Essays early history american corporations

The need for social stability in antebellum America and the role of Protestant religion in maintaining it tamped down the intrinsic individualism of both evangelicalism and business. But a series of social and business transformations after the Civil War, and the growing influence of the state in social and economic life, provided the impetus and opportunity for a fundamentalist movement to emerge in the s. Throughout its development, fundamentalism borrowed from business ideology and techniques for religious ends.

My new bill would require corporations to answer to employees and other stakeholders as well.

Darren Dochuk, Thomas S. Kidd, and Kurt W. Peterson, eds. This essay uses the early life of the prominent fundamentalist Reuben A. Torrey to examine the influence of modernity—theological and otherwise—on conservative evangelicalism. This story challenges the binary frameworks that are often used to explain the differences and developments of both fundamentalist and liberal Protestantism. The incident demonstrates the important role of religion in the process of medical professionalization. Protestants used this discourse both to exclude outsiders and unite elites across denominational lines.

An initial attempt to prosecute Dowie based on legalistic claims of practicing medicine without a license led to a backlash against medical professionals by middle-class Protestants who believed it compromised the integrity of religious liberty. This suggests that the growing efficacy of medical advances was an insufficient basis of social authority. Only when medical professionals self-consciously aligned themselves with the Protestant establishment and portrayed themselves as defenders of the social order focused especially on the integrity of the family were they able to rally the middle classes to their cause.

Modern-day workers are subjected to a wide variety of surveillance strategies, from drug tests and closed-circuit video monitoring to tracking apps and even devices that sense heat and motion. The technology that accompanies this workplace supervision can make it feel futuristic.

The core impulse behind that technology pervaded plantations , which sought innermost control over the bodies of their enslaved work force. And behind every cold calculation, every rational fine-tuning of the system, violence lurked. Plantation owners used a combination of incentives and punishments to squeeze as much as possible out of enslaved workers. Some beaten workers passed out from the pain and woke up vomiting.

Companies Shouldn’t Be Accountable Only to Shareholders

There is some comfort, I think, in attributing the sheer brutality of slavery to dumb racism. We imagine pain being inflicted somewhat at random, doled out by the stereotypical white overseer, free but poor.


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Punishments were authorized by the higher-ups. It was not so much the rage of the poor white Southerner but the greed of the rich white planter that drove the lash. The violence was neither arbitrary nor gratuitous.

The Business of Judging: Selected Essays and Speeches

Falling short of that quota could get you beaten, but overshooting your target could bring misery the next day, because the master might respond by raising your picking rate. Profits from heightened productivity were harnessed through the anguish of the enslaved. This was why the fastest cotton pickers were often whipped the most. It was why punishments rose and fell with global market fluctuations. Slavery did supplement white workers with what W. But this, too, served the interests of money. Both in the cities and countryside, employers had access to a large and flexible labor pool made up of enslaved and free people.

Labor power had little chance when the bosses could choose between buying people, renting them, contracting indentured servants, taking on apprentices or hiring children and prisoners.


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  6. Witnessing the horrors of slavery drilled into poor white workers that things could be worse. So they generally accepted their lot, and American freedom became broadly defined as the opposite of bondage. It was a freedom that understood what it was against but not what it was for; a malnourished and mean kind of freedom that kept you out of chains but did not provide bread or shelter. It was a freedom far too easily pleased. In recent decades, America has experienced the financialization of its economy. In , Congress repealed regulations that had been in place since the Glass-Steagall Act, allowing banks to merge and charge their customers higher interest rates.

    Since then, increasingly profits have accrued not by trading and producing goods and services but through financial instruments. After witnessing the successes and excesses of Wall Street, even nonfinancial companies began finding ways to make money from financial products and activities. Ever wonder why every major retail store, hotel chain and airline wants to sell you a credit card?

    But in reality, the story begins during slavery. Cotton produced under slavery created a worldwide market that brought together the Old World and the New: the industrial textile mills of the Northern states and England, on the one hand, and the cotton plantations of the American South on the other. Textile mills in industrial centers like Lancashire, England, purchased a majority of cotton exports, which created worldwide trade hubs in London and New York where merchants could trade in, invest in, insure and speculate on the cotton—commodity market.

    Though trade in other commodities existed, it was cotton and the earlier trade in slave-produced sugar from the Caribbean that accelerated worldwide commercial markets in the 19th century, creating demand for innovative contracts, novel financial products and modern forms of insurance and credit.

    Like all agricultural goods, cotton is prone to fluctuations in quality depending on crop type, location and environmental conditions. Treating it as a commodity led to unique problems: How would damages be calculated if the wrong crop was sent? How would you assure that there was no misunderstanding between two parties on time of delivery? Textile merchants needed to purchase cotton in advance of their own production, which meant that farmers needed a way to sell goods they had not yet grown; this led to the invention of futures contracts and, arguably, the commodities markets still in use today.

    From the first decades of the s, during the height of the trans-Atlantic cotton trade, the sheer size of the market and the escalating number of disputes between counterparties was such that courts and lawyers began to articulate and codify the common-law standards regarding contracts. This allowed investors and traders to mitigate their risk through contractual arrangement, which smoothed the flow of goods and money.

    Today law students still study some of these pivotal cases as they learn doctrines like forseeability, mutual mistake and damages. Consider, for example, one of the most popular mainstream financial instruments: the mortgage. Enslaved people were used as collateral for mortgages centuries before the home mortgage became the defining characteristic of middle America.

    In the early s, slaves were the dominant collateral in South Carolina. Or consider a Wall Street financial instrument as modern-sounding as collateralized debt obligations C. Each product created massive fortunes for the few before blowing up the economy.


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    8. Enslavers were not the first ones to securitize assets and debts in America. The land companies that thrived during the late s relied on this technique, for instance. Similarly, what was new about securitizing enslaved people in the first half of the 19th century was not the concept of securitization itself but the crazed level of rash speculation on cotton that selling slave debt promoted. Enter the banks.

      The Rise of Industrial America, | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

      The Second Bank of the United States, chartered in , began investing heavily in cotton. When seeking loans, planters used enslaved people as collateral. Thomas Jefferson mortgaged of his enslaved workers to build Monticello.

      People could be sold much more easily than land, and in multiple Southern states, more than eight in 10 mortgage-secured loans used enslaved people as full or partial collateral. Planters took on immense amounts of debt to finance their operations. The math worked out. A cotton plantation in the first decade of the 19th century could leverage their enslaved workers at 8 percent interest and record a return three times that.

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      So leverage they did, sometimes volunteering the same enslaved workers for multiple mortgages. Banks lent with little restraint. By , Mississippi banks had issued 20 times as much paper money as they had gold in their coffers. In several Southern counties, slave mortgages injected more capital into the economy than sales from the crops harvested by enslaved workers. Global financial markets got in on the action. When Thomas Jefferson mortgaged his enslaved workers, it was a Dutch firm that put up the money.

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