“The American Loyalists further convinced Simms and his circle that secession was inevitable, imminent, and necessary to protect their society. He and Hammond formed an affectionate alliance with three other Southern intellectuals: William & Mary’s Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, who had challenged Bancroft’s depiction of early Virginia; the Virginia planter Edmund Ruffin, who had argued that the Declaration of Independence’s promise of universal equality was “both false and foolish”; and the University of Mississippi chancellor George Frederick Holmes, who called the natural rights of liberty and equality “vain twaddle.” This “sacred circle,” as they called themselves, corresponded, organized political actions and publications, and developed the intellectual foundations of something new: a Southern nationhood …
“One of the most dangerous errors which prevail among the people of the North, is their obstinate faith in the integrity of the Union,” another Southerner in Simms novel warned. “There can not be peace, so long as the south is in the minority, and so long as the spirit and temper of the north are so universally hostile to our most vital and cherished institutions. Until you reconcile this inequality, and exorcise this evil spirit, that now rages rampant through the Northern States – allied with all sorts of fanatical passions and principles – Agrarianism, Communism, Fourierism, Wrightism, Millerism, Mormonism, etc. – you may cry peace and union till you split your lungs, but you will neither make peace nor secure union.”
The storm was coming, Simms warned one and all. It was time to prepare the Southern people for a nationhood celebrating inequality, hierarchy, and the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race.”
The experience shook Simms to the core. Never again would he be quite as confident in himself, nor as healthy. “You have gone North at a somewhat critical time for you and martyred yourself for South Carolina, who will not even buy your books, and for Brooks, whose course could at best be only excused,” a worried Hammond counseled as soon as he read the devastating reviews. “What Demon possessed you, mon ami, to do this?” Simms thereafter described the tour as “my defeat.”
From then on, he would make no further attempt to win over the people of the mid-Atlantic states. It was time to throw himself into the forging of a new federation, one where the specter of human equality would never again disturb the white man’s hall.”
We find ourselves in a similar moment.
William Gilmore Simms and other Southerners of his generation were being condemned by a tidal wave of fanaticism that had come out of the Second Great Awakening. They responded to it by creating a new narrative and vision of an independent Southern nation. In much the same way, we need to jettison liberalism and create a new vision and response to the ideology of the Great Awokening.