In his Farewell Speech to the U.S. Senate, future Confederate president Jefferson Davis addressed the controversial topic of racial equality.
According to Davis, the Black Republicans (this was one of the secessionists favorite terms of abuse for Northern Republicans like Abraham Lincoln) were justifying the doctrine of racial equality by citing the Declaration of Independence. The people of Mississippi found the idea of abolition and social equality between the races disturbing enough to secede from the Union:
“It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi to her present decision.
She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races. That Declaration of Independence is to be construed by the circumstances and purposes for which it was made. The communities were declaring their independence; the people of those communities were asserting that no man was born—to use the language of Mr. Jefferson—booted and spurred to ride over the rest of mankind; that men were created equal—meaning the men of the political community; that there was no divine right to rule; that no man inherited the right to govern; that there were no classes by which power and place descended to families, but that all stations were equally within the grasp of each member of the body politic. These were the great principles they announced; these were the purposes for which they made their declaration; these were the ends to which their enunciation was directed. They have no reference to the slave; else, how happened it that among the items of arraignment made against George III was that he endeavored to do just what the North has been endeavoring of late to do – to stir up insurrection among our slaves? Had the Declaration announced that the negroes were free and equal, how was the Prince to be arraigned for stirring up insurrection among them? And how was this to be enumerated among the high crimes which caused the colonies to sever their connection with the mother country? When our Constitution was formed, the same idea was rendered more palpable, for there we find provision made for that very class of persons as property; they were not put upon the footing of equality with white men—not even upon that of paupers and convicts; but, so far as representation was concerned, were discriminated against as a lower caste, only to be represented in the numerical proportion of three-fifths.
Then, Senators, we recur to the compact which binds us together; we recur to the principles upon which our Government was founded; and when you deny them, and when you deny us the right to withdraw from a Government which thus perverted threatens to be destructive of our rights, we but tread in the path of our fathers when we proclaim our independence, and take the hazard. This is done, not in hostility to others; not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit, but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and which it is our duty to transmit unshorn to our children.”
What should we make of this?
Jefferson Davis explains that Thomas Jefferson wasn’t referring to the negroes in the Declaration of Independence. On the contrary, the Declaration of Independence condemned King George III for inciting slave insurrections in the Southern colonies. The negro wasn’t even granted the same status as paupers and convicts by the Founding Fathers and were counted by the Census under the 3/5ths clause.
Historically speaking, I think that Jefferson Davis was right. The argument that Thomas Jefferson was making in the Declaration of Independence was one in favor of republicanism as opposed to monarchy. The Founding Fathers created a White Republic for their posterity. That’s why the U.S. Constitution had to be amended during Reconstruction with the 13th Amendment, 14th Amendment and 15th Amendment to emancipate the slaves and make the blacks into citizens and voters.
The Southern heritage preservation movement is full of Boomer conservatives who live in a fantasy world where their ancestors WERE NOT racists. They believe their ancestors WERE NOT white supremacists. They believe Mississippi DID NOT secede over slavery. The Rainbow Confederates actually believe this modern day multicultural nonsense which is why no one takes them seriously.
Facts don’t care about your feelings. Actually, the South really was racist and the Founding Fathers were largely white supremacists. If you are trying to deny this, then I am sorry but you are just being disingenuous. You’re going to need better arguments to defend the Confederacy.
Note: As is the case in all these articles about Southern history, the goal here of the historicist is to understand history and enlighten the present generation by excavating and recovering an accurate memory of the past. If you are one of these people who get mad about history in the 21st century, then you need to take a deep breath and remember the year is 2019 and slavery doesn’t exist anymore. All the slaves in our own times are robots and we have to maintain human supremacy now.