Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> The Mother Land: The Southern Nationalism of William Gilmore Simms >> Page 16

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 16

Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription well articulated in his 1844 Aiken Fourth of July address. Just as the American
colonists had become "full grown," and no longer needed the "leading strings" of
Britain to manage their affairs, so too Southerners had developed sufficiently to go
it alone. Once needing the protection of the Union, they needed it no longer.53
What caused Simms initially to lose faith in the federal republic, to move from
cultural nationalism to political nationalism? Simms never, to my knowledge,
explicitly gave an answer. First of all it should be noted that the tendency to move
from cultural to political nationalism is inherent in cultural nationalism.54 Especially
is it so when one culture feels threatened by another which has governmental power
over it. In Simms's case it is likely that a complex set of factors was involved. When
yet a young man in his early twenties, Simms had perceived Northern arrogance
towards the South. That recognition puts one in a mood to be on one's guard. It can
also be seen as a violation of the spirit of trust and good faith that made the Union
possible and workable in the first place. Simms's first acquaintance with the North
introduced him first hand to a society which, judging from his descriptions in "The
Philosophy of the Omnibus," shocked him for its vulgar, leveling tendencies which
intruded money making into all concerns.55 Though intellectually Simms was
stimulated by his new literary Northern acquaintances, and gloried in these
relationships, the society and the scenes he observed only more deeply attached him
to the Southland. From the North River56 in 1833, visions of the South drew him
back in spirit:

I see them come, the spirit band,
The joys, in soothing strains to tell,
Of that remote, that happy land.
They come, — those gentle Southern gales, —
They lift me up, — they wrap me round,
And bear me to those lovelier vales,
Where all my earlier hopes were found.57

53 This argument is implicit in Simms, The Sources of American Independence. The term "leading
strings" is used on page 16 of Sources in the context in which it is used in the text. The argument
is also stated in the Bockee letter at p. 297: "We are fully grown, and can and must protect
54 See John Hutchinson, The Dynamics of Cultural Nationalism, pp. 2, 16.
55 William Gilmore Simms, "The Philosophy of the Omnibus," American Monthly Magazine (May
1834), pp. 153-159. Reprinted in The Simms Review, 6 (Winter 1998), 13-23.
56 An estuary of the Hudson. See James Everett Kibler, ed., Selected Poems of William Gilmore
Sininis (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1990), p. 336.
57 William Gilmore Simms, "Stanzas' in James Everett Kibler, ed., Selected Poems of William
Gilmore Simms (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1990), p. 60.