The Origin of the Declaration
( Originally Published 1927 )
BY SYDNEY GEORGE FISHER
BESIDES the semi-independent character of their political governments, there were other circumstances which tended to inspire a large part of the colonists with a strong passion for independence, and led them to resist with unusual energy the remodeling plans which England began in 1764.
The sturdy influences of Protestanism and American life had, however, not so great an effect on that large body of people called loyalists, whose numbers have been variously estimated at from one-third to 0ver half the population. They remained loyal to England, and were so far from being inspired with a love of independence that they utterly detested the whole patriot cause and sacrificed their property and lives in the effort to stamp out its principles and put in their place the British empire method of alien control as the best form 0f government for America.
Patriot parties have existed in other countries with-out the aid of the particular influences which Burke described. The love of national independence is, in fact, the most difficult passion to eradicate, as the Irish, the Poles, and other broken nationalities bear witness. The desire for independence is natural to all vigorous communities, is generally regarded as more manlike and honorable than dependence, and usually springs up spontaneously whether in Holland, Switzer-land 0r America, in spite of the commercial and conservative influences of loyalism. But, nevertheless, the influences mentioned by Burke, and several that he did not mention, had no doubt considerable effect in creating the patriot party in America and inspiring it with enthusiasm and energy.
The self-confidence aroused in the colonists by their success in subduing the wilderness, felling the vast forests, hunting the wild game and still wilder red men, has often been given as a cause of the Revolution and the American love of independence. Eloquence is easily tempted t0 enlarge upon such causes, and to describe in romantic language the hunter and the woodsman, the farmer in the fresh soil of primeval forests, the fishermen of the Grand Banks, the merchants and sailors who traded with the whole world in defiance of the British navigation laws, and the crews of the whaling ships that pursued their dangerous game from the equator to the poles.
The American lawyers, according to Burke, were an important cause of the Revolution. They were very numerous in the colonies ; law and theories of government were much read and studied, and the people were trained to discussion of political rights as well as of religious doctrine. Burke described in picturesque de-tail how, in the South, the ruling class lived scattered and remote from 0ne another, maintaining themselves in self-reliant authority on plantations with hundreds of slaves ; and slavery, he said, inspired in the white master a fierce love of independence for himself and an undying dread of any form of the bondage which his love of gain had inflicted on a weaker race.
The geographical position of the thirteen contiguous colonies, so situated that they could easily unite and act together, and having a population that was increasing so rapidly that it seemed likely in a few years to exceed the population of England, was possibly a more effective cause of the Revolution than any of those that have been named. The consciousness of possessing such a vast fertile continent, which within a few generations would support more than double the population of little England, furnished a profound encouragement for theories of independence. People in England were well aware of this feeling in the colonies, and Joshua Gee, a popular writer on political economy in 1738, tried to quiet their fears. Some, he said, were objecting that " if we encourage the Plantations they will grow rich and set up for themselves and cast off the English government" ; and he went on to show that this fear was groundless because the colonists nearly all lived on the navigable rivers and bays of America, where the British navy could easily reach and subdue them. He also attempted to argue away the advantage of the contiguous situation of the colonies and described them as split up into a dozen or more separate provinces, each with its own governor ; and it was inconceivable, he said, that such diverse communities would be able to unite against England.
English statesmen, however, saw the danger of union among the colonies long before the outbreak of the Revolution; and they shrewdly rejected the plan of union of the Albany conference of 1754; and in the Revolution itself a large part of England's diplomatic and military efforts were directed towards breaking up the easy communication among the colonies.
In modern times England's colonies have been widely separated from one another. There has been no large and rapidly increasing white population on contiguous territory with ability for union. The dark-skinned population of India is enormous in numbers, but in-capable of the united action 0f the Americans of 1776, and India is not considered a colony but a territory continuously held by overwhelming military force. In-stead of a colonial population which threatened in a short time to outnumber her own people, England's power and population have, in modern times, grown far beyond any power or population in her well-scattered white colonies.
The colonists at the time of the Revolution have often been described as speaking of England as home and regarding the mother-country with no little degree of affection ; and while there is no doubt some truth in this, especially as regards the people who were loyalists, yet a very large proportion of the colonists had become totally differentiated from the people of England. This was the inevitable result of having lived for over a hundred years in the American environment. They were no longer Englishmen. They had become completely Americanized. Certain classes kept up their connection with England, and many of the rich planters of the South sent their sons to England to be educated. But a very large part of the colonists, especially in the older settled provinces, like Massachusetts and Virginia, had forgotten England and were another people.
Instead of speaking, as novelists often describe them, in a formal archaic way, using quaint phrases of old English life, the colonists spoke with mannerisms and colloquial slang which were peculiarly American. These peculiarities were ridiculed by Englishmen of the time and formed part of Grant's famous speech in Parliament, the burden of which appears to have been that the colonists had become entirely different from English people, and Grant is said to have given imitations of what he considered their strange speech and manners. Mrs. Knight, in her Journal of Travel from Boston to New York, had, many years before the Revolution, given specimens of this difference ; and the language of the New Englanders which she describes was certainly not like anything in England.
" Law for me — what in the world brings you here at this time of night? I never see a woman on the Rode so Dreadful late in all the days of my versall life. Who are you? Where are you going? "— Mrs. Knight's Journal, p. 23.
In 1775 some one wrote a set of humorous verses, said to have been the original Yankee Doodle song, to illustrate the colloquial Americanism 0f the time. " Slapping " was used for " large," as in the phrase " a slapping stallion." " Nation" was used for "a great deal," as in such a phrase as " 0nly a nation louder." " Tarnal " was used for " very." " I see" was used for " I saw," " I come " for I came," and " I hooked it off " in place of " I went away."
Not only did the patriots feel themselves to be quite different from Englishmen, but they had a consciousness of ability and power, the result of having governed themselves so long in their towns, counties, and provinces, and 0f having carried on a commerce of their own in defiance of the English navigation laws. They felt that they, not Englishmen, had created the country; and they had a resolute intention to develop its future greatness in their own way without the advice of aliens across three thousand miles of ocean.
This high confidence, which was a conspicuous motive in the patriot party, was always ridiculed by the loyalists as mere bumptiousness and conceit. It was difficult for a loyalist to understand how any one could seriously put himself in opposition to the British empire or want any form of government except the British constitution. But the patriot estimate of their own ability was by no means an exaggeration. They could be overcome, of course, as the Boer republics and other peoples have been overcome, by the superior numbers or wealth of Great Britain. But the history of the Revolution disclosed qualities in which the Americans notoriously excelled Europeans as well as the Anglo-Saxon stock in England from which they were derived. They were of keener practical intelligence, more promptness in action, more untiring energy, more originality in enterprise, better courage and endurance, and more natural military skill among the rank and file. These distinctively American qualities, we now call them, seem to have been much more in evidence among the patriot party than among the loyalists.
Every circumstance of their past and every consideration of their present convinced the patriot of the infinite pleasure and value of home rule and they had codified their opinions into a political philosophy which not only justified their semi-independence and disregard of acts of Parliament, but would also justify them in breaking off from England, at the first opportunity and becoming absolutely independent. They had gathered this philosophy from the works of certain European writers — Grotius, Puffendorf, Locke, Burlamaqui, Beccaria, Montesquieu, and others — who had applied to politics and government the doctrines of religious liberty and the right of private judgment which had been developed by the Reformation. Being such extreme Protestants, and having carried so far the religious ideas of the Reformation, the colonists naturally accepted in their fullest meaning the political principles of the Reformation. If we are looking for profound influences in the Revolution, it would be difficult to find any that were stronger than two of the writers just mentioned, Locke and Burlamaqui, whose books had a vast effect in the break-up 0f the British empire which we are about to record.
Beginning with Grotius, who was born in 1582, and ending with Montesquieu, who died in 1755, the writers mentioned covered a period of about two hundred years of political investigation, thought and experience. In fact, they covered the period since the Reformation. They represented the effect of the Reformation on political thought. They represented also all those nations whose opinions 0n such subjects were worth anything. Grotius was a Dutchman, Puffendorf a German, Locke an Englishman, Burlamaqui an Italian Swiss, and Montesquieu a Frenchman.
Hooker, who lived from 1553 to 1600, and whom Locke cites so freely, might be included in the number, and that would make the period quite two hundred years. Hooker, in his " Ecclesiastical Polity," declared very emphatically that governments could not be legitimate unless they rested on the consent of the governed; and this principle forms the foundation of Locke's famous essays.
There were, of course, other minor writers ; and the colonists relied upon them all ; but seldom troubled themselves to read the works of the earlier ones, or to read Hutchinson, Clarke and other followers of that school, because Locke, Burlamaqui, and Beccaria had summarized them all and brought them down to date. To this day any one going to the Philadelphia Library, and asking for No. 77, can take in his hands the identical, well-worn volume of Burlamaqui which delegates to the Congress and many an unsettled Philadelphian read with earnest, anxious minds. It was among the first books that the library had obtained ; and perhaps the most important and effective book it has ever owned.
The rebellious colonists also read Locke's " Two Treatises on Government " with much profit and satisfaction to themselves. Locke was an extreme Whig, an English revolutionist of the school of 1688. Be-fore that great event, he had been unendurable to the royalists, who were in power, and had been obliged to spend a large part of his time on the continent. In the preface of his " Two Treatises," he says that they will show how entirely legitimate is the title of William III to the throne, because it is established on the con-sent of the people. That is the burden of his whole argument — the consent of the people as the only true foundation of government. That principle sank so deep into the minds of the patriot colonists that it was the foundation of all their political thought, and be-came an essentially American idea.
Becarria, who, like Burlamaqui, was an Italian, also exercised great influence on the colonists. His famous book, " Crimes and Punishments," was also a short, concise, but very eloquent volume. It caused a great stir in the world. The translation circulated in America had added to it a characteristic commentary by Voltaire. Beccaria, though not writing directly on the subject of liberty, necessarily included that subject, because he dealt with the administration of the criminal law. His plea for more humane and just punishments, and for punishments more in proportion t0 the offense, found a ready sympathy among the Americans, who had already revolted in disgust from the brutality and extravagant cruelty of the English criminal code.
But Beccaria also stated most beautifully and clearly the essential principles of liberty. His foundation doctrine, that " every act of authority 0f one man over another for which there is not absolute necessity is tyrannical," made a most profound impression in America. He laid down also the principle that " in every human society there is an effort continually tending to confer on one part the highest power and happiness, and to reduce the other to the extreme of weakness and misery." That sentence became the life-long guide of many Americans. It became a constituent part of the minds 0f Jefferson and Hamilton. It can be seen as the foundation, the connecting strand, running all through the essays of the Federalist. It was the inspiration of the " checks and balances " in the national Constitution. It can be traced in American thought and legislation down to the present time.
Burlamaqui's book, devoted exclusively to the subject of liberty and independence, is still one of the best expositions of the true doctrines of natural law, or the rights of man. At the time of the Revolution these rights of man were 0ften spoken of as our rights as men, which is a very descriptive phrase, because the essence of those rights is political manhood, honorable self-reliance as opposed to degenerate dependence.
Burlamaqui belonged to a Protestant family that had once lived at Lucca, Italy ; but had been compelled, like the family of Turretini, and many others, to take refuge in Switzerland. He became a professor at Geneva, which gave him the reputation of a learned man. He also became a counselor of state and was noted for his practical sagacity. He had intended to write a great work in many volumes on the subject to which he had devoted so much of his life, " The Principles of Natural Law," as it was then called. Ill health preventing such a huge task, he prepared a single volume, which he said was only for beginners and students, because it dealt with the bare elements of the science in the simplest and plainest language.
This little book was translated into English in 1748, and contained only three hundred pages ; but in that small space of large, clear type, Burlamaqui compressed everything that the patriot colonists wanted to know. He was remarkably clear and concise, and gave the Americans the qualities of the Italian mind at its best. He aroused them by his modern glowing thought and his enthusiasm for progress and liberty. His handy little volume was vastly more effective and far-reaching than would have been the blunderbuss he had intended to load to the muzzle.
If we examine the volumes of Burlamaqui's predecessors, Grotius, Puffendorf, and the others, we find their statements about natural law and our rights as men rather brief, vague, and general, as is usual with the old writers on any science. Burlamaqui brought them down to date, developed their principles, and swept in the results of all the thought and criticism since their day.
The term natural law, which all these writers used, has long since gone 0ut of fashion. They used it because, inspired by the Reformation, they were struggling to get away from the arbitrary system, the artificial scholasticism, the despotism of the middle ages. They were seeking to obtain for law and government a foundation which should grow out of the nature of things, the common facts of life that every-body understood. They sought a system that, being natural, would become established and eternal like nature; a system that would displace that thing of the middle ages which they detested, and called " arbitrary institution."
Let us, they said, contemplate for a time man as he is in himself, the natural man, his wants and requirements.
" The only way," said Burlamaqui, " to attain to the knowledge of that natural law is to consider attentively the nature and constitution of man, the relations he has to the beings that surround him, and the states from thence resulting. In fact, the very term of natural law and the notion we have given of it, show that the principles of this science must be taken from the very nature and constitution of man."
Men naturally, he said, draw together to form societies for mutual protection and advantage. Their natural state is a state of union and society, and these societies are merely for the common advantage of all of the members.
This was certainly a very simple proposition, but it had required centuries to bring men's minds back to it; and it was not altogether safe to put forth be-cause it implied that each community existed for the benefit of itself, for the benefit of its members, and not for the benefit 0f a prince or another nation, or for the church, or for an empire.
It was a principle quickly seized upon by the Americans as soon as their difficulties began in 1764. In their early debates and discussions we hear a great deal about a " state of nature," which at first seems rather meaningless to us. But it was merely their attempt to apply to themselves the fundamental principles of the Reformation. Were the colonies by the exactions and remodeling of the mother-country thrown into that " state of nature," where they could reorganize society afresh, on the basis 0f their own advantage? How much severity or how much oppression or dissatisfaction would bring about this state of nature? Was there any positive rule by which you could decide? Patrick Henry, who was always very eloquent on the subject, declared that the boundary had been passed ; that the colonies were in a state of nature.
Any one who is at all familiar with the trend of thought for the last hundred years can readily see how closely this idea of going back to natural causes and first conceptions for the discovery of political principles is allied to every kind of modern progress; to the modern study of natural history, the study of the plants and animals in their natural environment, instead of by preconceived scholastic theories ; the study of the human body by dissection instead of by supposition ; the study of heat, light, electricity, the soil, the rocks, the ocean, the stars by actual observation, without regard to what the Scriptures and learned commentators had to say.
A large part of the American colonists were very far advanced in all the ideas of the Reformation.
Burlamaqui's book, applying to politics and government, these free and wonderful principles, came to a large number of them as the most soul-stirring and mind-arousing message they had ever heard. It has all become trite enough to us ; but to them it was fresh and marvelous. Their imaginations seized on it with the indomitable energy and passion which the climate inspired, and some who breathed the air of Virginia and Massachusetts were on fire with enthusiasm.
" This state of nature," argued Burlamaqui, " is not the work of man, but established by divine institution."
Natural society is a state of equality and liberty; a state in which all men enjoy the same prerogatives, and an entire independence on any other power but God. For every man is naturally master of himself, and equal to his fellow-creatures so long as he does not subject himself to another person's authority by a particular convention."
Here we find coupled with liberty that word equality which played such a tremendous part in history for the succeeding hundred years. And we must bear in mind that what the people of that time meant by it was political equality, equality of rights, equality before the law and the government; and not equality of ability, talents, fortunes, or gifts, as some have fancied.
Burlamaqui not only found liberty, independence, and equality growing out of nature itself ; but he argued that all this was part of the divine plan, the great order of nature and the universe. Indeed, that was what he and his Reformation predecessors had set out to discover, to unravel the system of humanity, to see if there really was a system that could be gathered from the actual plain facts ; and to see also if there was a unity and completeness in this system.
" The human understanding," he says, " is naturally right, and has within itself a strength sufficient to arrive at the knowledge of truth, and to distinguish it from error." That he announces as the fundamental principle of his book, " the hinge whereon the whole system of humanity turns," and it was simply his way of restating the great doctrine of the Reformation, the right of private judgment.
But he goes on to enlarge on it in a way particularly pleasing to the patriot colonists, for he says we have this power to decide for ourselves, " especially in things wherein our respective duties are concerned."
" Yes," said the colonists, " we have often thought that we were the best judges of all our own affairs."
" Those who feel," said Franklin, in his examination before Parliament, " can best judge."
The daring Burlamaqui went on to show that liberty instead of being, as some supposed, a privilege to be graciously accorded, was in reality a universal right, inherent in the nature of things.
Then appears that idea common to the great leaders of thought in that age, that man's true purpose in the world is the pursuit of happiness. To this pursuit, they said, every human being has a complete right. It was part of liberty; a necessary consequence of liberty. This principle of the right t0 pursue happiness, which is merely another way of stating the right of self-development, has played as great a part in subsequent history as equality. It is one of the foundation principles of the Declaration of Independence. It is given there as the ground-work of the right of revolution, the right of a people to throw off or destroy a power which interferes with this great pursuit, "and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its power in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
It has been interpreted in all sorts 0f ways — as the right to improve your condition, to develop your talents, to grow rich, or to rise into the class of society above you. It is now in its broadest meaning so axiomatic in this country that Americans can hardly realize that it was ever disputed.
But it was, and still is, disputed in England and on the continent. Even so liberal an Englishman as Kingsley resented with indignation the charge that he favored the aspiration of the lower classes to change their condition. Once a cobbler, remain a cobbler, and be content to be a good cobbler. In other words, the righteousness which he so loudly professed was in-tended to exalt certain fortunate individuals, and not to advance society.
This desire and pursuit of happiness being part of nature, or part of the system of Providence, and as essential t0 every man and as inseparable from him as his reason, it should be freely allowed him, and not repressed. This, Burlamaqui declares, is a great principle, " the key of the human system," opening to vast consequences for the world.
The consequences have certainly been vaster than he dreamed of. Millions of people now live their daily life in the sunshine of this doctrine. Millions have fled to us from Europe to seek its protection. Not only the whole American system of laws, but whole philosophies and codes of conduct have grown up under it. The abolitionists appealed to it, and freed six millions of slaves. The transcendental philosophy of New England, that extreme and beautiful attempt to develop conscience, nobility, and character from within ; that call of the great writers like Lowell to every humble individual to stand by his own personality, fear it not, advance it by its own lines ; even our education, the elective system of our colleges—all these things have followed under that " pursuit of happiness," which the patriot colonists seized upon so gladly in 1765 and enshrined in their Declaration of Independence in 1776.
They found in the principles of natural law how government, civil society, or " sovereignty," as those writers were apt to call it, was to be built up and regulated. Civil government did not destroy natural rights and the pursuit 0f happiness. On the contrary, it was intended to give those rights greater security and a fresh force and efficiency. That was the purpose men had in coming together to form a civil society for the benefit of all; that was the reason, as Burlamaqui put it, that " the sovereign became the depositary, as it were, of the will and strength of each individual."
This seemed very satisfactory to some of the colonists. You choose your sovereign, your government, for yourself, and make it your mere depositary or agent. Then as to the nature of the government, the right to govern, they were very much pleased to find that the only right there was of this sort was the right of each community to govern itself. Government by outside power was absolutely indefensible, because the notion that there was a divine right in one set of people to rule over others was exploded nonsense, and the assertion that mere might or superior power necessarily gave such right was equally indefensible. There remained only one plausible reason, and that was that superior excellence, wisdom, or ability might possibly give such right.
As to this " superior excellence " theory, if you admitted it you denied man's inherent right to liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness; you denied his moral accountability and responsibility ; you crippled his independent development, his self-development, his individual action ; in a word, you destroyed the whole natural system.
Because a man is inferior to another is no reason why he should surrender his liberty, his accountability, his chance for self-development, to the superior. We do not surrender our property to the next man who is richer or an abler business manager. Our inferiority does not give him a right over us. On the contrary, the inferiority of the inferior man is an additional reason why he should cling to all those rights, of nature which have been given to him, that he may have wherewithal to raise himself, and be alone ac-countable for himself. Or, as Burlamaqui briefly summarized it :
" The knowledge I have of the excellency of a superior does not alone afford me a motive sufficient to subject myself to him, and to induce me to abandon my own will in order to take his for my rule ; . . . and without any reproach of conscience I may sincerely judge that the intelligent principle within me is sufficient to direct my conduct."
Only the people, Burlamaqui explained, have inherent inalienable rights ; and they alone can confer the privilege of commanding. It had been supposed that the sovereign alone had rights, and the people only privileges. But here were Burlamaqui, Puffendorf, Montesquieu, Locke, and fully half the American colonists, undertaking to reverse this order and announcing that the people alone had rights, and the sovereign merely privileges.
These principles the Americans afterwards translated in their documents by the phrase, " a just government exists only by consent of the governed." All men being born politically equal, the colonies, as Dickinson and Hamilton explained, are equally with Great Britain entitled to happiness, equally entitled to govern themselves, equally entitled to freedom and in-dependence.
It is curious to see the cautious way in which some of the colonists applied these doctrines by mixing them up with loyalty arguments. This is very notice-able in the pamphlets written by Alexander Hamilton. He gives the stock arguments for redress of grievances, freedom from internal taxation, government by the king alone, and will not admit that he is anything but a loyal subject. At the same time there runs through all he says an undercurrent of strong rebellion which leads to his ultimate object. "The power," he says, " which one society bestows upon any man or body of men can never extend beyond its own limits." This he lays down as a universal truth, independently of charters and the wonderful British Constitution. It applied to the whole world. Parliament was elected by the people of England, therefore it had no authority outside of the British isle. That British isle and America were separate societies.
" Nature," said Hamilton, " has distributed an equality of rights to every man." How then, he asked, can the English people have any rights over life, liberty, or property in America? They can have authority only among themselves in England. We are separated from Great Britain, Hamilton argued, not only by the ocean, by geography, but because we have no part or share in governing her. Therefore, as we have no share in governing her, she, by the law of nature, can have no share in governing us; she is a separate society.
The British, he said, were attempting to involve in the idea of a colony the idea of political slavery, and against that a man must fight with his life. To be controlled by the superior wisdom of another nation was ridiculous, unworthy of the consideration of man-hood; and at this point he used that sentence which has so often been quoted —" Deplorable is the condition of that people who have nothing else than the wisdom and justice of another to depend upon."
Charters and documents, he declared, must yield to natural laws and our rights as men.
" The sacred rights of man are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature by the hand of divinity itself and can never be erased by mortal power."
The Declaration of Independence was an epitome of these doctrines of natural law applied to the colonies. The Declaration of Independence originated in these doctrines, and not in the mind of Jefferson, as so many people have absurdly supposed. In order to see how directly the Declaration was an outcome of these teachings we have only to read its opening paragraphs:
" When, in the course 0f human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
" We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights ; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right 0f the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than t0 right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
By understanding the writings of Burlamaqui, Locke, and Beccaria, which the colonists were studying so intently, we know the origin of the Declaration, and need not flounder in the dark, as so many have done, wondering where it came from, or how it was that Jefferson could have invented it. Being unwilling to take the trouble of examining carefully the influences which preceded the Declaration, historical students are sometimes surprised to find a document like the Virginia Bill of Rights or the supposed Mecklenburg resolutions, issued before the Declaration and yet containing the same principles. They instantly jump to the conclusion that here is the real origin and author of the Declaration, and from this Jefferson stole his ideas.
Jefferson merely drafted the Declaration. Neither he, Adams, Franklin, Sherman, nor Livingston, who composed the committee which was responsible for it, ever claimed any originality for its principles. They were merely stating principles which were already familiar to the people, which had been debated over and over again in Congress ; which were so familiar in fact, that they stated them rather carelessly and took too much for granted. It would have been bet-ter, instead of saying, " all men are created equal," to have said that all men are created politically equal, which was what they meant, and what every one at that time understood. By leaving out the word " politically " they gave an 0pportunity to a generation unfamiliar with the doctrines of natural law to suppose that they meant that all men are created, or should be made, equal in conditions, opportunities or talents.