The Titles of Nobility Amendment
I was surprised to learn recently that hardly anything certain is known about the constitutional amendment proposed by Congress in 1810 that could, in theory, still be ratified by the states. The proposal states:
If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain, any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress, accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States, and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.
I was curious about this proposed amendment because of the litigation filed against the President claiming that he is violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Since this text also refers to emoluments, I thought that the debate on this would be instructive. But there is hardly any recorded debate on this (either in the Annals of Congress or in newspapers).
Furthermore, I was taken aback by the conspiracy theory that is out there that this amendment really was ratified and that this fact was covered-up because the proposal would have somehow made lawyers ineligible to serve in office or be citizens. (Don’t ask me to explain how that follows from the text.) You can search for yourself, and find people who think that this was the “real” 13th amendment. (Wacky litigants have even argued this in court.)