There was nothing wrong with the Fourteenth Amendment. It was, and is, one of the best parts of our Constitution.

However, something has happened to it. That Amendment, hailed as a great edifice erected to invest the people with "due process of law" and the rights under the Bill of Rights, looks today like a great skyscraper gutted by fire. Some repairs have been made recently, but only a couple of stories have been fixed up on this skyscraper of human rights. We will talk about them later.

Thirteen is not America's unlucky number. It is Fourteen.

In any event, the time has certainly come for the people to study the original meaning of the written Constitution, particularly the Fourteenth Amendment, because the whole economic and political history of the United States from the eighties until now, hinges upon it. The preservation of democracy is no joke. The people cannot solve their problems by plugging their ears, squeezing their eyes shut like nature's children, and leaving it to judges' decisions.

The original language and meaning of the Constitution should be compared with present-day interpretations, for the language has not been changed. The people should compare what has been imposed upon and substituted for the original meaning. Surely if the Fourteenth Amendment meant one thing in 1868 and means something entirely different in 1939, We the People have a right to get curious and ask what the change is, and why.

By this Fourteenth Amendment, Negroes were recognized as citizens, and person. Of course, the Amendment was supposed to extend to all persons. It was generally supposed to protect human rights and nothing else. Certainly, it was not adopted to protect corporations, monopoly and big business. But this edifice of human rights looks today like a building in smoking ruins because the Supreme Court gutted the living rights of the people and left only the twisted legal skeleton as guardian of the interests of corporations, monopoly and big business. The Court greatly diminished "states' rights" by using this Amendment to declare unconstitutional state laws enacted to regulate corporations and monopolies. This in effect gave the corporations license to be independent governments.

Let us find out how the Court went about it. Let us read Section 1 of this famous amendment. Read closely (I have italicized certain words) and consider the note in the margin:
Section 1. All persons BORN or NATURALIZED in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; [note: Here is where the judges did it . . .] nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.

Bear in mind that this is an integral part of the Constitution of the United States, an amendment adopted by the people. No President, set of congressmen, or judges have any right to change it.


No one can object to my italicizing and dressing up the Amendment to emphasize that it said person, and meant a natural person. But the Supreme Court waved its magic wand over this natural person and transformed him into a legal person—a corporation. Ask any lawyer in America, or first-year law student, and he will tell you this is correct.


The next thing was to pull the "due process" out and make of it something it had never been in all history. Through the ages of Anglo-American history, "due process" has always meant that a person should have his day in court, and neither his property nor his liberty could be taken from him by a government without his day in court. It meant fair procedure—a rule to be followed.

The Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights already had a due process clause. The Congress feared, however, that the Southern states would not really protect the rights of Negroes and give them due process of law. They considered it necessary to adopt the Fourteenth Amendment because of the American concept of "dual sovereignty" because our powers of government are split between the states and the federal government.

But the Supreme Court seized upon the "due process" clause and, through legal sleight-of-hand, utilized it to remove corporations from control by state law.

It was a step-by-step procedure of the Court, not of the people or their representatives in Congress. Here it is, trample by trample, blow by blow:

Since we cannot deprive an inanimate object, such as a corporation, of life and liberty—since we cannot deprive something that is not human, of human rights—we'll make a corporation into a human being.

The High Court at first refused to make a corporation into a person. The Court so refused in the Slaughter House cases in 1872-1873; in Munn against Illinois in 1876; and again in 1882, when the High Court was told by Roscoe Conkling that the Fourteenth Amendment meant "corporations" when it said "persons." Roscoe had been on the Congressional Committee that drafted the Amendment just after the Civil War. He said he had absolute proof of it in his hands, but like Father Coughlin when he attacked the Jews, he did not show his proof. The Court ignored and rebuffed him as it should have.

The Court knew there was no argument on earth which could make a person of a corporation. Corporations are made—not born. So the judges had to resort to mysterious hocus pocus the people could not understand.

It was a technique all Americans ought to have understood then; they certainly should see through it now. The judges had no powder, no military artillery. So they used judge-powder and word-artillery; one blinded the people, and the other bombarded them off the economic map. The people did not understand then, and do not now.

The judges did not attempt to prove anything. They merely announced the birth. Since this is almost unbelievable, I have produced a photograph of the birth certificate—the full Court proceedings—just as it was printed in the Supreme Court reports. (See following page.)

Thus by judicial fiat, the plain terms of the Constitution were reversed.

Now that we've got our bouncing corporate babe, we'll slash away the century-old meaning of "due process." We'll substitute a sow's ear for the silk purse of liberty, due process of

[*Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U. S., p. 396, Chief Justice Waite.]

law; and by that substitution make it possible for us to declare unconstitutional anything we do not like—whether state or national policy, whether in the realm of economics, politics, or anything else. By this prestidigitation, the Court can declare the Constitution itself unconstitutional.

How? Why we, the Court, will simply arbitrarily pronounce a state law unreasonable; therefore in violation of due process of law; and therefore unconstitutional. We shall decide not upon the constitutionality, but upon legislation. By a build-up of words we shall hold innumerable state acts "unconstitutional."

This interference in the government of states was no small matter. By 1935 the Supreme Court had decided nearly a thousand cases under the Fourteenth Amendment. Senator Borah said in 1930 that the Supreme Court, through its use of the Fourteenth Amendment, was the "economic dictator of the United States."

The effect of this was that, if the judges felt like saying so, state laws or regulations could not be enforced, even if they were of benefit to the citizens of a state. In many cases—for instance the minimum-wage or child-labor cases—it meant that neither the federal nor state governments could extend protection to millions of human beings.

Thus, by the simple device of arbitrarily calling a corporation a "person," the Court took away the rights of real human beings, by the millions, and licensed corporations and monopolies as a third form of government.

At the same time, while the Supreme Court was extending this immense uncontrolled power and sovereignty to the great corporations, it long refused to offer protection of civil liberties to people as against the states, as we shall see in the chapter "Civil Liberties Today."

For PROPERTY, liberty—liberty not to follow the law of states. For HUMAN BEINGS—courts closed to human and personal rights.

According to judicial reasoning, the judges could have included the horses and mules of the Dred Scott decision, as well as corporations, among "persons." More, they could have taken over the monkeys in the zoo, making them persons, and could have made monkeys born in this country citizens. This would have been nearer reasonable—for man is closer to monkey than he is to a coporation. In any event, the Court succeeded in making monkeys out of millions of human beings.

What all this really means is that this "due process" of the Fourteenth Amendment has been used in a long series of decisions to prevent the states (and the national government through the Fifth Amendment) from carrying on effective government. As to states, it has varying effects: to shear utility commissions' power to give citizens lower rates on electricity, gas and other necessities; to prevent fixing minimum wages (such decisions lately reversed, after fourteen years); to prevent protection of citizens in hazardous occupations; to regulate hours of work to a minimum of sixty; to regulate employment exchanges which had been exploiting workers; and dozens upon dozens of others. All of these were acts passed by the people's representatives for the people's social betterment and protection—the same "We the People" of the Constitution and the "persons" of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Not only did the Court deny these protections to persons by declaring them unconstitutional, it further announced that it had the power to protect a citizen's constitutional liberties only when they had been violated by a state law or procedure. Thus, if violence were to be done by mobs, or by state and local officers acting unofficially, the Court maintained that since such violations had not been by a state itself, Congress could offer no protection by federal statute under the authority of the Fourteenth Amendment. This completed the ruin of all the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, in Chapter 31 on civil liberties I shall point out some growing signs of hope, and a change for the better in the Court.

The whole idea of "states' rights" needs a going-over in the clinic of the people. Much of the bellowing for states' rights has been by the people who have done the most to break them down. To get at the truth, the people must not entrust this clinical diagnosis altogether to legal witch doctors; they've got to do it themselves. That is what must be done in the future.

But after the World War, after the gilded, empty, bootleg twenties, people awoke one fine morning to find the greatest stock market crash in history, a stupefied government, a confused President, a scared people, and a badly depleted continent.

Yes, it was certainly time for the people to take an interest in government, for they had been abjectly sleeping at the supreme judicial switch, and they had been thoroughly and duly "processed."