If the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are America’s Holy Bible, then surely “all men are created equal” is its 23rd Psalm, as no phrase rings so true for Americans as these immortal words.
But what do they mean, exactly? And what do they not mean?
Before the United States became a Republic, every nation on Earth was a class-based society and government. That is, they had a king or a queen, a court, the nobility and aristocracy and clergy, merchants, and peasants. And the kind of life you would lead was defined by which class you were born into. There was some mobility between classes but not a lot. The king had privileges and rights and powers that the nobility did not, the nobility had rights and powers and privileges that merchants did not, etc. And the peasantry – the 99% of its day – fed them all.
Jefferson’s ringing words were a declaration to the whole world that we reject that long-hallowed reality. We would have no kings, no aristocrats, no priests with special powers, and no peasantry to feed everyone else. We were all created equal, all equal before God (putting aside any argument about His existence).
Over time, our common equality has added the notion that we are all equal before the law. If a rich man commits a crime he will pay the same criminal price that a poor man will pay for the same crime (independent of the fact that THIS character of equality has not proved true, not yet anyhow).
This is what we mean when we say that all men are created equal, no more and no less.
However, there are some – and they are all politicians – who would like you to believe that preachers of equality want to rob you of what is yours, of the fruit of your labors and your invention. They want you to believe that preachers of equality are “levelers” or socialists or communists. Well, maybe some are but they are very few, and they call themselves socialists and communists. And I know socialists who swear up and down that they do NOT mean THAT!
Nevertheless, 99% of those who insist on our equality mean equal before the face of God and equal before the law, no more and no less. And any man who tells you that they are all socialists who want to take what you have earned and what belongs to you is worse than that: he wants you to follow him and promise your allegiance, your obedience to him, as though he were the Son of God.