Founders Very Clear About Equality   -   September 12, 2020

“All Men Are Created Equal” – What Does It Mean?

America’s Declaration of Independence declares 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 ...”

Setting aside that women are not specifically referenced in this declaration, what did our Founders mean when they avowed that all men are created equal?  Did they mean that all should be of one gender or good looking or free from stress?  Have a closet full of clothes?  A well-stocked pantry?  A smart phone?  An i-pad?  A college education?  A car?  A two-week vacation?  Sanctuary from uncomfortable speech?  It’s clear to most that the Founders meant none of those things.

The next two clauses of the Declaration make clear that, to the founders, “equal” meant that all “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” – “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  That’s it.  Nothing else.  But it’s quite a lot.

Your life is yours.  It doesn’t belong to anyone else.  No one has the right to arbitrarily take your life, and you don’t have a right to arbitrarily take the life of someone else.

Liberty means that you are free from limitations on your thoughts and behavior imposed by other persons, states, organizations, etc., except to the extent that you may agree to such restraints in pursuit of your happiness.  Everyone else is similarly free.  The Declaration provides examples of such liberties by enumerating ways that King George illegally deprived colonists of their rights.

Finally, each American is free to pursue individual happiness in any way he or she chooses that does not impinge on others’ rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

There’s no indication that the founders envisioned that every American should have the same of everything in every way.  Only that every American should be equally blessed with life, liberty and the freedom to at least seek whatever they think may make them happy.

Many now demanding their versions of equality through legislation, judicial actions and executive fiat would distort the vision of America’s founders by raising equality to primacy over liberty.  Is that a good idea?  (More on equality next week.)

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