We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government . . .
The late political theorist Howard Zinn pointed out that some Americans were clearly omitted from the circle of united interest drawn by the Declaration of Independence: specifically, Indians, black slaves, and women.
In A People's History of the United States, Zinn admits that the use of the phrase "All men are created equal" was probably not a deliberate attempt to make a statement about women. It was just that to the Founding Fathers, women were beyond consideration as worthy of inclusion. They were politically invisible. Though practical needs gave women a certain authority in the home, on the farm, and in occupations like midwifery, they were simply overlooked in any consideration of political rights, any notions of civic equality.
To say that the Declaration of Independence, even by its own language, was limited to life, liberty, and happiness for white males is not to denounce the makers and signers of the Declaration for holding the ideas expected of privileged males of the eighteenth century. It is to try and understand the mindset of those privileged males and realize, as Zinn points out, that their intentions and purposes were to help a certain class of prosperous colonial landowners enlist on their side enough Americans to defeat England without disturbing too much the relations of wealth and power that had led to their prosperity. The white, wealthy slave-owning males were not rebelling for the sake of native Americans, women, and slaves; they were rebelling to protect and enhance their own wealth and privilege, which had come under attack by colonial rule.