I don’t know that I’ll have the fortitude to continue this project to the end, or even give it a fair start, but it has occurred to me to take a look at the Indiana Constitution one section at a time. We are citizens of this state, and we ought to have some knowledge of how our state is constituted.
Section 1. WE DECLARE, That all people 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 all power is inherent in the people; and that all free governments are, and of right ought to be, founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and well-being. For the advancement of these ends, the people have, at all times, an indefeasible right to alter and reform their government.
There is discussion on this provision in the debates of the Indiana Constitutional Convention. There was an interesting remark from a Mr. Pettit of Tippecanoe County who apparently objected in that he did not believe men were equal. “There can be no social equality between the laboring man and the man of letters,” he apparently said. There was also some delay in the Convention in adopting this provision while the matter of slaves and admission of blacks into the state was decided upon. Some delegates felt like such a provision could not be introduced into the Constitution if the same document also excluded blacks from living in or owning property in the state.
Ultimately, of course, the provision was adopted. One delegate argued that, under the laws of man, of course, men were not equal; but under the laws of nature, which this document was to reflect, men had equal rights. He was not greatly concerned with whether the section was adopted — the laws of nature would remain the same regardless of what this document may say, but he preferred adoption out of respect for Thomas Jefferson and the Founders who they were copying and because he believed it right to attempt to reflect the laws of nature. And, in the democratic spirit of the day, the distinction between “men of letters” and laborers likely received a chilly reception.