The united States (Bizarre Capitalization)

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    I have been puzzled as to what rules of capitalization Jefferson is employing in the final paragraph of the declaration. Can anyone shed light on this?

    It reads:

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    “United States” is written the “united States of America” which is not surprising given that later in the paragraph it is said that they are “Free and Independent States”. But, why is “United Colonies” capitalized then?

    Perhaps there is no actual significance, but I was just curious.

    John D.


    Jefferson capitalized oddly in private correspondence and unpublished manuscripts, often using the lower case throughout a paragraph after capitalizing the first letter. In public documents of his day, one often finds old-fashioned capitalization more akin to German capitalization, in which nouns were capitalized and other words weren’t. In general, however, one should not read any significance into capitalization of 18th- and early 19th-century writings

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