Inalienable or Unalienable Rights? — T.F. Stern

By T.F. Stern,


I admit to having holes in my education, some might clarify that statement and ask if I knew the difference between a crack in the sidewalk and the Grand Canyon; but a gap is a gap, let’s just say I got out of high school, took some college level classes and some how made it this far. For years I’ve found myself substituting inalienable for unalienable when talking about God given rights.

“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…”

There it is in the Declaration of Independence, unalienable Right, and they come from God. So how is it possible to get confused and substitute inalienable? Maybe I could lay off some blame on others, some far more educated than myself.

I was going over Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, The Price of Liberty , and found the same substitution in reference to the Declaration of Independence. Elder Benson ranks high on most anyone’s list of educated and eloquent speakers.

“I believe with all my heart the words of the American patriot Patrick Henry, who, on the eve of the American Revolution, said, “There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.” Further, it is part of my faith that no people can maintain freedom unless their political institutions are founded on faith in God and belief in the existence of moral law. God has endowed men with certain inalienable rights, and no government may morally limit or destroy these.” (emphasis added)

I wasn’t satisfied with finding one or two “flukes”; after all, it might have been the result of transcribing the work later, someone accidentally hit one letter on the typewriter instead of the other. The two letters are, after all, adjacent to each other and would hardly have been noticed. I looked up some more references and found someone else was curious as to that particular usage.

In an article titled, Unalienable/Inalienable , there were digital images of printed versions of the Declaration of Independence along with rough drafts showing the variances.

The article included the following:

“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.” (emphasis added)

I studied the images and came away wondering what all the fuss was about; kind of like “Tomato/Tamato, let’s call the whole thing off”. I’d had folks send email correcting the error of my ways; instructive and, to a certain degree, denigrating my lack of education regarding the use of such important words. I began to feel like James Gannon, the hard boiled city editor of a newspaper played by Clark Gable in, Teacher’s Pet. I knew these folks had sheep skins hanging on the wall; who was I to put in my two cents worth?

That same article had something interesting down at the bottom of the page:

“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.”

Isn’t that interesting; at least one rough drafts included “inherent &” directly next to inalienable when referring to rights. No doubt a kindred spirit involved in organizing the thought process and foundation of our nation understood the connection between God given rights and establishing a relationship with individuals in this land; man is made in God’s image and we are His children, worthy of being heirs to such blessings.

“Inherent &” never made it to the final draft and we can only wonder if it was pulled due to some politically correct discussion or whether it simply sounded redundant to those issuing the declaration. I’d venture the latter; these folks were the cream of the crop intellectually and spiritually. The Founders used words sparingly and with great accuracy for the most part; they likely concluded “inherent &” was unnecessary to complete the thought; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights from our Creator.

Is it any wonder our nation is torn as to the direction we should be taking? After all, if inalienable or unalienable can take up two pages of thought regarding the relationship with our Creator; how important is it to have a firm understanding of words used to describe other aspects of America? Borrowing from a recent article, Cultural Marxism: The Doom of Language , by Robert F. Beaudine which explains the progressive movement’s intentional alteration of words and their meanings:

“There could be a simple reason: If God exists, much of the social sciences become theoretical nonsense, which means society is harmed by their neglect of “the soul” and their mockery of religion.”


“Our founders envisioned a commonwealth of freedom extending from coast to coast. Commonwealths, by definition, are established for the “common good,” which our founders defined as freedom from tyranny and the protection of unalienable rights – bestowed by God – those of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This meant there were natural limits because of natural law. The pursuit of the fruits of labor was limited when it infringed upon other’s unalienable rights.”

“Multiculturalism requires a new definition of “common good,” one for a godless society where rights are granted by governments. The left think tank, Center for American Progress, claims that government is essential when people pursue their dreams. They redefined the common good as governmental policies that benefit everyone while balancing self-interest with the needs of the entire society. Perhaps that explains why Texas removed “the common good” from their public education’s textbooks. The common good has become a progressive term that refers to entitlements for the disadvantaged, but also includes big bailouts for our megacorporations.”

There is a segment of our society working to alter our perception of words and history to such an extent that each successive generation becomes further removed from the foundation which links our nation directly to God. If we are to survive as “One Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”, then our understanding of words needs to be improved upon. It’s time to get down on your knees and express gratitude to your Father in Heaven for having established a Constitution, by the hands of wise men raised up for that very purpose . Our inalienable rights, spell it any way you like, undeniably come from God.

The Moral Lib­eral asso­ciate edi­tor, T.F. Stern, is a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer, self-employed lock­smith, and gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since Jan­u­ary of 2005