After listening to my 14 year old sister tell me about what she is learning in her history class, she said something that caught my attention. She read a line from the Declaration of Independence, in which Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”
But what exactly did Jefferson mean when he said “men”? What did he mean when he said “equal”? Did Jefferson use “men” to stand for all of humanity? Certainly he did not mean slaves though, because at this time he owned at least 200 slaves who were never set free, even upon his death. Certainly he did not mean to include women either, because at the time they had no rights for themselves. Actually, when he said ‘all men are created equal’, he forgot to leave out non-landowning white men, black men, black women, Native Americans and the poor. Perhaps Jefferson meant ‘men’ to mean only white, free, plantation owning men who were over the age of 21. Did people of this time hear him and clap for this? Were they fooled by what he actually meant? Maybe when he said this statement he intended it to be idealistic, hoping that someday it would be fulfilled. Lucky for us today, we endured, The Revolutionary War, The Civil War, the civil rights movement, the voting rights movement, the woman rights movement, the gay rights movement and a whole lot of other turmoil and we are at a much better place currently then back then. Jefferson would not believe his eyes if he saw what ‘equal men’ means to us today.