About the Equal Rights for All, Special Privileges for None Quote
Thomas Jefferson is credited with having said, “equal rights for all, special privileges for none,” a slogan that other progressive Democrats like Williams Jennings Bryan embraced. Although it is hard to find any evidence that Jefferson said this that isn’t second hand, we can confirm the slogan was used by Bryan as it was enshrined in the 1908 Democratic party platform (a rather progressive populist platform).
The origin story of the quote aside, it does a good job at illustrating an underlying American principal held by Jeffersonian and even Jacksonian Democrats, the idea that the government is meant to protect the common man, not the elite. The Solid South factions, Clevlandian Gilded Age factions, and progressive populist factions of the Democratic party might not have agreed on specifics throughout American history, but where the maxim doesn’t align with reality in practice, at least it speaks to the liberal ideals upon which the country was founded and upon which the ideology of some of our great progressive-left Presidents and politicians like Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Bryan rests (and to be fair, even much of the ideology of Jackson and Calhoun rests here).
“The conscience of the nation is now aroused to free the Government from the grip of those who have made it a business asset of the favor-seeking corporations. It must become again a people’s government, and be administered in all its departments according to the Jeffersonian maxim, “equal rights to all; special privileges to none.” “Shall the people rule?” is the overshadowing issue which manifests itself in all the questions now under discussion.” – Democratic Party platform 1908 which Democrat Bryan helped to write.
“We hold with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln that the people are the masters of their Constitution, to fulfill its purposes and to safeguard it from those who, by perversion of its intent, would convert it into an instrument of injustice. In accordance with the needs of each generation the people must use their sovereign powers to establish and maintain equal opportunity and industrial justice, to secure which this Government was founded and without which no republic can endure. This country belongs to the people who inhabit it. Its resources, its business, its institutions and its laws should be utilized, maintained or altered in whatever manner will best promote the general interest. It is time to set the public welfare in the first place.” – Progressive Party Platform of 1912 which Ex-Republican Theodore Roosevelt helped to write.
Progressive Presidents: Crash Course US History #29