According to Warren, after the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers and leaders of the newly independent colonies were totally unlike today's presidents. The early chief executives of states and members of Congress "kept businesses on a short leash."
You couldn't obtain a corporate charter unless 1) you specifically served the public good by building a road or digging a canal or the like, and 2) gained the specific approval of your state's legislature. Your corporate status was not good forever, and unlike today, your corporation, under pain of revocation of charter:
* Could not give campaign contributions;
* Could not own shares in other corporations;
* Could not lobby elected officials.
These, of course, are all common practices today, routinely accepted by those we select to lead us and by the public at large. How far we have strayed from the original wisdom of our founders.
What changed all that? The Civil War -- and guess who? One of the faces on Mount Rushmore.
Abraham Lincoln realized, in order to win that conflict and save the Union, he had to keep a steady supply of militarily usable goods and materials flowing. Warren quotes Thom Hartmann, author of "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights" in describing how "Lincoln had to loosen those restrictions and restraints on corporate behavior. It was his intention to tighten them back up again after the war, but he was assassinated."
Guess what? Slavery played a role. Three years after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was approved, and it ensured due process and equal protection to every citizen under the law. Sure, it was passed to protect the slaves who had been freed, but corporations cleverly twisted that landmark amendment's meaning to give themselves "personhood."