The Titles of Nobility Amendment does not have an illustrious history. The reason for its proposal are obscure; what we know of them suggests partisan politics or xenophobia, neither an admirable nor worthy motive for amending the Constitution. The amendment's history is likewise obscure; scholars have almost universally failed to portray it accurately, amplifying the confusion about the amendment. Today, it is virtually forgotten, meriting at most a few lines in even the most detailed tomes on the Constitution.
If the amendment had remained a footnote to history, its obscurity might not be of great significance. But even before the 1990's, the amendment carried two important messages: that concern about diversions in society in the United States is a historic problem, and that the legal community, both in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, has not invested sufficient effort into accurately communicating the law to the profession, as well as to the public. Further, these messages now have manifested themselves in a new, disturbing guise: that of extremists who have taken advantage of the amendment's obscure history to mislead the public as to its validity and purpose, driven by their anti-lawyer agenda and alienation.
These misrepresentations should be taken seriously and countered, both for the good of the profession and of the public. Too often, legal scholarship has been and continues to be guilty of "scholarly defects of the most elementary kind." Law cannot have- and does not deserve- the public trust if the law is itself untrustworthy. But past failures should not lead lawyers to withdraw from the field and leave it to extremists. One should remember that the oft-misquoted line from Shakespeare, "[t]he firth thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," actually speaks to the vital role that lawyers historically have played in society; only if all of the King's learned advisors were vanquished would rebels be able to install a tyrant. If there is any nobility in being a lawyer, it is because of the roles and responsibility of protecting society from those who seek to create and exploit divisions.
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