Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> ''Cash is Conqueror'': The Critique of Capitalism in Simms's ''The Western Emigrants'' and ''Sonnet—The Age of Gold'' >> Page 91

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 91 THE SIMMS REVIEW

whole of this fertile country"' (qtd. in Remini 331). The end result was
the massive influx of white settlers and prospectors—including Simms's
imaginary patriarch in "The Western Emigrants" onto Mississippi land,
eager to exploit its fertile soil.4
With this surge of farmers and settlers also came greedy busi-
nessmen ready to exploit the farmers' desire to work, echoing Simms's
belief expressed in Poetry and the Practical that capitalists "use
profitably for themselves, the performances of the others" (Poetry 83).
In "Farmers without Land: The Plight of White Tenant Farmers," Charles
C. Bolton notes that many of those who emigrated to Mississippi did not
"have the funds to purchase a farm" and were therefore forced to work as
tenant farmers. Essentially sharecroppers, these poor tenant farmers held
a position that, although commonly associated with the post-Civil War
South, was common in antebellum Mississippi.
Bolton also states that many of these farmers had to "deal with
landlords who were primarily concerned with making profits rather than
helping [the] struggling farmers ...." Often, tenant farmers were tricked
into working for merely their food; all of their potential profits ended
in the hands of the landlords, who, despite their place at the top of the
agrarian pyramid, were nonetheless closely associated with capitalism.5
Thus agriculture was transformed from a family-centered practice into a
full-scale capitalistic enterprise.
Simms understood the exploitation of the farmers. In his lecture
"The Ages of Gold and Iron," Simms states that the farmer "was more
profitable as a victim. The grain was no sooner ripened [when] the war-
like tribes descended ... and gathered their harvests with the sword" (13).
A planter himself, Simms staunchly defended agriculture as a practice
that was not only necessary but divine. His quasi-religious view of agri-
culture is most striking in "The Ages of Gold and Iron":
God, himself, was the great first planter. He wrote
its laws, visibly, in the brightest, and loveliest, and
most intelligible characters everywhere, upon the broad
bosom of the liberal earth: in greenest leaves, in delicate
fruits, in beguiling and balmy flowers .... Thus did the
Almighty Planter dedicate the great plantation. (12-13)
The shift of agriculture from its former place as a treasured family
endeavor to a corrupt capitalistic enterprise no doubt infuriated Simms.