and Portugal, already stereotyped under government control, adopted approximately the same policy.
2. To each of these companies was secured by its charter the monopoly of trade in a particular region. Its members alone had power or right to carry on commerce with a specified people, over a specified extent of coasts or lands, and during a definite period of years. This monopoly might be only as against the fellow-countrymen of the members of the company; but an effort, generally successful, was made to exclude all other Europeans from each reserved field of commerce.
3. The companies were based on unions of the capital of many merchants or other adventurers. An official Dutch letter on the trade with America speaks of "knowing by experience that without the common assistance of a general company navigation and commerce could not be practised, maintained, and defended in the regions and quarters designated above, because of the great risks from corsairs, pirates, and other extortions which are met with upon such voyages." [Footnote: Letters to the Dutch West India Company, June 9, 1621.] The preliminary equipment of ships, the purchase of supplies and merchandise, the acquisition of land, the building of forts and the supply of weapons and military material; the payment of a military force to protect their commerce against natives or interloping Europeans; the expenses, in many cases, of transporting and supporting colonists; and, finally, the long waiting before returns could be reasonably hoped for—some or all of these expenses were inseparable from the whole plan of establishing distant trade. It was no wonder that individual traders gave place to great unions of the merchants of London, Amsterdam, or Dieppe, who risked part of their means and united their resources to form companies to trade with the East and West Indies, Africa, and other outlying parts of the world.
4. Neither the possession of a monopoly nor the creation of a large, joint capital was considered enough to launch an enterprise of this kind. The grant of public or political powers by government was necessary to make its economic objects attainable, and these were given with a free hand. The companies very generally received, explicitly or by implication, rights of peace and war, of supreme justice, of administrative independence, and of legislation for their own territory, members, and servants. A chartered company was in many cases the holder from the crown of a wide fief in which it possessed more than feudal powers. As a matter of fact, the companies generally remained quite dependent on the home authorities, but this resulted from the desire to save expense, from the supremacy of commercial ideals, or from patriotism, rather than from deficiencies in their charters.
5. In the grant of these extensive political powers the home governments had ulterior motives. The seventeenth century was a period of intense international rivalry, and the chartered commercial companies were pieces in the game. It was not mere profit in pounds, shillings, and pence which Elizabeth hoped to obtain from the voyages of the ships of the East India Company, but a weakening of the power and wealth and colonial dominion of Spain. Even in the more peaceful times of James, the Spaniards saw, and were justified in seeing, in the popular interest in Virginia another phase of the national hatred of Spain. [Footnote: Letters from Zuniga to Philip III, in Brown, Genesis of the United States, docs, xxviii.-xxxiii., etc.] It was at the close of the twelve years' truce between the Netherlands and Spain, just when the war was being resumed, that the Dutch West India Company was formed, and its greatest activity was in a warlike rivalry with its great opponent in South America. "The reputation of this crown" was combined with "the glory of God" in the charter of the Canada Company; and most of the commercial and colonizing projects of France in the seventeenth as in the nineteenth century, had a large element of political pride behind them. Sometimes it was warlike conquest, sometimes the expulsion of a rival, sometimes the acquisition of a new base of operations, sometimes the obtaining of a more favorable balance of trade, sometimes mere international rivalry; but whatever the other elements, there were always some political objects in addition to the hope of obtaining dividends from trade.
6. For the history of America, the most important characteristic common to the chartered companies of the seventeenth century is the territorial foothold they obtained in the regions where they possessed their monopolies. It might be only a few acres of ground used for a fort, storehouses, and dwellings, which was all the English East India Company possessed for the first century and a half of its existence; or it might be the almost limitless domains of the Canada or Virginia Company. There was no distinction between two kinds of companies, one for commerce, the other for colonization, but simply one of relative attention given to the two interests, according to the character of the regions for which the companies had obtained their concessions. All the companies expected to carry on commerce; all expected to plant some of their fellow-countrymen on the soil of the country with which they meant to trade. If the region of their activity was the ancient, wealthy, thickly settled, and firmly governed coast of India, the settlers were only a few servants of the company. If, on the other hand, the region for which the monopoly of the company was granted was a broad and temperate tract, occupied by a sparse population of savages, and offering only such objects of trade or profit as could be collected slowly or wrested by European labor from, the soil or the forest, the quickest way to a commercial profit was the establishment on the distant soil of a large body of colonists from the home land.
This necessity for colonization in order to carry out their other objects makes the chartered commercial companies of the seventeenth century fundamental factors in American history. The proprietary companies of Virginia, Massachusetts, New Netherland, Canada, and other colonies were primarily commercial bodies seeking dividends, and only secondarily colonization societies sending over settlers. This distinction, and the gradual pre-dominance of the latter over the former, is the clew to much of the early history of settlement in America. The commercial object could only be carried out by employing the plan of colonization, but new motives were soon added. The patriotic and religious conditions of the times created an interest in the American settlements as places where men could begin life, anew with new possibilities. Hence the company, the home government, dissatisfied religious bodies, and many individuals, looked to the settlements in America with other than a commercial interest. The policy of the companies was modified and eventually transformed by the influence of these non-commercial interests.
As financial enterprises, the chartered commercial companies were subject to such great practical difficulties that few of them survived for any great length of time or repaid their original investment to the shareholders. Some were reorganized time and again, each time on a more extensive scale, and each time to suffer heavier losses. [Footnote: W. R. Scott, "The Royal African Company" (Am. Hist. Review, VIII., 2).] They experienced much mismanagement and softie peculation and fraud on the part of their directors; in some cases false dividends were declared for the purpose of temporarily raising the value of the stock. Their credit was bad, and they sometimes had to borrow money at fifty and even seventy-five per cent, interest. [Footnote: Bonnassieux, Les Grandes Compagnies de Commerce, 494, etc.]
They encountered other difficulties quite apart from the incompetency or dishonesty of their directors. Parliaments and States-General were opposed to monopolistic and privileged companies, and threw what obstacles they could in their way; and political exigencies often forced even the sovereigns who had given them their charters to disavow and discourage them. [Footnote: Letter of October 8, 1607, from Zufiiga to the king of Spain, in Brown, Genesis of the United States, I., 121.] Their greatest difficulties, how-ever, arose from the very nature of the problem which they were trying to solve. Distant commerce with barbarous races, amid jealous rivals, carried on with insufficient capital; the persuasion of reluctant emigrants to establish themselves in the wilderness at a time when the mother-country was not yet overcrowded; the long waiting for returns and the failure of one dream after another—it was these difficulties in the very work itself that led to the failure of most of the companies and the scanty success of the others.
Nevertheless, the companies played a very important part in the advancement of civilization during the period of their existence. They enriched Europe with many products of the New World and the more distant Old World, which could hardly have reached it, or reached it in such abundance, except for the organized voyages of the chartered companies. The formation of chartered companies relieved certain nations of their dependence upon other nations for some of the necessities and many of the luxuries of life. National independence was furthered, at the same time that foreign products were made much cheaper. Spices, sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, tobacco, cotton, silk, drugs, and other articles were made accessible to all. New shipping was built by the companies and additional commercial intercourse created. [Footnote: Bonnassieux, Les Grandes Compagnies de Commerce, 514.] New territories were made valuable and new centres of activity created in old and stagnant as well as in new and undeveloped countries. Above all, the chartered companies were the actual instruments by which many colonies were founded, and a strong impress given to the institutions of these colonies through all their later history.
THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION ON THE CONTINENT
In analyzing the forces which affected the colonization of America, the depth of the impression made upon Europe by the Protestant Reformation can hardly be overestimated. Although the direct and immediate influence of this great movement upon the fortunes of America was great, its indirect and remote effects have been still more important. One of these effects was the creation of a religious motive for emigration which, in conjunction with other incentives, was one of the earliest and most constant causes for the peopling of America.
It is true that the desire for religious freedom was only one among many such impelling forces. The desire to better their fortunes was perhaps the most fundamental and enduring consideration that influenced emigrants. Many settlers came because at home they had failed or were burdened with debt, or had become involved in ill repute or crime, and hoped to make a new start in a new land. Many sought the New World as many still press to the frontier, from sheer restlessness and recklessness, from the love of adventure, the hope that luck will do better for them than labor. Many came as a result of urgent inducements offered by projectors of colonies or agents of shipmasters, as in the case of the early "company servants" or the later "redemptioners" or "indentured servants."
No inconsiderable number came because they were forced to come: the earlier planters of colonies and patentees of lands received permission to seize for their uses men and women of the lower classes, much as men were pressed into naval service; paupers were handed over to the colonizing companies to be shipped to their settlements; repeatedly the prisons were emptied to provide colonists, and commissions were appointed, as in England in 1633, "to reprieve able-bodied persons convicted of certain felonies, and to bestow them to be used in discoveries and other foreign employments." [Footnote: Cal. of State Pap, Domestic, 1631-1633, p. 547.]
Somewhat later, transportation to the colonies to labor for a fixed number of years became a familiar form of commutation of the death penalty, and after 1662 it was made the statutory penalty for certain offences.
Yet among this multiplicity of motives for emigration to the colonies religion held a peculiar place. Many men for whom the dominant inducement was a more material one were partly led by religious motives; many of the changes in Europe that unsettled men and made them more ready to leave their old homes were results of the Reformation. Religious motives were the earliest to send any really large body of settlers to the English colonies, and they remained for more than a century probably the most effective motives.
During the first twenty years of the settlement of Virginia, where the religious incentive was least strong, less than six thousand settlers came over; during the first twenty years of the settlement of New England, where it was strongest, there were more than twenty thousand. The later churchmen of Virginia and the Carolinas, the Catholics of Maryland, the Quakers of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and a great body of Presbyterians, Huguenots, Mennonites, Moravians, and adherents of other sects which were products of the Reformation, sought tinder the more liberal laws of the colonies the religious liberty which they could not find at home.
The working of this influence in England will appear in a later chapter on the religious history of that country during this period; its peculiar development in Germany seems to demand a further word of explanation here. Three forms of reformed doctrine and organization— Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Zwinglianism—grew up on German soil in the years between 1517 and 1555, and obtained more or less extensive recognition and power from imperial, princely, or city authorities. Lutheranism, the most moderate and widely accepted form of Protestantism, was officially established in most of the central and northern and in some of the southern states and cities; Calvinism, less widely extended but more strictly organized, held a similar position in the southwest; while the doctrines of Zwingli, which had been adopted and were enforced in the greater part of Switzerland, spread to a number of those southern regions of Germany from which Switzerland was as yet indistinctly separated. [Footnote: Armstrong, The Emperor Charles V., I., 228-231.]
A vast number of earnest souls were not satisfied with any of these forms of official religion, and even in the earliest days of the Reformation, preachers arose who went beyond the moderate reforms of Luther, Zwingli, or Calvin, and whose teachings gained a ready acceptance. In Saxony, in Hesse, in South Germany, and in Moravia; in the cities of Constance, Strasburg, Augsburg, and Nuremberg; in the Netherlands and in Switzerland, there was much preaching and formation of independent religious communities quite apart from, and indeed in opposition to, the official Reformation. [Footnote: Moeller, Hist, of the Christian Church (English trans.), III., 36, 64, 88, 94.] These radical preachers and their followers represented very different beliefs and practices. That which was common to them all was an acceptance of the Bible literally interpreted as a guide both to doctrine and to church organization. The effort to return to the apostolic organization of the church led them to reject any but an unpaid ministry, and to insist that none should be members of their congregations except such as were personally converted and who conformed their lives to the teachings of the Bible.
Their idea was, therefore, the formation of little companies separated from the surrounding people of the world rather than the Lutheran or Zwinglian plan of a reorganization of the national church on Protestant lines en masse. An austere piety, the wearing of plain clothes, the avoidance of forms of social respect, the refusal to take an oath or to hold civil office, an assertion of the sinfulness of paying or receiving tithes or interest, an approach to communistic practice in matters of property—some or all of these were widely disseminated among the lower classes of the people to whom such teachings principally appealed.
The doctrine which came nearest to being a point of uniformity and a possible bond of union among these reformers was their objection to infant baptism. To them baptism was the mark of a personally attained relation to Christ, and was, therefore, meaningless when administered to an unconscious infant. Certain "prophets" who came to Wittenberg from Zwickau confronted Luther and Melancthon with this principle as early as 1521; and radical reformers proclaimed it in opposition to Zwingli at Zurich in 1523. Everywhere advocacy of an exact adherence to the verbal teaching of Holy Writ and a rejection of the claims of an established church, were accompanied by opposition to infant baptism. In 1525 for the first time the logical deduction from their premises was made; those baptized only in their infancy were asserted not to have been effectively baptized at all, and were rebaptized as a sign of their conversion. [Footnote: Moeller, Hist, of the Christian Church (English trans.), III., 65.] From this time onward re-baptism, or, from the point of view of its advocates, the first valid baptism, became the test and mark of adoption into many communities of true believers. Those who practised this rite were, therefore, called "Anabaptists"— that is to say, those who baptized a second time—or, more frequently, merely "Baptists."
The rebaptism of a person who had been already once baptized was not only in the eyes of the established church an impiety, it was in the eyes of the established law a capital crime, and the history of Anabaptism in Germany is the history of a long martyrdom. In Catholic and Protestant countries alike these radicals were persecuted. From Strasburg and Nuremberg they were expelled, in Zurich their leaders were drowned, in Augsburg they were beheaded, in Austria, Wittenberg, Bavaria, and the Palatinate they were burned at the stake.
In 1534 their sect was brought into sudden and fatal prominence by the revolt in Munster and its vicinity. Here a body of adherents of radical religious doctrines added to their creed a tenet not common to the general body of Anabaptists—that is to say, the duty of taking up temporal arms to overthrow the existing powers and to introduce the New Jerusalem. The old episcopal city was seized by the Anabaptist leaders, bloody battles were fought, and after a six months' orgy of fanaticism, libertinism, and violence the rebels were defeated by the united troops of Catholic and Lutheran powers and a terrible vengeance taken.
Anabaptists everywhere, no matter how peaceable and moderate their principles, suffered under the imputation of holding such doctrines as had led to the terrible excesses at Munster, as they had long before been held to sympathize with the Peasants' Revolt; and their persecutions became correspondingly harsher. Nevertheless, they continued to form communities and to spread through Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The attractiveness of the teachings of wandering Anabaptist preachers long continued unabated, and their regularly organized congregations or communities, because of their thrift, honesty, and plainness of life, survived and flourished, wherever they could obtain even the barest and most temporary toleration.
They were necessarily a people without a national home. Seldom for a whole generation did any considerable body of Anabaptists or Pietists remain undisturbed in any one locality. Expelled by imperial edict from Bohemia, they made their way to Hungary and Transylvania; fined, imprisoned, and in danger of death in Protestant Switzerland, they migrated to the Tyrol, to the Palatinate, and to the south German cities, only soon to be visited there with still worse persecution. During the two great religious wars they suffered especial hardships, and in the midst of the Thirty Years' War they were rigorously expelled by the emperor from all his hereditary dominions, even from Moravia, where they had been allowed to exist for almost a century. [Footnote: Moeller, Hist. of the Christian Church (English trans.), III., 437- 442.] Either from original differences of doctrine and personal influence, or from later divisions and reorganization, grew up those bodies which, although often, as has been seen, grouped under the general head of Anabaptists, have become known in Europe and America as Mennonites, Amish, and Dunkers; and each of these bodies has experienced various divisions. The Schwenkfelders, Boehmists, and other mystics or pietists, are habitually grouped with these sects, rather because of their similar historical origin and attitude to the established churches than of any identity of religious belief.
By the close of the seventeenth century the condition of these dissenters from the established churches had become more tolerable; but they were at best a remnant, narrowed in spirit by persecution, repeatedly separated from their earlier homes, still under the ban of ecclesiastical disapproval, and even where tolerated living under burdensome restrictions. The rising colonies of the New World, especially those which promised religious liberty, and above all that one of them whose Quaker founder held doctrines so like their own, must have exerted, notwithstanding their alien race and tongue, an almost irresistible attraction upon them. In view of the political and religious history of Germany in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it is therefore no wonder that a vast number of Germans emigrated to America, and that in Pennsylvania were soon to be found numerous representatives of every religious sect that existed in the fatherland.
The religious divisions which sprang from the Protestant Reformation were not restricted to the Old World. In America, also, religion was a centrifugal influence, splitting up old colonies, and establishing new centres of population, which in turn attracted other groups of emigrants from Europe, and brought into existence still other types of government and society. [Footnote: Eggleston, Beginners of a Nation, 266-346.] The results were shown in the characteristics of Rhode Island and Connecticut, of Germantown and Bethlehem, in some of the principal contrasts between New France and New England, and in many of the lesser diversities that have distinguished different sections of America in their subsequent history. Many influences combined to give form and character to each American settlement: its race elements, the commercial requirements of the controlling chartered company, the demands of the home government, the theoretical ideas of the founder, the habitudes of the colonists in the lands from which they came. Among these influences, as among the motives for emigration, the religious experiences and desires of the settlers were a prime factor.
The Reformation indirectly affected America by wars which soon led to the rise of some nations, the fall of others; they pitted Catholic states against Protestant states, they weakened Germany, France, and the southern Netherlands by a sanguinary civil struggle, and were avoided in England only by harsh persecution.
In the Iberian peninsula the progress of Protestantism was so slight and so quickly crushed out that it played no part in the colonization of Portuguese or Spanish America. It is true that the somewhat outworn machinery of the Inquisition was rejuvenated in the sixteenth century, so as to reach a Protestant movement in Seville, the sailing-point for the American fleets; and this was made an excuse for the introduction of a stricter and more vigorous policy of orthodox uniformity in Spain. The Inquisition also found occupation in looking after heretic foreign merchants and sailors in Spanish seaports, and Jews and Protestant Germans in the American colonies; but no Spaniards ever emigrated to America to escape religious persecution.
As for France, the terrible religious wars of the sixteenth century weakened her projects of colonization, as they did all her other activities, and divided her people into two hostile parties, one of which must ultimately crush out the other. The short-lived colonies established in the middle years of the sixteenth century in Brazil and in Florida were due largely to the hope that they might be places of refuge for oppressed Huguenots. The first French colonies which had any successful outcome, however, were the creation of the other religious party; for Richelieu, when he took up the establishment of colonies in 1624, insisted on Catholic orthodoxy in the religion of the colonists. This precaution was doubtless due to the Huguenot efforts for independence and their treasonable negotiations in France. In founding distant colonies as extensions of the power of the home government, a minister could hardly permit the domination in the new colonies of a party with which he was in deadly conflict at home. Whatever his motive, orthodoxy was insisted on; and New France, like New Spain, became unbrokenly Catholic.
The English colonies, however, ultimately profited by what the French colonies had lost. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685, persecution sent a stream of Huguenots to the various English colonies of America, and added thereby a valuable and interesting strain to the richly mingled blood of the American race.
RELIGIOUS WARS IN THE NETHERLANDS AND GERMANY
The revolt of the Netherlands, which created a new and vigorous European state in the sixteenth century, and a great commercial and colonizing world-power in the seventeenth, was as much a religious as a political movement. The centralizing, autocratic, and unconciliatory policy of Philip II. was probably enough in itself to have caused rebellion in the Netherlands; while the religious conflict was so bitter that it would almost certainly have caused a revolt, even if there had been no political friction. The revolt of 1568 and the war which lasted till 1609, as a matter of fact, turned on causes belonging equally to both fields.
When Charles V. visited the Netherlands in 1520, on his way to claim the imperial crown, the twenty-two provinces then gathered into his hands were all nominally Catholic; and the large majority of the population were sincerely attached to Rome. Yet reformed doctrines soon made their way into the country in several forms. In the southern and central states, Flanders, Brabant, Hainault, Holland, and Zealand, Calvinism entered from France; into Friesland and North Holland came many Mennonites; in some of the towns there were Anabaptists; in the great commercial cities, such as Antwerp and Amsterdam, Lutherans were numerous, some of them immigrants from Germany, some converted to that faith through the communications between lower Germany and the adjacent provinces of the Netherlands. [Footnote: Blok, Hist. of the People of the Netherlands (English trans), III., 22.] Even the Catholics of the Netherlands were not of a bigoted or militant type; heresy had been wide-spread there since the thirteenth century, and the inhabitants had not the horror of it that was felt in some more orthodox countries. [Footnote: Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic, I., Introd, xii.]
Among the wealthy, turbulent, strong-minded, and patriotic Netherland burghers and peasantry Reformation doctrines and principles readily spread and gained acceptance; yet they were met by the most determined and harsh opposition from the government which now held the Netherlands in the hollow of its hand. In 1521 Charles V. issued from Worms an edict dooming to loss of property and death every Dutch, Flemish, or Walloon adherent of the teachings of Luther; and in 1523 two monks were burned at Brussels as first-fruits of the long and miserable harvest which was so abundantly reaped afterwards.
A series of edicts known as the "Placards" was now issued by Charles, prohibiting private meetings for religious worship, reading of the Scripture by laymen, discussions on questions of faith, the destruction of religious emblems, the harboring of heretics, the possession of heretical books, and, in general, all heretic or non-Catholic opinions and practices. These edicts were enforced by all the power of the civil government, and by the activity of four inquisitors. The "Placards" reached their culmination in the edict of 1550, renewing and making more severe all punishments for religious offences. When Charles, in 1556, laid down the burden of government in favor of his son, the persecutions had numbered their hundreds, if not thousands, of victims; but heresy had spread only the more widely, and Protestantism in its various forms had become only the stronger.
Philip II. entered upon the struggle with heresy even more vigorously than his father. Even the Catholics of the Netherlands were opposed to the enforcement of the "Placards," while the heretics who were suffering and multiplying under it were looking forward almost desperately to some change that would make their position more tolerable. The States-General, the nearest approach to a national legislature that the Netherlands possessed, in 1559 pleaded for mildness. It was only the Spanish ruler who was determined to apply the heresy laws in all their vigor; and when he left the Netherlands and began to direct their administration from Spain, the religious question became more and more the great unifying element in national resistance to his policy.
William of Orange, in the council of state, took the lead in drawing up a petition to the king for the amelioration of the "Placards" and for the suspension of the decrees for an inflexible orthodoxy which had just been promulgated from Trent. He pointed out the necessity of recognizing the proximity and influence of Lutheran Germany upon the Netherlands, the actual extension of Protestantism in the provinces, and the degree to which the old church had lost its authority over the hearts of men. In words that rose in dignity and significance far above the ordinary contests of Catholics and Protestants, he declared: "I am Catholic, and will not deviate from religion; but I cannot approve the custom of kings to confine men's creed and religion within arbitrary limits." [Footnote: Blok, Hist. of the People of the Netherlands (English trans), III., 14.] Philip replied to this petition of the Catholic nobles of the Netherlands by the edict of Segovia, dated October 17, 1565, insisting more vehemently than ever before on the enforcement of the laws against heresy in all their severity, including what was practically the introduction of the Spanish Inquisition. On the other hand, the Reformation pressed on with rapid strides; vast crowds gathered outside of Tournai, Harlem, Antwerp, and other cities to listen to Calvinist preachers. Ten, twelve, and twenty thousand of the populace assembled at a time to sing psalms and hymns and to listen to the appeals of teachers eloquent and devout, but almost invariably heretical.
The inevitable crisis was now hastening on. The lesser nobles, including some Calvinists, soon formed the "Confederation," sent their petition to the king, and in 1567 broke out in fruitless rebellion. Almost at the same time the mob rose in the image-breaking riots which spread like wild-fire over all the provinces except the most southern. Then came Alva, with his unlimited powers, his veteran troops, his "Council of Blood," his more than ten thousand victims of political and religious persecution, and the awful severity and barbarity that have made his name a synonym of cruelty and heartless despotism. William of Orange brought an army into Brabant in 1568, and revolt was soon in full progress. Even under Charles V. there had been much emigration from the Netherlands to Germany and England, to escape religious persecution. Now the barbarities of Alva increased the number many- fold. It was estimated that there were at one time sixty thousand Dutch and Walloon refugees living in England. By 1568 the emigrants were said to number four hundred thousand.
As the revolt progressed and the various cities expelled the officers of the Spanish governor and put themselves under the banner of Orange, they became little oases of toleration. The instructions of William to his lieutenants in the north in 1572 ordered them "to restore fugitives and the banished for conscience' sake—and to see that the Word of God is preached, without, however, suffering any hindrance to the Roman Church in the exercise of its religion." [Footnote: Motley, Rise of the Dutch Republic, pt. iii.] By November, 1576, when the treaty known as the Pacification of Ghent was made between Holland and Zealand on the one hand and the fifteen southern provinces on the other, liberalism in religious views had progressed as far as the power of the patriotic party extended; and all "Placards" and edicts on the subject of religion were suspended till a national assembly should take final action on the subject. At the same time it was provided that there should be no action against the Catholic religion, outside the territory of Holland and Zealand. [Footnote: Blok, Hist, of the People of the Netherlands (English trans.), III., 105, 106.]
Soon the Flemish provinces, where Protestantism had made least headway and where distrust of the north was strong, were "pacified" by Don John of Austria and Alexander of Parma. The Union of Arras, of January 6, 1579, became a centre of union and reconciliation to Spain and Catholicism for the fifteen southern provinces. Just three weeks afterwards the Union of Utrecht was formed, which united the seven northern provinces and became the basis of the free republic of the United Netherlands: each province was to make its own religious arrangements, though toleration was secured by the provision that no one should be molested or questioned on the subject of divine worship. [Footnote: Arts. 5, 9, 10, n, 12, 13, quoted in Motley, pt. vi., chap.i.] Thus while the southern provinces set their feet in the path of a return to Roman Catholic uniformity, the northern provinces pledged themselves to toleration of Catholics and of all sects of Protestants alike.