Talk:United States Declaration of Independence/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

Early comments

There should be a section on what happened to the delegates after they signed it. There were many disasters and could be detailed here--

Weren't some of them executed afterward?

Found this on the web:

"Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary War, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War. "

Who were they? Anyboby know? -- Jason Palpatine 02:34, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Plenty of info about that here on Snopes, if anyone's still interested. Sum0 22:24, 6 November 2005 (UTC)

Text of Warzyniec Grzymala Goslicki (It had many editions in English, after all it was very wide-read book, despite it being banned in England) and comparative phrases in Declaration of Independence (Jefferson read definetely the book, before you start to think it is sheer accident):

"..The public happiness of the community lies in the private happiness of individual subjects…" " All citizens are born equal and have equal rights". "Kings are created not for themselves but for the good of their subjects". "… sometimes, a nation frustrated by tyranny and excessive powers of its king, takes upon itself the undoubted right to fight for its freedoms, and either by conspiracy or in an open struggle to shake off the yoke and to take the helm of government in its own hands…" Szopen 10:00, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I found the following on Declaration of Independence, which I redirected to declaration of independence, which I made a pointer page (including a pointer to United States Declaration of Independence. Remember, this isn't an encyclopedia for Americans only.

Shouldn't there be a separate page, Text_of_the_United_states_declaration..., with the full text included? It seems like there should, then we can just link that article from the main article, and get rid of the text of the preamble that is there now.--csloat 09:38, 30 Jun 2004 (UTC)

More early comments (before approximately Jan. 2004)

www.nara.gove (full link in article) has a jpeg scan of the document. Should we add the image or just leave it as a link to the National Archive's page?


You know, the least one could have done in moving this from around would be to preserve the wikification of the state names in the signature section. It's quite demoralizing to take the time to wikify a section of content, only to see it undone by such inattention. I did it once, I'm not interested in doing it again.

As for "United States" vs "American", see United_States_Civil_War/Previous for an opposing view regarding nomenclature and common usage.

On my view, the arguments on that page are not relevant here. "American Civil War" is a well-established name for a historical event. There is no corresponding common name for the Declaration of Independence among Americans other than just that, "Declaration of Independence." That is in fact how it's usually cited in most American encyclopedias, but since Wikipedia is a thoroughly international encyclopedia, we have to avoid using what has become a type term to describe only one instance of the type. So we can qualify it either as "United States D of I" or "American D of I"--doesn't much matter. If it doesn't matter, we might as well prefer the former. --LMS

I was the one who moved the article. If you're the person who wikified the text, you should have looked around to see whether the D. of I. had already been uploaded. I'm not about to do work that you should have done, in checking your version against the one that had already been uploaded. Please do that yourself. --LMS

Am I the only person which detects anti-French xenophobia in the U.S. Declaration of Independence? Note the following complaint:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

The province in question was Quebec. Most of the people in Quebec were French settlers, and they didn't want to live under English law, they wanted to live under French law. Despite English-speaking delusions to the contrary, the French legal system is just as good as the English legal system. But those American "Founding Fathers" (a very patriarchial term, I might add) viewed an attempt to secure the rights of Quebecois as a tyrannical misdeed of the British government. -- SJK

The French legal system now might be ok by most standards, but at the time of US independence, it was very different and probably quite unpleasant to live under. Remember that this was before the French Revolution, and that the French were sufficiently unimpressed with that old legal system that they instituted a complete rewrite from scratch as soon as things settled down a bit after the revolution. I doubt if many Quebecois wanted to live under French law except maybe a few of the very rich and powerful, who could use it to keep the lower classes in a state of near slavery.

I'd like to see some evidence for that claim. Sure, 20th century French law != 18th century French law, but 20th century English (or U.S.) law != 18th century English law either. The French did not institute a "complete rewrite from scratch" after the Revolution; they reformed, codified and purified it. French and English law represent two very different legal systems, but the difference between them is not primarily one of substantive rules or protections, but rather of legal terminology, culture and processes of legal thought.

Furthermore, the Quebecois probably had a purer form of the French legal system anyway, since they would have had more pure Roman law, without the medieveal accretions of local customary law (it was these accretions which the reform got rid of.)

Even if there were substantive flaws in Quebec laws, there is nothing wrong with the French legal system per se, anymore than there is something wrong the French language per se. Whatever they were, the substantive flaws could be remedy (and have been remedied). Wholesale replacement of French law with English law was not necessary. -- SJK

I think you'll find that pre-revolutionary French law was based on the law code of the Salic Franks (and on various late medievel misunderstandings of said code), not on Roman law. I expect that, given the medievel and renaisance esteem for all things classical, a few ideas from Roman law probably crept in, but that wasn't the basis of it. The Napoleonic rewrite was mostly based on Roman law.

There were people involved in the US Declaration of Independence who genuinely believed in freedoms theoretically granted (but rarely actually available) under traditional English law. At the time very few other legal codes had any concept of these freedoms, and the French one certainly didn't.

There were also people involved in the declaration for other less lofty reasons, for instance it appears quite a few of the independence supporters were pirates and slave traders who were likely to be hanged for their crimes if independence failed.

Most of the high-sounding documents that are remembered from this time are the work of the first group, though if you look closely in the original constitution you can see the influence of the others here and there.

There is one little inconsistency that can be seen, however. The laws of Louisiana, which joined the USA (when?, 1806?, certainly when some of the D of I people were still alive) are still based on French law even today, though i think it might be the Code Napoleon rather than the older version.

Montrealais, could you please explain how the Napoleonic code could have been established in Quebec in or prior to mid-1776? --Brion 12:27 Aug 21, 2002 (PDT)

Actually it was the Custom of Paris (coutume de Paris) that was the law in Quebec before it was codified (with local changes) in the Civil Code of Lower Canada c. 1867 (it remained the law, with judicial modification and amendment, until 1991). The Civil Code of France (the so called Napoleonic Code) was never adopted in Quebec. The Custom of Paris was more liberal than English common law; it recognized that women could contract and hold property in their own names; the civil law of obligations was also much more developed than the common law -- contracts were formed on a subjective basis and there was no need for the concept of consideration. Intestate inheritances were split between all children, male and female; there was no discrimination. I would definitely prefere to have lived under the Custom of Paris as it was in 1761 rather than the common law at that time. Alex756 00:43, 2 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Under Wikipedia guidelines the full text of this document shouldn't be on this page. (should be moved to to Project Sourceberg) Any reason why I shouldn't delete it? See debate on Talk:1922 Text: League of Nations Palestine Mandate

I agree that it should be deleted. -- Zoe
I do too, there are plenty of copies of the US Declaration available on the internet. The attribution for the photo can be put on the image:talk page, or in the alternative text. Alex756 00:26, 2 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Since it seems to have been agreed above that the full text of the United States Declaration of Independence shouldn't be in the article, I was puzzled about why it still was. A check of the history revealed that the text had been removed, but that an anonymous editor had subsequently put it back. The next edit, from another IP address, did nothing but remove content. I have therefore reverted the article back to how it was before the anonymous edits that did the damage. The only useful edit since was one by Someone else, who was just putting back the list of signers which had been removed, and that is still there, so hopefully I haven't lost anything important in my reversion. -- Oliver P. 00:30, 28 Sep 2003 (UTC)


I suggest shortening "(but somewhat historically accurate)" to "(but somewhat accurate)". More easily read, and I think no sense is lost? -- ll

Regarding the recent change: location of original copy. I think that is disputable.

The original copy was sent to The Kingdom of Great Britian, given to the King. (And if this was not the case, then ipso facto, it was not a legal document.) I would not be surprised if the King burned it.

Also, the original version was written by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote inalienable, whereas the copy in the National Archives has instead the word unalienable, making it most likely a copy made by John Adams. -Kevin Baas

Where did you ever get the idea that the original was sent to the King? It wasn't. See the NARA webpage Appendix A for a census of the 25 extant copies of the Dunlap broadside, which is how the Declaration came to public notice, and Appendix B for the travels of the engrossed, signed copy, which is considered "the" Declaration of Independence. -- Binky 22:18, 8 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Excerpt from said webpage: "In 1823 Jefferson wrote that the other members of the committee "unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught [sic]. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections. . . I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress." (If Jefferson did make a "fair copy," incorporating the changes made by Franklin and Adams, it has not been preserved. It may have been the copy that was amended by the Congress and used for printing, but in any case, it has not survived. Jefferson's rough draft, however, with changes made by Franklin and Adams, as well as Jefferson's own notes of changes by the Congress, is housed at the Library of Congress.)"

Fortunatley, however, Thomas Jefferson made a record of the lost document in his autobiography, as well as a record of the changes made by congress.:[[1]]

Notice the use of the word inalienable.

"The Declaration thus signed on the 4th, on paper was engrossed on parchment, & signed again on the 2d. of August." [[2]]

Some furter references: [[3]] [[4]] [[5]] -Kevin Baas

  • A draft version of a document is not the "original": the original document is the copy that was signed. There was no signing on the 4th of July. - Binky 02:54, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)
WRONG. It was ratified and signed on the fourth. This document was signed in a private session and was not seen by the public. They were commiting treason, it would not have been in their best interest for Great Britian to know the source of the document before things were sufficiently set in play. If that happened, it would have been easy enough to kill them and destroy the document. That would have been the end of it. There were, in fact, assasination attempts. The document was signed in its orignal form ("inalienable"), and sent clandestinely to the printer. On August second, this printed version, which was supposed to be an exact duplicate, and thought to be, for none (but perhaps a few deviants?) had witnessed any further changes, which were in any case to be made only in Congress, which they had attended. Besides, everyone had already agreed upon and signed the final draft, right before it was sent to the printer. The document was later engrossed on parchment (duplicated by a printer), and that parchment was signed on the 2nd of August.
Furthermore, the change from "inalienable" to "unalienable" was not made in, made by, or ratifed by Congress, and was therefore not made under due process.
Furthermore, as according to the document, which is the official declaration, independance was declared on July 4th. (Hence July 4th being "Independance day"). Insofar as independance was declared by a document on July 4th, it was declared by a document that existed on July 4th. That document said "inalienable".
July 4th is the official date of the final draft of the document. If the duplicate was supposed to be the official document, it would have been dated August 2nd. "In Congress, July 4th, 1776".
-Kevin Baas
    • Independence was declared by Congress on July 2. The Declaration of Independence is the document that explains that declaration. You're pretty much alone insofar as thinking of anything but the engrossed, signed version is the Declaration of Independence. And they didn't keep the declaration's text secret from Britain: they published it and had it proclaimed publicly. -- Binky 05:09, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)
I am far from alone.
I do not contest the fact that they published it and proclaimed it publicly. It would have been fatal of them to do otherwise.
The official document that explains the declaration was ratified and signed by Congress on July 4th. That is why the date on the document says "July 4th". Any changes that were made after that session of Congress had ended, are invalid. -- Kevin Baas 05:36, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)
Ratified, yes. Signed? I'm willing to be taught. Who signed it, and how do we know that? -- Binky 06:05, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)

From Thomas Jefferson, Writings: Autobiography, Notes on the State of Virginia, Public and Private Papers, Addresses, Letters, edited by Merrill D. Peterson, published by The Library of America

[6] States that said document was signed. It cites: From Thomas Jefferson, Writings: Autobiography, Notes on the State of Virginia, Public and Private Papers, Addresses, Letters, edited by Merrill D. Peterson, published by The Library of America

also see: [7]. -- Kevin Baas 07:30, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Well, maybe. The usual version is that John Hancock was charged with authenticating the revised document, signing it, and sending copies to the colonial legislatures for approval as well as the army, and was the only delegate to affix his signature to it before it was published. Only Hancock and Charles Thomson's names appeared on the printed broadside, and Thomson was not actually a signatory. So the best that can be said is that Jefferson's recollection about the "signing" is not undisputed. There would hardly be a need for it to be signed after August 2 if it had already been signed on July 4. -- Binky 07:49, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)

It would be signed on August 2nd for the satisfaction of those thereafter reading it. As a public document, it would not have much sway had it but one signature.
I doubt that they would make every delegate sign every copy. I think it very reasonable, however, that they decided to make Hancock sign the copies being sent: it assures the recievers that it is official.
Besides, I don't think the "usual version" (regardless of who's "usual" one is refering to), is any more authoritive than the historical record. History is full of "usual versions" that are in truth quite distorted.
I have cited references. What are your references?
-- Kevin Baas 08:04, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Julian P. Boyd, The Declaration of Independence (Washington: The Library of Congress, 1943), particularly "The Mystery of the Lost Original". Perhaps the word "original" should be avoided in the article, I don't think anything would be lost by substituting "engrossed copy" -- Binky 08:16, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)

I'm not going to spend thrity or so dollars on a book. Could you cite a paragraph, or something that I could read online, which demonstrates that the disputed document was not signed? -- Kevin Baas 17:18, 9 Jan 2004 (UTC)

I'd gladly do so but I don't own the thing either: I read at the library rather than buy the book. I'll try and get to it. There's a page at snopes but I wouldn't compare it to Jefferson's testimony: nonetheless, there must be conflicting information on the point or there wouldn't be conflicting versions, and I was hoping for to see a historian weigh all the available evidence. - Binky 00:07, 12 Jan 2004 (UTC)
American Scripture by Pauline Maier, which I do have at hand, has the following (p. 150-1) (after quoting the passage you cited from Jefferson which claims the document was signed on the evening of July 4th):

"Careful research has been devoted to determining when exactly the Declaration was approved—late morning, not evening, seems most likely—and whether the document was in fact signed on the 4th by anyone except Congress's President, John Hancock, whose name appeared as the sole signer on the published broadside. There remains a remote possibility that delegates signed a copy of the Declaration that has since been lost, but probably Jefferson was wrong there, too.102 The Journals of the Second Continental Congress say only that on July 19, after New York's approval became known, Congress resolved "that the Declaration passed on the 4th, be fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile [sic] of 'The unanimous declaration of the thireen United States of America,' and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress," and that on August 2 "the declaration of independence being engrossed and compared was signed,"103 although some members added their signatures at later times.

102The cases for and against a signing on July 4 are summarized in Boyd, Julian, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, I:304-08, which also refers to other discussions of the subject.
103Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford), V: 590-91, 626. The copy reprinted, with signatures, under the entry for July 4 on pp. 520-25 was taken from "the engrossed original in the Department of State," and so is of a later date. A printed broadside from Congress's "Rough Journal" is reproduced in Boyd, Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text, plate X.

She goes on to discuss why it was signed at all, noting that this was a departure from most legislation and most other documents drafted by legislatures . -- Binky 21:50, 12 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Thank you for the material. I do concur that there is little evidence that it said document was signed by all members (except dickinson, who did not sign any draft). I am suspicious of the first reference, largely because the book is entitled "American Scripture", and partly because there is clear bias in the passage you posted: "the remote possibility" - on what grounds is this possibility consider remote? And what information is this word "remote" based on? It seems to be purely persuasive. The passage would be improved by the omission of the word. One knows that it is a possibility, and can judge as well as anyone, including the author, exactly what the probability of this possibility is. She knows nothing beyond the resources of her research, which we have equal access to. I shall judge from those resources, such as the second reference, which does nothing to compel one to think either way on the matter.

I think the page should discuss the 3 official drafts: the one submitted to congress, the one ratified by congress, and the one printed which is now at the national archives. Along with this, the changes between the drafts should be discussed. -- Kevin Baas 06:42, 13 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Ar or He

Does the Declaration currently reside in a glass box filled with argon or helium to ensure preservation? I've found refrences to both.--Deglr6328 06:01, 10 Feb 2005 (UTC)


Are US schoolchildren really required to memorise the Declaration of Independence word for word? JIP | Talk 09:46, 28 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I certainly was not. The US Pledge of Allegiance is commonly memorized, though. It's much shorter. — flamingspinach | (talk) 07:03, 2005 May 20 (UTC)
I didn't have to memorise anything when I was in school. Perhaps it's because of cultural differences? JIP | Talk 07:05, 20 May 2005 (UTC)

a new section more apt?

Perhaps a new section on the philosophical origins of the declaration of independance would more aptly categorize the content under focus, and would be appropriate in nature? Kevin Baastalk 22:49, 2005 Apr 3 (UTC)

I'll go along with that idea. New section or new article related to this as the main one? MPLX/MH 23:34, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

When in the course of human events

A section concerning the preamble might be worthwhile. Many of the words and phrases within it set both the context and legal legitimacy underwhich the rebellion against the crown was to take place. For instance, the first few words "when in the course of human events" is not an insignficant, attention getting opening - it was put there purposely to frame the colonial rebellion in terms of it being a matter between the colonists and the British Government on matters of policy, not matters of religion or any sort of divine right of the King to maintain the colonists as his subjects unwillingly. In short, a section that breaks down some of those phrases in the preamble and says in a sentence or two why they are important. Anyone willing to do it? StrifeZ 15:00, 5 July 2005 (UTC)

conjectures about Thomas Paine

I am a great fan of Thomas Paine; he is an immensely important figure who has been extremely under appreciated, at least since his writing of The Age of Reason which argued boldly against many of the presumptions and traditions that many people have held sacred, but this passage added by MPLX, seems to stray into very unsubstantiated POV territory. What record and where?... this all smacks of flights of wild conjecture, and a rather flakey conspiracy theory, that some people might like to believe, rather than an assessment based solidly upon historic documentation.
This was added with the comment "I will gladly document more of all of this but it seems to be getting rather long for this particular article." The same editor who added this had at least one page that he created deleted as "bizarre", and this is what these statements seem to me. I know of no credible material supporting these allegations against Thomas Jefferson, and thus am removing them, until such a time as such credible documentation can be provided. ~ Achilles 10:03, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

  • Note, MPLX is guilty of wild flights of conjecture on many, many other pages as well. I have tried to remove them from this page.--JW1805 04:46, 1 August 2005 (UTC)

I think that is a wise decision. I am sorry if I am posting this in the wrong place but I a new here and I cannot seem to fiqure out how/where I should be communicating with fellow editors.

April Fool

I was the one who added a couple of links to the English translation of The mystery of the Declaration of Independence which shows a copy of the declaration in the Ukraine Central State Archive of Foreign History. You say its an April Fool's joke.

How so, apart from the April 1, 2005 date?

--El Caudillo 14:54, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

The date, the fact that this web site seems to be the only source for this information, and the fact that this "copy" of the Declaration on the website is clearly a photoshopped version of the actual copy (compare the two, they are identical, except for the addition of the mysterious extra letter in America). It's clearly a hoax.--JW1805 18:00, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

Laugh at me if you want, but I found this: Definately compelling, can anyone speak to its validity, and if there is some truth to it, is there any place on this page for it? --The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) 00:28, September 9, 2005.

This is what we were talking about above. It's a hoax (specifically, an April Fool's Day joke). Don't believe everything you see on the Internet. --JW1805 00:45, 9 September 2005 (UTC)

I accept that its very likely an april fools joke, but why the odd capital A? --The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk • contribs) 00:53, November 8, 2005.

It's just calligraphy, no big deal. --JW1805 01:51, 8 November 2005 (UTC)

Unalienable, Inalienable, Universal, Human, Natural, Unnatural Rights

Round 1

I don't know as much about Paine, so it's not my area to dispute. I know much about Jefferson, and know he owned slaves, and know that, ironically in relation to that, the draft submitted to congress, which he had in any case accepted, included much about slavery that was thereafter excised by congress.

As regards Jefferson and inalienable/unalienable, both etymologically and philosophically:

  • etymologically, he was an entomoligists who wrote important works about, among other things, the importance of -n?/s?-, in the history of the english tongue. Having an interest in entymology, it's concievable that he'd use the more etymologically correct spelling, "inalienable".
  • philosphically, he was very secular - one of his passions was secular government and education - he created one of the first secular universities, from brick to curriculum to book to proffesor.

literature-wise, he's accredited with writting the declaration of independance, and many of his writtings are publicly available and anyone can judge for themselves his skills - as far as the records go, he was choosen as a drafter of the constitution in respect of his skills.

As regards Adams, from what i've read in a biography of him, he was quite anti-slavery, and his wife even more so, he said something in a correspondance to her to the effect that - 'i agree with you, but the contemporary political climate is not conducive to aggresive action.'

Also, he was quite religious, as was his wife, and abnormally obstinate about many of his views, and would likely push "unalienable" rather forcefully.

As regards Paine, I know little, but the concepts he espoused are rather sophisticated and empirical in philosophy (though his prose is often long-winded by today's standards at least), which leads me to judge him as secular. Kevin Baastalk 21:56, 2005 Apr 3 (UTC)

Having spent many years studying Lilburne, Paine, Locke, Jefferson, Adams and others; buying books and building libraries and personally visiting most of the historical locations referenced, I also know a few things about the subject in question. However, as editors we are basically on the same side (so to speak) and unlikely to clash over substance. I will do my best to document everything that I add. MPLX/MH 22:08, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I think the latest edits on this topic help but has anyone actually gotten to the bottom of this? I'd like to hear information published in actual books or articles on the topic. Also the claim that "Jefferson's original draft included a denunciation of the slave trade" is not completely correct -- the original draft included a complaint that the King had stimulated rebellion amongst the slaves. Jefferson describes the trade as a bad thing but it seems his main charge against it (at least here) is that the King incited the slaves to rebel against their masters: "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."--csloat 20:20, 1 August 2005 (UTC)

Maybe a clarification would be in order about the slave trade issue. As far as "inalienable/unalienable", the original author of that seemed to be presenting some sort of original research in an attempt to prove that there was some fundamental philosophical difference between the two words (when really it was just a spelling/grammer edit). It also contained at least one incorrect statement (in fact, the Pennsylvania constitution does use "inalienable" [8]. Also, we probably need to check to make sure it really was John Adams who made the edit, if that can't be verified, that statement should be removed as well. --JW1805 20:29, 1 August 2005 (UTC)

Round 2

The definitions of the various different types of rights are the subject of much ongoing debate. Unalienable rights as used in the Declaration of Independence, however, will never change. Instead of shuffling it off to Inalienable Rights and to Human Rights, which have nothing to do with meaning as used in this document, I propose that we create a section of the DOI article entitled "Unalienable Rights as used in the Declaration of Independence" where we don't have to merge the meaning with anything else. It can remain the pure concept that was meant in this document. --Zephram Stark 00:00, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

  • Just expand the "Analysis" section. --JW1805 01:44, 23 September 2005 (UTC)
Oh lord, don't encourage him. The term as used in the document will never change; however, the uniform usage has changed to "inalienable" (I cited, at Talk:Inalienable rights, a number of U.S. and other Web sites, academic and non-academic, that gloss "unalienable" as "inalienable" when talking about the Declaration of Independence). Zephram Stark has a bee in his bonnet about this, refusing to accept universal consensus here and in the literature, and insisting that there's some deep difference between "unalienable" and "inalienable". --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 13:40, 23 September 2005 (UTC)
There is a polar difference in usage. You know that. When I asked you for examples of "inalienable" used in articles, you provided multiple examples of how it was used in a moralistic context[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]. The Declaration's "unalienable" is not used in a moralistic context. It is part of the "self-evident" nature of mankind. Let the Declaration speak for itself. Do not try to confuse it with the modern usage of another word. Your bias against the United States of America is showing. --Zephram Stark 14:05, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

Your paranoia is showing. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 20:49, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

Flame War! Christians have latched on to the term un-alienable as distinct from in-alienable because un-alienable implies something given and therefore possibly God-given, whereas in-alienable is secular; is a matter of practical neccessity and social logic - and is therefore not contingent on a "being" gving or attributing a certain character or quality, or any subjective morality fro that matter. That is the philosophical difference, and Thomas Jefferson who drafted the Declaration of independence believed in "inalienable", and went so far as to qualify that with "intrinsic and innate" - to make it even more irremovable/irrevocable, because he did not want it to depend on a person's religious beliefs - or shall I say, rather, because he believed that whether or not he wanted it to, whether or not anyone wanted it to - it did not and does not depend on a person's religious belief. That is what he believed in his heart and that is what he expressed. With that, there can be no argument, for that is a matter of record. Kevin Baastalk: new 03:17, 24 September 2005 (UTC)
"un-alienable implies something given [...] whereas in-alienable is secular". Where is this distinction to be found? Locke, for example, used the term "inalienable" in a clearly and essentially Christian context (his argument for property rights depends wholly on the role of god). I've never seen the term "unalienable" used in modern contexts (U.K. or U.S.) except when referring to historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence (and I've looked hard recently, because of this debate). Is there in fact any record of Jefferson preferring "unalienable" to "inalienable" for those (or any) reasons, or is it just that he did choose it, and people assume that that's why? --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 14:43, 24 September 2005 (UTC)
Obviously there is a lot of debate over what the United States founding fathers really meant by their words. Is any of this debate necessary if we allow the words to speak for themselves? --Zephram Stark 15:07, 24 September 2005 (UTC)

Words don't speak for themselves, people do — and even when there isn't a gap of centuries between writer and reader, during which the language has changed considerably, it's possible for miscommunication to occur, and for legitimate questions to be asked about what was actually meant. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 22:10, 24 September 2005 (UTC)

Generally, when that is done, both sides of the argument are expressed. Since you will not allow anything but your original research, blatantly untrue, slams of the Declaration of Independence in "Inalienable Rights," the best course of action is to let the words speak for themselves. Without your POV revision of the word, "Unalienable" obviously means "cannot be alienated." None of your misinformation or any interpretation whatsoever is needed. --Zephram Stark 17:10, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
What exactly is your problem with the definition given at Inalienable rights? It says "The term inalienable rights (or unalienable rights) refers to a set of human rights that are absolute, not awarded by human power, not transferable to another power, and incapable of repudiation.". What part of that don't you agree with? How on earth does that slam the DoI, or differ with that the authors intended it to mean?--JW1805 17:36, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
"Unalienable Rights" as used in the Declaration of Independence has absolutely nothing to do with the other examples in that article or with the criticism of those other examples. It makes it appear that the arguments of the Declaration of Independence are based on moral pleas. In reality, there are no pleas in the Declaration and there is no appeal to morals. The Principles of the Declaration of Independence are simply a declaration (hence, the name) of things that cannot be taken from humanity.
What examples are given in the article? There is an Origins section that mentions the DoI. There is nothing in there about "moral pleas". Is it the Critism section that you don't agree with? Do you accept that these are critisms that people make? Do you think that counterarguments are not given and that it is too POV? Honestly, I'm having difficulty understanding your comments.--JW1805 17:59, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

Round 3

In the United States Declaration of Independence, "Jefferson did not just assert one thing after another; rather, each term logically implies the others." "Take 'unalienable,' for example. A piece of property can be given away because you would still be human even without it. Property is alienable. 'Unalienable rights' are those which are inherent in human nature so that it is logically impossible for a human to be without them. If we have these rights by being humans, then we are obviously all equal in regard to them. Conversely, anything we have just by being human is unalienable. 'Their creator' is whatever endowed us with this nature." "If 'happiness' were defined as this or that, here, there would be no liberty to pursue something else. It follows logically that 'happiness' must necessarily be whatever a human pursues, and 'pursue' must mean whatever humans do in regard to happiness, and 'liberty' is just this unalienable right to pursue. And these linkages come because each of these concepts already involves the others. Since the linkages do not depend on something else, they are 'self-evident' and that is ultimately what truths are and mean, and we are human and are the ones saying this." ~ The Focusing Institute (Introduction to Philosophy)

this is a PoV, which should be acknowledged (and included) as such; not a consensus interpretation. Septentrionalis 18:41, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
I agree that anything we cannot agree upon, at least as a compromise, should not be included. Such is a required component of consensus, but another part of consensus is that we really try to understand the logical arguments of the other person and how these arguments bring us closer to the goal of creating a concise and meaningful article about the Declaration of Independence. Any other goal has no validity in the context of an encyclopedia. --Zephram Stark 20:12, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

I also find it peculiar that Zephraim regards every word and letter in the DoI vastly meaningful - except among. I invite him to explain. Septentrionalis 18:46, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

I think you are misrepresenting what I said. I said that every word means what it says it means, that you don't have to interpret the Declaration. Anyone reading any one of the sections in its entirety would know what it is talking about. Like everything else, "among" means what it sounds like: a set that is part or all of a bigger set. Example: Don't fight among yourselves.
Some of the signers thought that property should also be a recognized right, as per Locke, but that would change the argument from one of "self-evidence" to one based on morals, and open it up to criticism. I personally agree with you that the right to property is a good thing, but goodness is subjective. The Declaration of Independence took specific steps to make sure that there was nothing subjective about it. Because they explicitly avoided moralistic arguments, I think it's a really shitty thing to lump it in with all the modern "inalienable" arguments and then criticize it as such. --Zephram Stark 20:12, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
For goodness sake, in what way is the Wikipedia definition of inalienable rights moralistic? You never responded to my questions above. Where in the inalienable rights article does it mention "moral pleas"? It doesn't. You seem to mainly just disagree with the Criticism section. Again I ask, do you think that this section is too POV (should stronger counter arguments be given for a more balanced viewpoint)? Do you think that no criticism should be given at all (surely, this long rambling discussion should indicate that not everyone agrees with the self-evidence of various philosophical concepts.)--JW1805 21:11, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
"Among" does not require that there be other rights. It only allows for the possibility. You have changed the meaning to state that there are definitely other rights. If the founding fathers could have agreed on any other rights, they certainly would have included them. --Zephram Stark 20:21, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
Neither does some require that there be more; some can be all. Without some, however, the interpretation definitely implies that there are no more; and among does not. Septentrionalis 03:42, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
If I understand you correctly, you are claiming that "among" requires that a larger set exists. That simply is not true. I already gave you one example. Here is another: "Talk among yourselves." The group being referenced is not part of a larger group in that case. Can we please use this article only to describe the U.S. Declaration of Independence and not as a platform to promote other "rights" and philosophies?
Sorry, I got lost in the double negatives. It looks like you are saying that "some" could refer to all of a group. Can you give me an example of that usage? --Zephram Stark 16:52, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
Before you go through all the trouble of trying to find some obscure example of how a word can be used to mean something it normally doesn't convey, answer me this: why are you trying to promote the idea of other rights in the first place? The sole purpose of the article is to convey information about the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Any other agenda is not appropriate for this venue. --Zephram Stark 17:00, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
You are mistaken on English usage; both among and some suggest, but do not require, that there are more. This is standard in careful logic, now and at least since Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's Symbolic Logic (1890); I believe it is Aristotle's position, but I have not checked. In colloquial usage, consider "We have some apples on the table"; this does not become false if we have no others. You are also mistaken on my intentions; my sole purpose here is to explain among, which the present text neglects to do. Septentrionalis 17:14, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
I make no claims about "other rights"; that is entirely a figment of your imagination. Except in this: Mr. Jefferson did not intend to deny the possibility of such rights, or he would have left "among" out. Perhaps he expected some delegate to object. Septentrionalis 17:18, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
If "among" is so self-evident, why do you have to interpret it? Especially, why do you have to interpret it to something with a hidden meaning? You know as well as I that most people will take "some of the" to mean that there are necessarily more. We are supposed to be clarifying the term, not confusing it. --Zephram Stark 17:24, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
I repeat, there is no hidden meaning. I regard the repeated assertion that there is one as a failure to assume good faith; and expect a prompt and explicit retraction. I deny that "most people" will take some of the to assert what it does not; most Wikipedia users can handle one-syllable words. Septentrionalis 17:50, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
Wikipedia users know exactly what "some of the rights" means. It refers to a smaller subset of a larger group of rights. Your unrelenting insistence in pretending that the United States Declaration of Independence supports your cause of other rights is blatant evidence of an ulterior motive. There is no way to assume good faith after watching you delete whole articles without even acknowledging dissent. --Zephram Stark 02:51, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
I understand your point that "among" means that there could be more. I really don't think that anyone could read the text and miss that point. Annotating it, especially when the annotation is confusing, doesn't help convey the overall feeling of the text. For instance, we could annotate what we think "their Creator" means, but what would be the point? The brief annotation next to the words of the text is only to help the reader tie all of it together. Expansion of the terms should be done where it doesn't detract from the overall meaning. --Zephram Stark 17:33, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
I deleted the phrase "some of the," which, I believe, requires that there be more. Using your example, "We have some of the apples on the table," refers to a subset of a larger set. --Zephram Stark 17:46, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
"Some of the clothes in that basket are mine; my pants are on top" does not require that some of them are my roommates'; merely that I can't see them all. It acknowledges uncertainty, but so does among. I will of course accept another phrasing, but I object to implying that the list of rights is complete; which Mr. Jefferson chose not to say. Suggestions are welcome. Septentrionalis 18:16, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
What are you talking about? Saying "Some of the clothes in the basket are mine," requires that some of them are not yours, regardless of what else you put at the end of the sentence. The phrase "some of the" requires that there are more. The annotation doesn't say anything about "among" one way or the other; it merely helps the reader to combine it all together. If you want to expand on a term, make it a link to another article or section. Don't put controversial and misleading statements alongside the text. --Zephram Stark 02:36, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Request for Comment

Although I don't like to do this, I am submitting a Request for Comment. The blatant attempts to link the Declaration of Independence to other rights is not the function or purpose of this article. If you are joining us from the Request for Comment, thank you for coming. Please look over the edit history and help us avoid an edit war. --Zephram Stark 17:31, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

Can someone help me out here? I'm trying to reason with three people who have obvious outside agendas besides describing the term. I've requested comment. Aren't there any Americans left who care that the foundation of their country is being used as a platform to promote Iranian nuclear fuel cycles and other agendas that have nothing to do with the clear meaning of the text? --Zephram Stark 16:40, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
Of course, no one is trying to use the Declaration of Independence to "promote Iranian nuclear fuel cycles". Where on earth did that come from? You seem to be making claims about what others are trying to do that don't really correspond with reality. For example, your claim that the Inalienable rights article is all about "moral pleas". --JW1805 18:05, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
I think I documented my claims fully with links. Criticism of the Declaration is based on first establishing that the Declaration is not a declaration at all, but "a claim about ethics by appealing to a definition of the term 'good'." This travesty is accomplished by changing one of the words and then linking "unalienable" to the modern usage of "inalienable," including moralistic pleas for nuclear fuel cycles and beachfront Mediterranean property. If you don't see it, you don't want to see it. --Zephram Stark 02:26, 28 September 2005 (UTC)


Zephram Stark inserted material in this article claiming that various dictionaries listed "inalienable" and "unalienable" as having different definitions, which isn't true. He cited "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language -Fourth Edition", The "Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law", and "Princeton University Wordnet 2.0". Here are the definitions from these dictionaries, and others:

  • American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language [16]: Unalienable: Not to be separated, given away, or taken away; inalienable".
  • Princeton University Wordnet 2.0 [17]: inalienable, unalienable (incapable of being repudiated or transferred to another)
  • I don't have the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law. But the online Merriam-Webster [18] has un·alien·able : INALIENABLE
  • Oxford English Dictionary [19]: Unalienable = INALIENABLE
  • Randle Cotgrave's dictionary (1611) [20] - the first appearence of unalienable in print: Inalienable, vnalienable; which cannot be sold, or passed away.

--JW1805 04:03, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Actually, it is true, as would be evident it you listed the full definitions of both words instead of just one of the words. My point is that you are only presenting evidence that supports your claim. It's very POV. You don't mention anything about the preponderance of data against your claim, or that a controversy even exists. You simply state that the two words are interchangeable and reference a dictionary (out of context) as support of your claim. Would it be too much to ask that both sides of the dispute be represented if you are going to represent one of the sides? You can get all the information you want about the dispute by simply doing a Google search for Unalienable vs. Inalienable (17,700 results). Would it be too much to ask that you give us a link to the information that is cited, and not just the name of the Dictionary? The Oxford English Dictionary is notorious for being falsely cited here at Wikipedia. User:Smyth recently misquoted it twice in the same discussion. --Zephram Stark 15:12, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
  • These are the definitions, how can you deny it? I don't know what you mean by "falsely cited" OED definitions. I just copied and pasted it in. It says that "unalienable" = "inalienable" (i.e., the two words are synonyms). Same for the others. I don't know how it can be POV, when it is in every single dictionary I can find. Also, to suggest that there are 17,700 pages on the internet with content suggesting that the words have radically different meanings is ridiculous. Of course there are a lot of pages containing these two words (since they are synonyms, after all). Putting quotes around the phrase only gives 29 hits. Anyway, I agree with your recent edit to just state the change. Statements about the meaning of the words should go at Inalienable rights. Again, I must point out for other readers that this conflict was the subject of a previous VfD, which you lost.--JW1805 17:45, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Please stop changing the meaning of what I say. I did not say anything close to "there are 17,700 pages on the internet with content suggesting that the words have radically different meanings." I said that a conflict exists, and used the Google search as evidence of that conflict. I mean exactly what I say, so there is no need to re-interpret. Additionally, you quoted "falsely cited" blatantly out of context and called my questions a denial. To add insult to injury, you ignored my request for a link to the information you cited, and failed to provide a comparison of the definitions of the two words. When I say that the two words have different definitions in some dictionaries, how can you think that copying part of the definitions from one of the words would prove otherwise? You obviously can't compare definitions unless you have both definitions and the full entry.
I don't have this much trouble communicating with people unless they have a private agenda. There is no reason to change the meaning of what I'm saying before you respond. In fact, there's no reason to change the meaning of the Declaration of Independence before critiquing it either. --Zephram Stark 18:17,

28 September 2005 (UTC)

What on earth are you talking about? I did provide links to all the definitions. That's what the blue numbers with the arrow graphics are. Click them and they will take you to the online dictionaries. They all say that the two words mean the same thing (that's what the "=" symbol means in the OED). The number of webpages that contain the words unalienable inalienable in no way provides "evidence" of any conflict. --JW1805 19:01, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
The OED definition of "unalienable" is, in its entirety:
Unalienable, a. [UN-1 7b and 5b.]
1611 COTGR., Inalienable, vnalienable; which cannot be sold, or passed away. 1641 EARL OF MONMOUTH tr. Biondi's Civil Warres v. 125 Those countries..which for safety and reputation ought to be unallienable from the Crowne of England. 1688 Answ. Talon's Plea 27 This Monsieur Talon maintains to be an unalienable right of the Crown of France. 1743 J. MORRIS Serm. vii. 197 all men their being, and has an unalienable claim to their obedience. 1771 GOLDSM. Hist. Eng. II. 307 Giving these petty tyrants a power of selling their estates, which before his time were unalienable. 1841 STEPHEN Comm. Laws Eng. (1874) II. 13 Personal chattels cannot in any instance be rendered unalienable beyond the period prescribed. 1855 MACAULAY Hist. Eng. xvii. IV. 115 That all men were endowed by the Creator with an unalienable right to liberty.
The URL (for what it's worth; the OED is subscription) is this. Now can we return to assuming good faith? Septentrionalis 18:45, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
As soon as you tell me why we must cite dictionary sources that require subscriptions when there are dozens of others that don't. --Zephram Stark 18:51, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
  • We don't have to; the OED was the one you suggested was being used fraudulently. Others have been quoted above, to the same effect.
  • But we should: the OED is the most complete dictionary of English in existence, at 20 volumes of small print, and the on-line version would be larger. A distinction it fails to note is unlikely to exist. Septentrionalis 19:21, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

Here are some more:

  • MSN Encarta [21]: unalienable : Same as inalienable
  • Webster Dictionary, 1913 [22]: Un*al"ien*a*ble (?), a. Inalienable; as, unalienable rights. Swift. -- Un*al"ien*a*bly, adv.
  • Webster's 1828 Dictionary [23]: INA'LIENABLE, a. [L. alieno, alienus.] Unalienable; that cannot be legally or justly alienated or transferred to another.
  • Cambridge Dictionary [24]: unalienable: inalienable

Seriously, Zep, find me a single dictionary that has something different. I would be interested to see it. --JW1805 19:44, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

You didn't address what I said again. We still can't compare terms because you failed again to list both terms from the same dictionary. Obviously, we need to simplify this. Here it is in really simple terms.
Read the following sentence and tell me if you think it is talking about natural rights -- rights that cannot be taken away:
"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."
Now, read the following quote and tell me if you think it is talking about moralistic rights -- rights that can be taken away:
"Expressing its grave concern that the Palestinian people has been prevented from enjoying its inalienable rights" [25]
If you need more examples of how modern usage of "inalienable" has absolutely nothing to do with Natural Rights, here are some more that User:Mel_Etitis provided in the Inalienable rights discussion: [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31]
Now go ahead and tell me the two words mean the same thing. I dare you. --Zephram Stark 20:49, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
  • What part of unalienable : Same as inalienable don't you understand? I've always tried to assume good faith, but maybe we have a language problem here. In the English language, it is possible for two words to be spelled differently, but have the same meaning. These words are called synonyms. For example: sick and ill. If you look up sick in Encarta, you will see ill: affected by an illness. Notice how the word ill appears in this definition, followed by a colon. This is to indicate that ill has the same definition as sick. It is the same for unalienable and inalienable. Do you understand now? --JW1805 21:02, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Say it! I dare you. Take responsibility for your own actions. Read those two sentences above and tell me that they are both referring to rights that cannot be taken away. It's pretty obvious why you can't do it, why you can't be accountable for your own observations, because the two terms manifestly are not the same thing! Every example above talks about rights that people want except one, the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration talks about rights that people have and can never be relinquished. I want to hear you say that you think those examples are talking about the same thing—-not some dictionary or other resource—-because that will answer the question, once and for all, if you have a hidden agenda. --Zephram Stark 21:22, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
So, I take it your argument that the Palestine quote proves that inalienable is different from unalienable because the Palestinians are being "prevented from enjoying" their "inalienable rights", whereas one could never be prevented from enjoying "unalienable rights"? Is that your claim? If so, that is absurd, because there are plenty of people who are being prevented from enjoying Liberty or Happiness (which according to the DoI, are "unalienable"). --JW1805 21:39, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Please don't change the words of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration doesn't mean that Liberty and Happiness are unalienable. It means exactly what it says, no more, and no less. What Thomas Jefferson wanted it to say doesn't change its meaning. What "inalienable" has been perverted to include doesn't change its meaning. It means exactly what is says. If you read the above quote from the Declaration and compare it to Mel's examples of "inalienable," there is no way that you could honestly say they are talking about the same thing. And that, I presume, is why you haven't. The Declaration's "unalienable" is talking about natural rights. Mel's modern examples of "inalienable" are not. --Zephram Stark 21:54, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Oh my goodness!! Your statements get more perplexing as time goes by! It's really quite amusing. Now you're saying that the Declaration of Independence doesn't say that Liberty and Happiness are unalienable!! Really? What about this excerpt:
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.
Seems pretty clear to me. Have you ever actually read the Declaration of Independence? --JW1805 23:27, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
I must for once agree with ZS: Life is alienable; any murderer can do so. But he cannot do so rightfully. Septentrionalis 23:35, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
The Declaration of Independence says that among the "unalienable rights" endowed by the Creator are the rights of "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". You can agree or disagree with it, but that's what the document says. --JW1805 23:47, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Are you guys kidding me? Read the sentence really slow. Forget any personal biases or outside interpretations. What do the words actually say? What does the entire sentence mean when read as one idea? It's all in there. You just have to read it without prejudice.

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.

The sentence is phrased as a statement of fact. There is a great equalizer built into mankind that makes it impossible for a tyrant to rule us against our consent. That equalizer is that absolutely nothing takes precedence over our need to be functional, positive contributors to society. If we understand and apply these principles, we can do amazing things. For one, we can end terrorism. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are natural rights. We wouldn't be thinking, social beings without these properties. Government cannot take away these rights because people need to make decisions and socialize in order for society to function. When some members of a group become inherently "more equal," it is against human nature for others to adopt an attitude of subservience. Instead, we see increasing acts of terrorism. Natural Law, a law that is unalienable to humanity, requires people to be equal, one way or the other. It is our choice as to whether we want that equality to be through terrorism or through government by consent of the governed. --Zephram Stark 01:41, 29 September 2005 (UTC)


Zephram Stark has repeatedly removed the last five words of the following sentence, the last time as a conclusion. Since they are a statement of fact, evidenced by the included link, this is thoroughly uncalled for.

Jefferson created a collation of his version and the final text of the Declaration of Independence in his autobiography, which quotes both as "inalienable".

Septentrionalis 20:24, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

  • I agree with you 100%. It's a statement of fact.--JW1805 20:27, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
The term "both" refers to two versions. In reality, there is only one version. Therefore, the statement is incorrect and misleading. Moreover, the statement is used for the sole purpose of making it seem that Jefferson was taking sides in the current "inalienable vs. unalienable" debate. Seeing as how Jefferson wouldn't know that the current definition of "inalienable" (in usage) is no longer dependent on natural rights, he couldn't have possibly taken sides before the fact. Yet, even if you claim that he knew how "inalienable" would be perverted in the future, and you assert that Jefferson would still want to be linked to this perversion, how is that relevant to a section on the "Differences between draft and final versions?"
Like I've said several times, I would love to see a section on the controversy between the modern usage of "Inalienable" and the use of "Unalienable" in the Declaration of Independence. If you wanted to present your one-sided arguments there, that would at least be NPOV because it would also give other editors a chance to present evidence to the contrary. --Zephram Stark 21:05, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Sorry, Zep, but the statement is correct: the term "both" in this sentence refers to the draft and the final version (the result of changes made by other Congress members during debate). Jefferson's biography cites both versions as using inalienable. It's a fact, read it. You have yet to provide any scholarly sources about this so-called "debate", except for your own original research/philosophical ramblings. --JW1805 21:17, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
Don't you mean "read them?" You claim that there are two versions. Why would you say "read it" if there are two? I only see one combined version. I think you said "read it" because you only see one combined version as well. If Jefferson were quoting two versions, I'm sure he would have quoted them exactly how they are worded. To say that Jefferson would misquote the Declaration of Independence as some sort of statement is a conclusion that can be argued, but it is a conclusion. It's possible that Jefferson misquoted the Declaration for an entirely different reason than the one PM obviously wants us to draw. --Zephram Stark 21:46, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
I presume JW1805 meant "read the site linked to". In any case, please do so. Septentrionalis 23:10, 28

September 2005 (UTC)

Of course, by "it" , I meant "Jefferson's biography". Read It. It contains a comparison of the draft and final versions of the Declaration, showing what the differences between the two version were. He has "inalienable" for both versions. This is a fact that is not in dispute. Honestly, Zephram, don't you think this is getting a bit old by now?--JW1805 23:20, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
I listed three disputes above, but I guess they don't count because they don't support your objective? --Zephram Stark 00:57, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

If anyone read the above discussion, I think they would find the ulterior objective pretty obvious. Some people want want to associate the strength and self-evidence of the U.S. Declaration of Independence with other less evident "rights." This ulterior objective doesn't need to be at odds with the quality of this article. I propose that we concentrate on making this article as strong as the signers of the Declaration intended any annotation of it to be. In other articles, you can reference this one to make comparisons in support for your claimed land rights, sexual expression rights, and rights to a nuclear fuel cycle. But lumping them all together only serves to weaken the pure and self-evident concepts of the Declaration of Independence. If we put life and liberty in the same category as a pleaded right for nuclear fuel cycles, people can criticize it, and that criticism isn't fair because the Declaration doesn't rely on morality or anybody's interpretation of what is good. It is a statement about the self-evident nature of mankind. --Zephram Stark 14:08, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

Request for Comment

Obviously we're getting nowhere on this issue by ourselves. I'll ask others to help us reach a conclusion. --Zephram Stark 22:43, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

I fail to see what misleading conclusion the five words are leading towards. Now that I look at again, however, I intend to insert a word, making it which quotes both as using "inalienable". I also give fair warning that I will next be modifying the RfC to the exact present text, if it is not.Septentrionalis 23:10, 28 September 2005 (UTC)
I asked for comments from people who weren't already involved in the dispute so I could get an unbiased opinion, but I guess that isn't going to stop you from trying to bias it anyway, is it? --Zephram Stark 00:59, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
No, it will not stop me from making sure that what I wrote is quoted exactly when questioned. Why should it? Septentrionalis 02:03, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

The RfC isn't one editor's personal request (partly the reason that it isn't signed), and isn't limited to people who aren't already involved — Septentrionalis is perfectly entitled to join in. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:41, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

I just want to let people know that Pmanderson is involved with the dispute, so they can discount that user's opinions 100% in forming their own if they want. I would like an unbiased observer to read the information in the link and see if Pmanderson's conclusion about what is in the link is misleading in regard to the actual information that is there. --Zephram Stark 13:43, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

I don't even understand it. Both of what? --D'Arby 18:05, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

Both the "draft" and the "final version", which had various differences. --JW1805 18:12, 29 September 2005 (UTC)
He's probably confused because he thinks there's going to be two versions in the link. Welcome to the world of misinterpretation, D'Arby, where "both" refers to only one combined version, "some of the" refers to the whole thing, and "unalienable" refers to rights based on morals. --Zephram Stark 22:17, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

Section Name: Principles of the Declaration of Independence

We all know that the United States split from England. That part of the article is largely unused. The most relevant and almost exclusively cited information from the Declaration is the Principles of the Declaration of Independence section. When a Wikipedia article talks about the "self-evident" nature of man, "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," or equality as a component of humanity, it links directly to the Principles of the Declaration of Independence, bypassing the introduction to the article. People who click on such a link need to know where they were redirected. If they see "Principles" at the top of the page, it doesn't mean anything to them. They will know what they are reading instantly only if it says "Principles of the Declaration of Independence." Not only is this important for Wikipedia users, but I have seen over a dozen sites link, in the same way, directly to the "Principles of the Declaration of Independence." --Zephram Stark 17:20, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

  • Look, we can't have a series of sections that read:
    • 2.1 Preamble
    • 2.2 Principles of the United States Declaration of Independence
    • 2.3 Grievances
    • 2.4 Conclusion
It just looks ridiculous. The "of the United States Declaration of Independence" is completly unnecessary and redundant. If someone comes to this page, they should start at the beginning of the article. I've never been a fan of linking to specific sections of articles anyway. It's pointless to start reading about the principles of a document if you don't know anything else about it. --JW1805 17:41, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
What else is there to know? These are the Principles of the United States Declaration of Independence. That is all that 99.9% of the people looking at this information care about. The most relevant information is supposed to come first, but in this case I think it is better to keep it in context with the understanding that almost everybody will be linking directly to this section. --Zephram Stark 17:46, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
Do most links really go to this section? I don't agree with that at all. --JW1805 17:47, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
I have seen over twenty links that go directly to that section from around Wikipedia and the Internet without really looking. Nobody wants to read through all the information that they already know at the beginning of the article. They want to verify exactly what consists of the founding principles of the United States. --Zephram Stark 17:56, 25 September 2005 (UTC)


I have a problem with some of the annotations in the "Annotated text of the Declaration" section. For example, for "that all men are created equal", the annotation is "~assertion that everyone has equal charge to control the destiny of their society and the fate of their own lives". Huh? Is that what that means? It seems like a bit of a stretch. --JW1805 17:46, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

You are taking that bit out of context. Read it as part of the entire sentence and it makes sense. --Zephram Stark 17:59, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
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.
I don't see how that answers JW1805's point. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 21:55, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
You'll have to go to history for that. There was more to the answer before JW1805 "tidied up a bit." --Zephram Stark 23:35, 25 September 2005 (UTC)
Here is one of the best explanations I have seen on that sentence, taken in context: "Jefferson did not just assert one thing after another; rather, each term logically implies the others." "Take 'unalienable,' for example. A piece of property can be given away because you would still be human even without it. Property is alienable. 'Unalienable rights' are those which are inherent in human nature so that it is logically impossible for a human to be without them. If we have these rights by being humans, then we are obviously all equal in regard to them. Conversely, anything we have just by being human is unalienable. 'Their creator' is whatever endowed us with this nature." "If 'happiness' were defined as this or that, here, there would be no liberty to pursue something else. It follows logically that 'happiness' must necessarily be whatever a human pursues, and 'pursue' must mean whatever humans do in regard to happiness, and 'liberty' is just this unalienable right to pursue. And these linkages come because each of these concepts already involves the others. Since the linkages do not depend on something else, they are 'self-evident' and that is ultimately what truths are and mean, and we are human and are the ones saying this." ~ The Focusing Institute (Introduction to Philosophy)
  • Sorry, I moved this quote up to the "Round 3" section. I didn't realize you had meant it as a justification for the annotations. In any event, it has nothing to do with my original comment. You do seem to have a bee in your bonnet about this unalienable business. That word actually comes after the line in question. The way the formatting is now, it seems like the annotations are to explain the preceeding line. I think these annotations should probably be combined in paragraph form (maybe moved to the analysis section), instead of being line-by-line. --JW1805 03:02, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
You seem to be a master at reinterpreting things so that they mean almost the opposite of the intent of their authors. You've re-arranged my words here and changed their meanings to the point that they don't read the way I intended. It's obvious that you are trying to change the meanings and even the words of the Declaration of Independence too, but you will not succeed. People know what the Declaration of Independence says. The words of that text stand on their own. Every attempt at using Wikipedia to fool people into thinking the Declaration means something it obviously doesn't will only weaken your reputation as an editor and Wikipedia as a whole. --Zephram Stark 03:36, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
This is getting close to a personal attack. I don't think I "re-arranged my words here and changed their meanings to the point that they don't read the way I intended." I admit, I did move that quote out of the Annotation section, because I thought you meant it as part of the "Unalienable/Inalienable/etc." discussion (since the quote does talk about "unalienable rights"). Let's try to stick to issues rather than attacking editors.--JW1805 04:38, 26 September 2005 (UTC)
The safest thing to do is to leave the words of other editors in discussion alone. I'd appreciate it if you would show me the same courtesy that I have shown you in doing that. --Zephram Stark 15:20, 28 September 2005 (UTC)

DOI in German? says "the very first printing of the Declaration of Independence was in German, not in English". Is that right?

  • Probably not. The Dunlap broadside (English language) were printed on July 4. This site says there was a German printing on July 6-8. --JW1805 16:11, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

Are the savage indians still there?

>He excited ... the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, >is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

Did the USA ever get to officially denounce this sentence from the Declaration? I can't see how this is different from Hitler declaring that jews poison wells.

We can't really change the Declaration of Independence now, but we have stopped referencing the Grievances section. The specific grievances against King George aren't applicable today and most people aren't even aware of that particular exaggeration. We give reverence once a year to the Principles of the Declaration of Independence which founded our country, made it great, and don't include any slams of the British or the Indians. The important thing is that we keep striving to make a more perfect union, rather than finding reasons to tear each other down. --Zephram Stark 14:19, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

Two Things

I think some of the grievances against king George are especially applicable today, but not so much the merciless Savages thing, hehe. Anyway I think I read in David McCollough's "John Adams" That his Rotundity's record said Debate opened on 7/2/76 and closed on 7/4/76, because he expected the celebration to be a three day holiday. Al, 10/21/05 1315ET USA

Page reorganization

I have reorganized the page a bit, including changing the line-by-line annotations (some of which were a bit of a stretch, see above) to a paragraph version. Zephram Stark has been engaging in his usual edits of removing the link to inalienable rights, and also removing information that I have added, so I'm just going to revert back to my version. I'm not going to read his multi-sentence edit summaries, changes should be discussed here on the talk page, not in the edit summaries. --JW1805 04:53, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

Number of Sections

This site at the National archives says: "The text of the Declaration can be divided into five sections--the introduction, the preamble, the indictment of George III, the denunciation of the British people, and the conclusion". So, I'm reverting the edit that says 4 sections. --JW1805 02:24, 31 October 2005 (UTC)


Based on the frequent reverting, and user:JW1805's threats on my talk page to continue to do so, I have protected this page. Requests for unprotection should be made to WP:RFPP, not to my talk page. Thryduulf 11:18, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

Comments from other editors

Can we get some comments from other users about the changes that Zephram Stark keeps reverting, and has resulted in this page being protected?

  • I think this quote is appropriate: "According to Jefferson, the purpose of the Preamble was "not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of . . . but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."
  • I think this sentence is an established fact that should be included: "Jefferson is also thought to have drawn on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which had been adopted in July 1776."
  • I think we should use the division into sections that is given at the National Archives site.
  • The Background and History should go before the annotated text
  • The Annotated text should be in paragraph form, rather than the old line-by-line version, which broke up the text, and contained borderline POV statements (or at least, not quite accurate statements).
  • Inalienable rights should be linked.
  • There's no reason not to have a picture of King George. He is the subject of most of the document.

I don't see the problem with any of the edits. There is no reason why these would be controversial to editors practicing good faith. --JW1805 17:58, 31 October 2005 (UTC)


One of the problems, I think, is that Zephram Stark sees the Declaration of Independence as primarily a groundbreaking philosophical treatise, rather than a declaration of indepence from Britain. His focus of the "Principles section", including creating many links on other Wikipedia articles to that section (instead of just linking to the main article), his comments that "we have stopped referencing the Grievances section" [a strange statement], "The Declaration was not an indictment or denunciation against anyone." [Which is false], "Annotated text of the Document is more important than history " [an astounding statement], not accepting that there are any critics of this section (see Talk: Inalienable rights). He removes information saying that it was based on the eariler Virginia Declaration. He even removes quotes by Jefferson himself saying that the principles were not new! The fact is that there really was no new philosophy in the Declaration of Independence. This is something that is accepted by all historians. In Wikipedia, we have to go with what is generally accepted, not POV or original research. --JW1805 18:13, 31 October 2005 (UTC)

I don't know where you came up with the idea that I think the Declaration is groundbreaking. My only concern is that you don't summarize the Declaration to mean something it doesn't. You have a very anti-American view of the Declaration of Independence, JW, and that's fine. But some of us live in America, celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence each year, and consider the Declaration to be the foundation of our country, upon which the Constitution and all other laws are built. The principles found in the Declaration are of paramount importance to us, especially now that they are being threatened by the USA PATRIOT Act and growing federalism in general.
This isn't just a document that describes the reasons we broke away from England. It has, more importantly, been a constant beakon in the fog, telling us when we are steering so far from course that we are going to wreck the vessel. As per the article, Jefferson said that the purpose of the Declaration was "to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take." When you read the Declaration of Independence without all your interpretations, it does just that. Its terms are so plain and firm as to command their assent. The terms "unalienable," "self-evident," "equal," "life," "liberty and the pursuit of happiness" don't need a decoder ring to figure out what their meaning. They mean exactly what they say. Instead of letting the words speak for themselves, you link the terms to articles that say things like, "The phrase 'We hold these truths to be self-evident' has been accused of being simply a more elegant version of 'Because we said so.'" WTF? Accused by whom? I've been asking that question of all your linked original research for months, but I can't get an answer because none exists. No authoritative source made that or any of your other moronic accusations because nobody else is stupid enough to make such an asinine assertion and sign their name to it. I'm surprised that you are. --Zephram Stark 04:00, 1 November 2005 (UTC)
  • Your essay, as eloquent and stirring as it may be, has nothing to do with the topic of discussion. If you love the Jefferson quote so much, why did you remove it from the article? Your opinions on the Patriot Act and federalism are irrelevant. "Instead of letting the words speak for themselves"? Huh? Your version is the one with a lot of intrepretations in it, mine just has a brief paragraph and then the actual text. And the rest of your essay is about content that is not actually in this article. I'll just ignore the personal attacks. I would just direct other editors to your RfA. --JW1805 17:25, 1 November 2005 (UTC)
That would be par for course. Direct people to a request for arbitration when the arbitration has already been accepted, evidence has already been presented, findings have already been considered, the petitioner was caught lying and withdrew from the case. Yet, you still want to refer people to some of the petitioner's lies. Good luck with that.
As far as the article goes, I think the words of the Declaration of Independence should speak for themselves. Any interpretations or summaries should be agreed by all. Your summary shows an extreme bias to mean something that the actual words do not convey. I believe that my summary merely helps the user keep track of what is going on as they read it. If you disagree, that's fine, we'll just not have a summary and let the words speak for themselves. They do a great job of that when they are allowed to do so without your or Mel's anti-American interpretations. --Zephram Stark 19:07, 1 November 2005 (UTC)
OK, let's try this. Without writing a 500 word essay point to specific things on this page that you believe have an "extreme bias", or are "Anti-American". --JW1805 21:43, 1 November 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps the sickest perversion is the link for "unalienable rights." It takes you to an uncited primary source that says "'We hold these truths to be self-evident' has been accused of being simply a more elegant version of 'Because we said so,'" and goes on to call the principles of the Declaration "a non sequitur and an example of the naturalistic fallacy." It doesn't cite any source for this. The author just made it up, but you apparently want to defend it with you life. --Zephram Stark 02:54, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
That is not material in this article. That is another article. Discuss that issue on Talk:Inalienable rights, not here. Is that it? --JW1805 02:58, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
I'm talking about the link, which is in this article. But you know what I'm talking about, and you know that the original research is not allowed by Wikipedia. If it weren't for you, this crap would be gone, but you defend it even though you know it is against the rules and I strongly suspect that you are smart enough to realize that it has nothing to do with the Declaration of Independence. So why do you protect it? Do you hate me so bad that you are willing to break Wikipedia rules and create bad articles to get at me? Are you so adamantly anti-America that you support anything that blasts the foundations of the U.S.A.? After seeing how you would not allow the first (and arguably the most important) line of the first article of the Constitution to be summarized in the article about the U.S. Constitution, I believe I am starting to see a pattern. You don't want to write about the actual documents. You want to write about the worst perversions of these principles that you can find. Hell, you don't even want to call them principles. They are just some meaningless preamble in your edit because you found one site that called them that, ignoring the hundreds that refer to that section as the Principles of the Declaration. --Zephram Stark 03:11, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
OK, so that one link is the only problem you have with the article as it current stands? What about all the other changes you attempted to make? --JW1805 04:09, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
Actually, I said it was the sickest perversion, not the only item. You made the changes. I just reverted the extreme POV ones back to the original. Your summaries are not about the Declaration. They are about your sick interpretation of it. Let the text stand on its own, or summarize it in a way that preserves the original meaning, but don't try to change the words and definitions so that you can belittle the founding principles of the United States. --Zephram Stark 04:24, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
You have written hundreds of words, but have not yet responded to my question. Please succently state what you have a problem with (use a bulleted list, for example). Your personal attacks and vague pronouncements don't count. #1 is the link to Unalienable rights. Please list the others: --JW1805 05:19, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

You know, JW, when two people have limited their realities to where there is no intersection, communication becomes quite impossible. Your reality seems to be that the Declaration is some relic of archaic times, that the principles it espouses were merely a "preamble" to justify an ancient war. You have found an anti-American website to justify your claims, and so you are stating that it is true. In reality, however, the Principles of the Declaration of Independence are not just some "preamble." They are considered by hundreds of millions of people to be the founding concepts upon which we base our society, our system of law, and interactions with our government representatives. According to all of the great American philosophers, including Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, we are a government of the people. To call our representatives "leaders" is a misnomer. We lead them. They do what we say. If we allow them to start wars and go into debt trillions of dollars, it is nobody's fault but our own. As the Declaration says, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed." I, for one, am not willing to have this fundamental concept of my nation redefined to serve the purpose of some moralistic philosophical bullshit expounded through Mel's original research. The Declaration means what it means. The text speaks for itself. Its principles are its principles, and they have served this nation very well for over two hundred years. They will not be subverted by you or any anti-American now or in the future while I have breath in my body.

  • The Declaration of Independence is the document in which the thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. That is what we celebrate every July 4th. Yes, I certainly agree that the Preamble does contain philosophical principles. But, these principles were not original (see my discussion above), even Jefferson said that. They were used to justify the reasons for declaring independence. Again, I have to say that your view about the DoI as a great philosophical treatise (instead of what the signers intended) is clouding your view here. However, I do think a separate section could be added, about how the Declaration is viewed today, etc. I tried to add some of that in the "Influence on other documents" section when I put in the info about Lincoln and MLK. But that info could be expanded to include some of the things you are talking about (i.e., view of the Declaration as the philosophical basis of our long as its have to remember that American society was already nearly 200 years old when the DoI was written). I'm not really sure what you're arguing in the second part of the above paragraph....something about the Inalienable rights article again, I guess. The discussion here is about the content of this article. Where in this article are any "fundamental concept of my nation redefined"? --JW1805 19:45, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
  • This article is about a document. The words of the document come first, after a short introduction, without any summaries or headers that detract from its meaning.
    • I disagree. The document needs to be put into some context. We need to tell people what exactly the document was written for. Also, summaries and headers are useful to break it up into sections (since each section has a different theme). Plus, the format of the document should be explained (how it is presented as a chain of logic). Actually, some would argue that the actual text shouldn't be here (since that's what Wikisource is for). I would disagree with them, since I think its short enough to include, and it is useful to have it annotated. But without the annotations, it would just be something for Wikisource. --JW1805 19:45, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
  • If we can't agree on a header, we let the text speak for itself, but I think you show extreme bias not calling the principles section "Principles," especially after fighting for that name instead of the original "Principles of the U.S. Declaration of Independence" as I would like it to be called for reference purposes.
    • "Preamble" is what the National Archives site calls this section. That is a reputable source, not "extreme bias". Your claim that calling this section a preamble is "Anti-American" is just absurd. --JW1805 19:45, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
  • The Wikisource link to the actual text is, by far, the most relevant part of the article and, therefore, should be the first thing in the article (top right).
    • I don't really have a problem with that....but we need to be consistent. I think the Wikisource link is usually at the bottom of a page?--JW1805 19:45, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
  • The history of the document is almost irrelevant compared to the actual contents of the document and, therefore, should come after the content.
    • That's just crazy! Of course the history is relevant! People need to know why the thing was written before they start reading the text. Just because you and I know all the background doesn't mean that everybody does! --JW1805 19:45, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
  • The war with England is only one small thing that the principles of the Declaration of Independence support and, therefore, should not be the sole focus of the article. As you well know, for instance, the U.S. constitution was written to be in line with these principles, as well as state constitutions and legal systems.
    • The war with Great Britain isn't the "sole focus" of the article? Where do you get that from? --JW1805 19:45, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
  • Summaries should not be POV, nor should they reduce the meaning of the text. If they cannot effectively convey the philosophy of what the signers meant, no summary should be used. The text of the principles section is practically a summary as it is. Trying to put into less words the philosophy of what the Continental Congress and Thomas Jefferson already summarized is pretentious and can only lead to errors. The principles section can be explained for the benefit of the user in more words, but not in less without losing meaning.
    • What summary is POV? Specifically, what is POV in the article? Was it the Jefferson quote? I think the views of the actual author of the document should certainly be included, that's not "POV". --JW1805 19:45, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

If you think you can incorporate these aspects and the ones we already talked about into the major revisions you did, I would be happy to discuss your proposal, but otherwise I think we should go back to the original, stable version of the article. --Zephram Stark 19:01, 2 November 2005 (UTC)

Like I said, JW, our realities do not intersect. Much like Jefferson and Hamilton, you cannot hear what I'm saying because we do not share a common assumption of underlying axioms. In such a case, consensus can still be reached through compromise. Although I would like to write the entire article from a Jeffersonian point of view, I respect that almost third of the population will see it closer to the extreme Hamiltonian viewpoint that you espouse. For that reason, I gave you a bulleted list above of the very minimum things that I think could make this a true article without showing bias in either direction. Whether or not you agree with them, I'm sure you realize that this country was founded upon Jeffersonian principles and that most of the population still believes in them. At least you can allow that the members of Congress believed in these principles unanimously, or else they wouldn't have signed the document. Please remember that this article is about the document, and Hamilton's philosophy isn't in there regardless of how much the minority opinion of the United States wants it to be.
Jefferson believed in individual liberty and in rights that cannot be taken from a human being by any method of coercion. The document reflects this and the natural conclusion that a stable government must be at the consent of the governed. When we look around today and see that our government isn't very stable and also see that we don't consent to it, why can't we put those two pieces together? Why can't we simply read the words that made our nation work for so long and say, "Hey! We've got to get back to that!! It worked while we used it!"
Hamilton had an argument back in his day because the Declaration's principles hadn't been tried yet. Granted, they had been talked about, but you never really know until you put them to the test. When Jefferson became president, he cemented the principles of the Declaration as the foundation of our country, and they worked. They worked better than anyone, including Jefferson, could have imagined. Now we know that Hamilton was wrong and that Jefferson was right. We have irrefutable proof. We are the only super-power the world has left, but there are still Hamiltonians among us willing to do anything to reduce the principles that made this country great. People in power simply do not want to admit that liberty cannot be taken from humans, that humans cannot be controlled, that the only effective and stable government will be one by consent of the governed. As you can see here at Wikipedia, people want to control each other. They want to create laws that protect citizens from themselves because such laws naturally recreate the blue-blood mentality of England and Hamiltonian philosophy: that some people are better than others. In doing so, they have to refute Jeffersonian philosophy that is in direct opposition. They have to call principles "preamble," accuse Jefferson of being an ignorant idealist, and make claims like "'self-evident' means 'because we said so.'" Anyone reading the Principles of the Declaration of Independence and looking at the effect those principles had on our nation knows the real truth. All I'm asking is that you give people that chance. Don't bury the principles at the bottom of the article. Don't call them a "preamble" and summarize them to be something they're not. Don't link them to Mel's moralistic and religious bullshit. Let people think for themselves. Let them draw their own conclusions from the words. Of course this philosophy has been talked about and built upon for centuries. To the extent that they could be implemented two centuries ago, they were an unprecedented success.
Today we have the technology to take the same principles even further. The concept of Wikipedia, if not the implementation, is purely Jeffersonian. Once we get rid of the hierarchy of editing control, I know with every fiber of my being that this will be the greatest resource of collective thought on the face of the Earth. It will inevitably lead to even greater communicative capabilities that will augment legislative power of people in this country and eventually around the world. I know you might not be able to hear me, JW, but let others make up their own minds. Let them read the words of the Declaration of Independence and decide for themselves. --Zephram Stark 23:41, 2 November 2005 (UTC)
  • Very little of your 4 paragraph essay has anything to do with the topic of discussion. Please stop cluttering up talk pages with your political opinions. This is not the proper forum to argue for your intrepretation of "Jeffersonian Principles" vs. "Hamiltonian Principles". Wikipedia is not a soapbox. --JW1805 02:06, 8 November 2005 (UTC)
It has everything to do with the article, and I think you know it. Hamiltonians have been trying to rewrite, confuse, or disparage the Declaration of Independence ever since its inception, but the article is only about the document itself, not your personal feelings. Whether or not you think the principles of the Declaration of Independence are sound doesn't change the fact that Congress unanimously agreed to adopt them and that they've been the foundation of an unprecedented successful nation for over two hundred years. Your attempts to rewrite history to ignore that fact and to link to Mel's original research have no part in an encyclopedia article. --Zephram Stark 00:07, 9 November 2005 (UTC)


Consensus Proposal

Due to the fact that there are wide interpretations of what the Declaration of Independence means (even though by reading it you wouldn't get the idea that there could be), I propose that we only add the interpretations that everyone can agree upon. I think we can agree upon:

  • The text the document
  • Relevant quotes by signers
  • Most of the history of the document (although the placement of the history section should be subject to its relative importance in relationship to other parts of the article. i.e., is the text of the document more important or the names of the signers?)
  • Most of the Analysis
  • That the grievances can be summarized in this article

Things we will have to reach consensus on before adding:

  • Philosophical ramifications
  • The naming of sections of the Declaration
  • The order of sections of the Article (i.e., does the text come first or the historical interpretations?)
  • The main purpose or the purposes of the Declaration (i.e., Is the document a foundation for a nation or propaganda for a war?)
  • Interpretations of the Declaration
  • Links to another interpretive article when its relevance to the Declaration is controversial (especially when the linked article contains original research and only shows one of many interpretations)
  • Interpretive summaries of the Declaration, or parts thereof
  • Interpretive summaries of quotes by signers
  • Relevance of the full-text Wikisource link to the other sections (i.e. Should the Wikisource link be on the top or bottom?)
  • Interpretive summaries of the differences between drafts

The bottom line is that your rewrite, JW, is purely from a Hamiltonian point of view — it treats the Declaration as thought it were merely propaganda for a war. This in direct contradiction to how the signers viewed the document and how most Americans today view the Declaration that started our country. For us, the principles of the Declaration of Independence are the foundation for a more perfect union. Your rewrite has striped any mention of the Declaration's fundamental purpose or ramifications from the article, leaving only a Hamiltonian POV. Starting with the text of the Declaration, I propose that we only add those things to the article that are written from a neutral point of view, or that show both sides. --Zephram Stark 15:36, 9 November 2005 (UTC)


I've unprotected this because Zephram Stark has been banned for six months. Happy editing! SlimVirgin (talk) 06:48, 11 November 2005 (UTC)

  • Great. I'm going to go ahead and archive most of this talk page. --JW1805 16:28, 11 November 2005 (UTC)