Sounding Circle: Jefferson Was Right

 Jefferson Was Right16 comments
picture 3 Jun 2003 @ 23:36, by Raymond Powers

Jefferson Was Right
By: Dr. Michael P. Byron - 05/24/03

Most Americans don’t know it but Thomas Jefferson, along with James Madison worked assiduously to have an 11th Amendment included into our nation’s original Bill of Rights. This proposed Amendment would have prohibited “monopolies in commerce.” The amendment would have made it illegal for corporations to own other corporations, or to give money to politicians, or to otherwise try to influence elections. Corporations would be chartered by the states for the primary purpose of “serving the public good.” Corporations would possess the legal status not of natural persons but rather of “artificial persons.” This means that they would have only those legal attributes which the state saw fit to grant to them. They would NOT; and indeed could NOT possess the same bundle of rights which actual flesh and blood persons enjoy. Under this proposed amendment neither the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, nor any provision of that document would protect the artificial entities known of as corporations.

Jefferson and Madison were so insistent upon this amendment because the American Revolution was in substantial degree a revolt against the domination of colonial economic and political life by the greatest multinational corporation of its age: the British East India Company. After all who do you think owned the tea which Sam Adams and friends dumped overboard in Boston Harbor? Who was responsible for the taxes on commodities and restrictions on trade by the American colonists? It was the British East India Company, of course. In the end the amendment was not adopted because a majority in the first Congress believed that already existing state laws governing corporations were adequate for constraining corporate power. Jefferson worried about the growing influence of corporate power until his dying day in 1826. Even the more conservative founder John Adams came to harbor deep misgivings about unchecked corporate power.

A few years after Jefferson’s unsuccessful attempt to incorporate this amendment into the Bill of Rights, the fourth Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, John Marshall, unilaterally asserted the Court’s right to judicial review in the seminal case of Marbury v. Madison in 1803. In practice this meant that the Supreme Court would have sole and unchecked power to determine what the Constitution meant. Jefferson was aghast. His fear lay in the knowledge that an unelected branch of government, one which is not subject to the will of the citizens, and is effectively immune from check by the two elected branches of government (Only one Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached—none have ever been convicted and removed) was now solely responsible for determining the meaning of the Constitution. The meaning of the Constitution, and hence the very nature of our political system, was now in the hands of an un-elected and effectively uncontrollable body. “The Constitution has become a thing of wax to be molded as the Court sees fit” Jefferson lamented.

In 1886 Jefferson’s twin Constitutional nightmares collided in a train wreck which has effectively derailed true democracy in this nation and indeed across the globe as other nations have either copied our unfortunate example, or have fallen under the dominion of our multinational corporations—or both.. The precipitating event was the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. This case is cited to the present day as having conferred the status of “natural” as opposed to “artificial” personhood upon American corporations. In fact the Supreme Court declined to rule on the issue. J.C. Bancroft Davis, the Clerk of the Court, an attorney, who curiously was also a former railroad company PRESIDENT, used his position to simply write this conclusion into the head notes which summarized the case. Ever since this fateful event; this sleight-of-hand rewriting of the Constitution, corporations have had the status of “actual” persons whose rights are fully protected by the Constitution. It was a coup against democracy which succeeded because there were no real external checks and balances on the Court, and because the Court itself chose not to act to repudiate Davis’ rewriting of the Constitution. The thing stood. Precedent was established. Jefferson’s “thing of wax” nightmare had come to pass.

Consider the implications: Actual flesh and blood persons are indeed all roughly equal in overall attributes. But a corporation can possess MILLIONS of times greater resources than does any “natural” person, or even a group of such persons. Neither labor unions, nor any other category of “special interest” group possesses this attribute of personhood and so they too are fundamentally and intrinsically unable to compete against corporate “persons.”

To make a long and sad story short: The concentrated power of corporate persons has overwhelmed our democratic system. The unsound decisions of our unchecked and unbalanced Supreme Court have handed the “keys to the Kingdom” over to our corporate overlords. An analogy with an AIDS infection is instructive: After 1886, our democratic “immune system” resisted Davis’ corporate personhood infection of our national body politic by deploying the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Progressive Movement, the Labor Movement, and the New Deal. All of these bought time. But now, in the era of global mega-corporations, after a long struggle, our “democratic immune system” is finally being overwhelmed. Democracy, rule of, by, and for the people, is dying in America.

Contemporary America is a nation almost wholly under the dominion of plutocratically wealthy, corporate quarterly-profit über alles overlords. A seamless web of corporate power connects our multinational corporations with our mass media—now almost wholly owned by a handful of mega-corporations. This military-industrial-media complex largely determines which politicians will and will not get elected. Thus they control the government. They control access to money as well as determine how a candidate will be presented to the viewers. The very policies that our “elected” officials are “allowed” to espouse are rigorously circumscribed: Remember Clinton’s national healthcare proposals? Our media will never tell us that every other developed nation on Earth has universal health care for their citizens. Arguably, our corporate media has seen to it that the average American is as brainwashed as is say, the average citizen of North Korea. Our primary role in this atrocious system is simply to consume. We are consumers, corporate subjects, not citizens. Under this materialistic system our lives are devoid of deep meaning as we are conditioned to work ever harder and go ever deeper in debt to accumulate ever more useless junk as though if we just piled up enough of this crap we would somehow, magically, become happy.

What is to be done? Let’s open our eyes and admit that the emperor has no clothes. Let’s admit that our democratic, constitutional, system was derailed more than a century ago. Until we return power to the hands of flesh and blood citizens EXCLUSIVELY, until corporations are summarily striped of “personhood”, until this legal obscenity is abolished, we can have no real freedom, democracy cannot flourish. Furthermore, to ensure that the will of the people is respected and reigns supreme, all members of our federal judiciary must face periodic reelection by the citizens—just as is the case for our judiciary here in California. Until and unless these things come to pass we cannot be a free people. Because we are fundamentally NOT a free people, because our ability to act and to build freely upon our inspirations is constrained by corporate forces beyond our present control, we cannot live up to our full potentials as human beings. Once these goals are accomplished there shall be such an explosion of innovation in economic and political and scientific entrepreneurship as to make Periclean Athens seem timid. It’s up to each of us to act NOW. Freedom itself hangs in the balance.

Dr. Mike Byron, a contributing writer for Liberal Slant, teaches Political Science at CSU San Marcos, as well as at Palomar, Mira Costa, and Mesa Colleges. He was the Democratic Party’s write-in candidate for the 49th Congressional District last year.

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4 Jun 2003 @ 15:27 by sharie : Privilege without Responsibility
Corporations are afforded the rights and privileges while the *officers* of the company are held unaccountable and unresponsible for the damage they choose to do. This multiplies the injustice 100 fold.

Thank you for your informative post.  

22 Jul 2004 @ 00:22 by Citizens For A Better Veterans Home @ : Nation wide Veterans Revolt & Professor
Guy Kewney's Mobile Campaign (UK)

News - A small correction by Congressman Issa...
By Guy Kewney Posted on 01/04/2003 at 14:39

He's not going to give up gracefully, is he? Having been exposed in a factual inaccuracy - the GSM network isn't French, as he claimed - Congressman Darrell Issa has removed the allegation that it is. And then he's resorted to innuendo...

Here's the original quote from his first draft lobbying letter, which reads:

We have learned that planners at the Department of Defense and USAID are currently envisioning using Federal appropriations to deploy a European-based wireless technology known as GSM ("Groupe Speciale Mobile" - this standard was developed by the French) for this new Iraqi cell phone system.

And here's the new version

We have learned that planners at the Department of Defense and USAID are currently envisioning using Federal appropriations to deploy a European-based wireless technology known as GSM (Groupe Speciale Mobile) for this new Iraqi cell phone system.

So, has he corrected the error? Well, check the top of his page, where you'll see "Parlez-vous francais? Congressional Lawmakers Balk At Plan To Deploy French/German Cell Phone Technology In Post-War Iraq"

In other words, Darrell, anybody who can spell can tell that Groupe Speciale Mobile is French, right? And we might as well shove "German" in there, too, right?

(British blog on Congressmember Darrell Issa (with 'friends' like this, do active duty, former military, and their loved ones even NEED enemies?????)

Issa might like to have a word with Motorola, a prime manufacturer of GSM technology, both switchgear and phones, for world-wide markets, and see how "French" they think they are!

Meanwhile, who benefits from his lobbying? Well, hard to say. Of course, all the CDMA patents are held by Qualcomm, which is a firm in his representative area - but that could hardly be part of the argument, surely?

Comments? Mail me at or phone 020 8809 0492 in the UK (+44) area.

8 Sep 2008 @ 15:25 by dixon1e @ : Article submitted to DIgg
This posting has been submitted to Digg to popularize it. Please check it out at [link]

If you don't know Digg, this is a powerful way to publicly spread ideas, and this is a strong idea. What would be great is a follow up on this, including source materials from the author to back everything up. This would give others further resources to cite.


14 Sep 2009 @ 16:07 by anon @ : monopolies are bad but only gov't brings
I wonder if Jefferson was trying to make sure that monopolies didn't happen because he knew that monopolies only come from the government. If that is the case, I definitely agree with Jefferson. But it's a good thing that there are no current examples of any free market monopoly that has done the public worse.  

27 Jan 2010 @ 22:27 by Purpleslog @ : Source?
Could you point meat a source or reference for this "monopolies in commerce” proposal. I am unable to find it anywhere.  

14 Feb 2010 @ 19:36 by David W. Potter @ : Citations!?
As the 8 Sep 2008 and 27 Jan 2010 comments state, it would be extremely helpful to see some support in the literature for this. Unsupported evidence is DOA as a real argument. Is anyone listening? Thanks!  

15 Feb 2010 @ 06:07 by ogre @ : Source.
Purpleslog, Potter:

It's cited here:

Jefferson writing to a Mr. Dumas:
"With respect to the new Government," he wrote, "nine or 10 States will probably have accepted by the end of this month. The others may oppose it. Virginia, I think, will be of this number. Besides other objections of less moment, she [Virginia] will insist on annexing a bill of rights to the new Constitution, i.e. a bill wherein the Government shall declare that, 1. Religion shall be free; 2. Printing presses free; 3. Trials by jury preserved in all cases; 4. No monopolies in commerce; 5. No standing army. Upon receiving this bill of rights, she will probably depart from her other objections; and this bill is so much to the interest of all the States, that I presume they will offer it, and thus our Constitution be amended, and our Union closed by the end of the present year."  

16 Feb 2010 @ 03:37 by Dr. Mike Byron @ : Jefferson Was Right

See chapter 4 of Thom Hartman's Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights ([link]) It details the exact letters between Jefferson and Madison in which this is addressed.


26 May 2010 @ 16:59 by Alan8 @ : You can't get there from here
All true. But our two corporate-financed mainstream political parties won't let this happen. They openly and without shame take corporate bribes to represent corporate interests.

All we can do is support the non-corporate alternative: The Green Party.

The Green Party doesn't accept ANY corporate money, and represents citizens' interests. Just 5% of the vote will get them matching Federal funds, and will begin the process of taking our country back from the corporations.

Vote Green!  

18 Aug 2010 @ 04:07 by Jeff Nixon @ : Tea party needs to know this
It seems to me the "Tea Partiers" don'r know this and need to. This is the #1 issue in the downfall of America. Why isn't this the top issue?  

9 Dec 2010 @ 00:55 by Face @ : Only Problem...
This sounds legit and all but I wonder... would a nation that upheld this amendment be at a disadvantage to or otherwise less powerful than nations that did not?  

30 Oct 2011 @ 15:40 by Ted Van Oosbree @ : Congressional review
Article II, Section 2: "In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make."
Congress has full power to restrict supreme court jurisdiction and could use this power if it wanted to.  

8 Nov 2011 @ 03:42 by Sam S. @ : Monopolies
This article is half true. Jefferson did believe a "right against monopolies" should be added to the Constitution. He did mention it in letters he wrote to Madison. However, neither he nor Madison ever drafted and submitted a proposal to that effect. Jefferson, moreover, was not involved in the drafting of the Bill of Rights other than as Madison's friend and mentor; that is to say, he did not take part of the debates in the first Congress which drafted and ratified the Bill of Rights -- because he was the ambassador to France and then the Secretary of State at the time and was, therefore, not a member of Congress. So to say that he and Madison "worked assiduously to have an 11th Amendment included into our nation’s original Bill of Rights" is misleading at best. Madison's original proposal included twelve amendments. Neither of the two that were rejected had to do with monopolies. One had to do with apportioning of representatives based on population ("there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be, etc.") and the other had to do with titles of nobility ("If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honour...such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them."). So, while I agree with the sentiment of this article, I would advise its author to not exaggerate the facts to support a worthy cause.  

16 Nov 2011 @ 05:50 by Sam S. @ : Correction
I was mistaken: The second amendment that was included in the original twelve, but was rejected, did not have to do titles of nobility. It had to do with Congressional pay increases, an amendment which languished until it was finally adopted, in 1992, as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.  

6 May 2012 @ 12:05 by Jack Williams @ : Historic loss of Jefferson in schools
The textbook adoption commitee in Texas is removing Jefferson from the books that most of the country use in class, as most states follow Texas in their adoptions of history books(so called history) Most citizens do not know what Jefferson said about anything as it is now, they will not know of him in the future! I fear that Democracy is really dead in this country. sad for us all.  

7 Dec 2012 @ 20:58 by Brad Miller @ : Sounding Circle: Jefferson Was Right
So, the author uses Jefferson when it suits his purpose. Does he honestly believe that Jefferson would have advocated mandatory universal health care? My only wish is that every advocate of democracy gets his or her due as our republic becomes more democratic.  

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