James “Cotton Is King” Hammond Also Resigns His Post

Sunday, November 11, 1860

James Hammond, senior Senator from South Carolina was not one to be outdone. He was among the strongest supporters of the Southern way of life, slavery and secession. So when his state’s junior Senator, the moderate and former Unionist, James Chesnut resigned before he did, Hammond could not let that stand.

Hammond was South Carolina’s 60th governor and a very interesting and controversial character. He, like many southern aristocrats and planters, was a staunch defender of slavery, giving speeches about how every society needed a lower class so that the higher class could lead a life of leisure.1 In the South, that meant cotton. In fact, he was the author of the phrase “Cotton is King.”

He was also the author of Secret and Sacred, diaries that he wrote from 1841 through 1862 and which are still in print today. He covers not only political gossip but his lurid private life as well. This includes and is certainly not limited to: sexual advances on his three teenage nieces, his repeated rape a slave who bore him several children, and the continued rape of her twelve year old daughter who bore him several more.

These antics eventually kept him from public office. In 1846, after a few years of frolic with the nieces, their father (who was Wade Hampton – we’ll hear more from him before this war is over) threatened to go public with the scandal.

Still, somehow or another, Hammond got himself elected to the US Senate in 1857 where he served until this date in 1860.

  1. This was his “Mudsill Theory.” You can read all about it here. []


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