Thursday, January 21, 2016

Martin Luther King and our Primary Moral Concept of Equality -- by JARRETT STEPMAN
MLK Day:
The Enduring Power of the Declaration and American Ideas

King explained how equality before the law that Lincoln and the United States stood for had not been accomplished, that a century after the Emancipation Proclamation it was time to fulfill the promise of liberty and equal rights for all Americans.

“In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” King said. “…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

By framing his argument in the natural rights tradition of the United States—and placing it within the context of the long history of American ideas—King was able to reach many who might not be initially amenable to his views. In many ways this was a rebuke to the idea that the American republic was originally founded on racist premises and prejudice.

But as King, Lincoln, and Jaffa argued, the Declaration’s statement that “all men are created equal” really did mean all men regardless of race—that racial equality before the law was a continuity with the American philosophical tradition, not a break from it.

The Far Center -- James Rutherford
Equality as an Affirmation of our Common Humanity

Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much. Public opinion, or any subject, always has a “central idea, from which all its minor thoughts radiate. That “central idea” in our political public opinion, at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, “the equality of men.
                                                                      — Abraham Lincoln 1856

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