We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights

We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights Review

We the Corporations chronicles the astonishing story of one of the most successful yet least well-known “civil rights movements” in American history. Hardly oppressed like women and minorities, business corporations, too, have fought since the nation’s earliest days to gain equal rights under the Constitution—and today have nearly all the same rights as ordinary people.


Exposing the historical origins of Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, Adam Winkler explains how those controversial Supreme Court decisions extending free speech and religious liberty to corporations were the capstone of a centuries-long struggle over corporate personhood and constitutional protections for business. Beginning his account in the colonial era, Winkler reveals the profound influence corporations had on the birth of democracy and on the shape of the Constitution itself. Once the Constitution was ratified, corporations quickly sought to gain the rights it guaranteed. The first Supreme Court case on the rights of corporations was decided in 1809, a half-century before the first comparable cases on the rights of African Americans or women. Ever since, corporations have waged a persistent and remarkably fruitful campaign to win an ever-greater share of individual rights.


Although corporations never marched on Washington, they employed many of the same strategies of more familiar civil rights struggles: civil disobedience, test cases, and novel legal claims made in a purposeful effort to reshape the law. Indeed, corporations have often been unheralded innovators in constitutional law, and several of the individual rights Americans hold most dear were first secured in lawsuits brought by businesses.


Winkler enlivens his narrative with a flair for storytelling and a colorful cast of characters: among others, Daniel Webster, America’s greatest advocate, who argued some of the earliest corporate rights cases on behalf of his business clients; Roger Taney, the reviled Chief Justice, who surprisingly fought to limit protections for corporations—in part to protect slavery; and Roscoe Conkling, a renowned politician who deceived the Supreme Court in a brazen effort to win for corporations the rights added to the Constitution for the freed slaves. Alexander Hamilton, Teddy Roosevelt, Huey Long, Ralph Nader, Louis Brandeis, and even Thurgood Marshall all played starring roles in the story of the corporate rights movement.


In this heated political age, nothing can be timelier than Winkler’s tour de force, which shows how America’s most powerful corporations won our most fundamental rights and turned the Constitution into a weapon to impede the regulation of big business.

Title:We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights

    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • Mehrsa

    It's hard to write a 400 year history, but this was very well done and admirably focused. At times I wished for more analysis and less of a play by play, but the story that emerges is pretty clear. Wh...

  • David Wineberg

    It is endlessly entertaining to examine Supreme Court decisions, to follow the logic and often the prejudice and corruption they comprise. We The Corporations selectively follows the tribulations of t...

  • Marks54

    This is a book by a law professor at UCLA detailing the history of how US corporate bodies came to increasingly be viewed as legal persons with a widening array of property and liberty rights comparab...

  • Maggie Holmes

    This is one of the books I always wanted to write (along with Anne Bogel's Reading People book.) I've known that the history of corporation rights began early in our country's history. I just didn't k...

  • Emma Sea

    wait, there's no Kindle edition??...

  • Elizabeth

    We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights (Hardcover) by Adam Winkler from the libraryheard au on 1A ( https://the1a.org/) on NPR Feb 26 2018also On the Media Apr 16 2018http...

  • Will A

    The cry of "Corporations are not people!" after 'Citizens United' was not quite right. The US Supreme Court has tended to restrict corporate rights when it has treated corporations as persons, artific...

  • Brandon

    The writing is a little clunky and the organization a bit disjointed, but it is well worth the periodic slog. I mean, how gripping can one really make the recounting of a particular line of Supreme Co...

  • Rob

    A fascinating, and highly accessible story of the development of rights for corporations. In spite of the overwhelming public opposition to the SCOTUS decision in "Citizens United" that opened the flo...

  • Gavin

    Fascinating overview of the creep of CorporationsReally interesting book which is full of facts to remember. Also very interesting to read how Corporate rights have come to be; often either via decept...