Virginia Company

Virginia Company
Formerly
Plymouth Company
London Company
joint stock company

The Virginia Company refers collectively to two joint-stock companies chartered under James I on 10 April 1606[1][2][3] with the goal of establishing settlements on the coast of America.[4] The two companies are referred to as the "Virginia Company of London" (or the London Company) and the "Virginia Company of Plymouth" (or the Plymouth Company), and they operated with identical charters but with differing territories. The charters established an area of overlapping territory in America as a buffer zone, and the two companies were not permitted to establish colonies within 100 miles of each other. The Plymouth Company never fulfilled its charter, but its territory was claimed by England and became New England.

Differences between the two companies

As corporations, the companies were empowered by the Crown to govern themselves, and they conferred that right to their colonies. The Virginia Company failed in 1624, but the right to self-government was not taken away and the principle was established that a royal colony should be self-governing. This formed the genesis of democracy in America.[5]

The original charter by King James in 1606 did not mention a Virginia Company or a Plymouth Company; these names were applied somewhat later to the overall enterprise. The Charter of 1609 stipulates two distinct companies, stating:

…that they shoulde devide themselves into twoe collonies, the one consistinge of divers Knights, gentlemen, merchaunts and others of our cittie of London, called the First Collonie; and the other of sondrie Knights, gentlemen and others of the citties of Bristoll, Exeter, the towne of Plymouth, and other places, called the Seccond Collonie….[6]

The eastern seaboard of America was named Virginia from Maine to the Carolinas; Florida was under Spanish dominion.[7][8][9] As corporations, the companies were empowered by the Crown to govern themselves; this right was not conferred onto the colonies themselves until the dissolution of the third Charter in 1621. The Virginia Company failed in 1624, but the right to self-government was not taken from the colony, and the principle was thus established that a royal colony should be self-governing, forming the genesis of democracy in America.[10][11][12]:90-91