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 xxii INTRODUCTION
out was "due to truth, to history, and to him." Summing
up Calhoun, Hammond found him, by the Carolina
calculus, to be a progressive: a "merely negative and
stolid conservatism did not at all suit the genius of Mr.
Calhoun, which was essentially active and ever looking
forward to the improvement of mankind."
The speech of March 4, 1858, on the Kansas
question, was delivered three months after Hammond
entered the Senate, at the height of the controversy over
slavery in the territories when men came armed to
Congress. This forthright statement of Southern nation-
alism is the source of two famous quotations, both of
which underwent severe distortion on the political
hustings. In his inventory of the assets of the South in
contest with any potential enemy, one of the points
Hammond touched upon was the role of its commodities
in world commerce, staples for which the North and
England were dependent upon the South. "No,"
Hammond declared, "you dare not make war on cotton.
No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is
king. Until lately [the panic of 1857] the Bank of
England was king; but . . . the last power has been con-
quered." Hammond did not contend that cotton was the
only or the greatest asset of the South, but merely the
one to which its enemies, being men for whom the
economic motive was uppermost, were vulnerable. The
statement was more defensive than arrogantly assertive.
In this speech, too, Hammond made his "Mud-sill"
remarks. Every society must be built on a mud-sill class,
"a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery
of life," a class which the South had found in its slaves.
The mud-sill class of the North was its "whole hireling
class of manual laborers" who were "essentially
slaves." The rising Republican party made effective use
of this statement, portrayed as proof of the contempt of