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Have we been reading the Declaration Of Independence wrong?

Have We Been Reading The Declaration Of Independence Wrong?

It turns out we may have been reading the Declaration of Independence wrong this whole time. (Via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

At least according to scholar Danielle Allen, who says the National Archives version of the document that is studied and memorized by school children all over the country actually contains a major typo.

Allen says in her study the typo happens in the second sentence of the document - the sentence she calls the most important. (Via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

The sentence begins with, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" and goes on to say all men are endowed with unalienable rights including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The National Archives version of the document puts a period after happiness, something Allen says was not in the original document and changes the meaning of the sentence. The document then goes on to say, "That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ... "

Allen says the sentence is meant to move from the value of individual rights to the importance of government protecting those rights. She says this is lost with the addition of the period.

In her study, Allen says the should-be large sentence forms a syllogism, or logical argument based on multiple propositions, and its sections were meant to build upon each other and be parts of the same collective thought. (Via Institute for Advanced Study)

She says this style of writing is common in 18th-century literature and the typo obscures "a diverse textual tradition." (Via CAN TV)

The original document in the U.S. Archives shows no period or semicolon, but some argue the period could have faded.(Via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Allen also notes that a semicolon, not a period, can be clearly seen in Jefferson's rough draft. (Via U.S. History)

The New York Times points out while the original document has no period, many early copies do. Allen says this may be because the original began fading so quickly, it was hard to copy accurately.

The U.S. National Archives says it's looking into utilizing new imaging equipment to check whether there might ever have been a period after the word "happiness."

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
Jerry July 04 2014 at 6:12 AM

What difference does it make.....It's not like anyone in government gives a damn about the Constitution anyway. And from what I see every day, not many Americans care either. In a short time the North American Union charter will trump the Constitution making the whole argument moot. You will soon lose your right to free speech, free assembly, freedom to worship as you choose, as well as your right to keep and bear arms, freedom from unlawful search and seizure, and freedom from self-incrimination. It breaks my heart to see the very principles that thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of good Americans have fought and for, which many have died to protect, being flushed down the proverbial toilet of the globalist movement. We will pay dearly for our apathy toward good governance.

Flag Reply +58 rate up
37 replies
thorrsman July 04 2014 at 6:10 AM

Seems like another "scholar" out to "prove" that the Founding Fathers were actually big-government Socialists, despite all their writings in support of individual rights and the value of a small government.

Flag Reply +55 rate up
7 replies
nick723 July 04 2014 at 5:44 AM

Well, if anyone should know anything about typos it's AOL.

Flag Reply +45 rate up
2 replies
James nick723 July 04 2014 at 3:29 PM

Good one, Nick!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
s5cat2dog nick723 July 04 2014 at 3:42 PM

Which idiot millennial called it a 'typo'. That is a mistaken keystroke....not possible in a handwritten document.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Viper1ex19 July 04 2014 at 8:26 AM

So basically, it sounds like we have a Liberal Democrat trying to say the government should decide whether or not we are entitled to "Life Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness"


Flag Reply +33 rate up
8 replies
JC July 04 2014 at 6:38 AM

So what changes? Individuals have rights, and those rights emanate from no power on this earth but a higher one. Government has a role, but it is to secure rights and not to grant them. If government forgets its place, then it should be replaced.

Flag Reply +33 rate up
5 replies
realfloopyguy July 04 2014 at 5:52 AM

There is absolutely no difference in the meaning even if this is true.

Flag Reply +25 rate up
5 replies
Practical Nomad July 04 2014 at 6:16 AM

If true it changes nothing. Religious nuts attempt the same with the Bible, twisting and their own interpretations. It all comes back to human nature, people thinking they are right and others wrong. Attempting to justify why it always applies to others and never to them.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
8 replies
Mike July 04 2014 at 6:24 AM

Women have been intentionally excluded from the Constitution by design. I'm surprised that there are any periods in there at all.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
11 replies
kcarthey July 04 2014 at 5:59 AM

Given the writing and general English skills of Americans today, this story should make for some interesting comments complete with typos.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
2 replies
jcbstz kcarthey July 04 2014 at 9:24 AM

K yuu kno it all, done you. I tolled you befor not to plaa on momz computeeer

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
coopdabomb jcbstz July 04 2014 at 10:00 AM

First smile of the day. Thanks

Flag +2 rate up
jdh0516 kcarthey July 04 2014 at 5:06 PM

Especially those who waste time with obdurate skepticism that retards progress by postulating pseudo-scientific explanations that explain nothing.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
drawee July 04 2014 at 9:22 AM

It was hand written...not typed.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
6 replies
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