Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Newsweek has a fascinating report on a plank in the platform of the Iowa Republican Party to reintroduce the “real” 13th amendment — not that pesky one that outlawed slavery, the one that would strip Barack Obama of his citizenship for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. Seriously.

The platform calls for “the reintroduction and ratification of the original 13th Amendment, not the 13th amendment in today’s Constitution.” And what was the original 13th amendment? Climb into Professor Peabody’s Wayback Machine:

Return with us now to the tumultuous years leading up to the War of 1812, when fear of “foreign influence”–by England or France, depending on whether you were a Republican or Federalist–was a dominating issue in American politics. Jerome Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon, had recently spent several years in the United States, where he married Elizabeth Patterson, the beautiful, ambitious daughter of a wealthy Baltimore merchant. In 1810, Jerome was on the throne of Westphalia, while Elizabeth was in America with their son, Jerome Napoleon. (The couple would never see each other again.) According to historian Michael Vorenberg of Brown University, having a nephew of the emperor of France growing up on American soil might have made the pro-British Federalists uneasy, or, just as likely, suggested to them a way to tie the Republicans to the French Legion of Honor, the Trilateral Commission of its day. Desiring to get out in front of the issue–or possibly seeking to score points against the Federalists, who had their own embarrassing ties to the British aristocracy–Republican Sen. Philip Reed of Maryland introduced an amendment meant to strengthen the existing “emoluments clause” in Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution.

This clause reads:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

Reed’s proposed amendment extended the ban from office-holders to “any citizen of the United States” and made the penalty loss of citizenship:

“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 bill passed both houses of Congress but the war of 1812 intervened, more states joined the union and the whole issue went away. Until now. Of course, this amendment would not only strip President Obama of his citizenship, but also Jerry Lewis, who has received a medal from the government of France, and many other Americans who have received honors from foreign countries.

I guess this is the birther backup plan — “Okay, so maybe he is a citizen. But this amendment will strip him of it.” Good planning, guys.