The experiences of Gilbert and Raleigh demonstrated to the English people that colonization was too great a task for individuals to attempt alone. The government, however, was not willing to undertake this enterprise; therefore, English settlement was promoted by means of joint-stock companies. Such companies, composed of merchant adventurers, had already been organized in England and in Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark.
In the sixteenth century England had chartered several such companies. Outstanding among these was the East India Company. Following the custom established by these trading companies, James I in 1606 granted the Virginia charter which established two companies: one known as the London Company, which consisted mainly of men from London; and the other, known as the Plymouth Company, which consisted of men from Plymouth and other nearby towns. The London Company was authorized to settle in the region between 34 and 41 degrees north, and the Plymouth Company, between 38 and 45 degrees north. The region between 38 and 41 degrees, therefore, was open for settlement by either company, on the condition, however, that neither should settle within 100 miles of a settlement established by the other.
The land to go with a settlement was to extend from it 5o miles each way along the coast, and Too miles inland. The charter also provided that the settlers in the New World should have the same rights as the Englishmen at home.
The Plymouth Company attempted a settlement at the mouth of the Kennebec River, in 1607, but after a winter of terrible suffering the attempt was abandoned and no further settlement was made by that company. The London Company, however, was more successful. It was composed of 659 persons, including peers, knights, gentlemen, merchants, and citizens. Its organization was similar to that of a corporation of our own day. It was organized for the purpose of making profit for the stockholders, but of course it was hoped that it would benefit England by supplying such products as she could not produce at home. It was further hoped that the settlers would carry Christianity to the Indians. There were two classes of stockholders: first, those known as adventurers, who invested their money but stayed at home in England; and second, those known as planters, who migrated to America.