Tale of Two Persons

A part of the Layman Looks at Law series

Unless you know what a person is, you might not be the person you think you are, and you may not want to be a person at all.

We generally use an English Dictionary to learn the meaning of a word or we might go through life thinking we know it. The word person is used so commonly that we would never think to look it up, but if we did, we might be surprised, especially when we look in a law dictionarysuch as Black’s or Bouvier’s.1

In street English a person is understood to refer to a human being, that however, in the past that was not the case. Street English is a living language—it changes over time. 

Were we to use common English in crafting a law, that law could, over time, change from its original and intended meaning. To prevent that we must use a law dictionary wherever matters of law are concerned. Legal English can be very different from common English. 

Originally, a person or persona, was the ‘mask’ through which an actor spoke.2 That mask or persona—an artificial thing with no life of its own—was given animation and voice when used by an actor. In other words a person is the front or facade through which actors functioned somewhat anonymously.

Black’s Law Dictionary includes this as part of its definitions of person:

Persons are divided by law into natural and artificial. Natural persons are such as the God of nature formed us; artificial are such as are created and devised by human laws, for the purposes of society and government, which are called “corporations” or “bodies politic.”3(Emphasis mine)

We seldom think of a corporation—a department store or an oil company—as a person, but in statute law it is an artificial person, which can sue or be sued, own property, and carry on business. As a corporation it is basically a certificate, created by government at the request of one or more people, under a charter, given certain rights and privileges, and subject to the regulations of its creator. A corporation is an artificial person, a front, behind which a number of people, as a board, operate.

The other type of person defined by Black’s Law Dictionary is the natural person—a type which may be a bit more confusing. Although described as “such as the God of nature formed us” it is none-the-less a ‘person’ or mask, but one we more naturally stand behind. I prefer to see the natural person as a mask of our creation, such as a parent, a teacher, a sole proprietorship etc. As also being a created thing, a natural person is associated with the artificial person and therefore, as a legal term, best avoided.

Although the rights and privileges of the natural person are superior to those of the artificial person they are inferior to those endowed to a human.4 That fact that a legislative act can award to artificial persons such as banks and municipalities, all the rights of a natural person5 is proof that a natural person is not the same nor carries the rights given to humans by God. 

In Attorney General of Nova Scotia v. Attorney General of Canada, [1951] S.C.R. 31, the Supreme Court concludes:

“The Parliament of Canada and the Legislatures of the several Provinces are sovereign within their sphere defined by The British North America Act, but none of them has the unlimited capacity of an individual.”

Most every document on human rights including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)6, to which most nations have bound themselves, in the Preamble affirms:

“Whereas recognition of inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” 

Notice that this is a Declaration and not a Bill, Charter, or Act. These later documents grant privileges whereas a Declaration simply states or acknowledges the fact.

Not to be confused with the various rights granted to corporations, our human rights are inalienable (not lien7able), they are not privileges conferred, granted, or regulated by government; they are God given, and subject only to God’s Law adequately summarized as follows:

"These are the precepts of law: To live honorably; to hurt nobody; to render to everyone his due." Inst. 1, 1, 3; B1, Comm. 40. - (a maxim of law).

In actuality, the authority that a lawful government has is granted/conveyed to it by human beings. Apart from us government has no lawful authority to act.

From God's Law we know that we are are to do what we say we'll do (contracts) and treat others the way we would want them to treated us. 

Although our rights are inalienable, we can choose surrender them when we operate in the capacity of an artificial person—a legal entity or corporation created by government—either lawfully by mutual agreement or fraudulently when without full disclosure. These can happen when we enter into a contract. Examples of legal entities are those registered8 entered into knowingly or by deceit with the government such as is the case with becoming a citizen, a doctor, a driver, a teacher, a taxpayer, a resident, etc… These are ‘persons’ of the government’s creation which we chronically confuse with our human identity. I am a human and sometimes I choose to act as a driver or a teacher, but even then my inalienable rights remain intact. These 'persons' are the ones with the name ‘JOHN DAVID DOE,’ i.e. our name printed in all capital letters. A proper noun — a human’s name — is, by every rule of grammar, written with one capital letter, such as John David Doe9. The all capital letter version is an improper noun and represents an artificial person, a legal entity, a person that is subject to the controls of government. We are not that entity—unless we think we are or choose to be.

It is very important to know that we can choose to operate in the capacity of an artificial person or a legal entity thereby and to some degree surrendering our rights for a time. This is usually done in exchange for lesser rights and some benefit,  but it is best when we make that choice knowing the difference and the implications. 

As a human being we have every right, except that of doing injury to another human. If we see ourselves as a legal entity such as an artificial or natural person, or a corporation we have only those rights that Legislative Acts grant us, and these subject to change.

Are you sure that you are the person you think you are? Are you even a person? The choice is yours. 


  1. Black’s and Bouvier’s Law Dictionaries are accessible online or at any library
  2. from the Latin word persona - ‘per’ meaning through and ‘sona’ meaning sound.
  3. “person”, Black’s Law Dictionary, 1st Edition, pg. 892
  4. In those law dictionaries that I have checked, a human being is not defined.
  5. In the Bank Act (s.15.1) and the Municipal Act (s.9), these entities are given the status of a natural person in Canada.
  6. a copyrighted, and therefore private document, published by the United Nations
  7. "lien," a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged. Oxford American Dictionary
  8. everything registered becomes the property of the owner of the registry - including your children.
  9. better written as John-David (one name for one human) of the Doe-family (depicting the human family)
©2009, Steve.
All Rights Reserved

All publishing rights reserved. Permission is granted to reprint this article for personal use; however, no commercial re-publishing of the material in this article is permitted without prior written consent.

Use what you read here as a part of your research to establish your understanding.
Your actions remain your responsibility.
All natural rights reserved. © 2012 steven, a man. <><