Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. III.: WHAT BANK CHARTERS ARE CONSTITUTIONAL. - The Shorter Works and Pamphlets of Lysander Spooner vol. I (1834-1861)
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CHAP. III.: WHAT BANK CHARTERS ARE CONSTITUTIONAL. - Lysander Spooner, The Shorter Works and Pamphlets of Lysander Spooner vol. I (1834-1861) 
The Shorter Works and Pamphlets of Lysander Spooner vol. I (1834-1861) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010).
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WHAT BANK CHARTERS ARE CONSTITUTIONAL.
A Charter, that merely authorizes individuals to assume, and be known in law by, a corporate name, without pledging to them any protection against the ordinary liability of other individuals on their contracts, cannot be considered unconstitutional on the ground of “impairing the obligation of contracts.”
The usual objections made to the constitutionality of bank charters, is, that they are an evasion of that clause, which declares that “no State shall emit bills of credit.” The argument is, that what the State does by another, it does by itself—and that the creation of corporations, for the purpose of issuing bills of credit, is therefore as much a violation of the constitution as if the states were themselves to issue them. The principle is of course correct, that what one does by another, is done by himself—but the application of the principle to the case of banks chartered by a state, assumes two propositions, which are false, viz, 1st. That these corporations derive their authority to issue bills, from the grant of the state—and 2d. That in issuing them, they act as the agents of the state. Neither of these positions is correct. To issue bills of credit, that is, promissory notes, is a natural right. It is also a right, the exercise of which is specially protected by the constitution of the United States, as has been shown in a former chapter. It is one that the state governments cannot take from their citizens, and all those laws, which have attempted to deprive them of this right, are unconstitutional. The act of incorporation, then, gives no new right in this respect. It only authorizes the corporators to use a corporate name, in making such contracts, and doing such business, as they had a previous right to make and do in their own names. It also allows them to be known in law by that corporate name. The right of banking, or of contracting debts by giving promissory notes for the payment of money, is as much a natural right, as that of manufacturing cotton—and an act of legislation, incorporating a banking company, no more confers the right of banking, than an act incorporating a cotton manufacturing company, confers the right of manufacturing cotton.
Banking corporations, then, are not, in any essential particular, the “creatures” of the state governments. Those governments create neither the individual corporators—nor furnish the capital with which they carry on their business. Nor do they confer the right of carrying on any business, which, but for the grant, they could not lawfully have carried on as individuals. A banking corporation is not necessarily any thing more than a certain number of individuals, exercising their natural and constitutional rights, and permitted to be known in law, under a different name and style from their ordinary ones. Neither are they, in any sense whatever, the agents of the State. They do not issue their bills of credit, for, or on behalf of, the state. The state does not “emit bills of credit” through them, any more than it manufactures cotton through the agency of the manufacturing companies, which it incorporates. Neither does the state furnish any of their capital, or participate in their profits. In short, these corporations are merely associations of men, doing a lawful business for themselves alone, under a name and style which the state permits them to assume.
If the granting of corporate names to banking companies, be a violation of the constitutional prohibition against the “state’s emitting bills of credit,” the granting of a corporate name to a manufacturing company, that should, in the course of its business, issue its promissory notes, would be equally such a violation. But will any one say that the promissory notes of all incorporated manufacturing companies are unconstitutional and void, as being within the prohibition to the States to “emit bills of credit?”
It must be evident, I think, that the prohibition upon the “states” to “emit bills of credit,” is a prohibition only upon the emission of bills upon the credit of the states themselves.