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. 181 U.S. 73 (1901)
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 (of President Andrew Johnson). 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.”
2012 – Is The USA The Only Nation in the World With Corporate Personhood
“It’s not surprising to learn that no nation on earth enshrines in its constitution the right of corporate personhood…
“They explained that the U.S. with the oldest constitution, probably has the hardest to change constitution in the world, suggesting that it has become fetishized, with constitutional fundamentalism based on ‘textualism’ and ‘originalism’ which Justices Scalia and Thomas both advocate…
“Next, I asked, ‘So, from what you know, having looked at 186 foreign constitutions, none of them offer corporate personhood rights.’
“Versteeg replied, ‘I’m pretty sure that none of them do and also, foreign constitutions tend to be more explicit. They can be 400 pages long and I haven’t seen any of that and I’m pretty sure about it.’”
1816 – Federal charter granted to create the private Second National Bank of the United States
As with the earlier First Bank of the United States, the Second National Bank of the United States was private with many of the largest investors being foreigners and those representing great wealth. Congress chartered (licensed) the bank for 20 years. Corporate charters were democratic tools once used by sovereign people to control and define corporate actions. As a result of bank practices geared to serving the interests of banks/bankers, (including limiting the issuance of money into the economy – which triggered economic stagnation), President Jackson pledged that the bank would not be issued a new charter after its 20-year charter ended. Without a charter – which provides those forming corporations certain legal protections (then and now) – corporations cannot exist.
1900 – State ex rel. Monnett v. Capital City Dairy Co., 62 OS 350 (1900) – example of corporate charter revocation
It was common practice in the 19th and early 20th centuries for state legislatures and courts to revoke the charters or licenses of corporations that violated the terms or conditions of their charters. The legal procedure for this was called “quo warranto” in which the state demanded to know what right the corporation possessed to act beyond the terms of its state-granted charter.
Some states were more active than others in utilizing this democratic tool. Here’s an example of the language from an Ohio State Supreme Court “quo warranto” charter revocation decision:
“Quo warranto may be invoked to stop corporation’s disregard of laws in conduct of authorized business, and to oust corporation if abuse be flagrant….The time has not yet arrived when the created is greater than the creator, and it still remains the duty of the courts to perform their office in the enforcement of the laws, no matter how ingenious the pretexts for their violation may be, nor the power of the violators in the commercial world. In the present case the acts of the defendant have been persistent, defiant and flagrant, and no other course is left to the court than to enter a judgment of ouster and to appoint trustees to wind up the business of the concern.”
1930 – Birth of Dolores Clara Fernández Huerta, American labor leader and civil rights activist who was the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers (UFW)
Along with UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez, Huerta led the effort to democratically and nonviolently educate, advocate and organize the farmworker community. The results were significant improvements in the lives and working conditions of farmworkers and a change in culture in how Americans thought about the sources of our food.
2010 – “To Be Human” sermon delivered by Rev Colin Bossen, Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland
“The absence of conscience means that if corporations are to consider anything other than maximizing their profits then it must be outside forces that compel them to do so.
“This is a political problem but it is also a spiritual one. It is a political problem because how decisions are made, and who gets to make them, are ultimately questions of politics. Restraining corporate power, and ending corporate personhood, will only come about if people organize to do so. With the Supreme Court on the side corporate personhood it is clear that change will not come from the courts. Instead what is needed is a constitutional amendment delineating that corporations are not afforded protection under the Bill of Rights. Currently the grassroots campaign Move to Amend is pushing just such an amendment. Whether they succeed or not will depend upon how much support they get.
“It is a spiritual problem because what differentiates us humans from corporations is spirit. The word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning breath. Spirit is often equated with the force that propels life forward. Corporations lack this force. They follow a different trajectory. It is trajectory that leads towards a Gibsonian dystopia where the richest live in abundance; the masses in squalor and the planet is threatened with extinction.
“The alternative is a world where spirit reigns and the life force is honored above profit.”
2018 – Published article, Goldman Sachs asks in biotech research report: ‘Is curing patients a sustainable business model?’”
“’The potential to deliver ‘one shot cures’ is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically-engineered cell therapy and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies,’ analyst Salveen Richter wrote in the note to clients Tuesday. ‘While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.’”
1787 – The Free African Society is founded in Philadelphia by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones
It was the second African American mutual-aid society to open in the United States. Mutual-aid societies are considered the precursors to formal democratic cooperatives.
From its Preamble: “a society should be formed, without regard to religious tenets, provided the persons lived an orderly and sober life, in order to support one another in sickness, and for the benefit of their widows and fatherless children.” https://archive.org/stream/economiccooper00duborich#page/21/mode/1up
1945 – Death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the U.S.
“The real truth is…that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.” http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/162689-the-real-truth-of-the-matter-is-as-you-and
“The Bill of Rights was put into the Constitution not only to protect minorities against intolerance of majorities, but to protect majorities against the enthronement of minorities.”
From The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt 366 (1941)
Roosevelt also proposed a “Second Bill of Rights” that focused on economic freedoms. “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” The rights included a job, adequate income to meet basic needs, housing, medical care, and education. It also included rights protecting businesspersons from unfair competition and monopolies, and enabling farmers to raise and sell products and earn enough income to have a decent living. The full list is at http://www.ushistory.org/documents/economic_bill_of_rights.htm
1743 – Birth of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States – on banks and judicial review
On banks: “And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
On Judicial Review (the doctrine that all legislative and executive actions are subject to the review for constitutionality by the judicial branch), Jefferson warned that it would make the Constitution nothing but “a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”
1752 – First successful cooperative organized in the United States in Philadelphia
Benjamin Franklin formed the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.
The company remains in existence, although its web site notes “The company’s most recent change is structural: The Philadelphia Contributionship Mutual Holding Company is the overall umbrella organization which owns the insurance companies and Vector Security Holdings.” http://www.contributionship.com/history/index.html
1873 – “Slaughterhouse Cases” – Supreme Court favors corporate protections over civil rights
Combining three cases, this single decision was the first Supreme Court interpretation of the 14th Amendment, enacted in 1868. The Court ruled very narrowly – concluding that individuals possessed federal rights of citizenship, but not state rights of citizenship. Justices didn’t desire in essence the Bill of Rights to be applied to the states for fear that the Court would become a “perpetual censor upon all of legislation of the States” related to civil rights.
The contradiction of this decision was stunning. The same court was during this era a “perpetual censor” of state laws through its use of the Commerce Clause to invalidate scores of democratically enacted local and state laws promoting safety, health and local businesses in defense of national corporate interests. This narrow interpretation of the 14th Amendment set back efforts for civil rights and labor rights for decades.
1976 – Death of William Henry Hastie, Jr., American, lawyer, judge, educator, public official, and advocate for the civil rights of African Americans
“Democracy is a process, not a static condition. It is becoming, rather than being. It can be easily lost, but is never finally won.”