The bizarre conspiracy theory regarding the title "esquire"

Every once in a while, you comes across a name listed as "John Doe, Esquire," or something like that. What does it mean? The short answer is that it means John Doe is a lawyer. However, that pretty much only pertains to American lawyers, and there is no codified rule as to the word's use. Atlas Obscura has a history of how the title "esquire" descended from the European title of "squire," which is rather baffling in itself, and takes a left turn into conspiracy territory. To be specific, a bizarre theory that states that no lawyer can legally hold office in the United States.

That movement, born from the right-wing conspiracy forums of the early internet, purported that there was a "missing" Thirteenth Amendment that would have made the current Thirteenth (which abolished slavery) actually the Fourteenth. This phantom amendment, called the Titles of Nobility Amendment, was written in 1810. By law then, and now, the American government cannot bestow titles of nobility in the way that the English government once named new dukes or barons. The brief text of the amendment would have made these existing prohibitions even stronger: Any American who accepted a title of nobility or honor from a foreign government would be forbidden to hold office, and would be stripped of citizenship.

In 1983, a conspiracy theorist and researcher named David Dodge found an 1825 copy of the U.S. Constitution in the Belfast Library in Maine. The copy included that Thirteenth Amendment, and Dodge wrote several articles about it that made some rather assumptive leaps. Those leaps were: 1) The amendment had been legally enacted. 2) "Esquire" is a title of nobility. 3) "Esquire" also refers to lawyers. 4) The amendment rescinds the citizenship and the right to hold office from anyone with a title of nobility. Therefore, no lawyers have, since 1810, been allowed to serve in government or even hold citizenship. Therefore, given that over half of the country's presidents and a huge percentage of its elected officials have been lawyers, everything you thought about this country's history is a gigantic sham. At least that's what Dodge argued.

Believing in such nonsense requires abandoning logic, or else just swallowing whole what Dodge said without looking under the hood, but that's how conspiracy theories are born. Read the history of the term "esquire" and what it led to at Atlas Obscura.