Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> Front Matter >> Introduction

image of pageExplore Inside


Documents | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription xii INTRODUCTION
As for the psychopathological approach, it is one
that Hammond lent himself to and is a risk that must be
run by any man who combines (as Hammond did) a
capacity for self-analysis, a talent for vivid self-
expression, and the habit of putting his intimate thoughts
on paper.3 Like any other man of strong intelligence,
physical vigor, ambition, and sensitivity, Hammond
suffered bouts of melancholy, indolence, self-pity, dis-
couragement, indecisiveness, and lust. That his bouts
are better documented than those of most of us does not
necessarily prove anything in particular about Hammond
or about his society except that they were human.
So far as the public man revealed by this collection of
papers is concerned, Hammond's most obvious charac-
teristic was a realistic and independent intelligence.
Whatever the subject or the occasion, Hammond had
the capacity to get to first principles and to face inex-
pedient facts, to size up his enemy without wishful think-
ing. The frankness and realism with which he faced the
slavery conflict is impressive. In his speech on the aboli-
tion petitions we find him remarking to the House of
Representatives: "It is indeed natural that a people not
owning slaves should entertain a strong aversion to
domestic servitude." And a little further on: ". . . I am
not one of those who permits himself to trust that the
conflict will be at an end. No, sir, we shall have to meet it
elsewhere. "It is not difficult to agree with his Carolina
political opponent Benjamin F. Perry that Hammond's
"views were those of a statesman and not a mere
politician. "4
His versatile intelligence did not confine itself to the
political. Hammond's oration before the two literary
societies of South Carolina College, an erudite attack on
utilitarianism and materialism, may startle those who
normally think of the Old South as an intellectual desert.