Frederick Douglass our “Glorious Liberty Document” (David Livingstone, 2/20/24, Voegelin View)

Also ignored is the assertion by Alexander Stephens in 1861 when he became the Vice President of the Confederate States that the consensus among the American founders was that slavery was a moral wrong. Indeed, the reason the Confederacy was formed, Stephens makes clear, was to get out from under what he regarded as the Declaration’s moral error and to assert what he believed to be the contrary truth: that all men are not created equal. “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man;” This can mean only one thing. That the plain meaning of the Declaration of Independence’s equality clause is the opposite principle to the one upon which Stephens wishes to base the Confederate States upon—and so the Declaration positively affirms the equality of all men “yes white men as well as black men,” as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said in 1964. The pro-slavery position that Hannah-Jones attributes to the framers is what Stephens openly rejects. He opposes the framers’ sincere intentions as expressed in the Declaration:

The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Jefferson] 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. (Stephens)

As far as Stephens was concerned—and he was willing to lay his life on the line to defend his view—the founders were sincere when they said all men were created equal. This was precisely the problem as far as he was concerned; had they been insincere there would have been little reason to separate from the Union and launch a civil war.