Front Page Titles (by Subject) MONOPOLIES: II - Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy
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MONOPOLIES: II - William Leggett, Democratick Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy 
Democratic Editorials: Essays in Jacksonian Political Economy, Foreword by Lawrence H. White (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
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November 29, 1834.
Title added by Sedgwick; Roman numeral added. Text abridged.
. . . [We] are surprised that the Journal of Commerce does not perceive that it makes no difference in the principle of the thing whether the stock of an incorporated Company is divided into fifty dollar shares, or five thousand dollar shares. Of whatever amount the subdivisions may be, but a small portion of the community can receive any at the original allotment, and but a small portion of them could receive any, if the Journal of Commerce’s favourite plan of selling the shares by auction were adopted. When the pitcher is full it will hold no more; and when the shares were all apportioned or sold, disappointed applicants could not expect to get any. The corporation would then be a monopoly enjoyed by the successful applicants; and whether their number was five or five thousand, they would possess “exclusive privileges” nevertheless, and would be the beneficiaries of unequal legislation.
It is an error of the Journal of Commerce to say, that the practical operation of corporations is to “take privileges, which would otherwise be monopolized by the rich, and divide them into such small parts, that every one who has fifty dollars may be interested, upon equal terms of advantage with the most wealthy.” In practice, the operation of the thing is quite the reverse. “Kissing goes by favour,” in those operations. Large capitalists get all the stock they ask for, and poor men get but a part, if any, that they solicit. There are published lists of apportionments to which we can refer the Journal of Commerce. But the fact is notorious. And moreover, it is notorious, that this pretended division of stock has even much less of fairness and honesty about it than would seem by the face of things. Many of the applicants who get large apportionments are men of straw, mere catspaws, thrust forward to answer the purpose of some great capitalist, for whom the stock is really procured. We could name instances, if it were necessary. We have not come to this subject without being furnished with ample means of establishing our arguments. There is the very last bank that went into operation—was the stock of that incorporation divided to fifty dollar applicants? Is it not, on the contrary, a fact, that a controlling interest is in the hands of a single individual, who is represented by his puppets—we beg their pardon, his proxies—in the directory? Nor is that bank a solitary instance, as the Journal of Commerce well knows.
But if the argument were true, to the fullest extent, that “fifty dollar men” can become bankers, and life-insurers, and packet-owners, and so on, it would still not be a good argument in favour of special acts of incorporation for these several purposes; because these special acts would each embrace but a small portion of the community, and all special or partial legislation is, in its very nature, anti-republican and invasive of equal rights. Let capital and industry alone to find their own channels. This is the true principle to act upon. If any additional legislation is necessary, let it be legislation that shall embrace the whole body politic, and every variety of laudable enterprise. The “fifty dollar” argument of the Journal of Commerce might with much more propriety be put forward in support of a general law of joint stock partnerships, than in support of the everlasting iteration of special acts of incorporation, where every succeeding set of applicants are striving to get some privileges or advantages not conferred by previous charters, and, to effect their selfish and unjust ends, resorting to all the arts of collusion and corruption. Under a general law, not merely “fifty dollar men,” but twenty dollar men, and one dollar men, might if they pleased place their means in the joint funds of an association to effect some great enterprise. Such a law would be the very measure to enable poor men to compete with rich. As it is, let the Journal of Commerce say what it may, acts of incorporation are chiefly procured by the rich and for the rich. What claims have your William Bards1 or your Nathaniel Primes on the country, that our legislature should spend their time in making laws for their exclusive or particular advantage? Did we cast our suffrages into the ballot-boxes to select legislative factors for those men, or such men? Let them have their equal rights, but let them have no more.
The Journal of Commerce seems to think our reasoning involves a contradiction, because we oppose special acts of incorporations or monopolies, and yet would extend incorporations indefinitely. We have not said we would extend corporations indefinitely; yet if corporations were extended indefinitely, there would be no monopoly; since when every member of the community has precisely the same opportunities of employing capital and industry given to him by the laws which every other member has, there is no exclusive privilege, and no invasion of equal rights. But it is an error in terms to say that we advocate the indefinite extension of corporations, since the very nature of a corporation, is to be endowed with special privileges. We shall not dispute about words, however, if we can bring the Journal of Commerce to agree with us about principles. The act of incorporation, then, which we should desire to see passed, would be an act incorporating the whole population of the State of New York, for every possible lawful purpose to which money or human labour, or ingenuity, is ever applied, with a clause admitting to a full communion of the benefits of the body corporate, every individual who should at any future time become a member of the body politic.
[1 ]William Bard was president of the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company, chartered in 1830.—Ed.