SAT Subject US History Practice Question 902: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 902

73. "Our government's foundations are laid; its cornerstone rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery and subordination to the superior race is his natural and moral condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…. Our Confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone, which was rejected by the first builders, has become the chief stone of the new corner in our edifice."

-Alexander Stephens,

Vice President of the Confederacy,

March 21, 1861

Which of the following is an accurate interpretation of Alexander Stephens's statement?

A. Slavery would gradually end without interference from the North.
B. Ancient Greece and Rome were wrong to have supported slavery.
C. The Founding Fathers were correct on all substantive issues.
D. Slavery was the proper philosophical basis for the Confederacy.
E. Southerners seceded for primarily economic reasons.

Correct Answer: D


The Cornerstone Speech is a stark statement of racism. Not all Confederates thought that way or expressed themselves so forcefully, but this speech is important because it expresses the point of view of many at the top of the Confederate government. The new stone in this edifice is "the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man." This is not the morality of Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglas, or Abraham Lincoln. It is his morality. He believed in a different morality and philosophy. It is important to understand that people don't fight wars if they agree. They fight wars because they disagree. Stephens wanted slavery. He was not predicting it would end (A). He does not mention Greece and Rome (B) in this quote, but he does say that the key point is to enslave Negroes, not whites as others had done in the past. The Founding Fathers (C) were not correct if they had rejected Stephens's cornerstone. He does not mention economic (E) reasons in his statement.

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