Ohio Democracy/Corporation History Quiz

Excerpted from Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of  Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future

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Those who rule based on the dominant culture, regardless of country or political persuasion, have always written the “mainstream” version of history. By definition, this means people, ideas and actions fundamentally challenging the dominant culture are barely mentioned, if so rarely analyzed, or are distorted or omitted altogether. It’s the responsibility of those not part of the dominant culture (always has been, always will be) to (re)claim the people, ideas and actions from the past – to be inspired, to learn the lessons and to assess what may be useful in the present. Ohio’s history is not just a description of its past Presidents, where and when its wartime battles took place, or which Ohioans flew into space. Another part, its hidden part, is the story of the successes, struggles and failures of the many people who sought to establish a state where they could make the basic decisions affecting their own lives free from external control. It’s also the story of the few who imposed control over Ohio’s majority of people and resources using the business corporation as their primary vehicle. These stories are enormously relevant today.                                                                                                – Greg Coleridge

The questions and answers below are excerpted from Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, available for $3. To order, send a check/money order to Create Real Democracy, 3016 Somerton Rd., Cleveland Heights, OH 44118.

 

1. Where is the following language found?
That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; and, every free, republican government being founded on their sole authority, and organized for the great purpose of protecting their rights and liberties and securing their independence to effect these ends, they have at all times a complete power to alter, reform or abolish their government, whenever they may deem it necessary.
(a) US Declaration of Independence
(b) Communist Manifesto
(c) Ohio Constitution
(d) US Articles of Confederation
(e) US Constitution

2. Early legislative acts in Ohio creating corporations one at a time through petitioning the legislature, or General Assembly, stipulated rigid conditions. These privileges, not rights, included what provisions?
(a) Limited duration of charter or certificate of incorporation
(b) Limitation on amount of land ownership
(c) Limitation of amount of capitalization, or total investment of owners
(d) Limitation of charter for a specific purpose (to amend its charter, a new corporation had to be formed). The state reserved the right to amend the charters or to revoke them
(e) All of the above

3. In 1818, the Ohio General Assembly passed the “crowbar law.” What did this do?
(a) It issued crowbars to every Ohioan.
(b) It legalized the use of crowbars as weapons, under the motto, “Crowbars don’t kill people, people do.”
(c) It allowed certain state employees to enter a nationally chartered bank in Ohio and take money that it had been taxed by the legislature but not yet paid.

4. What action the Ohio General Assembly do to chartered companies that violated the terms of their charters?
(a) They issued fines.
(b) They appointed “Blue Ribbon” committees to look into the violations.
(c) They revoked their corporate charters.
(d) They expanded the terms of their charters to include whatever violation(s) were being committed.

5. The 1837 Ohio Loan Law provided state funds to railroads, canals, and turnpike companies for construction and maintenance, loans to railroads and funds for the purchase of stock in canal and turnpike companies. What was the nickname of this law?
(a) The Abundance for All Ohioans Law
(b) The Plunder Law
(c) The Socialism Law

6. Government abuse by the rich and corporate agents resulted in the public successfully organizing what in 1851?
(a) A statewide Constitutional convention
(b) A violent uprising
(c) Parades in affluent neighborhoods across the state

7. What group of Ohioans voiced the following sentiment?
The corporation has received vitality from the state; it continues during its existence to be the creature of the state; must live subservient to its laws, and has such powers and franchises as those laws have bestowed upon it, and none others. As the state was not bound to create it in the first place, it is not bound to maintain it, after having done so, if it violates the laws or public policy of the state, or misuses its franchises to oppress the citizens thereof.
(a) Radical Democrats
(b) Radical anarchists
(c) Radical farmers and workers
(d) The Ohio Supreme Court

8. In 1853, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled four times in what way regarding the US Supreme Court’s position that states don’t have the power to define corporations through its charter.
(a) The Ohio Supreme Court wholeheartedly upheld the US Supreme Court decision.
(b) The Ohio Supreme Court upheld but with reservations the US Supreme Court decision.
(c) The Ohio Supreme Court opposed and defied the US Supreme Court decision.

9. U.S. Senator John Sherman from Ohio was the main sponsor of what is still today considered to be the best federal anti-trust legislation, the “Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890.” The federal law trumped much stronger anti-trust laws passed by many states. What did Sherman say in Congress in support of his law?
(a) This law will make me famous.
(b) [P]eople are feeling the power and grasp of these combinations, and are demanding of every State Legislature and of Congress a remedy for this evil, only grown into huge proportions in recent times… You must heed their appeal, or be ready for the socialist, the communist and the nihilist.
(c) This law will usher in a new period of democracy.

10. Penalties courts imposed for abuse or misuse of the corporate charter were often more severe than a simple plea bargain or fine. They included stripping the corporation of its privileges to perform certain actions. The most severe penalty — not uncommon from the mid-1800’s through the first several decades of this century — was to revoke the corporate charter and dissolve the corporation itself. The legal device used to achieve these penalties was quo warranto proceedings, meaning “by what authority.” In the mid 1800’s, numerous states amended their constitutions to make corporate charters subject to alteration or revocation by legislatures. Ohio’s General Assembly passed a quo warranto act in 1838. Ohio’s General Assembly determined that when subordinate entities like corporations acted beyond their authority, or ultra vires, they were guilty of rebellion and must be terminated. How often did the courts revoke corporate charters in Ohio?
(a) Dozens of times
(b) A few times
(c) Only once

11. In the early 1890s the State of Ohio sought to revoke the charter of the Standard Oil Company, the largest corporation in the country at the time. Who initiated the action?
(a) Ohio farmers
(b) Ohio workers
(c) Ohio’s leading Democratic public officials
(d) Ohio Republican Attorney General David K. Watson

12. Ohio became a state in 1802. When did Ohio workers first organize themselves into a trade association/union?
(a) 1802
(b) 1812
(c) 1865
(d) 1900

13. What did many Ohio Locofocos consider “a greater danger to ‘free principles’ than slavery?
(a) Indians
(b) Banks
(c) The Ohio Constitution
(d) Who the heck are “Locofocos?”

14. In the 1890’s the Ohio People’s Party, composed of workers and farmers across the state was formed. Name one of their many demands for democratic and social change.

15. What did Jacob Coxey, a wealthy businessman from Massillon, do in 1894?
(a) Built a massive steel plant, Coxey’s Works, in Massillon.
(b) Took advantage of the Plunder Law like no other Ohioan ever had.
(c) Organized a march from Massillon to Washington, DC to address the issue of unemployment.

16. Who said, “I believe in the municipal ownership of all public service monopolies…for if you do not own them they will, in time, own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions,
and finally destroy your liberties.”
(a) Ohio communists
(b) Ohio socialists
(c) Ohio nihilists
(d) Cleveland Mayor (and former businessman) Tom Johnson

17. What happened in Ohio after the US Supreme Court in Santa Clara vs Southern Pacific declared corporations were “persons” under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution?

18. What is the difference between a person and a corporation, according to former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who spoke to the Ohio Constitutional convention in 1912?

19. Name one democratic change that the public pressured for in the new 1912 Ohio Constitution?

20. What action did the Ohio General Assembly prohibit by legislation in 1908 and remained illegal for the most part until 1959?
(a) Gambling
(b) Drinking
(c) Voting
(d) Corporate campaign contributions

 

ANSWERS

1. c
2. e
3. c

4. c (This happened dozens of times. One example: in 1842 the Ohio General Assembly repealed the charter of the German Bank of Wooster in Wayne County. It instructed the bank to close its affairs. The legislature stated: It shall be the duty of the court of common pleas… or any judge of the supreme court…to restrain said bank, its officers, agents and servants or assignees, from exercising any corporate rights, privileges, and franchises whatever, or from paying out, selling, transferring, or in any way disposing of, the lands, tenements, goods, chattels, rights, credits, moneys, or effects whatsoever, of said bank… and force the bank commissioners to close the bank and deliver full possession of the banking house, keys, books, papers, lands, tenements, goods, chattels, moneys, property and effects of said bank, of every kind and description whatever…)

5. b
6. a
7. d

8. c (At least four historic state supreme court decisions in 1853 challenged the US Supreme Court Dartmouth v Woodword 1819 decision and its fundamental premise that a corporate charter was a contract by claiming the state rather than the federal government possessed basic self-governance rights. The first of the four decisions was DeBolt v The Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company In its decision upholding the right of the State of Ohio to increase the tax of a life insurance corporation, the court affirmed the self-governing rights of the state rather than the federal government to change corporate charters and establish laws.
…[I]n every political sovereign community, there inheres necessarily the right and the duty of guarding its own existence, and of promoting the interests and welfare of the community at large. The constitution of the United States, although adopted by the sovereign States of this Union, and
proclaimed in its language, to be the supreme law for their government, can, by no rational interpretation be brought to conflict with this attribute in the States… the power in the State is an independent power, and does not come within the class of cases prohibited by the constitution.)

9. b
10. a

11. d (The Ohio Supreme Court ruled against the right of Standard Oil in 1892 to form a trust but permitted the company to retain its charter. Standard Oil, however, defied the court ruling on trusts. In 1898, another Ohio Attorney General, Frank Monnett, Republican from Crawford County, took Standard Oil to court on contempt charges. Standard Oil fled Ohio for New Jersey, where they operated their trust until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to break up the trust in 1911.)

12. a (Working people organized through Unions have been a powerful presence through Ohio’s history. They’ve been responsible for humane working conditions, wages and benefits, winning the right to strike and the 8 hour work day. Direct resistance to corporate power at the workplace, on the streets, or through the ballot box were not the only challenges to corporate power by workers and unions in Ohio. Working people also endorsed alternative business formations, such as cooperatives, worker-owned enterprises, and businesses owned outright by cities and towns.)

13. b (When the General Assembly was reasonably representative of the public, strong laws were passed dictating every facet of banking practices with tough penalties for violations. Penalties included guilty officers “imprisoned in the cell or dungeon of the county jail, and fed on bread and water only…”, “imprisoned in the penitentiary, and kept at hard labor…,” and individual liability of bank directors, presidents, and officers.)

14. The Ohio People’s Party (supported by farmers and workers across Ohio) platform called for the “restriction of the ability of politicians to change city charters and the requirement that voters approve all charter changes; initiative and referendum… revocation of the charter of the Standard Oil Company; and the eight hour work day.” The party ran candidates across the state.

15. c. (“Coxey’s Army” consisted of 100 men. Other armies formed across the nation that linked to Coxey’s group just outside DC. Labor unions and Populists supported the march. Coxey received a permit to march into DC but he was not granted a permit to speak at the Capitol. When he tried to speak, he was arrested and convicted of displaying banners on the Capitol grounds. In his case, the banner was a button on his lapel. Coxey responded to his arrest with these words, “Up these steps the lobbyists of trusts and corporations have passed unchallenged on their way to committee rooms, access to which we, the representatives of the toiling wealth producers, have been denied.”)

16. d

17. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional following Santa Clara hundreds of laws in scores of states that had passed due to the hard efforts of citizens and workers to control corporations. Several of these were Ohio laws. Corporations in Ohio were declared “persons” with due process rights and were granted “all the rights and business transactions which are possessed by a sole person conducting a like business.” A 1915 court decision declared that a corporation had the same Bill of Rights protections as persons, stating: The legal rights of the…defendant, Loan Company, although it be a corporation, soulless and speechless, rise as high in the scales of law and justice as those of the most obscure and poverty-stricken subject of the state.

18. “The first thing to understand is the difference between the natural person and the fictitious person called a corporation. They differ in the purpose for which they are created, in the strength which they possess, and in the restraints under which they act. Man is the handiwork of God and was placed upon earth to carry out a Divine purpose; the corporation is the handiwork of man and created to carry out a money-making policy. There is comparatively little difference in the strength of men; a corporation may be one hundred, one thousand, or even one million times stronger than the average man. Man acts under the restraints of conscience, and is influenced also by a belief in a future life. A corporation has no soul and cares nothing about the hereafter.”

19. The initiative and referendum were adopted as methods to bypass the legislature in the creation or revocation of laws. Municipal home rule, permitting communities of 5000 or more in population to govern themselves, was also adopted. Public service corporations opposed home rule, seeing it as a device encouraging municipal ownership of utilities.

20. d (The law stated: “That no corporation doing business in this state shall directly or indirectly pay, use or offer, consent or agree to pay or use, any of its money or property for, or in aid, of any political party, committee or organization, or for, or in aid of, any candidate for political office or for nomination for any such office, or in any manner use any of its money or property for any political purpose whatever, or for the reimbursement or indemnification of any person or persons for moneys or property so used.)

Rebuilding the infrastructure of democracy

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http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2017/03/30/rebuilding-the-infrastructure-of-democracy

by Greg Coleridge

From the local to the global, the ability of people to govern ourselves has been under assault for many decades. We can expect this to intensify for multiple reasons, including:

• Business corporations seeking huge profits by converting what once had been “public” to “private” (called privatization, though a more descriptive term would be “corporatization”), including traditional public assets such as water and sewer systems, roads, police and fire protection, airports, hospitals and schools.
• Individuals looking to increase their power, status and/or privileges by concentrating decision-making from many (“We the People” and government) to a few (their own) hands.
• Continual legal and constitutional definitions that further restrict and redefine “public” arenas as other “p” words: private, property, proprietary, privileged—and thus [place them] beyond the reach of public planning, shaping and evaluation.
• A national government that uses the excuse of “terrorism” to stifle dissent, intimidate dissenters and interrupt efforts of self-determination, even at the local level.
• A culture that tells us public policies are too complicated for ordinary people to understand (thus restricting policymaking to “experts”); distracts public attention from self-determination, toward the trivial and inane; worships “the market” as the sole route to financial and economic salvation; defines economic arenas as outside the scope of public input; erases the memory of historical examples of citizen control and self-governance; denigrates anything that is “public” as inefficient, wasteful, outdated and dangerous; celebrates anything “private” as efficient, modern and safe; and encourages social isolation, keeping us from learning from each other and organizing to (re)assert meaningful changes.

There is another side to this—an existing democratic/self-determination culture or “infrastructure” that perhaps many of us seldom think about. Alternatives to corporations, corporate governance and elite control exist right now in our communities and states.

Scores of documents, policies, institutions, structures and groups reflecting inclusiveness, accountability and responsibility are commonplace—[and provide] examples [of] where those who are affected by decisions and policies have a legitimate role in the making of those decision—or could [have] if we made the effort. They are where “We the People” have a voice—or could if we merely flexed our self-determination muscles.

Examples of a democratic infrastructure abound right here in the Heights, including:

• A legacy of active citizen engagement over many decades, on many issues, through block or street groups and communitywide campaigns.
• Municipal charters (our local constitutions) defining the cities’ overarching governing rules, including provisions for charter amendments.
• Council elections, open and televised meetings, public records, and multiple boards and commissions composed of citizens who advise and assist our city councils.
• Public fire, police, water and other basic municipal services.
• Municipal courts and citizen juries.
• A public library system.
• Public schools with an elected school board, active engagement of parents and even a student union.
• Labor unions of city workers, teachers and others.
• This publication, the Heights Observer, a volunteer, not-for-profit hyper-local news source.
• P.E.A.C.E. Park and other public spaces where events that build community occur.
• Vibrant groups of residents, such as Noble Neighbors and the Cain Park Neighborhood Association, who have formed to fight foreclosures and revitalize their neighborhoods.
• Community gardens and the City Fresh community supported agricultural (CSA) program.
• Nearby community credit unions, which, unlike banks, are member-owned and governed.
• Active social action or change organizations, including Sustainable Heights Network, Heights Community Congress, the Heights Coalition for Public Education, Reaching Heights and FutureHeights.

It’s all too easy to take the above examples for granted, even if some are not (yet) perfect democratic expressions. When we fail to utilize or be involved in them, they will wither and die or will be manipulated, eliminated, replaced or co-opted by corporations, top-down government and/or the powerful few.

To really make the Heights the “Heights of Democracy” will require us all to be actively engaged in strengthening our democratic infrastructure.

Guest columnist Greg Coleridge, a Cleveland Heights resident, is coordinator of the Move to Amend Ohio Campaign and writer of the blog Create Real Democracy (https://createrealdemocracy.wordpress.com). He can be reached at gcoleridge1@gmail.com.

This is What Democracy in Ohio Looks Like! Ohio’s Democratic “Infrastructure”

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http://afsc.org/document/what-democracy-looks-october-2014-document.

NEWS RELEASE
Contacts: John Fuller, 330-867-5122; Greg Coleridge, 216-255-2184
For Immediate Release: October 2, 2014

NEW REPORT DESCRIBES OHIO’S DEMOCRATIC “INFRASTRUCTURE”

[Cuyahoga Falls, OH] The Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) today released a new report itemizing Ohio’s democratic “infrastructure.”

The 20-page report, “This is What Democracy in Ohio Looks Like! Ohio’s Democratic/Self-Determination ‘Infrastructure,’” lists scores of documents, policies, practices, institutions, structures and groups that represent the state’s democratic/self determination foundation and culture – examples where those who are affected by decisions and policies have a role in the shaping of those decisions.

The list includes public and governmental entities as well as grassroots alternative initiatives across Ohio that bypass corporate and top down government structures.

Specific examples with contact information and/or links are listed in the areas of community, cooperatives, democratic legacy, economics/money, education, employment, employee ownership, food/agriculture, municipal ownership, news/information, political/legal, public spaces and social action/change organizations.

The report seeks to raise public awareness of the value of democratic openings that still exist or could exist with investment of individual and/or collective energies. This is increasingly important in an age of rapid privatization/corporatization of public assets; individuals looking to increase their power, status, and/or privileges through concentrating decision-making; and a culture that, among other anti-democratic characteristics, ignores historical examples of citizen control and definition of their lives.

The report also strives to emphasize the importance of working for democratic social change through creating or nurturing alternative organizations and policies and also of pursuing the democratization of existing laws, constitutions, policies, practices, and organizations.

“This report is unlike any other that has been published in Ohio,” said John Fuller of the AFSC. “It connects seemingly different existing formal institutions, grassroots groups, public arenas, laws and rules under the single umbrella of ‘democracy.’ Seen in this comprehensive way, it’s much clearer to see how we are losing our self-determination, but also to understand the multiple ways Ohioans are working to create and protect it.”

“Ohio’s physical infrastructures (i.e. roads, bridges, sewers, dams, etc.), need constant attention to prevent their crumble and collapse, stated Greg Coleridge of the Northeast Ohio AFSC. “The same goes with our democratic/self-determination ‘infrastructure.’ We must constantly and consciously resist the threats to democracy in our communities, state and nation by corporations and top-down government structures by protecting and expanding our democratic legacy, structures, policies and groups. If we don’t, our democratic infrastructure will, too, crumble and collapse.”

A copy of the report is available at http://afsc.org/document/what-democracy-looks-october-2014-document.

AFSC is a Quaker social action organization that educates, advocates and organizes on justice, peace and democracy issues. In the later category, it supports laws and rules ending corporate rule and big money in elections, as well as opposes privatization of public assets and services.

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