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Friday, July 5, 2013

Inalienable vs. Unalienable

“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” — Thomas Jefferson

I am sick and tired of hearing people misuse these two words when referring to the Declaration of Independence. First let me quote what Jefferson wrote (with Franklin’s edit) in the final document that was approved by the delegates of July 2, 1776.

“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.”

Below is a replica of the mark-up version that was edited by the committee of five including; Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York:



According to the Merriam-Webster On Line DictionaryInalienable” is defined as: “incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred.”

On the other hand the Free Dictionary defines “Unalienable” as: “Not to be separated, given away, or taken away.

While this is a subtle difference it must be noted than when quoting the Declaration you must use “Unalienable” if you wish to quote it accurately.

To find the origins of the word unalienable, we can look at the root, alien, which comes from the Latin alienus, meaning "of or belonging to another." This provides the basis for our word, with the prefix un- providing the turnaround "not," and the suffix -able providing the idea of capability. Therefore, we get “not able to be denied.” Oh, and if you are wondering about the common argument as to whether it is "unalienable" or "inalienable," either is correct in there meaning of the Declaration, but Jefferson used “unalienable” in his writing.

According to U.S. History.Org:

The question is often asked, "Is the word in the Declaration of Independence unalienable or is it inalienable?"

The final version of the Declaration uses the word "unalienable." Some earlier drafts used the word "inalienable," which is the term our modern dictionaries prefer. The two words mean precisely the same thing.

According to The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style from Houghton Mifflin Company:

“The unalienable rights that are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence could just as well have been inalienable, which means the same thing. Inalienable or unalienable refers to that which cannot be given away or taken away.”

In a footnote in "The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas" by Carl Lotus Becker, published 1922, we learn:

The Rough Draft reads "[inherent &] inalienable." There is no indication that Congress changed "inalienable" to "unalienable"; but the latter form appears in the text in the rough Journal, in the corrected Journal, and in the parchment copy. John Adams, in making his copy of the Rough Draft, wrote "unalienable." Adams was one of the committee which supervised the printing of the text adopted by Congress, and it may have been at his suggestion that the change was made in printing. "Unalienable" may have been the more customary form in the eighteenth century.

While all of this sounds much like a tempest in a teapot and the words mean virtually the same you should use “Unalienable” when quoting the Declaration.

I recently saw a TV ad for Sam Adams beer with a spokesman quoting the Declaration as he poured a glass of the golden brew — a beer I happen to like. He did quote the Declaration using “unalienable”, but left out the important phrase “that they are endowed by their Creator.” Here is what the as states:

“Why name a beer after Samuel Adams? Because Samuel Adams signed the Declaration of Independence,” the bartender says. “He believed there was a better way to live: all men are created equal. They are endowed with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Smooth, flavorful, we bow to no kings. Samuel Adams Boston lager: declare your independence.”

Perhaps you may remember that President Obama had a habit in late 2010 and early 2011 of doing the same thing:

By the way, you may be wondering why “endowed by their Creator” is such an important phrase. Well, as scholars will tell you, rights granted by God shouldn’t be taken away — rights given by man can change with the wind.

This was not an oversight by Sam Adams Brewery — According to a spokesperson’s explanation to Fox News the brewery decided to cut the “Creator” phrase because it violated the Beer Institute’s guidelines on not using religion in commercials, from the purported explanation:

“The Beer Institute Advertising Code says, beer advertising and marketing materials should not include religion or religious themes. We agree with that and try to adhere to these guidelines. While we understand your objection to the omission of the phrase “by our creator” in other circumstances (after all, they occur in the Declaration of independence which Samuel Adams signed and helped author) we believe it would be outside our industry guidelines to invoke those religious words in a beer commercial.”

Sure enough, according to a section on the Beer Institute’s website, the group does discourage such a practice. You can see it below listed as number seven:

7.) Beer advertising and marketing materials should not employ religion or religious themes.

While for many that may not excuse the decision, it may at least explain it. After all, the counterargument could simply be that if a company is not going to adhere to a quote — especially such an important one — then why use it at all?

I don’t think the Declaration of Independence is a religious theme just because there is mention of “Creator.” We have become so political correct in our speech that we have lost all concept of what our revolution was about. The imposition of this political correct language s how the progressive left has been able to get its agenda adopted by more and more Americans. When does the Beer Institute’s advertising guidelines trump the Declaration of Independence?

It’s acceptable to run commercials touting Planned Parenthood, an organization that kills babies in the name of “pro-choice.” It is okay to run commercials for Viagra and Cialis in prime time and for Trojan vibrators on TV, but you cannot quote the Declaration of Independence in a beer commercial. Didn’t Jesus turn water into wine at the wedding of Cana?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist non-profit, is behind a new full-page newspaper ad that decries the notion that America was founded on Christianity and the Bible. A portion of the contentious text reads, “Celebrate Our Godless Constitution,” and it features the faces and quotes from some of the nation’s most prominent Founding Fathers.

The effort, according to the FFRF’s website, praises the U.S.’s “godless constitution.” Created in response to craft store chain Hobby Lobby’s advertisements about faith in America (the company has posted these in newspapers across the U.S. since 2008).

“The ads quote U.S. Founders and Framers on their strong views against religion inFFRF_GodlessConst_NYT_11x21 government, and often critical views on religion in general,” reads a press release announcing the atheist effort. “The ad features two revolutionaries and Deists, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, and the first four presidents: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.”

People reading the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune and other daily newspapers across America will likely be surprised when they are greeted with today’s atheist-laden history lesson.

“The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion,” reads one of the quotes (a portion of a treaty that was once signed by John Adams).


The Founding Fathers were highly educated men. It has been said that in those days they knew almost all of man’s knowledge available. It has been estimated that their education level would be equal to a grade 17 (Seventeen years of education) as opposed to the average education of our representatives today, an estimated 9th to 10th grade level. The founding fathers based all rights upon the concept of “Nature’s God” because those rights would be immutable. They used that term because it does several things. No one could argue that if it is God, he created nature and his laws are reflected in nature and will also be in science. All people had a way to come to the same conclusion. But the argument as to whether the above is true or not can be read in their words. These were indeed brilliant men who meant what they said and said what they meant. We, as a Nation, need to remember what it was they knew and begin to reverse the ruinous course we on one towards the tyranny of the state and the minority.

It matters not that our Founders called it “Nature’s God”, the “Creator” The “Supreme Judge”, or “divine Providence” they were referring to God.

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