REAL Democracy History Calendar – February 6-12

February 6

1950 – Supreme Court decision: United States v. Morton Salt Co., (338 U.S. 632, 650) – corporations are endowed with public attributes

Corporations “are endowed with public attributes. They have a collective impact upon society, from which they derive their privilege as artificial entities.”

February 7

1919 – Michigan Supreme Court rules that the primary purpose of corporations is profit

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. (170 NW 668), that “A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end.”

“Stockholder Primacy” is established. This is still the leading case on corporate purpose. Henry Ford was sued by his shareholders for a plan in which he proposed to sell his cars at below-market prices so he could create more jobs and “spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and their homes.” The Court ruled against Ford and for maximizing profit for stockholders.

February 8

1887 – Passage of Dawson Land Allotment Act

Ownership of communal land by indigenous people became illegal. Millions of acres of collectively owned native lands are sold to white squatters.

2010 – Statement (called a “Minute”) of Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) on Human Rights and Corporations

“A fundamental Friends belief is that every person has inherent worth and dignity regardless of religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, income, gender, physical ability or sexual orientation. Humans have the capacity for emotion, imagination, awareness, self-reflection, empathy, aspirations, reason, creativity, responsibility and more. Every human being possesses inalienable rights simply by being human. Government laws and constitutions have affirmed many of these rights.

“Corporations are not human and possess no human traits. They have no inalienable rights. They are entities, chartered by the State, with a purpose to serve the public by providing goods and/or services. They are nothing more than a set of legal documents much like deeds, wills and other warrants.

“Historically, corporations were created to be subordinate to human persons. The State can revoke a corporate charter if it does not follow its terms.

“Despite the recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs FEC, granting corporations greater political free speech powers to contribute to political campaigns and despite past Supreme Court decisions granting corporations the same legal status as living, breathing human beings, rights reserved exclusively for human beings under the Bill of Rights and other sections of the US Constitution should not apply to corporations.

Corporations are not persons. Equating the two is not only a perversion of laws and constitutions but a usurpation of self-governance and perversion of life itself.“

February 9

1737 – Birth of Thomas Paine, American revolutionary 

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”

1944 – Birth of Alice Walker, American novelist, short story writer, poet, and activist

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

February 10

1936 – Supreme Court decision declares that newspaper corporations have 1st Amendment free speech rights

A newspaper corporation has a 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech that would be applied to the states through the 14th Amendment, according to Grosjean v. American Press Co., Inc. (297 U.S. 233).   The Court ruled that the corporation was free to sell advertising in newspapers without being taxed. This is the first 1st Amendment protection for corporations. What gives a newspaper corporation this free speech right, however, is the fact that it delivers news and opinions, not that it is, per se, a corporation.

1944 – Birth of Frances Moore Lappé (born February 10, 1944), author of 18 books including the three-million copy Diet for a Small Planet

“Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food but by a scarcity of democracy.”

February 11

1812 – Birth of Thomas Welles Bartley, Ohio Supreme Court Justice who defied a US Supreme Court decision by claiming a corporate charter was a democratic law, not a contract protected by the Constitution.

Bartley wrote the majority opinion in an 1853 Ohio Supreme Court tax-related case (The Bank of Toledo v. The City of Toledo and John R. Bond) and concurred with the majority in three other tax cases during the same year asserting the right of legislatures to tax the banks, which the banks claimed was a violation of the banks’ franchise. The Ohio Supreme Court decisions directly challenged the 1819 Dartmouth v. Woodward U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“Bartley held the position that the franchise of a private corporation always was subservient to the public welfare and a charter or contract between a private corporation and the state that created the franchise was in reality a law, not a contract, and did not fall under the purview of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. His opinion also stated that the power to tax could not be surrendered by the legislature and that, while the government is bound in good faith to protect contracts and private property, its paramount obligation is to protect the public welfare… 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).”

Source: https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/SCO/formerjustices/bios/bartley.asp

February 12 

1809 – Birth of Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States.

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse.”  From First Inaugural Address, 1861.

1999 – “Human Rights vs. Corporate ‘Rights'” by Mary Zepernick

“Some folks, alarmed by the corporate usurpation of our power to govern, seek to ‘level the playing field.’ But this is not the people v. corporations suiting up for a contest between two equal teams. Becoming self-governing, in charge of our common life and institutions, isn’t a game; it’s the work of We the People… Corporations should be servants of the people, not their masters.”

Source: OpEd published in Cape Cod Times

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