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 xxi
arguing that the abolitionists were not so much inter-
ested in abolishing human servitude and exploitation as
they were in abolishing a particular form of servitude
which had come to be regarded as archaic ´┐Ża stance
which provided a rationale for participating in other,
more fashionable forms of exploitation."
1
The oration delivered by Hammond at age forty-two
before the two societies of South Carolina College goes a
long way toward illuminating the best aspects of the
particular synthesis of liberal and conservative values
that made up the culture of the Old South. While giving
a full and sincere praise to the material progress of the
nineteenth century, Hammond entered a gentle de-
murrer to the spirit of that era. He reminded the flower
of the youth of South Carolina that the accumulation of
wealth and of technological mastery are results, not
causes, results which depend ultimately upon the
striving human spirit. The "energetic selfishness" of the
utilitarian was insufficient even for material progress.
This oration and the Plutarchian essay on Calhoun
which follows show the extent to which the ancient
classics permeated the Southern world-view.
The latter remains the best concise account of
Calhoun's career and also the best statement in brief
compass of the history of antebellum American politics
from the Carolina viewpoint. The celebration of the
greatest Carolinian once more displays Hammond's
refusal to take the easy path around facts. He pointed
out what to his generation was Calhoun's "supersti-
tious" attachment to the Union, his lack of humor, and
his carelessness in the construction of sentences. He
stated that if Calhoun's early career were examined
"with the sternness of the historian . . . we cannot fail to
perceive that . . . his views, in many most important
particulars, were essentially erroneous." To point this