Political Equality

     The beginnings of political equality were dim. America was just
beginning to set up a political system when ideas of equality began to arise.

Questions concerning citizenship, rights, and civil liberties made plans for the

American political system seem overwhelmingly complicated. The idea of political
equality itself was "a theory of very limited scope -- a foundation rather
than a structure. Different convictions as to the obligations of government were
buried in it from the beginning, and no clear original intent could be
extracted." (Pole 45) But the founders of this country were sure that

America would be a nation composed of values and equal rights. There was some
debate over the idea of how the states were to be represented. Interestingly
enough, the idea of equality, on a political scale, was only implied by the

Constitution, rather than outwardly stated. "The principle of equality of
political individuals, which translates into that of one man, one vote -- and
ultimately into one person, one vote -- in approximately equal electoral
divisions, was implicit in the Constitution of the United States, rather than
being expressly declared by it." (Pole 47) One vote per person: this
created some controversy, but was later accepted as the most equal method of
voting. During the creation of the Constitution, there were many disputes and
disagreements regarding various methods for creating equality among American
citizens, but overall, "the Federal Constitution did more than any other
instrument to define political equality as a fundamental principle of American
government." (Pole 50) The structure of the Constitution was perhaps as
meaningful to the ideal of equality than the words themselves. "The
political thought surrounding the Constitution converged on this principle;
nothing in the text led in any other direction. In this sense the Constitution
may be said to have contained provisions pertained more explicitly to the
expression of these implicit values." (Pole 63) The use of language,
clauses, and any other implications the document might entail, make the

Constitution itself a symbol of equality. The words decree it, but the document
stands for it. The question about different types of equality came about in

South Carolina when a committee joined to discuss this matter. They thought that
"equal rights would rightly produce unequal results," which could be
represented by a comparison of the lower and upper classes. "Equality, its
members declared, was the natural condition of man, the basis of his moral
excellence and political happiness," not the amount of money one had. (Pole

154) This group reasoned that the upper-class would be given more rights and
advantages because of their social status... that political equality did not
coincide with equality of opportunity. They thought that because the upper-class
had more money, therefore they had more political weight. And, likewise, the
lower-class would not have as much pull on the American political system.
"It was an argument that would have profound resonance in the very
different context of American Reconstruction, when equality of political rights
for the freedmen (together with equality before the law) became, for a time, the
key to all others." (Pole 155) Another event that helped shape equality in

America’s political system began with a land crash in 1819. This event
devastated many people’s hopes for ever owning any significant amount of
property in life. American economics were in an uproar, yet people did not
question the foundations of the country... on which they could very well have
blamed the entire incident. Americans just hoped for the best as the economy
gradually recovered. The effects of this event were outstanding. Workers
organized into political sects and rallied not to let this unfortunate
occurrence happen in the future. They made laws protecting themselves and their
families and used the American political system to maintain what little they had
left in the aftermath of this disaster. Political equality has been part of

America ever since the founders of this country created the Constitution. It has
come a long way since the 18th century, and probably still has a long way to go.

America has achieved political equality, however, there are some aspects of that
idea that can be improved upon, and yet others that will remain a constant
reminder of this country’s aim to be equal in every sense of the word.