|"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
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
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
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
From Negro Declaration of Independence
National Independent Political Union, February 1876, Washington,
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, ...do 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
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
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).
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