A man of contrasts, who owned slaves, Thomas Jefferson declared that all men were born equal. He included a scathing indictment of slavery in his first draft of the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams agreed with that position, but Benjamin Franklin believed such strong words would never be approved by the full Congress.
Franklin urged that the anti-slavery phrases be removed—and they were.
In addition, Franklin made a significant edit to Jefferson's original version of the Declaration of Independence.
It was Franklin who changed the draft from:
We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent
We hold these truths to be self evident; that all men are created equal.
Sometimes it's really great to learn how famous phrases actually originated.
This video clip—from John Adams, the HBO mini-series—recreates those discussions and is based on historical evidence.
Clip from the HBO mini-series, "John Adams." All copyrights/ownership rights belong to HBO. DVD available from HBO. Clip online, via YouTube. Provided here as "fair use" for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the series.