I have emphasized the importance of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution many times over. It’s the section of the Constitution that lays out for Congress its reason for existence. It is the “job description” for government, per se.
However, I have not addressed some of the other sections of the Constitution that also play a critical role in defining government’s job. Today, I’m going to discuss one simple, yet key, phrase from Article 9 of the U.S. Constitution.
Title of Nobility
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States”
Take a look at this little phrase and digest its implications. The Constitution explicitly laid out the topics that Congress could make laws about and in Article 9, gave a few specific directives to Congress that there were some things they could not do (although, presumably, they already could not do almost anything aside from the few things mentioned in Article 8.)
The founders felt that it was critical and important enough to direct Congress NOT to grant titles of nobility in this short Article 9 of the Constitution. Today, this may seem almost silly. Most of us aren’t even privy to what this looks like or what this would mean.
Here’s the definition of nobility according to the 1828 Webster Dictionary:
“The qualities which constitute distinction of rank in civil society, according to the customs or laws of the country; that eminence or dignity which a man derives from birth or title conferred, and which places him in an order above common men. In Great Britain, nobility is extended to five ranks, those of duke, marquis, earl, viscount and baron.
The persons collectively who enjoy rank above commoners; the peerage; as the English nobility; French, German, Russian nobility.”
Simply put, nobility is the idea that because of the one’s bloodline, a person is automatically given a rank in society. As you see, in Great Britain, there were five ranks and an individual’s position in that rank was set in stone and established and reaffirmed BY the government.
Not so in America.
Here’s the thing. “Nobility” or the idea of rank or class in American society is not and has never been a social norm. That does mean that society hasn’t begun to adopt a certain similar mentality at times, looking down on or treating certain groups of people as if they do belong in a lower class, but no matter what society does, NO government anywhere, federal or state, is legally allowed to grant nobility to anyone.
In other words, government is supposed to treat all people as if they are of the same class no matter their wealth, education or the like. For government, there is no difference.
Remember, we are government’s employers, they our employees. The term “public servant” is fitting and accurate. They cannot hand out “titles of nobility” because they themselves are no better than those they govern. In fact, those they govern, in reality–govern them.
The whole concept of nobility is contrary to the ideas of a limited government employed by and working for the people, who hired them and gave them a job description via the Constitution.
The critical point here is that our government is not allowed, per the Constitution, to give any special treatment or title to some American citizens over others.
Class, rank and the like was considered anathema to the founders and the Americans at the time. They’d endured that lifestyle far too long while living in Great Britain. In America, everyone was the same “rank”: American.
This is why communist and socialist ideas have struggled to take hold in America because both of these philosophies are based on the premise that there are classes set in stone. There is the working class and the ruling class. The working class is oppressed by the ruling class and can never get out from under their thumb. The ruling class will never allow the working class to get out from under their thumb and therefore a total overhaul of the entire system is necessary for any real change.
However, Americans have never quite adopted that “class” mindset. For many Americans, no matter how poor or uneducated, they’re at least told by society that they can make it they can do whatever they want. While there are legitimate hindrances, the government is not Constitutionally allowed to establish any single individual as more important than another…not even themselves.
This is such a simple little line in the U.S. Constitution but it speaks volumes about what the founders wanted for the country. This is a country where government, confined by the Constitution, is never allowed to make laws that grant any special title or privilege to one person over another. Government can’t do this because government is simply employed to work for us. Even being able to declare someone noble or not implies nobility on the behalf of the declarer.
And friends, our government is anything but noble. It’s made up men and women who we pay to do a job for us.
Public servants. Never forget that.
The Liberty Belle