Equal Protection (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The constitutional guarantee that no person or class of persons shall be denied the same protection of the laws that is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in like circumstances in their lives, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The concept of equal protection and equality in the United States is as old as the country itself. In 1776, THOMAS JEFFERSON and the American colonists boldly announced the "self-evident" truth of human equality. Yet the meaning of equality was neither obvious nor clearly defined. The "peculiar institution" of SLAVERY was intricately woven into U.S. economic, social, and political fabric. Many Americans owned slaves, and most, including Jefferson himself, believed in the inferiority of the black race. JAMES MADISON and the other Founding Fathers drafted a national constitution that protected the slave trade and recognized the rights of slave owners. Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution counted a slave as only three-fifths of a person for the purposes of representation in Congress....
(The entire section is 7110 words.)
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