The Impending Crisis of the South

The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It is a book written by Hinton Rowan Helper of North Carolina, which he self-published in New York, 1857. It was a strong attack on slavery as inefficient and a barrier to the economic advancement of whites. The book was widely distributed by Horace Greeley and other antislavery leaders, and infuriated Southern leaders.

The book condemned slavery, but did not take what Helper considered to be the ineffectually sentimental or moralistic abolitionist approach (as seen in Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852): Hinton explicitly wrote "not with reference, except in a very slight degree, to its humanitarian or religious aspects." Instead, Helper crafted an analysis that appealed to whites' rational self-interest, rather than any altruism towards blacks. Helper claimed that slavery hurt the Southern economy by preventing economic development and industrialization, and that it was the main reason why the South had progressed so much less than the North (according to the results of the 1850 census and other verifiable factual measures) since the late 18th century. Helper tried to speak on behalf of the majority of Southern whites, poor or of moderate means — the Plain Folk of the Old South — whom he claimed were oppressed by a small aristocracy of wealthy slave-owners.

Helper's tone was aggressive: "Freesoilers and abolitionists are the only true friends of the South; slaveholders and slave-breeders are downright enemies of their own section. Anti-slavery men are working for the Union and for the good of the whole world; proslavery men are working for the disunion of the States, and for the good of nothing except themselves." (p. 363)

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