Declaration of Independence: "all men are created equal". Justice Breyer said "they meant women". Did they?

HomerJS

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
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I'm conducting an ATP&N history lesson. Dangerous I know but let's see if we can pull it off. I've seen posted here many times that history should be taught honestly and in it's entirety.

I was listening to coverage of retiring Justice Steven Breyer's visit to the White House. He quoted the Declaration of Independence which included the phrase, "all men are created equal". He followed that phrase with a comment "they meant women"

My question for historical context, is that true? Also just take the phrase "all men are created equal". When written did the founders mean that?

When this comes up in history class what answers do you give to the students?
 

sandorski

No Lifer
Oct 10, 1999
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"Men" was quite pliable. Landowners seems to be what they meant, but they also seem willing for that definition to change in time or at least had a concept of their focus possibly being too restrictive.

Also keep in mind that "Man" was often used instead of "Human". It is possible that "Men" had other meanings/usages at the time that no longer exist.
 
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uclaLabrat

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2007
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Based on the fact that women were excluded from voting (as were slaves) and other basic rights, it's quite clear they didn't mean women. And as a society, we've evolved to change our understanding that such omissions were unacceptable. This is the biggest case against contextualism that conservatives love to pine about.
 

rommelrommel

Diamond Member
Dec 7, 2002
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They may have meant that all women were equal to each other, I doubt they would have seen women as equals. But as mentioned there was already some mental contortions happening to say that but legalise slavery.
 

pauldun170

Diamond Member
Sep 26, 2011
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Based on the fact that women were excluded from voting (as were slaves) and other basic rights, it's quite clear they didn't mean women. And as a society, we've evolved to change our understanding that such omissions were unacceptable. This is the biggest case against contextualism that conservatives love to pine about.



These guys would be glad you brought that up.
In their view, the argument about "Men or Equal" applying to Woman is no longer relevant since the constitution was amended 14th, 19th.
That's how they would shut it down.

"If you want something to be constitutional. Spell it out in the constitution. Write it clearly in the law."
This view came about as way to stall change because they know Congress and the Senate are shit shows filled with cowards elected by idiots where 2 parties are at war with each other.
 

woolfe9998

Lifer
Apr 8, 2013
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No, that's not what he meant. He could have written "all people are created equal." But that's not what TJ wrote in the DOI. And also, if the FF truly believed that all humans were created equal, why did women have to wait until 1920 to get the right to vote? After the civil war, even black men had the right to vote, though it was severely constrained in the south. But women did not get that right until much later.
 

uclaLabrat

Diamond Member
Aug 2, 2007
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These guys would be glad you brought that up.
In their view, the argument about "Men or Equal" applying to Woman is no longer relevant since the constitution was amended 14th, 19th.
That's how they would shut it down.

"If you want something to be constitutional. Spell it out in the constitution. Write it clearly in the law."
This view came about as way to stall change because they know Congress and the Senate are shit shows filled with cowards elected by idiots where 2 parties are at war with each other.
That's precisely my point; the premise that everything in the constitution needs to be spelled out completely annihilates the foundation of contextualism. If any ambiguity needs to be corrected, the original intent of the FF is meaningless and thus contextualism is stupid.

Except they'll just use some sort of rhetorical catch-22 Since logical consistency was never the point of their smoke screen.
 
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Jaskalas

Lifer
Jun 23, 2004
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What answer do we want it to be?
A clear demonstration indicates they excluded women and POC, but in many respects they laid the groundwork for it to mean human.
They fell short, but they also paved the way.
 

HomerJS

Lifer
Feb 6, 2002
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What answer do we want it to be?
A clear demonstration indicates they excluded women and POC, but in many respects they laid the groundwork for it to mean human.
They fell short, but they also paved the way.
For teaching history I would say the first part of your sentence is historically accurate. I submit the rest is speculation since we can't be in the minds of the founding fathers. Not sure speculation of future intentions should be included. We could say people AFTER the founding fathers paved the way towards equality, just pick your time period.
 
Nov 29, 2006
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I am pretty confident at the time they meant white male landowners only. Given all the other things about women and blacks not being treated equally in the same founding documents.
 

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