Friday, March 6, 2009

Sir Kennedy and the Constitution

Though it seems as though this post is asked for by Peter, I was actually thinking about it since I heard on CBS news yesterday about this issue. It seems as though the last Kennedy (well, of that generation, his congressmen kid doesn't count) is officially a member of an elite (yeah right) club. He joins other Americans like Gates, Giuliani, and Spielberg. Though he can never be called 'sir' (it is reserved for UK citizens), and never have a position in the House of Lords, but he is still a knight.

Article One, Section Nine of the US Constitution says:
”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.”

Let's take an in depth look at the actual clause, however. There are three parts that we should look at:
-Consent of Congress
-Title of Nobility
-Emolument, specifically concerned with the presidency

Consent of Congress
Now, Peter, along with many other Americans, would interpret this portion as saying that Kennedy can not be both a knight and a senator without consent of congress. As congress has yet to give consent, technically Kennedy is no longer a Senator. This is one of those weird little conditions in the Constitution that I do not believe the FFs ever intended to be an issue. We can assume that the founders intended the permission to be relatively fast, but not needed right away, so as long as they act soon he is in the clear.

Speaking of the consent, what happens if you do not give any? The wording of the portion is that anybody with a title from any other government is not allowed to hold the office. What if Saudi Arabia randomly decides to make me a prince? Even if I do not accept the title or the office, I am still a prince. Would that ban me from becoming a holder of public trust?

Title of Nobility
This is an even more interesting portion of the section. A Title of Nobility is not really defined in the Constitution, and we must look into the actual intent of the Founders in this section. The first question is if Knighthood is this title. I am unable to find specifically which Order Kennedy now belongs to, but various Knights of the UK are nobles, and others are not. I believe this is based on where the origination of the knights title is from (former kingdoms and rules based on their assimilation). I think that we should assume that he is one of the non-nobles, as only three non-UK citizens have ever been a noble one. With that in mind, this version is not a Title of Nobility, so he is clear.

Let's look at this even further, what did the Founding Fathers intend when they added the Title of Nobility claim? A title of Nobility was traditionally rarely given out to non-nobles, and only after they did a great service to their country/king. Usually it was more about being born within the right family, thus making you upper class. This system is no longer used. I believe that the FFs were concerned with hereditary rights in our government and never wanted it to be by birth (tell that to Adams and Bush), and thus included this to avoid that issue. With this in mind, as this is not herreditary, I think it is not part of the original intent
Now, if he had been named prince...

Emolument, specifically concerned with the presidency
This is just a little side note on this whole issue, as there is no financial or otherwise benefit from the type of Knighthood that Kennedy was given. Quite often our governmental officials, from Bush to Condi to Barbra get gifts from other countries and governments. These gifts can not technically be kept without permission by our leaders, and are usually given to the Smithsonian. However, Congress has a blanket rule that allows them to keep it 'til the end of their term so that we don't offend and basically to make it easier. I think that this is cool, as it ensures that our government can not be bought by another country.
I just really wish that this was from local organizations as well

Overall, I believe that Kennedy is in the clear here, though very loosely. He gets around Orig. Intent merely because the term Knight has changed, and thus it is not how the founders intended it. He also gets away with it because there is no actual position given behind the word anymore. However, simply to ensure that the Constitution is followed, I believe that Congress should pass a resolution (quick and probably all for) to allow him to have this title.

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