Grants of Franchise

Historically, a "franchise" was a grant of privilege or prerogative from the Crown. It could be "public" or "private"; municipal, corporate or individual in nature.

Stated Justice Baldwin in his assenting opinion in Proprietors of Charles River Bridge v. Proprietors of, 36 U.S. 420 (1837) 36 U.S. 420 (Pet.):

"... Franchises are not peculiar to corporations, they are granted to individuals, and may be held by any persons capable of holding or enjoying property; a franchise is property, a right to the privilege or immunity conferred by the grant; it may be of a corporeal or incorporeal right, but it is a right of property, or propriety, in the thing to which it attaches. Franchises are of various grades, from that of a mere right of succession to an estate in land, to the grant of a County Palatine, which is the highest franchise known to the law; the nature and character whereof is the same, whether the grant is to one or many...." (Emphasis mine.)

A franchise was often in the nature of:

  A charter to a borough or municipality;

  A charter to a joint-stock trade corporation; or

  A grant of "public" franchise or license to a corporation or an individual..

  A grant of private patent, to an individual.

  ----------> To Part II