May 19, 2013 by calamity3039
After seeing the havoc the East India Company caused it the world, the Founding Fathers heavily regulated their activities. For over a hundred years after the American Revolution, corporations had no rights. Their influence in America was next to none. Both State and federal governments oversaw all their activities. Their charters were often disbanded for any violation of the law. There was no public apology followed with a fine for wrong doing. One wrong move and they were gone. End of story.
The founders knew that corporations could attack their freedom. They weren’t going to let that happen. They saw with the rise of lobby groups in the British Empire that politicians could be easily bribed. To prevent that they made sure that corporations had no rights at all. They didn’t have the oversight over their own companies. They were not permitted to be involved in elections, public policy, or involved in writing the laws were for the corporations.
For over a hundred years corporations could only exist with having a charter. Those charters were issued by the states. The condition of obtaining a charter was that the corporation had to benefit the public. Most corporations at the time were used for the purpose of building public works. During that time it was seen as a deal with the devil. As America expanded it was necessary to have roads, bridges, ports, public buildings built. The states delegated the construction to private businesses in the form of a charter. Most of the public works at the time had to be organized to be pay for by shareholders. Issuing a charter was a must to finance these projects.
Luckily for the American people, once those projects were completed, those charters were dissolved. After the completion of a project all shares and existing assets were divided among Shareholders and the State. For those involved in a charter, if they wanted to continue to work on future projects they had to be issued another charter every time.
The Industrial Age brought plenty of opportunities for businessmen to get wealthy. Cities began to grow with the influx of immigrants from Ireland. Industrialist had a unlimited supply of cheap labor through those trying to escape the famine in Ireland. With many being desperate, they accepted harsh working conditions in factories. The average businessman started to become very powerful.
The immigrants of Ireland heavily swayed the Civil War. Many Irishmen were made citizens and enlisted in the military the moment they got off the boats. It was a good deal for a starving man. To enter America and instantly get regular meals and pay from the federal government. Their families could easily find employment in factories making weapons for the war.
Lincoln’s actions in the Civil War favored the Industrialists.The Union couldn’t win the war without them. They became wealthier and more of an influence in policy. After the war they had the means to lobby the now growing federal government. The outcome of the Civil War turned America into the United States. With state power weakened they saw an opening to have their agenda pushed through the federal government.
Many federal rulings contributed to the power struggle of the Civil War. In 1855, the Supreme Court upheld the Dartmouth College vs Woodward ruling. The charter was originally issued by King George III before the American Revolution. The law gave power to the college not the state. In the early 1800s the State of New Hampshire wanted to dissolve the board of trustees and make the college public. The Supreme Court had ruled against the state in favor of a private business.
With the Supreme Court upholding this law on the eve of the Civil War it angered many. It robbed states of their power to regulate corporations. It favored a collectivism against the an individuals right. It laid the ground work for corporations to exert their will on the people.
The rise of the railroad industry sealed the reversal of regulations on corporations. Wealthy businessmen exploited the new 14th Amendment of the Constitution to give themselves power. The 14th Amendment had been written to grant the slaves their freedom and rights. The Corporations argued that they too were “persons”. In 1886, in the case of Santa Clara Country vs. Southern Pacific Railroad they argued to the Supreme Court, that under the new Amendment that they too were guaranteed rights under the new law. The Supreme Court granted them “corporate personhood” and sealed the fate of our country and capitalism.