Ken Craggs

In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I signed a royal charter to establish the British East India Company (EIC) that would be managed by the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London

Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, and the thrones of England, Ireland, and Scotland were united when Elizabeth was succeeded by King James VI & I. It was, however, a union of crowns, not of countries. King James VI & I was married to Anne Oldenburg, Princess of Denmark. The House of Oldenburg is a European royal house of North German origin. It is one of Europe's most influential royal houses. King James VI & I and Anne Oldenburg were the parents of King Charles I who was the father of both King Charles II and King James II.

The royal charter of the EIC gave the company a monopoly on trade to the east of the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and to the west of the Magellan Straits (South America). The sheer scale of the trading area meant that the EIC also had a significant influence on the newly emerging American colonies. Sir Thomas Smythe was the first Governor of the EIC and also the Treasurer/Chairman of the Virginia Company of London founded by royal charter in 1606. The two companies shared their headquarters in Smythe's home, along with the Levant Company. On May 14, 1607, the Virginia Company of London established Jamestown in Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America and the beginning of what would become the British empire. Two years later in 1609, King James VI & I renewed the royal charter of the EIC.

The colonists in Virginia began to experiment with various types of tobacco in 1612. The tobacco plant grew successfully in the Caribbean and a variety had been found that was well-suited to Virginia. The tobacco plant had the potential to transform Virginia into a profitable venture, if more labourers could be brought to the colony to clear land and cultivate the crops. The Virginia Company recruited more western Europeans, mainly white British males and females through a scheme known as indentured labour

On 6 September 1620, the Mayflower departed from Plymouth, England, to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia in North America, where they had already obtained permission to settle from the Company of Merchant Adventurers. The Mayflower docked at Plymouth, Massachusetts, on 21 December 1620. (p.88. See transition from Julian Calendar to Gregorian Calendar - a ploy sometimes used to hinder research).

Beginning in the early 1620s, the East India Company began using slave labour and transporting enslaved people to its facilities in Southeast Asia and India as well as to the island of St Helena in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Angola. Although some of those enslaved by the company came from Indonesia and West Africa, the majority came from East Africa—from Mozambique or especially from Madagascar.

James VI & I died in 1625 and was succeeded by his son Charles I who managed to rule his kingdom without calling Parliament from 1629-40. By 1642 Britain was becoming dominant in the transatlantic slavetrade and the EIC provided Charles I with money he needed to help him fight wars against France & Spain, and the Civil Wars in Britain. In a good year he could get as much as £20,000 in customs duties through the EIC's trade and also obtain loans for granting favours to the EIC. By 1647 the EIC had 23 'factories' in India.

King Charles I was executed for high treason on 30 January 1649. Britain was subsequently ruled by an English Council of State and Oliver Cromwell as first Lord Protector. A political crisis that followed the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 led to the restoration of the monarchy, and Charles II acceded to the throne on 29 May 1660.

The expansion of the slave trade was encouraged in 1660 by Charles II who granted a royal charter to the Company of Royal Adventurers that was later incorporated. Charles II and his brother the Duke of York (later James II) supported this enterprise by investing private funds. The Company of Royal Adventurers created slave ports on the West coast of Africa, transported slaves to English colonies in the Caribbean and the Americas, and established London’s monopoly of the English slave trade.

In May 1662, Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, whose family provided a large dowry that included the Portuguese territory of Bombay. Six years later, Charles II granted Bombay to the EIC in return for 10 pounds of gold. Royal charters gave the EIC rights to make territorial acquisitions, command fortresses and troops, form alliances, make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the acquired areas in India. 

Charles II declared war on The Netherlands in 1665, beginning the Second Anglo-Dutch War. The Great plague killed 20% - 25% of London's population in 1665-1666 and spread to other parts of Britain. On the 2nd September 1666 the fire of London started in Pudding Lane in the shop of the king’s baker, Thomas Farrinor. The fire reduced 80% of London to ashes, mainly destroying homes, businesses and churches. The fire was extinguished on the 5th September 1666. Charles II was desperate for money to continue fighting the Anglo-Dutch war, rebuild London, and stimulate the economy. On 28 September 1666 an iniquitous and injurious bill entitled "An Act for Encourageing of Coynage" was introduced in to the House of Commons and received royal assent on 18 January 1666. (Note: the last day of the year was the 24th March until Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 and made 31 December the last day of the year).

"An Act for Encourageing of Coynage" (1666) abolished the seigniorage and other charges levied on customers who took precious metal to the royal mint for coining. Henceforth the cost of coinage was to be met by import duties on merchandise such as Wine, Brandy, and Cider. "An Act for the Encourageing of Coynage" (1666) took the control over issuance of money away from the crown and put it in to private hands. Namely, the EIC and the goldsmiths who now controlled the money supply not only in Britain, but also throughout the expanding British empire. (pp.57-61). "An Act for the Encourageing of Coynage" legally permitted private coinage that bore the official stamp of the royal mint and allowed owners of bullion to increase the currency by having their metal coined, or diminish the currency by melting the coins, thereby altering the measure of value without loss or expense. The currency value could also be affected by exporting gold and silver out of the country, therefore reducing the potential number of gold and silver coins that could be put in to circulation. "An Act for the Encourageing of Coynage" (1666) also gave rise to that class of pernicious global bankers and financiers who now govern the markets of the world.

Charles II granted control of the entire Hudson Bay drainage basin to the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) by royal charter in 1670. The HBC, headquartered  in London, was given wide legal and trading powers. Hudson Bay drainage basin covered nearly 40% of what is now Canada, plus much of what is now Minnesota and North Dakota. Like other companies with royal charters, HBC received a trading monopoly in exchange for furthering national aims such as trade, exploration and colonisation. HBC would face many accusations regarding its use of land, treatment of native people, and its commitment to settlement and exploration of natural resources. (p.72). At its peak, HBC's territory would cover one twelfth of the Earth's surface and provide an early example of corporate globalisation.

In 1672 the Duke of York (later James II) led the merger of the Company of Royal Adventurers and the Gambia Merchant’s Company to form the Royal African Company, with the Duke of York as the Governor and main shareholder. The 1672 charter states that the Royal African Company had "the whole, entire and only trade for buying and selling bartering and exchanging of for or with any Negroes, slaves, goods, wares, merchandise whatsoever".

Charles II gave royal assent on the 29 March 1673 to legislation entitled "An Act for continuing a former Act concerning Coynage".

On the 6th February 1685 Charles II died and was succeeded by his brother James II who renewed and extended the royal charter of the EIC, renewed "An Act for Encourageing of Coynage", became governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and continued as governor of the Royal African Company. James II was deposed in December 1688 by his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange during what became known as the Glorious revolution. King William III and Queen Mary II were crowned on 12 February 1688. The following is an Act for avoiding all questions regarding the Acts made in Parliament on 13 February 1688. Those Acts include An Act that made it permissible for persons to lend money to the crown at 7% interest, and that "there shall be provided and kept in Their Majestyes Exchequer (That is to say) in the Office of the Auditor of the Receipts one Booke or Register in which all Moneys that shall be paid into the Exchequer by virtue of this Act shall be Entred and Registred apart and distinct from all other Moneys paid or payable to Their Majesties". And An Act that states "[no] Mine of Copper Tin Iron or Lead shall hereafter be adjudged reputed or taken to be a Royal Mine although Gold or Silver may be extracted out of the same." Another Act was passed in parliament in 1689 to make it lawful for any person(s) to loan to the crown a total not exceeding £500,000. 

Parliament passed the Bill of Rights on 16 December 1689 which established the principles of frequent parliaments, free elections and freedom of speech within Parliament. The Bill of Rights also limited the powers of monarchs so that they could 'neither pass laws nor levy taxes' without parliamentary agreement. Commissioners were appointed in 1690 by an Act enabling them to examine and take a record of the 'Accounts of the Public Revenue' and of crown lands and all other branches of the revenue including naval and military.

By 1690, such large amounts of gold and silver had been exported from Britain that goldsmiths had a Bill raised in Parliament to address the matter, but the passage of the Bill was blocked by merchants, including those of the EIC. In 1692, William & Mary renewed "An Act for the Encouraging of Coynage" which, over many years, would undergo further renewals until being made perpetual. William & Mary also gave royal assent in 1692 to an Act that would further enable appointed Commissioners to examine and take a record of all monies that had been or would be granted or loaned to the crown, plus all other public monies that were paid or due to the crown between 5 November 1688 and 25 April 1694. 

A number of Acts including Tonnage Acts passed during the reigns of Charles II, and James II, paved the way, during the reign of William & Mary, for the founding of the Bank of England (BoE), a private joint stock company that arose from the Tonnage Act 1694. The BoE charter in the 1694 Act provided for a permanent loan to the government of £1,200,000 with 8% interest paid in perpetuity and secured by customs and excise duties. The main purpose of the 1694 charter seemed to be the raising of funds for the war against France. The 1694 charter did not grant the BoE a privileged position as the governments banker, did not grant the BoE a monopoly on joint stock banking or make BoE notes legal tender.

England’s economy was in disarray by the second half of 1696 due to the Recoinage Act which led to monetary contraction, massive unemployment, poverty, and civil unrest. Then the big whammy came in an Act given royal assent in 1697 entitled "An Act for making good the Deficiences of several Funds therein mentioned and for enlargeing the Capital Stock of the Bank of England and for raising the Publick Creditt". The Act stipulates numerous other Acts where the interest rate on loans, grants and subsidies to the crown and parliament have been increased to eight percent. And if the Interest due in any one year is unpaid, then the deficiency is to be paid out of further loans on which interest will also be charged. The BoE was given a monopoly on banking in England, and members of the BoE could not be declared bankrupt.

Over in Asia, the Chinese gave the EIC permission in 1699 to trade in Canton. By 1700, the Dutch were exporting shipments of opium from India to China and the islands of Southeast Asia; the Dutch introduced to China the practice of smoking a mixture of opium & tobacco. The Chinese emperor, Yung Cheng, (p.5) issued an edict in 1729 prohibiting the smoking of opium and its domestic sale, except under license for use as medicine. The EIC, however, would eventually dominate the illegal trade of opium as a strict monopoly of the British government

On the African continent, the Royal African Company had lost its monopoly over the slave trade in 1698, but was allowed to maintain the trading forts which it had built on the West African coast. The Royal African company used the forts as a trading base where enslaved Africans could be held and slave ships could anchor. The other merchants that were now allowed to join the slave trade had to pay a fee to the Royal African Company towards the maintenance of the forts. The British government gave numerous subsidies to the Royal African Company and eventually took over the slave trading forts. (p.3).

In 1713, Britain won the asiento, the right to be the sole supplier of slaves to Spain's colonies in South America for 30 years. The British government sold the asiento contract to the British South Sea Company (SSC). The Royal African Company and the EIC were the SSC's main supplier of slaves. (pp.61-62). Queen Anne was allocated 22.5 percent of the SSC stock. When she died in 1714, her successor, George Iinherited her shares and bought more. His heir, the prince of Wales (later George II), was also an investor and became governor of the SSC in 1715, but after a family row, George I made himself governor. The BoE also made capital available to so-called 'adventurers' involved in the slave trade. Sir Humphry Morice was both the governor of the BoE (1727-1728) and one of the biggest slave traders in Britain.

Herz Moses Bauer, also known as Amschel Moses Rothschild, was a German Jewish moneychanger and trader in silk cloth in the Frankfurt Judengasse. His son Mayer Amschel Rothschild is considered by the Rothschild family to be the founder of the Rothschild banking dynasty. Herz Moses Bauer died in 1755 and his wife died the following year. In 1756, Mayer Amschel Rothschild was sent to Hanover to learn the rudiments of business in the firm of Wolf Jakob Oppenheim. This brought him into direct contact with the privileged world of the royal court agents. In 1763 Mayer Amschel returned to Frankfurt as he was obliged by residence laws to do at the end of his apprenticeship, and established his banking business.

By the mid 1700’s, the debt of the British government was £140 million. Britain had fought several wars in Europe since the creation of the privately owned Bank of England. To finance those wars, the British Parliament, rather than issuing its own debt-free currency, had borrowed heavily from the Bank of England. In an effort to help pay back the debt, the British began to increase taxes on the American colonies. At this time there were not enough gold and silver coins in the colonies to support desired commerce because the British government had forbidden the establishment of a colonial mint. As a result, most of the coinage in the Unted States originated from Spain's colonial empire in the Western Hemisphere. The early colonists, therefore, began to issue their own paper money known as Colonial Scrip, which was not backed by gold or silver and charged low rates of interest. Realising that Colonial Scrip was cutting into their profits, the Bank of England demanded an end to the practice and lobbied the British government to pass the Currency Act of 1764 which prohibited the American colonies from issuing paper currency as legal tender. The following year, 1765, the Britain government passed the Stamp Act which obliged American colonies to pay a tax on legal documents. The tax was payable in gold and silver only and not in paper money. The significance of the Stamp act was that for the first time a tax was installed in the North American colonies, not to regulate commerce and trade, but to directly squeeze money out of colonists. Moreover the tax was introduced by a direct order from England without approval of the colonial legislature.

George Johnstone was a British MP who opposed American independence and a director of the East India Company. He was also the first Governor of West Florida and the brother of Sir William Johnstone Pulteney MP. Here are the transcrpts of two letter from George Johnstone regarding allegations of misconduct against him, and the burden that the Stamp Act had placed on the infant colony. George Johnstone was accused of attempting to corrupt and bribe members of Congress and resigned from the Carlisle Commission as a result of the accusations.

On the Indian sub-continent, the British conquered Bengal in 1764 and soon discovered the financial potential of India's richest opium zone. Major-General Robert Clive, also known as Clive of India was a British officer who established the military and political supremacy of the British East India Company in Bengal and  is credited with securing India, and thewealth that followed, for the British crown. The signing of the Treaty of Allahabad in 1765 by Major-General Robert Clive marks the beginning of British rule in India. Public opinion hardened against the EIC in 1770 when up to a third of the population of Bengal died, primarily of starvation, due to the EIC imposing land taxes and allocating land resources to profitable cash crops such as opium. Indian policy was until 1773 influenced by shareholders' meetings, where votes could be bought by the purchase of shares. In an effort to appease public opinion, British Prime Minister Lord North introduced the Regulating Act of 1773, Subsequent Acts that followed, established a government board of control to supervise the operations of the EIC in India. The Acts, however, were a compromise arrangement and the administration of India remained in the hands of the directors of the East India Company for many years to come. 

Mayer Amschell Rothschild (p.28) aquired the first of the Rothschild titles when he became Court Agent (Hoffaktor) of Hesse in 1769. In August 1770, at the age of twenty-six, "[Mayer Amschel] married Gutle, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Wolf Salomon Schnapper, court agent to the Prince of Saxe-Meiningen...It was to prove the first of a succession of carefully calculated Rothschild marriages."

Retrospect of the Boston Tea Party with a Memoir of George R.T. Hewes is apparently the only existing first-person account by a participant of the Boston tea party. Conventional wisdom has it that the 1773 Tea Act - a tax law passed in London that led to the Boston Tea Party - was simply an increase in the taxes on tea paid by American colonists. In reality, however, the Tea Act gave the world’s largest multinational corporation - the EIC - full and unlimited access to the American tea trade, and exempted the Company from having to pay taxes to Britain on tea exported to the American colonies. This infuriated local tea importers and merchants, many of who were forced out of business, as they still had to pay a higher tea tax than the EIC. 

"In 1774 [the] first American customer of [Barings Bank] was the leading Philadelphia merchant, Willing, Morris & Co.; its influential partners included Robert Morris, a future financial architect of American independence from Britain, and Thomas Willing, a future president of the Bank of the United States." Robert Morris was born in Liverpool, England. At the age of 13, he emigrated to Maryland, U.S. to join his father, an agent for Foster, Cunliffe and Sons of Liverpool, for whom he purchased and shipped baled leaf tobacco to England. As a youth, Robert Morris obtained employment with the shipping firm of Charles and Thomas Willing. In 1775, the American War of Independence broke out. Frederick II of Hesse-Kassel and other German princes hired out some of their regular army units to Great Britain for use to fight against the North American rebels. About 30,000 of these men served in America. They were called Hessians, because the largest group (12,992 of the total 30,067 men) came from Hesse-Kassel.

Prime Minister Lord North negotiated a renewal of the BoE Charter in 1781 for 31 years in return for a loan of £2,000,000 at 3 per cent for three years. This was agreed, and at a General Court of the Bank held on May 30th the scheme was approved before being laid before the Commons a week later, without any previous notice, in a house of 83 members. The renewal exposed the fact that the Government’s reliance upon the BoE was complete. This was true to such an extent that the Bank was now described as ‘the public exchequer’. (pp.29-30).

Some well known names emerged from the American War of Independence: George WashingtonJohn AdamsThomas JeffersonJames Madison, and JamesMonroe to name just a few. The loss of the thirteen colonies brought to an end what is referred to as the 'First British Empire'. The United States of America, a name the new country had adopted under the Articles of Confederation, was beset with problems. The new nation’s leaders had their work cut out re-establishing commerce and industry, repaying war debt, restoring the value of the currency, and lowering inflation. One prominent architect of the fledgling country — Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury —had ideas about how to solve some of those problems. England’s use of public debt interested Hamilton. This type of funding, he believed, had helped to build England’s military might and pay for its wars, and accounted, at least in part, for England's prosperity. Hamilton reasoned that an economic structure that incorporated public debt could deliver much-needed capital to speed growth of the U.S. financial system. Hamilton used the charter of the Bank of England as the basis for his proposed Bank of the United states. (p.1-2). Thomas Jefferson felt that a Bank of the United States was unconstitutional and would create a financial monopoly that would undermine state chartered banks.

The Articles of Confederation gave Congress the authority to make war and conduct foreign affairs. However, under the articles, Congress could not impose taxes or enforce laws. (p.13). The articles gave Congress no power to incorporate, but Congress, in the stress of war and problems of financing war, incorporated the Bank of North America in early 1781, promoted primarily by Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton. Robert Morris was Superintendent of Finance and the United States second most powerful figure. Robert Morris was also one of the "nations richest men" and "saw nothing wrong with using privileged government information to shape his personal investment strategy." In 1784 Alexander Hamilton founded the Bank of New York.

Early in 1785 the French Farmers General entered into a sole source supply contract with Robert Morris. All American tobacco had to go to France through Morris. A letter from James Currie to Thomas Jefferson tells us that "Sir R. Herries’s contract with the Farmers General of France made its appearance in Our publick papers t’other day with what degree of policy, delicacy or Prudence I leave you to judge." The letter goes on to tell us that "the publication...[about the contract with Sir Robert Herries] was extracted." Sir Robert Herries, nonetheless, became the sole supplier of tobacco to the French Farmers General. (pp27 & 28). Sir Robert Herries had received his knighthood in 1774. (p45). The Rothschild family would also become involved in tobacco trading. (p16-21).

Over in Australia, the first convict settlement in New South Wales was founded in 1788 on the basis of instructions to Captain Authur Phillip (p.10) that were composed by Lord Sydney and agreed by King George III. "It is Our Royal Intention" ran the instructions to Phillip "that every sort of Intercourse between the intended settlement at Botany Bay, or other places which may be hereafter established on the coast of New South Wales...and the settlements of Our East India Company, as well as the Coasts of China, and the Islands situated in that part of the World...should be prevented by every possible means. It is Our Royal Will and Pleasure that you do not upon any account allow Craft of any sort to be built for the use of private Individuals, which might enable them to effect such Intercourse..." The convicts were transported on ships under the command of the EIC as the royal charter of the EIC gave the company exclusive rights to control all trade to and from New South Wales and other areas of Australia to which the British had laid claim.

A large part of British imperial wealth was based on plants - for example, opium, tea, spices, teak and indigo. (p.159). The EIC was Kew Gardensmost "generous benefactor" (p.95) and EIC ships were used to transport large quantities of plant specimens that Kew plant collectors had gathered from locations around the world. Kew Gardens became virtually an institute for economic botany where plants considered to be potential sources of additional income for the British Empire could be cultivated and re-distributed around the world. (p.130). A network of colonial botanic gardens was established for plant breeding, propagation and cultivation. An experiment was proposed by Sir Joseph Banks, Curator of Kew Gardens, to transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies to find out if they would grow well enough there to be used as a cheap source of food for slaves. The breadfruit plants were transported on HMS Bounty, captained by William Bligh, but never made it to the West Indies due to a mutiny regarding water rationing on board the ship. William Bligh later became Governor of the penal colony at New South Wales, Australia.

In 1792 the USA adopt something similar to "An Act for the Encourageing of Coynage". The legislation, entitled 'An Act for establishing a Mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States', made it lawful for any person(s) to take gold and silver bullion to the Mint and have it turned in to coins free of expense. 

By 1792, Sir Francis Baring (a founder of Barings bank) was a Director and Chairman of the EIC. (p.230). The EIC established a monopoly on the opium trade in 1793. All poppy growers in India were forbidden to sell opium to competitor trading companies. And 1793 is apparently the earliest date for an entry in records of the firm which became Jardine Matheson & Co who established trading and control of Hong-Kong/China with the help of the EIC.. The Rothschild's and Jardine Matheson have a long association. Jardine Matheson currently has a 20% stake in Rothschild Continuation Holdings which is the holding company for all of the Rothschild companies worldwide.

The Baring archive states that the "Barings and Rothschilds undertook many transactions together".   The Bristol Mercury, 17 September 1827 (p.4) names Nathan Mayer Rothschild (Mr. Rothschild) as an EIC proprietor and stock-holder. 

The UK National Archives informs us that the establishment of finance institutions, which still exist today, is one of the slavery [and opium] trades lasting legacies. Today, the East India Company is once again operating in countries throughout the world.

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