Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

On the 4th of July: correcting the mistakes of the founding fathers

It’s a troubling issue of long standing: Self-evident as they may be, are our rights “unalienable” or are they “inalienable”?

Turns out, both words mean the same thing. But, you must admit, “inalienable” has a certain elegance about it, and“unalienable” seems sort of clunky. Still, the Declaration of Independence indubitably says “unalienable”.

Thomas Jefferson’s first draft had said “inalienable” and then it got changed to “unalienable” later, possibly by John Adams although he had also written “inalienable” in an intermediate draft. (Perhaps the celebrated ill will between Jefferson and Adams had its beginnings here?) The document notwithstanding, somebody carved “inalienable” on the Jefferson Memorial.

Anyway, “inalienable” sounds better, right? (Trust me, I’m a lawyer.)

So, I am suggesting that we should go back to the surviving originals of the Declaration of Independence and change the “u” that’s on them to an “i”. It’ll just be the one letter.

Now — I am not insensitive to concerns about damaging very old and authentic artifacts. So, I am also suggesting that the persons who do the work should be very well trained. No white out, please.

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