Virginia Company

The Virginia Company refers collectively to a Joint stock company chartered by James I on 10 April 1606 with the purposes of establishing settlements on the coast of North America. The two companies, called the "Virginia Company of London" (or the London Company) and the "Virginia Company of Plymouth" (or Plymouth Company) operated with identical charters but with differing territories. An area of overlapping territory was created within which the two companies were not permitted to establish colonies within one hundred miles of each other. The Plymouth Company never fulfilled its charter, and its territory that later became New England was at that time also claimed by England.

As corporations, the companies were empowered by the Crown to govern themselves, and they ultimately granted the same privilege to their colony. In 1624, the Virginia Company failed; however, its grant of self-government to the colony was not revoked, and, "either from apathy, indecision, or deliberate purpose," the Crown allowed the system to continue. The principle was thus established that a royal colony should be self-governing, and this formed the genesis of democracy in America.

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