Massachusetts Historical Society


America’s First Corporate Person: The Bank of the United States, 1789-1812


Author: Jared S. Berkowitz, Brandeis University
Comment: Christine Desan, Harvard Law School

This is a hybrid event. The in-person reception will begin at 4:30 pm.

The traditional narrative of corporate personhood begins in the Gilded Age, as railroad corporations permeated federal courts to challenge state regulations, leading us to assume that personhood was always a source of power for private associations. However, this paper argues that the founding of the BUS reveals a dramatically different story. For most of the 19th century, legal personhood was a corporation’s most vulnerable attribute. The tumultuous career of the BUS provided American judges with the opportunity to craft a unique law of corporations—one that personified the institution while reckoning with republican ideology to support an emerging capitalist economy.

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Hybrid Event

The in-person reception starts at 4:30 PM and the seminar will begin at 5:00 PM.

Masks are optional for this event.

The virtual seminar begins at 5:00 PM and will be hosted on the video conference platform, Zoom. Registrants will receive a confirmation message with attendance information.

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