Foundations of Colonial America: A Documentary History - Vol. 3

By W. Keith Kavenagh | Go to book overview

COLONIAL CHARTERS

Introduction

The establishment of a small colony in Virginia in 1607 inaugurated a shift in English policy toward the New World. For over one hundred years before that date England had been but a tangential beneficiary of the wealth that flowed across the Atlantic to finance the power plays of kings and stimulate Europe's economy. This does not mean that England ignored the New World during the early years of the Age of Discovery. Henry VII, in order to promote English expansion overseas, did issue a charter to John Cabot in 1496 authorizing an exploratory voyage. Yet even this effort was minimal since the charter commissioned Cabot and his sons to discover and subdue "all islands and countries not in the possession of any Christian power", thus abiding by a principle established by Pope Alexander in his papal bull of 1493 which authorized the King and Queen of Spain to subdue "all new discovered countries not in the possession of some Christian prince." This dictum was further reinforced and, at least on paper, severely restricted other powers when Spain and Portugal concluded a treaty at Tordesillas in 1494 dividing the western hemisphere between themselves.

The principle that ownership and possession would be assured simply by right of discovery, if there were no prior claims by other European powers, was adhered to by England only until such time as she found it to be in her interest to re-interpret the whole concept of discovery and possession because of economic growth and strained relations with Spain. During much of the sixteenth century, England was pre-occupied with internal affairs. The Wars of the Roses had so weakened the country in the

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Foundations of Colonial America: A Documentary History - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Foundations of Golonial America *
  • Preface v
  • Foundations of Colonial America *
  • Contents xi
  • Colonial Charters *
  • The Structure and Function of Government *
  • The Regulation of the Status and Activities of Individuals *
  • Taxation *
  • Regulation of Economic Activity *
  • Ecclesiastical Affairs *
  • Acts of Parliament and Royal Pr Oclama Tions *
  • Local Government *
  • Land Acquisition *
  • Laws Affecting Property Ownership *
  • Public and Private Records of Land Distribution Deeds, Grants, Patents *
  • Public and Private Records of Land Distribution: Wills and Estates *
  • Glossary *
  • Table of Regnal Years *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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