Inalienable versus Unalienable

Inalienable versus Unalienable

This is a discussion on Inalienable versus Unalienable within the The Second Amendment & Gun Legislation Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I got an interesting e-mail from a friend and followed up on it and found some unusual distinctions: According to Black’s Law Dictionary (8th Edition; ...

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Thread: Inalienable versus Unalienable

  1. #1
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    Question Inalienable versus Unalienable

    I got an interesting e-mail from a friend and followed up on it and found some unusual distinctions:

    According to Black’s Law Dictionary (8th Edition; A.D. 2004), the definition of “inalienable” is:

    “Not transferable or assignable. . . . Also termed unalienable”.

    Black‘s 8th does not even define “unalienable” and would thus have us believe that the words “inalienable” and “unalienable” are synonymous.
    So, let's step back a few years............

    But if we go back to Black‘s 2nd (A.D. 1910) we’ll see that “inalienable” was defined as:

    “Not subject to alienation; the characteristic of those things which cannot be bought or sold or transferred from one person to another such as rivers and public highways and certain personal rights; e.g., liberty.”

    Black’s 2nd defines “unalienable” as:

    “Incapable of being aliened, that is, sold and transferred.”
    So.............there appears to be quite a difference:

    At first glance the two terms seem pretty much synonymous. However, while the word “inalienable” is “not subject to alienation,” the word “unalienable” is “incapable of being aliened”. I believe the distinction between these two terms is this:

    “Unalienable” is “incapable” of being aliened by anyone, including the man who holds something “unalienable”. Thus, it is impossible for any individual to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of an “unalienable Right”. it is impossible for you to take one of my “unalienable rights”. It is likewise impossible for me to even voluntarily surrender, sell or transfer one of my “unalienable rights”. Once I have something “unalienable,” it’s impossible for me to get rid of it. It would be easier to give up the color of my eyes or my heart than to give up that which is “unalienable”.

    That which is “inalienable,” on the other hand, is merely “not subject to alienation”. Black’s 2nd does not declare that it’s absolutely impossible for that which is “inalienable” to be sold, transferred or assigned. Instead, I believe that “inalienable” merely means that “inalienable rights” are not subject to “alienation” by others. That is, no one can compel me to sell, abandon or transfer any of my “inalienable” rights. I am not “subject” to compelled “alienation” by others.
    See: “Unalienable” vs. “Inalienable” Adask's law

    Now............Why does this matter?

    The text of the Declaration of Independence” expressly refers to our “unalienable Rights”
    See here: Unalienable Rights vs Inalienable Rights

    And: Unalienable / Inalienable

    It is not mere semantics.

    So.........Where does that leave the second Amendment folks? I know my answer!


    The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins. ― The Journals of Kierkegaard


  2. #2
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    The etymology is interesting and I actually long thought the word used in the declaration was "inalienable," but
    discovered otherwise while visiting in Philadelphia.

    In any case, unalienable right are taken from human beings all the time. There really is no such thing as an
    unalienable right if “unalienable” is “incapable of being aliened”. It happens all the time by force, by vote, by accident, by
    deception; even by self-deception.

    The Declaration and The Constitution are entirely different documents, something I think all know, written roughly
    15 years apart. The unlalienable rights spoken of eloquently in the declaration were absent from the Confederation and
    absent from the constitution. 2A can for example be amended by judicial practice or by vote of Congress, or by vote
    of a convention, so it is certainly not unalienable.

    It is always important to remember that the declaration, the constitution, the BOR, and extraneous editorial commentary
    such as The Federalist Papers, were all written at different time, for different purposes, by somewhat different groups of
    people, and of these-- only constitution carries the weight of law.

    Some might argue that their unalienable right to pursuit of happiness has been alienated by certain modern business
    practices and many other constraints on our daily comings and goings--even including what we put in our mouths.

    In short, the declaration was a great document for the purpose for which it was written, but the "unalienable"
    things it enumerates are all clearly alienable; and were taken by the British Parliament.

    On the issue of pursuit of happiness, I seriously doubt that Washington or Adams had a concept of personal happiness.
    Jefferson did, Franklin did. As always, society had its squares and its square dancers.
    shockwave and Rock and Glock like this.
    If the Union is once severed, the line of separation will grow wider and wider, and the controversies which are now debated and settled in the halls of legislation will then be tried in fields of battle and determined by the sword.
    Andrew Jackson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hopyard View Post
    The etymology is interesting and I actually long thought the word used in the declaration was "inalienable," but
    discovered otherwise while visiting in Philadelphia.

    ~~ snip ~~
    It is always important to remember that the declaration, the constitution, the BOR, and extraneous editorial commentary
    such as The Federalist Papers, were all written at different time, for different purposes, by somewhat different groups of
    people, and of these-- only constitution carries the weight of law.

    ~~ snip ~~
    On the issue of pursuit of happiness, I seriously doubt that Washington or Adams had a concept of personal happiness.
    Jefferson did, Franklin did. As always, society had its squares and its square dancers.
    I mostly agree with everything you have said. The one thing that I would present for additional thought is that Our Constitution, The Federalist Papers/Anti-Federalist Letters and the BOR were all authored in a very short duration of time and in a logical sequence that ultimately resulted in the ratification of our Constitution in 1787 and the BOR compilation that were proposed September 25, 1789, were ratified in 1791. As I recall, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist were begining to be published prior to the Ratification of our Constitution in September 1787 and in the void between its ratification and the proposal of the BOR. Those two publications continued to be directed at the people to explain the Pro's and Con's of the Constitution and the Anti-Federalist had a strong impact upon the Creation of the first 12 proposed Amendments of which the BOR is based upon.

    Considering that in that era there was little more than an edition of a paper that could be carried from town to town and discussed between the inhabitants/residents and then discussed with the Electors/Representatives, it is easy to understand that for something to go from proposal to ratification in 2 years was probably considered to be a feat of amazing speed back then. With today's technology, anything taking more than a few days or weeks to get done would call for the comment that if it is not moving forward.. it is going backward. Like the House version of National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 H.R. 822 / or Senate version of Respecting States' Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2012 S.2213 Bill Summary & Status - 112th Congress (2011 - 2012) - S.2213 - THOMAS (Library of Congress)

    So far only one of the first 12 has not been ratified, with the 11th of those first 12 finally being ratified as our 27th Amendment in 1992. The United States Constitution - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net

    As for society having its squares and it square dancers.. that is a fact of history that I am sure predates known records and is still highly true today.
    Hopyard likes this.
    Lets Unite and REMIND our Government that WE are the source of their authority and that WE demand our Rights be returned, Unabridged, Non-infringed, without denial or disparagement.

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