Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> The Pen as Sword: Simms and the Beginning of the War — Rediscovered Writings from 1861 >> Page 10

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Page 10

Secondary Scholarship | 2007
Transcription many Southern secessionists that South Carolina's reputation for radicalism
might cause Southern Border States to hesitate or decide against joining a
Southern confederacy. Simms, however, was so confident of the appeal of a
Southern confederacy that he did not believe anything had to be done to
induce states such as Virginia and Maryland to join with the Deep South.
Those states would secede out of necessity and join their sister Southern
states. In fact, as Simms told Miles on 22 February 1861, "we are attaching
far too much importance to the alliance with the Border States...The truth is,
we shall be much more troubled with the question hereafter, --`who shall we
keep out,' rather than `How many will come in? "'26 This article expresses
much the same view.
Yet another editorial in the Mercury which is a probable Simms
contribution is "Straws of Politics" which appeared 11 May 1861. It is the
lead editorial for that issue, and a clipped copy of it can be found pasted in
his Scrapbook C of the Charles Carroll Simms Collection at the South
Caroliniana Library. It is a critical commentary on the North and the
Northern people whom the author describes as "the greatest braggadocios
and humbugs that the world has ever seen."27 A review of several episodes
of recent history is offered in support of this characterization. This include
the hostile reaction of Bostonians to the critical comments about America by
a British singer who had recently visited the city. In its tone, the article in
very similar to Simms's critical satire of New York City social life in Paddy
McGann written in 1863. In both, particular scorn is aimed at New York's
newspapers and the celebrated showman P. T. Barnum. It may be that in this
editorial written in 1861 we have a foretaste of Simms's harsh social satire in
Paddy McGann.
Simms was deeply engaged in the affairs of his day, not merely observing
and commenting upon them or using them for inspiration; although he
certainly did that. He was a man of action as well as imagination. As these
articles demonstrate, Simms took an active part in trying to influence the
course of events in 1861 in a direction he thought most appropriate. He was
a man who believed words and the ideas they conveyed preceded action. For
Simms no action at the time could be more important than the independence
and protection of his beloved South Carolina. In her hour of crisis, Simms
devoted all of his imagination and eloquence, the same attributes which had
made him the popular author he was, to achieve those ends.

26 Letters, IV, 331-332.
27 The Charleston Mercury, 11 May 1861.