Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- April 02, 1861Address by Alexander Stephens on the New Gospel of Slavery (Editorial)
The address which the Vice-President of the Confederate States of America (that is, the Cotton States) made in Savannah might open the eyes of our Democratic fellow citizens, for it reveals the infamous fraud which the leaders of the Democratic party have practiced for many years. These leaders did not tire of accusing the Republicans of depriving slaveholders of their constitutional rights, (or of entirely invalidating these rights) and have continually maintained that the South, therefore, had good reason to suspect any Republican administration; that its act in leaving the Union was justified to some extent; and that great concessions, even changes in the Constitution of the United States, would be necessary to remove this suspicion.
However, one need only read the address of Stephens, or the Montgomery 2Constitution, to see that what is wanted is not merely a matter of granting great concessions, but of surrendering the fundamental principles upon which the Constitution of the United States is founded. Everywhere in the South it is argued that the "conflict" between slavery and free labor cannot be settled; that, therefore, a return of the Cotton States to the Union is impossible; and that the North must either recognize the Confederate States and permit them to go their way in peace, or accept the new "Gospel of Slavery" which is contained in the Montgomery Constitution and was explained with much pomp and show by Mr. Stephens. Wherein lies the fundamental difference between the ideas which are now prevalent in the South and those which are embodied in the Constitution of the United States?
Let us hear Mr. Stephens on the subject. He says concerning Thomas Jefferson and the other framers of the Constitution of the United States: "The leading thought which he and most statesmen had, at the time when the old Constitution was written, was that the enslavement of natives of Africa is contrary 3to the laws of nature; that it is wrong in principle, and from a social, moral, and political standpoint. It was an evil with which they could not cope very well, but the general opinion of that generation was that the institution would vanish in one way or another, under the government of Divine Providence. "These ideas were fundamentally wrong. They were based on the assumption that races are equal. That was an error; it was a foundation of sand; and when the storm came, and the winds blew, the government founded on it crumbled."
Thus we see where the difficulties of the slaveholders lay. It was not the victory of the Republican party and the subsequent apprehension which drove the South from the Union, but the insufficient guarantees offered by the old Constitution, in which the very word "slavery" has been carefully omitted, while "the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner" in the Montgomery Constitution;
Stephens characterizes this new cornerstone as follows:4
"Our Government is founded on the very opposite idea; its foundation is laid, and its cornerstone rests, on the great truth that the negro is not the equal of the white man; that the natural and moral condition of the negro is slavery, subordination the a higher race."
Though the proof adduced for the correctness this moral precept, which does not permit the negro to eat the bread which he has produced in the "sweat of his brow" is very weak indeed, yet it is not the first time in history that selfish man has applied sophisms to justify very great injustices. And the South apparently is doing just that now. These new apostles of slavery are just as obsessed by their ideas as were the Anabaptists of Muenster in the year 1525, or the virtue-terrorists of the French National Convention (1792-95) during the French Revolution. They think that they are right and that the North is wrong. They consider themselves discoverers of new moral and economic truths, and look upon Northerners as narrow-minded fanatics.
Time alone can cure this evil delusion of the South; it would merely tend to 5increase the delusion if one attempted to apply violent measures. The Union is reaping the fruit of neglecting the education of both Southerners and Northerners. If the education of the people of the North had been more general and broader, the Democratic party would have been overthrown before the delusion of the South had grown as strong as it is now, and at a time when there was hope of healing the breach which had been created within the Union. Of course, the sly leaders are taking advantage of the ignorance of the mass of the poor whites to justify every manner of dubious act, from the lynching of an alleged "abolitionist" or a raise in price on all goods manufactured in the North (due of course to a tax imposed on such goods), to the attack upon United States forts and the conquest of new territory in the Southwest for slavery.
We shall not deplore the disadvantages and the confusion of the present situation, whether the Union is reconstructed or not. No doubt it will be, if only this one great truth is recognized and observed in practice: Our 6modern civilization must choose between a better, a more thorough education of the people and anarchy, whether it be in permanent form, as it is in South American republics, or a periodically moderated despotism, as it prevailed in ancient Rome and Greece.
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