Hamilton C. Jones (1798–1868)
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224 Hamilton C. Jones (1798–1868) As a humorist, Ham Jones was known by the byline under which he published his comic sketches and tales:“the Author of ‘Cousin Sally Dilliard.’”“Cousin Sally Dilliard,”Jones’s first and most popular work, is a repetitive and rambling sketch, which initially appeared in Atkinson’s Saturday Evening Post in 1831, and which was subsequently reprinted four times in William T. Porter’s Spirit of the Times and in Porter’s anthology of southern backwoods humor, The Big Bear of Arkansas and Other Tales (1845). A “shaggy dog story,” set in North Carolina, “Cousin Sally Dilliard” depicts a court scene in which a lawyer calls upon a rustic witness, who likely has had too much to drink, to testify, his testimony an unexpected reversal since the witness keeps repeating the same nonsensical and irrelevant statement—“Captain Rice, he gin a treat, and cousin Sally Dilliard, she came over to our house and axed me if my wife, she moughtn’t go.” Jones was born in Greenville County,Virginia, but with the death of his father a short time later, his mother moved the family to Stokes County, North Carolina , and married an influential and wealthy planter, Colonel James Martin, the brother of former North Carolina governor Alexander Martin. After attending the Chapel Hill, North Carolina Academy for boys, Jones entered the University of North Carolina, graduating in 1818. Then, after reading law in New Bern under the tutelage of William Gaston, one of the North Carolina’s most exemplary attorneys, Jones married, obtained his law license, and practiced law in Salisbury in Rowan County. Jones subsequently became involved in state politics and was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1827 and was reelected in 1828, 1838, and 1840. In addition to his law practice and his political involvement, Ham Jones, like many other humorists of the Old South, tried his hand at journalism, founding in 1832 the Salisbury CarolinaWatchman, a weekly newspaper,which supported Federalist and Whig ideologies, thereby countering the town’s only other paper, the Western Carolinian, which was anti-Federalist and anti-Whig. As editor of the Watchman from 1832 to 1839, Jones printed material from other newspapers and wrote articles,editorials,humorous sketches,and anecdotes.The latter, Hamilton C. Jones 225 under the heading “Salisbury Omnibus,” began appearing in the newspaper in July of 1837, and provided a comic perspective on local happenings and activities . After the success of “Cousin Sally Dilliard,” Jones wrote a number of humorous sketches, which were originally published in Porter’s Spirit of the Times; these include“McAlpin’s Trip to Charleston”(July 11, 1846),“Going to Muster in North Carolina” (July 18, 1846),“The Sandy Creek Literary Society” (August 15, 1846),“The Round Robin” (August 22, 1846),“The Frenchman and His Menagerie ” (March 16, 1850), and “Abel Hucks in a Tight Place” (August 23, 1851). While Jones was not a prolific writer of humorous sketches, his first story, “Cousin Sally Dilliard” (1831), was not only one of the earliest and best-known southern frontier humorous texts that Porter published in the Spirit, but it also pioneered some of the prominent features of the southwestern humor genre— the narrative frame, competing voices and discourses of the outlandish rural rustic and the effete town lawyer, and exaggeration of details. Texts: “Cousin Sally Dilliard,” Atkinson’s Saturday Evening Post, August 6, 1831.“McAlpin ’s Trip to Charleston,” New York Spirit of the Times, July 11, 1846. Cousin Sally Dilliard Scene—A Court of Justice, in No. Ca. A beardless disciple of Themis rises, and thus addresses the court: May it please your Worships, and you, Gentlemen of the Jury, since it has been my fortune (good or bad I will not say) to exercise myself in legal disquisitions, it has never before befallen me to be obliged to denounce a breach of the peace so enormous and transcending as the one now claiming your attention. A more barbarous, direful, marked and malicious assault—a more wilful, violent , dangerous and murderous battery, and finally, a more diabolical breach of the peace has seldom happened in a civilized country, and I dare say it has seldom been your duty to pass upon one so shocking to benevolent feeling as this, which took place over at Captain Rice’s, in this county, but you will hear from the witnesses. The witnesses being sworn, two or three were examined and deposed—one, that he heard...


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