Chapter 4 of America’s Revolutionary Mind (2019) moves from the prior chapter on “We hold these truths to be self- evident….” to the second phrase: “that all men are created equal”. What exactly did they mean by “equal”? C. Bradley Thompson teaches us that The Founders understood and accepted John Locke’s concept of equality – “species equality”. They did NOT mean the ridiculous egalitarian perverse prioritization of equality over everything.
The only way to understand the Revolutionary notion of equality is to fully comprehend and embrace inequality. Thomas Jefferson wrote there is a “natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents”. Obviously everyone is not equal with regard to intelligence, virtue, beauty, strength, productivity, speed, etc. – we’re extremely unequal. James Madison wrote that the “rights of property originate in the diversity in the faculties of men and the first object of government is the equal protection of the unequal faculties of acquiring property”.
Egalitarianism is not only wrong politically because it’s not what The Founders meant, it’s also evil because it attempts to justify hurting people who are deemed too wealthy/strong/smart – whatever attribute to be forcibly leveled. We are created equal – with equal rights and dignity, but then we acquire inequality relative to almost everything else – including moral action. We are not equal with regard to moral virtues such as rationality, honesty, integrity, fortitude, courage and productiveness.
Inequality is natural. Human attempts to change it are immoral. Egalitarianism is a wrecking ball to a flourishing life. The right to equality prevents subordination among our species except those which arise from different capacity, disposition and virtue. Thompson writes: “Equality recognizes and is the foundation for inequality rightly understood. Thus equality and inequality are brought together in harmony in the philosophy of Locke and therefore also in The Declaration.” Equality means sharing a common nature with common attributes. It does not mean an equality of attributes.
This seems so damn obvious to me that I’m dumbfounded by those who would argue otherwise. A free society will naturally experience a plethora of differences and natural inequalities that cannot and should not be altered: Loosely quoting a revolutionary reverend:
Superior wisdom and abilities will have superior influence and effect in society. Superior strength and activity of body will also have advantages peculiar to themselves. In making these natural distinctions, nature evidently designed to qualify men for different attainments and employments. And while she gave to all the nature and the rights of man, she assigned to some a capacity and a power to make a much more useful improvement and exercise of that nature, and of those rights, than she has given to others.
Next week, we move to the curious contradiction between the revolutionaries’ avowed principle of equality and the brutal reality of slavery. We will see that slavery is not as much of a paradox for American freedom as our evil egalitarian enemies try and argue. To the contrary, the ideas in The Declaration of Independence lead ultimately to the abolition of slavery.