Morphosis of a Citizen 1,819 AD
Freedom of . . . 1,791 AD
Revolution 1,775 AD
Enlightenment 1,700 AD
Very Early Modern 1,500 AD
Late Middle Ages 1,300 AD
High Middle Ages 1,000 AD
Early Middle Ages 400 AD
Pericles: 450 BC
Ephialtes: 465 BC
Cleisthenes: 500 BC
Solon: 600 BC
Hammurabi: 1,800 BC
Ur Nammu: 2,000 BC
Gilgamesh: 2,500 BC
Sumeria: 5,300 BC
Lascaux: 30,000 BC
Religious activity: 100,000 BC
Homo sapiens: 130,000 BC
Homo erectus: 1,500,000 BC
Homo habilis: 2,500,000 BC
Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society.- Michel Foucault
Chronology of Court Rulings Toward Corporate Citizenship
Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)
Corporate charters are ruled to have constitutional protection.
Munn v. State of Illinois (1876)
Property cannot be used to unduly expropriate wealth from a community (later reversed).
Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886)
The substance of this case (a tax dispute) is of little significance, but this fateful case subsequently was cited as precedent for granting corporations constitutional rights. Several articles linked above detail how this happened.
Noble v. Union River Logging Railroad Company (1893)
A corporation first successfully claims Bill of Rights protection (5th Amendment)
Lochner v. New York (1905)
States cannot interfere with “private contracts” between workers and corporation — marks the ascension of “substantive due process” (later mitigated after President Roosevelt threatend to add Justices to the Court).
Liggett v. Lee (1933)
Chain store taxes prohibited as violation of corporations’ “due process” rights.
Ross v. Bernhard (1970)
7th Amendment right (jury trial) granted to corporations.
U.S. v. Martin Linen Supply (1976)
A corporation successfully claims 5th Amendment protection against double jeopardy.
Marshall v. Barlow (1978)
The Court creates 4th Amendment protection for corporations — federal inspectors must obtain a search warrant for a safety inspection on corporate property.
First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978)
Struck down a Massachusetts law that banned corporate spending to influence state ballot initiatives, even spending by corporate political action committees. Spending money to influence politics is now a corporate “right.” Justice Rehnquist’s dissent is a recommended read.
Related articles: * Ballot Initiatives Hijacked * Behind the Powell Memo
Central Hudson Gas v. Public Service Comm. of NY (1980)
This oft-cited decision concerns a state ban on ads promoting electricity consumption.
Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990)
Upheld limits on corporate spending in elections.
Nike v Kasky (2002)
Nike claims California cannot require factual accuracy of the corporation in its PR campaigns. California’s Supreme Court disagreed. The U.S. Supreme Court took up the case on appeal, then issued a non-ruling in 2003. See our comprehensive archive on this case.
Randall v Sorrell (2006) While this case dealt with the legality of Vermont’s contribution limits, not corporations directly, it carried important implications for corporate political influence, as Daniel Greenwood detailed in our amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010). In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overrules Austin and a century of federal legislative precedent to proclaim broad electioneering rights for corporations.
I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.- James Madison, Federalist Papers