Talk:United States Declaration of Independence

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Alleged authorship of Thomas Paine[edit]

I only recently read/heard about this, but apparently there is a strong case for the original author being Thomas Paine. There is a book by Joseph L. Lewis that lays out a strong case of pieces of evidence, that when combined, rule out everyone except Paine. I have not read this book, but I plan to soon. I think it is important to include at least a section referencing the alleged authorship, as a few people have made this case. I just wonder if anyone is knowledgable about this. If not, when I read the book, I will add the claims.--Metallurgist (talk) 01:25, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

I'm inclined to disagree here, unless there is a very recent scholarly source that I haven't heard of. In 2007 and 2008 I did an exhaustive search of scholarship on the Declaration of Independence (for an introductory chapter to my master's thesis), and I never once came across any mention of the idea that Thomas Paine was the author of the Declaration. To quote from WP:DUE, "Generally, the views of tiny minorities should not be included at all." So it would be up to you to demonstrate that the "Tom Paine authored the Declaration" view is more than that of a tiny minority.--Other Choices (talk) 03:39, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

Citation for quote in "Slavery and the Declaration" section[edit]

The "Slavery and the Declaration" section contains the following sentence:

Referring to this seeming contradiction, English abolitionist Thomas Day wrote in a 1776 letter, "If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves."

There is a controversy as to whether the citation for the quote should be the primary source or a secondary source.

The primary source, which Thomas Day authored,[1] is available on-line through a link. The primary source is therefore easily verifiable. The secondary source[2] is not available on line, and is thus not easily verifiable.

On 18 March 2014, Indopug replaced the primary source with the secondary source while stating on the "Revision history" page for Declaration of Independence that according to WP:PRIMARY, "Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on...primary sources". However, this is only a partial quote from WP:PRIMARY, which more fully states:

Wikipedia articles should be based on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources and primary sources. Secondary or tertiary sources are needed to establish the topic's notability and to avoid novel interpretations of primary sources. All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than to an original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors. Appropriate sourcing can be a complicated issue, and these are general rules. Deciding whether primary, secondary or tertiary sources are appropriate on any given occasion is a matter of good editorial judgment and common sense, and should be discussed on article talk pages.

The referenced sentence is a complete quote from the primary source. As a result, there is no need to cite a secondary source to avoid a novel interpretation of the primary source. Further, the sentence's notability and relevance to the section is not in question. Because the primary source is easily verifiable while the secondary source is not, and because there is no real need to cite a secondary source, I am reverting the edit that Indopug made. This reversion permits the article to cite the primary source. I consider that the reversion "is a matter of good editorial judgment and common sense". Corker1 (talk) 21:03, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

  • Corker, the reason why scholarly secondary sources are always preferred is that it avoids unnecessary editorial judgement exercised by us amateur editors. Even in this case, if you remove the Armitage source, it begs the question why this particular quote from this particular 17th-century abolitionist (Thomas Day) is important, but not any other. Without Armitage, we ourselves have determined that Day's letter is important, which is exercising far too much editorial judgement, and is pretty clear-cut original research. As for the online source being more "easily verifiable", there is no Wiki guideline or policy that recommends that we prefer offline sources over online ones for any such reasons or any other. We should be using the best possible sources, period. If anything, online sources are susceptible to WP:LINKROT, while books last much much longer.—indopug (talk) 07:43, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
  • I think the primary source is appropriate in this case; it is the best possible source for the quotation. It fits the guidelines for primary sources. There is no Original research (OR = no footnote). And yes, all Wiki editors select the best material for the article: that is our job. Editors select. For example a reliable secondary book may have 500 pages and we use just one page. that's selection. Indeed an editor selected the book from a choice of many--on this topic an average university library will have several hundred reliable secondary books (indeed it will have scores of books on Jefferson alone). Rjensen (talk) 09:32, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
  • I'd like to read the guideline that recommends using primary sources for direct quotations, because I've never heard of any such exception to the secondary-sources-preferred rule.
And you're incorrectly equating primary sources with secondary ones when no equivalence exists; WP:SCHOLARSHIP is clear: "Articles should rely on secondary sources whenever possible. ... When relying on primary sources, extreme caution is advised: Wikipedians should never interpret the content of primary sources for themselves." What is happening here is that, without Armitage, we are interpreting Day's letter by ourselves and attributing meaning/relevance to it.
Lastly, when our guidelines and policies unequivocally say that we should "rely on secondary sources whenever possible", and we have a perfectly scholarly source here, why should we settle for less?—indopug (talk) 09:50, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
  • the advantage of having the text in front of our eyes allows everyone to verify it immediately AND read it in its full context rather than snippet form. That is a big advantage to the reader. There is no debate on the meaning of the quote. In fact there is no interpretation of the quote at all going on -- the Armitage interpretation ("went even further") is not used in our article. Actually several hundred historians have used this very famous quote by Day as seen in google. Now the Armitage text is in fact online at David Armitage (2009). The Declaration of Independence: A Global History. p. 77.  but he only gives a snippet, not the context. Here's a case where the primary source is far more useful than the snippet in Armitage. Rjensen (talk) 10:08, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Simple compromise to end this: include both?—indopug (talk) 10:26, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Indopug's solution is ok with me Rjensen (talk) 10:42, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
  • I concur with the compromise to which Rjensen and indopug agreed. I am therefore adding the primary source as a reference. The article will therefore reference both the primary and the secondary source. Corker1 (talk) 20:41, 20 March 2014 (UTC)


  1. ^ Barnes, Bart (2014-02-16). "Eric O. Stork, former EPA official who oversaw auto emissions compliance, dies at 87". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  2. ^ "Eric O. Stork". Microsoft Academic Search. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 

Requested move 3[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: No consensus, not moved, Declaration of Independence retargeted to Declaration of independence once links to "United States Declaration of Independence" through "Declaration of Independence" are disambiguated. (non-admin closure) DavidLeighEllis (talk) 01:34, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

United States Declaration of IndependenceDeclaration of Independence – This is an established WP:PRIMARYTOPIC, in that the proposed title has redirected here for most of its 12+ years of existence. One of two things should happen here: (1) The article should be moved as proposed, or (2) Declaration of Independence should be retargeted to Declaration of independence, the article on the general concept. If we go with #2, Declaration of Independence (United States), as the current title uses un-NATURAL disambiguation.

Yes, I know no one likes US-centrism, but here, it's already the status quo; WP:RFD would be the place to go to change that. BDD (talk) 21:13, 26 March 2014 (UTC)

there is a problem here. the 1776 document never uses the term "Declaration of Independence" and that is not its official name--- i wonder when it was first used. Rjensen (talk) 07:43, 27 March 2014 (UTC)
So Declaration of Independence should be retargeted? --BDD (talk) 15:24, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
So Declaration of Independence should be retargeted? --BDD (talk) 16:24, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I'm ok with retargeting. walk victor falk talk 16:33, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

  • Oppose. Too generic and Americanocentric to be a primary term. Obviously used without a qualifier within the United States, but not generally outside. In Britain, for example, we would commonly say "American Declaration of Independence" when referring to it. Not sure what the nom means when he says "here, it's already the status quo" when referring to US-centrism. In this article or on Wikipedia? The latter certainly isn't true and shouldn't be true. -- Necrothesp (talk) 13:26, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm referring to the fact that Declaration of Independence redirects here. Given that, and given your opposition, do you believe it should be retargeted to the generic Declaration of independence? --BDD (talk) 16:24, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I do. -- Necrothesp (talk) 01:04, 3 April 2014 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Post-RM discussion[edit]

Geez, that's a lot of incoming links. Over 500 in mainspace, and none of those are coming from navboxen. Dicklyon, Victor falk, Necrothesp, are you sure about this? Incoming links is specified as a WP:PRIMARYTOPIC criterion, but I don't think I've ever come across a case like this. Realistically, I don't know who's going to take the time to fix all those so the redirect can be retargeted. --BDD (talk) 16:28, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

That's because a lot of editors are American and just link "Declaration of Independence"! Doesn't make it a primary topic except in US-centric land. It's as generic as "President" and "Senate", which most Americans would probably also associate primarily with their homeland! -- Necrothesp (talk) 16:37, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

Yes, this a big problem and is why the redirect is not to be changed until it is dealt with. I don't know who is likely to take it on. Maybe it will stay indefinitely. Dicklyon (talk) 21:13, 3 April 2014 (UTC) The first link I looked at in the list was wrong, not intending to refer to the US DoI. So I fixed it. This is why the ambiguity deserves work to fix it. Dicklyon (talk) 21:18, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

Ready to go[edit]

I have disambiguated the last 30-40 links. (Hats off to whoever did the rest.) Now no mainspace pages link to Declaration of Independence. I won't perform the retargeting, however, as it will break many talk pages and so on; someone else can move it if they think it wise. BethNaught (talk) 16:20, 5 April 2014 (UTC)

NPOV Introduction: Lincoln commentary[edit]

The following text should be removed from the already lengthy introduction for the Wikipedia article, revised from a neutral point of view, and edited within the 9.4 Legacy: Lincoln and the Declaration section

"...Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, references to the text of the Declaration were few for the next four score years. Abraham Lincoln made it the centerpiece of his rhetoric (as in the Gettysburg Address of 1863), and his policies. Since then, it has become a well-known statement on human rights, particularly its second sentence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This has been called "one of the best-known sentences in the English language",[6] containing "the most potent and consequential words in American history".[7] The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive. This view was notably promoted by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and argued that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.[8] It provided inspiration to numerous national declarations of independence throughout the world."

There should also be a note to the glaring omission from this Wiki article pertaining to the Declaration of Independence that there is not one reference to the first draft or ""original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence submitted by Thomas Jefferson to the Congress in which Jefferson actually mocks "the CHRISTIAN King of Great Britian" for maintaining slavery within the British American colonies:

...he [King George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.[3]

Lincoln was neither a "Founding Father" contributing to the authorship of the Declaration and Articles of Confederation, a framer of the U.S. Constitution, nor was Lincoln ever a justice on the United States Supreme Court participating with the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution --- the text within this Wiki article was seemingly written with the attempt to weave Lincoln's historical commentary about the Declaration of Independence (Lincoln was specifically referring to "all men being created equal" being understood as equality between white adult males of European descent and black adult males - freemen or enslaved) in with the contemporary political revisionist advocacy by Dominionists within the United States.

Likewise, non-referenced declaration, "The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive", should also revised (e.g.: "The passage came to represent a rationale supporting social equality to which United States citizens should strive") or simply deleted from the article as NPOV.--Bee Cliff River Slob (talk) 15:49, 29 March 2014 (UTC)

Lincoln's words set the standard of interpretation. he and many since them made the text "a moral standard to which the United States should strive" -- does anyone think otherwise? Rjensen (talk) 00:54, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

Anybody know when was the USA was founded??[edit]

Abe Lincoln & the reliable secondary sources all think the USA was founded in 1776. Editor ‎Soffredo seems to think otherwise; he has no sources and he does not say when it actually was founded. Abe said in 1863: "Four score and seven years ago [1776] our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation." Rjensen (talk) 22:21, 29 March 2014 (UTC)

A nation and a country/State are two different things. The USA was founded in 1776 as a union of 13 sovereign states, similar to the European Union. It didn't become a sovereign state until 1787, when Delaware was admitted as the first state. [Soffredo] Journeyman 3 23:23, 29 March 2014 (UTC)
Journeyman 3 made that up. No reliable source makes such a weird statement about 1787. Rjensen (talk) 01:37, 30 March 2014 (UTC)
1787 is the year the constitution was ratified, therefore the year the USofA was founded, prior to that it was a different country, functioning under the previous constitution, the Articles of Confederation, which was officially founded in 1781, but functioning as of 1777. Prior to that it was an alliance of rebellious colonies. The technical difference between the pre 1787 and post 1787 USA is the same as the difference between the French Fourth Republic and the French Fifth Republic, being technically different countries, called "France". So Soffredo (Journeyman3) is looking at it through the technicality of Delaware being the first state to ratify the constitution. So, when did the USA get founded? It depends on what you mean by founded. The difference between 1777 and 1787 is used by some states rights advocates to say the 1787 country is illegitimate and some freemen to ignore the federal government as unconstitutional under the 1781 constitution. Though one could also claim 1783 as the founding date, since that was when the Treaty of Paris was signed, or 1775, when hostilities began. -- (talk) 06:05, 31 March 2014 (UTC)
let's see the scholars who agree with any of that. France for example has gone through 5 constitutions and is a new nation each time!!!! that is ridiculous. Do US States become brand new when they write a new constitution? Note that in the 18th century the US was the first major country to write a constitution....the other countries dd not exist until France wrote one. But you're right that there is a nutty finge that say the 1787 country is illegitimate and some freemen to ignore the federal government as unconstitutional under the 1781 constitution. Wiki rules requires us to avoid these weird fringe theories that no reliable source accepts. Rjensen (talk) 06:46, 31 March 2014 (UTC)
Perhaps it is well to keep in mind that in 1776 the states wrote their constitutions (with the exception of South Carolina's provisional constitution) at the behest of the pre-existing Continental Congress, which essentially acted as the midwife of the nascent states, several of which copied the language of the original May 1776 declaration of independence into their new constitutions.--Other Choices (talk) 09:19, 31 March 2014 (UTC)
I would say that the founding of the United States of America took place on February 5, 1778... when South Carolina joined Virginia under the Articles of Confederation (thus having two states agree to unite under a legal document). Prior to that date the Continental Congress did not have even limited legislative power as a governing body, each state was allied but independent of the others. It was the the Articles of Confederation that gave Congress its (limited) governing authority, and legally united the various states. Blueboar (talk) 01:44, 5 April 2014 (UTC)

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