Ever wonder how corporations became persons? Here’s how:
In courts, organizations such as churches, schools, and corporations were long considered “artificial persons,” not to be confused with “natural persons,” i.e., human beings like you and me.
The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 and intended to grant rights to freed slaves, says, “No state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By neglecting to specify “natural person,” the amendment’s drafters gave corporate lawyers the chance to argue that their clients, already “artificial persons,” were now also “persons” entitled to those same rights.
Their arguments apparently prevailed in an 1886 case, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, decided May 10 of that year. Oddly, the words “corporations are persons within the intent of the . . . Fourteenth Amendment” are found nowhere in the unanimous opinion, written by Justice John Harlan. They appear only in the headnote, penned by Bancroft Davis, court reporter and former railroad president.
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I propose we commemorate the 129th anniversary of this historic occasion by amending our Constitution to establish that money is not speech and that corporations are not persons. Who’s with me?