Business and government in nineteenth century Delaware

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University of Delaware
It is suggested in this thesis that the development of law touching business in Delaware was evolutionary, and comprised three major themes: the establishment of a reasonably secure financial system, the development of a transportation system serving the state, and the establishment of a diversified manufacturing and commercial sector of the overall economy. In any given period all three themes were present, but one was the predominant preoccupation of the day. ☐ After a period of slow but steady growth in the eighteenth century, the time between 1791 and 1831 is suggested as having been perhaps the most significant stage in the course of events with which this study is concerned. In this period, the basis for later development was laid and the lines which this development would follow first became visible. Although the preoccupation of the period was with establishing a financial system adequate to the needs of the state, the first industry and manufacturing appeared, and the first attempts at creating a transportation network were made. From the 1830's to the 1850's, transportation was the predominant interest, since the banking system of the state had crystallized by slightly after 1820. From the 1850's onward, manufacturing and industry were of more interest than transportation and banking, and the state moved increasingly into regulation of business and associated practices. ☐ The organization of business developed parallel to these changes. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the typical Delaware business was a small single proprietorship or a small partnership. Increasingly, however, incorporation began to be used, and the first extended remarks upon this subject appear in the 1831 State Constitution. As the practice of incorporation spread and became more and more widely used, this basic law was amended and extended. A very limited general incorporation law was enacted in the 1870's, extended in the 1880's, and replaced at the very end of the century. The State Constitution was revised in 1897, at which time the legislature was empowered to enact a general incorporation law. This it did in the 1899 session, and the resulting statute was the basis of the twentieth-century incorporation law of the state. This is not discussed, as the enactment of the 1899 law formed the last chapter in the century of change examined.