The main contradiction inherent in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights at the time they were written is the difference between the words in the documents and their practical application. For instance, the Declaration of Independence, publicly announced on July 4, 1776, states:
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.
The Bill of Rights, ratified on December 15, 1791, is comprised of the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. The first amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The contradiction is that the rights of equality, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech, and the right of people to assemble and petition the government when they had grievances applied only to white males.
Most African Americans, for instance, were still bound in slavery at the time these documents were written and approved, and so these rights did not apply to them. In fact, many of the founding fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were slave owners.
The rights in these documents also did not apply to Native Americans. Although they lived on the land comprising the new country of the United States far longer than anyone else, they were not even considered citizens.
Women were another group that the rights in these documents did not cover. In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband John Adams urging him to "remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors." However, it was not until August 18, 1920, that the nineteenth amendment was ratified and women received the right to vote.