Social equality has been a goal of America since its very beginning. However, it was only an intention to be socially equal, but not a goal. Social equality or the fact that all men were created equal only applied to the white man. There was no intention in meaning that the blacks and Indians or even the women were equal. In the eyes of the delegates, and the common white majority, blacks, indians, and women were not an issue.
To them, it was apparent that blacks were kids, Indians were savages, and women were homemakers. From the late 18th century to the mid 19th century was the greatest era of social and racial inequality in all American history. The Declaration of Independence states, “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 Happiness.” This infamous passage written by Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1776, states that ALL men are created equal and are entitled to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Although this statement has been argued about its actual meaning hundreds of times by students, philosophers, historians, etc., it still is relevant in discussing the true intentions of the new nation.
If all men were created equal then why were there slaves? Why did the government deny the Indians of their rights? Why was there so much injustice? That phrase simply meant that all free citizens were politically equal. This did not apply to blacks or women under the eyes of the signers. As time went by, the meaning “All Men are created equal” took a meaning different than that of the common people in 1776. The years following the establishment of the new nation were times of refining and tuning of the new government. The question of the true meaning of “All Men are Created Equal” arised again and again until it influenced the minds of Americans that is was time for social equality. In order to understand the reasons why blacks were treated so cruelly and socially unequal is to understand the perspective of whites in the era from the late 18th century to the late 19th century.
“It (the south) must pettify the institution and its own reactions, must begin to boast at its own Great Heart. To have heard them talk, indeed, you would have thought the sole reason why some of the planters held to slavery was love and duty to the black man, the earnest, devoted will to not only get him into heaven but to also make him happy in this world. He was a child whom somebody had to look after.” – W.J. Cash, The Mind of the South, pg. 85. Blacks were considered children.
Social Equality cannot be achieved if inferiority is placed upon a race. Through the eyes of the Southerners, they believed that they were in fact saving the Black man from hell and his own savagery. Social and Racial Equality in the south was incredibly hard to obtain because blacks were considered childish, stupid, inferior, and hell-bound without the white man’s help. On page 83 of The Mind of the South, W.J.
Cash states, “The black man occupied the position of a domestic animal. without will or right of is own.” And yes, the black man did play the role of a domestic animal, he was stripped of liberities, property, and will by the whites. The black man PLAYED the role of a domestic animal, but he was not a domestic animal. The institution of slavery brought the blacks to the lowest class possible, the slave class, they had no respect, no equality, no rights. It took the will of abolitionists, white and black, along with the power of war to end slavery, and another 100 years for blacks to gain their rights. “Are the Great Principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in teh Declaration of Independence, extended to us?…
What to the American slave is your 4th of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. ” This passage from Frederick Douglas’s Independence Day Address, 1852, defines the true nature of the blacks. They were not recognized, they were treated socially unjust, and most of all, America did nothing about it from its establishment in 1776 to the Civil War. Blacks cried for justice, cried for equality, and cried for humanity, and were not heard for a 100 years.
The hardships and inequalities the blacks faced cannot amount to the opression and the persection Native Americans were given. . They have been the ultimate sufferers from American persecution. There land has been stolen from them, their people massacred by them, and most of all their liberty has been stripped from them. In 1789, Thomas Jefferson stated, “It may be regarded as certain that not a foot of land will ever be taken by the Indians without their consent.
The sacredness of their rights is felt by all thinking persons in America as much as in Europe.” In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance stated, “The utmost of good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken away away from them without their consent; and their property, rights, and liberty shall never be invaded by Congress; but laws founded in Justice and humanity shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs to them, and for preserving friendship and peace with them.” Both of these quotes support the Indians in preserving their rights, their land, and their liberty. What happened? In 1785 Indian chiefs signed the Treaty of Fort McIntosh that ceded lands in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee to the United States government after the chiefs were tainted with Alcohol. In 1795 the treaty of Greenville was signed that pushed Indians farther from their land and supposedly payed them money and prohibted white settlers from entering the area, a joke. In August 10th, 1810 Tecumseh speaks to Governor Harrison about the Native American situation and was awed by all except for Harrison who still thought of Indians as inferior and continued his campaign against the Indian Confederation.
In 1828, the state of Georgia placed a series of laws extending the states juridiction over Cherokee land which was illegal, but Jackson did nothign to stop the state of Georgia even though Chief Justice Marshall proclaimed the acts of Georgia illegal. In 1829, the Cherokees had established a civilized Cherokee nation. However, gold was found in the Cherokee lands and state officials enforced the rights of white trespassers over the Cherokee. Then the Georgia Legislature passed laws making illegal for Cherokees to mine for gold, testify against a white man, or hold political assembly.
And finally, in 1830, the Indian removal acts moved all Indians beyond the Mississippi giving them little support in their new environment and forcing them to move in the dead of winter. In other words, the Indians were said to have had rights, but never really had any because the American Government constantly changed the rules because of their lack of respect towards the Indians and their belief that they were inferior. In Conclusion, the period between the late 18th century to the mid 19th century was one of the most socially and racially unequal times in all of AMerican History. The rights described in our Declaration of Independence were irrelevant to minorities, the assumption that “All Men Are Created Equal” was only applied to white men and not minorities like Blacks and Indians. Blacks were treated like children in this period, thought to be inferior and uncivilized and therefore not even rights.
Even worse, Indians were promised rights and land, only to have both stripped from them by the American government through means of “treaties”, agreements, and war. This period was truly one of the most wrong and unequal periods of American History, however, it was a landmark in the creation of a new nation. While all these social inequalities existed, America flourished and grew to be one of the greatest nations in the world. Bibliography: