AN INTERVIEW WITH THE TONA COMMITTEE, ON THE AMAZING STORY OF THE ORIGINAL 13TH AMENDMENT
by John Charlton
There is nothing more fascinating than the story of the Original 13th Amendment, how it was ratified, accepted by the Federal Government, and subsequently omitted, forgotten and denied by a national political elite which pandered for handouts from foreigners. The original Amendment imposed the penalty of the loss of U.S. citizenship on anyone who took money or favors from foreign governments.
To understand the history behind the original 13th Amendment, I decided to seek an interview with one or more of the members of the TONA Committee who have spent nearly a generation investigating and researching its history.
The TONA Committee worked together to answer the questions I submitted, but for the sake of format, I have laid out the interview, as if I spoke with Mrs. Suzanne Nevling, one of the committee members.
MR. CHARLTON: I honestly admit I had never heard of the TONA Committee or its work, before today, when I stumbled upon a link to it at a blog. Can I ask you to introduce yourself to the readers of The Post & Email, and then say something about what the TONA is about?
MRS. NEVLING: TONA is the acronym for Titles Of Nobility Amendment. It is also commonly known as the Original 13th Amendment. The TONA Committee is a largely ad hoc working group of friends and comrades in the self-funded pursuit of the factual truth about this American history constitutional issue.
Starting around 1983, the first pioneering work was accomplished by David Dodge, when David and a friend, former Baltimore police investigator Mr. Tom Dunn (now deceased), were searching through public records stored at the Belfast Library of Maine, for evidence of government corruption. They unexpectedly found the oldest authentic state of Maine copy of the United States Constitution still in existence; printed in 1825. They were stunned to see that this Constitution included a 13th Amendment they had never seen before. Not only did he stumble upon a mystery, but he investigated it for many years, with an unwavering determination to find the truth. We all owe Mr. Dodge a great debt of gratitude for his persistence.
Another close friend of David Dodge’s, Brian March, also joined forces with him to pursue many years of self-funded very active research around the country to find out as much as could be found about this amendment’s history. For a number of years they spoke (jointly or separately) to interested audiences around the country.
None of us know at what point our now deceased dear friend Barefoot Bob Hardison joined the effort. But we do know he continued his efforts almost till the day he died the end of January this year.
The last three formal members, Richard Green and Alan, my husband, and I were accepted as serious researchers sometime during President Clinton’s first term.
Richard Green is a Yale University graduate with a degree in American history. He recalls that the post-1996 Clinton-Gore re-election scandal inspired him to research election law and the history of elections. That led to his acquaintanceship with Bob Hardison who alerted him about this amendment ‘anomaly’. Some of Richard’s friends then in the patriot community also knew of it but only had copies of Xeroxed pages.
Alan and I separately learned about this amendment’s existence and mysterious history at about the same time. Alan Nevling recalls that he had been surfing the net for citizen solutions that might address high-level government corruption when he happened to find an interesting link — quite likely Bob Hardison’s TONA website. Both he and Suzanne have a lifelong interest in American history and particularly about the Constitution. Thereafter, Bob Hardison, as TONA webmaster, accepted all three as additional committee members.
Earlier this year, prospective author Stanley Evans, contacted the TONA committee, seeking its members assistance and participation for a book on the TONA that was nearly ready for publication.
He describes his like-minded background as having developed from his U.S. Army service in the central highlands of Vietnam. There, he first learned the difference between tyranny and freedom. That war changed him and he returned with a new perspective on God, country, and apple pie.
In 2000, Stan began researching the origins of the AIDS virus and found that one conspiratorial door led to another. He spent years researching the bio-weapons industry, and crimes committed against the people of the U.S. by its own intelligence communities, etc. Then, in 2006, he stumbled upon the debate about the Original 13th Amendment’s perplexing ratification history. After years of intense research, and clear establishment that in the history of the United States, no book had ever been written on this subject, he rolled up his sleeves, determined to ferret out the true facts concerning this ratification dilemma and publish a book about that history.
The TONA’s legislative intent and purpose was to strengthen the Constitution’s already existing prohibition on acceptance of foreign powers’ monies that were influencing, corrupting and endangering the United States’ political fabric and the security of American citizens. It provided a penalty for violation of the prohibition, which the Constitution still lacks to this day, because of long-time official Federal governmental denial of its ratification.
MR. CHARLTON: What did this original amendment say?
MRS. NEVLING: Congress debated the amendment’s language for about five months; from January, 1810, until May, 1810. Our website provides the final formal wording at the top of the homepage. The four versions listed below were proposed during that period.
- “If any citizen of the United States, shall accept of any title of nobility, from any king, prince or foreign state, such citizen shall thenceforth be incapable of holding any office of honor or profit, under the United States.”
- “If any citizen of the United States, shall except of any title of nobility, or of any other title of distinction from any emperor, king, prince, potentate, or foreign state, or shall hold the same by descent, or shall intermarry with any descent of any emperor, king, or prince, or with any person of the blood royal, such citizen shall thenceforth, be incapable of exercising or enjoying any of the rights and immunities of a free citizen of the United States, or of the individual states; and shall also be incapable of holding any office of honor, profit or trust under them, or either of them.”
- “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 Congress, accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince, or foreign state. And if any citizen of the United States shall accept any title of nobility or any other title of distinction, above or below that of nobility, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign state, or shall hold the same by dissent, such citizens shall henceforth be incapable of exercising or enjoying any of the rights and immunities of a free citizen of the United States, or of the individual states; and shall also be incapable of holding any of office of profit or trust, under them, or either of them.”
- “If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim or hold any title of nobility or honor derived from any emperor, king, prince or other foreign power, such person shall thenceforth 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.”
MR. CHARLTON: What kind of effect would its application have to the way our Federal government and its politicians and lobbyists operate today?
MRS. NEVLING: Three committee members had definite opinions in answer to this particularly important question.
Richard Green opines that its potential effect “would drastically change the nature of lobbying members of Congress but it would not prohibit it in any real sense: the amendment would act sort of like a Sword of Damocles hanging over the Congress and both of the other branches of our Federal or general government, and by extension over contractors and all salaried employees in any capacity and over all officers in all military or law enforcement functions. It would also be specifically applied to all State and local elected and appointed officials.”
Stan Evans’ similar view is: “I do believe that if it were restored and given the “full weight of law”, the way this nation does business would change. At the least, the potential draconian ramifications would have a dramatic impact on issues of national security, the banking industry, and special interest politics. Any citizen who accepted a present, pension, emolument, gift, or bribe from any foreign power or agent of that foreign power would stand to lose all rights to hold any political office and become a person without a nation.”
Alan Nevling answers: “We’ve been asked before, to justify the worth of validating an additional provision in a constitution now ignored whenever it conflicts with plans of the powerful. Laws, even the constitution, exist in a context of popular acceptance and understanding (or not), and of governmental obedience (or not). Playing on the popular misconception that treaties in some way “trump” the Constitution, federal officers have made treaties with foreign powers to escape, ignore, or override constitutional limits, often encouraged to do so by various forms of bribes.
“Application of the TONA would mean that regardless of whether it is liked by the congress, legislation to implement it would be dutifully enacted — tests and procedures to fairly judge a charge of violation — and the courts would apply those procedures whenever a charge was made. After a few traitors had been stripped of citizenship and office, remaining politicians might restrain themselves to selling their nation out to strictly domestic criminals, or they might even work for their constituents, depending on the attentiveness of the constituents.”
MR. CHARLTON: I am a bibliophile (I love old books). So actually I was prepared to come to your site, because sometime, years ago, while browsing through old books about the Civil War, I stumbled upon one with the Constitution reprinted, containing this original 13th Amendment to the Constitution, though I alas do not remember where. Can you tell me something about the history of its modern “rediscovery” and TONA’s involvement in this?
MRS. NEVLING: The amendment’s modern “rediscovery” history and TONA’s involvement is partially described in our Q1 answer. Additionally to our Q1 response, the late Barefoot Bob Hardison helped organize the material and for at least thirteen years, maintained much of it at his huge, Barefoot’s World website. Brian March and then Richard Green, together with Alan and myself continued Dodge’s pioneering research at countless archives, examining historical American records and submitting of many freedom of information requests to some of the states that were involved in the original ratification process. Circa 1991-1995, just before Richard, Alan and I joined the group, David Dodge and Brian March were stiff-armed by important members of Congress. David and Brian asked questions that seemed reasonable but which government officials refused to answer or sometimes to even acknowledge. That raised hackles and suspicions.
MR. CHARLTON: What is the Congressional history about the original 13th Amendment?
MRS. NEVLING: The Titles Of Nobility Amendment otherwise known as the Original 13th Amendment was drafted by members of a select committee in the United States Senate during the 11th Congress’ mid-winter session. There were several contributors to the effort, but Philip Reed of Maryland was the principal senator supervising the various drafts. It was also Sen. Reed who eventually brought the measure to the Senate for a vote. The political parties as we know them today did not really exist at that time in our country but Reed was considered to be aligned with the Democratic-Republicans and therefore more associated with Thomas Jefferson and the Virginians. Congress assembled in December of 1809 and organized for its business. Most of its legislative work was done in January and February and then referred back to committees for rewrites, etc.
As far as our research has discovered, the various versions of the TONA were sharply revised in the last few days of April; i.e., the 27th and 28th, when a 2/3rds vote of the Senate sent the proposed amendment to the House of Representatives for approval. There was apparently very little dispute over the amendment in the House at that time and it passed by a margin of 87 to 3, with some Representatives either not voting or not being present at that time. The TONA as you have read it consists of 77 words with a certain punctuation scheme. So far as we have determined, that is the precise form finally agreed upon and every version of it we have ever found in any book or pamphlet has the same words in the same order. The only variations are whether or not certain words are capitalized; like King, Prince, Emperor and foreign Power, and the two different ways of spelling “honor”: the American form, and the British; “honour”. But we have concluded that this was largely due to different printing styles. There is no apparent difference in the meaning of these words under law, although some historical scholars tend to quibble over citizen versus Citizen. The TONA is always the same, in the same word order, with the same punctuation, so far as we have found.
Following the 2/3rds House vote, officials in both the Senate and House sent the TONA out to the States, to be considered by their respective State Legislatures (and not by Ratifying Conventions in the States). The first actual ratification that we have found and which is well documented was done by Maryland on Christmas Day in 1810. This makes sense, as Philip Reed was its champion and had the support of his fellow Maryland senator and War of 1812 comrad-in-arms, Samuel Smith.
Other than congressional reporting from when the TONA was proposed in January of 1810, until the overwhelmingly affirmative May, 1810, approval vote sending it to state legislatures, very little was published about it. One Committee member was assured by a Library of Congress archivist that the 1810 congressional select committee reports reside in the Library of Congress vault and are presently unavailable for public examination. It’s planned that these records will eventually be digitized.
Existing per se public congressional records can been viewed at our Amendment-13.org site. Surprisingly, in the first half of the 1800’s, Congress had no interest in printing copies of the Constitution under its own authority but rather felt it was more sensible to rely upon Gales & Seaton and other ‘vendors’ for the printing of its documents. This seems to include all the minutes and committee work done over about ten years’ time.
One huge blow to U.S. documentary history was the August, 1814, British invaders deliberate torching of the presidential mansion (White House), and attempt to burn the House and additional torching of some private business interests including the then newspaper of record in Washington. The British also torched river docks and other facilities, both private and public.
The TONA appeared in an 1825 federal government-authorized publication, but two years later, in 1827, it was missing from another federal laws publication.
Despite much searching, no one has been able to locate any federal government notice to the the states and territories of the TONA’S non-ratified status. So it continued being published for decades until finally vanishing in the 1870’s.
Our http://amendment-13.org/publications.html and http://amendment-13.org/privatepubl.html pages display the greatest number of images assembled anywhere of published books and pamphlets containing the TONA.
MR. CHARLTON: What is the subsequent history of the ratification of this Amendment by the first 12 states?
MRS. NEVLING: Twelve states quickly approved the TONA, with New Hampshire ratifying it in December of 1812.
More specific information including the names of officials involved and precise certification dates are available at the Amendment-13.org site.
MR. CHARLTON: Why is Virginia so crucial, and why is it claimed she never ratified this original Amendment?
MRS. NEVLING: With acceptance from 12 states, ratification by only more state would have established the TONA as the most recent amendment to the Constitution. So, the ongoing, question about whether Virginia ratified is critically important. There’s a strong inference that Virginia did ratify in 1812, but heretofore, we have been unable to substantiate that via legislative records. A December, 1817 congressional resolution was passed to find out how many states had ratified Article XIII. Our Amendment-13.org site has the most specific and greatest amount of information available about what transpired in Virginia. We are confident that its legislature did ratify; perhaps in two stages or perhaps interrupted by the War of 1812. But the 1819 Revised Code references to this amendment appear indisputable. The effort producing this book was a labor of the best legal minds and was conducted over two full years. In fact, the entire Virginia legislature eventually involved itself in this effort for four of the five weekly session days. It was a complete revision, not some flummery by second-rate clerks.
Stan Evans has recently learned of new facts that even more strongly indicate that Virginia did ratify and that, the federal government did accept and regard Virginia’s 1820 legislative notice (a Legislature-ordered letter from Governor Thomas Mann Randolph accompanying the 1819 Revised Code book) for at least six years; from its 1821 Department of State receipt, until 1827.
MR. CHARLTON: How did Virginia’s General Assembly ratify this Amendment?
MRS. NEVLING: This question presumes that Virginia did ratify. However, the federal government completely rejects this possibility. Ratification happens either with an affirmative vote by both houses of its Legislature, sitting in lawful joint or separate session, or included in a comprehensive vote on several issues bundled together, as long as the ratification was read and then discussed. Records for either circumstance are missing, were never kept, or were kept and then lost when the Union Army burned Virginia’s capitol, Richmond, in 1865.
What is undeniable is the presence of the TONA (Article XIII) in the March 12, 1819 Revised Code book of Virginia’s statutes as a lawful part of the federal Constitution. Opponents of this amendment say its inclusion was done mistakenly. However, not a scintilla of proof exists to support this presumption. In fact, one would have to believe that the Revisor Committee members who produced the 1819 Revised Code book were either incredibly stupid or disorganized, or both. Those members were highly respected legal authorities and selected with the approval of both legislative houses. Our http://amendment-13.org/biographies.html page of alphabetically-listed persons associated with TONA’s history includes biographies of the Revisor Committee members.
MR. CHARLTON: Was Congress notified?
MRS. NEVLING: We firmly believe that’s the case. Virginia’s legislature passed a January 20, 1820 act, ordering Governor Thomas Mann Randolph to send copies of the newly finished 1819 Revised Code book of its laws, in quadruplicate, to the general government (for Congress, President Monroe, all living former presidents (Adams, Jefferson and Madison), the Dept. of State (John Quincy Adams), the Supreme Court and other recipients) as well as every prosecuting attorney and judge in Virginia. The Legislature’s official printer, Thomas Ritchie, produced at least 4000 copies and published notices in the Richmond Enquirer advertising the Revised Code for sale to the public.
The position of TONA opponents is that Virginia never sent the federal government a formal Letter of ratification like that of other states; i.e., formally describing the legislative result, from both houses, and including the affirmative and negative vote tallies. The Achilles heel of this argument is that neither the Constitution nor the federal statute from that period required a letter; only “Notice”.
MR. CHARLTON: Was it either a person who or a publication that declared the TONA not ratified?
MRS. NEVLING: Our answer somewhat encompasses both situations.
From the person aspect, Richard Green answers: “Actually I am still not sure about that as it seems to have been ignored to death. A question about it came up in 1818 and members of Congress clamored for clarification. Secretary of State Monroe sent his own handwritten letters to those states that had seemingly not communicated since 1813. Suzanne Nevling and I have seen an original of this communication sent to then Connecticut Governor John Cotton Smith (1813-1818). Gov. Smith was a Yale University graduate and as best the Committee members recall, Monroe’s inquiry note was still in perfect condition, residing in a Yale archive.”
Stan Evans has found evidence concerning a publication: “It was dropped from a federal publication in 1827, and was formally recognized as not adopted in 1846.” His new publications, Star-Strangled Conspiracy, is available at http://www.StanleyEvans.com (and in the near future at Amazon and other online booksellers sites). An instant download of it entitled Titles of Nobility and Honour, is also available at http://www.UnitedStatesConspiracy.Com. Both address the full scope of the Q’s 8-10 issues.
MR. CHARLTON: Could Virginia, theoretically, re-affirm its ratification today, and would that put an end to the debate over its authenticity as an amendment?
MRS. NEVLING: Virginia is still a sovereign body of Citizenry, with two legislative houses, and retains its original jurisdiction over the TONA. It could reaffirm in fact and not just in theory.
We have good reason to believe that Virginia actually did ratify the TONA prior to publication of its 1819 Revised Codes book. The Revisal Committee operated from 1817 until 1819. There’s no legislative reference about ratification during this two-year period. If ratification took place earlier than 1817, the Revised Codes book itself, approved by the Virginia Legislature, was, logically and in reality, a legal reaffirmation of the TONA’s earlier ratification. That being said, another reaffirmation is unlikely to end the debate. Even if we never do find out exactly what happened between late 1810 to 1819, we are convinced that it was operating in good faith with the Revised Code, as issued in 1819 and released for general sale in 1820.
There was no time limit for any of the first 12 Bill Of Rights amendments, as is known from the 11th one left hanging for 202 years until ratified late in the 20th century. Nor did the Original 13th have a time limit. The practice of amendment time limits was not begun until the early 20th century.
South Carolina never quite finished its ratification debate and the issue was, therefore, tabled/left in limbo. The action was, as best we recall, that the State Senate approved it but the State House tabled it after a debate of some note. It is, therefore, still legally active in South Carolina and could be revisited at any time, and ratified, as the Legislature has the power to resume any deliberations under its own rules at any point. Then again, we Committee members have long believed that Virginia did ratify the TONA and that it was done properly which is why it was published so many times from 1819 to 1876. Still, should South Carolina ratify, it would rock the nation.
Author Stanley Evans is not sure and feels it would be an unnecessary, complicated situation. He’s sure that Congress would not find a current Virginia legislative vote acceptable because of the current imposition of seven-year time limits for ratification of constitutional amendments. It would lead to countless additional disputes. However, he sees no impediment to presentation of a retroactive letter of ratification for good cause – which could be considered the present, long-time controversy.
MR. CHARLTON: Why is the ratification of states which joined the union after 1810 not constitutionally required?
MRS. NEVLING: Our committee member Richard Green says that any State which did not have voting representation in the Congress in 1810 was not denied that representation because of rebellion or civil disorder but rather because it was not yet approved to be a State under the terms of the Constitution and any applicable laws — such as the Northwest Ordinance, or sections of the Louisiana Purchase, et cetera. You can’t vote on that over which you have no jurisdiction at the time it is proposed. Such a vote to approve a law which becomes law is therefore impugned by the prohibition against Ex Post Facto law.
New evidence has been discovered over the last several months that shows there was some concern in 1816 about this issue, but when the smoke cleared, it was decided by the executive to only include the original 17 states. Stanley Evans will soon be posting this new evidence at his StanleyEvans.com website.
MR. CHARLTON: What work is TONA currently involved in towards acceptance of the 13th Amendment?
MRS. NEVLING: Until Stan Evans wrote his book about the TONA, our major public effort was maintenance of the Amendment-13.org website and occasional inclusion to it of any newly encountered government record information or other historical proof found in our research efforts. We’ve never received institutional support for our research. Travel to archival sites was a self-funded exercise, dependent on when funds could be saved for such travel.
Stan Evans’ book presents a great opportunity to reach a broader audience. Talk radio shows interviews for Mr. Evans appear to be a promising possibility and there should be quite a bit of publicity in the near future.
MR. CHARLTON: How can patriotic citizens around the country help in TONA’s work?
MRS. NEVLING: Visit our Amendment-13.org website. It’s a large, extensive site with a huge amount of documentation and historical facts.
Next, read Stan Evans‘ book which has additional evidence he independently found which reinforces the presumption that the TONA was lawfully ratified. Learn all you can about the subject. No one should support a position they’re not sure is true. Then spread the word far and wide. Youtube, websites, news & magazine articles etc., are great resources for such an effort. And, any and all bona fide offers of research assistance in state archives and other historical sites for relevant documentation will be greatly appreciated.
MR. CHARLTON: Do you think it is useful for citizens to contact their congressional representatives on this issue and request hearings in Congress about it? Or has this already been done?
MRS. NEVLING: We Committee members are in complete agreement that a campaign of citizen contact would be a useless, wasted effort. This amendment presents a great threat to Congress’ cozy, corrupt, financial empire. Protest about Pres. Bush’s bailout proposal ran 300 to 1 against and that program was still pushed through.
MR. CHARLTON: Thank you for your time and availability; it has been a distinct pleasure to speak with you. Is there anything final, that you would wish to add?
MRS. NEVLING: At least 26 years of collective research has been spent on both the website and more recently for the new book. The book contains hard-to-find information not available on the Internet, or few other sites. Much of the evidence Mr. Evans has recently seen was acquired by Mr. March during many years of research, as the result of money spent, and perseverance. Brian March deserves great credit for his efforts and contributions.
[Images in this article, c/o Michael Culpepper, who is selling the above Russel edition at Ebay.]