Initially, the privilege of incorporation was granted selectively to enable activities that benefited the public, such as construction of roads or canals. Enabling shareholders to profit was seen as a means to that end.
The states also imposed conditions (some of which remain on the books, though unused) like these:
* Corporate charters (licenses to exist) were granted for a limited time and could be revoked promptly for violating laws.
* Corporations could engage only in activities necessary to fulfill their chartered purpose.
* Corporations could not own stock in other corporations nor own any property that was not essential to fulfilling their chartered purpose.
* Corporations were often terminated if they exceeded their authority or caused public harm.
* Owners and managers were responsible for criminal acts committed on the job.
* Corporations could not make any political or charitable contributions nor spend money to influence law-making.
For 100 years after the American Revolution, legislators maintained tight controll of the corporate chartering process. Because of widespread public opposition, early legislators granted very few corporate charters, and only after debate. Citizens governed corporations by detailing operating conditions not just in charters but also in state constitutions and state laws. Incorporated businesses were prohibited from taking any action that legislators did not specifically allow.
This article first appeared in 2000 and I encourage everyone to read the rest of it. It is full of the little known history of Corporations and their rise in America. The Founders were very leary of allowing Corporations to exist and I'm sure most of us now realize why. It also touches upon the beginning of "Corporate Personhood" which the beginning of the ramifications actually dates all the way back to 1886.
Often when the Tea Party people talk about "taking our country back" they are referring to "taking it away" from the Federal Government which we all know is controlled by Big Money coming from Big Business and the uber-wealthy. I can endorse that sentiment. Why can't other people see that this is in their best interest? The Federal Government is so far removed from the actual day-to-day struggles of Main Street but still feels it is the best judge of how much salt you can have in your diet. Really? Of course those who oppose the Tea Party will do whatever they can to stop them from achieving their goal of "taking back" the power co-opted by the Federal Government as a matter of pure hate and cutting off their own nose to spite their faces in the process. Whom do you think is easier to reach; the Legislators in Congress or your State Legislators and which will be more concerned as a group with the concerns of what is happening in YOUR backyard? This is another facet of "taking back our country" I can endorse and is better known as The Tenth Amendment Movement. Is state rule perfect? Not at all. But that is why we have a Supreme Court to reign them in which worked very well for a very long time until of course the bought and paid for politicians began seating their own brand of Justice.
Another form of "Taking back our country" I happen to agree with is the return to the regulation of the financial industry the Founders were so insistent upon. We have only to look around us to see the damage done by the dismantling of the Glass-Stegall Act. We can all see that we cannot trust the Bankers to "do what's right" because there is much more profit in doing wrong apparently. In times gone by, the community banker had the final say, not some corporate office with phone banks in India. Because of this they would know whether or not the applicant was credit worthy and just suffering from a temporary setback, or if they were a deadbeat not worth a plugged nickel. They knew what their local economy was doing and were much better judges of whether or not an idea for a local business was viable or more of a pipedream. They based their decision on the person;their business accumin, their reputation within the community, and the reality of potential return on the investment instead of a Credit Report which may or may not be a true indication of the applicants ability or willingness to repay a loan.
Yes, there are many areas where we need to "take our country back". Far more than there are places we would not wish to go. No one with any intelligence at all would believe that we will slide back into the days of slavery, women as property, or child labor. We've grown beyond those evils and recognize them for what they are. So why not go back to some of the principles that this country was founded upon and maybe, just maybe, we will again be the strong, healthy, vibrant nation we once were.