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John Pettit (June 24, 1807 – January 17, 1877) was an American lawyer, jurist, and politician. A United States Representative and Senator from Indiana, he also served in the court systems of Indiana and Kansas.
- Mr. PETTIT. The Senator said that the language of the Declaration of Independence is, that "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created free and equal." That is a total misrecital of the Declaration. There is no such word in that connection as "free." Mr. Jefferson would himself have known, at the first sight, that there was no color of truth in it. He, himself a slaveholder, surrounded by slaveholders all his life, as far back as he could recollect, and to continue so through his life as far as he could imagine, would have seen that upon its face it would be a direct falsehood. The language does not contain the word free. It is precisely this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." To that I have taken issue.
- From the Congressional Record, (3 March 1854), The Congressional Globe, Volume 23, page 310
- Mr. PETTIT. Will the Senator allow me for a moment? I understand that he points his remarks to me. I said, distinctly and emphatically, in my remarks, and I now repeat, that if Mr. Jefferson had said that all men ought to have been created equal, I would have raised no dispute, but when he said that they were created equal, I said, that instead of that being a self-evident truth, it was a self-evident lie; that there was no truth in it; that the negro in Africa and the free-born American are not created equal; that the serf of Russia, under the Autocrat, is not the equal of his master, however it may have been intended or designed. The language in the Declaration will be recollected: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." If it had said, I repeat, that they ought to have been created equal, I would have made no issue; but it is utterly false that men are, either mentally, morally, physically, or politically, created equal, whatever ought to have been the condition. But blame the Almighty, not me. He created them. It is not for me to quarrel with Him - He created them - but to define the condition only in which He has placed them upon earth. Ignorant would I be were I to declare that He has placed them here all upon a perfect equality. I see one man born a slave and another a master.