Equal Rights for All, Special Privileges for None
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 of the quote aside, it does a good job at illustrating an underlying American principal held by Jeffersonian as well as Jacksonian Democrats, the idea that the government is meant to protect the common man as an equal to the elite. It is not meant to treat a privileged elite class with “special privilege.” There should be no special interests for businesses and the elite, but rather equality of all sexes, classes, races, creeds, etc.
Factions like the Solid South “Liberty for White Men” factions, Cleveland’s “Pro-Gold” Gilded Age factions, and progressive “really everyone is equal” populist factions of the Democratic party would probably not have agreed on specifics throughout American history. Still, the more progressive populist wings of the Democratic Party (the “liberal Democrats” and even some of the less liberal ones) have generally agreed on the maxim on paper even if not in-action for ALL.
Equality for ALL has been a problematic concept all along for both parties, but where the maxim doesn’t align with reality in practice, at least it speaks to the liberal ideals and Democratic upon which the country was founded (and which later Democrats like Bryan took seriously).
Equality is the ideal of some of our great progressive-left Presidents and politicians like Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Bryan. To be fair, except for their pro-slavery stance, some of the ideology of Jackson and Calhoun rests here too. Likewise, we can see how race and social issues aside, even some of what today we consider “populist conservatives” could see this message being one that resonates with them.
“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
"Equal Rights for All, Special Privileges for None" is tagged with: American Politics, Left–right Politics, Liberalism and Conservatism, Thomas Jefferson, United States of America
“Equality is the ideal of some of our great progressive-left Presidents and politicians like Jefferson.”
The idea that Jefferson was a ‘progressive-left’ democrat is not only a myth; it’s wholly innacurate.
What’s the matter with you?
He was progressive left, for his time, compared to the other founders, in many ways. Would be the general stance. If you zero in on specific issues through a modern lens, clearly you won’t think this, so I get it seeming odd. His stances like a small military, pro democracy, power to the people and not governmental figures, pro public schools and general education of the public, a belief in equality.
So in terms of holding slaves, or if we want to say “but Republicans are really small government actually,” then I get where we may butt heads on the idea of Jefferson being progressive left in his day, but in terms of him hanging out in France and rebelling against a king and favoring the rights and education and equality of the people, in that way, progressive left. Nothing much the matter with me as it relates to this topic specifically I think 😉