Letters from Armorica- The Charter (15 August 36 AF)

First Letter

Dear Journal,

The thing is done, thanks to the good advice of M. Suprenant and his l'homme de loi, M. Gauthier. The people of the town of Bois-de-Bas have enacted a city charter under the statutes of the Articles of Founding, which are surprisingly lenient on the matter of population size. I suppose they had to be to allow for the incorporation of Mont-Havre thirty-six years ago, and then, these are the Articles set down by the Première Débarquement, the First Landing.

The successful founding of Armorica dates to the Deuxième Débarquement, an event Armoricans remember fondly and celebrate each June 3rd; but the city of Mont-Havre was founded by the colonists who came three years earlier on the Pont Neuf, our dear Madame Truc and Jacques-le-Souris among them. Though they are inveterate story-tellers, Jacques especially, even they prefer not to remember the hardships of those early years.

But the fundamental laws of the Colony of Armorica were set down at the time of the First Landing, and agreed to by the colonists who came later with Captain Jacques Durand on the Argenteuil. Planting a colony is a dangerous business, and it was understood that the site chosen for the first settlement might have serious disadvantages that were not apparent at first or even second glance—that it might, in fact, be necessary for the settlement to be abandoned in favor of a more propitious spot. On the other hand, the founders (most of whom perished within the first two years) did not want rival cities springing up everywhere just because of quarrels among the first colonists. All the Articles of Founding say, then, is that a second commune (for so the Provençese call an incorporated or chartered township) may not be established until twenty years after landing, unless the Première Cité must be abandoned during that time.

Today there are of course many small towns, villages, and hamlets outside of Mont-Havre; but according to M. Gauthier none of them have chosen to incorporate as a commune. It seems odd; but Armorica has been a backwater for most of its existence—due to the Troubles in Provençe, no one there had time to make trouble for the colonists. And Mont-Havre proved to be as good a site as the first colonists thought. So communities formed, and handled their own affairs in peace, mostly because the other communities in Armorica were too busy with their own affairs to meddle. I'm sure some would have liked to incorporate had they been allowed; but twenty years is a full generation, and I by the time it was possibility the possibility had been largely forgotten.

The main point for us is that there is no obstacle in the Articles of Founding for Bois-de-Bas to be chartered as a commune; the only hard requirement is that the charter be registered with the "governing council" of the colony. Not "approved" by that council, but simply "registered" with it. The first colonists wanted to be able to live their lives without undue interference from above, to the extent possible. In Provençe, any new commune would have needed to be approved by the Crown, but the Articles of Founding are silent about that, despite having portentous language about the allegiance owed to the mother country and its monarch.

And so, with the help of M. Gauthier we wrote up a charter for Bois-de-Bas that says that our town is governed by a town meeting and presided over by a mayor chosen by that meeting—which is to say that life will go on as before, except that now Bois-de-Bas will have rights under the law that the big men in Mont-Havre are bound to respect.

The people of Bois-de-Bas met in informal council in the Hot Springs this past Sunday—at least, the residents of long standing did—and then again in formal meeting at our town hall this afternoon, and after a few minor changes, the charter was adopted. Bois-de-Bas is now the Chartered Commune of Bois-de-Bas—or will be, once the charter is registered—and I, for my sins, am its first official mayor.

Tomorrow Marc Frontenac and I will make the journey to Mont-Havre, armed with the final draft of our charter, and spend a few days living quietly at the Guild Hall and dining with friends while M. Gauthier sees to registering the charter with the "governing council" of the Colony of Armorica; and then, no doubt, we shall dine with Lord Doncaster, who will want to know what we are about; and then we shall have a some fraught talk about the Armorican Former's Guild and the residency requirements thereof. I do not see a need to move the Guild's headquarters to Bois-de-Bas if something can be arranged with His Lordship; but if he becomes sticky I shall gladly do so.

Moving the Guild headquarters would leave a vacuum in Mont-Havre, of course, which means that some Cumbrian or Provençese former might come and establish a new branch of the guild there—an unpleasant thing—but the guild in Bois-de-Bas would remain the senior branch and the head of the guild in Armorica.

His Lordship might argue that the Articles of Founding have been abrogated by the Cumbrian victory over Le Maréchal and subsequent annexation of Armorica…but His Lordship has been delicate in his touch, to date, and beyond insisting on Cumbrian hegemony has mostly left the laws of Armorica alone, and as yet he has said nothing specific about the Articles of Founding.

I expect that to change, shortly. But for now we shall see if His Lordship blinks. I rather think he will.

Next letter

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