Confederate Truths: Documents of the Confederate & Neo-Confederate Tradition from 1787 to the Present.
"Confederate Veteran' writer not happy with popular understanding of "All Men Created Free and Equal."
Confederate Veteran, Vol. 19 No. 12, December 1911, page 579. The Confederate Veteran was the official publication of the United Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Confederated Southern Memorial Association, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
"ALL MEN CREATED FREE AND EQUAL."
BY T. C. MOORE (14TH GA. REGT., A. N. V.), EASTLAND, TEX.
In the July Veteran there appears part of an address delivered by Charles E. Stowe, son of Harriet Beecher Stowe, at the Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn., and you refer to it as "both remarkable and interesting," and that "he admitted some wholesome facts to a great gathering of negroes." In that address the speaker quoted Abraham Lincoln as saying, "All men are created equal," and then proceeded to say: "This is the great, vague, central, germinant idea which lies at the very heart of our national government. The fathers of our republic who propounded this great principle were neither Utopians nor Socialists, but men of profound wisdom. * * * They simply meant to declare that in our nation there should be a fair chance for every man to develop the best that is in him, irrespective of race, color, or nationality." Now that is not a fact. It is not true. Our fathers meant no such thing.
The declaration, that all men are born free and equal, is a very comprehensive one; and to understand what was meant by our fathers, who proclaimed it, the conditions which gave rise to it and the purpose that prompted it must be considered. The men who proclaimed that principle were the delegates of the several British colonies assembled to consider the wrongs inflicted by the British government and to determine what means should be adopted to relieve the colonies from such wrongs. They represented slaveholding constituents, and most of them were owners of slaves.
One of the grievances imposed by the British government on the colonies was the law of primogeniture, by which the honors of office and property descended from father to son. The king must be the son or relative of a king. The House of Lords, a part of the Parliament, must be composed of lords, men born lords. Thus one of the most important branches of the lawmaking power consisted of men who owed their official positions to the accident of birth, and not to their merits or the choice of the people. It was with reference to this law of England that they declared that all men are born free and equal. They had in mind the right of the people, regardless of birth, to representation in the government they supported and were required to defend and under which they lived.
It may be further stated that after the acknowledgment of the independence of the several States a convention was called to form a more perfect union. This convention was composed of delegates from the different States, all of which were slave States except Pennsylvania. Most of the delegates and a considerable part of their constituents were slave owners. In the discharge of their duty it became necessary to adopt a constitution defining the powers and limitations of the general government and the rights to be reserved to the States, and in so doing they provided in the ninth section of the first article that "The importation of slaves in any of the States shall not be prohibited until the year 1808." Thus instead of making the negroes then in slavery free and equal, they provided for an increase of negro slaves through the African slave trade then being carried on. In the first section of the fourth article they provided that "The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States." And immediately following this provision they inserted another—viz.: "No person held to service or labor in one State under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such labor or service, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such labor or service may be due."
Now notice that in the first part of that section some of the people are designated as "citizens," meaning the white persons, and in the second part some are designated as "persons;" not citizens having equal rights, but slaves, negroes as property, and for the protection and security of property in negroes. The truth is the whole history of the times from the date of the Declaration of Independence to the adoption of the Constitution conclusively proves that this government was made for white people and not for negroes. Our fathers never meant that in this government all men should have equal rights and privileges, irrespective of race, color, or nationality. Any other construction of what they intended is not only false but absurd. The leaders of the party opposed to slavery have been proclaiming the cry of social and political equality ever since the party had its beginning. It has served as an appeal to the ignorant and the envious, but had no place in sound reason nor in practical experience. If it were the purpose of Mr. Stowe to gratify the vanity and prejudices of the negroes he could have resorted to nothing more likely to succeed than by proclaiming that the great central principle of our government is that all men are born free and equal, irrespective of race, color, or nationality. That has ever been the doctrine of the Republican party, but has no place in the minds of Democrats who adhere to the principles taught by the fathers.
It is to be deplored that since the war our schoolteachers and others having control of our Southern institutions of learning have adopted textbooks that not only falsify and suppress some historical facts and make statements derogatory to the South, but impress upon the minds of the young the doctrine of equal rights as applied to negroes. It has been said that a falsehood often repeated and not denied may become to the mind a fact, and that is true with respect to many of our Southern people who have been educated since 1865. In this strenuous commercial age the power of aggregated wealth corrupts parties and controls governments.
We are facing a crisis in the history of our country. Whatever is left of the wise doctrines and policies of our forefathers is to be found in old-fashioned Southern Democracy, and it behooves Southern people to keep the record straight.
[While thanking Comrade Moore for his careful research, the Veteran repeats that Dr. Stowe's speech was for him both remarkable and interesting—and indeed very liberal.—Editor Veteran.]