James Henry Hammond

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
James Henry Hammond
United States Senator
from South Carolina
In office
December 7, 1857 – November 11, 1860
Preceded by Andrew P. Butler
Succeeded by Frederick A. Sawyer (1868)
60th Governor of South Carolina
In office
December 8, 1842 – December 7, 1844
Lieutenant Isaac Donnom Witherspoon
Preceded by John Peter Richardson II
Succeeded by William Aiken, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1835 – February 26, 1836
Preceded by John M. Felder
Succeeded by Franklin H. Elmore
Personal details
Born (1807-11-15)November 15, 1807
Newberry County, South Carolina
Died November 13, 1864(1864-11-13) (aged 56)
Beech Island, South Carolina
Political party Democratic, Nullifier
Spouse(s) Catherine Fitzsimmons Hammond
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Publisher, Teacher

James Henry Hammond (November 15, 1807 – November 13, 1864) was a politician and planter from South Carolina. He served as a United States Representative from 1835 to 1836, the 60th Governor of South Carolina from 1842 to 1844, and United States Senator from 1857 to 1860. He was considered one of the major spokesmen in favor of slavery in the years before the American Civil War.

Acquiring property through marriage, he ultimately owned 22 square miles, several plantations and houses, and more than 300 slaves.[2] Through his wife's family, he was a brother-in-law of Wade Hampton II and uncle to his children, including Wade Hampton III. When the senior Hampton learned that Hammond had abused his four Hampton nieces as teenagers, he made the scandal public. It was thought to derail Hammond's career for a time,[2] but he was later elected as senator. The Hampton family suffered more, as none of the girls married.


Hammond graduated from South Carolina College in 1825, going on to teach school, write for a newspaper and study law. He was admitted to the bar in 1828 and started a practice in Columbia, South Carolina. He established a newspaper there in support of nullification.

Hammond became a planter and "secured his financial independence" by marrying a 17-year-old woman with a substantial dowry.[2] He ultimately owned 22 square miles, a number of plantation homes, and more than 300 slaves.[2] He achieved membership in the propertied class.

After his marriage, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a member of the Nullifier Party, serving from 1835 until his resignation the next year due to ill health. After spending two years in Europe, he returned to South Carolina and engaged in agricultural pursuits.

He was elected as Governor of South Carolina, serving from 1842 to 1844. The legislature chose him for the United States Senate, following the death of Andrew P. Butler, and he served from 1857 until his resignation in 1860 in light of South Carolina's secession from the Union.


A Democrat, Hammond was perhaps best known during his lifetime as an outspoken defender of slavery and states' rights.[3] He popularized the phrase that "Cotton is King" in an 1858 speech to the Senate. In his writings, he consistently compared the South's "well compensated" slaves to the North's "scantily compensated" slaves (hired skilled laborers and operatives).[3] Going beyond articles in local newspapers, he co-authored The Pro-Slavery Argument with William Harper, Thomas Roderick Dew and William Gilmore Simms.[4][5]

Hammond promoted Redcliffe, his plantation in Beech Island, South Carolina,[6] as his ideal of the perfectly run plantation in his Plantation manual, 1857-58.[7]


In the late 20th century, historians learned that Hammond as a young man had a homosexual relationship with a college friend, Thomas Jefferson Withers, which is attested by two sexually explicit letters sent from Withers to Hammond in 1826. The letters, which are held among the Hammond Papers at the South Carolina Library, were first published by researcher Martin Duberman in 1981; they are notable as rare documentary evidence of same-sex relationships in the antebellum United States.[8]

Hammond's Secret and Sacred Diaries (later published in 1989) reveal that his sexual appetites were varied. He describes, without embarrassment, his "familiarities and dalliances"[2] over two years with four teenage nieces, daughters of his sister-in-law Ann Fitzsimmons and her husband Wade Hampton II.[2][3] He blamed his behavior on what he described as the seductiveness of the “extremely affectionate” young women.[2] The scandal "derailed his political career" for a decade to come after the girls' father privately accused him in 1843, while Hammond was governor.[9] He was "ostracized by polite society" for some time, but in the late 1850s was elected US senator.[10] But Hammond's damage to the girls was far-reaching; they were considered to have tarnished social reputations and none of the four ever married.[2]

Hammond was also known to have had long affairs with two slave women; the first began when the woman was 18.[2] behavior not uncommon among white men at the time.[10] Later when her only daughter who did not seem to be his was 12, he also took her as a concubine.[2] His wife left him for a few years after this, taking their Hammond children with her. She finally returned to her husband.[2]


Hammond School in Columbia, South Carolina is named after him. Founded in 1966, it was originally named James H. Hammond Academy. It was one of a number of schools known as "white flight academies" that sprung up around the south after desegregation came to public schools. Although many of these academies are now defunct, Hammond School advanced beyond its questionable start and began being inclusive after the 1970s, and changed its name accordingly.

Hammond's quotes on slavery[edit]

Kirby Page used quotes from Hammond on slavery in his book, Jesus or Christianity (1929):

"I firmly believe," said Governor J. H. Hammond, "that American slavery is not only not a sin, but especially commanded by God through Moses, and approved by Christ through his apostles."[11]

Governor J. H. Hammond once said: "I endorse without reserve the much abused sentiment of Governor McDuffie, that 'slavery is the corner-stone of our republican edifice;' while I repudiate, as ridiculously absurd, that much lauded but nowhere accredited dogma of Mr. Jefferson that 'all men are born equal.'"[12]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bleser, Carol, Editor, Secret and Sacred, The Diaries of James Henry Hammond, a Southern Slaveholder, Oxford University Press, New York, 1988, ISBN 0-19-505308-7


  1. ^ South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860. Seat declared vacant until Frederick A. Sawyer was elected after South Carolina's readmission into the Union in 1870.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "MONSTER OF ALL HE SURVEYED": Review of SECRET AND SACRED The Diaries of James Henry Hammond, a Southern Slaveholder, Edited by Carol Bleser. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989, accessed 7 November 2013
  3. ^ a b c Faust, Drew Gilpin, James Henry Hammond and the Old South, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London, 1982, ISBN 0-8071-1048-5
  4. ^ William Harper, Thomas Roderick Dew, James Henry Hammond, William Gilmore Simms, The Pro-Slavery Argument, Lippincott, Grambo, & Co., (1853), p.35
  5. ^ http://archive.org/details/proslaveryargume00harp
  6. ^ "Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site". South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism. Retrieved November 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Plantation manual, 1857-58. James Henry Hammond". US Library of Congress. Retrieved November 24, 2012. 
  8. ^ Duberman, Martin Bauml. "'Writhing Bedfellows': 1826." Journal of Homosexuality 6, no. 1 (1981): 85-101. Reprinted in The Gay Past: A Collection of Historical Essays. Eds. Salvatore J. Licata, and Robert P. Petersen. New York: Haworth Press, 1981. ISBN 0-917724-27-5
  9. ^ Johanna Nicol Shields, Freedom in a Slave Society: Stories from the Antebellum South, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 243
  10. ^ a b Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877, New York: Hill & Wang, 1993, p. 120
  11. ^ James Henry Hammond, Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, p.124
  12. ^ Hammond, ibid., p.126

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John M. Felder
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 4th congressional district

1835 – 1836
Succeeded by
Franklin H. Elmore
Political offices
Preceded by
John Peter Richardson II
Governor of South Carolina
1842 – 1844
Succeeded by
William Aiken, Jr.
United States Senate
Preceded by
Andrew P. Butler
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from South Carolina
1857 – 1860
Served alongside: Josiah J. Evans, Arthur P. Hayne and James Chesnut, Jr.
Succeeded by