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A copie of the first Privileges graunted by the Emperour of Russia to the English Marchants in the yeere 1555.

JOHN Vasilivich, by the grace of God Emperor of Russia, great duke of Novogrode, Moscovia, &c. To all people that shal see, reade, heare or understand these presents, greeting. Forasmuch as God hath planted al realmes and dominions in the whole world with sundry commodities, so as the one hath neede of the amity and commodities of the other, and by means therof traffike is used from one to another, and amity therby increased: and for that as amongst men nothing is more to be desired then amity, without the which no creature being of a naturall good disposition can live in quietnes, so that it is as troublesome to be utterly wanting, as it is perceived to be grievous to the body to lacke aire, fire, or any other necessaries most requisite for the conservation and maintenance thereof in health: considering also how needfull marchandize is, which furnisheth men of all that which is convenient for their living and nouriture, for their clothing, trimming, the satisfying of their delights, and all other things convenient and profitable for them, and that marchandize bringeth the same commodities from divers quarters in so great abundance, as by meanes thereof nothing is lacking in any part, and that all things be in every place (where entercourse of marchandizes is received and imbraced) generally in such sort, as amity thereby is entred into, and planted to continue, and the injoyers thereof be as men living in a golden world: Upon these respects and other weighty and good considerations, us hereunto moving, and chiefly upon the contemplation of the gratious letters, directed from the right high, right excellent, and right mighty Queene Mary, by the grace of God Queene of England, France, &c. in the favour of her subjects, merchants, the governour, consuls, assistants, and communaltie of merchants adventurers for discovery of lands, &c.

Know ye therefore, that we of our grace speciall, meere motion, and certaine knowledge, have given and graunted, and by these presents for us, our heires and successours, do give and grant as much as in us is and lieth, unto Sebastian Cabota Governour, Sir George Barnes knight, &c. Consuls: Sir John Gresham, &c. Assistants, and to the communaltie of the aforenamed fellowship, and to their successours for ever, and to the successours of everie of them, these articles, graunts, immunities, franchises, liberties and privileges, and every of them hereafter following, expressed and declared. Videlicet:

1 First, we for us, our heires and successors, do by these presents give and graunt free licence, facultie, authority and power unto the said Governour, Consuls, Assistants, and communalty of the said fellowship, and to their successors for ever, that all and singular the marchants of the same company, their Agents, factours, doers of their businesse, atturneys, servants, and ministers, and every of them may at all times hereafter for ever more surely, freely and safely with their shippes, merchandizes, goods and things whatsoever saile, come and enter into all and singular our lands, countreis, dominions, cities, townes, villages, castles, portes, jurisdictions and destraicts by sea, land or fresh waters, and there tary, abide and sojourne, and buy, sell, barter and change all kind of merchandizes with al maner of marchants and people, of whatsoever nation, rite, condition, state or degrees they be, and with the same or other ships, wares, marchandizes, goods & things whatsoever they be, unto other empires, kingdomes, dukedomes, parts, and to any other place or places at their pleasure and liberty by sea, land or fresh waters may depart, and exercise all kinde of merchandizes in our empire and dominions, and every part thereof freely and quietly without any restraint, impeachment, price, exaction, prest, straight custome, toll, imposition, or subsidie to be demanded, taxed or paid, or at any time hereafter to be demanded, taxed, set, levied or inferred upon them or any of them, or upon their goods, ships, wares, marchandizes, and things, of, for or upon any part or parcell thereof, or upon the goods, ships, wares, merchandizes, and things of any of them, so that they shall not need any other safe conduct or licence generall, ne speciall of us, our heires or successours, neither shall be bound to aske any safe conduct or licence in any of the aforesaid places subject unto us.

2 Item, we give and graunt to the said marchants this power and liberty, that they, ne any of them, ne their goods, wares, marchandizes or things, ne any part thereof, shal be by any meanes within our dominions, landes, countreyes, castles, townes, villages, or other place or places of our jurisdiction, at any time heereafter attached, staied, arrested ne disturbed for anie debt, duetie or other thing, for the which they be not principall debters or sureties, ne also, for any offence or trespasse committed, or that shall be committed, but onely for such as they or any of them shall actually commit, and the same offences (if any such happen,) shall bee by us onely heard, and determined.

3 Item, we give and graunt, that the said Marchants, shal and may have free libertie, power, and authoritie to name, choose and assigne brokers, shippers, packers, weighers, measurers, wagoners, and all other meet and necessary laborers for to serve them in their feat of marchandises, and minister and give unto them and every of them a corporall othe, to serve them well and truely in their offices, and finding them or any of them doing contrary to his or their other, may punish and dismisse them, and from time to time choose, sweare and admit other in their place or places, without contradiction, let, vexation or disturbance, either of us, our heires or successors, or of any other our Justices, officers, ministers or subjects whatsoever.

4 Item, we give and graunt unto the saide Marchants and their successours, that such person as is, or shalbe commended unto us, our heires or successors by the Governour, Consuls and assistants of the said fellowship resiant within the citie of London within the realme of England, to be their chiefe Factor within this our empire and dominions, may and shal have ful power and authoritie to governe and rule all Englishmen that have had, or shall have accesse, or repaire in or to this said Empire and jurisdictions, or any part thereof, and shal and may minister unto them, and every of them good justice in all their causes, plaints, quarrels, and disorders betweene them moved, and to be moved, and assemble, deliberate, consult, conclude, define, determine and make such actes, and ordinances, as he so commended with his Assistants shall thinke good and meete for the good order, government and rule of the said Marchants, and all other Englishmen repairing to this our saide empire and dominions, or any part thereof, and to set and levie upon all, and every Englishmen, offender or offenders, of such their acts and ordinances made, and to be made, penalties and mulcts by fine or imprisonment.

5 Item, if it happen that any of the saide Marchants, or other Englishman, as one or more doe rebell against such chiefe Factor or Factors, or his or their deputies, and will not dispose him or themselves to obey them and every of them as shall appertaine, if the saide Rebels or disobedients doe come, and bee founde in our saide Empire and jurisdictions, or any part and place thereof, then wee promise and graunt, that all and every our officers, ministers, and subjects shall effectually ayde and assist the saide chiefe Factour or Factours, and their deputies, and for their power shall really woorke, to bring such rebell or disobedient rebels, or disobedients to due obedience: And to that intent shall lende unto the same Factour or Factours, and their deputies upon request therefore to be made, prisons, and instruments for punishments from time to time.

6 Item, we promise unto the saide Marchants, and their successours upon their request to exhibite and doe unto them good, exact and favourable justice, with expedition in all their causes, and that when they or any of them shall have accesse, or come to or before any of our Justices, for any their plaints mooved, and to bee mooved betweene any our subjects or other stranger, and them, or any of them, that then they shalbe first and forthwith heard, as soon as the party which they shal find before our Justices shalbe depeached, which party being heard forthwith, and assoone as may be, the said English marchants shall be ridde and dispatched: And if any action shall be moved by or against any of the said Marchants being absent out of our saide empire and dominions, then such Marchants may substitute an Atturney in all and singular his causes to be followed as need shall require, and as shall seeme to him expedient.

7 Item, wee graunt and promise to the saide Marchants, and to their successours, that if the same Marchants or any of them shall bee wounded, or (which God forbid) slaine in any part or place of our Empire or dominions, then good information thereof given, Wee and our Justices and other officers shall execute due correction and punishment without delay, according to the exigence of the case: so that it shall bee an example to all other not to commit the like. And if it shall chaunce the factors, servants, or ministers of the saide Marchants or any of them to trespasse or offende, whereby they or any of them shall incurre the danger of death or punishment, the goods, wares, marchandizes, and things of their Masters shall not therefoore bee forfaited, confiscated, spoiled ne seised by any meanes by us, our heires or successours, or by any our officers, ministers or subjects, but shall remaine to their use, franke, free, and discharged from all punishment and losse.

8 Item, we graunt that if any of the English nation be arrested for any debt, he shal not be laid in prison, so farre as he can put in sufficient suretie and pawne: neither shall any sergeant, or officer leade them or any of them to prison, before he shall have knowen whether the chiefe Factor or factors, or their deputies shalbe sureties, or bring in pawne for such arrested: then the officers shal release the partie, and shall set him or them at libertie.

9 Moreover, wee give, graunt and promise to the saide Marchants, that if any of their ships or other vessels shall bee spoyled, robbed, or damnified in saying, anckoring or returning to or from our saide Empires and Dominions, or any part thereof, by any Pirats, Marchants, or other person, whatsoever hee or they bee, that then and in such case, wee will doe all that in us is to cause restitution, reparation, and satisfaction to bee duely made to the said English marchants by our letters and otherwise, as shall stand with our honour, and be consonant to equitie and justice.

10 Item, for us, our heires and successours, wee doe promise and graunt to performe, mainteine, corroborate, autenticate, and observe all and singular the aforesaide liberties, franchises, and priviledges, like as presently we firmely doe intend, and will corroborate, autentike and performe the same by all meane and way that we can, as much as may be to the commoditie and profite of the said English Marchants, and their successours for ever.

And to the intent that all and singuler the saide giftes, graunts and promises, may bee inviolably observed and performed, we the said John Vasilivich by the grace of God Emperor of Russia, great Duke of Novogrode, Mosco, &c. for us, our heires and successors, by our Imperiall and lordly word in stead of an othe, have and doe promise by these presents, inviolably to mainteyne and observe, and cause to be inviolably observed and mainteined all and singuler the aforesayde giftes, graunts and promises from time to time, and at all and every time and times heereafter. And for the more corroboration hereof have caused our Signet hereunto to be put: Dated in our Castle of Mosco the 20. day of in the yeere.

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