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Self-Evident TruthsContesting Equal Rights from the Revolution to the Civil War$
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Richard D. Brown

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300197112

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300197112.001.0001

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The Declaration of Independence and the Mystery of Equality

The Declaration of Independence and the Mystery of Equality

(p.1) One The Declaration of Independence and the Mystery of Equality
Self-Evident Truths

Richard D. Brown

Yale University Press

What were the meanings of “all men are created equal” for the signers of the Declaration, and how was the phrase understood in different states? The chapter traces the natural rights origins of the Declaration and how the idea of natural equality affected ideas and policy on slavery, race, and religion, especially in Massachusetts and Virginia. Public figures everywhere recognized a conflict between their deep commitment to individual property rights and their assertion of equal human rights. Concern for social stability in a time of revolution influenced ideology and practice.

Keywords:   equal rights, slavery, race, religion, Massachusetts, Virginia, Declaration of Independence, equality, African Americans

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