Corporate Personas: A Tragedy and Travesty of American Jurisprudence
These notes are derived from the book

Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights

by Thom Hartmann

See the video

Here are my earlier notes


on Thom Hartmann's book

Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights


Sadly, we are trapped in a bad science fiction story where the world has been taken over by immortal nonliving entities - beings that look at everything as a resource to be tapped until it's used up, without consideration for how it affects any other living thing, like you.... and you.....

In the 1980's, capitalism destroyed communism. In the next decade, capitalism will destroy democracy

In the past week alone, you've all heard terms like these in the news.

  1. Wall Street reforms
  2. lobbyists
  3. special interests
  4. campaign contributions
  5. political corruption

All of these are synonyms to the Great Evil in American politcs, known as corporate personas.

The concept of Corporate Persona is the notion that a corporation is a person under the U.S. Constitution and has constitutional protection.

The most relevant constitutional amendments used are the

  1. first (free speech).

    If money is speech, is it really free?

    (Another day, another lecture in the Wolfe Lecture Circuit).

  2. fourth (safe from unreasonable searches), but mostly,

  3. fourteenth (equal protection of the laws).

Strangely enough, if a corporation is wholly owned by its shareholders and it is regarded as a person, it violates the 13th amendment which abolished slavery.

The U.S. Constitution does not mention the word corporation.

The notion that a corporation is a person with constitutional protections has never been explicitily granted by

  1. by the voters,

  2. by any act of Congress, or

  3. by any explicit ruling or decision of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

It is merely a travesty and tragedy of American jurisprudence.

  • If a corporation's product kills one or many natural persons, have you ever seen a corporation being held (in prison) for murder?

  • Have you ever seen a corporation vote?

  • Have you ever seen a corporation walking down the sidewalk?

  • Have you ever seen a corporation elected as a representative, senator or President?

  • Corporations can change their identity in a day (much like illegals can).

  • Corporations are created as immortals.

  • Corporations can tear off parts of themselves and create new persons.

  • Corporations can relocate their headquarters in an instant.

What is a corporation?

Thomas Paine stated....

Individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode that governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

Thomas Jefferson was not given enough time to slip in the other two amendments that would have made a 12 amendment Bill of Rights. One of those missing two was to provide a check on corporations.

The US Constitution does not mention the word "corporation" leaving the power to authorize the creation of corporations to the states. The Founders were far more worried about governments usurping human rights and privileges than they were worried about corporations taking over.

State governments then chartered the concept of a corporation.

Corporations are artificial creatures created by the state.

A corporation is formed when a group of people get together and put capital at risk and want to seek from the government legal limits on their liability and to legally limit their personal losses to the monies invested in the corporation.

In exchange for these limitations on liability, government demands certain responsibilities from corporations. The oldest historic one was that corporations "operate in the public interest" or "to the public benefit." It should never operate counter to the public welfare.

The singular purpose of a corporation is to maximize profit.

The charter for the corporation does not specify a time limit for corporate existence. Thus, by default they are born as immortal creatures.

People will always operate in their own self interests, even if it means they violate the interests of others or the interests of the community as a whole.

If you combine these three effects of self interests, immortality, and profit, you begin too see the danger of corporations.

Chief Justice John Marshall (served 1801-1835) stated:

A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of creation confers upon it, either expressly, or as incidental to its very existence."

Justice Rehnquist,

A State grants to a business corporation the blessings of potentially perpetual life and limited liability to enhance its efficiency as an economic entity. It might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere.

Furthermore, it might be argued that liberties of political expression are not at all necessary to effectuate the purposes for which States permit commercial corporations to exist.

Corporations were Vulnerable

If we were to use the Way Back Machine and travelled back in time to 1860, we would see that corporations were at the mercy of the state and community.

  • Corporations licenses to do business were revocable by the state legislature if they exceeded or did not fulfill their chartered purpose(s).

  • The state legislature could revoke a corporation's charter if it misbehaved.

  • The act of incorporation did not relieve the corporate management or stockholders/owners of responsibility or liability for corporate acts.

  • As a matter of course, corporation officers, directors, or agents couldn't break the law and avoid punishment by claiming they were just doing their job when committing crimes but instead could be held criminally liable for violating the law.

  • States (not federal) courts heard cases where corporation or their agents were accused of breaking the law or harming the public.

  • Directors of the corporation were required to come from among the stockholders.

  • Corporations had to have headquarters and meetings in the state where their principal place of business was located.

  • Corporation charters were prohibited from owning stocks in other corporations in order to prevent them from extending their power inappropriately.

  • Corporations' real estate holdings were limited to what was necessary to carry out their specific purpose(s).

  • Corporations were prohibited from making any political contribution, direct or indirect.

  • Corporations were prohibited from making charitable or civic donations outside of their specific purpose(s).

  • State legislatures could set the rates that some monopoly corporations could charge for their products or services.

  • All corporation records and documents were open to the legislature and or the state attorney general.
Human-made institutions must be subordinate to humans themselves; virtually every state had laws on the books that regulated the behavior of corporations.

The corporate form is, after all, just a legal structure to facilitate the conversion of products or services into cash for stockholders.

Thus, states made it illegal for corporations to participate in the political process: politicians were doing the voters' business, and corporations couldn't vote, so it didn't make sense they should be allowed to try to influence votes. States made it illegal for corporations to lie about their products, and required that their books and processes always be open and available to government regulators. States and the Federal government claimed the right to inspect companies and investigate them when they caused pollution, harmed workers, or created hazards for human communities, even if in the early years that right was unevenly used.

Corporations were seeking protection and shelter

Corporations quickly recognized that they needed protection from the government and it's people for their actions. Around the time of the Civil War, the largest corporations were railroad companies.

Their legal teams wanted corporations to become "people" to gain constitutional protections.

The main tool the railroad's lawyers tried to use was the fact that corporations had historically been referred to under law not as corporations but as artificial persons. Based on this, they argued, corporations should be considered persons under the free-the-slaves Fourteenth Amendment and enjoy the protections of the constitution just like living, breathing, human persons.

Along came the Civil War which required a significant increase in taxes and on July 1, 1862, corporations became a target of the Federal government. These taxes came perilously close to calling corporations people.


Sec. 68:
And be it further enacted, That on and after the first day of August, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, every individual, partnership, firm, association, or corporation (and any word or words in this act indicating or refering to person or persons shall be taken to mean and include partnerships, firms, associations, or corporations when not otherwise designated or manifestly imcompatible with the intent thereof,) shall comply with the following requirements, that is to say:....

After the Civil War, the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1868 with the intent of providing full constitutional protections and due process of law to the now-emancipated former slaves in the United States.

For over twenty years from 1866 to 1886, the issue of corporate personhood was debated and pushed in the court by railroad companies who had unlimited funds and were immortal. All attempts were rebuffed, but the railroads finally struck paydirt in 1886 in the Santa Clara decision.

The Santa Clara Decision

Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118 U.S. 394)

In the era after the Civil War, railroads represented the largest corporations. In fact, Supreme Court Chief Justice Morris Remick Waite was a former railroad attorney and a court reporter by the name of J.C. Bancroft Davis was a former small railroad company president.

Before the case was presented to the justices, Chief Justice Morris Remick Waite made the following statement.

The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of opinion that it does.

After the decision was rendered, the court reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis wrote in the court decision's headnotes.

The headnotes have no legal standing but supposedly provide a synopsis of the case (Cliff notes if you will).

The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteen Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The court reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis snuck that "ruling" into the books and Davis knew the court had not ruled on the issue. The whole thing began as a courtroom comment by a judge, which was elevated to the status of legal precedent by an overreaching court reporter.

These headnotes were taken as a legal precedent by future generations of jurists (including the Supreme Court) who followed, and apparently wanted to read the headnotes but not the decision.

Even to this day, most members of SCOTUS do not want to acknowledge the enormity of the technical blunder that occured in the Santa Clara decision.

They they say the devil is in the details. In the Santa Clara case, the devil was in the header notes, not in the details of the actual case.

A legal person (sometimes referred to as a juristic person or a body corporate) is a legal entity through which the law allows a group of natural persons to act as if they were a single composite individual for certain purposes, or in some jurisdictions, for a single person to have a separate legal personality other than their own. This legal fiction does not mean these entities are human beings, but rather means that the law allows them to act as persons for certain limited purposes -- most commonly lawsuits, property ownership, and contracts.

Basic rights (like the rights to free speech and due process of law) do not necessarily follow from legal personhood. A legal person is sometimes called an artificial person or legal entity.

Cures for Corporate Personas

  1. Constitutional change (person -> natural person)

    States can request a constitutional convention for a single amendment

  2. 500% tax on any and all political contributions of any form.

  3. Limit total corporate contributions in any form to a fixed amount.

  4. Review corporate charter every 10 years

We had been warned on January 17, 1961 by Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower's warning on the Military Industrial Complex was a chiiling reminder on the growing power of Corporate Personas.

This speech ranks right up with Lincoln's Gettysburg address.
Text of Eisenhower's Warning on the Military Industrial Complex

Warning on the Military Industrial Complex, part 1

Warning on the Military Industrial Complex, part 2

Relevant Amendments of the U.S. Constitution

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.

Somewhere in our American history, money became speech. This perverted topic may be covered on another day.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...

Amendment XIII - Slavery Abolished. Ratified 12/6/1865.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Amendment XIV - Citizenship Rights. Ratified 7/9/1868

(contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause, similar to the Supremacy Clause [Article VI, Clause 2])

Article I

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.


By passing a non-binding resolution to rescind corporate personhood, a municipality provides an opportunity for the Supreme Court to correct a legally incorrect ruling made in the 1886 Santa Clara ruling.
Resolution on Corporate Personhood in the Town of Framingham, Massachusetts.


  • Citizens of the Town of Framingham hope to nurture and expand democracy in our community and our nation.

  • Democracy means governance by people. Only natural persons should be able to participate in the democratic process.

  • Interference in the democratic process by corporations frequently usurps the rights of citizens to govern.

  • Corporations are artificial entities seperate and apart from natural persons.  Corporations are not naturally endowed with consciousness or the rights of natural persons. Corporations are creations of law and are only permitted to do what is authorized under law.

  • Rejecting the concept of corporate personhood will advance meaningful campaign reform.
Therefore be it hereby resolved that:

The Town of Framingham agrees with United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in his 1938 opinion in which he stated, "I do not believe the word person in the 14th Amendment includes corporations".

Be it further resolved that:

The Town of Framingham shall encourage public discussion on the role of corporations in public life and urge other towns and cities to foster similar discussion.

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