To the list of those labeled as “social justice conservatives” by Brion McClanahan ("Reinventing Reconstruction," February 2020) you can add the names of the Founding Fathers. Referring to them, Alexander Stephens (Vice-President of the Confederacy and author of the infamous "Cornerstone Speech") wrote, “The prevailing ideas entertained by [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.”
Lincoln and the Republicans stood with the Founders. Stephens went on to describe what the Confederacy stood for. “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”
No appeal to Burke’s “ancient constitutions” can mask the inherent evil of this particular “traditional order” and this peculiar “well-constructed institution.”
Was Reconstruction perfect? Of course...