Alexander Stephens, 1861 Speech Describing the Confederate Constitution:



The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution - African slavery as it exists among 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. . . .  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 the 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 those 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. . . .

It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society.  Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature.  Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws.  With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law.  Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place.  He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.