All men are created equal

All men are created equal

The quotation "All men are created equal" is arguably the best-known phrase in any of America's political documents, as the idea it expresses is generally considered the foundation of American government. Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase in the Declaration of Independence as a rebuttal to the going political theory of the day: the Divine Right of Kings. Jefferson borrowed the expression from an Italian friend and neighbor, Philip Mazzei, [Philip Mazzei, The Virginia Gazette, 1774. Translated by a friend and neighbor, Thomas Jefferson:

cquote|All men are by nature equally free and independent. Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government.
All men must be equal to each other in natural law
] as noted by Joint Resolution 175 of the 103rd Congress as well as John F. Kennedy in "A Nation Of Immigrants." [According to Joint Resolution 175 of the 103rd Congress, "the phrase in the Declaration of Independence 'All men are created equal' was suggested by the Italian patriot and immigrant Philip Mazzei.] ["The great doctrine 'All men are created equal' incorporated into the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, was paraphrased from the writing of Philip Mazzei, an Italian-born patriot and pamphleteer, who was a close friend of Jefferson." by John F. Kennedy, "A Nation of Immigrants" pp. 15-16]

The opening of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, states as follows:

The same sentiment appears in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, which predates the U.S. Constitution by seven years, and was the first of its kind in the world.

The year 1780 also marks the first time in America that such wording was used to successfully argue against slavery in a court of law: Brom and Bett vs. Ashley.

SomeFact|date=May 2008 feel these statements illustrate the idea of natural rights, a philosophical concept of the Enlightenment; many of the ideas in the Declaration were borrowed from the English liberal political philosopher John Locke. Locke, however, referred to "life, liberty and Property" rather than the pursuit of happiness.

The phrase has since been considered a hallmark statement in democratic constitutions and similar human rights instruments, many of which have adopted the phrase or variants thereof.

Applications in American history

Declaring the equality of all men did not, however, prevent the United States from continuing the widespread practice of slavery. However, President Abraham Lincoln relied on the Declaration of Independence when making the case that slavery went against the deepest commitments of the American nation. Though he did so throughout the 1850s and into his presidency, the most famous example can be found in the Gettysburg Address:

When Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others convened in Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848, they drafted and signed a document titled the Declaration of Sentiments. The opening sentence alludes to this phrase:

The phrase was also quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his famous I Have a Dream speech, as the "creed" of the United States:


See also

* Philip Mazzei
* Second-class citizen
* John Ball (1381), "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the nobleman?"
* Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), article 1: "Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions can be founded only on the common utility."
* Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), article 1: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights..."

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • equal protection — equal pro·tec·tion n: a guarantee under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that a state must treat an individual or class of individuals the same as it treats other individuals or classes in like circumstances – called also equal… …   Law dictionary

  • Equal Protection Clause — The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that no state shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [… …   Wikipedia

  • equal — 01. Einstein s most famous formula states that E [equals] mc2. 02. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spent his life working to obtain [equality] for all people in society. 03. Unions have helped women receive an [equitable] wage for the work they do.… …   Grammatical examples in English

  • Men and feminism — Part of a series on Feminism …   Wikipedia

  • Men in nursing — A male U.S. Navy nurse attends to a child. Nurses are traditionally and predominantly female; of the 2.1 million registered nurses in the …   Wikipedia

  • Men who have sex with men — (abbreviated as MSM, also known as males who have sex with males) are male persons who engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, regardless of how they identify themselves; many men choose not to (or cannot for other reasons) accept …   Wikipedia

  • EQUAL Community Initiative — EQUAL is the ‘Community Initiative’ within the European Social Fund of the European Union. It concerns “transnational co operation to promote new means of combating all forms of discrimination and inequalities in connection with the labour… …   Wikipedia

  • All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organization — The All Pakistan Muttahida Student Organization (APMSO) is notable for being the student organization that created its mother organization, the Muhajir Qaumi Movement, now called the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).In 1978, even before the… …   Wikipedia

  • List of X-Men (TV series) episodes — This list regards the 1990s X Men series; for the series starting in 2000, see List of X Men: Evolution episodes; for the 2011 anime series, see List of Marvel Anime episodes. The 1992 X Men animated series debuted on October 31, 1992 on the Fox… …   Wikipedia

  • Un-Men — Superherobox caption=Promotional cover for The Un Men #1 Art by Tomer Hanuka character name = The Un Men publisher = DC Comics and Vertigo debut = Swamp Thing #1 (Nov. 1972) (cameo) Swamp Thing #2 (Jan. 1973) (full) creators = Len Wein Berni… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.