The Prohibition of Titles of Nobility and Honour
At the end of 1806 all of the western frontier was aflame with the reports of Aaron Burr's plots and treacheries: Burr, eloquent and devious and extremely popular, was quite possibly a sociopath. He had proved to be one of the most effective political organizers of the new Republic. But his betrayal of Jefferson in the 1800 election, by contesting the electoral college votes and forcing the decision into the House of Representatives was a severe crisis for the new federal system. Thirty-six ballots were required for Thomas Jefferson to turn back the challenge of his own Vice-President. And, as Fawn Brodie notes in her landmark biography of the Third President, Jefferson used the threat of a Constitutional Convention against the Federalists, who hoped to appoint an interim president to displace both him and Burr!
In 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte had himself crowned the King of Italy, and in 1806 Joseph Bonaparte was set up as King of Naples. His brother Louis was then named King of Holland, a residual Spanish title. Soon enough, Aaron Burr was adventuring in the western territories, looking to create a new confederacy with himself as dictator or Emperor.
Although he never had the level of support he imagined, President Jefferson considered Burr a serious threat. After getting a clear view of his conspiracy, he issued a proclamation on November 27th, elucidating the Burr conspiracy in general terms and calling on the people at large to suppress any insurrection. Far from being the end of the matter, it was the beginning of a titanic political struggle.
The history of this era includes on-going conflicts over smuggling, and the cross-border trade with British Canada. Britain was keenly aware of all that was happening in the new States, and with nearly 184,000 handloom weavers and 90,000 cotton workers in their factories, they had every incentive to exploit the divisions in American politics.
In March and April of 1807, judicial proceedings against Aaron Burr and several of his confederates, conducted by Chief Justice John Marshall, resulted in two of these conspirators being freed for a lack of evidence, and Burr freed on bail. This hardened the animosity between Marshall and Jefferson, which had been a-building for many years. When Marshall displayed a public sympathy with Burr and his lawyer it revealed, as Fawn Brodie writes, that "the trial took on for Jefferson a wholly new dimension, the judiciary had once more become, as in Adams' time, a tool of politics." As Fawn Brodie notes, in her biography of the third President, Jefferson "would see to it that an amendment to the Constitution was introduced in Congress in 1807 and 1808 making it possible for judges to be removed by a joint action of the president and both houses of Congress. In both instances it failed ...."
What both the federalists of the northern states and the Democratic-Republicans of the south agreed upon -- as a result of their experiences in shaping the new government of the United States -- was a renewed concern over the meddling of wealthy European business agents, called "factors," and of the various adventurers, royalist agents and spies operating on behalf of Spain, and Bonapartist France. The new states were positively overwhelmed with schemers and financial hucksters, but wages were rising and growth was everywhere in evidence. The period 1800 to 1818 was one of rising expectations and massive immigration into the Americas, and of "republicanism" on the march with Simon Bolivar in the former Spanish colonies. It was a good time for the federalist opponents of the Jeffersonians, including James Madison and James Monroe.
Louisiana, with its prized port of New Orleans, was being prepared for statehood and all parties were concerned with the political ambitions of Jerome Bonaparte. The new Territory of Mississippi was also generating great wealth and men of vision were building plantation empires in these two regions, while Alabama was following its own course of development. So much growth and change was worrisome to the established powers in New England, where a secessionist movement had swept the region in 1809, and who generally detested both Thomas Jefferson and all things French. Behind it all, British agents and smugglers were all too happy to roil the waters of these remarkably stable, productive new states of the American Republic.
By 1810 James Madison was the new President, and the combined concerns of both New England federalists and southern Democrat-Republicans led to the formulation of the Titles of Nobility Amendment, otherwise known as the "original" or "missing" Thirteenth Amendment.
No one can say with complete authority, who wrote this Amendment, but it is consistent with the language employed by James Madison during the Constitutional Convention, and the arguments for ratification authored by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers. On November 27, 1809, the original 13th Amendment was proposed in Congress. By May of 1810 with John Gaillard as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, this section was voted out of Congress, having passed both houses of Congress, and was sent to the 17 states of the Union.
War with Great Britain intervened in 1812, and then James Madison won re-election, with Elbridge Gerry as his Vice President. Despite the tumult that war brings, by the end of the year, twelve of the seventeen states in the union during the 1810 congressional approval process had ratified this Amendment. Louisiana joined the union in 1812 but neither the Congress nor President Madison considered it fitting and proper to send the Titles of Nobility Amendment to their Legislature for consideration.
On June 17, 1812, the U.S. Senate voted 19 to 13 for war with Great Britain, based on information supplied by James Madison and a previously favorable vote in the House. One of the leading War Hawks was William Branch Giles of Virginia, who had been a member of the House and a strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson. But he considered Madison to be a weakling and opposed him on almost every measure.
However, as Senator Robert Byrd has noted, in his writings and speeches on the subject of the War of 1812, Giles "finally concluded that Britain posed a greater threat [than France], since she was based in Canada and controlled the Atlantic. His final vote for war, therefore, was cast out of fear of dominance by Great Britain."
Here is the beginning of theories for the conspiracy-minded. As Senator Byrd writes, the War did not settle the issues that led directly to the fighting:
"The War of 1812 ended with great irony. The Treaty of Ghent, concluding the war, was signed on Christmas Eve of 1814. The peace treaty made no reference to the issues of impressment of American seamen, naval blockades, or the disputed boundary with Canada, which had caused the war in the first place. It merely restored conditions to the way they had been before the war broke out."
"Within a few years, the Federalist party would be but a memory, and all members of Congress would identify themselves as Republicans. But these Republicans had been sobered by the difficult war .... They now turned to passing nationalist legislation dealing with a national bank, protective tariffs, direct taxation, and internal improvements. All of these measures were far more Hamiltonian than Jeffersonian in nature."
"To take one of these as a case study: That the Republican majority would charter the Second Bank of the United States during the administration of James Madison is quite amazing when one considers that the Jeffersonian Republicans had bitterly fought against Hamilton's original bank in the 1790's, and that Madison himself had led the fight against the bank while a member of the House. The charter for the first bank had expired in 1811. At that time, Senator William H. Crawford had led the administration forces in an effort to renew the charter, while William Branch Giles led the 'Old Republicans' determined to defeat the bank. Giles and others saw in the bank the last vestiges of federalism, as well as an unconstitutional institution."
"Again in his message to the Fourteenth Congress in December 1815, Madison revived the issue of a national bank. In the House, the measure was supported by three remarkable young men, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster, who ... would shape American political life over the next thirty years".
Senator Byrd continues: "In the Senate, the Committee on Finance reported the bill on March 25, 1816. Chairman George Washington Campbell admitted that he considered the bill defective, but that the members had been in too much disagreement to decide upon appropriate amendments. Senator William Hill Wells of Delaware spoke out forcefully against the bill, arguing that 'the disease, it is said, under which the people labor, is the banking fever of the States; and this is to be cured by giving them the banking fever of the United States.'"
"The Bank of the United States was approved on April 3, 1816 and capitalized at $35 million. The central office was in Philadelphia and there were as many as twenty-five branches around the country".
"Although the Republicans had abandoned much of their [Jeffersonian] heritage to support the bank in a burst of postwar nationalism and realism," writes Byrd, "the controversies surrounding it were far from over and would surface again within the coming decades ...."
It is of the utmost importance to note the convergence of the City of Philadelphia -- the former capital -- with the establishment of that new Bank, there. Beginning in 1828, and perhaps before that, the organized efforts to disable and defeat this Amendment have their principal base in Philadelphia, with the members of the Bar of that City.
After the war was over, the factions produced by this conflict were even more divided than they had been in 1806 and '07. Connecticut put this Amendment on its agenda in 1813, laid it aside on April 22, and then defeated it on the 2nd Thursday in May, 1813 , May 11th. New York rejected this section on May 1st, 1813, and Rhode Island rejected the Titles of Nobility as a proposed Amendment on September 15, 1814. The war was not going well for the United States at this juncture, and late in 1814 the Federalists gathered at Hartford in a convention which could have led to the secession of New England, but did not. Instead it eroded the power of their party faction.
So, it is evident that this Amendment was born during a period of great controversy: Thomas Jefferson was continually frustrated with John Marshall and the Supreme Court. Then, his loyalist Senator Giles was agitating for war with Britain, and confounding Madison. Despite the turmoil of these times, the measure was only short by one State at the end of 1812, and by mid-1814 the count was 12 for and 3 against. That is a fairly rapid course of ratification votes, considering the slower communications of the era.
It is extremely important to note that the British Army took great pains, after defeating the American forces at Bladensburg, to burn the key federal buildings. The Library of Congress was torched -- having no military value -- and the incomplete buildings of the House were burnt, resulting in the loss of all its records. The British regulars paid special attention the Supreme Court, which proved difficult to fire and required additional stacks of wood and papers. The records of the Senate, however, were mostly saved.
The men and women of the generations now current can only lament that former President Jefferson decided against writing about this era, or there might be more source material on this much-abused Amendment:
"While in public life, I had not time, and now that I am retired, I am past the time. To write history requires a whole life of observation, of inquiry," he wrote in 1817, "of labor and correction. Its materials are not to be found among the ruins of a decayed memory."
Neither, it seems, are missing pieces of the Titles of Nobility puzzle to be found in the ancient ruins of the Library of Congress. [Found - August 2000]
As David Dodge, one of the principal researchers working on this issue has written:
"Their survival at stake, the monarchies sought to destroy or subvert the American system of government. Knowing they couldn't destroy us militarily, they resorted to more covert methods of political subversion, employing spies and secret agents skilled in bribery and legal deception -- it was, perhaps, the first 'cold war'. Since governments run on money, politicians run for money, and money is the usual enticement to commit treason, much of the monarchy's counter-revolutionary efforts emanated from English banks."
And what has seldom been discussed, in the Twentieth Century, is the long association of profitability in banking, with the Asiatic opium trade. That is not the specific subject of this essay, but it can never be far from the gist of the matter: Britain, India and opium means profits, and conflicts with China. In this era, the new markets opening to the shipping interests of the United States were in China and Asia.
The whole history of this Amendment is fraught with these problems: missing letters, and contradictory documents; misleading statements made by public officials, both during the ratification process and in the forty years following; and confusion in the new Republic over just how the States were supposed to give notification when an Amendment was ratified.
End of Chapter 1
Introduction - "The Original 13th Amendment Titles of Nobility and Honour"
Chapter 1 -The Prohibition of Titles of Nobility and Honour
Chapter 2 - Ratification 1810-1820
Chapter 3 - Philadelphia Lawyers and a Mock Nobility
Chapter 4 - Panic, War & Opium
Chapter 5 - One Hundred Years of Pain
Chapter 6 - The Secret Armies
Table of Ratification and Publications
The 13th Anti-Slavery Amendment and The Flawed 14th Amendment
Our Enemy, The State by Albert Jay Nock, The Classic Critique Distinguishing "Government" from "State"
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