This post is part of the Favorite Founders’ Quote Friday meme. Go to Meet the Founding Fathers to see who else has participated today.
With this post, I continue my line-by-line examination of the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence.
In the first post I looked at the phrase, We hold these truths to be self-evident. I established that relative moralism, which declares that no universal standard exists to judge right or wrong, is a lie that many Americans have been taught and have believed. In contrast, ethical positions do not change, but are self-evident in that we instinctively recognize injustice and abuse of power.
Today I will look at the next phrase:
that all men are created equal
The first thing to note is that our founder’s believed that “men are created.” Webster’s defines “create” this way:
to bring into existence;
God created the heaven and the earth — Genesis 1:1 (Authorized Version)
So all men are brought into existence. They are not changed from one form to another. We’ll look at this later in more detail.
It’s also necessary to define “equal.” I’ve looked up the various definitions in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary to see what was meant by this.
1. Having the same magnitude or dimensions; being of the same bulk or extent; as an equal quantity of land; a house of equal size; two persons of equal bulk; an equal line or angle.
Obviously, men are not all the same size, so we rule out #1.
2. Having the same value; as two commodities of equal price or worth.
This, I believe, is our definition, but let’s continue.
3. Having the same qualities or condition; as two men of equal rank or excellence; two bodies of equal hardness or softness.
Some men are born into poverty and starvation, some into wealth and abundance. Some are gifted athletes, others are born with no arms or legs. This is not our definition.
The remaining definitions cannot be applied to people, so I’ll go with #2 – equal price or worth – and restate the phrase:
all men are brought into existence having equal worth
Our equality under the law is based on the worth of each individual, not on their abilities or their station in life or their morals or their accomplishments or any other differences. All have the same worth.
Again, this truth is self-evident. Whenever we see someone receiving preferential treatment because of their wealth or their fame , we instinctively recognize this as unjust. Conversely, when someone is treated poorly because of their poverty or their anonymity, we know this also is unjust. It violates our inner knowledge that all men have the same worth and should be treated with the same respect. It’s self-evident.
I welcome your thoughts on this series thus far, and I’ll continue it again next Friday.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.