On this day when we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, it’s important to remember Jefferson himself believed that each new generation needed to make the American creed their own. And everyone from slaves to women to working people did just that as we see in Frederick Douglass’s great speech “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?”, the early feminist manifesto “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Seneca Falls,” and the much lesser known “Working Men’s Declaration of Independence.”
This last is centrally important to remember because while Americans are largely aware that the battle for inclusion involved long and heroic abolition, civil rights, and women’s movements, struggles around issues of class have all-too-frequently been relinquished to the dustbin of history. Such is the case with the early Working Men’s Party that was railing about what Bernie Sanders calls “the billionaire class” well before the time when many historians mark the beginning rustlings of the American labor movement.
Indeed, what the early Working Men’s Party history shows is class rebellion is as American as apple pie and was seen as a fulfillment of the Jeffersonian project. How so? [Read more…]