Boyd (editor of the massive Princeton edition of ) proposed a different theory: “This alteration may possibly have been made by the printer [John Dunlap] rather than at the suggestion of Congress.”Fortunately for my purpose here, this minor mystery is of no consequence.
Both “inalienable” and “unalienable” were used throughout the eighteenth century; they were merely variant spellings of the same word.
According to this approach, legitimate disagreements may occur between subjects and rulers when alienable rights are involved, but no such disputes are justified over the question of inalienable rights.
Government cannot claim any jurisdiction over such rights, because inalienable rights, by their very nature, could never have been transferred to government in the first place.
(Contrary to the later recollections of Jefferson and Adams, no signing occurred on July 4).
Carl Becker suggested that John Adams may have been responsible for the change: “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.” Julian P.
But before I delve into this philosophy I want to comment on a point of historical trivia. “Unalienable” first appears in John Dunlap’s initial printing of the Declaration (July 5), which was inserted in the rough Journal of Congress.
The Declaration we know today refers to “unalienable” rights, but Jefferson used the word “inalienable.” Jefferson did not make this change, nor does the change appear to have been made by Congress while it was considering the draft submitted by the Committee of Five. It also appears in the corrected Journal and in the engrossed parchment version, which was signed by delegates on August 2.
It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.
It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.