all men are created equal

Equality is the first self-evident truth, on which the rest are built. But equality in what sense? Humans obviously differ in intelligence, talents, beauty, strength, and many other attributes. What then did the Founders mean by calling human equality a "self-evident truth"? Something very definite: human beings are equal in the life and liberty they are born with and deserve to keep. As stated in the first sentence of the Virginia Declaration of Rights of 1776, which became the model for several other state Bills of Rights: "all men are by nature equally free and independent."

In other words, as unequal in many ways as humans may be, no one human or class of humans is superior to another human or class of humans in the way that all humans, since they are rational creatures, are superior to dumb beasts. Fifty years after he wrote the Declaration, shortly before he died, Thomas Jefferson restated the equality principle in these words: "The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God."