Honest Abe

lincolnAlso prescient Abe. This passage appears in a letter from U.S. president (1861-65) Abraham Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864. (The war he’s referring to is the American Civil War, but you know how history repeats itself.)

We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood…. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.

As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.

God did not grant, and 144 years later we are living what Abe foretold. I have long felt that reining in the giant multinational corporations will be the enterprise that ultimately decides our collective fate.

Today, thanks to Guy Dauncey‘s laudable EcoNews newsletter, i learned about an interesting take on this: Dr. Riki Ott wrote a book (Not One Drop) calling for a 28th amendment to the U.S. constitution, one that constitutionally separates corporation and state. This would effectively negate the judicial rulings (since 1886 in the states) that corporations have the same rights as human beings, including trial by jury and protection against the taking of property.

Ott was involved with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound, which Exxon recently wriggled out of — after nearly 20 years in the courts — with a fine of $507 million. (The original award was $5 billion plus). Exxon’s constitutional protections played a key role in that that legal wrangling. The “suit’s” side of the case is presented in this CNNMoney.com article. From the other side, a 4-minute video by Ott is on YouTube if you’re interested.

Hmm, 20 years in court, Exxon versus a small Alaskan community … you pretty much know how that’s going to turn out.