William Gilmore Simms was a consummate Southern man of letters, excelling equally in poetry, fiction, and essay. The excerpt below is from a long piece he wrote in 1850 in the Southern Quarterly Review. Simms had in mind the hubris of the North as it engaged in intensified economic, political, and cultural aggression against the South, but his remarks are timeless.
It seems to be the fate of most nations to perish in consequence of a prosperity which is beyond their capacity to bear. It is in the full flush of all their wealth and splendor, when most stately in their pride and most glorious in their promise and performance, that the seeds of ruin are planted in their hearts, and that the insidious worm eats into their green honours….They first forget God, and next forget themselves. They forget that they are mere men; and, in the unvarying tide of fortune which has hitherto so proudly borne them forward, they refuse to see that small speck upon the horizon, no larger than a man’s hand, in which the storm prepares itself for the business of destruction. They go forward vauntingly, and with an insolence that, at last, outrages heaven. They cease to pray, and set up, as Gods for themselves—their own brazen images, being, in plain terms, fit likenesses for the overweening vices which are working in their souls. They forget justice, in losing veneration; and, no longer fearing God, they no longer honour man. The evil becomes incurable, the fate inevitable, when, in the insolence of their pride and vanity, they cease to give ear to the counsels of experience.