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The quotation "All men are created equal" has been called an "immortal declaration", and "perhaps [the] single phrase" of the American Revolutionary period with the greatest "continuing importance". Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. It was thereafter quoted or incorporated into speeches by a wide array of substantial figures in American political and social life in the United States. The final form of the phrase was stylized by Benjamin Franklin.
Thomas Jefferson, at the age of 33, may have also borrowed the expression from an Italian friend and neighbor, Philip Mazzei, as noted by Joint Resolution 175 of the 103rd Congress as well as by John F. Kennedy in "A Nation Of Immigrants."
In 1776 the Second Continental Congress asked Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman to write the Declaration of Independence. The five men voted to have Thomas Jefferson write the document. After Jefferson finished he gave the document to Franklin to proof. Franklin suggested minor changes, but one of them stands out far more than the others. Jefferson had written, "We hold these truths to be sacred and un-deniable..." Franklin changed it to, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."
The opening of the United States Declaration of Independence states as follows:
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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;
"all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights of which . . . they cannot deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety."
Article I. All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
The plaintiffs in the cases of Brom and Bett v. John Ashley and Commonwealth v. Nathaniel Jennison argued that this provision abolished slavery in Massachusetts. The latter case resulted in a "sweeping declaration . . . that the institution of slavery was incompatible with the principles of liberty and legal equality articulated in the new Massachusetts Constitution".
The phrase has since been considered a hallmark statement in democratic constitutions and similar human rights instruments, many of which have adopted the phrase or variants thereof.
The Rhodesian declaration of independence, ratified in November 1965, is based on the American one, however, it omits the phrase "all men are created equal", along with "the consent of the governed".
Jefferson may also have been influenced by Thomas Paine's Common Sense.
Tutti gli uomini sono per natura egualmente liberi e indipendenti. Quest'eguaglianza è necessaria per costituire un governo libero. Bisogna che ognuno sia uguale all'altro nel diritto naturale.
All men are by nature equally free and independent. Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government.
All men must be equal to each other in natural law