My ol’ huntin’ partners, Sid D. Complex and Jesse B. Simple, and I were enjoying a couple beers together this Spring. Jess had just boggled my mind with one of his astute observations on the human condition. So I was trying to appear calm, and in full possession of my faculties while feeling more than usually uncertain and unbalanced.
Sid handled the silence that followed by deftly changing the subject. ‘Know what?’ inquired Sid. ‘The word “Person(s)” appears in the U.S. Constitution 22 times. And that same word pops up 27 times in the Constitutional Amendments (which averages once per Amendment). I know because I counted. But, the word “corporation(s)” doesn’t appear even once in the U.S. Constitution or in any Amendment. What the hell is all this noise about the Supreme Court declaring that a corporation is a person? That’s just plain nuts. A corporation doesn’t bleed, it can’t have kids, a corporation ain’t a person, anybody knows that.’
Smart-as-a-whip Jess came right back, without even pausing to take a deep breath or whet his whistle.
– ABSTRACT –
The U.S. Constitution (and specifically Article IV section 2 of the Constitution and sections 1 and 2 of the 14th Amendment) are examined to shed light on a legal theory and supreme Court actions, which hold that a corporation is a “Person”, and therefore possess specific rights under the Constitution. Common usage and understanding, as well as the demonstrated intent of those who framed or ratified the Constitution or its Amendments are considered. Primarily, however, the document itself is employed to establish that corporations cannot be shown to be “Persons” under the Constitution, nor to possess any of the Constitutional rights granted to “persons”. A certain Constitutional right that was originally intended for corporations was extinguished by later ratification of an Amendment.
The 14th Amendment (with Congressional authority as provided in section 5) is shown to have substantially failed in accomplishing the clear intent of extending important rights to real persons, at the same time that this Amendment has been erroneously employed (by egregious actions of the supreme Court) to extend unprecedented rights to corporations that were neither intended nor justifiable.
Remedies for the resulting injustices and defects in law and the political system are suggested.
The authentic Constitution of the United States of America, and Amendments
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific RR Corporation 1886
(Corporations are “persons” under the meaning of the 14th Amendment!
Note: This momentous declaration was included in the published preface to this case (authored after the fact by a Court clerk who happened to be a railroad company CEO), but the Supreme Court members explicitly did NOT decide this case on ANY Constitutional grounds. The notion that a corporation is a person under the U.S. Constitution has become the cornerstone principle of corporate law and has resulted in unrestrained corporate power. But that notion, and the supposed precedent established in this case is an unmitigated fraud.)
Buckley v. Valeo 1976
(Distribution of money is equivalent to speech, and thus protected under the First Amendment!)
First Nat’l Bank of Boston v. Bellotti 1978
(Corporations have First Amendment rights!)
Citizens United Incorporated v. Federal Elections Commission 2010
(Corporations can employ unlimited resources to influence elections, political parties, and legislation!)
[Note that all quotation marks in the following essay enclose words that are directly excerpted from the U.S. Constitution and Amendments. It may help to have your copy close at hand while reading this.]
[sorry for the interruption. the story continues below.]
‘First, it’s important to note something that most everybody these days has never once considered, or are even aware of’, continued Jess. ‘Now listen up. In Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers included one single pregnant sentence that employs both the word “Person” and also the word “Party”. To answer your question, Sid, we’ve got to carefully examine that single sentence and that important distinction.’
Sid got up to head for the door, but decided to lighten up the beer cooler instead.
‘At the time the U.S. Constitution was adopted’, said Jess without skippin a beat, ‘a “Person” could actually be legally owned property (a slave), or legally obliged to live, conduct him or herself, and toil exactly as ordered by a particular employer for a defined period of years (an indentured servant). (Some people might think that an indentured servant was, in effect, a slave, for that period of years. But the difference between a slave and an indentured servant in North America went far beyond the difference between the duration of forced servitude. For just one example, it was perfectly legal for a slave to be assaulted, raped, tortured, or killed in any fashion, at any time, for any reason or no reason, by the slave owner, or with the owner’s approval.) Now the Founders established in a single sentence in Article IV section 2 of the Constitution the right (regardless “of any Law or Regulation” to the contrary) of the owner of a slave (or employer of an indentured servant) to have that “Person” be “delivered up on Claim” to the legal owner/employer, even across state lines, should that “Person” happen to have escaped.
‘The reason I am drawing this section of this particular Article of the U.S. Constitution to your attention is that in this sentence, the slave or indentured servant was designated as a “Person”, but the owner or employer was designated as a “Party”. The choice of the word “Party” at this point makes perversely good sense. An owner or an employer could be a person – or it could be some other legal entity – such as a corporation, or a unit of government, for example. You didn’t have to be a “Person” in order to have a financial interest in having an escaped slave that you owned be returned to you from anywhere in the United States or territories. George and Tom and Alex and Ben and Charley and the rest of the Founders undoubtedly considered a chartered company to be a “Party” and not a “Person” when they devised the Constitution and Article IV. And since they decided to grant the right defined in Article IV section 2 to such a company which happened to own slaves, as well as to a person who owned slaves, they quite sensibly and precisely used the word “Party” there, instead of “Person”, when referring to the “Party to whom such Service or Labor may be due.”
‘The Constitution says “Person” when it means “Person”, and it says “Party” when it means “Party”. See, a person can be a “Party”, but a “Party” is not necessarily a “Person”. Only a person can be a “Person”. Get it? Like you and everybody with an ounce of sense knows, now or three hundred years ago, you gotta be a living, breathing human being to be a “Person”. I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but it’s not a “Party” that has Second or Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights, and it’s not a “Party” that qualifies to be a Representative in Congress. And likewise for all 49 places in the Constitution where the word “Person(s)” is specifically employed’
Sid cracked open a cold one. ‘Gimme one too’, I pleaded, with success. The story was getting interesting. Sid returned to the chair he had been occupying.
‘The Founders did NOT say that the escaped “Person … shall be delivered up on Claim” of the Person to whom service or labor was due’, Jess stressed. ‘The Founders said that the escaped “Person … shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labor may be due.” The Founders did this to preserve these very special (and very strange!) rights for ANY owner of a “Person”. They specifically did not preserve ONLY the right of a “Person” who owned slaves. They carefully preserved the right of any “Party” that owned slaves. And they did that simply because a “Party” that owned slaves (or the services of an indentured servant) often was a corporation. If they had used the word “Person” instead of “Party”, some smart-ass Abolitionist lawyer would have been able to challenge in court a corporation seeking return of its escaped slave by simply pointing out that a corporation does not have the rights of a person, under the Constitution. They used the word, “Party” instead of “Person” in order to close a huge loophole. I guess they woulda been pretty stupid to have missed that one.
‘The Founding Fathers, in Article IV section 2 clearly and unmistakably distinguished between a “Person” – which they quite reasonably perceived (throughout the Constitution and even all subsequent Amendments) as a living breathing human being – a human being who might commit treason or felony (on one hand) or run for President (Art. II sect. 1) or Senator (Art. I sect. 3) on the other hand, or become a “Citizen” (Amendment XIV section 1), or be an escaped slave (on still another hand) – and a “Party” (which might be a person, or which might not be a person at all, but instead be a corporation) that held legal ownership over an enslaved “Person”. And in the very same sentence, the Founders defined the Constitutional rights of a “Party” that was “due” the “Service or Labor” of such an enslaved “Person”. There’s a big difference between a “Party” (which, in the Constitution, is a legal entity, such as a real, live person or a corporation) and a “Person” (which can only be a living, breathing, mortal human being).
‘The corrupted and incompetent supreme Court was dead wrong in 1886 and the five out of nine majority was dead wrong again in 2010. “Persons” have numerous Constitutional rights. But under the Constitution, a corporation is (if it is anything at all) a “Party”, not a “Person”. And the Constitutional rights of a “Party” are fully and clearly defined in Article IV section 2, and nowhere else.
‘The catch is, of course, that Article IV section 2 was effectively repealed almost a century later by the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery in the USA. So it is now a moot point whether the Founding Fathers, in Art. IV sect. 2, did in fact provide Constitutional rights to corporations. Maybe you guys don’t think so, but actually, I think they did. Far as I can tell, the Constitutional rights of a corporation were very real, and were explicitly defined in Article IV section 2 – and nowhere else. Regardless of that, the abolition of slavery by the 13th Constitutional Amendment a century later, ended the Constitutional rights of corporations (or of any other “Party”) to have their escaped slaves “delivered up” to them, to do with as they pleased. Article IV section 2 of the Constitution, together with the universal usage and meaning of the word “Person”, clearly establishes that the Founding Fathers never intended to bestow on corporations the rights that are guaranteed to “Persons” by the Constitution. Although persons working for corporations have rights, and persons who own stock in corporations have rights, and persons who are directors of corporations have rights, corporations themselves – corporations, per se – have no (remaining) Constitutional rights whatsoever, since the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the USA.
‘The 14th Amendment, section 1, proves this point again, when it defines “citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” as “persons born or naturalized in the United States …”. Now no one has ever even tried to let a corporation vote as a “citizen”, for example. Corporations cannot become “citizens”, and never have been citizens, simply because they are not “persons” – whether or not they were “born” in some non-biological sense (like an idea or a song is “born”) in the United States. Just as you said, Sid, a corporation is no more a “person” than a song, or a mathematical theorem, or a political action committee, is a “person”.
‘Section 2 of the 14th Amendment clearly states that “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state …” No one has ever even tried to count corporations as “persons” (in addition to real, live, human-being persons) in order to apportion our Representatives in Congress – because corporations are not and never have been “persons”. Section 2 doesn’t say to subtract the number of corporations from the total number of “persons” in order to apportion Representatives because no sane, rational person, then or now, had the silly idea that a corporation was a “person”. Now I ask you, isn’t this obvious and plainly true to anyone with a functioning brain who thinks about it? – Anyone, that is, other than the five knuckleheads among our current nine supreme Court Judges who in 2010 ruled to the contrary.
‘Those two sentences in section 1 and section 2 of the 14th Amendment make crystal clear, to all but the most hopelessly deranged, that a corporation is not a “person”.
‘Bracketed directly between those two sentences in the 14th Amendment that I just told you about is the most important sentence of the 14th Amendment. That’s the one that was intended to require that each and every individual state that was part of the United States, be forbidden to “… 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.” In 1787 and 1791, the Founders had established, right in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights, the requirement that the federal government not violate these basic human rights. But the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, explicitly required, for the first time, that each of the states was also forbidden to deprive any person of these most basic human rights.’
[Footnote, added here by the scrivener: It’s mighty interesting that the 14th Amendment was bitterly resisted by more than one “Party” on the specious grounds that the precious human rights it enshrined for all of us in the Constitution, trespassed somehow upon something called ‘states rights’. The motivating intent of the 14th (and the 15th) Amendments was to protect the newly acquired basic human and civil rights of “persons” who had long been held in slavery, after slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment. But section 1 of the 14th Amendment extended extremely important new human rights protections to ALL of us “persons”, regardless of our color, age, or sex. The abuse, misuse, and grotesque distortion of the 14th Amendment is the height of irony, and one of the greatest historical injustices that has ever occurred. And the aberration and travesty continues to this day, and will continue until we, the people, put a stop to it. The basic, essential human rights protections described by section 1 of the 14th Amendment were virtually unenforced until the (what should have been unnecessary) 19th Amendment explicitly and redundantly mandated the right of women to vote more than fifty years later, and the landmark Civil Rights Law and Voting Rights Law were finally enacted a full century later. On the other hand, the sandwiched sentence in the 14th Amendment about basic rights of “persons”, that was just discussed by Jess, was almost immediately seized upon by corporatists and falsely and without justification, employed to begin to assert that corporations have all the constitutional rights that in fact belong fully and only to real, live human beings. This led directly and immediately to the obscenities of the Gilded Age and the tragedy of the Great Depression. In recent decades, even greater reliance on, and extension of the legal hoax that a corporation is a Constitutional “person” has culminated in a continuing series of the largest and escalating financial frauds that have ever occurred in the world, with no imprisonment of the looters at the top, no recovery of the massive loot, and no regulations or enforcement to effectively prevent it from happening to us again and again. The people are currently without protection from unbridled corporate power.]
‘It’s pretty clear to me’, continued Jess, ‘that the Founding Fathers agreed that (with the highly interesting exception of that one sentence in Article IV section 2) the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights, was s’posed to outline the basic rights of “Persons” (and “Citizens”) and the structure and function of the federal government – while federal and state and local laws were left to define and circumscribe legal entities such as corporations. Now the famed Founding Fathers didn’t explicitly define in the Constitution words they used that were in common, everyday public use, whose meaning was universally understood – words like “Person”. But we oughta recognize that in none of those 49 places in the Constitution and Amendments that you told us about, Sid, is that word used in a way that implies that a “person” is anything other than a living, breathing human being. And in most of those 49 places, the word “person(s)” is, without question, referring to nothin’ but a living, breathing human being.
‘So’ declared Jess with finality, ‘it’s clear as a Liberty Bell that the Founders and the framers and ratifiers of the Constitution and of all of the existing Amendments, including the crucial 14th Amendment, never intended that corporations were to be considered as “persons”, or that a corporation should possess the same constitutional rights as a “Person”.’
With that, Jess stopped talking, raised and tipped his bottle, and the contents disappeared down the hatch. Sid released a thoughtful and resounding belch. I fell off my chair. And nobody noticed.
Here’s more illumination on this pretty damn important subject:
Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission – the Supreme Court Strikes Out
Governing People For Profits
Paying for Elections – Low Cost and Up-Front or High Cost and Under-the-Table
How Wisconsin Legislators Voted on Ending Legalized Bribery
Join the struggle to win democracy and get government that is of, by, and for the people – not the corporations