charter, document granting certain rights, powers, or functions. It may be issued by the sovereign body of a state to a local governing body, university, or other corporation or by the constituted authority of a society or order to a local unit. The term was widely applied to various royal grants of rights in the Middle Ages and in early modern times. The most famous political charter is the Magna Carta of England. Chartered companies held broad powers of trade and government by royal charter. In colonial America, chartered colonies were in theory, and to an extent in fact, less subject to royal interference than were royal colonies.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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