v. Opinions concerning the charters, 1606
(B.M. Harl. 295 ff. 211–212v)
752. The difficulties which have arisen in the charters of the merchants
trading to Spain. (fn. 1)
[The document reviews the grants previously made to the company by
Henry VIII, Charles V and Elizabeth, with particular attention to the latter.]
This charter [of 1577] was used until the embargo, from which time they
had no use of their charter until 1604, when a confirmation was granted of
the said charters under the great seal by virtue of a general warrant granted
to the lord chancellor. And upon that confirmation they entering into use
again, complaints against the charter were made by merchants not free,
pretending the same to be grievous; wherefore it pleased the lords of the
council to refer the consideration thereof to the lord chief baron and the
attorney general and others, to consider first of the validity of the charter;
and if it were needful to obtain a new charter, to consider how far it might
be convenient for the common good of the trade to have a new charter.
Hereupon it was certified that there were imperfections in the former charter,
as well in the form of words of the incorporation as also for the non-user.
And thereupon the charter now in question was by order from his majesty
drawn and granted as it now stands.
753. In the charter there are 557 by express name admitted to be free; and
by general words all their sons and apprentices and all others named in
the charter of 1577 and their sons and apprentices also. And commandment is further therein given to admit over and above the said number mere
merchants not being retailers et cetera desiring the same, paying if they
require it the first year £10 and if they require it the second year £15 and
desiring it after two years £20. And if they be free of other companies then
they are to procure one freedom for another, or to pay as much as they
take of others to be made free in their companies etc., their sons and apprentices to pay as their fathers did before, as appears more at large by the
754. Exceptions are now taken to this charter; first that it is an impediment
to free trade contrary to the statute of 1497. (fn. 2)
755. Response: they answer that it is no further impediment than is given
by all other companies since made, viz. the Merchant Adventurers, the
Russia Company, the Eastland Company, the company of Tripoli (fn. 3) which
have notwithstanding been erected and continued to the good of the
756. Objection: that whereas mariners do now increase by fishing at Newfoundland, if they should be restrained to sell their fish in Spain they should
be discouraged to go fishing, and so navigation decay.
757. Response: it is answered they shall not hereby be restrained for that
the merchants trading for Spain will buy their fish from them yearly to the
value of £40,000 and will bear the hazard of the venting the same again in
Spain, so that they shall have no less cause to fish than they now have,
which the merchants think to be the more convenient because the fishers
now thrusting into every port of Spain without order do but glut the market
and cannot make the best of the commodity and yet hinder the merchant. (fn. 4)
758. Objection: the Scots and Irish are left at liberty and only the Englishman restrained by this corporation.
759. Response: it is no otherwise in this than in the other companies.
760. Objection: it is over chargeable in respect of admittance money viz.
for that they which come in by redemption should pay the first year £10 the
second £15 the third et cetera £20 and their children and servants hereafter
for ever in like sort.
761. Response: it is answered that the greatness of the charge that the
company has undergone and is yearly to undergo cannot be conveniently
discharged otherwise, and the good which does and will grow thereby
will be to the benefit of all such as shall be admitted, and therefore that the
same ought not to seem burdensome to them. Besides, that they take not
more than other companies it is apparent, because they are content to
admit one for another out of any company of mere merchants.
762. Objection: that none are to be admitted but mere merchants, which is
against the liberty of all other subjects.
763. Response: it is said that herein the direction of 1563 has been followed
because by that statute order is taken that none may exercise any mystery
etc. but such as have been apprenticed to it. (fn. 5) If it shall please your lordships
to change anything in this charter it is wished rather to be done by order
than by a new charter, because this charter is approved in Spain and therefore suite must be made anew for confirmation if a new one should be made
again, which would be a discredit to the company and benefit to none.
Besides, the company of Tripoli since made will thereby encroach upon this
company. (fn. 6)