john alexander stephens

A long while ago I made a family tree but lost it, so I put together another with up-to-date information, from Alexander Hamilton’s grandparents through his grandchildren. Some info is still missing (the Facuette’s were said to have had more children that died in infancy but I couldn’t find their names).

Brown proved completely accurate in his final prediction that slavery would be abolished only after very much bloodshed. War was needed to rid the nation of slavery.

As Brown realized, Southern slavery was strengthening, not weakening, when he made his attack. The “needless war” doctrine of some historians, which holds that slavery would have soon disappeared anyway, is contradicted by several phenomena that occurred in the 1850s.

As difficult as it is for us to realize today, Southerners had come to regard slavery as a highly beneficial - indeed, essential - institution. In this sense they were different from previous generations of Southerners, who had considered slavery a useful but unfortunate system.

Jefferson had spoken for many earlier slaveholders when he advocated the eventual emancipation of slaves. In 1783 he had drafted a model constitution by which all children born to enslaved blacks after 1800 would be trained in crafts and then liberated when they reached adulthood, to be later deported. Although nothing came the proposal, another one was made in 1796 by St. George Tucker, also a Southerner, who in A Dissertation on Slavery endorsed gradual abolition followed by the integration of freed blacks into white society, though without the rights to property or political participation. As late as 1831, plans for abolition were discussed in the Virginia legislature. Until then, most plans for abolition had come from slaveholders.

The shift in attitude came in the late 1830s, when John Calhoun called slavery “instead of an evil, a good - a positive good,” because it served whites while it civilized blacks. Calhoun made an argument that was often repeated: “Never before has the black race of central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.”

Southerners now rationalized that blacks needed to be enslaved for their own good. One writer insisted that blacks were loyal and affectionate, and “they are also the most helpless [people]: and no calamity can befall them greater than the loss of that protection they enjoy under this patriarchal system.” Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, explained in his opening address to the Confederate Congress that slavery had improved blacks immeasurably: “In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts, but with careful religious instruction. Under the supervision of a superior race their labor had been so directed as not to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people.”

The supposed benefits of slavery were most fully described by Alexander H. Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice president, in his famous “Cornerstone Speech” of 1861. Slavery, Stephens affirmed, was one of the most wonderful institutions ever conceived. The main difference between America’s founders and today’s Southerners, declared Stephens, is that the former, even they were slave-owners, thought slavery was “wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically,” and that “the institution would be evanescent and pass away.” Stephens challenged the founders unequivocally: “Those ideas were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of the races. This was an error…. Our new government [of the Confederacy] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests on the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition.” The Confederacy represents the acme of human history because it rests on this “divine” doctrine of racial inequality. “This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

—  David Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist