Financial History Issue 125 (Spring 2018) | Page 30

1824 lithograph from a painting of the exterior of the Old Methodist Church on John Street , New York City .
Smith Collection / Gado two-way traffic from New York City into Ohio stimulated commercial development throughout the Northeast .
Corporations drew strong criticism as well . Both Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe feared the imperialistic ambitions of corporations , and Jefferson celebrated the fact that the US Constitution did not grant the federal government power to charter them . Monroe summarized their concern in a letter of 1813 , writing to Jefferson , “ We are now at the mercy of monied institutions , who have got the circulating medium into their hands , & in that degree the command of the country .” In addition to the problem of “ Adventurers ” within these institutions speculating with other people ’ s money , Monroe viewed commercial corporations as “ hostile to the govt ,” predicting that “ these corporate bodies would make a great struggle , before they would surrender — either their power or the profit they are making by the use of it .”
Partisan resentment festered as farmers and small businessmen saw elites in state government favoring wealthy friends with special charters of incorporation . Later Democrats built on this animus to challenge the inequitable system of patronage they perceived in state charters for financial and manufacturing companies . Few were more vocal in denouncing financial corporations than Andrew Jackson . “ Everyone that knows me ,” Jackson wrote in 1833 , “ does know that I have always been opposed to the United States Bank , nay all banks .” When the charter for the Bank of the United States came up for renewal during his presidency in 1832 , Jackson vetoed “ the Monster ,” taking a stand against “ the rich and powerful ,” who “ too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes .”
But not all corporations — or even all banks — favored elites . Many Americans viewed corporations as republican institutions , perfectly suited to their republican system of government . One proponent of this view , the German American political philosopher Francis Lieber , embraced the idea that corporations were little governments . His popular Encyclopedia Americana of 1830 defined a corporation as “ a political or civil institution , comprehending one or more persons , by whom it is conducted according to the laws of its constitution .”
Demand for equal access to incorporation triumphed over the anti-corporatism of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson .
28 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Spring 2018 | www . MoAF . org