Paradise Lost, Ratification FoundIn 1789, the House of Representatives compiled a list of possible Constitutional Amendments, some of which would ultimately become our Bill of Rights. The House proposed seventeen; the Senate reduced the list to twelve. During this process that Senator Tristrain Dalton (Mass.) proposed an Amendment seeking to prohibit and provide a penalty for any American accepting a "title of Nobility" (RG 46 Records of the U.S. Senate). Although it wasn't passed, this was the first time a "title of nobility" amendment was proposed.
Twenty years later, in January, 1810, Senator Reed proposed another "Title of Nobility" Amendment (History of Congress, Proceedings of the Senate, p. 529-530). On April 27, 1810, the Senate voted to pass this 13th Amendment by a vote of 26 to 1; the House resolved in the affirmative 87 to 3; and the following resolve was sent to the States for ratification:
"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 requires three-quarters of the states to ratify a
proposed amendment before it may be added to the Constitution. When Congress
proposed the "Title of Nobility" Amendment in 1810, there were seventeen
states, thirteen of which would have to ratify for the Amendment to be
adopted. According to the National Archives, the following is a list of the
twelve states that ratified, and their dates of ratification:
Maryland, Dec. 25, 1810; Kentucky, Jan. 31, 1811; Ohio, Jan. 31, 1811; Delaware, Feb. 2, 1811; Pennsylvania, Feb. 6, 1811; New Jersey, Feb. 13, 1811; Vermont, Oct. 24, 1811; Tennessee, Nov. 21, 1811; Georgia, Dec. 13, 1811; North Carolina, Dec. 23, 1811; Massachusetts, Feb. 27, 1812; New Hampshire, Dec. 10, 1812; Before a thirteenth state could ratify, the War of 1812 broke out with England. By the time the war ended in 1814, the British had burned the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and most of the records of the first 38 years of government. Whether there was a connection between the proposed "title of nobility" amendment and the War of 1812 is not known. However, the momentum to ratify the proposed Amendment was lost in the tumult of war.
Then, four years later, on December 31, 1817, the House of Representatives resolved that President Monroe inquire into the status of this Amendment. In a letter dated February 6, 1818, President Monroe reported to the House that the Secretary of State Adams had written to the governors of Virginia, South Carolina and Connecticut to tell them that the proposed Amendment had been ratified by twelve States and rejected by two (New York and Rhode Island), and asked the governors to notify him of their legislature's position. (House Document No. 76) (This, and other letters written by the President and the Secretary of State during the month of February, 1818, note only that the proposed Amendment had not yet been ratified. However, these letters would later become crucial because, in the absence of additional information they would be interpreted to mean the amendment was never ratified).
On February 28, 1818, Secretary of State Adams reported the rejection of the Amendment by South Carolina. [House Doc. No. 129]. There are no further entries regarding the ratification of the 13th Amendment in the Journals of Congress; whether Virginia ratified is neither confirmed nor denied. Likewise, a search through the executive papers of Governor Preston of Virginia does not reveal any correspondence from Secretary of State Adams. (However, there is a journal entry in the Virginia House that the Governor presented the House with an official letter and documents from Washington within a time frame that conceivably includes receipt of Adams' letter.)
Again, no evidence of ratification; none of denial.
However, on March 10, 1819, the Virginia legislature passed Act No. 280 (Virginia Archives of Richmond, "misc.' file, p. 299 for micro-film): "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..." This act was the specific legislated instructions on what was, by law, to be included in the re-publication (a special edition) of the Virginia Civil Code. The Virginia Legislature had already agreed that all Acts were to go into effect on the same day -- the day that the Act to re-publish the Civil Code was enacted. Therefore, the 13th Amendment's official date of ratification would be the date of re-publication of the Virginia Civil Code: March 12, 1819. The Delegates knew Virginia was the last of the 13 States that were necessary for the ratification of the 13th Amendment. They also knew there were powerful forces allied against this ratification so they took extraordinary measures to make sure that it was published in sufficient quantity (4,000 copies were ordered, almost triple their usual order), and instructed the printer to send a copy to President James Monroe as well as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. (The printer, Thomas Ritchie, was bonded. He was required to be extremely accurate in his research and his printing, or he would forfeit his bond.)
In this fashion, Virginia announced the ratification: by publication and dissemination of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
There is question as to whether Virginia ever formally notified the Secretary of State that they had ratified this 13th Amendment. Some have argued that because such notification was not received (or at least, not recorded), the Amendment was therefore not legally ratified. However, printing by a legislature is prima facie evidence of ratification. Further, there is no Constitutional requirement that the Secretary of State, or anyone else, be officially notified to complete the ratification process. The Constitution only requires that three- fourths of the states ratify for an Amendment to be added to the Constitution. If three-quarters of the states ratify, the Amendment is passed. Period. The Constitution is otherwise silent on what procedure should be used to announce, confirm, or communicate the ratification of amendments.
Knowing they were the last state necessary to ratify the Amendment, the Virginians had every right announce their own and the nation's ratification of the Amendment by publishing it on a special edition of the Constitution, and so they did.
Word of Virginia's 1819 ratification spread throughout the States and both Rhode Island and Kentucky published the new Amendment in 1822. Ohio first published in 1824. Maine ordered 10,000 copies of the Constitution with the 13th Amendment to be printed for use in the schools in 1825, and again in 1831 for their Census Edition. Indiana Revised Laws of 1831 published the 13th Article on p. 20. Northwestern Territories published in 1833. Ohio published in 1831 and 1833. Then came the Wisconsin Territory in 1839; Iowa Territory in 1843; Ohio again, in 1848; Kansas Statutes in 1855; and Nebraska Territory six times in a row from 1855 to 1860.
So far, David Dodge has identified eleven different states or territories that printed the Amendment in twenty separate publications over forty-one years. And more editions including this 13th Amendment are sure to be discovered. Clearly, Dodge is onto something.
You might be able to convince some of the people, or maybe even all of them, for a little while, that this 13th Amendment was never ratified. Maybe you can show them that the ten legislatures which ordered it published eighteen times we've discovered (so far) consisted of ignorant politicians who don't know their amendments from their... ahh, articles. You might even be able to convince the public that our US forefathers never meant to "outlaw" public servants who pushed people around, accepted bribes or special favors to "look the other way." Maybe. But before you do, there's an awful lot of evidence to be explained.