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HARVARD

LAW REVIEW.

VOL. 11. OCTOBER 15, 1888. No. 3

HISTORY OF THE LAW OF BUSINESS COR- PORATIONS BEFORE 1800.

I.

THE most striking peculiarity found on first examination of the history of the law of business corporations is the fact that different kinds of corporations are treated without distinction, and, with few exceptions, as if the same rules were applicable to all alike. Subdivisions into special kinds are indeed made, but the classification is based on differences of fact rather than on differences in legal treatment. Thus, corporations are divided into sole and aggregate. Again, they are divided into ecclesiastical and lay, and lay corporations are again divided into eleemosynary and civil. But the division having been made, the older authors ^ proceed to treat them all together, now and then recording some minor peculiarity of a corporation sole or of an ecclesiastical cor- poration with one member capable.

Municipal and business corporations, so unlike according to modern ideas, are classed together as civil corporations, and treated together along with the rest. Yet the East India Com- pany was chartered in 1600, and other trading companies had been chartered even earlier, and between 1600 and i8oo numer-

1 E.g.^ Coke, in Sutton's Hospital Case, lo Rep. i. The Law of Corporations, I Blacks. Com. ch. xviii., Kyd on Corporations.