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In 1628 Charles I granted a charter to t
of Armenia, Media, Hyrcania, Persia, and the Caspian Sea.
In the seventeenth century they were compelled by the Czar of the time to share with the Dutch their trading privileges from the Russian Government, and by an Act of 1698, which reduced their admission fine to £51, their doors were thrown open. After this they sank into insignificance.
A faint legal trace of their ancient privileges survives in the extra-territorial character belonging for marriage purposes to the churches and chapels formerly attached to their factories in Russia. Some years ago they existed, perhaps they still exist, as a dining club 2.
The Levant Company was founded by Queen Elizabeth for the purpose of developing the trade with Turkey under the concessions then recently granted by the Ottoman Porte. Under arrangements made with various Christian powers and known as the Capitulations, foreigners trading or residing in Turkey were withdrawn from Turkish jurisdiction for most civil and criminal purposes. The first of the Capitulations granted to England bears date in the year 1579, and the first charter of the Levant Company was granted two years afterwards, in 1581. This charter was extended in 1593, renewed by James I, confirmed by Charles II, and, like the East India Company's charters, recognized and modified by various Acts of Parliament.
The Levant Company attempted to open an overland trade to the East Indies, and sent merchants from Aleppo to Bagdad and thence down the Persian Gulf. These merchants obtained articles at Lahore and Agra, in Bengal, and at Malacca, and on their return to England brought information of the profits to be acquired by a trade to the East Indies. In 1593 the Levant Company obtained a new charter, empowering them to trade to India overland through the terri
110 & 11 Will. III, c. 6.
2 MacCulloch, Dictionary of Commerce, 1871 edition.
3 As to the Levant Company and the Capitulations, see below, p. 353.
tories of the Grand Signor. Under these circumstances it is not surprising to find members of the Levant Company taking an active part in the promotion of the East India Company. Indeed the latter Company was in a sense the outgrowth of the former. Alderman Thomas Smith, the first Governor of the East India Company, was at the same time Governor of the Levant Company, and the adventures of the two Companies were at the outset intimately connected with each other. At the end of the first volume of court minutes of the East India Company are copies of several letters sent to Constantinople by the Levant Company.
Had history taken a different course, the Levant Company might have founded on the shores of the Mediterranean an empire built up of fragments of the dominions of the Ottoman Porte, as the East India Company founded on the shores of the Bay of Bengal an empire built up of fragments of the dominions of the Great Mogul. But England was not a Mediterranean power, trade with the East had been deflected from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and the causes which had destroyed the Italian merchant states were fatal to the Levant Company. As the East India Company grew, the Levant Company dwindled, and in 1825 it was formally dissolved.
To return to the East India Company.
During the first twelve years of its existence, the Company The traded on the principle of each subscriber contributing voyages. separately to the expense of each voyage, and reaping the whole profits of his subscription. The voyages during these years are therefore known in the annals of the Company as the separate voyages.' But, after 1612, the subscribers. threw their contributions into a joint stock,' and thus converted themselves from a regulated company into a joint-stock company, which however differed widely in its constitution from the joint-stock companies of the present day.
In the meantime James I had in 1609 renewed the charter James I's of Elizabeth, and made it perpetual, subject to determination 1609.
after three years' notice on proof of injury to the nation. The provisions of this charter do not, except with regard to its duration, differ in any material respect from those of the charter of Elizabeth.
Beginning It has been seen that under the charter of Elizabeth the law exer- Company had power to make laws and ordinances for the government of factors, masters, mariners, and other officers employed on their voyages, and to punish offenders by fine or imprisonment. This power, was, however, insufficient for the punishment of grosser offences and for the maintenance of discipline on long voyages. Accordingly, the Company were in the habit of procuring for each voyage a commission to the 'general' in command, empowering him to inflict punishments for non-capital offences, such as murder or mutiny, and to put in execution our law called martial 1.'
Grant of 1615.
Grant of 1623.
This course was followed until 1615, when, by a Royal grant of December 16, the power of issuing commissions embodying this authority was given to the Company, subject to a proviso requiring the verdict of a jury in the case of capital offences.
By 1623 the increase in the number of the Company's settlements, and the disorderliness of their servants, had drawn attention to the need for further coercive powers. Accordingly King James I, by a grant of February 14, 1622, gave the Company the power of issuing similar commissions to their presidents and other chief officers, authorizing them to punish in like manner offences committed by the Company's servants on land, subject to the like proviso as to the submission of capital cases to the verdict of a jury.
1 For an example of a sentence of capital punishment under one of these commissions, see Kaye, Administration of East India Company, p. 66. In transactions with natives the Company's servants were nominally subject to the native courts. Rights of extra-mural jurisdiction had not yet been claimed.
2 The double date here and elsewhere indicates a reference to the three months, January, February, March, which according to the Old Style closed the old year, while under the New Style, introduced in 1751 by the Act 24 Geo. II, c. 23, they begin the new year.