Category Archives: People

People Persons

[courtesy Google Images]

[courtesy Google Images]

‘ll bet that I’ve been listening to debates and arguments about the meaning, nature and possible disabilities of the term “person” for 25 years.  Even after all of that commotion, the meaning and implications of the word “person” is still not precisely clear to me.

However, last night I was reading the Bill of Rights and realized that the key to understanding the constitutional concept of “persons” might be found in the Fourth Amendment to The Constitution of the United States.  That Amendment declares,


“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”


Note that the “people” have “persons”.  “Persons” are not “people’.  Instead, “persons” are attributes or capacities of “people”.  “People” are real and primary; “persons” are relational, derivative and/or secondary.

While it’s possible that each of the “people” has only one correlative “person,” I doubt that’s true.

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Adask on Sovereignty II

"Prof. Adask" [courtesy Google Images]

“Prof. Adask”
[courtesy Google Images]

In my recent video presentation “Adask on Sovereignty,” I argued that the Founding Fathers created a nation where each of the people were deemed to be an individual “sovereign”.  That individual sovereignty was achieved by virtue of having received our “unalienable Rights” from God—as declared in “Declaration of Independence”. 

I supported this argument, with text from the A.D. 1793 Supreme Court case of Chisholm vs. Georgia which declared in part that after the American Revolution, the American people became “sovereigns [plural] without subjects”.

If my argument is right, We the People are individual sovereigns and the government is our public servant. If my argument is wrong, We the People are subjects and the government is our master.  The argument is important.

In the aftermath of the first article (“Adask on Sovereignty”) a number of readers disputed my argument based on the fact that the Supreme Court also described the people are “joint tenants in the sovereignty”.  According to these readers the definition(s) of “joint tenants” prove that the Supreme Court did not declare the people to be individual “sovereigns” (plural) but instead confided all sovereignty to a single “collective” of which we are each a member, but only as subjects—never as sovereigns.

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Persons Owning Persons

"Persons . . .  persons who OWN persons . . .  are the GREEDIEST persons . . . in the world."

“Persons . . . persons who OWN persons . . . are the GREEDIEST persons . . . in the world.”

I recently received the following email:

Hi Alfred,
After reading your blog and others I have been doing some thinking. I was on a long drive yesterday and I came to a realization. If corporations are people and enjoy the privileges of being people then how can they own other corporations?  Isn’t that the textbook definition of slavery?


I replied, in part, as follows:

Hi Christian,

That’s an interesting insight, but it’s mistaken in this regard:  Corporations are not “people”—they’re “persons“.

I.e., you and I are deemed to be flesh and blood “people” under our “Declaration of Independence,” State constitutions and the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States.  However, under the 14th Amendment (“All persons born or naturalized . . . ,” adopted A.D. 1868) we are presumed to be “persons“.  Later, in some Supreme Court case, the Supremes implied that corporations are also “persons”.

Nevertheless, you’re right.  It’s intriguing to see that at least some “persons” (living, flesh-and-blood, like you and I) can own other “persons” (corporations and other legal fictions).  The fact that at least some persons can be owned, bought and sold indicates that at least some “persons” (fictions) are things rather than “people” (men and women made in God’s image and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights).

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