previous next
[45] greater need of such facilities than Georgia; but we had not asked that these works should be made by appropriations out of the common treasury. The cost of the grading, the superstructure and equipments of our roads was borne by those who entered upon the enterprise. Nay, more — not only the cost of the iron, no small item in the aggregate cost, was borne in the same way, but we were compelled to pay into the common treasury several millions of dollars for the privilege of importing the iron after the price was paid for it abroad. What justice was there in taking this money, which our people paid into the common Treasury on the importation of our iron, and applying it to the improvement of rivers and harbors elsewhere?

The true principle is to subject commerce of every locality to whatever burdens may be necessary to facilitate it. If the Charleston harbor needs improvement, let the commerce of Charleston bear the burden. If the mouth of the Savannah river has to be cleared out, let the sea-going navigation which is benefited by it bear the burden. So with the mouths of the Alabama and Mississippi rivers. Just as the products of the interior — our cotton, wheat, corn, and other articles — have to bear the necessary rates of freight over our railroads to reach the seas. This is again the broad principle of perfect equality and justice. [Applause.] And it is specially held forth and established in our new Constitution.

Another feature to which I will allude, is that the new Constitution provides that Cabinet Ministers and heads of Departments shall have the privilege of seats upon the floor of the Senate and House of Representatives--shall have a right to participate in the debates and discussions upon the various subjects of administration. I should have preferred that this provision should have gone further, and allowed the President to select his constitutional advisers from the Senate and House of Representatives. That would have conformed entirely to the practice in the British Parliament, which, in my judgment, is one of the wisest provisions in the British Conlstitution. It is the only feature that saves that Government. It is that which gives it stability in its facility to change its administration. Ours, as it is, is a great approximation to the right principle.

Under the old Constitution, a Secretary of the Treasury, for instance, had no opportunity, save by his annual reports, of presenting any scheme or plan of finance or other matter. He had no opportunity of explaining, expounding, enforcing or defending his views of policy; his only resort was through the medium of an organ. In the British Parliament the Premier brings in his budget, and stands before the nation responsible for its every item. If it is indefensible, he falls before the attacks upon it, as he ought to. This will now be the case, to a limited extent, under our system. Our heads of Departments can speak for themselves and the Administration in behalf of its entire policy, without resorting to the indirect and highly objectionable medium of a newspaper. It is to be greatly hoped, that under our system we shall never have what is known as a Government organ. [Rapturous applause.]

[A noise again arose from the clamor of the crowd outside, who wished to hear Mr. Stephens, and for some moments interrupted him. The Mayor rose and called on the police to preserve order. Quiet being restored, Mr. S. proceeded.]

Another change in the Constitution relates to the length of the tenure of the Presidential office. In the new Constitution it is six years instead of four, and the President rendered ineligible for a re-election. This is certainly a decidedly conservative change. It will remove from the incumbent all temptation to use his office or exert the powers confided to him for any objects of personal ambition. The only incentive to that higher ambition which should move and actuate one holding such high trusts in his hands, will be the good of the people, the advancement, prosperity, happiness, safety, honor, and true glory of the Confederacy. [Applause.]

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least: the new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions — 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. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. 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 used 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 idea of a Government built upon it — when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone 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 moral condition. [Applause.] 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 is 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 these errors with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
A. H. Stephens (1)
Ministers (1)
Jefferson (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: