Colonel, Original American Title

Civilian, Company and Common Law Authority of Government

The Greatest Civilian Title in the Americas

International Order of the Honorable Title (2021)

The First Adventurers, Explorers, Founding Fathers, Justices, Officers, Pioneers, Sheriffs, Statesmen, and Surveyors were also Colonels, the Civilian Authors of America! Today, Colonel remains as an Honorable Title, Office, Privilege and/or Rank Designated to an individual with great historic significance. The Title "Colonel" is most often connected with a Deed that is recognized with an Official or Honorary Commission or Proclamation.

Colonel is not a title of nobility; Colonel is a title of authority, civil duty, honor, integrity and office. Today it is a legal title and honorific that can be used to recognize individual accomplishments in life. Since prior to 1776 under US law there is no civilian officer title in America greater than that of the colonel.

- American Colonels International

Historical American Authority Began in 1651

Since the founding of the American Colonies the honorable title of Colonel has been known as the highest recognized title of authority that can be granted to a civilian on the North American Continent. Colonels were responsible for establishing most of the trading and land companies, forts, townships and county governments in the original 13 colonies. The majority of the statesmen that signed the Declaration of Independence were colonels, during the American Revolution the highest designated official was the colonel. In 1774, prior to the Revolution secret meetings were held among colonels to enact Patriot Law in the colonies beginning in 1775. These meetings excluded all loyalists as they were called.

The colonel rose quickly to become the most prevalent figure of the American landscape beginning in 1651, it was a title that could be granted to the gentry to lead a colony (a township or county) with absolute authority in law. Nearly all "colonels" were born within the 13 colonies and was only granted to the most talented and well to do individuals, a colony could not exist without a colonel and colonists.

Declaration of Independence Painting
Painting of the Founding Fathers (mostly colonels) in the making the Declaration of Independence and Democracy.

Origin of the Colonel

There are several primary sources of colonels in the United States, there are more than 20 states that have issued commissions since the founding of the United States. The most well-known and frequently awarded is the Kentucky Colonel Commission which is bestowed through letters patent by the Governor of the Commonwealth. The tradition of the creation of the Office of Colonelcy is firmly rooted in Colonial History and not Kentucky History, more specifically in the tradition legalized by Governor Patrick Henry of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1776.

In 1775 a group of colonels began the Westward expansion as pioneers, they founded the 14th colony, Transylvania at Boonesborough which was later divided to become known as Kentucky and Tennessee. A surveyor joining the Transylvania Company in 1775, Isaac Shelby returned to North Carolina to become a colonel himself in 1778, he became involved founding the extralegal State of Franklin with other colonels, then returned to his land claim in Transylvania which was by 1780 part of Virginia, he became Kentucky's First Governor 1791.

Honorary Colonelcy: A Civilian State

In the United States of America there are 13 states that award or have awarded the honorary titles, "Colonel" or "Lieutenant Colonel", based on a variety of circumstances to denote honor to civilians based on their noteworthiness, community service, deeds in society, or the need to assign them as commissioned officers. Not all of these states currently offer honorary colonelcy, but they are all equally discussed here in our website.

Historically all of the 13 original colonies had the capacity to commission colonels. Colonel (U.S. Honorary Title)

States Known to Recognize Colonels

There are a total of 23 US states that have issued colonelcy commissions since America was founded in 1776. The following list may be incomplete, but is based on the past 50 years, a number of lesser jurisdictions have also issued colonelcy certificates and there were also some mail-order (unofficial?) colonelcies from Colorado, California, Connecticut and Kansas. While being first may be special, there is no governor in the United States that is not empowered to create honorary civilian colonels using their own story and authority to recognize good-deeds and service to the state.

Title and Rank Was Not Originated by the Military

It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the title was adopted as a rank by the US Army, later it was conformed in the 20th century for other branches of the US Armed Forces. Prior to 1802 it was most often used to recognize organizers of companies and sponsors of local militias, where the title was the highest rank, but did not denote colonels themselves being active in any military role except as the commissioners of their own militia troops.

Alternatively under the British Army in the Crown Colonies, colonels were also commissioned as uniformed (red-coat) officers under generals starting around 1750 when the army was formed and militias became prominent. In real life, a commission required being of "good family", having access to money or patronage. No formal military training was mandated to become a colonel.

According to the 1785, "A Dictionary of the English Language" by Samuel Johnson: COLONEL is originally from the word colonialis, civilly it is the leader of a colony in America. From British use: Colonel is also a chief commander of a regiment or is a field officer of the highest rank.

Historical Overview of the Colonel in America

The colonel during the time of Colonial America was the highest appointed office that could be granted to a native colonist. With this authority a person could charter a township, county, company or militia.

The honor of receiving the title of "Colonel" dates back to middle of the 17th century (1600's) in the 13 original colonies. As a title, Colonel was used to distinguish the gentry who lived and worked in these 13 colonies and persisted into the 20th century before becoming known as an honorary and ceremonial status used by governors to distinguish civilians based on their achievements.

Under English Colonial rule, "colonelcy" was purchased from the government resulting in letters patent or an officers commission, which authorized and entitled the subject to form a "company" or "militia". Colonels had the ability to recruit and issue further commissions to those who joined their private companies under the leadership of the person holding the original letters patent. Many of the most prominent figures in history became colonels to protect themselves legally, garner respect and to establish new forts and townships. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Paine and many others were either civilian or militia colonels during their political careers.

Prior to and throughout the American Revolution it was very desirable to become a colonel, especially if you were forming a company to head West to start a community in the unexplored areas beyond the Appalachian range.

The Grand Union Flag was adopted by General George Washington and his colonels as the official flag of the United Colonies on January 01, 1776 the day the Continental Army was established. The thirteen stripes represented the 13 colonies. The retention of the British Union in the canton indicated a continued loyalty as Americans then saw it, to the constitutional government against which they fought.

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