The Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC was commissioned about A.D. 1934 and dedicated (not including in the final bronze sculpture) about A.D. 1943.
I visited the Jefferson Memorial back about A.D. 2000. As I recall my visit, I saw a stone ring at the base of the Memorial’s dome-shaped roof. On that ring, excerpts from some Jefferson’s most memorable statements were carved in stone. As I recall, one of those excerpts included the phrase “endowed by their Creator with certain INalienable Rights”.
I was stunned.
It’s absolutely certain and clear that Jefferson’s text in the “Declaration of Independence” (true name, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America”) referred to “UNalienable Rights”. Nevertheless—on Jefferson’s own Memorial—the word carved in stone is “INalienable”. It’s inconceivable that the word was misspelled into stone by accident. It’s inconceivable that the mistake has “accidentally” gone uncorrected for most of 70 years.
Still, perhaps my recollection is faulty.
Maybe (as GW Bush might say), I “misremembered” and the word “inalienable” does not appear on the stone ring at the base of the Memorial’s domed roof.
Therefore, I’ve looked at over 400 photos of the Jefferson Memorial in search of the world “inalienable” carved in stone at the base of the roof. I looked in vain. I haven’t found a trace of the word “inalienable” in the photos.
But I’ve also checked Wikipedia’s description of the Jefferson Memorial. Wikipedia reports in part,
“On the panel of the southwest interior wall are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, written in 1776:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We…solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states…And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.
“Note that the inscription uses the word “inalienable” as in Jefferson’s draft, rather than “unalienable,” as in the final, published Declaration.”
[Bold emphasis added by Adask]
Even so, the word “inalienable” does appear in the text of the words attributed to the “Declaration of Independence” that are carved in stone on the wall of the Memorial. Therefore, even this smaller (but verifiable) instance of “inalienable” is just as shocking as my recollection of the word being carved into the ring at the base of the roof.
More, note that while the text is attributed to the “Declaration of Independence,” at least part of that text (the word “inalienable”) is actually attributed one of Jefferson’s early drafts but not to the final, published “Declaration of Independence” that’s been enshrined for over two centuries.
Why would the government choose to use a word found in an early rough draft rather than use the actual word used in Jefferson’s final version of the Declaration?
• Wikipedia implies that the substitution of “inalienable” for “unalienable” is interesting but accidental and unimportant since Jefferson actually used “inalienable” in one of his early drafts of the Declaration.
Jefferson might’ve also used “inalienable” at one time to describe a baseball game (if they’d had baseball back then). So what? The fact that anyone ever used a word, say, yesterday, has no bearing on his word choice today.
It’s also possible that Jefferson included some doodles (maybe of a young woman bending over provocatively?) on one of more of his first drafts of the Declaration. So what? Even if such doodles existed on early drafts, they are not included in the final publication of the Declaration nor should they be memorialized in stone. The only words that should be memorialized in the Jefferson Memorial are the actual words used in the final, published “Declaration of Independence”.
And yet, our gov-co carved “inalienable” into the stone at the Jefferson Memorial.
• Again, I don’t believe that the word “inalienable” was accidentally substituted for “unalienable”. I don’t believe that anyone knowledgeable ever truly supposed that using words from a first draft of the Declaration are just as authoritative as the exact words used on the final, published Declaration.
Bear in mind that the “Declaration of Independence” is as much the law as The Constitution of the United States. (See, “The Organic Law of The United States of America”.) When it comes to law, you can’t just substitute one word or phrase for another and expect to still have “law”. Law requires verbal precision and accuracy. A law can only be changed by legal amendment. But there is no proviso for amending the “Declaration of Independence”. The text of that “law” (which we celebrate every 4th of July) must remain as is, forever.
I believe the substitution of “inalienable” for “unalienable”—right there in the Jefferson Memorial, for gosh sakes!—is evidence that your government is openly trying to erase Americans’ memory of the fundamental principles of the “Declaration of Independence” so as to strip us of our ability to claim to be individual sovereigns.
• Do you suppose Thomas Jefferson ever used any other word in all of his life that was ultimately as significant as his use of “unalienable” in the “Declaration of Independence”?
I do not.
Do you suppose there’s one other place in all the world (other than the Declaration, itself) where we might expect an accurate remembrance (memorial) of Jefferson’s own word choice—besides the Jefferson Memorial?
I do not.
As used in the Declaration, the word “unalienable” isn’t merely the most important word choice in Thomas Jefferson’s life. As used in the Declaration, the word “unalienable” is arguably the single most important and quintessential word in American history. (The only other contender that crosses my mind might be “Liberty,” but “Liberty” is a kind of “unalienable Right”.)
I’d can’t prove it, but I’d bet that the word “unalienable”–and especially the term “unalienable Rights”–does not appear in the organic or statutory law of any other nation on earth.
Therefore, if it were possible to declare any single word to be the most important in all of America’s history, I believe “unalienable” (as used in the Declaration) would have to be that word.
• And yet, we’re led to believe that some jackass stone-cutter accidentally carved the word “inalienable” (instead of “unalienable”) because he was reading from a first draft of the Declaration, rather than from the final, published text of the “Declaration of Independence”. (“Close enough for government work,” hmm?)
Y’know why that’s crazy?
A: Because almost any child can find an accurate copy of the final, published “Declaration of Independence” in virtually any library in this country or perhaps even the world. But, even with the internet, how many of you could easily find a copy of Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration? Even if you could find such copy of a draft, how would you verify that it was legitimate, accurate and not some internet hoax?
Back in the 1930s, how much effort do you suppose would have been required for anyone to dig up a copy of the Declaration’s first draft? Assuming a copy of an early draft could be found, why would they make that seemingly large effort when the original, published Declaration (or indisputably accurate copies) were easily available?
And if such “first draft” could be found, what proof would exist that this alleged text was in fact written by Thomas Jefferson and intended to be a “first draft” for the final Declaration?
A first draft of the Declaration could not have been found “by accident”. That draft would have to be intentionally sought out and known from the beginning to be something other than the final, published version of the Declaration.
Using some obscure, unreliable “first draft” of the Declaration to determine what Jefferson meant or wrote in the final, published Declaration makes as much sense as some reader digging up copies of the essays I wrote back in high school to prove whatever I “really” mean to say in this article. It’s virtually inconceivable that anyone would make such effort to find essays I wrote half a century ago to illuminate whatever I’ve written here today. The only likely reason for digging up my high school essays would be to somehow twist the meaning I’m trying to communicate today.
Similarly, there’s no innocent reason why the architect who designed the Jefferson Memorial, or his staff, or the stone cutters, would have made the huge effort to dig up and verify a copy of the Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration when accurate copies of the text of the published Declaration were readily available.
More, it’s inconceivable that the architect, staff and stone cutters would privately decide to write “inalienable” rather than “unalienable”. They wouldn’t have dared carve that mistake into the stone—unless they’ve been ordered to do so by some very powerful government official.
Who do you suppose might held a position of power in the 1930s sufficient to compel a highly-educated architect to intentionally misspell one of the most critical words in American history? Wouldn’t the architect fear being ridiculed by his peers? What could’ve persuaded the architect to replace “unalienable” with “inalienable” other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
The word “inalienable” wasn’t carved into stone at the Jefferson Memorial by accident or by the private whim of some contractors. “Inalienable” was intentionally used as a device to help erase the word “unalienable” from America’s memory.
• Did my earlier argument that, as used in the Declaration, “unalienable” is the single most important word in all of American history, seem silly?
How silly does it seem now when the evidence seems clear that the government must’ve intentionally sought to erase “unalienable” from the Jefferson Memorial by replacing it with “inalienable” and justifying that replacement with some cock-and-bull story about a first “draft”?
Words matter. Most people have no grasp of that principle. “Whatchamacallit,” “whatsisface” and “y’unnerstan?” are sufficiently precise for them. But you can bet that the government understands and exploits the need for linguistic precision every day.
Some words are so critical, so incredibly powerful, that some parties want those words eliminated and left unsaid—or at least defined in a way that’s so convoluted and ambiguous as to render the word incomprehensible
“Unalienable” is certainly one such word. We see proof of that word’s extraordinary significance in its absence from the stone of the Jefferson Memorial.
Can you think of . . . have you heard of . . . any other instance in American history where a monument to a man and his idea has been intentionally defaced by our gov-co to eliminate a single word?
I cannot. I have not.
Government’s extraordinary attempt to eliminate “unalienable” from the Jefferson Memorial is evidence that, as used in the Declaration, “unalienable” is—just as I’ve argued—the single, most important word in American history.
If gov-co is so determined to prevent you from knowing, understanding and using the word “unalienable,” what should you do?
I think you’d be well-advised to make it your business to learn and use that word.
• The substitution of “inalienable” for “unalienable” on Jefferson’s own Memorial is blatant evidence of how important the meanings of those two words are and how different they are. Even back in the 1930s and 1940s, our national government wanted to erase Americans’ memory and understanding of “unalienable” and instead deceive us with “inalienable”.
I understand the meanings of “unalienable” and “inalienable” as follows:
“Unalienable” refers to rights which cannot be taken away from you by others (including gov-co) and which even you cannot waive. You can waive your civil rights to vote or drive or be licensed to practice law. But you cann’ waive your unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty of the pursuit of Happiness (freedom of religion).
Your “unalienable Rights” are granted to you by your “Creator” as an attribute of your creation. Your unalienable Rights are as much a part of you as the color of your eyes. Such rights are figuratively part of your DNA. Even if you lost both of your eyes, your genes would still show that you have “blue” (or brown, or green) eyes. Whatever eye-color that you were endowed with by your Creator would remain your eye color for the balance of your life. Same is true for God-given, unalienable Rights. They are as much a part of you as the color of your eyes.
“Inalienable,” on the other hand, refers to rights which can’t be taken away from you by others (such as gov-co), but which you can voluntarily waive or even be presumed to have waived based on your mere conduct. Thus, it’s possible for the government to “legally” mistreat and abuse someone whose rights were merely “inalienable”.
Your inalienable rights are yours much like the cash in your wallet is “yours”. No one can legally rob you of that cash, but you can voluntarily spend that cash or give it away, or even accidentally misplace that cash and thereby lose it. You inalienable rights are respected, but they aren’t absolute. You might have some inalienable rights which others can’t take without your consent—but you can also waive or otherwise dispose of your inalienable rights or even lose them to a government’s unchallenged presumptions.
However—according the third sentence in the “Declaration of Independence”—the government’s primary obligation is to “secure” the God-given, unalienable Rights with which each man or woman is endowed by his/her Creator. There’s no similar obligation to secure our “inalienable” rights.
The difference in value between “unalienable” and “inalienable” is similar to the difference between the eye color that’s part of your DNA and the eye color you might temporarily by using colorized contact lens. Both eye colors may have value, but only one is absolute.
The difference in value between the words “unalienable” and “inalienable” is that with one word you could be a sovereign and the government would be your servant; with the other word, you could be a subject and the government would be your master. With the first word, you could have Liberty. With the second word, you could have bondage.
As Bill Clinton one observed, “It all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”
In the case of “inalienable” and “unalienable” are spelled almost identically. The only difference is one word is spelled with an “I” and the other is spelled with a “u”. Doesn’t seem like much, does it?
And yet that mere variation in the presence or absence of a single vowel can determine whether you are blessed with Liberty or cursed with bondage.
Words matter. Your access to Liberty will depend on your fluency.
• We are routinely encouraged to “thank” our military men and women for “fighting for our freedoms”. I think that’s a bunch of crap. I doubt that the entire Army could identify even two of our “freedoms” that were threatened by the nations of Afghanistan and Iraq–and yet our soldiers spent most of a decade fighting there . . . apparently for something other than our “freedoms”.
If you really want to thank someone for your freedoms, you should look to thank–not those who learned to fight–but those who learned to speak and write the words that helped us all to see and value freedom and, especially, Liberty. It’s the men and women who gave us the words of freedom who deserve our thanks.
The pen really is mightier than the sword, and those who wield that pen are move important than those who merely wield a sword.
If this nation is to be destroyed, it will not perish for lack of soldiers. I will fail for lack of orators and writers able to communicate the words of Liberty.
• Accept no substitutes.
When it comes to rights, declare yourself to be a man made in God’s image (as per Genesis 1:26-28 and as supported by your State and federal support for your freedom of religion) and endowed by your Creator (as per the “Declaration of Independence”) with certain, God-given, unalienable Rights.
And when it comes to pursuing knowledge, take time to study and learn the most important word in American history: “unalienable”.