Interface: NPS shield
Navigation: National Park Service siteNavigation: U.S. Department of the Interiror site
Interface: The American Revolution, Lighting Freedom's Flame
Navigation:  About the Revolution
Navigation:  Revolutionary Parks
Navigation: Revolutionary Learning
Navigation: Unfinished Revolution
Navigation: Contact
  The Unfinished Revolution  
"All Men Are Created Equal" : The Power Of An Idea
by Bob Blythe

"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..."

These words from the Declaration of Independence are among the most influential ever put on paper. The countless pleas for liberty and equality that have used the Declaration as a model are proof of its lasting power. The original Declaration challenged the authority of the British crown. Just within the United States, subsequent declarations have targeted capitalism, land owners, white supremacy, and the patriarchy. Time and again, those unhappy with the status quo have invoked the Declaration. Tyranny has meant different things to different people since 1776, but the search for liberty, however defined, goes on.

The following are excerpts from subsequent declarations:

From The Working Men's Declaration of Independence
December 1829, New York, NY

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one class of a community to assert their natural and unalienable rights in opposition to other classes of their fellow men...

6. The laws and municipal ordinances and regulations, generally, besides those specially enumerated, have heretofore been ordained on such principles, as have deprived nine tenths of the members of the body politic, who are not wealthy, of the equal means to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which the rich enjoy exclusively; but the federative compact intended to secure to all, indiscriminately [emphasis in original].

From Declarations of Sentiments and Resolutions
Woman's Rights Convention, July 1848, Seneca Falls, NY

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal ...

The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice...
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.

From Negro Declaration of Independence
National Independent Political Union, February 1876, Washington, DC

We, colored men, representing nearly all the States and Territories of the United States, believing with the fathers, that the happiness of the people is the sole end of government, hereby denounce it [Republican Party] as being the primary cause of all the wrongs committed against us...

For these and other reasons too numerous for enumeration, we feel justified in severing all connection with this profligate party... and deeming the time auspicious when past differences should be buried, and reconciliation and good feeling between the races pervade the land... we ask nothing but FULL AND EQUAL JUSTICE BEFORE THE LAW, PROTECTION FOR OUR LIVES AND PROPERTY AGAINST LAWLESSNES AND MOB VIOLENCE, AND EQUITABLE RECOGNITION IN THE SEVERAL DEPARTMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT, BASED UPON OUR INTELLIGENCE AND INTEGRITY [emphasis in original].

From Declaration of Interdependence
Socialist Labor Party, July 4, 1895, New York, NY

When, in the course of human progression, the despoiled class of wealth producers becomes fully conscious of its rights and determined to take them, a decent respect to the judgment of posterity requires that it should declare the causes which impel it to change the social order...

Under that system the value of a man, and, therefore, his remuneration, were not to be measured by the extent to which his industry and intelligence benefited his fellows. They were to be gauged by the necessities of his competitors on the "labor market"; so that, as the competition increased, the tendency of his wages was constantly downward, until it reached the minimum required to keep alive his flesh and bone machine while it was hired to an employer, who thus became the absolute owner of the net product, or, "surplus value," created by that human machine...

The class struggle has reached its climax. With the triumph of the united toilers over their combined despoilers will end class privilege and class rule.

Americans, fall into line! Onward to the Co-operative Commonwealth!

To the industrious the tools of industry; to the laborer the fruits of his labor; to mankind the earth!

From Declaration of Workers' and Farmers' Rights and Purposes
National Unemployed Leagues, July 4, 1933, Columbus, OH

When, in a nation possessing unlimited resources, along with the greatest industrial and transportation equipment the world has ever known, there develops a condition wherein millions of citizens are forced into dire destitution and starvation through being denied to have access to the tools of production, then it becomes their duty to organize to change these conditions.

A new tyranny has developed through the control of our great industrial system by a few who manipulate the affairs of the nation selfishly and ruthlessly. The suffering and misery of millions of victims is of no consequence or weight in the operation of their affairs...

In order that these evils may be remedied and these ends accomplished, we determine and declare that the profit system with its meaningless depressions, its needless miseries, its suicidal wars and its gross injustices must come to an end, and we furthermore declare that that it is the solemn duty of every worker and farmer to bend every effort through organization and through determined action in unity with all workers and farmers to fight to destroy this system and to set up a workers' and farmers' republic in America.

When our forefathers crushed the tyranny of kings, America was born. When the men of 1860 destroyed chattel slavery, America's development as a great industrial state was made possible. And when the men and women of today shall finally crush the tyranny of bankers and bosses, America shall at last be free.

For the full texts of these and other declarations, see:

Eric Foner, editor, We the Other People: Alternative Declarations of Independence by Labor Groups, Farmers, Woman's Rights Advocates, Socialists, and Blacks, 1829-1975 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976).

< back to story listing

Navigation: Privacy NoticeNavigation: Disclaimer
  Last Updated: Tuesday, 13-May-2003 15:32
Navigation: Credits and Questions Navigation: NPS Home