The Case for the Lower Case “u”

Ask just about anyone to write out the name of this country, and they will almost certainly write “United States of America”. They will most likely also refer to it as “The United States of America”. There are two problems with this, and both of them are at the very core of the War for Southern Independence.

Take a look at the title of the original Declaration of Independence shown in the image at the top of this post. You will see that the Founding Fathers used a lower case “u” in united – and even made the letters much smaller than “States”. This is because we were declaring our independence as 13 individual sovereign states, not as a monolithic new country. We were commonly referred to as “these united States” until Lincoln made his case that we were not a union of sovereign states, but a single sovereign nation (“United”). That was the backbone of Lincoln’s argument that secession was illegal, and it was at the very core of the Southern Cause. It wasn’t until about the 1860’s that “The United States” (“The” instead of “these”, and “U” instead of “u”) became the accepted way to refer to this country.

Here is another example of the correct usage:

This is from the University of Indiana School of Law (note that even though they are using modern typesetting, they also recognize that the lower case “u” is the proper usage).

Those who claim that our ancestors were “rebels” and criminals and traitors, try to make the case that using a lower case “u” is being disrespectful. In fact, by using the original form, we show respect to the country that the Founding Fathers gave us. Abraham Lincoln’s version of the way things are has been wrongly accepted because that is how the history books now show it (remember the words of Winston Churchill – “History is written by the victors”). It is our duty to point to things like this to demonstrate that truth is easily covered up and is waiting for us to uncover it. Seemingly insignificant things like the typographic case of a single letter can help educate people about why The South was right and why honoring the nation of the Founding Fathers is more respectful than fraudulently changing the name to agree with Lincoln’s arguments for making war on our ancestors.

About Stephen Clay McGehee

Born-Again Christian, Grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Confederate Colonel and The Southern Agrarian blogs. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc., Vice President - Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Webmaster - Military Order of The Stars and Bars, Kentucky Colonel.
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9 Responses to The Case for the Lower Case “u”

  1. Sam Starrett says:

    Mr. McGehee:

    I have in the past usually referred to These United States. However, I believe you raise a very good point. I believe I will follow your usage and refer simply to these united States, unless of course I find myself in one of my capitalizing fervors(the same Orwellian beast that would lead me to refer, for instance, to the Great Free Republic or to the Great Egalitarian Ideal.)


    Samuel C. Starrett
    The Rambling Royalist

  2. John Yelvington says:

    Good attention to detail sir! It’s absolutely amazing how the simple switch of a few letters and words changes everything. Just like “Freedom of Religion” and “Freedom of Worship”. They sound exactly identical. However, the meanings of the two are worlds apart.

  3. Edward Spalton says:

    There was a very impressive television series about the War between the States/Civil War which appeared here in England. One of the leading contributors was the Southern historian, Shelby Foote.

    In summing up the result of the war, he said “Before the war, people said the united States ARE. After the war, they said the United States IS. You could say that is what it was all about”.

    I may not have recalled his words absolutely accurately but they impressed me greatly at the time and the gist of them has stuck in my mind ever since.

  4. The memory of hearing that is what prompted me to write this post. I didn’t remember where I first heard it, but I’m confident that Shelby Foote was at least one source. Thanks for writing.

  5. Norman R. Saliba says:

    This is an extremely well-written article about the lowercase “u” used in the Declaration of Independence. I first contemplated this when I was reading “The Real Lincoln” by Thomas J. DiLorenzo and watching some of his lectures about the “Civil War” (War of Northern Aggression). My grandfather has always stressed to me the importance of knowing the difference between a Constitutional Republic and Democracy (uppercase D). I truly think that, because the Founding Fathers were men of the Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, they were leading us out of the Middle Ages, and Abraham Lincoln reeled us right back into them by stripping the South of its right to secede. Today, we have no “Free and Independent States”; we have one large federal nation-state, all thanks to “Honest” Abe.

  6. Thank you, Mr. Saliba. The era of the Founding Fathers (Enlightenment / Age of Reason) is a point that had been lost on me until you mentioned it. That is one of those forces that shape the culture that I had learned of in the past, but then forgotten. Thanks for the refresher course. Please stop by and comment again, sir.

  7. Norman R. Saliba says:

    I really can’t speak for the Founding Fathers, but I think they understood that it’s a basic human tendency to want to overpower and enslave each other. But thanks to the Declaration and Constitution they came up with, they set in stone the liberties all humans are entitled to. I think people discredit them because they “owned slaves” or other charges people are very ill-informed about, but they knew what they were talking about, considering all the corruption they had lived through.

  8. Olden says:

    Sound grammar would dictate the lowercase usage of “these united states,” as the “united” is being used as an adjective and “states” as a non-proper noun. One could just as well say, “these states” and be referring to the same set. However, generally when one says “the United States,” they are referring to the country as an entity unto itself.

  9. Paul says:

    The declaration of Independence was nothing more than what it was, a declaration of 13 independent states wishing to remove themselves from the British crown, hence the use of the lower case u. It was not a binding contract, the Constitution was.
    The preamble to the Constitution reads, We The People, with the people, despite their state, as the foundation of the country. It then continues with “of the United States.” Notice the use of the word the and not these, and the capitalization of the U. The creators of the Constitution spent more than a decade fine tuning what they considered an imperfect but necessary document, hence the Bill of Rights, and the use of an upper case U was intentional, as was the size of the phrase We The People.
    As for the Lincoln commit, Jefferson thought a new Constitution would be written every 20 years, to keep up with the progression of time, unfortunately nostalgia replaced sense and the US was left with an outdated contracted that needed rectifying. Also, as soon as the Southern states succeeded, one could argue that they were a sovereign nation that was predetermined to be annexed by the US due to the great gift of Manifest Destiny bestowed upon the US by the grace of God.
    Anyway, The “founding fathers” of this nation intended for this country to be one nation, made up of semi autonomous states and a strong central government, and they placed within the most important document, the Constitution, the authority of the Federal government to make, and enforce, laws that superceded the state. If they had not wanted it that way, we would not have the Constitution that we possess.

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