July 2nd, 2010
06:02 PM ET

Analysis confirms "subjects-citizens" change in Declaration

Would the spirit of the Declaration of Independence have been any different if it referred to Americans as "subjects" instead of "citizens?"

Thomas Jefferson apparently thought so, and recent analysis of a rough draft of the Declaration has confirmed speculation that he considered both before settling on "citizens."

Recent hyperspectral imaging by scientists in the Library of Congress' Preservation Research and Testing Division performed on Jefferson’s rough draft shows he originally wrote the phrase "our fellow subjects." But he apparently changed his mind and heavily scrawled over the word "subjects" was the word "citizens."

"The correction seems to illuminate an important moment for Jefferson and for a nation on the eve of breaking from monarchical rule - a moment when he 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," the Library of Congress said.

Hyperspectral imaging is the process of taking digital photos of an object using distinct portions of the visible and non-visible light spectrum, revealing what previously could not be seen by the human eye, according to the Library of Congress.

The correction occurs in the portion of the declaration that deals with U.S. grievances against King George III's  incitement of "treasonable insurrections," according to the Library of Congress. The specific sentence is is not in the final draft, but a similar phrase stuck, and the word "citizens" is used elsewhere in the final document.

The word correction has been suspected for some time by scholars, according to the LOC. In "The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 1: 1760-1776," Julian P. Boyd wrote "TJ originally wrote ‘fellow-subjects,’ copying the term from the corresponding passage in the first page of the First Draft of the Virginia Constitution; then, while the ink was still wet on the ‘Rough draught’ he expunged or erased ‘subjects’ and wrote ‘citizens’ over it."

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  1. Mir

    I agree that founding fathers were genius and wrote a brilliant charter that has thrust the nation forward for over 200 years. But you also have to realized that they "wrote laws that addressed the needs and demands of their time." They realized that stagnated laws lead to stagnated society; they had to evolve the religious and common laws to the demands the 19th century.

    We are now in 21st century living with the laws of the 19th century. No matter how brilliant those laws are, we need to reshape them to the needs and demands of today; rather than bickering over their interpretation and re-interpretation. Immigration is not a conservative or liberal issue; it's not a secular or religious issue. It's the issue of today. We need brilliant minds of founding fathers again to bring the laws in line with the changed times.

    July 3, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Laurie

    The key word here is Citizens. Yes, he knew how to clarify. I wish that Congress would read it. Don't go back to the old "we are all immigrants". Americans should have their rights. Non citizens should not be here unless they plan to become citizens and entered OUR COUNTRY legally.

    July 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob

    Jefferson probably changed it from "Subjects" to "Citizens" just after he had carnal relations with one of his slaves. So who do we really have to thank?

    July 3, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dan, TX

    If there was not a limit on the number of people who could immigrate legally, we would have very few illegals, and could then round up illegals and deport them. There are too many good folk who come here illegally because they want to live instead of die in their home country. We can easily solve the illegal immigration problem by allowing more people in legally.

    July 3, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dee Dee Lynn


    Those are great quotes from Jefferson. I guess they are the reason the Conservatives have banished Jefferson from US history.

    July 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan, TX

      He was only banished from Texas schoolbooks because he was a socialist.

      July 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dan, TX

    A lot of the people worked up about illegal immigration would be coming here illegally themselves if they were in the same situation of many of the current illegals. Could you ever be desperate enough to break the law? Hungry enough to steal food? You bet you could and you would. I know your answer is that if you were caught it would be perfectly reasonable for someone to imprison or execute you for breaking the law but you were desperate enough to take the risk and these people know the risks and should be imprisoned/deported but then you really are missing my point.

    July 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kana

      @Dan, TX – The key word in your post is ILLEGAL. I guess unfortunately the United States currently has and has had laws regarding immigtration dating back to the founding of our country. The reason why we have been over run by ILLEGAL aliens of all nationalities is because our federal government has made enforcing our laws a low priority. This is why some States are taking it upon themselves to enforce our laws.

      I beleive the vast majority of the ILLEGAL aliens are unskilled labor but you have to also keep in mind there are many that came on student and work visas and have overstayed their visas wothout leaving.

      As for the unskilled ILLEGAL aliens why is it that they are leaving their home countries to come here? I refuse to accept the idea that it is "to do jobs that Americans won't do". Why is it that Americans won't do "those" jobs? Could it be because those employers don't want to pay a reasonable wage. Surely those employers that knowingling hire ILLEGAL aliens aren't paying them a reasonable wage. Who was doing these "job" before the invasion of ILLEGAL aliens?

      With the outsourrcing of jobs from the United States to lower production cost to corporations our government has encouraged the decline in our economy. Even the technical jobs that legal citizens of the United States once did have been exported.

      With the exportation of "our" jobs one would be lead to think that these other countries should have thriving economies, but no. why is that? It's because many of these other countries don't have labor laws comparable to the United States. So those workers may be working for low wages, unsafe work conditions, etc. All becasue of corporate greed and share holder profits.

      As the President of the United States has stated for immigration reform, ILLEGAL aliens would need to register, pay a fine, learn english, and get in the back of the line for legal immigration. those 4 items I agree with, With the exception of very few I am absolutely opposed to amnesty for ILLEGAL aliens, I don't care if someone has been in the United States for 5,10, 20 years or more. ILLEGAL is ILLEGAL.

      July 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan, TX

    Jefferson was only banished in Texas because he was a socialist.

    July 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. kburgoyne

    It is not my attempt in this posting to take a positive or negative stance regarding those who immigrated or are immigrating illegally into this country. So if the reader jumps to the conclusion that I am trying to argue in either direction, they would be wrong.

    I only wish to bring clarity regarding the relationship between drugs and illegals, since many posts attempt to smear them together using a broad brush. The overwhelming majority of those who have and who are trying to immigrate illegally into the US are not in the drug business. They are immigrating in search of a better life. That is not an argument pro or con as to whether they should be permitted to so immigrate. It is only a statement of their incentive.

    For many of these immigrants, this searching for a better life means they are trying to escape the socioeconomic destruction that the drug business is inflicting upon their lives in Mexico, Central America and South America. Therefore it is highly unjust to paint these people as drug traffickers when in fact many are innocent victims of the drug business and are trying to escape its affects.

    So to be fair, it is very American to have these strong debates/arguments over how illegal immigration should be handled. However it is unjust to infer that illegal immigrants are a major force behind drug trafficking. For those who believe in capitalism, the major force behind drug trafficking is abundantly clear. The demand curve in our country is WAY too high. That, however, is a point to be debated separately from illegal immigration.

    July 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 1nOnlyGeef

    @Kburgoyne Thank you for pointing out that border hopping and drugs are not mutually exclusive.

    What most 'Mericans chose to not understand is that the illegals are not bringing the drugs and those that do are only bringing them because our country is filled with drug addicts. Whether it's cocaine, pot, heroin, etc we, the people, are the reasons that drugs keeps making it across the border. The culprit for drugs inside our borders need only to have a finger pointed in one direction, the mirror. If it isn't coming from south of the border, it's coming from your drug store. Except you have to have the benefit of playing the corporate game; having health insurance, having the money to see you dealer, I mean doctor and having the money to continue your medication.

    So how do we fix this? Oh maybe stop trying to make our fellow subjects put on the facade of perfection that is supposedly the American Dream. Stop requiring our fellow subjects to have to pay astronomical bills to have the pleasure of living in the One nation under God, maybe if there wasn't so much greed taught in the classroom and possibly a little bit of compassion and understanding of how the rest of the world works and not just how our "wonderful beacon of democracy, the leaders of the free world" is I can bet we wouldn't have a country of ignorant, dollar-chasing addicts who's only tactic to fixing the problems of our country is to yell and scream things that have no factual backing or any direction to improving our state of general well-being.

    I will now get off my soap box but would like to leave with this final remark. To any of you who will feel the need to go after typos or any grammatical issues in this post, please save yourself the trouble, find a window in a tall building, and quit life. Thank you.

    July 3, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. maria

    I am sick and tierd of all these illegals whining.They are breaking our law.I am proud of this womans son going in to our military,that makes him a American citizen and I am proud of him.But his Mother hasbeen here for 20 years, still can not speak english,and calles us racist ??? for what she is breaking our law,she has to be affraid of her ignorenc,not us

    July 3, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Adam

    Hey, Maria, before you start pointing out people's inability to speak the English language, learn to use its written form.

    July 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. zendlab.com

    its not my business.

    July 3, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Alcoholism Treatment :

    when i browse videos on youtube, i always look for those videos with funny stuffs in it;~`

    October 28, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
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