Royal Charter

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Sir Edmund Andros copy of the College of William and Mary Charter, circa 1693

College of William and Mary President James Blair brought both English and Latin versions of the twelve page Royal Charter establishing the college with him from the Court of William and Mary at Kensington Palace. This original copy of the charter establishing the College of William and Mary in Virginia was apparently lost about the time of the American Revolution. The most complete story of the Royal Charter of the College of William and Mary is found in Frank B. Evans’ monograph on the subject published by the Botetourt Bibliographical Society in 1978. Professor Evans taught in the Department of English at the College. Professor Evans began his article with the statement: “The story of the royal Charter granted in 1693 to found the College of William and Mary would be simpler, but less interesting, were it not for the story of a document which is lost.”

The charter is dated February 8, 1693 (this is in the Julian calendar and by the Gregorian calendar (which the British Empire was a latecomer to), it would have been February 18th). The 8th is the appropriate date to cite as the day the charter was granted.[1] [2]

An Abridged Reading of the Royal Charter was produced by Swem Library and is available on YouTube.

A contemporary manuscript copy in the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library is thought to have belonged to Sir Edmund Andros, the royal governor of the colony of Virginia at the time of the founding of William and Mary. A second contemporary manuscript copy in the Special Collections Research Center was found at Harvard University in the early 20th century and gifted to William and Mary.

The annual celebration of Charter Day at the College of William and Mary was primarily a twentieth century development that was initiated by President John Stewart Bryan in 1937. Previously, Transfer Day was celebrated on August 15th. It commemorated the official transfer of the charter to the College of William and Mary and its presentation to President James Blair and the faculty on August 15, 1729.

Contents

Issuing of the Charter

The Charter passed through 4 formal stages before being issued as a public decree. These stages, each represented by a document, were as follows:

1. It was written in English by the office of the Treasury and all of its stipulations were detailed in this original request called The Warrant. The Warrant called for the Attorney General to incorporate all the provisions of the Charter into a document that would pass under the Great Seal of England.

2. Under the direction of the Attorney General it was then translated into Latin and written in an italic hand on 5 large sheets. The King then signed at the top of each of those sheets. This document is known as the King’s Bill.

3. The next document which is also in Latin in an italic script is called the Writ of the Privy Seal. At the top the joint sovereigns direct the Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal to make the document patent.

4. The fourth document is the Enrollment. This copy is made onto the Patent Rolls. It is done in Latin, but in the traditional chancery hand. This is not, in fact, the final copy of the Charter, but the official copy of the record with the government. The five different versions of the Charter that we know exist today all appear to be copied from the Writ of the Privy Seal, whether they are in English or in Latin.


Disappearance

The only mention of the disappearance of the original charter is an extract from the Proceedings of the Faculty for March 28, 1791. This extract was written by a professor of history at William and Mary, Robert J. Morrison, who taught at the College from 1858 to 1861. The original minutes no longer exist. The extract, which is held in manuscript form at the Library of Virginia, reads as follows:

"The Society being informed by M. Bellini that the original charter of this College which is lost, was some years past seen by him in the possession of a certain Karjavina, a native of Muscovy, who declared that it was his intention to deposit the same among the archives of St. Petersburg in Russia. Resolved etc."

Professor Evans followed his monograph on the Royal Charter with another on the relationship between Carlo Bellini, the professor of modern languages at William and Mary, and the shadowy figure of "Karjavina" who was actually Fedor Vasil' evich Karzhavin, a Russian trader who was in Williamsburg in 1779-1780 and again in 1785-1787.

We do not know if Fedor Karzhavin took the College of William and Mary's copy of the Charter with him, but we do know that it is not in the Karzhavin papers at the Archives in St. Petersburg. There is some speculation that Bellini himself might have taken the Charter or have been irresponsible enough to have lost track of it. Why mention Karzhavin, 4 years after his last visit here, as having taken it? What does "Resolved etc." refer to?

The most likely period of time for it to have disappeared was the fall and winter of 1781-1782 when Professor Bellini and his wife were the only staff left at the College and were living in apartments there while the rest of the College Building was being used as a military hospital. It was a frightening and uncertain time and when the president Bishop James Madison returned to the College in March of 1782 he said in a letter to James Madison, Jr. "Our friend Bellini, who has withstood all the Calamities which surround him with a Fortitude worthy of an old Roman Descent, affords me now an Asylum to write you a few lines: otherwise I know not that I could here scare find a Place." (Papers of James Madison, IV, 82-83)

The Contemporary Copies of the Charter in the Special Collections Research Center

The original copy of the charter establishing the College of William and Mary in Virginia was apparently lost about the time of the American Revolution. College of William and Mary President James Blair brought both English and Latin versions of the twelve page charter establishing the college with him from the Court of William and Mary at Kensington Palace.

Harvard Copy

The College of William and Mary had been trying to acquire a contemporary copy of the Charter ever since the end of the 18th century. The first contemporary copy that William and Mary acquired was found in a trunk in an attic at Harvard University and was given to William and Mary in 1931. Originally, it was a splendid copy of the document, however, it was badly water damaged at some point in the past before it was given to William and Mary and is in need of conservation.

Andros Copy

The contemporary manuscript copy in the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library is thought to have been given to Sir Edmund Andros, the governor general of the colony of Virginia from 1692 to 1698. It is known that the Rev. James Blair brought both English and Latin versions of the twelve page charter with him from the Court of William and Mary at Kensington Palace. In a 1978 study of the charter, Prof. Frank B. Evans speculated that perhaps Ralph Wormeley, Secretary of the colony of Virginia, made this translation from Latin into English for Governor Andros.

This copy was purchased in 1977 and the image of its first page has been used on Charter Day programs, publication, websites, etc.

Transcription of the Royal Charter

Sir Edmund Andros copy of the College of William and Mary Charter, circa 1693

WILLIAM AND MARY, by the grace of God, of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, King and Queen, defenders of the faith, &c. To all to whom these our present letters shall come, greeting.

Forasmuch as our well-beloved and faithful subjects, con- stituting the General Assembly of our Colony of Virginia, have had it in their minds, and have proposed to themselves, to the end that the Church of Virginia may be furnished with a seminary of ministers of the gospel, and that the youth may be piously educated in good letters and manners, and that the Christian faith may be propagated amongst the Western Indians, to the glory of Almighty God; to make, found and establish a certain place of universal study, or perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences, con- sisting of one President, six Masters or Professors, and an hun- dred scholars more or less, according to the ability of the said college, and the statutes of the same; to be made, increased, diminished, or changed there, by certain trustees nominated and elected by the General Assembly aforesaid, to wit, our faithful and well-beloved Francis Nicholson, our Lieutenant Governor in our Colonies of Virginia and Maryland; Wm. Cole, Ralph Worm[e]ley, William Byrd and John Lear, Esquires; James Blair, John Farnifold, Stephen Fouace and Samuel Gray, clerks; Thomas Milner, Christopher Robinson, Charles Scarborough, John Smith, Benjamin Harrison, Miles Cary, Henry Hartwell, William Randolph and Matthew Page, gentlemen, or the major part of them, or of the longer livers of them, on the south side of a certain river, commonly called York river, or elsewhere, where the General Assembly itself shall think more convenient, within our Colony of Virginia, to be supported and maintained, in all time coming.

I. And forasmuch as our well-beloved and trusty the General Assembly of our Colony of Virginia aforesaid, has humbly supplicated us, by our well-beloved in Christ, James Blair, Clerk, their agent duly constituted, that we would be pleased, not only to grant our royal license to the said Francis Nicholson, Wil- liam Cole, Ralph Wormeley, William Byrd and John Lear, Esquires; James Blair, John Farnifold, Stephen Fouace and Samuel Gray, Clerks; Thomas Milner, Christopher Robinson, Charles Scarborough, John Smith, Benjamin Harrison, Miles Cary, Henry Hartwell, William Randolph and Matthew Page, Gentlemen, or the major part of them, or of the longer livers of them, to make, found, erect and establish the said college, but also to extend our royal bounty and munificence towards the erection and foundation of the said college, in such way and manner as to us shall seem most expedient: We, taking the premises seriously into our consideration, and earnestly desiring, that as far as in us lies, true philosophy, and other good and liberal arts and sciences may be promoted, and that the orthodox Christian faith may be propagated: And being desirous, that forever hereafter, there should be one such college, or place of universal study, and some certain and undoubted way within the said college, for the rule and government of the same, and of the masters or professors, and scholars, and all others inhabiting and residing therein, and that the said college should sub- sist and remain in all time coming of our special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion, HAVE GRANTED and given leave, and by these presents do grant and give leave, for us, our heirs and successors, as much as in us lies, to the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, Ralph Wormeley, William Byrd and John Lear, Esquires; James Blair, John Farnifold, Stephen Fouace and Samuel Gray, Clerks; Thomas Milner, Christopher Robinson, Charles Scarborough, John Smith, Benjamin Harrison, Miles Cary, Henry Hartwell, William Randolph and Matthew Page, Gentlemen; That they or the major part of them, or of the longest livers of them, for promoting the studies of true philosophy, languages, and other good arts and sciences, and for propagating the pure gospel of Christ, our only Mediator, to the praise and honor of Almighty God, may have power to erect, found and establish a certain place of universal study, or perpetual College, for Divinity, Philosophy, Languages and other good Arts and Sciences, consisting of one President, six masters or professors, and an hundred scholars, more or less, graduates and non graduates, as above said, according to the statutes and orders of the said College, to be made, appointed and established upon the place by the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., or the major part of them, upon the south side of York river, on the land late of Colonel---------Townsend, deceased, now in the possession of John Smith, near the port appointed or laid out for York county, by the said General Assembly, within our said colony of Virginia; or if by reason of unwholesomeness, or any other cause, the said place shall not be approved of, wheresoever else the General Assembly of our Colony of Virginia, or the major part of them shall think fit, within the bounds of the aforesaid colony, to continue for all times coming.

II. And further, of our special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion, WE HAVE GRANTED, and given leave, and by these presents do grant, and give leave, for us, our heirs and suc- cessors, to the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., that they, or the major part of them, or the longer livers of them, may be enabled to take, hold and enjoy, and that they may be persons apt and capable in law, for taking, holding and enjoying all Manors, Lands, Tenements, Rents, Services, Rectories, Por- tions, Annuities, Pensions and Advowsons of Churches, with all other Inheritances, Franchises and Possessions whatsoever as well spiritual as temporal, to the value of two thousand pounds a year; and all other goods and chattels, monies and personal estate whatsoever, of the gift of any person whatsoever, that is willing to bestow them for this use; or any other gifts, grants, assignments, legacies or appointments, of the same, or of any of them, or of any other goods whatsoever: But with this express intention, and upon the special trust we put in them that they the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., or the major part of them, or of the longer livers of them, shall take and hold the premises, and shall dispose of the same, and of the rents, revenues or profits thereof, or of any of them only for defraying the charges that shall be laid out in erecting and fitting the edifices of the said intended college, and furnishing them with books, and other utensils, and all other charges pertaining to the said college, as they or the major part of them, shall think most expedient, until the said college shall be actually erected, founded and established, and upon this trust and intention, that so soon as the said college shall, according to our royal intent be erected and founded, the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., or the longer livers or liver of them, and their or his heirs, executors, administrators or assigns, shall by good and sufficient deeds and assurances in law give, grant and transfer to the said President and masters, or professors, or their successors, the said Lands, Manors, Tenements, Rents, Services, Rectories, Portions, Annuities, Pensions and Advowsons of Churches, with all other inheritances, franchises, possessions, goods, chattels and personal estate aforesaid, or as much thereof as has not been laid out and bestowed upon the building the said college, or to the other uses above mentioned.

III. And seeing the said General Assembly of our Colony of Virginia, has named, elected or appointed, the said James Blair, Clerk, as a fit person to be President of the said college; we of our special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion, do approve, confirm and ratify the said nomination and election, and do by these presents make, create and establish the said James Blair first President of the said college, during his natural life.

IV. And further, we grant our special license to the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., and their successors, or the major part of them, that they have power to elect and nominate other apt, fit and able persons, into the places of the masters or professors of the said college; and that, after the death, resignation or deprivation of the said President, or Pro- fessors, or any of them, the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., and their successors, or the major part of them, shall have power to put in, and substitute, a fit person, or persons, from time to time, into his or their place, or places, according to the orders and statutes of the said college, to be made, enacted and established, for the good and wholesome government of the said college, and of all that bear office, or reside therein, by the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., or their successors, or the major part of them.

V. And further, we will, and for us, our heirs and successors, by these presents, do GRANT, that when the said College shall be so erected, made, founded and established, it shall be called and denominated, for ever, the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, and that the President and masters, or professors, of the said college, shall be a body politic and incorporate, in deed and name; and that by the name of the President, and masters, or professors, of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, they shall have perpetual succession; and that the said President, and masters, or professors, shall forever be called and denominated the President, and Masters, or Professors, of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia: And that the said President, and masters, or professors, and their successors, by the name of the President, and masters, or professors, of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, shall be persons able, capable, apt and perpetual in law, to take and hold lordships, manors, lands, rents, reversions, rectories, portions, pensions, annuities, inheritances, possessions and services, as well spiritual as temporal, whatsoever, and all manner of goods and chattels, both of our gift, and our heirs and successors, and of the gift of the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, Ralph Wormeley, Wm. Byrd and John Lear, Esquires; James Blair, John Farnifold, Stephen Fouace and Samuel Gray, Clerks; Thomas Milner, Chris- topher Robinson, Charles Scarborough, John Smith, Benjamin Harrison, Miles Cary, Henry Hartwell, William Randolph and Matthew Page, Gentlemen; or of the gift of any other person whatsoever, to the value of two thousand pounds, of lawful money of England, yearly and no more, to be had and held by them and their successors for ever.

VI. And also, that the said President, and masters or pro- fessors, by and under the name of the President, and masters, or professors of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, shall have power to plead, and be impleaded, to sue, and to be sued, to defend, and be defended, to answer, and be answered, in all and every cause, complaint, and action, real, personal and mixed, of what kind and nature soever they be, in whatsoever courts and places of Judicature belonging to us, our heirs and suc- cessors or to any person whatsoever, before all sorts of justices and judges, ecclesiastical and temporal, in whatsoever kingdoms, countries, colonies, dominions or plantations, belonging to us, or our heirs, and to do, act, and receive, these and all other things, in the same manner, as our other liege people, persons able and capable in law, within our said Colony of Virginia or our king- dom of England, do, or may act, in the said courts and places of Judicature, and before the said justices and judges.

VII. As also, that the said President, and masters or pro- fessors, and their successors shall have one common seal, which they make use of in any whatsoever cause and business belong- ing to them and their successors; and that the President, and masters or professors of the said College, and their successors, shall have leave to break, change and renew, their said seal, from time to time, at their pleasure, as they shall see most expedient.

VIII. And further of our more especial grace, we have given and granted, and for us, our heirs, and successors, we give and grant our special license, as far as in us lies to the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, Ralph Wormeley, William Byrd and John Lear, Esquires; James Blair, John Farnifold, Stephen Fouace, Samuel Gray, Clerks; Thomas Milner, Christopher Robinson, Charles Scarborough, John Smith, Benjamin Harri- son, Miles Cary, Henry Hartwell, William Randolph and Matthew Page, gentlemen, that they, or any other person or persons, whatsoever, after the said college is so founded, erected, made, created and established, may have power to give, and grant, assign and bequeath, all manors, lands, tenements, rents, services, rectories, portions, annuities, pensions and advowsons of Churches, and all manner of inheritance, franchises and pos- sessions whatsoever, as well spiritual as temporal, to the value of two thousand pounds a year, over and above all burthen and reprisals, to the President, and masters, or professors, of the said College, for the time being, and their successors, to be had, held and enjoyed, by the said President, and masters, or professors, and their successors, forever: And that they the said President and masters, or professors aforesaid, may take and hold, to themselves, and their successors, forever, as is aforesaid, manors, lands, tenements, rents, reversions, services, rectories, portions, pensions, annuities, and all, and all manner of inherit- ances, and possessions whatsoever, as well spiritual as temporal, to the aforesaid value of two thousand pounds a year, over and above all burthens, reprisals and reparations: It not being our will, that the said President, and masters or professors of the said College, for the time being, or their successors, shall be troubled, disquieted, molested, or aggrieved by reason, or occa- sion of the premises, or any of them, by us, our heirs, and suc- cessors, or by any of our justices, escheators, sheriffs, or other bailiffs, or ministers, whatsoever, belonging to us, our heirs and successors.

IX. And further, we will, and by these presents, do declare, nominate, ordain and appoint, the said Francis Nicholson, Wil- liam Cole, Ralph Wormeley, William Byrd and John Lear, Esquires; James Blair, John Farnifold, Stephen Fouace and Samuel Gray, Clerks; Thomas Milner, Christopher Robinson, Charles Scarborough, John Smith, Benjamin Harrison, Miles Cary, Henry Hartwell, William Randolph and Matthew Page, gentlemen; and their successors, to be the true, sole and un- doubted visitors and governors of the said college forever: And we give and grant to them, or the major part of them, by these our letters patents, a continual succession, to be continued in the way and manner hereafter specified; as also full and absolute liberty, power and authority, of making, enacting, framing and establishing such and so many rules, laws, statutes, orders and injunctions, for the good and wholesome government of the said college, as to them the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., and their successors, shall from time to time, according to their various occasions and circumstances, seem most fit and expedient: All which rules, laws, statutes and injunctions so to be made, as aforesaid, we will have to be observed, under the penalty therein contained: Provided notwithstanding that the said rules, laws, statutes, orders and injunctions, be no way contrary to our prerogative royal, nor to the laws and statutes of our kingdom of England or our colony of Virginia, aforesaid, or to the canons and constitutions of the church of England, by law established.

X. And further, we will and by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, do grant and confirm to the said visitors, and governors of the said college, and their successors, that they and their successors, shall, forever, be eighteen men, or any other number not exceeding the number of twenty, in the whole, to be elected and constituted in the way and manner hereinafter specified; and that they shall have one discreet and fit person, that shall be elected, and nominated, out of their number, in the manner hereafter mentioned, that shall be, and shall be called Rector of the said college: And we have appointed and confirmed and by these presents, do appoint and confirm the said James Blair, to be the present rector of the said college, to be continued in the said office for one year next ensuing the foundation of the said college, and thereafter till some other of the visitors and governors of the said college shall be duly elected, preferred and sworn into the said office; and that from time to time, and in all time coming, after the said year is expired, or after the death of the rector within the year, the visitors and governors of the said college, or the greater part of them, or of their successors, shall have power to elect and nominate another discreet and fit person, from amongst themselves to be rector of the said college; and that he who is elected, preferred and nominated, as above said, into the place of rector of the said college, shall have power to have, exercise and enjoy the said office of rector of the said college, for one whole year, then next ensuing and thereafter, until some other rector of the said col- lege shall be duly elected, preferred and sworn into the said office: And to perpetuate the succession of the said rector, and of the said visitors and governors of the said college, we will, ordain and appoint, that as often as any one or more of the said visitors and governors of the said college, shall die, or remove himself and family out of our said colony into any other country for good and all, that then, and so often, the rector for the time being, and the other visitors and governors of the said college, then surviving and remaining within the colony, or the major part of them, shall and may have leave to elect, nominate and choose one or more of the principal and better sort of the inhabi- tants of our said colony of Virginia, into the place or places of the visitor and governor, or visitors and governors, so dead or removed, to fill up the aforesaid number of visitors and gov- ernors, for the said college; and that he or they so elected and chosen shall take his or their corporal oath, before the rector, and the other visitors and governors of the said college, or the major part of them, well and faithfully to execute the said office; which oath the said rector, and two or more of the visitors, shall have power to administer: And that after the taking of the said oath, he or they shall be of the number of the said visitors and governors of the said college.

XI. And further, we will, and by these presents, for us, our heirs and successors, do grant and confirm, to the said Presi- dent, and masters, or professors of the said college, and their successors, that they and their successors shall have one emi- nent and discreet person, to be elected and nominated, in the manner hereafter expressed, who shall be, and shall be called chancellor of the said college: And we have appointed and con- firmed, and by these presents, for us, our heirs, and successors, do appoint and confirm, our well-beloved and right trusty the reverend father in God, Henry, by divine permission, bishop of London, to be the first chancellor of the said college, to be con- tinued in the said office for seven years next ensuing, and there- after, until some other chancellor of the said college shall be duly elected and chosen into the said office: And that from time to time, and in all time coming, after these seven years are expired, or after the death of the said bishop, or of the chancellor, for the time being, the rector, and visitors, and governors of the said College for the time being, or the major part of them, shall and may have power to elect, choose and nominate, some other eminent and discreet person, from time to time, to be chancellor of the said college; and that he who is so nominated and elected to be the chancellor of the said college, shall and may have, execute, and enjoy, the said office of chancellor of the said college, for the space of seven years then next ensuing, and thereafter until some other chancellor of the said college shall be duly elected and constituted.

XII. Further, we will by these presents and for us, our heirs and successors, do grant and confirm to the said president, and masters, or professors, of the said college, and to their suc- cessors, that after the said college is erected, founded, and estab-lished, they may retain and appoint some convenient place, or council chamber, within the said college; and that the rector and other visitors, and governors of the said college, or the major part of them, for the time being, as often as they shall think good, and see cause, may convocate and hold a certain court or convocation within the said chamber, consisting of the said rector and visitors, and governors, of the said college, or the major part of them, in all time coming; and in the said convocation, may treat, confer, consult, advise, and decree, con- cerning statutes, orders, and injunctions, for the said college.

XIII. And further, we will, and by these presents, for us, our heirs, and successors, do grant and confirm to the said Presi- dent, and masters, or professors of the said College, and their successors, or the major part of them, that from time to time, and in all time coming, the said rector and visitors, or gov- ernors of the said college, and their successors, or the major part of them, shall have power and authority, yearly, and every year, on the first Monday which shall happen next after the feast of the annunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary, to elect and nominate, and that they shall and may elect and nominate one of the said visitors or governors of the said college, to be rector of the said college for one whole year then next ensuing: And that he, after he is so elected and chosen into the said office of rector of the said college, before he be admitted to exe- cute the said office, shall, on the same day and in the same place, take his corporal oath before the last rector, and visitors, or governors of the said college, or any three of them, well and faithfully to execute the said office; and that after so taking the said oath, he shall and may execute the said office of rector of the said college, for one whole year then next ensuing: And also, that every seventh year, on the same Monday, next after the feast of the annunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary, afore- said, they shall, in like manner, have power and authority to elect and nominate another chancellor of the said college, to be con- tinued for seven years then next ensuing: And that he who shall be elected, chosen, and nominated, into the office of chan- cellor of the said college, shall and may, immediately after such election and nomination, execute the office of chancellor of the said college for seven years then next ensuing.

XIV. And that the charge and expense of erecting, building, founding and adorning, the said college at present, and also of supporting and maintaining the said president and masters or professors, for the future, may be sustained and defrayed, of our more ample and bounteous special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion, we have given, granted, assigned, and made over, and by these presents, for us, our heirs, and suc- cessors, do give, grant, assign, and make over to the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, Ralph Wormeley, William Byrd, and John Lear, Esquires; James Blair, John Farnifold, Stephen Fouace, and Samuel Gray, clerks; Thomas Milner, Christopher Robinson, Charles Scarborough, John Smith, Benjamin Harrison, Miles Cary, Henry Hartwell, William Randolph, and Matthew Page, gentlemen, and their executors and assigns forever, the whole and entire sum of one thousand nine hundred and eighty- five pounds, fourteen shillings and ten pence, of good and lawful money of England, that has been received and raised out of quit rents of the said colony, now remaining in the hands of Wm. Byrd, Esquire, our auditor, or in whosoever other hands the same now is, for our use, within the said colony: And, therefore, we command and firmly enjoin the said auditor, or any other person with whom the said money is deposited, or who is obliged to pay the same immediately upon sight of these our letters patents, to pay, or cause to be paid, the said sum of one thousand nine hundred and eight-five pounds, fourteen shillings and ten pence, to the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., or the major part of them, or of the longer livers of them, or to their attorney, in that part lawfully constituted, with any other warrant, mandate, or precept to be obtained or expected from us, to be laid out and applied about and towards the build- ing, erecting and adorning, the said college, and to no other use, intent or purpose whatever.

XV. Seeing also, by a certain act of parliament, made the twenty-fifth year of the reign of our royal uncle, Charles the Second, of blessed memory, entitled An act for the encourage- ment of the Greenland and Eastland trades, and for better secur- ing the plantation trade, it was enacted, that after the first day of September, in the year of our Lord M.DC.LXXIII. if any ship, which by law, might trade in any of the plantations, should come to any of them to load, and take on board tobacco, or any other of the commodities there enumerated, and if bond were not first given, with one sufficient surety, to carry the said tobacco to England, Wales, or the town of Berwick upon Tweed, and to no other place, and there to unload and put the same on shore, (the dangers of the sea only excepted ;) in such case there should be paid to our said uncle, and his heirs and successors, one penny for every pound of tobacco so loaded and put on board, to be levied, collected, and paid in such places, and to such officers, and collectors, as should be appointed in the respective planta- tions, to collect, levy, and receive the same, and under such penalties, both to the officers and upon the goods as for non- payment of his majesty's customs in England: And if it should happen, that any person or persons who are to pay the said duties, shall not have ready money to satisfy the same, that the officers who are appointed to collect the said duties, shall in lieu of the said ready money, take such proportion of tobacco, that was to be shipped, as may amount to the value thereof, according to the usual rate of the said commodity, in such plantation respectively: All which things are to be ordered, and disposed, and these several duties are to be caused to be levied, by the commissioners of our customs in England, for the time being, under the authority and direction of the lord treasurer of England, or the commissioners of the treasury, for the time being, as by the said act of parliament, amongst other things therein contained, reference being thereto had, doth more fully appear; we, of our more bounteous grace, mere motion, and certain knowledge, have given and granted, and for us, and our successors, do give, and grant, to the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, &c., and the other trustees above mentioned, and their heirs for ever, the said revenue of one penny for every pound of tobacco in Virginia, or Maryland, in America, or either of them that shall be so loaded, and put on board, as is above said; and the nett produce which shall accrue in England, or elsewhere, by selling there the tobacco that shall be collected in the colonies of Virginia, and Maryland, in lieu of the penny that ought to be paid for every pound of tobacco so loaded and put on board, as is above said: Provided always, that the com- missioners of our customs in England, for the time being, shall name and appoint all the collectors and receivers of the said money and tobacco, and their inspectors and comptrollers, from [time] to time, as they have hitherto done: And that the salaries of the said collectors, receivers, and comptrollers, shall be deducted and paid out of the said revenue; and that the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, Ralph Wormeley, William Byrd, and John Lear, Esquires; James Blair, John Farnifold, Stephen Fouace, and Samuel Gray, clerks; Thomas Milner, Christopher Robinson, Charles Scarborough, John Smith, Benjamin Harrison, Miles Cary, Henry Hartwell, William Randolph, and Matthew Page, gentlemen, and their successors, as also the President, and masters, or professors of the said College, and their successors, for the time being, shall be obliged to receive and observe all such rules, orders, and instructions, as shall be transmitted to them, from time to time, by the said commissioners of our customs in England, for the time being, under the inspection and direction of the lord treasurer, or the commissioners of our treasury in England, for the time being, for the better and more exact collecting of the said duty, as by the said act of parliament, reference being thereto had, is more particularly directed and appointed: but with this express intention, and upon the special trust and confidence we place in the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, and the rest of the aforesaid trustees, that they, and the longest livers of them, and their heirs, shall take, hold, and possess the said revenue of a penny per pound, for every pound of tobacco aforesaid, with all its profits, advantages, and emoluments, to apply and lay out the same, for building and adorning the edifices and other necessaries for the said college, until the said college shall be actually erected, founded, and established, and with this express intention, and upon the special trust and confidence, that as soon as the said college shall be erected and founded, according to our royal purpose, the said trustees, and the longest livers or liver of them, and his or their heirs, or assigns, shall, by good and sufficient deeds and assur- ances in law, give, grant, and transfer to the President, and masters, or professors, of the said college, this whole revenue, with all its profits, issues and emoluments before mentioned, or so much thereof, as shall not have been expended and laid out for the aforesaid uses, to be held, possessed, and enjoyed, by the said President, and masters, or professors, and their successors, for ever.

XVI. And also, of our special grace, mere motion, and cer- tain knowledge, we have given and granted, and by these pres- ents, for us, our heirs, and successors do give and grant to Francis Nicholson, William Cole, and the rest of the said trustees, and the longest livers or liver of them, and to his or their heirs, the office of surveyor-general of our said colony of Virginia, if the said office be now void, or whensoever and how often soever it shall thereafter fall void, to be had, held and executed, with all its issues, fees, profits, advantages, con- veniences, liberties, places, privileges, and pre-eminences what- soever, belonging to the said office, in as ample form and manner, as any other person, who has heretofore had, executed, or pos- sessed the said office, ever had received or enjoyed, or ought to have, receive, or enjoy, by the said trustees, and their heirs; or by such officers and substitutes, as they or the major part of them, or of the longest livers of them, or of their heirs, shall from time to time nominate and appoint, until the said college shall be actually founded and erected: But with this express intention, and upon this special trust and confidence, which we place in the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, and the rest of the said trustees, that they and the longest livers of them, and their heirs, shall give back and restore to the President and masters, or professors, of the said college, for the time being, whatsoever money remains in their hands that has risen from this office, during their administration, not yet laid out upon the building of the said college, and the other above-mentioned uses, so soon as the said college shall be actually erected and founded. And after the said college shall be actually erected and founded, we will, that the said office of surveyor- general, if it be then void, as often as it shall be void, for the time to come, shall be had, held, and executed, with all its profits and appurtenances above-mentioned, by the said President and masters, or pro- fessors, and their successors, for ever: Provided always that the said Francis Nicholson, and the rest of the above-mentioned trustees, or the major part of them, or of the longest livers of them, and the President, and masters, or professors, for the time being, shall, from time to time nominate and substitute such and so many particular surveyors for the particular counties of our colony of Virginia, as our governor in chief, and the council of our said colony of Virginia, for the time being, shall think fit and necessary.

XVII. And also, of our more bounteous special grace, mere motion, and certain knowledge, we have given, granted, and con- firmed, and by these presents, for us, and our heirs, and suc- cessors, do give, grant, and confirm, to the said Francis Nichol- son, William Cole, and the rest of the trustees above-mentioned, ten thousand acres of land, not yet legally occupied or possessed by any of our other subjects, lying, and being, on the South side of the Black-water Swamp, and also other ten thousand acres of land, not legally occupied or possessed by any of our other subjects, lying and being in that neck of land, commonly called Pamunkey neck, between the forks or branches of York river: which twenty thousand acres of land, we will have to be laid out and measured in the places above-mentioned, at the choice of the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, and the rest of the fore-mentioned trustees, or the major part of them, or of the longest livers of them, to be had and held by the said Francis Nicholson, William Cole, and the rest of the above-mentioned trustees, and their heirs for ever; but with this intention, and upon special trust and confidence, that the said Francis Nichol- son, William Cole, and the rest of the said trustees, or the major part of them, or of the longest livers of them, so soon as the said college shall be actually founded, and established, shall give, grant, let, and alienate the said twenty thousand acres of land to the said President and masters, or professors of the said College, to be had and held by them, and their successors, for ever, by fealty, in free and common soccage, paying to us, and our successors, two copies of Latin verses yearly, on every fifth day of November, at the house of our governor, or lieu- tenant governor of Virginia, for the time being, for ever, in full discharge, acquittance, and satisfaction of all quit-rents, services, customs, dues, and burdens whatsoever, due, or to be due, to us, or our successors, for the said twenty thousand acres of land, by the laws or customs of England or Virginia.

XVIII. And also, of our special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion, we have given, and granted, and by these presents, for us and our successors, do give, and grant, to the said President, and masters, or professors of the said college, full and absolute power, liberty, and authority, to nominate, elect, and constitute one discreet and able person of their own num- ber, or of the number of the said visitors, or governors, or lastly, of the better sort of inhabitants of our colony of Virginia, to be present in the house of Burgesses, of the General Assembly of our colony of Virginia, and there to act and consent to such things, as by the common advice of our said colony shall (God willing) happen to be enacted.

XIX. And further, it is our pleasure, that such further con- firmations and ratifications of the premises shall be granted, from time to time by us, our heirs and successors, to the said Francis Nicholson, and the rest of the trustees above-mentioned, and to their successors, or to the President, and masters, or professors of the said college or to their successors, for the time being, upon their humble petition under the great seal of England, or otherwise, as the attorney-general of us, our heirs, or successors, for the time being, shall think fit and expedient.

In testimony whereof, we have caused these our letters to be made patent. Witness our- selves, at Westminster, the eighth day of February, in the fourth year of our reign. By writ of the Privy Seal.

PIGOTT.

The Charter, and Statutes, of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia, 1736

William Parks printed edition of the College of William and Mary Charter, 1736

While not the first printing of the original College of William and Mary charter, the 1736 edition by William Parks of Williamsburg is the best known. The copy in the Special Collections Research Center is bound in red morocco and gold tooled in Scottish herringbone by an unknown Scottish bookbinder in Parks' shop, it is one of three known copies. Parks, Williamsburg's first public printer, hoped to gain favor with the College faculty by printing, as one of his earlier works, this charter of the College of William and Mary. In Latin and English, it spells out the early College's mission; to train young men for the Anglican ministry, to educate youth in good letters and manners, and to propagate the Christian gospel among the Indians. It was a gift of Charles H. Taylor in 1932.

The 1727 printing of The Present State of Virginia and the College to which is added the Charter. The Wyat copy is a different translation from the one used in Parks' The Charter and Statutes printed in 1736. It is believed that John Wyat may have had direct access to one of the 11 copies that James Blair had because Blair was in London in 1727. There are differences in languages such as in the first paragraph they are "well-beloved and trust Subjects" in the Wyat printing and in the Parks printing they are "well-beloved and faithful Subjects".

Charter Day

The granting of the charter by King William III and Queen Mary II is celebrated during the College of William and Mary's annual Charter Day festivities. The annual celebration of Charter Day at the College of William and Mary was primarily a twentieth century development that was initiated by President John Stewart Bryan in 1937.


Material in the Special Collections Research Center

  • An Abridged Reading of the Royal Charter from Swem Library on YouTube.
  • The story of the royal charter of the College of William and Mary, Frank B. Evans, Williamsburg, Va. : Botetourt Bibliographical Society, College of William and Mary, 1978. Swem Stacks and Archives Books: Z732 .V8 B6 no.4
  • "Charter" and "Charter Day" files, University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.

Need help?

To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for an overview of the Special Collections Database, W&M Digital Archive, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, card catalogs, and other tools available to help you find material of interest in the Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center.

Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary.

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.
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