LEGISLATIVE HISTORY AND RATIFICATION OF
THE ORIGINAL 13th AMENDMENT TO THE
CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES

March 12, 1819


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Journal of the Senate; Thursday, April 26th, 1810 (Pages 503-504)

The Senate resumed the consideration of the motion made on the 18th of January, for an amendment to the constitution of the United States, respecting titles of nobility, together with the amendments proposed thereto.

On motion,
    That the further consideration thereof be postponed to the first Monday in December next.
It was determined in the negative,   {Yeas . . . . . . . . . . 8.
Nays . . . . . . . . . 20.

On motion,
    The yeas and nays having been required by one-fifth of the Senators present, Those who voted in the affirmative are, Messrs. Condit, Gilman, Gregg, Leib, Mathewson, Meigs, Tait, and Whiteside.
    Those who voted in the negative are,
Messrs. Anderson, Brent, Champlin, Clay, Crawford, Franklin, Gaillard, German, Goodrich, Hillhouse, Horsey, Lambert, Lloyd, Pickering, Pope, Reed, Smith, of Maryland, Smith of New York, Sumter, and Turner.

On motion,
    To amend the last report of the select committee, so as to read as follows:

"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 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:"

It was determined in the affirmative,   {Yeas . . . . . . . . . . 26.
Nays . . . . . . . . . . . 1.
On motion,
    The yeas and nays having been required by one-fifth of the Senators present, Those who voted in the affirmative are,
Messrs. Anderson, Brent, Champlin, Clay, Condit, Crawford, Franklin, Gaillard, German, Gilman, Goodrich, Hillhouse, Horsey, Lambert, Leib, Lloyd, Mathewson, Meigs, Pickering, Pope, Reed, Smith, of Maryland, Sumter, Tait, Turner, and Whiteside.
Mr. Smith, of New York, voted in the negative. On motion, by Mr. Pope,
    To add to the resolution the following words: "And be subject to such other penalties and disabilities as may be provided by law:"
It was determined in the negative,   {Yeas . . . . . . . . . . 12.
Nays . . . . . . . . . . 14.
On motion,
    The yeas and nays having been required by one-fifth of the Senators present, Those who voted in the affirmative are,
Messrs. Anderson, Brent, Clay, Gregg, Leib, Lloyd, Pickering, Pope, Reed, Sumter, Tait, and Turner.
    Those who voted in the negative are,
Messrs. Champlin, Condit, Crawford, Franklin, Gaillard, German, Gilman, Goodrich, Hillhouse, Lambert, Mathewson, Smith, of Maryland, Smith, of New York, and Whiteside.

    And the resolution having been further amended by inserting the words "and retain," after the words "accept," in the second instance, the President reported it to the house accordingly.

    On the question, Shall this resolution be engrossed and read a third time as amended?
    It was determined in the affirmative.


Journal of the Senate; Friday, April 27th, 1810 (Page 506)

    Mr. Gilman, from the committee, also reported the resolution for an amendment to the constitution, respecting titles of nobility, correctly engrossed, and the resolution was read the third time as amended.

    On the question, Shall this resolution pass as amended?
It was determined in the affirmative,   {Yeas . . . . . . . . . . 19.
Nays . . . . . . . . . . . 5.
On motion,
    The yeas and nays having been required by one-fifth of the Senators present, Those who voted in the affirmative are,

Messrs. Anderson, Champlin, Crawford, Franklin, Gaillard, Goodrich, Gregg, Hillhouse, Lambert, Leib, Lloyd, Mathewson, Meigs, Pickering, Reed, Smith, of Maryland, Sumter, Tait, and Turner.
    Those who voted in the negative are,
Messrs. German, Gilman, Robinson, Smith, of New York, and Whiteside.
So it was
Resolved, That this resolution pass as amended.
Ordered, That the Secretary request the concurrence of the House of Representatives in this resolution.


Journal of the House; Friday, April 27th, 1810 (Page 404)

    Another message was received from the Senate, by Mr. Otis, their Secretary :

    Mr. Speaker : The Senate have ... also passed a resolution providing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States ; to which amendments, bills, and resolution, they desire the concurrence of this House.


Journal of the House; Saturday, April 28th, 1810 (Page 404)

    The House proceeded to consider the resolution sent from the Senate, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States ; and the same being twice read at the Clerk's table, was ordered to be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union.


Journal of the House; Tuesday, May 1st, 1810 (Page 423)

   The House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole on the resolution from the Senate proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States : and after some time spent therein, Mr. Speaker resumed the chair, and Mr. Cutts reported that the committee had, according to order, had the said resolution under consideration, and made no amendment thereto.

Thus, on May 1, 1810, during this evening sitting of the 11th Congress, 2nd sess., the Committee of the Whole (House of Representatives) considered the Titles of Nobility Resolution jointly agreed to by the Senate. The resolution was read a third time, voted upon and affirmatively approved by 87 yeas, with 3 dissenting nays. The Clerk of the House was then ordered to inform the Senate of its concurrence.


Journal of the Senate; Tuesday, May 1st, 1810 (Pages 511-512)

   A message from the House of Representatives, by Mr. Magruder, their Clerk:

    Mr. President: the House of Representatives concur in the resolution for an amendment to the constitution of the United States respecting titles of nobility.

. . .Mr. Whiteside, from the committee, reported that they had examined and found duly enrolled the "Resolution for an amendment to the constitution of the United States, respecting titles of nobility;". . .

    Mr. President: the Speaker of the House of Representatives having signed an enrolled resolution, and also three enrolled bills, I am directed to bring them to the Senate for the Signature of their President,. And he withdrew.

    The President signed the enrolled resolution, and also the three enrolled bills, last reported to have been examined, and they were delivered to the committee, to be laid before the President of the United States.

    The final formal Resolution text is as follows:

    "Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, two-thirds of both Houses concurring, That the following section be submitted to the Legislatures of the several States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of the States, shall be valid and binding as a part of the Constitution of the United States : [emphasis added]

    "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."

The Constitution limits consideration of constitutional amendments to states already in the union and Congress provided no qualification in this or any other resolution proposing a constitutional amendment. Thus, even if a territory reached statehood before culmination of the ratification process, there was no standing for that state to participate in the process. If Congress meant for that legislative option to be available, it would have had to so stipulate.

Between May 1 of 1810, when the Titles of Nobility Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States went out from Congress, and September 15 of 1814, the Resolution was approved by twelve state legislatures and rejected by three. All official federal government references to the history of this proposed amendment posit that with ratification by 13 state legislatures it would become a valid amendment to the Constitution.

Between February 2, 1811, and February 14, 1811, Virginia's two legislative houses (General Assembly) considered the Titles of Nobility amendment. Senate and House of Delegates' journal entries record that on February 14, 1811, the following took place in Virginia's Senate:

"on the question being put thereupon, the said resolution was disagreed to1 by the House.2".

There is no record of Virginia's General Assembly further considering the amendment until late April, 1811. The record shows that the resolution to amend was properly enrolled and rarified May 1, 1811, and signed by the President of the Virginia Senate.

The troubles leading to the War of 1812 obscure any further action until February 1817.

On February 15th of 1817, both Houses authorized an act to completely revise the State's laws. Five of Virginia's most respected lawyers, legal scholars and House of Delegates members, Judge William Brockenbrough, Supreme Court of Appeals Justices John Coalter and Spencer Roane, attorney and legislator, Benjamin Watkins Leigh, and Judge Robert White were appointed to a Revisal Committee.

Benjamin Watkins Leigh was enjoined with the superintendency of this project. Fellow House of Delegates members William Munford (Clerk of the House of Delegates) and William Waller Hening (author of the Virginia Statutes at Large) joined the Revisal Committee in the next legislative session.

On December 2nd of 1817, in the next legislative session, the Revisal Committee issued a report which clearly demonstrated the members' belief that a complete and careful review and revisal of Virginia's body of laws could be accomplished within one session - but had learned otherwise. On January 28, 1818, a second Revisal Committee report referred to a number of areas of concern needing attention. The Committee offered several recommendations, and two of the more important were:

"... that they should be required to cause two sets of their books, with marginal notes and references, to be preserved, the one for the use of the House of Delegates, the other for the Senate ; and that they should be allowed time to perform the work with care and deliberation."

Little more is reported about progress of the Revisal Committee's work until March of 1819. Matters then proceed swiftly and the concluding issues are resolved within a matter of days. Then on March 12, 1819, the two Houses communicate several times that same day, reaching agreement on "An act, "providing for the re-publication of the laws of this Commonwealth."" The Act is found to be properly enrolled, after which the President of Virginia's Senate signed Act 280 into law. The book which was published subsequent to and in compliance with this Act contains:

  • The Constitution of the United States and ratified amendments
  • The Laws of Virginia
  • The Declaration of Rights, and
  • The Constitution of Virginia
  • Legislative references in Virginian journals of both legislatives houses demonstrate that the members were completely informed as to the contents of the Revised Codes of the Laws of Virginia book; i.e., the Constitution of the United States and amendments, including a new 13th amendment concerning Titles of Nobility. Also to be noted is that Thomas Ritchie, Printer to the Commonwealth was bonded and received payment from Virginia's Treasury to produce this book. All in all, the entire Revisal Committee project was carried out with great care and attention to detail. Any assumption or conclusion that the Virginia General Assembly was ignorant or unaware of a proposed but yet to be ratified amendment (and thus its unauthorized inclusion) is not supported by the facts. The existence of this book with its careful side margin cross references at both Art. 1, 9, cl. 2 in the body of the Constitution and the 13th amendment itself clearly indicate awareness of the Titles of Nobility amendment and thus acceptance and acknowledgement of its presence and status. And the language of Act 280 itself further establishes ratification.

    1. BE it enacted by the General Assembly, That there shall be published an edition of the laws of this Commonwealth, in which shall be contained the following matters, that is to say : The constitution of the United States, and the amendments thereto.

    As only one more affirmative state vote was needed, General Assembly enactment as stated here is a correct legal statement and position in regard to the Titles of Nobility amendment. If to that point the amendment had received no more than 11 affirmative state legislature votes, it would still be a proposed amendment and no statement of enactment could change that fact. With the enactment by the Virginia General Assembly completing the ratification process, the amendment became a ratified article of the Constitution and the Law Of The Nation.


    The following year, on February 24th, 1820, Virginia's General Assembly passed an act3 requiring the governor to transmit four copies of several different editions of Virginia's laws, for the year 1792 and specific later years, including the session laws for both 1818 and 1819; i.e., the two volume set of Virginia's 1819 Revised Code to the U.S. State Department. At least one of these two volume sets sent to the State Department, and notated as received 29 August 1821, is still in the possession of the Library of Congress. [VA1819 ImagesThus, the Federal Government did receive formal notification from Virginia that it had ratified the Titles of Nobility Amendment. The only remaining mystery which we cannot fully explain is how and why John Quincy Adams and other officials of the Federal Government failed to recognize the constitutional importance of this book and body of laws, although apparently somebody in the State Department made notation "C.1." at the bottom of the frontis page to draw attention to Page A, Chapter 1, i.e. C.1., "1. BE it enacted by the General Assembly, That there shall be published an edition of the laws of this Commonwealth, in which shall be contained the following matters, that is to say : The Constitution of the United States and the amendments thereto."


    Footnotes:

    (1) "...disagreed to," means not accepted, as opposed to rejected. According to house rules, the matter could not be raised again in the same session, but no rejection was ever reported, and the amendment could be, and obviously was, raised again, to be passed, in a later session.

    (2) "House," in this case, refers to the upper house, i.e., the Senate, not the lower house, the House of Delegates.

    (3) From the Session Acts of the VA General Assembly [Chapter XVIII Image]

    Chapter XVIII, --- An act requiring the Governor of this commonwealth to transmit to the Secretary of State of the United States, copies of certain laws therein mentioned. --- [passed February 24th, 1820.]

      1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That it shall be the duty of the governor of this Commonwealth, and he is hereby required to procure and transmit, at the expense of the state, to the secretary of state of the United States, four copies of the Statutes at Large, four copies of the revisal of seventeen hundred and ninety-two, and of each and every revisal subsequent to that period (if to be had,) four copies of the session acts of eighteen hundred and eighteen and eighteen hundred and nineteen, and annually thereafter, four copies of the acts of each session of assembly ; one copy whereof shall be for the use of each of the two houses of Congress, one for the president of the United States, and one for the library of Congress.
      2. This act shall be in force from the passing thereof.


    Respectfully submitted to the People of the United States
    for their information and consideration.

    Suzanne A. Nevling
    TONA Research Committee



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