1837 – National Equal Rights Party passes resolution in response to political corruption and business monopolies
John H. Hunt, a member of the Equal Rights Party, drafted this resolution:
“Whenever a people find themselves suffering under a weight of evils, destructive not only to their happiness, but to their dignity and their virtues; when these evils go on increasing year after year, with accelerating rapidity, and threaten soon to reach that point at which peaceable endurance ceases to be possible; it becomes their solemn duty coolly to search out the causes of their suffering — to state those causes with plainness — and to apply a sufficient and a speedy remedy.”
It passed unanimously by cheering mechanics, farmers and working people during a mass rally in a New York City park.
1834 – US House of Representatives Votes Against Re-chartering the Second National Bank of the United States
The US House voted 134-82 against rechartering (re-licensing) the nation’s central bank – a private bank not ultimately accountable to the public but to its shareholders. Charters were originally considered democratic instruments of public control to keep corporations accountable – as opposed to today where charters are issued automatically as long as minimal conditions are met and a fee is paid. The bank had established loan policies that were detrimental to the nation’s economy but very profitable for its owners. The bank’s President, Nicholas Biddle, had threatened to harm the US economy by restricting the nation’s money supply if the charter was not renewed. The bank shrank the money supply. A financial panic and deep depression followed. President Andrew Jackson was convinced that the private bank should not be in charge of issuing and circulating the nation’s money supply.
1968 – Assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
1588 – Birth of Thomas Hobbes, English philosopher
“Corporations are many lesser commonwealths in the bowels of a greater, like worms in the entrails of a natural man.”
Translated: Corporations are worms to the body politic.
1937 – Birth of Merle Haggard, country and western singer and songwriter
“Why don’t we liberate these United States? We’re the ones that need it worst. Let’s get out of Iraq an’ get back on the track, and let’s rebuild America first.”
1956 – Birth of Michele Bachmann, four-term Republican congresswoman from Minnesota and founder of the House Tea Party Caucus
In founding the Tea Party Caucus in 2011, she said, “I think it is because of the corrupt paradigm that has become Washington, D.C., whereby votes continually are bought rather than representatives voting the will of their constituents. … That’s the voice that’s been missing at the table in Washington, D.C. — the people’s voice has been missing.”
2003 – Supreme Court rules to slash jury award over Exxon Valdez oil spill based on 5th and 14th Amendments corporate personhood claims
A jury awarded a settlement of $5 billion to 38,000 commercial fishermen and native Alaskans following the spilling of 20 million gallons of oil by the Exxon Valdez tanker in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. Exxon Corporation challenged the settlement amount, claiming that it violated the corporation’s due process constitutional rights by the “excessive” jury award of punitive damages under the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court agreed and reduced the original jury award settlement to a little over $500 million. A “line of constitutional impropriety” has now been established by the courts that protects large corporations from certain punitive damage awards.
1901 – John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. v. Warren Supreme Court decision
The United States Supreme Court has reaffirmed the principle that corporations are “creatures of the state” in at least thirty-six different rulings. This was one of them.
1913 – States ratify Seventeenth Amendment, allowing for the direct election of senators
The Connecticut legislature ratifies this Constitutional Amendment permitting for the first time direct election of U.S. Senators by citizens. With 36 states having now ratified the Amendment, it becomes part of the Constitution a month later when certified by the U.S. Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan. No longer would state legislatures and the corporate agents behind them choose Senators.
The Amendment represented a victory for the populist and progressive social movements, which included Bryan, who opposed centralized power in the hands of party bosses and politically influential corporations, monopolies and trusts.
1866 – Passage of Civil Rights Act
This was the first Congressional Act in US history sustained over a presidential veto. It provided that people of different races should have full and equal benefit of the law.
1988 – Publication in New York Times of “Corporations Are Not Persons” by Ralph Nader and Carl Mayer
“Our constitutional rights were intended for real persons, not artificial creations. The Framers certainly knew about corporations but chose not to mention these contrived entities in the Constitution. For them, the document shielded living beings from arbitrary government and endowed them with the right to speak, assemble and petition.
Today, however, corporations enjoy virtually the same umbrella of constitutional protections as individuals do. They have become in effect artificial persons with infinitely greater power than humans. This constitutional equivalence must end.
…The corporate drive for constitutional parity with real humans comes at a time when legislatures are awarding these artificial persons superhuman privileges. Besides perpetual life, corporations enjoy limited liability for industrial accidents such as nuclear power disasters, and the use of voluntary bankruptcy and other disappearing acts to dodge financial obligations while remaining in business.
The legal system is thus creating unaccountable Frankensteins that have human powers but are nonetheless constitutionally shielded from much actual and potential law enforcement as well as from accountability to real persons such as workers, consumers and taxpayers.
Of course individuals in these companies can always exercise their personal constitutional rights, but the drive for corporate rights is dangerously out of control.