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10 Weirdest Failed Constitutional Amendments


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Titles of Nobility Amendment, 1810
Liz Bonaparte gave some American legislators a bit of anxiety. Hulton Archive/Stringer/Getty Images
Liz Bonaparte gave some American legislators a bit of anxiety. Hulton Archive/Stringer/Getty Images

In 1810 Maryland Sen. Philip Reed introduced the Titles of Nobility Amendment, which would have revoked citizenship from any American who accepted a title of nobility from a foreign country. You might be wondering, "What's the big deal?" — and you wouldn't be alone.

For many years even historians couldn't figure out the motivations behind the amendment. We now know, however, that the proposal likely stemmed from the fact that Napoleon Bonaparte's brother married an American: Elizabeth Patterson of Baltimore, Maryland. Some members of Congress feared that Patterson and her son would claim aristocratic status from France, a country that had a rocky relationship with the United States at the time.

Things looked good for the amendment on May 1, 1810, when the Senate approved it by a vote of 19 to 5 and the House gave it the nod by an 87 to 3 margin. But it was never ratified by three-fourths of the states, so it remains in limbo, unlikely to ever be approved [source: Vile]. That's good news for Americans like Steven Spielberg, George H.W. Bush and Kevin Spacey, who are all honorary British knights.


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