There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about “titles,” particularly “titles of nobility.” Contrary to popular misconception, the Constitution does not prohibit titles of nobility, much less titles of any kind. There remain, however, some restrictions for those who work for the federal government.
Let’s examine what it DOES say:
“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.” – United States Constitution, Article. I. Section. 9.
Let’s break that down:
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States.”
All this says is that the United States federal government shall not grant any titles of nobility. It doesn’t say that people cannot have a title of nobility.
“And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them…”
This clarifies to whom the succeeding clause applies, essentially, anyone working for the federal government.
“…no person … shall, without the Consent of the Congress…”
Thus, with the Consent of Congress, the following is moot.
“…accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Without the Consent of Congress, all employees of the federal government from the President to both members and employees of all three branches to all federal (“United States”) government agencies at all levels are REQUIRED to do one of two things:
1. Refuse all presents, Emoluments, Offices, and Titles of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” (“State” means “Country.” England is a State. England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales comprise the United Kingdom a union of States, the same as our 13 colonies after our Constitution was ratified comprised 13 States in the United States.)
2. Seek the Consent of Congress.
So, yes, even members of the Federal Government can receive presents, Emoluments, Offices, and Titles IF they have the Consent of Congress.
The moment they are no long working for the feds, however, they fall back under the same rules as the rest of us citizens and can receive anything they want from anybody without any approval whatsoever.
A note on being a British Knight: Americans can’t actually be addressed as Sir or Dame since they don’t have British citizenship. But they can use the suffix KBE or DBE, for Knight (or Dame) Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, after their names.
A note on lawyers: Throughout the largely British-derived world today, the term “esquire” is general courtesy title for any man in a formal setting, usually as a suffix to his name, as in “Todd Smith, Esq.”, with no precise significance. However, in the United States, Esquire is mostly used to denote a lawyer in a departure from traditional use and is irrespective of gender. In letters, a lawyer is customarily addressed by adding the suffix Esquire (abbreviated Esq.), preceded by a comma, after the lawyer’s full name.
Is that a title of nobility? No, it’s a title of respect for their hard work, achievement, and position of trust as an “officer of the court, much the same as anyone is free to include their education at the end of their signature: B.S./B.A, M.S./M.B.A/M.A., PhD/J.D./M.D./Th.D./D.D.S., etc. In a similar fashion, many retired military retain their military signature:
John M. Doe, Col, USAF (Ret)
For that matter, while most people, myself included, consider it inappropriate, the courts have upheld people calling themselves whatever they want under our First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause.
Does their inappropriate use of titles diminish their use by those who earned them? Not at all, at least not in the minds of most people, particularly those who’ve earned them.
If you believe otherwise, well, STAY YOUNG, my friend!
“To stay young requires unceasing cultivation of the ability to unlearn old falsehoods.” – Robert A. Heinlein