Economic Policy in the Development of a Western State, Missouri, 1820-1860

By James Neal Primm | Go to book overview

III
STATE POLICY TOWARD CORPORATIONS, 1820-1847

THE creation of the Bank of the State of Missouri as a chartered company in which the state entered into partnership with private investors was a prominent example of the use of the legislature's chartering power as an instrument of public policy. Though the state bank was the single instance in which the state invested its funds in a mixed-enterprise venture during the first forty years of statehood, the legislature was active in passing special acts of incorporation throughout the period.

As was usual in the original constitutions of American states, Missouri's first body of organic law contained no reference to the process of incorporation, except for a restrictive article on banking. As it was generally recognized in America that the power to grant corporate privileges belonged to the lawmaking body, there was little need for an explicit provision on the subject.1 The absence of articles on incorporation in the basic laws of the older states undoubtedly influenced the Missouri convention, as its members drew heavily on earlier constitutions in writing the constitution of 1820.2

It is notable that the only constitutional limitation on the chartering power was the clause providing that one bank, and no more, could be incorporated by the General Assembly.3 The Bank of St. Louis, which had failed in a flurry of scandal and litigation, and the Bank of Missouri, still functioning but under heavy fire in 1820,4 had been the only corporations chartered by the territorial legislature that had not been strictly public in

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