hearts and minds

July 25, 2012

Does a Corporation have Constitutional Rights? (Part 2 of 2) A Corporation does NOT count as a Person, under the U.S. Constitution

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 in the preface to an 1886 Supreme Court case. This preface was later exploited to massively rewrite corporate law using the unjustifiable legal theory that a corporation is a Constitutional ‘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. Note that ‘Persons’, in the meaning of the Constitution, always included women, people who did not own property, slaves, children, indentured servants, Indians, free Africans, Asians, etc. But do not overlook the fact that neither in 1789 nor in 1868 were any corporations or other non-human legal entities exempted by the Constitution, or by any court order, from this counting of the ‘persons’.
  • 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 Supreme Court specifically declined to decide the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company case on Constitutional grounds. However, the published preface to the case (authored by a court clerk, who happened to be a railroad company president), which is intended to be for the convenience of readers, and which cannot establish a court precedent, asserted, in blatant contradiction of the unanimous official “Opinion of the Court” (written by Justice Harlan), 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”. That fraud and deceit contained in the preface penned by the clerk has been subsequently exploited and improperly declared to be a legal precedent.

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 Supreme Court has ignored this (and other basic principles of language), has contradicted the Constitution itself, and has disdained the bedrock foundation of government that is of, by, and for the people. That foundation is that the people are sovereign. In trying to build an illegitimate edifice of corporate law on the 14th Amendment, the court has clumsily changed horses repeatedly in the middle of a crystal clear stream of sequential sentences all employing the word “person”. After entering this stream in the first sentence of section 1 (where a person can obviously be nothing other than a living, breathing human being, and the qualification of a “person” to become a “citizen” is defined) and continuing on the same horse through the second clause in the second sentence of section 1 (in which the deprivation by any state of the inalienable human rights of “life” and “liberty” without due process becomes prohibited, just as such deprivation of human rights by the federal government had previously been explicitly prohibited in the 5th Amendment), the clerk fraudulently declares that the Court abruptly, and for no good reason, changes the definition of ‘person’ (to magically include corporations) in the third clause of the second sentence of Section 1, where it is promptly thrown in mid-stream by the sentence which immediately follows – the opening sentence of section 2, which mandates and defines explicitly the counting of “persons” for the purpose of apportioning representation of the people in Congress. No wonder that the Supreme Court never wanted to (and never did!) actually publish judicial opinions and rulings to examine and establish, for the official record, that “a corporation is (or is not) a person” in the meaning and intent of the U.S. Constitution! An open, rigorous examination could only find that a corporation is not a ‘person’ in the meaning of the Constitution. The clerk committed the initial, enabling fraud. But the fraud did not become evident or become fully consummated on that occasion. The impeachable judicial coup-d’etat has been committed and extended whenever succeeding Supreme Court Justices have applied and extended the unjustifiable legal premise that a corporation has the Constitutional rights of a person, by citing that clerk’s 1886 fraud.

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 with neither justification nor authority 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.


“Corporations v. Persons – the Struggle that will define the 21st Century”

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.

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7 Comments »

  1. We are often pulled into debates about what the intent of the founders was when they wrote laws.
    In this instance, I think we need to look at the intent behind the creation of a corporation. Corporate charters are a tool that limits the liability of shareholders.
    There is no law that I know of which an individual’s liability for actions is limited (unless they call themselves a corporation).
    People are ultimately responsible to other people directly.
    Corporations are only responsible as far as the charter and law is written. The problem with the ‘free speech’ of corporations is that there is not a corresponding responsibility for their actions in direct terms. They can say whatever they want in a political ad and then hide behind a phalanx of lawyers. Individual people don’t do that.
    The whole intention of forming a corporation is to “get away” with something.
    The intention of a constitution is to ensure a whole nation (as represented by government) is responsible for itself in the eyes of the public. Whereas corporations are supposed to be a subset of law (chartered by some government entity), we have become a fascist country, where the government is a subset of the corporations, who dictate the representatives and their actions with impunity.

    Comment by Dan C — July 26, 2012 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

    • Your comments provoke thought, Dan.

      I will note that my two part essay (on whether a corporation is a person in terms of rights specified by the U.S. Constitution) does not digress into speculations about the intent of the Founders (or precedents established by other nations or documents, etc). That may be necessary in certain instances, but in this case, it is fully sufficient to simply read and comprehend the actual words employed in the Constitution and its Amendments. When a controversy about the meaning of the Constitution can be resolved by simply and accurately and rigorously studying the words themselves, it is unnecessary to try to divine the hidden “intent” of those who framed and ratified the document. Similarly, when the words themselves are clear, it is unnecessary and superfluous to cite other historical documents and practices of foreign jurisprudence (such as the Magna Carta and British “common law”) or to hinge one’s argument on other authorities (such as state legislatures or foreign governments), whether preceding or subsequent. When an airtight case can be made with integrity by the clear use and meaning of the words themselves, all other arguments are nothing but distractions that may be interesting in their own right, but which tend to confuse the primary issue. And the two things that we need no more of on this point are confusion and misinformation.

      To again emphasize something really important, be advised that the Congress, or a state legislature may give a “Party” a particular right, your spouse may give you certain rights – but that doesn’t mean those are rights bestowed or guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Is that clear?

      I believe that we have an airtight case on whether a corporation is guaranteed any of the rights of a person that are specified in the Constitution, based entirely on the unambiguous words of the U.S. Constitution itself.

      Comment by clydewinter — July 26, 2012 @ 4:59 pm | Reply

  2. [...] of the rights described there as being the rights of a person.  Part 1 states this argument.  [Part 2 –  a Corporation Does Not Count as a Person, under the U.S. Constitution – examines another essential argument, based on the 14th Amendment.  [...]

    Pingback by Does a Corporation have Constitutional Rights? (Part 1 of 2) A Corporation is a Party, NOT A Person, under the U.S. Constitution | hearts and minds — April 15, 2013 @ 9:00 am | Reply

  3. A corporation is composed of individuals that have requested this status for their business for business purposes. If the managing persons of such an entity decide, based on some plurality requirement in their incorporation petition, is reached regarding a public or political issue(S), may not them infer from any portion of the constitution that they then have the option of using their considerable weight in the community as a tool they may use to influence political discourse regarding the election of political representatives at all governmental levels. Those individual members of such an entity already have rights of many kinds afforded to them by the constitution. To claim they have the right to amplify their rights by being given the option to apply any of the resources of such entities is to give these individual right beyond that already granted them as individuals in the current constitution and it’s amendments and revisions. It’s my contention that giving such rights to those, in a corporation, in management and policy control of such entities have no right to a second set of rights, collectively exercised. Does this right accrue to all the participants of the entity? As members of this entity come and go, what is the required procedure for reapportioning and relieving these members of the entity carried out, as even in the board rooms, people leave for various reasons.

    The problem is that the constitution is sufficiently weak in its wording that it can be manipulated beyond its implied meaning to a degree that is self evident, given the current courts lack of adherence to them. As written, it is too easy to claim new postulated intents of , as they say, the founding fathers. We need to address those weaknesses, as they surely do exist. Some of the first constitutional Congress with a stronger sense of duty to more distinct democratic principle knew and stated that the constitution they helped crate is a flawed legal document, then it is time to rectify and clarify those flaws, now. But we need to move forward with scholarly caution. We can’t wallow ourselves to support such poorly drafted and considered versions of the proposed 28th amendment, such as S,J, Resolution 19. It’s nicely written, but poorly considered version such that it’s passage would be damaging to the cause and issues it purports to address.

    P.S. Sorry about the lack of caution I showed in composing my reply. Of late I’ve been, in general, not in the best of health; my apologies.

    Comment by John E A — August 21, 2014 @ 8:15 am | Reply

    • Two quick but important points:
      (1) A corporation can, of course, be partly or even wholly owned by another corporation or corporations, and not all owners of a corporation who are actually persons, are even citizens.
      (2) The U.S. Constitution was not created perfect. Democracy and self-governance will always be a work in progress. But it so happens that, at least in this particular case, the U.S. Constitution quite clearly and unambiguously establishes that a corporation does NOT possess the Constitutional rights of a “person”. See my two part essay which examines this not-well-understood truth.

      The reason we need a Constitutional Amendment in this instance is to correct unjustified and unjustifiable Supreme Court rulings. The text of the Constitution itself is clear and correct on the subject of Constitutional rights of persons, and of corporations.

      Comment by clydewinter — August 21, 2014 @ 9:58 am | Reply

  4. I did read the blog series in question, thus my comment. My reply is an attempt to clarify some points that, on my reading, I felt need a slightly different view point be brought to bear; perhaps not. I entirely agree that there is sufficient language and some clarification that covers the issue. The fact that you agree that, despite this, we need an additional constitutional amendment to clarify the issue at hand more thoroughly. To me, this indicates that the justices that have committed these totally arbitrary rewritings of constitutional scholarship have indeed violated the constitution in doing so. I have insufficient knowledge of the particulars involved in impeaching a sitting justice, but I suspect that the current machinations of several justices at least go a fair distance towards warranted speculation about such a matter. Possibly we need to add language to the constitution that clarifies to sitting justices that violating, or in any way restricting the access and exercise of a constitutional right and its determinates is indeed a prohibited act. (such as being violated by laws meant to prevent unfettered access to an abortion).

    Comment by John E A. — August 26, 2014 @ 2:16 pm | Reply

    • John, do you think it should be unconstitutional to restrict loud, intrusive noise (freedom of speech) outside hospitals; or to prohibit shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater; or to regulate or prohibit the expenditure of large sums of money by any entity whatsoever for the purpose of influencing elections or government policy or officials (legalized bribery); or to control or prohibit free access to and deployment of certain “arms” including machine guns, rocket launchers, and CBR weaponry (keep and bear arms)? If you really believe that all rights are absolute, unconditional, and cannot in any way be restricted or regulated, then the suggestion in your last sentence is consistent with your belief.

      I have focused on informing and organizing the people for the purpose of ratifying a Constitutional Amendment (such as the one I have personally suggested, or the “We the People” Amendment proposed by HJR 29 and Move to Amend) because that seems to me like a good general strategy and a way to keep our eyes on the prize of establishing government that is of, by, and for the people, rather than government that is by and for the corporations and the super-rich.

      Impeaching (or instructing) Justices (whether they are long dead or still living and in office) will not directly address the Constitutional problem that we currently face, and which has been with us and growing worse since the 19th century.

      Comment by clydewinter — August 26, 2014 @ 3:23 pm | Reply


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