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Determining the Rights of Members

Determining the Rights of Members

(p.159) Six Determining the Rights of Members
The Making of Tocqueville'S America
Kevin Butterfield
University of Chicago Press

This chapter will return to the immediate legacy of the Binns-Duane dispute and the full-blown emergence of the writ of mandamus as a means of judicial superintendence of conflicts between member and group. What was created in the post-Revolutionary moment would give way by the 1830s to new, more contractual ways of describing the relationship between individual and group. The mutual benefit societies that became so common in urban America in the first third of the nineteenth century became the key battlegrounds, for in those groups people were admitted and expelled by the votes of their fellow members, and they had a powerful financial incentive to challenge any decision that stripped them of access to the society coffers in times of distress. What emerged after 1810, then, was a jurisprudence that, much like the early-nineteenth-century development of the law governing stock-issuing corporations, dealt directly with the tensions between majority rule and minority rights. The history of mutual benefit societies in the American republic provides powerful examples of how the legal and popular conceptions of the rights and duties of membership continued to evolve in the period between 1810 and 1840.

Keywords:   mutual benefit societies, membership, corporate law, writ of mandamus, voluntary association

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