This article had its antecedents in various statutory and constitutional acts, including the establishment of the Board of Public Works by an 1816 statute and its elevation to constitutional status in the 1851 Constitution, as well as the creation of the office of railroad commissioner by an 1877 statute. However, growing concerns about the power of railroads and the inadequacy of existing regulatory institutions led the Convention of 1901–02 to draft a stand-alone Corporations Article.1
The original Corporations Article in the 1902 Constitution contained a wideranging and detailed set of provisions, many of which were subsequently eliminated in the 1971 Constitutional revision. For instance, one section, since eliminated, provided that ““t”he General Assembly shall enact laws preventing all trusts, combinations and monopolies, inimical to the public welfare” (art. XII, sec. 165). Another section, also no longer in effect, prohibited railroads from issuing “any frank, free pass, free transportation, or any rebate or reduction in the rates charged by such company to the general public” to members of the General Assembly, among other officials (art. XII, sec. 161). Still another now-defunct section declared the “doctrine of fellow-servant” to be “abolished as to every employee of a railroad company” engaged in a variety of tasks (art. XII, sec. 162).
One aspect of the original Corporations Article that has survived in the current Constitution and stands at the heart of this current section is the provision for the State Corporation Commission, which has been described as “the most powerful regulatory body in the fifty states.”2 As the chairman of the Committee on Corporations in the 1901–02 Convention and chief architect of the State Corporation Commission, Allen Caperton Braxton provided the best explanation of the commission's origin and design, both in the convention debates and in subsequent