The Self Deceit of James Hammond

The capacity for self deceit about our sin is illustrated graphically in the life of James Hammond, a plantation owner, slaver, congressman and governor during the years the United States practiced slavery. He was also a man who abused his power to satisfy his raging sexual desires. In 1839 he purchased an 18 year old slave named Sally and her child Louisa. He made Sally his concubine, and had many children by her. Then when Sally’s daughter Louisa turned twelve he made her his concubine and fathered children by her.

Not content with the sexual abuse of his slaves he also sexually abused his sisters four daughters.

His evil caught up with him when his brother-in-law threatened to publicly reveal the sexual assaults on his daughters if Hammond didn’t resign from political office. Hammond’s wife left him, and many of his livestock died as a result of disease epidemics.

Astonishingly Hammond was so self deceived that he couldn’t see the error of his ways. After many of his slaves and livestock had died from disease this is what he wrote in his diary:

“It crushes me to the earth to see every thing of mine so blasted around me. Negroes, cattle, mules, hogs, every thing that has life around me seems to labour under some fated malediction…Great God, what have I done. Never was a man so cursed…what have I done or omitted to do to deserve this fate?…No one, not one, exercises the slight indulgence to me. Nothing is overlooked, nothing forgiven.”

Source: Reported in John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted. Ortberg sourced the information from historian James McPherson’s Drawn With the Sword (Oxford University press, 1996)