London Company

views updated

London Company, corporation composed of stockholders residing in and about London, which, together with the Plymouth Company (see Virginia Company), was granted (1606) a charter by King James I to found colonies in America. The London Company was granted a tract of land fronting 100 mi (160 km) on the sea and extending 100 mi inland, somewhere between lat. 34°N and lat. 41°N. Government was vested in an English council, appointed by the king, which was to appoint a local council for the colony. The company's expedition, under the command of Capt. Christopher Newport, founded (1607) Jamestown in Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America. In May, 1609, the company received a new charter, extending its territory and enabling it to replace the local council with an absolute governor. Thomas West, Baron De la Warr, was the first to hold that office, with Sir Thomas Gates as his deputy. A third charter, granted in Mar., 1612, made the London Company a self-governing body. There was, however, dissension within the company over governing policies, and the governing council was soon divided into two parties. The court party, headed by Sir Robert Rich (later the 2d earl of Warwick) and Sir Thomas Smythe, favored prolongation of martial law in the colony. The country, or patriot, party, led by Sir Edwin Sandys, Sir John Danvers, and John and Nicholas Ferrar, favored discontinuance of the system of servitude. The country party was in the majority, but a liberal form of government was not established until after the appointment of Sir George Yeardley as governor of Virginia. Yeardley convened America's first legislative assembly at Jamestown in 1619. Although affairs in Virginia gradually improved, a petition was presented (1623) to the king calling for an investigation of conditions in the colony. Shortly afterward there appeared a paper, The Unmasked Face of Our Colony in Virginia. Already offended by the company, the king now took extreme measures. A report was made by an investigating commission, the case was tried before the King's Bench, and the unfavorable decision, rendered in May, 1624, resulted in the dissolution of the company. About £200,000 had been expended by the company and more than 10,000 emigrants sent to Virginia.

See S. M. Kingsbury, ed., The Records of the Virginia Company of London (4 vol., 1906–35); H. L. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, Vol. I (1904, repr. 1957); W. F. Craven, Dissolution of the Virginia Company (1932, repr. 1964); C. M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, Vol. I (1934, repr. 1964); C. W. Sams, The Conquest of Virginia: The Third Attempt, 1610–1624 (1939).