Today in fact, 9 July

Today two confederate armies fought and ended battles in which they were by far the smaller force. The first involved the Swiss confederacy in 1386 at the battle of Sempach. This battle is arguably the definitive military battle in the creation of Switzerland. Leopold, the Duke of Austria organized that the nascent Swiss confederacy received over 167 declarations of war from Church and nobles. These were sent in 20 packets of declarations so as to heighten their impact.

The battle of Sempach came as a surprise to both armies as they met each other while marching to what they thought were each other’s positions. The Austrian nobles were arrogant and determined to show the Swiss peasant who was boss. They insisted on standing in front of the battle line. As the hill on which they fought was not conducive to mounted war, the knights dismounted and fought in full armour. The midday sun was, it seems the decisive factor in defeating the superior Austrian army. Duke Leopold was killed and many of his fellow noble knights. On the field of Sempach, Switzerland was born.

Just over 500 years later in 1863, the small Confederate garrison at Port Hudson near the mouth of the Mississippi fought the superior Union forces to a standstill over 48 days of siege. The Mississippi was the main route for commerce in the continental United States and the Confederates needed to hold control over Port Hudson to keep their Confederacy together.

The Confederates fought well and bravely and saw-off a vastly superior Union army in weaponry and numbers. They only surrendered when they learned that the town of Vicksburg had surrendered 4 days earlier.

Two striking things about the Siege of Port Hudson might be said; the first is that significant engagements were fought by black union troops and, that the only real winners of this siege were the businesses who profited from war and the free flow of goods up and down the Mississippi.

So it is perhaps apt that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America was passed on this day seven years later in 1868. This piece of legislation gave equal rights and privileges to all people born or naturalized in the United States:

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; 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 laws.

Slaves were now officially equal and free. As with many things in our social life, official rights, freedom and equality did not automatically translate to real freedom and equality.

The real winners were the businesses and corporations who had made good profits from the Civil war. They now used the legal fiction of companies being “persons” under the law to claim 14th amendment rights for their business interests.

Curiously no US court has ever deliberated on the application of 14th amendment rights to businesses and corporations. A legal precedent was set by using the heading of an obscure judgement made some 20 years later to push for constitutional rights for companies and corporations.

Is it not high time that we dispense with the legal fiction of person-hood for companies and corporations? Or should we instead insist that even legal persons behave like any good citizen and act as active business citizens promoting the common good rather than merely the private pecuniary good of their shareholders?

Posted by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *