James Henry Hammond (1807-1864) was a prominent American politician, planter, and slave owner who played a significant role in the development and defense of the Southern slave system in the United States. Born on November 15, 1807, in Newberry County, South Carolina, Hammond grew up in a wealthy and influential family that owned a large [[plantation]]. Hammond was a well-educated man, attending South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) and studying law under Thomas Cooper. In 1828, he was admitted to the bar and began practicing law. Despite his legal career, Hammond's primary focus remained on his growing plantation empire, which was built on the labor of enslaved Africans. ## Political career Hammond's political career began in 1831 when he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. He went on to serve in the U.S. [[House of Representatives]] from 1835 to 1836 and as the Governor of South Carolina from 1842 to 1844. However, it was during his tenure as a U.S. Senator from 1857 to 1860 that Hammond's pro-[[slavery]] views took center stage. Hammond was a staunch advocate for slavery, and he defended the institution using various arguments, including economic and racial justifications. In his famous 1858 "Mudsill" speech, he claimed that every society had a lower class that provided the foundation for the upper classes, and that in the Southern United States, this lower class consisted of enslaved people. According to Hammond, slavery was a necessary part of society, as it allowed white citizens to pursue intellectual and creative endeavors while enslaved people provided manual labor. During his time as a senator, Hammond also played a significant role in the events leading up to the [[Civil War]]. He was a key supporter of the Lecompton Constitution, which sought to establish Kansas as a slave state, and he vehemently opposed the admission of California as a free state. He also participated in the crafting of the pro-slavery Democratic Party platform in 1860, which ultimately led to a split in the party and contributed to the election of Abraham Lincoln. ## Sexual predation and pedophilia Hammond's personal life was tainted by his cruel treatment of enslaved people. He was known for his brutal disciplinary measures and even sexually exploited female slaves. The most notorious example of this was his long-term sexual relationship with an enslaved woman named Sally Johnson, who bore him several children. He also preyed on his four nieces, repeatedly raping them over a 2-year period and [writing about it without embarassment in a diary not published until 1989](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Henry_Hammond#:~:text=Hammond's%20Secret%20and%20Sacred%20Diaries,her%20husband%20Wade%20Hampton%20II.). After accusations made the news public, Hammond lost stature in "polite society" for a period of time, but was nevertheless elected by the state legislature as a US Senator some years later. James Henry Hammond died on November 13, 1864, leaving behind a legacy steeped in the horrors of American slavery. His political career and personal life exemplified the deeply ingrained racism and brutal exploitation that defined the slave system in the United States, and his influence helped perpetuate the institution's existence in the years leading up to the Civil War.