Important, overlooked quote

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Sep 2 16:49:33 UTC 2011

On Sep 2, 2011, at 12:40 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> Now we know.
> Bringing up a much less significant rhetorical point, does the
> following make sense?
>> Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well that this truth was not
>> generally admitted, even within their day."
> The "day" of those "who hear me" presumably is today, 1861.  A "truth
> [that] was not generally admitted" would be referred to by someone
> writing years later.  Has Stephens become confused about the audience
> for his words, conflating his 1861 listeners with the notion that he
> is speaking for posterity, to a later audience?
> Joel
I actually read him quite differently, as suggesting that the now obvious truth of racial inferiority and the consequent naturalness of slavery, etc. was ignorantly not generally recognized in the more benighted times that preceded (by an unspecified number of years) this great insight vouchsafed to all, at least on the Confederate side, by 1861.  Just as some in the past can recollect when an acceptance of the theory of evolution or in human contributions to climate change as generally admitted…no, I won't go there.


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