When the Confederate states seceded from the Union, they considered themselves, rather than the North, to be the true upholders of American liberty.
It’s always been hard for me to understand how people who fought for the right to hold other people as slaves could consider themselves defenders of liberty. But an article in the July 2, 1864 edition of the Richmond, Virginia Daily Dispatch, the most widely read newspaper in the Confederate capital, helped me understand just how different Confederate thinking was from the principles on which the US was founded.
Looking ahead to the 4th of July, the writer had this to say about the “blunder” in the Declaration of Independence:
The only doctrine of the whole Declaration which the North can consistently rejoice in, is that which asserts the equality of man, and which is the solitary blunder in that great document. That all men are created equal; that they are equal politically, morally or socially; that they are equals in any other than a religious sense, is too evident an absurdity gravely to discuss.
The idea that all men (and women) are created equal is the bedrock of the American ideal. But not to the Confederates. They often made it clear that to them, the Declaration of Independence had omitted a single word, and that omission rendered it null and void as a statement of Confederate political principles.
That word was “white.” What Confederates believed, and explicitly said they believed, was not that all men are created equal, but that all white men are created equal. Everybody else, in their eyes, occupied some lower rung on the ladder of humanity.
It’s hard to believe that millions of Americans once believed that way. What’s even harder to accept is the fact that even today, some still do.
© 2014 Ronald E. Franklin