Do You Believe Our Constitution Protects This Belief in Equality?
Equality is one of the first principles articulated in the Declaration of independence. The Declaration states that, “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” (Morgan 2013). This is a statement enshrined in the creation of humankind. By this statement, the constitution does not intend to be religious. Rather, it makes legal recognition that all human beings are created equal and free. Thus, in its declaration, it recognizes all men as equal and only limited by their capabilities. It further says that men are born with unalienable rights such as the right to life, and the quest of happiness and liberty. This was the intention of the founders of our nation. However, the main question is whether this belief in equality remains protected under the current constitution.
I believe the constitution protects the belief that all people are equal. According to Meese, “The Declaration provided the philosophical basis for a government that exercises legitimate power by the consent of the governed, and it defined the conditions of a free people, whose rights and liberty are derived from their Creator,” (2009). Thus, the constitution’s main work is creating a government as well as rules it requires to follow that are consistent with the belief of equality. The constitution limits the power of the government in order to protect the ordinary people from exploitation. It provides procedures that every person can follow to seek justice. One can view it as a legal document that provides rules that ensure the law does not recognize what one is. Rather, it should consider what one does so that no one is exempt from the law. This abides to the declaration of equality where everybody is treated by law on account of his or her conduct and not who he or she is (Morgan 2013).
The constitution further protects the liberty of the people by establishing a government that has its power diffused horizontally within the three arms of the federal government. In addition, power is diffused vertically from the central government to the state government. However, the most noteworthy is the horizontal diffusion where the three arms of the government check a balance on each other. The government is quite strong in order to ensure a strong country. However, this diffusion limits the power of the government to ensure it does not compromise the liberty or equality of the people. Further, the government remains answerable to people, meaning the consent of the people is sought since the officials are elected by the people.
Although the word equality is not mentioned regularly in the current constitution as the declaration stated, it serves the purpose intended by this declaration. When the declaration said that all men are equal, it never meant in terms of their attributes such as intelligence or physical strength. Rather, they meant equality in terms of the law or legal authority. Their intention was creating a constitution that would establish a government that would ensure the liberty of all people under the law, allowing each person to pursue their happiness. As such, the constitution ensures that the government protects all people under the law.
The word equality was not included in the United States constitution until after the civil war. After the slaves were freed, three reconstruction amendments were passed, the 13th amendment in 1865 that banned slavery, the 14th amendment in 1868 that guaranteed citizenship to all the Americans especially for protecting former slaves and the 15th amendment in 1870 that granted voting rights to all men irrespective of color or former servitude (Sagal 2013). Specifically, the 14th amendment in its first section bears the word equality, stating that no state has a right to deny any person equal protection within its jurisdiction. This protects people from any arbitrary discrimination from government officials. Thus, with the amendment, the rights of all people are protected, ensuring the equality is given to all in terms of recognition to law (Sagal 2013).
Before these amendments were passed, the constitution was silent on the issue of discrimination since slavery was still existent and could be contradicting. Thus, the constitution at this time did not protect the belief that all men are created equal. However, it protected the white race the same way it protects everybody today. Despite the amendments, African Americans did not enjoy their freedom of equality for almost another century after the civil war. This does not mean the constitution failed to ensure equality. Rather, the whole society was against the African Americans. One of the areas the constitution failed in protecting the equality of African Americans is during the segregation era where the case of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 saw the segregation of African Americans on the account that providing equal facilities but different institutions as not violation of equality. However, this was overturned in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) outlawing segregation of races. Further, the civil movement of 1964 and more court decisions after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) ended segregation. This improved the lives of African Americans and granted everybody equal rights in terms of the law (Sagal 2013).
I believe that the constitution of United States protect the belief that all men are made equal since everybody irrespective of race is equally recognized by the law. Although the constitution does not contain many clauses on equality, it does protect this right from its legal perspective where it ensures that all people are recognized by law as equal. With the end of segregation and discrimination, all Americans are protected under the constitution that ensures all have equal opportunities to pursue their happiness. Additionally, the amendments show the commitment of the people to ensure that equality is achieved.
Meese, Edwin. The Meaning of the Constitution. heritage.org, 16 Sep. 2009. Web. 13 Jun. 2013.
Morgan, L. Kerry. The Declaration of Independence, Equality and Unalienable Rights. lonang.com, 2013. Web. 13 Jun. 2013.
Sagal, Peter. Equality and the Fourteenth Amendment: A New Constitution. Pbs.org, 2 May. 2013. Web. 13 Jun. 2013.