Freedom and Equality, two resounding American values that are important throughout many aspects of American History. These beliefs still affect Americans now in the issues that we face today. However, the ideas of freedom and equality have been around for almost as long as this country. Different texts such as The Gettysburg Address, The Declaration of Independence, and The Articles of Confederation show that Freedom and Equality have been important throughout history, and have been interpreted in many different ways. This reflects our society today because people interpret Freedom and Equality differently, which is apparent by the current issues we have today.
In the Declaration of Independence, these ideas of Freedom and Equality are used to justify the colonists breaking away from Britain. At the beginning of this document, the Declaration says that “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” (Jefferson, para 2). The colonists felt that they were being denied these unalienable rights that they felt should be automatically given to them. Freedom and Equality were among these unalienable rights, that they felt were being denied to them, so the people writing this document wanted to leave the British monarchy in hopes of achieving Freedom and Equality. This document was written for the purpose of achieving that by breaking away from Britain. If the framers didn’t believe in Freedom and Equality, they wouldn’t have gone to the effort to write this huge declaration. Even then, these values were important, and they still are important today.
In the Articles of Confederation, Freedom and Equality are used as goals for the country, but more for the individual state as well. This is established in the Second Article which reads “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled” (Dickinson art 2). Freedom and Equality are valued in this quote but on a more independent level. This is because, when these articles were written, the people writing them were afraid of a strong central government taking over the US and having too much power. As a result, this made the writers of the Articles of Confederation focus on Freedom and Equality, but at a more individual level. This made the states have more power to be able to govern themselves. The writers put an emphasis on these values because they are what prompted America to break away from the colonies in the first place, and what America strives, and is continually striving for. Even though this form of government ultimately ended up failing, it shows that Freedom and Equality are common American values, used in many different ways.
The Gettysburg Address uses Freedom and Equality when talking about the issue of slavery. In this speech, Lincoln says at the end “that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth” (Lincoln, para 3). In the beginning of this quote, Lincoln wants the ones who died in the battle of Gettysburg to not have died in vain. He wants something good to come out of this terrible loss, wanting a government “by the people, for the people” (Lincoln para 3). When he says this, he means all people, including the slaves at that time. Lincoln used this speech to show that he wanted a country of freedom and equality for everyone, no matter where you were from or what skin color you were. This speech Lincoln used, was used to justify his claim that slavery was wrong, and that freedom and equality should be for all the people of America.
All of these documents show that Freedom and Equality were interpreted in many different ways. These documents were all written at different times, yet they all have those common beliefs of Freedom and Equality, showing that these values have stayed important throughout the course of history. Freedom and Equality are also important in today’s society. There are many issues in America that divide us as a nation, that have two or many sides to them. Most or nearly all of these sides, use Freedom and Equality to justify their stance on these issues. This is interesting because it shows how these values are interpreted and used in many different ways. One could say, that these values are being used to divide us. However, if these values could be used to unite us, it would be safe to assume that great things would happen.
Dickinson, John. Articles of Confederation. Bartlett, Josiah. 1781
Jefferson, Thomas. Declaration of Independence. Adams, John. Franklin, Benjamin.
Livingston, Robert R. Sherman, Roger. 1776
Lincoln, Abraham. Gettysburg Address. 1863
Photo by See-ming Lee 李思明 SMLTags: Okemos High School