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The very broad scope of the amendment would presumably have meant that foreign powers could cause mayhem in the United States by unilaterally giving "Titles of Nobility" to US citizens, and so causing them to lose their citizenship. It's expressed as a list of alternatives (it's in the form 'if w, x, y, or z', not 'if w and x and y and z') : so it would take effect if any citizen of the United States shall .... receive ..... any title of nobility or honour: there's nothing there about them having also to accept what is received, though acceptance is also prohibited. Honors and titles, being in their nature abstract rather than material, can be received by someone who does not themself want the title or the honor (a bit like the measles). Especially as in the case of a hereditary title it can simply be inherited, as Tony Benn found out to his cost.
And what do the final words "or either of them" refer to? Thomas Peardew (talk) 11:18, 6 February 2018 (UTC)
Second part first. The words "or either of them" is a reference to the States. Before the Civil War, it was common to use "United States" in the plural tense (e.g., "these United States"). So when TONA says "them", it means the United States (all the States collectively), while "or either of them" means any of the States. As for what "receive" means, it would have had to be interpreted by the Supreme Court. Do you receive something when it's given to you or do you have to choose to take possession? Fortunately, we don't have to worry about this (although TONA is technically still before the States for ratification). SMP0328. (talk) 20:04, 6 February 2018 (UTC)
Thanks! So either here is simply synonymous with any. It's a little unusual, but, now having looked, I find the OED records two instances where the word is used for larger numbers than two (13, and 3). I wonder whether it is used in this way in other parts of the US Constitution?
On the other point, the UK's hereditary titles were certainly both received and retained whether or not they were accepted. In the UK it required primary legislation - the Peerage Act 1963 - to enable sitting members of parliament and others to disclaim their titles in order to be qualified for election as MPs. Of course had this Amendment been ratified, the US Supreme Court might have decided otherwise, but it's a bit of a stretch of language to talk of "taking possession" of something as intangible as a title. Does a woman on marrying "accept, claim, receive or retain" the title "Mrs"?. There are some similarities with the Australian parliamentary eligibility crisis, where in one case the MP had been born in Canada to Australian parents who were only briefly there, and who was unaware that she held dual citizenship. Not every country provides a mechanism for renouncing citizenship (just like, before 1963, there was no mechanism in the UK for renouncing a peerage), and some - I think the USA is a case in point - make it difficult and/or expensive. Thomas Peardew (talk) 22:37, 6 February 2018 (UTC)