Monday, July 4, 2011

The Declaration of Independence declared all people are equal

Today is Independence Day in America. It is the day that we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. With that act, the colonist declared our separation from England and their intention to form a new government. The colonists were not being treated as equals by the English and felt that they should. Since they weren’t, they wanted to create a government that respected everyone’s rights.

But, let’s not fool ourselves. The phrase in the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal” refers to white men over the age of 21. Woman didn’t have the same rights as men. Any rights or obligations that children had were those that were granted by their fathers. Native American men at the time were considered only close to equal in the eyes of the law… occasionally. Then, of course, there were the slaves that at the time of the signing of the Declaration were the brute laborers of the colonies, especially in the South. They were less than equal.

But, would anyone today believe that the phrase “All men are created equal” means only white men? While its meaning at the time of the signing is clear from the understanding of history, its intent was to declare that all individuals are equal. So, should we follow the original meaning or the intent?

It is hoped that you would answer that it is the intent that we should follow. That people living in America are created equal and should expect equal treatment. It is a universal belief, because as Abraham Lincoln believed, the language of the Declaration of Independence is deliberately universal.

The Declaration of Independence was only the first step the founders took to create a successful government. There was the Articles of Confederation, but that didn’t work out and nearly destroyed the goal of living as one nation. The Constitution was then created. It has had a very successful run over these 230 plus years. But, it was the Declaration that set the tone at the time. The Constitution created a government that successfully carried out the goals of the Declaration of Independence.

The goal was that all people are created equal. No matter their gender, race, religion, orientation, politics and many other things that are often used to divide us. Instead, all of those factors should be used to define us as Americans.

Let’s get out and celebrate today. Let’s celebrate together for the good of out community.

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