One of the two key citations in the Constitution bearing on whether a corporation is a ‘person’ under the Constitution is the 14th Amendment, which contains four sentences employing the word “person[s]” – (the two sentences that constitute section 1, and the opening sentences in each of sections 2 and 3). The 14th Amendment was cited by the Supreme Court in 1886 when it established a powerful and important but highly questionable precedent (opening up a massive reinterpretation of corporate law) by asserting that a corporation is a person.
Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2: Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. (Etc…)
Section 3: No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath… as an officer of the United States … or of any state … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same… (Etc…)
[The words above in bold letters are excerpted directly, verbatim, from the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution]
A brief explanation of each use of the word ‘person’ in the 14th Amendment follows:
- The first sentence of section 1 outlined (notably, for the first time, ever!) the Constitutional right of a ‘person‘ to be or to become a ‘citizen’ of the United States.
- The first clause of the 2nd sentence of section 1 protected “the privileges or immunities of citizens” from action by any of the states of the United States, and did not mention the word ‘person’ – although the preceding sentence did establish that citizens are ‘persons‘.
- The second and third clauses of the last sentence of section 1 established (also for the first time!) the rights of ‘any person‘ to due process of law and to equal protection of the laws against adverse action by any of the states of the United States.
- The first sentence of section 2 of the Amendment specified the enumeration of ‘persons‘ for the purpose of apportioning representation in Congress, revising the way that such enumeration was originally defined when it was first mandated in Article I Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. It is important to note that both those who ratified the Constitution, and those who ratified this 14th Amendment 80 years later, explicitly excluded or excepted certain specific categories of ‘persons‘ in defining this official enumeration.
- The first sentence of section 3 prohibited any ‘person‘ who had engaged in insurrection against the United States, after having taken an oath to support the U.S. Constitution, from holding any office under the United States, or any state of the United States.
The third clause in the concluding sentence of section 1, which provided equal protection rights to ‘any person’, was specifically referred to in the precedent setting 1886 Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Corporation when that court summarily, after prohibiting testimony on the subject and without publishing the legal rationale for its declaration, asserted, in the published head notes, that, “… Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the 14th Amendment which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.
In Part 1 of this argument, I cited Article IV section 2 of the U.S. Constitution as conclusive proof that the Founders did not consider anything other than a human being to be a ‘Person’, and I referenced the context of the word ‘Person’ elsewhere in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Similarly, considering the context, and the use and meaning, of the word ‘person’ everywhere else in the 14th Amendment, it is not possible to justify an assertion that the word ‘person’ (as used in the third clause of the last sentence of section 2) was meant, by common understanding, or by those who wrote and ratified the 14th Amendment, to include corporations.
The 14th Amendment defined how a ‘person’ could be or become a citizen, it prohibited any state from depriving “any person of life … without due process of law”, it described certain attributes of a ‘person’ who could not become an officer of the United States or its constituent states, and it revised how ‘persons’ were to be counted by the Constitutionally mandated Census every ten years, in order to apportion taxes and representation in Congress. The Founders of the Constitution and also those who ratified the 14th Amendment, most certainly did not intend for entities such as corporations to be eligible to become citizens or Senators, and it is patently nonsense to protect a non-living, non-biological entity from being deprived of “life”.
Significantly, with regards to the Census, the Founders who wrote and ratified paragraph 3 of Article I, Section 2; and also those who wrote and ratified the 14th Amendment, explicitly excluded or singled out for ‘special treatment’, certain categories of ‘Persons’ in defining the enumeration and the consequent apportionment of Representatives in Congress. They explicitly singled out certain human beings to not be counted, or to be fractionally counted but they never named (for exclusion from the enumeration) any legal entities that were not living human beings. Yet corporations (and their predecessors) have never been counted as ‘persons’ by the official Census, which is mandated by the Constitution, and directed by the Congress. And none of the people who actually wrote or ratified our Constitution in the 18th century, or the 14th Amendment in the 19th century (and no one else during the last 220 years) has ever objected to the fact that never has a single corporation been counted as a ‘person’ to apportion representation in Congress.
The meaning of a key word does not change from one sentence to the next in the Constitution – or from one clause to the next, within the same sentence. The Constitution itself, and its Amendments were clearly never intended to provide the status of a ‘person’ to a non-living legal entity such as a corporation. Either that is true, or we must conclude that the Constitution has been blatantly and systematically violated, and our Congress itself has been illegally constituted from the very beginning of the republic, and continuously so, right up to the present. Any honest, thoughtful, informed person must conclude that the Supreme Court precedent that a corporation is a ‘person’ under the Constitution (which was summarily asserted without proof and without argument in 1886) is absolutely wrong.
The 14th Amendment did not extend to corporations the important Constitutional rights specified there for any ‘person’. Every use of the word ‘person’ in that Amendment (including in the sentences immediately preceding and immediately following the sentence containing the equal protection clause, and even in another clause in the very same sentence) can only be construed as referring to simply nothing more and nothing less than a human being that has been born but not yet died – and most definitely does not apply to a non-living legal entity such as a corporation. Establishing the simple truth – that a corporation has never legitimately possessed the rights that were defined by the Constitution for a ‘person’ - does not mean that a corporation cannot exist, or that it cannot be privileged or empowered by authorities other than the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court. It simply means that the U.S. Constitution itself does not guarantee or provide those rights to corporations. And that is the essential and critical point at issue today. If corporations continue to be granted by the Supreme Court the rights that are defined by the U.S. Constitution for a ‘person’ or ‘the people’ then corporations will continue to increasingly control all three branches of our government, at the federal, state, and municipal levels, and both currently permitted major political parties. We will not have, nor will we be able to regain a government that is of, by, and for the people, unless and until we establish clearly and finally that a Corporation is NOT a Person, as far as Constitutional rights are concerned.
See Part 1 of this 2 part argument.
Other essays spotlighting this problem and its consequences.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment to establish beyond doubt that a corporation is not a person in the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, that money is not equivalent to speech in the meaning of the First Amendment, and to protect certain rights of the people in the Constitution.