Inalienable Versus Unalienable and More About the Declaration

Although we have the Declaration of Independence on this website for those seeking a copy of its text or that of other historical documents, I am still going to recommend this page from another website, In addition to providing the text of the Declaration itself, it contains numerous links for background information on key points, not-so-key points (inalienable versus unalienable) and the name of every signer has a hyperlink to his biography.

As there are several signers about whom I knew little, I clicked their names. Some interesting stories. For example, signer George Wythe of Virginia was murdered after converting from a slaveowner to an abolitionist. When Wythe not only freed his slaves, but provided for them in his will, his other heir, his great-nephew, decided to poison the ex-slaves with arsenic so he could inherit the entire estate himself. Doing so, he also accidentally murdered Wythe, who lasted long enough to take his great-nephew out of his will.

Signer Francis Hopkinson of Pennsylvania was a songwriter. It only seems slightly less interesting when we learn he was a lawyer as well.

There was a signer from Massachusetts with the unlikely name of Robert Treat Paine, who (perhaps considering the state of medical knowledge of the time?) nonetheless chose to be a lawyer, not a doctor. Why he used his middle name in a document destined for posterity is unknown.

Then there is the signer from Georgia with the most imaginative name of all, Button Gwinnett (what do you suppose his parents were thinking?), who despite holding the title of president of the “Council of Safety,” challenged his chief political rival to a duel. His rival lived. Button popped off.

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