I am currently reading The Approaching Fury, Stephen B. Oates’s attempt to offer the reader a look through the eyes of historical figures (1820-1860), as they experience conflicts large and small that (can be argued) lead to the ultimate conflict: the American Civil War. It is a work of fiction, in that Oates portrays everything as if it is said by the persons themselves. It makes for a good read, although one cannot cite the persons as they did not actually say these words. (Even if they did write many of them in speeches and letters.) Here are some of Calhoun’s words, which struck me and opened my eyes. They appear on page 58.
“… the sentiments in the Declaration [of Independence] had to be discredited and destroyed. They are nothing, I contended, but glittering generalities and self-evident lies. A good example is its assertion that all men are born free and created equal. This is an illogical absurdity. Men are not born; infants are born and they are not born free. They are incapable of freedom, being destitute alike of the capacity to think and act, without which there is no freedom. They are also subjects to the dictates of parents, society, and state. Nor is it less false to hold that men are born ‘equal.’ They are not born in any sense. The whole idea of equality is sentimental rubbish. Inequality and slavery are the achievements of human progress. There never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society, from that of ancient Greece to our own, in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other.”