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Cornerstone Speech Question

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by rbortega, Sep 14, 2017.

  1. rbortega

    rbortega Private

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    Does anybody know if any Confederate politicians, soldiers, or civilians disagreed with the comments made about slavery and race in Alexander Stephen's Cornerstone Speech during the Civil War? I was wondering because I see occasional comments in the present day about how Stephen's words did not reflect what the Confederacy was supposedly fighting for. However, I can find no war time evidence of anybody disagreeing with his words.
     
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  3. shermans_march

    shermans_march First Sergeant

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    I would look for evidence of people agreeing with his words.
     
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  4. Eric Calistri

    Eric Calistri 2nd Lieutenant

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    The speech itself was well received according to a story reported from the Savannah Republican in the 3/27/1861 issue of the New York Times headlined:

    THE DISUNION MOVEMENT.; Slavery the Basis of the New Confederacy. ITS POSITION AND PROSPECTS. Speech of Hon. A.H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States. Delivered at Savannah, March 21, 1861.

    A few excerpts:

    Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; 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 moral condition. [Applause.]

    Mr. STEPHENS took his sent amid a burst of enthusiasm and applause, such as the Athenaeum has never had displayed within its walls, within "the recollection of the oldest inhabitant."

    The Times article is here, but may be subject to a paywall.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  5. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    Alexander Stephens himself later disavowed the very idea that the Confederacy was founded on slavery and claimed he had been misquoted and misrepresented in the Cornerstone speech.

    Of course, by that point the Confederacy was destroyed and Alexander Stephens was making a living touring "the North" debating in front of huge crowds. At that point, secession was about everything except slavery to him (because slavery was so unpopular an idea to be associated with).
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  6. shermans_march

    shermans_march First Sergeant

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    I wonder why he waited 4+ tears before he claimed he was misquoted and misrepresented in his speech? A person that was misrepresented would have wanted to ensure his audience knew exactly what he believed and would have corrected any error immediately. I don't believe a word of his excuse because some of the main points of his speech were in the papers. I doubt he didn't read them. I will take what someone says in the moment as their true opinion, not years after the fact. Hindsight is always 20/20.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
  7. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    He was playing to the crowd. He told them what they wanted to hear.

    It is worth noting that he gave the speech extemporaneously. He hadn't written it down, so what we have is what the reporter wrote. So we don't have a written copy by Stephens to compare to the reporter's version to see how close it is.
     
  8. RobertP

    RobertP Major

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    Sometimes we like newspaper accounts, other times we don't. It depends on whose ox is being gored.
     
  9. shermans_march

    shermans_march First Sergeant

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    If he did that "off the top of his head " that is pretty impressive.
     
  10. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    True. And I'm not claiming the account is inaccurate, just that we don't have a written original for comparison.
     
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  11. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    My point was that -- after the Civil War was over -- Alexander Stephens denied that secession was about slavery and claimed he was misquoted/misrepresented in the Cornerstone speech. At that point, there was no right to own slaves in the United States and it had been banned in the Constitution.

    The reason for this appears clear: the Confederacy had lost the war. He was broke, trying to make a living and provide for his family. Since jobs and money were scarce down South, he went North (like many another ex-Fire Eater, such as Roger Pryor of Virginia, who became a judge in New York). He was doing this by touring the cities of "the North", appearing before huge crowds and getting a piece of the gate. In 1861, his Cornerstone speech said secession was all about slavery; after the war, he said it was about anything but slavery -- probably because that sold better.

    You can find his post-war views in:
    A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States: Its Causes, Character, Conduct and Results, Presented in a Series of Colloquies at Liberty Hall by Alexander H. Stephens, published in 1868.

    Caveat: Stephens was apparently considered a spell-binding orator, but I found this pretty dull to read.
     
  12. trice

    trice Lt. Colonel

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    Stephens was almost completely inactive as Vice-President of the Confederacy, almost a non-entity during the war. In the matter of cold political analysis, there was little reason for him to speak out about this while he was part of the Confederacy. Years passed, "the South" lost, like many Southerners he needed to make a living and went North to do it.

    You can find his post-war views in:
    A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States: Its Causes, Character, Conduct and Results, Presented in a Series of Colloquies at Liberty Hall by Alexander H. Stephens, published in 1868.

    Caveat: Stephens was apparently considered a spell-binding orator, but I found this pretty dull to read.
     
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  13. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    I've enjoyed what little I've been able to read of Stephens book. I need to get back to it at some point.
     
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  14. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Sergeant

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    ...but only about one-tenth of the speech was about slavery.
    http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/cornerstone-speech/
     
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  15. Eric Calistri

    Eric Calistri 2nd Lieutenant

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  16. uaskme

    uaskme Sergeant

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    1 Protective Tarrif
    2. Federal expenditures for Internal Improvements
    3. Allow Cabinet Members to debate in Senate and Congress
    4. 6yr Term for President
    5. Slavery, the last change in the Constitution he discussed.

    Stephens words of Blacks being the subservient Race as the Natural Order and such is no different than what Lincoln said.
     
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  17. O' Be Joyful

    O' Be Joyful First Sergeant

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    Did Stephens ever claim to have been misquoted by the transcriber of the speech in any other sentence or section of the speech or only for some peculiar reason, that section that pertained to slavery? If there were mistakes elsewhere that he pointed to he would have a better case of sloppy transcription IMO.
     
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  18. connecticut yankee

    connecticut yankee Private

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    Just a bit of interesting trivia---Stephens and Abraham Lincoln had been close friends and Whig political allies in the 1840s. At Stephen's face-to-face request, Lincoln looked into the matter of the wartime capture of Stephens's nephew, Confederate Lieutenant John A. Stephens. Lincoln ultimately ordered the release of Lieutenant Stephens...
     
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  19. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    Which is why I continually put "Cornerstone" speech in quotes when I refer to it. So little of the speech is actually about that cornerstone that the commonly used title is ludicrously inappropriate.
     
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  20. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    I'm afraid you're trying to hard to freeze a moment in time.

    Stephens changed his reasons for the war after the war.

    Lincoln changed his views on blacks during the war.

    That's where Lincoln trumps Stephens and Davis every time.

    He could learn and change his views.
     
  21. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    Yet it does seem to be the thrust of the man's speech at the time.

    As I recall, Davis was upset by the speech and Stephens, as he was trying very hard to keep the slavery issue out of the foreign press and minds as the principle reason for secession.
     

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