Equality is a First Principle of America’s free and just government. As explained in the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers believed that “all men are created equal.”
The Founding Fathers embraced the Judeo-Christian understanding that the Creator created all individuals, that each person arises from His handiwork, and that every person embodies His blessing. Regardless of physical, mental, and social differences between individuals, each individual is equally precious in His eyes. While this First Principle originally arose from a belief in the nature of the Creator, the laws of nature lead many to the same conclusion.
By embracing the First Principle of equality, America rejected the deliberately inequitable regimes dominating the globe in their time. Inequality codified in the law was a cornerstone of government throughout world history. Hereditary nobility and other special classes were almost universally granted special privileges unknown to the common person.
Modern history is also replete with such societies. South Africa during apartheid segregated its society by race; the Soviet Union divided its society among classes, ethnic groups, creed, and party; and Nazi Germany committed genocide in the pursuit of Aryan superiority.
Yet, from the American Revolution and for generations thereafter, equality was not afforded to African-Americans, most especially slaves. Over 50 years after the Declaration of Independence, Frederick Douglass could rightfully ask, “What I have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in the Declaration of Independence, extended to us?” Indeed, slavery and racial discrimination made a mockery of the First Principles of equality, Unalienable Rights, and the Social Compact.
Driven by the idea of the First Principle of equality, abolitionists organized to emancipate the slaves and to afford African-Americans equality under the law. The inherent hypocrisy of slavery in the land of the free eventually literally tore the Union asunder in the Civil War. At enormous sacrifice, with the adoption of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th-15th Amendments, the nation finally began to live up to its promise.
However, generations would pass – and another civil rights struggle led by Martin Luther King, Jr. was necessary- before the principle of equality was more firmly established in civil rights legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Through generations of struggle, the First Principles of equality, the Social Compact, unalienable rights, and revolution resulted in emancipation and great advances in equality for racial minorities.
Although the struggle is not complete, the First Principle of equality requires that each person be treated equally under the law, and that the equal protection of the laws be afforded to all.