Cornerstone Speech

The Cornerstone Speech, also known as the Cornerstone Address, was an oration given by Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens at the Athenaeum in Savannah, Georgia, on March 21, 1861,[1] delivered extemporaneously a few weeks before the Civil War began with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Stephens’ speech defended “slavery” as a fundamental and just result of the inferiority of the black race, explained the fundamental differences between the constitutions of the Confederacy and that of the United States, enumerated contrasts between U.S. and Confederate ideologies, and laid out the Confederacy’s rationale for seceding from the U.S. In particular, he stated that “Our new government[‘s] foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.”

Speech title

The Cornerstone Speech is so called because Stephens used the word “cornerstone” to describe the “great truth” of white supremacy and black subordination upon which secession and confederation were based:

[I]ts 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 normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.[2]

Using biblical imagery,[3] Stephens argued that divine laws consigned African Americans to slavery as the “substratum of our society” by saying:

Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders “is become the chief of the corner”—the real “corner-stone”—in our new edifice.[1]

How Jeff Sessions reads Romans 13 and how my Mennonite Sunday school class does

In the hands of coercive power, the Bible is a weapon.

It is one of the strangest assertions in the Bible. By the time Paul writes this he has experienced hostility from all sorts of authorities. He has been threatened and imprisoned for breaking the law. Eventually he will die for these legal transgressions.

.. perhaps we should give attention to a popular Mennonite theological claim that Romans 13 is to be read in conjunction with Romans 12. This previous chapter speaks to the character of the beloved community, the forms life will take within God’s life in Jesus. The call in Romans 13 is to live this Romans 12 life in “submission,” but never in obedience. It may be incumbent upon our witness to the gospel to participate in a sit-in protesting unjust laws, but we submit to the arrest we know will take place.

..  the Bible is a weapon in the hands of coercive power. Jeff Sessions, like other tyrants before him, utilizes scripture for the good of the empire, to keep people silent, in line, submissive.