The Declaration proclaims that all citizens are to be guaranteed the rights of “liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.” It argues that the need for law derives from the fact that “...the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the enjoyment of these same rights.” Thus, the Declaration sees law as an “expression of the general will,“ intended to promote this equality of rights and to forbid “only actions harmful to the society.”
Abraham Lincoln denied that the signers of the Declaration of Independence meant that men were "equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness, in what respects they did consider all men were created equal." The signers, he insited, said that men were equal in having " 'certain inalienable rights ...' This they said, and this they meant."