Lift every voice

The Constitution of the United States of America was ratified on June 21st, 1788. It’s easy to imagine that it said somewhere that all citizens should be treated equally under the law. But it doesn’t. The closest our founding documents come to enunciating that idea is in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. “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.” But even that doesn’t say a thing about equal treatment under the law of all Americans. And, in fact, our founding fathers didn’t even believe that.

Obviously, slaves had no rights that I’m aware of other than what their owners bestowed upon them. They were not citizens, not even fully human. They were property. It wasn’t only slaves that didn’t have rights equal to those of men. Women didn’t. Children didn’t. Men who owned property had rights that those who were landless didn’t have. In fact, one can read the domestic history of the United States from that day in 1788 forward as the struggle for anyone other than propertied men to attain equality under the law and in non-legal social structures. It’s not been easy going.

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