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 xx INTRODUCTION
date much short of the era in which your [British]
National debt will be paid."
As Hammond portrays them, the methods and goals
of the abolitionists were simply not appropriate to the
question at hand. In an ironic passage he argues that
Clarkson, chiefly responsible for the British efforts to
stamp out the slave trade, had actually increased the
sum total of human misery. And the context of
Hammond's argument makes clear a neglected aspect of
the controversy. The abolitionist movement was an
international movement, the center of which was
coterminous with the center of British imperialism, a
fact which made it doubly suspect to Americans. And,
perhaps for idiosyncratic reasons, Hammond was
unusually sensitive to the strong overtones of sup-
pressed sexuality that suffused the propaganda of the
abolitionists, a theme which he played upon effectively.
"Such rage without betrays the fires within," he
remarked.
His arguments against the abolitionists also told
when he emphasized that the Southern form of slavery
was, after all, merely one variation of universal
hierarchy and servitude. "You think it a great `crime'
that we do not pay our slaves `wages,' and on this
account denounce us as `robbers.' This, said Ham-
mond, was to give a status to the mere receiving of
wages that was unjustified, for wages did not constitute
freedom or prove that the toilers of industrial England or
the coolie laborers of the Empire were any freer than
Southern slaves. The emphasis only revealed how
deeply the abolitionists were embroiled in "the prevail-
ing vice and error of the age," bringing everything to the
single standard of money. In this Hammond pre-
meditated the most recent and most profound student of
the antislavery movement, who can be interpreted as