All Men Are Created Equal

Saying that all humans are equal does not mean we are all the same. After all, some are smarter, others are faster, others are better-looking. However, we are equal in “certain unalienable rights”–meaning specific rights, like “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” that all humans are born with. The government does not give these rights to us; they are naturally ours, given by our Creator.

Today, many people think that Jefferson only meant that white men were equal. However, at the time the Declaration was written, people commonly used the word “men” as a synonym for “mankind.” In addition, we know Jefferson was not saying that only white men are created equal because in his first draft of the Declaration, Jefferson used the exact same term–“men”–to refer to black men, women, and children. In that same paragraph, Jefferson declared that slavery is a “violation” of the “most sacred rights of life & liberty.” Thus, all “men” being created equal means all members of the human race are equal in their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Unfortunately, not every signer of the Declaration opposed slavery. South Carolina and Georgia in particular argued that the slave trade was essential to their economies, and so Jefferson’s paragraph condemning the slave trade was cut from the final version of the Declaration. The Founders did not cut out the most important phrase, though–they kept “all men are created equal.”  Eighty-three years later, Abraham Lincoln observed that Jefferson should be praised for having the “coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.”