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- Women and the Family

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Home > Document Library > Slavery > Cornerstone Speech


Cornerstone Speech
Savannah, Ga.

Alexander Stephens
Vice-President, the Confederate States of America

March 21, 1861

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[This speech was delivered in Savannah by Stephens, the newly elected Vice-President of the Confederacy. It was reprinted all over the South and was wildly popular. It demonstrates that the principal cause of the Civil War was whether slavery was to be understood as a positive good. — TGW]

 

…Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this [slavery], as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right…. 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…. 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.

[Alexander H. Stephens in Public and Private with Letters and Speeches (Philadelphia: National Publishing, 1866), 721.]





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