Ethics & Religion
July 3, 2019
"All Men Are Created Equal"
By Mike McManus
"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
That's the Declaration of Independence, which America adopted on July 4,
However, slavery denied those rights to millions of Negroes.
That fact profoundly disturbed Abraham Lincoln. As he eloquently put it
in his 1863 Gettysburg Address, "Four score and seven years ago, our
fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in
Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created
One of the reporters of the event from the Chicago Press and Tribune,
interviewed Lincoln afterwards. The President said that when
representatives from 13 states signed the Declaration, "12 of which were
Lincoln added that "all" of the representatives "greatly deplored the
evil and that they placed a provision in the Constitution which they
supposed would gradually remove the disease by cutting off its source.
This was the abolition of the slave trade."
What made the slavery issue come alive to Lincoln was the passage by
Congress of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 which allowed the extension
of slavery to the western territories. It was sponsored by Illinois
Senator Stephen Douglas. Prior to that time, slavery was limited to
states south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Lincoln debated Douglas on the issue seven times in 1854, in a race for
the Senate. Lincoln said that he believed absolutely in the doctrine of
self-government, but asked does "such application depend on whether a
Negro is not or is a man? If he is not a man, why in that case he who is
a man may...do as he pleases with him."
When the white man governs himself and also governs another man, that is
more than self-government, it is despotism. If the Negro is a man, why
then my ancient faith teaches me that `all men are created equal.'"
"No man is good enough to govern another man, without that other's
In their fourth debate, Douglas asserted, "In my opinion, a Negro is not
a citizen, cannot be, and ought not to be, under the Constitution. I say
the Government was established on the white basis. It was made by white
men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever."
He also argued that Negroes belong "to a race incapable of
self-government and for that reason ought not to be on an equality with
After seven debates, Douglas won the election to the Senate. But Lincoln
performed so well that he won the Republican nomination for President.
Lincoln's position on slavery was not to call for its abolition, but to
limit slavery to the South's slave-holding states. Douglas wanted to
allow western states, whose territories were added to the U.S. by the
Louisiana Purchase, to decide for themselves whether to allow slavery.
Lincoln stoutly opposed that.
Douglas, with bitter sarcasm, denounced Lincoln's view: "The white
people of Nebraska are good enough to govern themselves, but they are
not good enough to govern a few miserable Negroes!!"
As President, Lincoln initially was reluctant to adopt an abolitionist
policy. He had been elected on a platform pledging no interference with
slavery in existing states. Why? He wanted to hold border states like
his native Kentucky, in the union.
He said, "My paramount objective in this struggle is to save the Union,
and it is not either to save or destroy slavery."
However, Northern sentiment, fueled by the Civil War, wanted to end
slavery everywhere. Maine even allowed blacks to vote.
The North's strong anti-slavery sentiment prompted Lincoln to write the
Emancipation Proclamation. Published on September 22, 1862, it declared
that on January 1, 1863, "all persons held as slaves" within the
rebellious states "are and henceforth shall be free."
Although historians say the Proclamation was one of the ten most
important documents in America's history, it only applied to the states
in rebellion, as a measure to cripple the Confederacy. Lincoln's own
advisors opposed it.
One immediate result was that France and Germany, who had considered
supporting the Confederacy, decided not to do so, because they agreed
with the goal of ending slavery.
The Proclamation also declared that African Americans "would be received
into the armed services of the United States." More than 200,000 blacks
The measure was so popular that Lincoln introduced the 13th
Constitutional Amendment to abolish slavery, which was approved in
Lincoln considered the Emancipation Proclamation the crowning
achievement of his Presidency.
All of this is what we celebrate on the 4th of July.
LINK: Full Transcript of the Proclamation:
Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and
a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to
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