Hypocrisy of the Declaration of IndependenceMany believe that the greatest hypocrisy of the Declaration of Independence was that "all men are created equal" Thoughts??

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I like to think that this phrase was written in an idealistic, not hypocritical way. It was more of a goal than a recognition of reality. Society was not ready for it, but it was something to shoot for. I think Jefferson wrote it because deep in his heart, he believed it, even if the other signers did not.
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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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Since slaves were considered property, not people, and therefore not men, the phrase stands as it was written in the 18th century.  We see it as hypocritical, the framers did not.  Yes, we were founded by a bunch of white, male, Protestant land and slave owners who could vote. Deal with it.  What they wrote and fought and died for did indeed secure freedom for generations yet unborn. And look how far we've come because of that freedom.  What they conceived of and did in the day was revolutionary enough.  We honor them best by carrying on that revolution and expanding the cause of freedom to all humankind.  That's cause for celebration, not retro-criticism.

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alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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The Declaration of Independence and Constitution was in fact hyprocritical for that one point since at the time we still had slavery in America.  Also the people with power and control in America were white, male, landowners, and they were the  only ones who could vote at the time.

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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The reference 'many believe that the greatest hypocrisy...' (post # 1 ) does not clarify where that hypocrisy originates from.  While it is true that historians have debated the discrepency between Jefferson's words and his actions, the idea that he was a hypocrite oversimplifies the complexities of 18th century realities. The evidence of these complexities becomes clear as we read the critique Franklin and Adams gave to the document.  Jefferson's Declaration moves to abolish slavery, however Franklin feared the statement would alienate the southern colonies, Adams agreed and as a result Franklin edited the document so that southern colonial pride was not hurt.  In addition, Franklin understood the economics of the situation, and although this might put a chill upon our shoulders today it is important not to revise history as we see it through our 20th 21st century mindsets. Jefferson saw himself as an Enlighened thinker, he defined slavery as having a wolf by the ears, you do not like it but you do not fancy letting it go. Jefferson believed that slavery was the serpant that would climb up the new nation and strangle it if not addressed. The one thing that those who sit in judgement of Jefferson forget is that he was just a man, he was not without fault.  It is clear that his ideologies did not match up with his realities....however how many people today can do that !!! Jefferson was hardly perfect...that is what makes Jefferson so vulnerable. In drafting The Declaration of Independence he proposed an ideology that had the greatest potential of reaching a reality than anything else mankind had ever written. He was not a perfect human being, but he had a vision of humanity that aspired to perfection.

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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I apologize for the diversion of topic, but I must respond to post #3.

If people would stop throwing the race card whenever it's convenient, racism and prejudice would not be as prevalent as it is today. For instance, those who say the critics of President Obama are racist have nothing better to use. It is not possible that all the people who have brought up valid points about the healthcare reform or the bailouts and our fiscal situation in the USA can not possibly be racist. Some of them probably are, but not all. They simply have valid points against policies.

I certainly agree that it is not possible for everyone who is against health care reform to be a racist. Some have expressed honest, open concern about the direction it will take the country, or the financial burden it will put on future generations. Obviously valid concerns. However, I have yet to see/hear more than a few well-thought out points brought up in the argument against it. Also, the bailouts and the fiscal situation were created under the last administration, & like the new fight against the czars, is an attempt to project the failures of the previous president (or others) onto the current. Now, having said that, I will contend that more than "some" of the critics have exposed themselves as racist. We seem to have an idea in contemporary America that in order to be racist, you must blatantly state that you hate a minority group. However, I will argue that when people are holding signs that say "Africa has a lion, the white house has an african lyin!" or ones showing President Obama as a witch doctor, there is something deeper than criticism of health care reform. When a Congresswoman, Rep. Lynn Jenkins from Kansas, says the Republican party needs to find the next "great white hope", & claims to not understand the history behind that statement (having just voted on a bill to honor Jack Johnson, which included a discussion of the original incident), that is beyond criticism. When a Congressman from Kentucky, Rep. Geoff Davis, addresses Obama as "that boy", and claims not to understand the connotation behind that term, there is a deeper ignorance of history present. Finally, I would venture to say that the so-called "birther" movement would not be in existence if we had a white President with an Anglo-Saxon derived name.

In conclusion, I would respond that if there were not so many instances of veiled or blatant racism today, there would not be a need to throw "the race card whenever it's convenient."

In addition to racism, discrimination against women continues. In fact, the most recent version of the Senate health care bill, put forth by Max Baucus' fiscal committee, would allow insurance companies to charge women more for coverage. It also allows considering pregnancy, Ceasarian births, & battered woman syndrome as "pre-existing conditions"; thus many women can be denied coverage. We've come so far, but as of 2004, women still only made 76.5% of male wages.

Finally, I do agree with post #3 that we are closer than we've ever been before. Yes, I feel that the very fact we have a president of color speaks to our progress & capabilities as a nation. And I want to see that progress continue.

 

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Black men had the right to vote before white women did.  Women have been considered the "lesser beings" in most societies since the beginning of time...even where women were in charge (ie Queen Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, etc.), women as a whole were considered only good for men's pleasure and running the household.

I have often said that a man of color would be president before a woman would be elected, and it has happened just that way.

In light of that, however, don't you think "all men are created equal" has become more true today than in any other time period?  We still have a long way to go, but it is definitely better.  If people would stop throwing the race card whenever it's convenient, racism and prejudice would not be as prevalent as it is today.  For instance, those who say the critics of President Obama are racist have nothing better to use.  It is not possible that all the people who have brought up valid points about the healthcare reform or the bailouts and our fiscal situation in the USA can not possibly be racist.  Some of them probably are, but not all.  They simply have valid points against policies.

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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I have pondered this issue on several occasions, actually. On the one hand, I can see that given the times, it was perfectly normal for a group of white men to declare the “rights of men” and mean it only for white landowners of means. On the other hand, it is insulting to me as a female to think that it took over one hundred years for women to secure the right to vote. I can’t imagine how insulting it must be to black Americans to consider this issue. While the Declaration of Independence is a beautifully written document, it was authored by slaveholders. This is probably the greatest irony surrounding this powerful work of governance.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The Declaration of Independence was a document designed to unite Americans of European origin in a fight against British rule that tried to rule over and discriminate against American people. I don't think the people who drafted or adopted the declaration ever intended to or implied that the equality of all men that they spoke about covered either the Africans settled in America or the Native Americans. To this extent I will not considered a deliberate act of hypocrisy. To me it appears is just did not occur to them, that this concept of equality mentioned in Declaration of Independence theoretically covers the slaves and native Americans also. If they had realized this, perhaps they may have used some other approach to unite the people in fight against British. And I am happy that they did declare so unequivocally the equality of men, so that later it became a rallying point for people who believed that all individuals in this entire humanity, irrespective of their race, colour, religion, or any such difference, are born equal.

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daddio | eNotes Newbie

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Hypocrisy of the Declaration of Independence

Many believe that the greatest hypocrisy of the Declaration of Independence was that "all men are created equal"

Thoughts??

Wow! I am astounded by the number of people who are responding based upon their idea of the current definition of equal. The DOI simply stated that ALL men are created equal. That's it. They were simply making a statement that they believed all men were started off at the exact same point of equality. That's all there was to it.

Now people are putting it into the context of their definitions of racial equality, social equality, financial equality, etc. Comments such as,"Sure if you are considering they were all rich white men." are ridiculous and are just reflecting your own bad experiences or your own idea of what you've decided to harbor in your heart and mind. Try to stop at "created equal", because in truth, that is exactly the way it is. What happens from the moment of birth is up to our parents, education, societal beliefs, public expression, news reporting, and whatever else our parents, teachers, and eventually our selves decide to accept as reality.

Taking a simple statement and then tearing it apart based upon your own problems, dreams or beliefs is not going to change what was actually said. So don't ponder on it too long. What was stated was simple. Beyond that, you will become only as equal as you decide to become.

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