Abstract: Few features of the Constitution interest us today as much as equality. Although it is often the case that the questions the present poses to the past are largely an expression of contemporary concern, the issue of equality is an exception. In this essay, I discuss equality especially the great figures in equality as well as their works .
Key words: founding fathers, equality.
When we hear the word equality, we think of race, religion, gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation,ect. But we must re-set our thinking and ask what the founding fathers concern equality.
The first is a letter from the first Jewish synagogue in America to President Washington, rejoicing in a nation which gives o bigotry no sanction. He wrote: "With pleasure we reflect on those days--those days of difficulty & danger when the God of Israel..." And Washington answered: "While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens" Thus Washington acknowledged the right of every natural human being regardless of the race and religion.
2. James Wilson.
Next is a piece from jurist James Wilson, a Pennsylvania delegate to the Constitutional Convention, who argues that while men may vary in their virtue and talents they share a fundamental equality in rights (sounds obvious to us, but not so in 1791).
In his writing he claimed a fundamental idea for the equality in America. He demonstrated that as in civil society, previous to civil government, all men are equal so, in the same state, all men are free. Then the idea "equality in rights" came into being.
Then to Jefferson, who lauds the American atural aristocracy based on virtue and talent, in contrast to the artificial aristocracies of Europe based on birth and wealth. "There is also an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents for with these it would belong to the first class."
So Thomas Jefferson introduced the idea of "atural aristocracy based on virtue and talent" rather than on birth and wealth. This atural aristocracy is vital to the spiritual world of the American and to the material world.
4. James Madison.
Finally, James Madison in 1821 revisits the issue of property ownership as a requirement for voting, concluding that it seems indispensable that the Mass of Citizens should not be without a voice in electing a legislative branch. Also, revisit Noah Websters 1802 Fourth of July oration for his comments on equality, of which much is said, he writes, and little understood.
By writing and noting these, James Madison introduced the very popular and important idea - equal right in voting.
Equality is essential in American history as well as in the present state. It is not at all exaggerated that there is no America without equality. And the great figures who laid a foundation for equality played an even more important role in American history.
Abbot et al., ed. The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 6,
Virginia: University Press of Virginia, 1996
Charles Francis Adams ed. The Works of John Adams 10 vols. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1850
Documentary History of the Constitution of the United Stat of America,1786--1870. 5 vols. Washington, D.C.: Department of State, 1901--5.