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

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Introduction

Documents | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription INTRODUCTION xv

As it was, Hammond filled capably every role pro-
vided by his society planter, lawyer, editor, orator,
scholar, militia leader, governor, representative, sena-
tor. One wishes that H. H. had rounded out the account
of his father's accomplishments by mentioning the art
collection and the library at Silver Bluff, the Hammond
estate on Beech Island near Augusta. Of course, the son
could not be expected to have mentioned the Hammond
descendants who have provided useful members of the
commonwealth down to the fourth generation.9 And for
different reasons he could not be expected to explore the
less appealing side of the biography, the vanity and
sexual indiscretions that have been treated by Clement
Eaton and others. "Were you as rarely good as you are
rarely endowed," Simms remarked to Hammond, "you
would be one of the most perfect men living. " 10
The earliest paper selected for this collection, the
report "at a meeting of the State Rights and Free Trade
Party of Barnwell District . . . July 7th, 1834," written
when Hammond was twenty-six, arose out of the "test
oath" controversy. In the interest of a united front, the
South Carolina General Assembly of 1833, confirming
an act of the Nullification Convention of 1832, had
required an oath of "true allegiance" to the state from all
officeholders, as well as initiated a constitutional
amendment requiring such an oath of all voters. The
"test oath" was vigorously opposed by the "union
party" within the state, and in the case of McCrady vs.
Hunt, brought by a militia officer who refused to take the
oath, a majority of the Court of Appeals ruled the
provision unconstitutional. Hammond's paper is a
formulation of the response of the "Nullifiers" to the
Court. In our cynical age such position papers are
considered merely tactical rationalizations, but in
antebellum South Carolina arguments hashed out at