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corporations, law, sole, civil, respect, person and corpora

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CORPORATION. For the purpose of maintaining and perpetuating the unin terrupted enjoyment of certain powers, rights, property, or privileges, it has been found convenient to create a sort of arti ficial person, or legal person, not liable to the ordinary casualties which affect the transmission of private rights, but capable, by its constitution, of indefinitely continu ing its own existence. This artificial person is called an incorporation, corpora tion, or body-corporate. The last of these names is the most correct, as well as the earliest, that occurs in our law. The former express rather the act of creating the body than the body itself, and do not appear to have been used in their modern sense till the fifteenth century. The institution of such bodies under similar or different names was common among the Romans [Coi.LEnium], and it seems probable that bodies possessing all the essential characteristics of modern cor porations were known in the Greek polities.

Corporations may be divided into va rious kinds, according to the mode in which they are viewed. Viewed with respect to number, they are either corpora tions sole, which consist of a single person and his successors ; or they are composed of many persons, who are legally con sidered as one, and are called corporations aggregate. Viewed with respect to the distinction between things spiritual and things temporal or civil, all corporations are either ecclesiastical or lay corpora tions. Lay corporations are subdivided into civil corporations and eleemosynary corporations. Civil corporations are those which have purely ecivil object, such as administration, commerce, education, and other like purposes. Eleemosynary cor porations may have various objects, but they all agree in this, that they have been endowed for the purposes of distributing the alms or bounty of the founder and other donors. Spiritual corporations are divisible into regular and secular corpo rations.

The idea of a corporation sole, formed by a succession of single persons, occupy ing a particular office or station, and each in virtue of his character succeeding to the rights and powers of his predecessor, has been said to be peculiar to our law, and to be an improvement upon the original notion of a corporation. (4 Black

stone's Comment. 4G9.) The king, a bishop, a parson, the chamberlain of London, &c. are examples of such corpo rations sole. It may be observed, how ever, with respect to the supposed novelty of the invention, that similar cases of official succession and representation pro bably occur in almost every system of law, so that the claim of originality must be restricted to the mere name ; and even in this respect, we incline to the opinion of Dr. Wooddesson, "that as so little of the law of corporations in general applies to corporations sole, it might have been better to have given them some other denomination." (1 Wooddes. Vin. Led. 471, 2.) The following notice is chiefly confined to the law of corporations aggre gate. The legal incidents of such corpo rations sole, as bishops and parsons, are mentioned under Bisnor and BENEFICE.

The members of cathedral and colle giate chapters are secular ecclesiastical corporations aggregate. Before the reform ation the law recognised a class of eccle siastical corporations regular, consisting of abbots or prim and their respective convents, and apparently the societies of friars or mendicant orders. (Brook's Abr. Corporations, pl. 12.) The heads of these conventual bodies were often distinct corporations sole, as is still the case in many of the modern secular ecclesiastical establishments.

The colleges in Oxford and Cambridge, and incorporated schools and hospitals, are instances of eleemosynary corpora tions; being endowed and established for the purpose of perpetuating the bounty of their respective founders. [COLLEGIUM.] But the largest class of corporations, and those which are most varied in their object and character, are lay and civil in corporations. Among these are the uni versities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, and London, the municipal corporations of different cities and boroughs, the East India Company, the Bank of England, the Colleges of Physicians and of Surgeons, the Royal Society and Academy, the Society of Antiquaries, and numerous commercial and other companies erected by charter or by act of parliament.

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