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Some account of the

and of the rise and progress of the
commercial Navy of Great Britain. 1834

SOURCE: The Saturday Magazine, No. 117. Supplement, April, 1834

The reign of Elizabeth was, perhaps, most distinguished by the formation of the East India Company, and the opening of a commercial intercourse between Great Britain and the East. The first association for this purpose, which was formed in London in 1599, possessed a capital of 30,000l., divided into 101 shares. On, the 31st of December, in the following year, the Company obtained a charter of privileges for fifteen years, constituting it a body corporate and politic, under the name of "The Governor and Company of Merchants, of London Trading to the East Indies." On the 2nd of May, 1601, their first adventure, consisting of five vessels, measuring, collectively, 1330 tons, of the value of 27,000l., sailed from Torbay, with cargoes of bullion and merchandise to the amount of 58,000l. more, most of which had been advanced by other parties. The expedition proved very successful, and the clear average profits, for many years, amounted to about 150 per cent. upon the capital engaged.

We should far exceed our limits were we even very briefly to trace the progress of the Company, which rapidly extended in importance and magnitude. In 1642, 15,000 tons of shipping were employed in the trade to the East Indies. The ships were from 300 to 600 tons each, and were accounted the best trading-vessels belonging to England. The China-trade, afterwards the most lucrative source of revenue the Company possessed, was then carried on on a very limited scale; for tea, the great object of commercial intercourse with that country, was imported in such small quantities in 1660, as not to be thought of sufficient consequence to be subjected to a duty!

Several unsuccessful attempts were made to establish similar associations between this period and 1693; but in that year the dislike to the monopoly enjoyed by the Company had become so general, that an extensive association of merchants was formed, which, in consequence of an offer of a loan of 2,000,000l. to government, obtained a charter, under the designation of "The English Company Trading to the East Indies." The large amount of the loan, combined with the rivalry of the old association, led, however, to so much inconvenience, that, in 1701, a union was effected, and on the 22nd of July, in the following year, they were incorporated under the well-known name of "The United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies." In 1708, in consideration of a further loan to the government, they obtained the exclusive privilege of trading-eastward of the Cape of Good Hope to the Straits of Magellan, which was continued, from time to time, until 1794. Such was the origin of this far-famed Association, whose commercial functions, in consequence of the Act of last Session, wholly expired on the 1st of this present month, (April.)

The ships which the Company have employed to convey the valuable productions of the East to Great Britain, are not only by far the most splendid vessels ever built for mercantile purposes, but have frequently been greatly distinguished in time of war. Most of these noble ships are equal in burden to third-rate men-of-war, and carry from thirty-two to thirty-six guns. Several very interesting passages occurred, during the late war, between the French and our China traders, some account of the more remarkable of which, for which we are indebted to Captain BRENTON'S Naval History, may not be unacceptable

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