Friday, July 30, 2010

The "Original" 13th Amendment

Last month, the Iowa Republican Party adopted a platform that calls for "the reintroduction and ratification of the original 13th Amendment, not the 13th amendment in today’s Constitution." They mean the 13th Amendment that was passed by congress and ratified by 12 states in 1812 — the one that reads,
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
As far as I can tell, the "Thirteenthers'" interpretation of this almost-amendment is fairly silly — they think it applies to titles such as "Esquire" and awards such as the Nobel Prize.

Of course, there are other failed 13th Amendments still floating around. When I first saw the headline for this story, I thought immediately of the Corwin Amendment — a 13th Amendment that was passed by congress in 1861 and ratified by several states:
No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State
While the Corwin Amendment was submitted to the states without a deadline and is still technically open for ratification, it is not likely to be ratified by another 35 states anytime soon. The actual 13th Amendment — the one abolishing slavery that actually passed the whole ratification process — makes the Corwin Amendment obsolete. Still, it is not impossible for state legislatures to ratify old amendments — Mississippi didn't get around to ratifying the 13th Amendment until 1995.

I don't think the Iowa Republican Party supports (or knows about) the Corwin Amendment, but I think that Newsweek goes too far in declaring, "No, it's not about slavery." Yes, the arguments of "Thirteenthers" are specifically about the anti-title amendment, but the language of the proposal — calling for a new, old 13th Amendment — is (unintentionally?) suggestive of reopening old debates about the slavery, emancipation, and the other failed 13th Amendment.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have spent 5 years of my life on this subject. The amendments intent was to guarantee loyalty to the American people and our political system. Further, so far as the official records indicate, the amendment was ratified by the required number of states on March 12, 1819, but for some reason, the general government did not recognize Virginia’s actions. I strongly urge everyone to learn more about the Titles of Nobility amendment at Original 13th Amendment

It’s not a party issue. It’s an issue for the American public to become aware of. When Obama accepted a seat on the UN Security Council, he technically accepted an office from a foreign power. It’s already banned in the Constitution under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 9, but there is no penalty for ignoring the prohibitions. The designation of Esquire is NOT a title of nobility. It's a shame that this rumor was released on the internet some years back.

Stanley Evans