Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> The Mother Land: The Southern Nationalism of William Gilmore Simms >> Page 15

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Page 15

Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription Charleston that Senator James Henry Hammond "would cheerfully take the South
out of the Union," and he advised Miles to constantly assert "a Southern
Nationality! [emphasis in original]."50 "I myself," he informed Senator Hammond in
August 1858, "with all the guarantees possible from the North, would go out of the
Union with 2 or 3 of the Cotton States, on the simple ground that our relations are
... unprofitable, that our bargain is a bad one, that the tariff is sucking our
substance, and that sooner or later we shall be required to succumb, from mere
It is clear, however, from thoughts expressed elsewhere, that Simms based his
desire for political independence on other motives than just the economic ones listed
above. In fact, his long letter to his New York friend John Jacob Bockee, printed in
the Charleston Mercury, though basing the principal argument on economic
grievances, gave practically every major argument advanced on the eve of
independence for Southern secession: the North had for years fattened off the South,
oppressing the South economically; the South was a minority, giving the North
"such fearful power over us;” the South had been abused and vilified by the North
as "worthless, wanting in moral and energy; unprosperous, grossly ignorant, brutal;
uneducated, wanting literature, an, statesmanship, wisdom – every element of
intellect and manners;" the North had violated the Constitution, especially for
refusing to enforce the fugitive slave law; the North had stolen the territory won
from Mexico with Southern arms; Northerners had threatened the safety and
tranquillity of the South with "insurrections, poisonings and house-burnings;" the
mutual bonds of sympathy and affection had been sundered; Northern policy would
"annihilate the sources of prosperity ... and deliver us, bound hand and foot, into the
meshes of incendiarism;" Southern men, "all trained in a high spirit of liberty...all
proud of a brave and free ancestry," would not tamely submit until the chains are
riveted about their limbs;" Southerners would fight "in defense of our firesides, and
in the assertion of ancestral right;" the South had "all the essential elements for
establishing the greatest and most prosperous, and longest lived of all the republics
of the earth!"52
The most basic reason for the South's seeking independence, Simms knew,
was to establish its mental independence, to be free from Northern manipulation and
control in all areas, just as was the case for American independence as he had so

50 Simms to William Porcher Miles, 28 Dec. 1857, in The Letters of William Gilmore Simms, III,
51 Simms to James Henry Hammond, 2 Aug. 1858, in The Letters of William Gilmore Simms, IV,
52 Simms to John Jacob Bockee, 12 Dec. 1860, printed in the Charleston Mercury of 17 Jan. 1861,
in Simms, Letters, IV, pp. 287-306. The letter, as printed, was actually an expanded version of the
letter to Bockee.