Home | Blog | Software | Reviews and Features | Forum | Help | Donate | About us
topbanner_forum
  *

avatar image

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
  • December 07, 2016, 04:48:24 AM
  • Proudly celebrating 10 years online.
  • Donate now to become a lifetime supporting member of the site and get a non-expiring license key for all of our programs.
  • donate

Last post Author Topic: The Declaration of Independance- some scholars say we've been reading it wrong.  (Read 8467 times)

SeraphimLabs

  • Participant
  • Joined in 2012
  • *
  • Posts: 497
  • Be Ready
    • View Profile
    • SeraphimLabs
    • Donate to Member
http://www.nytimes.c...dependence.html?_r=2

Just got linked to this.

The original document is very badly faded and worn, time has not been kind to it even with modern preservation techniques.

However there are some scholars that say the punctuation has been transcribed incorrectly in most circulating reprints of its text. Changing that one little dot makes a pretty significant impact on how the document would be read, and what it could mean.

It would be of course that it is in the line relating to how the government gets its power from the people it governs.


Renegade

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 13,220
  • Tell me something you don't know...
    • View Profile
    • Renegade Minds
    • Donate to Member
I don't see this ending well.

Quote
“The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Ms. Allen said. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”

Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

40hz

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 11,768
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
The Founding Fathers probably wouldn't have been overly concerned about something that tiny. They would have had sufficient faith in each other and the citizenry to understand the intent behind the document and interpret it in that light.

But they weren't actively seeking ways to get around it like later manifestations of the US government apparently are. :-\

mwb1100

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,522
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
I disagree that this would have a significant impact on the meaning of the document.  Either way, with or without the period after "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", it's clear that those rights are inherent, that the role of government is to secure those rights, and a government which does not do so is subject to replacement.

I don't read a different meaning with or without the period.  Maybe someone can better explain to me how removing the period would change the interpretation.

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 36,408
    • View Profile
    • Mouser's Software Zone on DonationCoder.com
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
It's a fascinating idea that an old transcript could have an error that gets passed down through the years -- and a fascinating idea that a punctuation change could make a dramatic difference.
On closer inspection, however, it looks like just that -- a cool idea that's too tempting to pass up, even if it doesn't amount to anything.
Period or not -- i don't see any change at all in meaning -- which is still very much in the eye of the beholder.
Whether there is a period in that spot or not is purely stylistic -- i see no way to credibly argue that it changes any meaning or even any emphasis.

40hz

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 11,768
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
On closer inspection, however, it looks like just that -- a cool idea that's too tempting to pass up, even if it doesn't amount to anything.

Yeah...I had a "Bircher" neighbor (his characterization, not mine) that could go on and on about that one. He had a bunch of other "proof" things aren't all that they seem to be with the Declaration or Constitution. Or the Bible either for that matter. Too bad he passed away before the National Treasure movies came out. He would have loved those.

And since we're on the subject, I can't wait from someone to rediscover and reopen the "unalienable" vs "inalienable rights" debate.

Why did Jefferson say "inalienable" whereas others referred to these rights as "unalienable?"

This one comes up every ten or so years in conspiracy and self-taught 'expert' historical 'research' circles.

Those who have done genuine research have long ago concluded that the two spellings were commonplace and interchangeable during the times in question, with writers of the period often switching arbitrarily between the two. Sometimes within the same document or letter.

That doesn't stop some people from reading a whole bit of drama into it despite the overwhelming evidence that clearly establishes either spelling meant the same thing to the framers of the Declaration and Constitution - and that "correct" American-English spelling and punctuation was still very far from being standardized in the 1700s.

It wasn't until well after Webster that word spellings finally started to settle down in the late 1800s. And most scholars of the American language will agree that punctuation usage varied widely until the advent of The Chicago Manual of Style was published in 1906.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2014, 01:35:19 PM by 40hz »

SeraphimLabs

  • Participant
  • Joined in 2012
  • *
  • Posts: 497
  • Be Ready
    • View Profile
    • SeraphimLabs
    • Donate to Member
I think it is amusing though that a fuss would be made about it now with the government giving so much scrutiny to every possibility of a way to increase how much authority they have.

Tinfoil hats, but its straight out of 1984. Make a little tweak to history, and suddenly the implications mean that you can do this much more that previously wasn't allowed.

mouser

  • First Author
  • Administrator
  • Joined in 2005
  • *****
  • Posts: 36,408
    • View Profile
    • Mouser's Software Zone on DonationCoder.com
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
Ok but also let me remind everyone that we try to avoid talking politics on the forum, so let's try to avoid generic political debates here.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2014, 10:43:23 AM by mouser »

app103

  • That scary taskbar girl
  • Global Moderator
  • Joined in 2006
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,666
    • View Profile
    • App's Apps
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
I don't think there is a 2nd way to interpret the document, if you consider the context and the events that followed it. It meant only 1 thing.

And if it had been a simple 3 word document, stating merely "F**K You England" it still could not have been interpreted any differently.

It is not a legal document that holds any bearing on modern life in the US. You can't go to court over any perceived violation of rights, citing the Declaration of Independence as granting you any. Nor can it grant the US government any extra authority.

It's just the old declaration of war that lead to the founding of the US. Nothing more, nothing less.

40hz

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 11,768
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
It's just the old declaration of war that lead to the founding of the US. Nothing more, nothing less.

This. :Thmbsup:

(And a helluva good read too!)

40hz

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 11,768
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Tinfoil hats, but its straight out of 1984. Make a little tweak to history, and suddenly the implications mean that you can do this much more that previously wasn't allowed.

+1 it being Tinfoil Hat.

It wouldn't fly here. Which is why any attempt at a power grab goes out of its way to avoid any mention of the Constitution or similar documents. All such power grabs (to date) have been justified using 'technical' legal arguments or very narrow and "nuanced" interpretations of provisions in the US Code.

The absolute last thing any of the endorsers of our current 'security' rules want to raise is a constitutional debate on the absolute legality of such measures. Because that is an argument they cannot win, no matter how hard they try to twist the Constitution to allow what they're doing.

And furthermore, they know it - as does everyone else. 8)


40hz

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 11,768
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
The thing I really find amazing about the Declaration of Independence is how it still resonates today.

The language in that document is a masterpiece of writing style. And the topics it discusses are still as important today as they were back then.

Like I said, it's a good read. :)

IainB

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2008
  • **
  • Posts: 6,139
  • Slartibartfarst
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
It's a fascinating idea that an old transcript could have an error that gets passed down through the years -- and a fascinating idea that a punctuation change could make a dramatic difference.
...
Refer: Illuminated script.

CWuestefeld

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,002
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
As others have noted, I can't see how the presence or absence of that punctuation has any real effect on the meaning.

I don't think that there's any doubt about where the heads of the founders were at - folks like Jefferson and Franklin, who wrote it, or Madison who wrote much of the Constitution were very much interested in the (classical) liberal ideology, as in the writing of JS Mill. Their philosophy was all about the sovereignty of the individual, and were not of a communitarian bent.

You might not like that, you might think that we've learned better since then, but the body of writing from these guys is pretty clear, and it's nutty to believe that a single punctuation mark, whose impact escapes most of us anyway, should be taken to contradict all that.

40hz

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2007
  • **
  • Posts: 11,768
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
but the body of writing from these guys is pretty clear,

Excellent point. :Thmbsup:

We have library shelves of original writing, and large collections of personal letters, from several of these gentlemen. So it's not as if much imagination or scholarly debate is needed to grasp where they were coming from.

TaoPhoenix

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2011
  • **
  • Posts: 4,550
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
Excellent point. :Thmbsup:

"The error, according to Danielle Allen, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., concerns a period that appears right after the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the transcript, but almost certainly not, she maintains, on the badly faded parchment original. "

So maybe it's a "very bad point"?
:P

MilesAhead

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2009
  • **
  • Posts: 7,285
    • View Profile
    • Miles Ahead Software
    • Donate to Member
The thing that cracks me up is many people think the section that goes
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,...

is part of the Constitution.  They think the Constitution was written to guarantee individual rights rather than delineating the governmental setup.  I tell them if the purpose of the document was to proclaim individual rights the "Bill of Rights" would not be amendments.  They would be right near the start like in the Declaration. Unfortunately for us the Constitution is the document that binds, not the DOI.  Joe Sixpack has heard the "self evident" part so often he just thinks that's what keeps the cops in check.  :)

CWuestefeld

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2006
  • **
  • Posts: 1,002
    • View Profile
    • Donate to Member
The thing that cracks me up is many people...

I don't understand why we celebrate Independence Day as the birth of the USA. All this holiday marks is when we started trying to break away from England. But we weren't successful with becoming independent for several more years, and the form that our country now takes wasn't solidified until the ratification of the Constitution in 1789.

In a sense, the Constitution was written to guarantee individual rights. The reason that stuff is relegated to the BoR is that the individual rights was so fundamental a foundation, that it was simply assumed. The Constitution documents a limited set of powers that the people cede to the government; obviously it therefore guarantees anything not mentioned therein to the people - they never gave away those rights!

There was a fair amount of controversy over the BoR, not because anyone disagreed with its intent, but because there was a fear that (even with the 9th Amendment trying to explain the situation) the list would be taken to be inclusive, and the government would just start doing things that the list doesn't explicitly forbid. And this is exactly what has happened.

Renegade

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 13,220
  • Tell me something you don't know...
    • View Profile
    • Renegade Minds
    • Donate to Member
As others have noted, I can't see how the presence or absence of that punctuation has any real effect on the meaning.

I don't think that there's any doubt about where the heads of the founders were at - folks like Jefferson and Franklin, who wrote it, or Madison who wrote much of the Constitution were very much interested in the (classical) liberal ideology, as in the writing of JS Mill. Their philosophy was all about the sovereignty of the individual, and were not of a communitarian bent.

You might not like that, you might think that we've learned better since then, but the body of writing from these guys is pretty clear, and it's nutty to believe that a single punctuation mark, whose impact escapes most of us anyway, should be taken to contradict all that.

While many people can actually read and understand, there is a segment of the population that reads and invents. e.g. You say ABC, and they'll say that you said XYZ. I'm sure you've run across them before. They read what they want to.

Given how the entire SOPA/PIPA/etc. thing went -- i.e. people scream, it gets trashed, a new version with a different name comes out -- I think we can reasonably expect a new magical redefinition of the "living document" to emerge.

So, while I'd agree with you that it certainly is nutty... I fully expect at some point in the future for this to become an issue with a new "interpretation"... because war is peace.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Vurbal

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2012
  • **
  • Posts: 635
  • Mostly harmless
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
The thing that cracks me up is many people...

I don't understand why we celebrate Independence Day as the birth of the USA. All this holiday marks is when we started trying to break away from England. But we weren't successful with becoming independent for several more years, and the form that our country now takes wasn't solidified until the ratification of the Constitution in 1789.

In a sense, the Constitution was written to guarantee individual rights. The reason that stuff is relegated to the BoR is that the individual rights was so fundamental a foundation, that it was simply assumed. The Constitution documents a limited set of powers that the people cede to the government; obviously it therefore guarantees anything not mentioned therein to the people - they never gave away those rights!

There was a fair amount of controversy over the BoR, not because anyone disagreed with its intent, but because there was a fear that (even with the 9th Amendment trying to explain the situation) the list would be taken to be inclusive, and the government would just start doing things that the list doesn't explicitly forbid. And this is exactly what has happened.

My brother and I were discussing exactly this the other day. Here's the problem with that line of reasoning. It assumes that people would continue to appreciate the significance of what happened prior to the revolution which all of human history tells me is absolutely impossible. The suggestion that the same people who work so hard to bypass the amendments which are there wouldn't do worse if they were absent doesn't pass the giggle test.

That isn't to say I think it's an adequate approach. It was always a kludge to compensate for the fact the US Constitution should have started from the Anti Federalist position in the first place, focusing most of the document on a general, and extremely broad, description of inherent individual rights. The government's authority would then be described in very specific terms with the ability for the people, but not the government without explicit and direct authorization by the people, to authorize additional powers through the amendment process.

WRT the original premise of the thread, if changing a punctuation mark in that document changes your interpretation, it really just means you aren't familiar with the relevant history. That's understandable if your background comes primarily from our public school system. I went to a pretty good public school and they never mentioned George Mason or The Virginia Declaration Of Rights.
I learned to say the pledge of allegiance
Before they beat me bloody down at the station
They haven't got a word out of me since
I got a billion years probation
- The MC5

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.

Renegade

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 13,220
  • Tell me something you don't know...
    • View Profile
    • Renegade Minds
    • Donate to Member
WRT the original premise of the thread, if changing a punctuation mark in that document changes your interpretation, it really just means you aren't familiar with the relevant history.

True enough, but history and science are often much like broad, sprawling markets -- people shop around for what they want. Evidence is like dirt -- trodden on and ignored. I certainly wouldn't put it past people, like, oh perhaps a constitutional law professor, to conveniently reinterpret for broader government power despite knowing the history.

That's understandable if your background comes primarily from our public school system. I went to a pretty good public school and they never mentioned George Mason or The Virginia Declaration Of Rights.

Hahaha! :) It's amazing what gets left out of education, but predictable - things that actually matter. :)
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

MilesAhead

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2009
  • **
  • Posts: 7,285
    • View Profile
    • Miles Ahead Software
    • Donate to Member
The other most popular Constitutional Misconception I think is that therein is stipulated something about The Two Party System(tm)  The totally contrived effect of the two currently dominant political parties haranguing.  In the subconscious Joe Sixpack must be converting a vague memory of a legislature with two bodies, House and Senate, into this channel of thinking.  Like the commercial that tells you it's two, two, two mints in one we get the crap that if there's a Democrat and a Republican this is all inclusive.  Reading it is more fun for seeing what's not there at times.  :)

app103

  • That scary taskbar girl
  • Global Moderator
  • Joined in 2006
  • *****
  • Posts: 5,666
    • View Profile
    • App's Apps
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
I certainly wouldn't put it past people, like, oh perhaps a constitutional law professor, to conveniently reinterpret for broader government power despite knowing the history.

But it's not the Constitution. It's an old formal declaration of war that predates the Constitution. It holds no bearing on how things are run today. It can neither grant any rights to citizens nor any power to the government...at all.

Any reinterpretation at this point, based on a single punctuation mark, would be equal to you discovering an old baby picture of yourself which leads you to believe you had slightly less/more hair on your head, when you were born, than you originally thought. How life changing would that be for you?

Vurbal

  • Supporting Member
  • Joined in 2012
  • **
  • Posts: 635
  • Mostly harmless
    • View Profile
    • Read more about this member.
    • Donate to Member
WRT the original premise of the thread, if changing a punctuation mark in that document changes your interpretation, it really just means you aren't familiar with the relevant history.

True enough, but history and science are often much like broad, sprawling markets -- people shop around for what they want. Evidence is like dirt -- trodden on and ignored. I certainly wouldn't put it past people, like, oh perhaps a constitutional law professor, to conveniently reinterpret for broader government power despite knowing the history.

Exactly why I've concluded the Constitution is inevitably in need of a rewrite. In the context of the times, the Constitution was a brilliant first try. Fundamentally, though, we are running into the same problems the colonists faced from the British government at the time. John Adams made the same argument prior to the US Revolution that we are making now. The specifics differed, and there was no formal document whatsoever to argue from. Still, his position was essentially that the colonies didn't answer to Parliament based on the long established historical tradition that colonies answered directly to the king.

It was an admirable first try (I'm not counting the Articles of Confederation) but ultimately built on the same shaky foundation of assumptions which had already failed so spectacularly. There are only 2 assumptions you can truly rely on WRT government. The first is that people, in government or otherwise, can be relied on to consistently interpret the rules in any manner, and to any degree necessary to do whatever they already wanted to.

The second, and perhaps even more important for maintaining actual democracy, is the real world Golden Rule. He who has the gold makes the rules. If the economy isn't democratic, meaning actual capitalism with real competition and choice, the government isn't either. So long as we don't have meaningful property ownership/disposition and privacy protections (just off the top of my head - there are others of course), capitalism exists only in theory.

It's nothing specific to the British then or Americans today. It's just people. They could be from any place at any time and the results would ultimately be the same.
I learned to say the pledge of allegiance
Before they beat me bloody down at the station
They haven't got a word out of me since
I got a billion years probation
- The MC5

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.

Renegade

  • Charter Member
  • Joined in 2005
  • ***
  • Posts: 13,220
  • Tell me something you don't know...
    • View Profile
    • Renegade Minds
    • Donate to Member
I certainly wouldn't put it past people, like, oh perhaps a constitutional law professor, to conveniently reinterpret for broader government power despite knowing the history.

But it's not the Constitution. It's an old formal declaration of war that predates the Constitution. It holds no bearing on how things are run today. It can neither grant any rights to citizens nor any power to the government...at all.

Any reinterpretation at this point, based on a single punctuation mark, would be equal to you discovering an old baby picture of yourself which leads you to believe you had slightly less/more hair on your head, when you were born, than you originally thought. How life changing would that be for you?

But it doesn't matter.

Perhaps I'm not being clear enough.

The psychopaths out there will read anything and come up with anything. That it is the declaration of independence doesn't matter -- it is good enough that it was written in the same century by the same basic group as the fellows who wrote the Constitution. Logic doesn't matter. Reason is irrelevant. The psychopaths follow the same basic patterns all the time. They grasp at straws and bray like donkeys until they get their way. We see this regularly. The entire SOPA/PIPA/etc. thing was a good example. The same nutjobs came back with the same nonsense again. They latch onto anything remotely related to any issue and pursue it until they get it. They don't take no for an answer. This will be the same basic deal because it's "close enough".

Exactly why I've concluded the Constitution is inevitably in need of a rewrite.


That would scare the b'jeez out of me given the mindset of the freaks in power that do everything for our "safety".




It was an admirable first try (I'm not counting the Articles of Confederation) but ultimately built on the same shaky foundation of assumptions which had already failed so spectacularly. There are only 2 assumptions you can truly rely on WRT government. The first is that people, in government or otherwise, can be relied on to consistently interpret the rules in any manner, and to any degree necessary to do whatever they already wanted to.


Sadly. :(


The second, and perhaps even more important for maintaining actual democracy, is the real world Golden Rule. He who has the gold makes the rules. If the economy isn't democratic, meaning actual capitalism with real competition and choice, the government isn't either.


Pretty much.


So long as we don't have meaningful property ownership/disposition and privacy protections (just off the top of my head - there are others of course), capitalism exists only in theory.


Which is exactly why I every now and then blurt out that property tax is theft/slavery. You are forced to work to pay the "tax" and if you don't, they steal your home. If it isn't forced labour (partial slavery), it is a slow exercise of eminent domain, and therefore theft.

Property tax destroys any security you have in having a place to live. This is not really a debateable point. It's a simple statement of fact.

Any "costs" or fees associated with any services need to be permanently divorced from property in order for people to have actual security in their property. Until then, any talk of "property rights" is just disingenous banter.

(Please note that I am not talking about corporations as "persons". I mean natural humans.)

Property represents the fruits of past labours. The confiscation of it is nothing short than retroactive slavery (theft).


It's nothing specific to the British then or Americans today. It's just people. They could be from any place at any time and the results would ultimately be the same.


The Anglo-world does have common law, which is arguably somewhat unique to it. But you also have somewhat similar things happening in other places, e.g. Ireland (Brehon law, hat tip to tomos) and Somalia (Xeer). i.e. Ad hoc rules created as new cases came up.

But yeah... the same problems arise all over.

Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker