Friday, June 17, 2016

Rebuttal to Alexander Stephens' "Cornerstone Speech"

Victims of the Confederate Fury

Portraits and picture of some of Alexander Stephens' servants

Family servants of Alexander H. Stephens.

"Alexander Stephens' so-called cornerstone speech is a weak historical reed to lean on.
There was no written text for Stephens' cornerstone speech, as he spoke extemporaneously. The only record is that of a Savannah journalist who attended the speech. It is impossible to determine how accurately this journalist represented Stephens' remarks. Stephens often complained about being misquoted in the press. In any case, this was a stump speech of political rhetoric, aimed at a populist audience, and not the thoughtful, definitive word on the formation of the Confederacy. I should add that the racist remarks attributed to Stephens would have been acceptable to all Americans of the day except the most radical of the Northern abolitionists.

One final matter deserves comment. Early in 1865, about five weeks before Appomattox, Lincoln requested a meeting with a Confederate delegation led by Vice President Alexander Stephens. The Confederate peace commissioners met with Lincoln and Seward on board a steamer in Hampton Roads. Lincoln promised compensation for slaves if the Confederates would lay down their arms, stop fighting, and give up their independence. But the Confederates -- well knowing that their fate was already sealed -- refused the offer because independence, and not slavery, was what the South was fighting for. They were not dying by the hundreds of thousands because they didn't want to give up their servants. Rather, they gave their lives because they didn't want to be conquered and ruled by foreigners.

By the end of the War, there were still more slaves in the Union than out of it. When Lincoln was killed, blacks were excluded from his funeral in New York. Alexander Stephens' emancipated slaves remained loyal to him, and continued to work his farm while he was imprisoned in the North. When Stephens was released from the Yankee prison, they continued to work for him for little or no money.

When Stephens died, hundreds of them attended his funeral."

No comments:

Post a Comment