Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Ballentine's Law Dictionary

    A special privilege conferred by the government on individuals. See 101 Md. 541, 109 Am. St. Rep. 584, 1 L. R. A. (N. S.) 263, 61 Atl. 532.

  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    A special privllege conferred by government upon an individual or corporation, and which does not belong to the citizens of the country generally, of common right. It is essential to the character of a franchise that it should be a grant from the sovereign authority, and in this country no franchise can be held which is not derived from a law of the state. In England, a franchise is defined to be a royal privilege in the hands of a subject. In this country, it is a privilege of a public nature, which cannot 'be exercised without a legislative grant. See Bank of Augusta v. Earle, 13 Pet. 595, 10 In Ed. 274; Dike v. State, 38 Minn. 366, 38 N. W. 95; Chicago Board of Trade v. People, 91 111. 82; Lasher v. Pcople, 183 111. 226, 55 N. E. 663, 47 L. R. A. 802, 75 Am. St. Rep. 103; Southampton v. Jessup, 162 N. Y. 122, 56 N. Bl 538; Thompson v. Pcople, 23 Wend. (N. Y.) 578; Black River Imp. Co. v. Hol-way, 87 Wis. 584, 59 N. W. 126; Central Pac. R. Co. v. California, 162 U. S. 91, 16 Sup. Ct 766, 40 In Ed. 903; Chicago & W. I. R. Ch. v. Dunbar, 95 III. 575; State v. Weather-by, 45 Mo. 20; Morgan v. Louisiana, 93 U. S. 223, 23 In Ed. 860. A franchise is a privilege or immunity of ft public nature, which cannot be legally exercised without legislative grant. To be a corporation is a franchise. The various powers conferred on corporations are franchises. The execution of a policy of insurance by an insurance company, and the issuing a bank-note by an incorporated bank, are franchises. People v. Utica Ins. Co.., 15 Johns. (N. Y.) 387, 8 Am. Dec. 243. The word "franchise" has various significations, both in a legal and popular sense. A corporation is itself a franchise belonging to the members of the corporation, and the corporation, itself a franchise, may hold other franchises. So, also, the different powers of a corporation, such as the right to hold and dispose of property, are its franchises. In a popular sense, the political rights of subjects and citizens are franchises, such as the right of suffrage, etc. Pierce y. Emery, 32 N. H. 484. The term "franchise" has several significations, and there is some confusion in its use. When used with reference to corporations, the better opinion, deduced from the authorities, seems to be that it consists of the entire privileges embraced in and constituting the grant. It does not embrace the property acquired by the exercise of the franchise. Bridgeport v. New York & N. H. R. Co.., 36 Co.nn. 255, 4 Am. Rep. 63.
    —General and special. The charter of a corporation is its general" franchise, while a "special" franchise consists in any rights granted by the public to use property for a public use but with private profit. Lord v. Equitable Life Assur. Soc.. 194 N. Y. 212, 87 N. E. 448, 22 L. R. A. (N. S.) 420.
    —Elective franchise. The right of suffrage; the right or privilege of voting in public elections.
    —Franchise tax. A tax on the franchise of a corporation, that is, on the right and privilege of carrying on business in the character of a corporation, for the purposes for which it was created, and in the conditions which surround it. Though the value of the franchise, for purposes of taxation, may be measured by the amount of business done, or the amount of earnings or dividends, or by the total value of the capital or stock of the corporation in excess of its tangible assets, a franchise tax is not a tax on either property, capital, stock, earnings, or dividends. See Home Ins. Co. v. New York, 134 U. S. 594, 10 S. Ct. 593, 33 L. Ed. 1025; Worth v. Petersburg R. Co., 89 N. C. 305; Tremont & Suffolk Mills v. Lowell, 178 Mass. 469, 59 N. E. 1007; Chicago & E. I. R. Co. v. State, 153 Ind. 134, 51 N. E. 924; Marsden Co. v. State Board of Assessors, 61 N. J. Law, 46i, 39 Atl. 638; People v. Knight, 174 N. Y. 475, 67 N. E. 65, 63 In R. A. 87.
    —Personal franchise. A franchise of corporate existence, or one which authorizes the formation and existence of a corporali on, is sometimes calied a "personal" franchise, as distinguished from a "property" franchise, which authorizes a corporation so formed to apply its property to some particular enterprise or exercise some special privilege in its employment, as, for example, to construct and operate a railroad. See Sandham v. Nye, 9 Misc. Rep. 541, 30 N. Y. Supp. 552,
    —Secondary franchises. The franchise of corporate existence being sometimes calied the "primary" franchise of a corporation, its "secondary" franchises are the special and peculiar rights, privileges, or grants which it may receive under its charter or from a municipal corporation, such as the right to use the public streets, exact tolls, collect fares, etc. 'See State v. Topeka Water Co., 6l Kan. 547, 6O Pac. 337; Virginia Canon Toll Road Co., v. People, 22 Colo. 429, 45 Pac. 398, 37 L. R. A. 711.