The Cornerstone Speech: Cherry-picked and Out of Context

OPINION By: Lani Burnette Rinkel‎ to War of Northern Aggression Round Table Discussion

We need to address something again. I’m sick of our ignorant enemies, their inane blather and idiotic remarks about the “Cornerstone” speech.

The infamous “Cornerstone Speech” was an oration given by Alexander Stephens in Savannah, GA on March 21, 1861 at the Athenaeum in the evening, about 7:30 pm. This address was related in a local newspaper called The Savannah Republican. It is not an “official document” nor was it given as such. The oration is the words, thoughts and opi…nions of ONE man at 7:30 pm on a particular evening in Georgia.

The misunderstanding and hawking of this address is huge. With it our enemies attempt to single-out Stephens as THE voice of the eeeeeeevil Confederacy. It is used by our enemies, and idiots alike, to attempt to slander all Confederates. This one address by a Confederate statesman is pointed to as “proof” that Confederates wanted to keep Black/Colored persons in “slavery”. The ignorance and misunderstanding about this keeps popping up in groups and on Pages. It’s past time to set the record straight.

The Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia, where Stephens delivered his Cornerstone Speech on March 21, 1861.

Alexander Stephens was engaging in hyperbole, quoting what Connecticut born, Pennsylvania US Representative and US Supreme Court Associate Justice, Henry Baldwin, stated about his opinion in Johnson vs Tompkins in 1833 when he said, the following; quote:
“Slavery is the Cornerstone of the Constitution. The foundations of the government are laid and rest on the rights of property in slaves, and the whole structure must fall by disturbing the corner-stone.” In other words a Yankee judge said it 28 years before Stephens used it.
The persons in the audience in the building were familiar with Baldwin and his opinion, and the irony of the statement was not lost on them. The hyperbole and its intent is not understood in our self-righteous, ignorant generation because nobody researches anymore. People simply parrot what they’re spoon-fed without a thought as to the whole truth of a matter and without being in possession of all the facts surrounding an issue. It’s sickening. But then the arrogance of ignorance always is sickening. And it makes them look stupid.

It would be disingenuous of me to say Stephens did not have supremacist leanings. His thoughts on that subject are quite clear, but to his credit he was no hypocrite. Have you ever seen a photograph of a Northern politician of the time being escorted by a Black/Colored man? You won’t either, I’ll bet. But because he probably had supremacist leanings doesn’t mean he “hated” those in different skin. It just means he thought he was better than others. That mindset is NOTHING new, and not confined to the Caucasian race now, is it?

Stephens was a man of his time. Given the comparison between European and Western civilizations and those in the wilderness of other countries, I don’t think it’s fair to judge persons in the 19th century by our standards and knowledge today. In all fairness to the people in the 1860’s, and in all honesty, do we blame them for thinking their culture “superior” to others in their day? What did they have to compare themselves with in 1860? For whatever reason, be it environment, opportunity, or happenstance, the cultures these men came from were the ones mapping oceans, building huge buildings, advancing in the field of medicine, and engaging in science in their day. It’s just not fair to judge persons of the 1800’s with our culture in 2020. It’s just not.

As all those in servitude, both black, white, brown and red were being manumitted and taught to thrive in western style culture, they were successful and made their mark on the country. Their descendants are brain surgeons, journalists, professors and engaged in other successful fields making hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 21st century. I don’t think African countries offer as many opportunities and ways for people to reach their potential and achieve success as what is available in the US.

Baldwin’s Reports page 597
now entitled: Reports of cases determined in the Circuit Court … Baldwin’s Reports, v. 1 91828-1833).

Speeches Made in the House of Representatives Upon the Kansas Nebraska Bill 1854
Reports of Cases in Equity Argued and Debated South Carolina 1861

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