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Clara Zetkin 1900 Giclee Print

Clara Zetkin 1900

The news is in quite a fervor over President Abraham’s speech. While, Ol’ Abe, is well in good, he was no glory-hound, and thus would not mind one bit if other famous speeches of the 19th century were mentioned here.

Sojourner Truth’s legendary soliloquy, Ain’t I a Woman? from 1851 (at least one version of it)

I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work
as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can
any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can
carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as
strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman
have a pint, and a man a quart – why can’t she have her little pint full? You
need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for
we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in
confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights,
give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they
won’t be so much trouble. I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the bible
and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do
give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about
Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus
died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise
their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into
the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where
was your part?

Charles Sumner on slavery in his Crimes Against Kansas speech of 1856 and the following beating by Preston Brooks . . .

Not in any common lust for power did this uncommon tragedy have its origin. It
is the rape of a virgin Territory, compelling it to the hateful embrace of
slavery; and it may be clearly traced to a depraved desire for a new Slave
State, hideous offspring of such a crime, in the hope of adding to the power of
slavery in the National Government.

In 1861, Confederate VP, Alexander Stevens issues the Cornerstone Address, defining the difference between the views of the Confederacy and those of the uniting states. While Stevens falls in the “losing category,” his sentiments on the topic of slavery is not in isolation. Many people felt this way and it is worth a look.

The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him 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… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; 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.