Important, overlooked quote

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 2 17:35:17 UTC 2011

Stephens continued:

"...even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to
many, so 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 the mind; from a defect in
reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking
characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct
conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery
fanatics: their conclusions are right if their premises are. They assume
that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal
privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct,
their conclusions would be logical and just; but, their premises being
wrong, their whole argument fails."

Even in the South, certain pointy-headed liberals had once argued that all
men really *are* created equal, and that slavery, being unnatural, had to be
phased out.  But Confederate scientists had discovered, through powerful
methods of introspection, economics, and religious faith, that that was

The words "slaves" and "slavery," tactfully absent from the U.S.
Constitution, were prominent in the less namby-pamby C.S. version. In the
spirit of compromise with nutty liberals, however, the Confederate Founders
explicitly banned the importation of new slaves from every place on earth
except slave-holding areas within the United States of America.
Now what could be more conciliatory than that?


On Fri, Sep 2, 2011 at 12:49 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Important, overlooked quote
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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.
> LH
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