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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Documents | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription xvi INTRODUCTION
public meetings and the resolutions and reports that
ensued were an integral part of the process of forming
democratic consensus. It often took physical courage as
well as political dexterity to fight out such matters on the
In this paper Hammond chastizes the judiciary for
exceeding its authority and intruding into the main issue
of the nullification controversy, an issue which could
only be decided by the people that is, "whether .. .
sovereignty, or the last power of decision in all civil and
political questions, from which there can be no appeal,
resides in the States, respectively, or in the Federal
Government." In the course of his report Hammond
made a distinction between society and government,
giving the precedence to the former. To this theme he
would return repeatedly. The paper indicates that the
Nullifiers placed themselves squarely within the
traditions of American republicanism. South
Carolinians, as Hammond remarks in a later selection,
were loyal to the union, but not blindly so. Having
escaped "the divine right of Kings," they had no
intention of submitting to "the divine right of Union."
The speech delivered in the U.S. House of Rep-
resentatives in 1836 on the abolition petitions concerned
the question of whether abolitionism should be ignored
or should be met at the threshold. In 1836 conventional
politicians, North and South, deprecated the agitation of
the slavery issue, apparently on the theory that if the
agitation were ignored it would go away. Such
conventional politicians contended that the proper
response to the flood of abolitionist petitions that
suddenly inundated the Congress in the early thirties
was to receive and immediately table them. To
Hammond, speaking for the predominant South
Carolina opinion, this response was inadequate. The