Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens' "Cornerstone Speech"
The Civil War was by far the most costly war in terms of human life ever fought by the United States, and the events that precipitated this conflict on U.S. soil included the succession of seven Southern states by March 1861 to form the Confederate States of America. With President Jefferson Davis leading the way, his vice president, Alexander Stephens, delivered a speech in support of the Southern cause including assurances that the new constitution was an improvement on the old, and that commercial enterprises were free to engage in interstate and international commerce at their discretion. Citing concerns over Northern superiority in infrastructure that would make prosecuting the war challenging, the vice president also assured his audience that enormous investments had already been made throughout the South and that more would be made in the future. In sum, this speech was a drum-beater designed to persuade fence-sitters and encourage Southern believers in their cause. This paper provides an analysis and evaluation of Stephens' "Cornerstone Speech," followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.
Analysis and Evaluation
Anything was possible on March 21, 1861 when Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens delivered his "Cornerstone Speech" in Savannah, Georgia. The mindset of the intended audience of this speech ranged from unwavering and unbridled enthusiasm for the Southern cause to skepticism concerning the Southern state's chances against the economically and militarily superior North. As the Confederate vice president, Stephens was in a good position to officially outline the fledgling government's policies and intentions as codified as the South's new constitution. In this regard, the vice president's language is consistent with respect to optimism and reassurances for his intended audience, which he emphasizes includes not only the persons in attendance, but people throughout the South and indeed the world.
The vice president manages to make several good points in support of his thesis that the Confederate States of America qualified for a nation on several counts, including most especially geographic territory and a burgeoning infrastructure. It is clear that the vice president is assuming that the intended audience is familiar with the Southern cause and recent events, but he also assumes that they do not fully understand the extent to which the new country is prepared to defend its interests irrespective of what the North brings to bear against it. Although the vice president makes several good points, some of the points he uses in support of the new country's constitution likely troubled some in attendance as well as other stakeholders because of the reduced transparency of governmental operations and the clear disdain for the press evinced in the speech. For instance,…