1885 – Death of Thomas Welles Bartley, Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio (1852-1859)
Bartley wrote the majority opinion for the Ohio Court in the 1853 case of The Bank of Toledo v. The City of Toledo and John R. Bond, and concurred with the majority in three other cases that same year upholding state law providing the state and its counties the power to tax banks. The banks claimed that the tax violated the U.S. Constitution’s “Contracts Clause” since a higher tax rate was not included in the 1845 “Act to Incorporate the State Bank of Ohio, and other banking companies.”
Barkley asserted that a charter or contract between a private corporation and the state that created the franchise was actually a law, not a contract, and, therefore, the Contracts Clause was not applicable. His opinion also stated that the power to tax could not be surrendered by the legislature and that the government’s paramount obligation is to protect the public welfare despite being bound in good faith to protect contracts and private property.
The U.S. Supreme Court later that year reversed the Supreme Court of Ohio’s decisions when it ruled in the case of Piqua Branch of The State Bank of Ohio v. Jacob Knoup, Treasurer of Miami County (1853).
1980 – Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of New
York, 447 U.S. 557 (1980) Supreme Court decision
The Court nullified a regulation adopted by the New York Public Service Commission during the 1970’s energy crisis that banned utility corporations from promoting the use of electricity.
Declaring that the ban unconstitutionally “suppressed speech,” the Court declared that the utility corporation’s “commercial” speech was protected by the 1st Amendment. Therefore, the state has no power to encourage energy conservation by banning corporate advertising promoting energy use.
1892 – Birth of Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian
“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
And presumably “women’s” capacity for justice as well.
1940 – Death of Smedley Butler, Marine Corp Major General – on being a “muscle-man” for Big Business”
Butler was the most decorated marine in US history at the time of his death.
“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism…I wouldn’t go to war again, as I have done, to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things that we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket…. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912…”
1772 – Somerset v Stewart [98 ER 499] – slavery is outlawed in England and Wales
A slave becomes free by stepping on English soil. Runaway slaves from the colonies attempted to flee to England to gain their freedom. Some believed that the decision increased colonial support for independence, especially from southern colonies that wanted to protect their slave “property” and expand their territory.
1949 – Birth of Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator, Massachusetts
“What we need is a system that puts an end to the boom and bust cycle. A system that recognizes we don’t grow this country from the financial sector; we grow this country from the middle class.” And…“Powerful interests will fight to hang on to every benefit and subsidy they now enjoy. Even after exploiting consumers, larding their books with excessive risk, and making bad bets that brought down the economy and forced taxpayer bailouts, the big Wall Street banks are not chastened. They have fought to delay and hamstring the implementation of financial reform, and they will continue to fight every inch of the way.”
1947 – Congress overrides Presidential veto in passing anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act
The law, formally known as the Labor Management Relations Act, significantly restricted the power and rights of labor unions, severely weakening the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (known as the Wagner Act). Called the “slave labor bill” by union leaders, Taft-Hartley outlawed a variety of strikes (i.e. wildcat, jurisdictional, and political or solidarity), secondary boycotts, mass picketing and closed shops (where employers must only hire union members). However, corporations were granted “free speech” powers in the union certification process, usurping the rights of workers to “freedom of association.”
2013 – UU national General Assembly in Louisville, KY passes an “Action of Immediate Witness” calling to “Amend the Constitution: Corporations are not Persons and Money is not Speech”
“…BE IT RESOLVED that the 2013 General Assembly instructs the UUA to make its endorsement formal and public, supporting the efforts to amend the Constitution; and
BE IT RESOLVED that the 2013 General Assembly further requests member congregations to pass resolutions that support and endorse a constitutional amendment to establish that corporations are not persons and money is not speech; and
BE IT FUTHER RESOLVED that the 2013 General Assembly encourages Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministries nationwide and other affiliated Unitarian Universalist organizations to join this important cause.
Working together with other groups and other faith traditions, we can make a significant impact to further the progress of a constitutional amendment to preserve the constitutional rights that our founding fathers intended solely for human persons, restore the effective voice of the people, and save our democracy. “
Full resolution at http://www.uua.org/statements/amend-constitution-corporations-are-not-persons-and-money-not-speech
1908 – Death of Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th President of the United States — on corporate power
From his 1888 State of the Union Address: “The gulf between employers and the employed is constantly widening, and classes are rapidly forming, one comprising the very rich and powerful, while in another are found the toiling poor. As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.”
1982 – Lewis v. United States [680 F. 2d 1239 9th Circuit] – court rules that the Federal Reserve is private
“Federal Reserve banks are not federal instrumentalities for purposes of a Federal Tort Claims Act, but are independent, privately owned and locally controlled corporations in light of fact that direct supervision and control of each bank is exercised by board of directors. Federal Reserve banks…are locally controlled by their member banks; banks are listed neither as ‘wholly owned’ government corporations nor as “mixed ownership” corporations; federal reserve banks receive no appropriated funds from Congress and the banks are empowered to sue and be sued in their own names…”
1975 – Release date of the film “Roller Ball”
“In the film, the world of 2018 (referred to in the tagline as “the not too distant future”) is a global corporate state, containing entities such as the Energy Corporation, a global energy monopoly based in Houston which deals with nominally-peer corporations controlling access to all transport, luxury, housing, communication, and food on a global basis. According to the tagline, in this world, ‘wars will no longer exist. But there will be… Rollerball.’
The film’s title is the name of a violent, globally popular sport around which the events of the film take place. It is similar to Roller Derby in that two teams clad in body armor skate on roller skates (some instead ride on motorcycles) around a banked, circular track. There, however, the similarity ends…
The various global corporations own Rollerball teams, named after the cities in which they are based. Energy Corporation sponsors the Houston team. The game is a substitute for all current team sports and for warfare. While its ostensible purpose is entertainment, Mr. Bartholomew, a high-level executive of the Energy Corporation, describes it as a sport designed to show the futility of individual effort.”
2013 – Supreme Court strikes down portion of Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, [570 U.S. ___ (2013)]
This landmark 5-4 ruling determined that a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. The five Justices concluded that Section 4(b), which identifies locations in the South with a pattern of voting discrimination, was unconstitutional since the formula it used was based on 4-decade old data and not reflective of current realities. The four Justices who voted to retain the Act claimed that voter suppression remains a problem throughout the South.
2003 – Nike v. Kasky – Supreme Court fails to rule on corporate right to lie
The Supreme Court chose not to rule on a case brought by Nike Corporation concerning their right to political free speech under the 1st Amendment. A California court ruled that state laws mandating truth in advertising (commercial speech) had been violated. The question was over whether ReclaimDemocracy.org, called the dismissal “a victory for democracy and the truth.” Jeff Milchen, the organization’s director said it was “a relief to hear that the court was not prepared to consider even more extreme judicial activism on behalf of corporate America and against U.S. citizens by creating a corporate right to lie.”
The case returned to California where it was settled out of court before trial. The question of whether the 1st Amendment gives a corporation the right to speak untruths remains undetermined.
2015 – Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision – same sex marriage is legal
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a fundamental right to marry in all 50 states is guaranteed under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution for same sex couples.
As with all decisions that for the first time guarantees rights to a new group of persons, the decision did not happen in a vacuum, but was the result of several decades of organizing for LGBT rights. A key moment that many believed sparked this social movement was the 1969 Stonewall protest in New York City.