Thursday, March 21, 2013

Oh What a Giveaway

In preparing a comment on Tuesday's post on state history curricula and the Civil War, I made reference to what is known generally as the Cornerstone Speech, delivered 152 years ago today by Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens. Why is it called the Cornerstone Speech? Take a gander at the full text and note, after a laundry list of various constitutional improvements, this (emphasis mine throughout):
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
Apologies to the TLDR crowd, but ellipses within text draw the "aha gotcha he's taking it out of context!" crowd like Cheetos to their mom's basement.

To his credit, Stephens later clarified his remarks to correct the record and de-emphasize slavery. Just kidding he only dug himself a deeper hole dear God what an awful person.


JCC said...

Nicely done, Dave. I particularly note that in the additional, clarifying speech, among the less inflammatory but more on point statements:

"Slavery was without doubt the occasion of secession"

Once again, I say we take the traitors ... oh, excuse me, confederates ... at their word.

Anonymous said...

I have always thought the Civil War was about slavery but that does not mean it was not about States Rights. Nonetheless, the ancient view of Republics was that they were often supported by slavery. This Republic was an amalgam of Locke and Aristotle. I don't think people who think the Constitution supports abortion have a lot of moral superiority over the Slave Power. It takes no moral vision to denounce the failings of the past. It does take some to denoucne those of the present. However, what about he curriculum of Minnessota and Wisconsin that make the Vikings the good guys? Surely Mr. Slattery has something to say about that? I for one have always been pissed off about it.