REAL Democracy History Calendar – February 1-7
(see full calendar at above link)
1819- Supreme Court declares a corporate charter is a contract in Dartmouth College v. Woodward (17 U.S. 518), protected by the Contracts Clause of the Constitution
The New Hampshire legislature wished to convert the private Dartmouth College into a public university by changing its charter, or license, which had been originally issued by the King of England. The legislature believed that education was too important to be left to private interests; thus, the school needed to become publicly accountable. The Supreme Court sided with the College’s trustees, stating a corporate charter is a contract, not to be altered under the Constitution’s Contracts Clause.
The word “corporation” does not appear in the Constitution. The Court’s decision transformed a corporate charter issued by a government as a mere privilege into a contract that a government cannot alter. The ruling gave corporations standing in the Constitution. Governments had greater difficulty controlling corporations. States began to include specific limitations into charters they granted.
1924 – Death of Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States
“Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.” Source: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/09/usa-sponsored-terrorism-mid-east-since-least-1948.html
[Note: Wilson asserts the power of corporations and “the market” dictate national policies, including military policies.
1887 – Formation of the first regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) – a “sheep in wolf’s clothing”
The ICC was designed in response to public demands for fair rates and to prevent rate discrimination by railroad corporations. It and subsequent regulatory agencies, however, were established chiefly to protect corporations from the public.
Prominent RR barons supported the ICC’s creation. Charles F. Adams (later President of the Union Pacific Railroad Co.) stated, “What is desired…is something having a good sound, but quite harmless [purpose], which will impress the popular mind with the idea that a great deal is being done, when, in reality, very little is intended to be done.”
So rather than have the public fundamentally control and define corporate actions via charters and/or create or expand public ownership of basic services, regulatory agencies were established. They have become the major target/distraction of activist opposition to corporate actions.
Corporate anthropologist Jane Anne Morris calls them “Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing.” Her excellent description of the history is at http://www.poclad.org/BWA/1998/BWA_1998_FALL.html
1950 – Supreme Court decision: United States v. Morton Salt Co., (338 U.S. 632, 650) – corporations are endowed with public attributes
Corporations “are endowed with public attributes. They have a collective impact upon society, from which they derive their privilege as artificial entities.”