NTodd of Dohiyi Mir provides us an answer, one of the few I’ve seen online that offers enough detail about the persons involved in the decision to awaken you, the reader, to the genuine perfidy in the origin of the concept of corporate personhood. I’ve known about this for a few years, having been informed by… well, I don’t remember; it may have been Thom Hartmann or Glenn Greenwald in one of their excellent books, but somehow, when the subject of corporations as persons is brought up today, one basic fact is never discussed (other than the self-evident fact that they aren’t… people, I mean): Prior to Citizens United, no court, and certainly no Supreme Court, ever ruled that corporations are de jure persons. That’s right. You thought otherwise? You’ve bought into the original, deliberate fraud, perpetrated by a late-19th-century Supreme Court clerk, J. C. Bancroft Davis, while he was recording the results of the 1886 decision Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. Bancroft Davis, who had prior ties with the railroad at a high level (hmm… railroad ties? if only someone had driven a spike in him…) before his days as a court recorder, inserted the following paragraph as a preface to the text of the decision:
The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
No, it’s not part of the decision itself. No, it’s not legally binding upon anyone. It’s a headnote by a clerk. But it has transformed corporate leaders’ thinking about the entities they head, and thanks to Roberts et al in Citizens United, it has become, for all practical purposes, the law of the land.
NTodd can tell you about the proposed constitutional amendment probably necessary to remedy this gross misconstruction. Can we do it before it’s too late? I have my doubts. But we have to try. I have advocated only one constitutional amendment in my lifetime, the ill-starred Equal Rights Amendment, but it’s time I supported another, this one by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Follow NTodd’s links and see what you think. This is worth your most serious attention.