Draft of Declaration of Independence named subjects, not citizens


57 Responses to “Draft of Declaration of Independence named subjects, not citizens”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The article didn’t tell me how the correction was made? Did they have some sort of correction fluid at the time?

    • Agies says:

      He smudged it out. It’s actually interesting and important because for other changes he merely crossed out words.

  2. silkox says:

    “Subjects” can be made out with the naked eye, but the discovery probably wouldn’t have gotten as much press — maybe not even believed– if they hadn’t rubbed a little science on it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The “Founding Fathers” as they came to affectionately be known, were elitists. Absolute and incontrovertible elitists. And, they were racists, too. Not all of them, but the vast majority of them.

    The government created by our founding fathers excluded everyone from the enjoyment of the blessing of liberty with the notable exception of themselves.

    Lest we forget, These men created a government where only white males who owned property [including slaves] could 1)vote, 2)hold office, 3) serve on juries, etc. The list of exclusive right retained solely for themselves is a long one indeed.

    So, let us not wax too nostalgic for our founding fathers since every right now enjoyed by every other human being in America had to be fought for with blood and treasure.

    • CynfulAtTimes says:

      Your point is really pointless. There has, and there always will be racisim or racist, as you prefer to call them. The founding fathers were great men, try as you may to take that away from them, they were brave and I personally feel, they were brilliant. Each generation throughout time has been a racist generation, it’s forever. Your comments can be taken as racist comments, my reply can and will taken as racist. Thousands of years from now, there will be racism. So to try and make a “moment” in our history a racist moment is pointless. Good luck in your endeavors to belittle a great generation of people. Ken Moore

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you… someone who realizes the founding fathers lived in a different time than we do. Things were done differently and things that are not tolerated today were commonplace back in those days. Things such as slavery, public hangings, and firing you guns in the streets in protest of a unfair government were all looked at as normal. I’m not saying that it was right, it was just a different world.

  4. loroferoz says:

    It’s society growing, one idea at a time.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If Jefferson only knew how much we would actually be subjected to.

  6. Algernon Sidney says:

    Before the first civil war, we were ALL subjects of King George. Any member of the Colonies would call himself or herself a subject.

    Society was divided, as it is now into three categories … royalists, separatists, and those who just could not make up their minds … but all were Subjects. ‘Citizens’ was a treasonist term.

  7. Druthers says:

    This discovery is extraordinary! Not only does it show the substitution of the word citizen for subject but shows Jeffeson, who had been a subject of His Majesty all his life, abruptly realizing that he too was now a citizen. That his life as a subject would be gone forever.
    It is so rare to see the one moment or word that changes the position of man in the world.
    A truly moving document!

  8. Anonymous says:

    it’s great to find out about the thought process that wnt into the writing of the DI. These people really took their time and produced a pretty cool document.

  9. anansi133 says:

    The market has spoken: America doesn’t need citizens any more, it needs consumers. We consume government management services the same way we consume media.

    Managing these services is something best left to the experts. Don’t like the options? Upgrade your subscription!

  10. Anonymous says:

    “To the Library of Congress, whose Preservation Research and Testing Division analyzed the document with the latest high-resolution camera equipment, it illustrates an important moment: “when [Jefferson] reconsidered his choice of words and articulated the recognition that the people of the fledgling United States of America were no longer subjects of any nation, but citizens of an emerging democracy.””

    Republic, not Democracy. I don’t believe the word Democracy appears anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

    There is, of course, a great difference between a Democracy and a Republic and the distinction needs to be understood and preserved.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Sadly, we have become ‘subjects’ once again, not to the throne of England, but to a phantom ‘system’ conveniently projected by our own minds onto our technology.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Must be a Hamiltonian slip.

  13. wcoffey says:

    It seems our Founding Fathers were not so removed from their former Monarchs as they might have been.George Washington refused the title of King in lieu of President,while some of our present day Presidents would have preferred to be Kings.

  14. Lady Katey says:

    This is awesome. Stuff like this keeps me motivated about taking 16 credits of chemistry so I can apply for the paper conservation grad program at Buff State.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Subject is British for “citizen”.

    I know this because I am a British subject.

    The Declaration of Independence was written by a bunch of British dudes.

    It’s not that hard guys. Don’t read so much into it.

    • lux_aurumque says:

      One of the definitions of subject is:
      “a person who is under the dominion or rule of a sovereign.”

      Whereas a citizen is: “a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection.”

      I know this because I am an American citizen.

      It’s not that hard, guy. But don’t try to play down the difference.

      • lux_aurumque says:

        I should have clarified….definitions of “subject” and “citizen” as would have been applicable in the 1770s.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Nobody values my opinion, nor considers me trustworthy enough to even vote, in this, my own native country. I have lived in Washington, DC for over thirty five years serving the people of the fifty states as a loyal civil servant, and my reward, along with my over half a million neighbors resident in DC, is to have our very right to Consent to the Manner in which we are Governed continually suppressed. Are we upset? Yes. Does it matter to “citizens” of the fifty “states”? Apparently not, since there have been over 200 years to correct this deficiency in (Y)our Constitution, and nothing has been done.

    So this country will have to make their own bed, and sleep in it as well. I think it unwise of this country to engender in the population of its own capital such alienation, disillusion, and disappointment as I and my neighbors have come to feel, but, then, as I previously stated, my opinion obviously doesn’t matter. RIGHT?

    Until we are again allowed to participate in our own country, a POX on your houses.

    A DC denizen, subject of the people of the “States”.
    Happy belated and benighted fourth.

  17. Anonymous says:

    it’s an interesting article, but it’s just too romanticized. by replacing subjects with citizens, jefferson was simply being more accurate. the context of citizens here is referring to deprivation of property through taxation without representation.

    the use of subjects would refer to everyone living in the colonies. citizens at the time of the revolution only referred to wealthy white men. really the only ones who were effected by the taxes because women weren’t permitted to hold property and blacks were still property themselves.

    despite all the idealistic rhetoric that was tossed around, the revolutionary war was just a bunch of rich folks who didn’t want to pay their taxes.

  18. theawesomerobot says:

    I love science.

  19. freshacconci says:

    This is fascinating and telling on how the shift of one word can mean so much.

    A lot gets written about you guys (USAers) and some of it may be accurate. But I do have to say as someone from across the border, the ideal is pretty impressive and admirable.

    Happy 4th.

  20. Bodhipaksa says:

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the draft of declaration of Independence “created subjects.” The passage in question is part of the list of complaints against King George, and recognized that the people in the colonies were (or had been) the king’s subjects. It’s a technically correct usage. Jeferson wasn’t suggesting that the colonists would become subjects of an independent US government.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m going to have to disagree with you. It is called the Declaration of Independence. In other words our founding fathers were declaring independence from England for several reasons which were outlined in the document. However, also declared in the document was “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness”. This clearly states the intention of the founding fathers to not only declare independence from the English Monarchy, but to also create a new government which, in the words of Abe Lincoln, would be “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. In more modern vernacular, FUBU.

  21. Rob Beschizza says:

    I’ve edited the headline to remove that implication. Thanks!

  22. Derek C. F. Pegritz says:

    “Hey, Tom–I don’t mean to be reading over your shoulder, but…uhhh, don’t you think that ought to be ‘citizens?’”

    “Hmm. Good point, Ben.” *erase erase erase*

  23. Rob Beschizza says:

    Oddly enough, this was the first time I’d ever been asked to sit on a story.

    While touring the Library of Congress for a piece about preserving documents both old and new, someone gave me a peek at a limited-spectrum image of the draft and challenged me to figure out what was scrubbed out under ‘citizens.’ I got a moment’s look at what was really just a messy tangle of cursive writing, even when hyperspectrally-revealed in high definition.

    “Subjects?” I said. Totally a guess.

    They seemed surprised. “Hmm!” End of demo!

  24. Brad Collins says:

    The it was being written today, the original would be “citizen” which would be scratched out and replaced by “consumer”…

  25. benher says:

    “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, it’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”


    “Ah, my loyal subjects! New scientific evidence has just come to light regarding that venerated work of literary genius, the Constitution!”

  26. arkizzle / Moderator says:

    This is excellent! To echo theawesomerobot.. I love science!

  27. rockcruze says:

    It is so rare to see the one moment or word that changes the position of man in the world.
    A truly moving document!
    Moreover, I seem to remember that this actually was a trend that had begun from the time of the Articles of Confederation, coming from people who thought that Britain had the best form of government that could be imagined.
    best ptc

  28. Anonymous says:

    I wonder, how many US citizen are aware that a few of their Founding Fathers – Hamilton chief among them – wanted to have an elective monarchy (with a king elected for life or good behavior) instead of a Republic.
    Moreover, I seem to remember that this actually was a trend that had begun from the time of the Articles of Confederation, coming from people who thought that Britain had the best form of government that could be imagined.

  29. cowtown says:

    Also interesting is that this particular grievance didn’t make the final cut.


    (do a ctrl-F for treasonable)

    • jacques45 says:

      Interesting, had never seen that.

      The link brings up a completely different item too…
      I never really noticed that some historical US documents capitalise every noun as is the fashion in German and other languages, but the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights each have fewer and fewer nouns capitalised. Odd.

      • Anonymous says:

        English frequently capitalized nouns, as English is a Germanic language. It was really common. Hell, you’ll still find old people in this country capitalizing every other noun in sentences when they write.

  30. Andrew Denny says:

    Speaking as a loyal subject of Her Majesty, it always amuses me how republicans (with a small ‘r’) get so worked up about the word ‘subjects’.

    It doesn’t mean slave or owned person. It simply means ‘subject to the rule of others’. Even a republican system subjects people to the collective rule.

    If you don’t believe me, just try opting out of paying your taxes. Tell ‘em you don’t want the government to defend you, or build your schools or roads – and see what they subject you to!

    • Anonymous says:

      Right? And though our “Bill of Rights” sure is a lofty brand name, it serves as no description of reality. Were any American subjects to attempt what you suggest, they’d find out very quickly what how quickly these Temporary Privileges evaporate.

    • Anonymous says:

      thanks Andrew.
      even the Brits agree the 16th amendment makes you a subject. could that be why the founders did not allow direct taxation of your labor? things that make you go hmmmm.

    • Anonymous says:

      What century are you living in?

    • arkizzle / Moderator says:

      Speaking as a loyal subject of Her Majesty..

      Not any more, Citizen:


      • Bodhipaksa says:

        I was about to say exactly the same thing to Andrew. The category of “British subject” still exists, but it applies only to a tiny fraction of people.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Not sure why it took such advanced tech. to see it. You can pretty much make out the word “subjects” under “citizens” in pictures of the document with the naked eye.

  32. Anonymous says:

    “when Slavemaster Jefferson reconsidered his choice of words and articulated the recognition that the white men of the fledgling United States of America were no longer subjects of any nation, but citizens of an emerging democracy, free to subjugate Indians, Africans, and Women.”

  33. Anonymous says:

    Remember the original Library of Congress was burned by the British in The War of 1812. The books of Jefferson’s library became the new library of congress. It seems very coincedental this is only uncovered recently? Yes science has made great inroads but I doubt you needed special equipment to discover this.

  34. mgfarrelly says:

    “Look at all the wonderful things you have, Mr. Burns: King Arthur’s Excalibur, the only existing nude photo of Mark Twain, and that rare first draft of the constitution with the word “suckers” in it.”

    -The Simpsons, “Rosebud”, 1993

  35. mgfarrelly says:

    “Look at all the wonderful things you have, Mr. Burns: King Arthur’s Excalibur, the only existing nude photo of Mark Twain, and that rare first draft of the constitution with the word “suckers” in it.”

    -The Simpsons, “Rosebud”, 1993

  36. Anonymous says:

    One word. and to awesomerobot, I love science too.

  37. Anonymous says:

    So much to do about one word! What about the crossed over words or those in brackets? As if a draft copy really does matter.

  38. Anonymous says:

    That’s why they call it a ROUGH draft, duh.

  39. PeterMelzer says:

    This is a fascinating piece of historic evidence that thousands of years of feudalist rule were finally about to come to an end. It took more than 300 years of struggle in the occidental world to accomplish this important goal, exemplified by one small willful change of word. Free will exists!

    Read more about the beginnings here:

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