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Quigley on top: The Legitimacy of the Business Corporation in the Law of the United States

February 26, 2015

Professor Carroll Quigley in a 1976 lecture raised one of the two or three overriding issues in politics today. Without public control over the personhood, longevity, and owner liability limitations of corporations, there can never be a just and fair society. Attempts like raising the minimum wage, providing health care or other social initiatives cannot bind for long an entity that has all the rights of a natural person, is immortal and bears limited liabilities for its missteps.

“The administrative system and elections are dominated today by the private power of money flows and corporation activities. I want to read you a summary from James Willard Hurst’s “The Legitimacy of the Business Corporation in the Law of the United States from 1780 to 1970”. He points out that there was powerful anti-corporation feeling in the United States in the 1820s. Therefore, it was established by the states that corporations could not exist by prescription: they had to have charters. They had to have a limited term of life and not be immortal. Corporations today are immortal: if they get charters, they can live forever and bury us all. They had to have a limited purpose. Who is giving us this bread made of sawdust? ITT: International Telephone and Telegraph, the same corporation that drove Ivar Kreuger to suicide in Paris in April 1931, when it actually was an international telegraph corporation, controlled by J. P. Morgan.

“I won’t take time to read all these things, but certain thin regulations were established in the United States regarding corporations: restricted purpose and activities especially by banks and insurance companies; prohibition on one corporation’s holding the stock of another without specific statutory grant; limits on the span of the life of the corporation, requiring recurrent legislative scrutiny; limits on total assets; limits on new issues of capital, so that the proportion of control of existing stockholders could be maintained; limits on the votes allowed to any stockholder, regardless of the size of his holding; and so forth.

“By 1890 all of these had been destroyed by judicial interpretation which extended to corporations — fictitious persons — those constitutional rights guaranteed, especially by the Fifteenth Amendment, to living persons. This interpretation was made possible by Roscoe Conklin, known as “Turkey Strut Conklin,” who told the Supreme Court that there were no records kept by the committee of the Senate that had drawn up the Fifteenth Amendment. But he had kept private notes which showed they had the intended the word “person” to include corporations. It was most convenient. The corporation that was hiring him to do this suitably rewarded him.”
Carroll Quigley Ph.D. “Public Authority and the State in the Western Tradition: A Thousand Years of Growth, AD 976 – 1976.” 

Or to put it another way:

“Corporations might be harder to kill than gods.”
Hearne, Kevin. Tricked: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book Four (p. 247). Random House Publishing Group.

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