During the middle of the nineteenth century—roughly from the late 1820s to the early 1870s—the first incarnations of our modern economy evolved out of a previously agrarian and local small-business economy. Other than the Second Bank of the United States, which was out of business by 1841, the dominant industries in America were the plantations, largely staffed by slaves, and the textile mills of the northeast, largely staffed by indentured immigrants from Europe.
Cheap coal, the cheap steel it made possible, and the telegraph brought dramatic changes to America between 1820 and 1850. During this time the railroads grew from obscurity to dominate the corporate and political landscape of the nation. Just twenty-six years after the steam locomotive was invented in England, the first public railway in the world opened in England in 1823. Four years later, with subsidies from the city of Baltimore, the first railroad in America—the Baltimore & Ohio, or B&O Railroad—was incorporated. In 1830 the first scheduled passenger train began operation, using the first U.S.-built steam locomotive, “The Best Friend of Charleston.” In 1833 there were only 380 miles of track laid in the United States, and that year President Andrew Jackson became the first sitting president to ride a railroad, creating a new mass-transport sensation.
By 1840 more than 2,700 miles of track were in use in the United States, serving seven states, and by 1850 the total had exploded to more than 9,000 miles of track. By 1860, largely through government subsidies to the new rail companies, more than 30,000 miles of track were in regular use in the United States, and the railroads were the largest and most powerful corporations the nation had ever seen. By 1890 more than 180 million acres of taxpayer-owned land had been deeded to the owners of the nation’s largest railroads by various federal, state, and county governments.
As the railroads grew in size, they also grew in political power. And they hired some of the nation’s best lawyers. For example, in May 1853 the Illinois Central Railroad Company chose not to pay its property taxes to McLean County, Illinois, and sued the county in the Circuit Court to prevent collection. James F. Joy of Detroit, the head lawyer for the railroad, contacted a former Illinois state representative, now an attorney in private practice in the McLean County city of Bloomington, with an offer of employment.
But a young lawyer, who had already gained quite a reputation as an attorney and from his days in the legislature, felt that his personal loyalties in the case were with the county and not the railroad. So the attorney—young Abraham Lincoln—wrote a letter to T. R. Webber, the Champaign County clerk of court, asking for the job of defending the county against the railroad:
An effort is about to be made to get the question of the right to so tax the [Railroad] Co. before the court and ultimately before the Supreme Court, and the [Railroad] Co. are offering to engage me for them....
I am...feeling that you have the first right to my services, if you choose to secure me a fee something near such as I can get from the other side.34
Lincoln knew that the case would be big and the issues important, and the fee an attorney could earn from it would be a big help to his family. “The question in its magnitude to the [Railroad] Co. on the one hand and the counties in which the Co. has land on the other is the largest law question that can now be got up in the State,” he wrote to the county’s clerk, “and therefore in justice to myself, I can not afford, if I can help it, to miss a fee altogether.”35
The county didn’t answer his letter, so Lincoln wrote to the railroad’s attorney, Mason Brayman, saying, “Neither the County of McLean nor any one on its behalf has yet made any engagement with me in relation to its suit with the Illinois Central Railroad on the subject of taxation, so I am now free to make an engagement for the [rail]road, and if you think of it you may ‘count me in.’”36
Brayman immediately sent Lincoln a $200 check as a retainer, and Lincoln went to work for the railroad along with James Joy.
Lincoln’s Case Foreshadows a Corporate Claim of Personhood
The case sailed through the Circuit Court and immediately went to the Illinois Supreme Court. In the May 1854 term of the court, Brayman and Lincoln represented the Illinois Central Railroad.
A brief written by Lincoln noted that Section Two, Article Nine of the Illinois State Constitution of 1847 required “uniform taxation” of all “persons using and exercising franchises and privileges.” Arguing for the railroad, Lincoln claimed that it was a “person” and thus the nonuniform taxation of different railroad properties at different tax rates was unfair and unconstitutional under the Illinois State Constitution.
Lincoln both lost and won the case. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, on the one hand, the state legislature could “make exceptions from the rule of uniformity” with regard to corporations it had chartered, thus losing him the corporate personhood argument.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court ruled that the railroad’s charter—which functioned also as a sort of contract between it and the state, since early railroad charters were more similar to modern-day state-subsidized public utilities than traditional private corporations—allowed for direct taxation of the railroad by the state based on its revenues, and therefore the county didn’t have the authority to tax the railroad and the railroad didn’t have to pay the tax bill.37
Lincoln Sues the Railroad
Lincoln sent the Illinois Central Railroad—whose directors all lived in New York and thus had its headquarters there—a bill for his services in the case: he asked for $5,000. James F. Joy refused to pay him that much, suggesting that Lincoln was asking for more than he was worth. (Joy’s fee had been only $1,200 for his work on the case.) “The simple truth is that the whole trouble was with Mr. James F. Joy...whom Mr. Lincoln afterward despised,” a company memo later noted.38
To resolve the issue, the railroad’s president, William H. Osborne, suggested that Lincoln simply sue the railroad and let a judge decide how much he should be paid. Lincoln preferred not to sue his client, and almost three years later, in March 1857, he traveled by railroad to New York but was unsuc- cessful in prying his fee out of the railroad. With no other option, Lincoln filed a lawsuit against the railroad in McLean County Circuit Court, asking for his $5,000 legal fee.
The case opened on Thursday, June 18, 1857, then was postponed to the following Tuesday when it was well attended, as Lincoln was a rising star and there was a huge curiosity factor. In the courtroom that day was a young law student, Adlai E. Stevenson, who, when he was later vice president of the United States (1893 to 1897) would recall that, “It appeared to me in the nature of an amicable suit.”39
In a process that took only a few minutes, the railroad agreed to pay Lincoln’s $5,000 fee except that he had to reduce it by $200, as the client had already advanced him that amount as a retainer. Lincoln admit-ted that he had forgotten about the $200 and agreed to the terms.
The Great Corporate Crash
Lincoln left the courtroom having won the judgment but without any money. The railroad procrastinated in paying him, and on August 1, 1857, Lincoln had the sheriff issue a writ. On August 12 he was paid his $4,800 in a check, which he deposited and then converted to cash on August 31, 1857.
It was a fortunate date for Lincoln to get his cash because just over a month later, in the Great Panic of October 1857, both the bank on which the check was drawn and the railroad itself were “forced to suspend payment.”40
Of the sixty-six banks in Illinois, the Central Illinois Gazette (Champaign) reported that by the following April, “27 have gone into liquidation”41
in a recession/depression. The Chicago Democratic Press had declared on September 30, 1857, “The financial pressure now prevailing in the country has no parallel in our business history.”
The Railroad’s President and His Generals
Attesting to the power of the railroads as an employer is that Lincoln, through- out the entire time he was negotiating with and suing the railroad, continued to work as its attorney. One of the railroad’s other attorneys noted, “We had a contract that Lincoln was to take no case against us and that I could call on him to help me when he was there; and when my clients [the railroads] wanted help I always got Lincoln.”42
Lincoln enjoyed, as did all the railroad’s lawyers, a free pass for unlimited travel, which no doubt helped when he was floating his candidacy for president—he served as a railroad lawyer up until the day of his nomination.
On March 19, 1860, just two weeks before the opening of the Republican Convention in Chicago, where he was nominated as a candidate for president (on May 18), Lincoln defended the railroad in court in that same city and won the case, helping cement his credentials as a candidate for the Republicans.
Perhaps most interesting, and demonstrative of how tightly knit the railroads of the day were with the present and future leaders of the nation, is that while working for the railroad in Illinois, Lincoln met and befriended three men: George B. McClellan was, when Lincoln was first suing the railroad, the vice president and chief engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad. Ambrose E. Burnside was treasurer of the railroad. And a veteran of the Mexican war, Ulysses Grant, “was without success trying to win a livelihood at Galena, Illinois” and had apparently approached the railroad for employment.43
Lincoln’s biographer, Albert J. Beveridge, noted, “Within five years Lincoln was to make each of these [three] men a general in the Union army.”44
As the History of the Illinois Central Railroad
notes, “Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, George B. McClellan, Ulysses S. Grant and Edward Harriman all played a major or minor role in the [railroad] line’s development.”45
The Emergency of the Civil War
The Civil War was a huge boon for the largest corporations in America because government spending exploded for just about every conceivable commodity that was needed by the troops. By the time the war was over, several corporations that supplied war materials and transportation, particularly the railroads, were operating in multistate and monopolistic ways that were raising alarm bells among citizens and in legislatures across the nation.
On July 1, 1862, President Lincoln signed into law under “military necessity” the Pacific Railway Bill, which granted to the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads ten sections of land along a right-of-way from Iowa to San Francisco. The bill also included government loans for building rail lines of $16,000 per mile for level ground, $32,000 per mile for railways crossing deserts, and $48,000 per mile for rails crossing mountains. The national railroad-building campaign became a frenzied activity, sloshing with money and manpower.46
But the money was everywhere, and it spawned rampant corruption. As Attorney General Edward Bates wrote in his diary on March 9, 1863, “The demoralizing effect of this civil war is plainly visible in every department of life. The abuse of official powers and the thirst for dishonest gain are now so common that they cease to shock.”47
In his classic biography of Lincoln, Carl Sandburg wrote, “A procession of mouthpieces and fixers twined in and out of Lincoln’s office from week to week...”48
Sandburg notes that General James Grant Wilson wrote to Lincoln, “Every contractor has to be watched” because “some of the most competent and most energetic contractors were the most dishonest, [and] could not be content with a fair profit.” He quotes Blackwood Magazine of England as not- ing, “A great war always creates more scoundrels than it kills.”
Between just June 1863 and June 1864, the War Department paid out more than $250 million. A letter attributed to Lincoln by many historians over the years but not verifiably his (it was probably written by one of the progressives or populists of the late nineteenth century, and just sounded so Lincoln- esque that it stuck) has him saying:
We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. The best blood of the flower of American youth has been freely offered upon our country’s altar that the nation might live. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.
As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of cor- ruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.49
Whether or not Lincoln said it (the letter first appeared in the 1880s, and its veracity was denied by the head of the Republican Party, Perry Heath, in the New York Times on October 3, 1896, although by that time the Republican Party was virtually a wholly owned appendage of the Robber Barons and their corporations and no longer shared the worldview of Lincoln’s Radical Republicans), it reflected a widespread sentiment in the United States at the time.
The Railroads Rise to Power
During the Civil War, the railroads rose to become the most powerful of the American corporations. Lincoln mentioned both their “great enterprise” and the conflicts that they were causing across the nation by defying state and federal attempts to regulate them. Because most of the railroads were essentially monopolies (except where they met in large cities), as “the only game in town” they could charge whatever prices they wanted for the transportation of goods and people.
The resulting expenses caused by this domination of the transportation industry by a few very large railroad corporations were increasingly passed along to consumers, government, and smaller companies who received their workers or materials by rail. The unrestrained price increases that drove their profits were also driving a general inflation, even as they helped interconnect and build the nation.
“The great enterprise of connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific states by railways and telegraph lines has been entered upon with a vigor that gives assurance of success,” Lincoln noted in his fourth annual message to the nation on December 6, 1864, “notwithstanding the embarrassments arising from the prevailing high prices of materials and labor.”50
At the same time, under the growing influence of railroad money and power, courts and legislatures were making business more risk-free for the railroad corporations. In 1864 Congress passed the Contract Labor Law, which allowed employers to exchange a year’s low-cost or free labor for passage and immigration from a foreign nation to the United States. The main effect—and one of the main goals—of this legislation was to break up strikes and lower labor costs by increasing the labor pool and thus introducing greater competition among workers for jobs.
While the courts ruled that if a corporation broke a contract with another corporation, the aggrieved company would still have to pay for what it had already received, they also ruled that if a human broke a Contract Labor Law contract with a railroad corporation, that corporation wasn’t obligated to pay the worker anything. As historian Howard Zinn points out, “The pretense of the law was that a worker and a railroad made a contract with equal bargaining power,”51
the same as if two powerful corporations had entered into a contract with each other with equal legal resources. Thus the railroads always won.
The first transcontinental railroad line, proposed by Lincoln during his campaign and started during his presidency, was completed on May 10, 1869. By 1871 more than 45,000 miles of track crisscrossed the nation. John D. Rockefeller was eleven years away from forming the Standard Oil Trust, and Andrew Carnegie’s steel monopoly and John Pierpont Morgan’s banking monopoly were rising in power and influence but not yet dominant forces in American business.*
At that time railroads were king; they were the first truly huge American corporations, with the power to transport people and goods and crops from place to place and state to state, energizing the American econ- omy and driving the westward expansion of the new nation.
The growth of the railroads, while supported in part by government grants of millions of acres of free land and millions of dollars of subsidies and tax abatements, also drew expressions of concern from the president and the state legislatures. Transportation is a fundamental need, and people quickly became dependent on the railroads for fast long-distance transport, so the public became prey to predatory pricing practices.
On December 4, 1882, President Chester Arthur said in his annual address to Congress and the nation,
One of the incidents of the marvelous extension of the railway system of the country has been the adoption of such measures by the corporations which own or control the [rail]roads as have tended to impair the advantages of healthful competition and to make hurtful discriminations in the adjustment of freightage [prices]. These inequalities have been corrected in several of the States by appropriate legislation, the effect of which is necessarily restricted to the limits of their own territory.52
As President Arthur noted, the states considered the railroad’s ability to charge whatever they pleased as unfair, and by the mid-1880s virtually all states had passed laws setting maximum fees and prices for fares (for people) and tariffs (for freight) or otherwise regulating the railroads. There was nation- wide sentiment in favor of continuing to regulate the behavior of the country’s largest and most aggressive corporations, particularly the railroads.
How Freeing the Slaves Became the Railroads’ Secret Weapon
On July 9, 1868, just after the Civil War, three-quarters of the states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as part of a set of laws to end slavery. The intent of Congress and the states was clear: to provide full constitutional protections and due process of law to the now-emancipated former slaves of the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment’s first article says, in its entirety:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the juris- diction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Along with the Thirteenth Amendment (“Neither slavery nor involun tary servitude...shall exist within the United States”) and the Fifteenth Amendment (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or pre- vious condition of servitude”), the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed that freed slaves would have full access to legal due process within the United States.
Acting on behalf of the railroad barons, attorneys for the railroads repeatedly filed suits against local and state governments that had passed laws regulating railroad corporations. The main tool the railroads’ lawyers tried to use was the fact that corporations had historically been referred to under law not as corporations but as “artificial persons.”**
Based on this, they argued, corporations should be considered persons under the free-the-slaves Fourteenth Amendment and enjoy the protections of the Constitution just like living, breathing, human persons.
Using this argument for their base, the railroads (in particular, but a few other corporations got into the act) repeatedly sued various states, counties, and towns, claiming that they shouldn’t have to pay local taxes because different railroad properties were taxed in different ways in different places and this constituted the creation of different “classes of persons” and was thus illegal discrimination. For almost twenty years, these arguments did not succeed.
In 1873 one of the first Supreme Court rulings on the Fourteenth Amendment, which had been passed only five years earlier, involved not slaves but corporations. Writing in the lead opinion, Justice Samuel F. Miller minced no words in chastising corporations for trying to claim the rights of human beings.
The Fourteenth Amendment’s “one pervading purpose,” he wrote in the majority opinion, “was the freedom of the slave race, the security and firm establishment of that freedom, and the protection of the newly-made freeman and citizen from the oppression of those who had formerly exercised unlim- ited dominion over him.”53
The railroads, however, had a lot of money to pay for lawyers, and railroad lawyer S. W. Sanderson had the reputation of a pit bull. Undeterred, the railroads again and again argued their corporations-are-persons position all the way to the Supreme Court. The peak year for their legal assault was 1877, with four different cases reaching the Supreme Court in which the railroads argued that governments could not regulate their fees or activities or tax them in differing ways because governments can’t interfere to such an extent in the lives of “persons” and because different laws and taxes in different states and counties represented illegal discrimination against the persons of the railroads under the Fourteenth Amendment.54
By then the Supreme Court was under the supervision of Chief Justice Morrison Remick Waite, himself a former railroad attorney. Associate Justice Stephen J. Field, who was so openly on the side of the railroads in case after case that he annoyed his colleagues, also heavily influenced the Court. In each of the previous four cases, the Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment was not intended to regulate interstate commerce and therefore was not applicable. But in none of those cases did Waite or any other justice muster a major ity opinion on the issue of whether railroad corporations were persons under the Constitution, and so Miller’s “one pervading purpose” of the Fourteenth Amendment as being to free slaves prevailed.
Having lost four cases in one year took a bit of the wind out of the sails of the railroads, and there followed a few years of relative calm. The railroads continued to assert that they were persons, but states and localities continued to call them artificial persons and pass laws regulating their activities.
Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, the issue of corporate personhood was frequently debated in newspapers and political speeches, with a handful of the nation’s largest corporations arguing “for” and most of the voters, newspaper editorialists, and politicians arguing “against.” Across America politicians were elected repeatedly on platforms that included the regulation of corporations, particularly the railroads. And yet the legal fight continued.
The Railroads Claim There Was a “Secret Journal”
In 1882 the railroads’ attorneys floated the claim in a Supreme Court plead ing that when the Fourteenth Amendment was drafted, “a journal of the joint Congressional Committee which framed the amendment, secret and undisclosed up to that date, indicated the committee’s desire to protect corporations by the use of the word ‘person.’”55
It was a complete fabrication, and they lost the 1882 case: nobody took the “secret journal theory” seriously except Justice Field, who had ruled in the railroad’s favor in the Ninth Circuit Court, where he was a judge at the same time he was on the Supreme Court and which brought the case before the Supreme Court.
In future cases the railroad attorneys were unable to produce or even prove legislative reference to the secret journal of the congressional committee. Years later Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote, in a dissenting
opinion in the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company v. Johnson case,
Certainly, when the Fourteenth Amendment was submitted for approval, the people were not told that the states of the South were to be denied their normal relationship with the Federal Government unless they ratified an amendment granting new and revolutionary rights to corporations. This Court, when the Slaughter House Cases were decided in 1873, had apparently discovered no such purpose. The records of the time can be searched in vain for evidence that this amendment was adopted for the benefit of corporations.
It is true [303 U.S. 77, 87] that in 1882, twelve years after its adoption, and ten years after the Slaughter House Cases, an argument was made in this Court that a journal of the joint Congressional Committee which framed the amendment, secret and undisclosed up to that date, indicated the committee’s desire to protect corporations by the use of the word “person.”
A secret purpose on the part of the members of the committee, even if such be the fact, however, would not be sufficient to justify any such construction. The history of the amendment proves that the people were told that its purpose was to protect weak and helpless human beings and were not told that it was intended to remove corporations in any fashion from the control of state governments. The Fourteenth Amendment followed the freedom of a race from slavery.
Justice Swayne said in the Slaughter Houses Cases, supra, [ruled] that: “By ‘any person’ was meant all persons within the jurisdiction of the State. No distinction is intimated on account of race or color.” Corporations have neither race nor color. He knew the amendment was intended to protect the life, liberty, and property of human beings. The language of the amendment itself does not support the theory that it was passed for the benefit of corporations.56
The 1882 case, however, would not be the last time attorneys for the railroads would try to use this fabricated story in their attempts to change the meaning of the Constitution.
There’s an important lesson here about the relative ability of different parties to use the legal system for their protection or to gain advantage. A human individual might try to advance a ludicrous claim such as “There was a secret journal” without the slightest evidence. Indeed, from time to time we hear of defendants trying such things. But it’s highly unlikely that an actual person would have the ability to carry claims to the Supreme Court year after year after year with so little to go on.
This is directly relevant to the issue of a level playing field: when one party has dramatically more power, property, and wealth than another, it makes no sense to assert that both require equal protection.
Indeed, one aspect of the concentration of wealth that worried Jefferson and most American legislatures in our nation’s earliest decades was that with enough wealth, a corporation can keep trying in the courts for centuries (literally centuries, because a corporation doesn’t die), no matter how much it costs, until it gets what it wants.
And, ultimately, that’s what happened.
The most wealthy and powerful of the railroad barons were famous names in the nine- teenth century: Leland Stanford, Colis Huntington, Jay Gould, and James J. Hill.
This usage began in sixteenth-century England, when lawyers for the East India Company argued that their corporation could not be convicted of a crime because the corporation was not a person and English laws regulating criminal behavior always began with, “No person shall...” In response to this, legislators from that time on began passing laws to specifically regulate the “artificial persons” of corporations. While they wanted to regulate corporations, they also wanted to acknowledge that corporations shared some things with humans: they were taxed, were subject to laws, and could be parties to lawsuits.
Alfons J. Beitzinger and Edward G. Ryan, Lion of the Law (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1960), 115–16. From an 1873 address to the graduating class of the University of Wisconsin Law School.
Jane Anne Morris is a brilliant researcher, and I gratefully owe much of the Wisconsin- related content of this chapter to her work and thank her for her generous permission to share it with you. The examples in this list are from her “Fixing Corporations: The Legacy of the Founding Parents” at http://www.populist.com/6.96.Fixing.Corps.html
Wis. G.L. 1864, Ch. 166, Sec. 7; Wis. R.S. 1878, Sec. 1767. See the “reserved power” clause.
Wis. AG. Op. (1913), Vol. 2, 169.
Act of August 21, 1848, Wis. Laws, p. 148 (Gen. Incorp. for Plank Roads).
State ex rel. Kropf v. Gilbert, 251 N. W. 478 (1934).
Dudley O. McGovney, “A Supreme Court Fiction: Corporations in the Diverse Citi- zenship Jurisdiction of the Federal Courts,” Harvard Law Review 16 (1943): 853–98, 1090–1124, 1225–60.
Wis. R.S. 1878, Sec. 1776; Wis. Stat. 1931, 180.13.
Wis. G.L. 1864, Ch. 166, Sec. 9.
Wis. G.L. 1864, Ch. 166, Secs. 4, 33.
Wis. R.S. 1878, Sec. 1775.
Wis. R.S. 1849, Ch. 54 Sec. 7; Wis. G.L. 1864, Ch. 166, Secs. 6, 15.
And it was a felony to do so. Wis. State 1953, Ch. 346.12–346.15.
For example, Wis. G.L. 1864, Ch. 166, Sec. 7.
Stone v. State of Wisconsin, 94 U.S. 181 (1876).
Wis. R.S. 1849, Ch. 54, Sec. 22.
Charles Beard and Mary Beard, The Rise of American Civilization (1927; Whitefish, MT: Kessinger, 2005).
McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819).
Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518 (1819).
James Willard Hurst, The Legitimacy of the Business Corporation in the Law of the United States, 1780–1970 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1970).
Most of the information in this and the following two paragraphs is from Grossman and Adams, Taking Care of Business; see note 18 above.
James Madison to Edmund Randolph, September 30, 1783.
James Madison, speech in the House of Representatives, April 9, 1789, in James Madi- son, The Writings of James Madison, vol. 5., ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1900): 342–45.
James Madison to James K. Paulding, March 10, 1827, in James Madison’s “Advice to My Country,” ed. David B. Mattern (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1997).
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). Here’s the quote in context (chapter 29):
Another infirmity of a Commonwealth is the immoderate greatness of a town, when it is able to furnish out of its own circuit the number and expense of a great army; as also the great number of corporations, which are as it were many lesser Commonwealths in the bowels of a greater, like worms in the entrails of a natural man. To may be added, liberty of dis- puting against absolute power by pretenders to political prudence; which though bred for the most part in the lees of the people, yet animated by false doctrines are perpetually meddling with the fundamental laws, to the molestation of the Commonwealth, like the little worms which physicians call ascarides.
Martin Van Buren, first annual message to Congress, December 5, 1837, http://www .presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29479.
Abraham Lincoln to Thompson R. Webber, September 12, 1853, in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:202.
Abraham Lincoln to Mason Brayman, September 12, 1853, in Basler, Collected Works, 2:205.
Illinois Central Railroad v. County of McLean, 17 Ill. 291 (1856).
Charles L. Capen to John G. Drennan, April 6, 1906, MSS. Files Legal Dept. I.C.R.R.Co.
Adlai E. Stevenson’s statement, April 6, 1906, MSS. Files Legal Dept. I.C.R.R.Co.
I.C.R.R.Co. notice published in the New York papers and signed by the railroad’s trea- surer, J. N. Perkins.
Central Illinois Gazette, April 14, 1858.
Henry Clay Whitney to William H. Herndon, August 27, 1887, in Albert J. Beveridge,
Abraham Lincoln (Riverside Press, 1928).
John F. Stover, History of the Illinois Central Railroad (New York: Macmillan, 1976).
Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1926).
Emanuel Hertz, Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait (New York: Horace Liveright, 1931), 2:954. In my 1931 first-edition copy of this book, this note by Lincoln is not addressed and is unsigned. Dale Carnegie tells a famous story, in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, about how Lincoln would often write letters to others or even to himself expressing his greatest concerns and then hide them away, often to be later destroyed. It’s my guess that this letter was one of those, later found by Hertz as he collected Lincoln’s personal effects in the early decades after Lincoln’s death. From its order in Hertz’s book, this letter sits between a signed and dated letter to Secretary of War Edward Stanton on November 10, 1864, and a signed note about Colonel Ward Hill Lamon dated November 29, 1854. Hertz certifies it is in Lincoln’s hand but gives us no clues as to whom he wrote the note to or how he planned to send or dispose of it before his death.
Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492–Present (New York: Harper- Perennial, 2001).
“Slaughterhouse Cases,” 83 U.S. 36, 81 (1873).
The cases, all in 1877, are: Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad Company v. Iowa, 94 U.S. 155; Peik v. Chicago and North-Western Railway Company, 94 U.S. 164; Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad Company v. Ackley, 94 U.S. 179; and Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company v. Blake, 94 U.S. 180.
San Mateo County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 83 U.S. 36 (1873). 56.
Connecticut General Life Insurance Company v. Johnson, 303 U.S. 77 (1938).
Connecticut General Life Insurance Company v. Johnson, 303 U.S. 77 (1938).
This material is not covered under Creative Commons license and cannot be published without the permission of the author and Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Copyright Thom Hartmann and Mythical Research, Inc.
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