Impending Crisis of the South

by Jennifer Su and Taddie Cook


The Impending Crisis of the South was written by Hinton R. Helper in 1857, who was from North Carolina, and hated both blacks and slavery. His book tried to prove that whites were suffering the most from slavery, using statistics showing the north's rapid growth in comparison with the south. Helper claimed that slavery made the South's population superstitious, ignorant and poor while stopping industrialization, urbanization, two indicators of progress. By dropping slavery, Helper felt that in one to two generations the south could be the leading cosmopolitan society. The book was intended for poor southern whites, which made Helper unique as few southern intellectuals considered the poor whites their own class. Helper argued that slavery led to the degradation of manual labor's respectability, and thus the respectability of non-slaveholding whites dropped. However, no southern publisher would publish the book, which Helper eventually published in New York. The book was then banned from the South, who worried it would cause a rebellion from the poor whites. Republicans utilized the book as campaign literature, distributing thousands of copies in the north and Midwest during the 1860 election.


The book was instrumental in starting the civil war, similar to Uncle Tom's Cabin, called the most effective propaganda against slavery ever written by the New York Tribune. It also significantly boosted the Republican Party, especially their popularity among poor whites whose success was now connected to the abolition of slavery. Previously, the working class was assumed to be best served by the democrat party, but the Impending Crisis of the South forced them to reconsider abolition as an economic benefit, not just a moral cause.

Works Cited

Hinton Rowan Helper on the Impending Crisis of the South." Digital History. Digital History, n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

Hinton Rowan Helper, the Impending Crisis of the South. Digital image. Documenting the American South. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

Kennedy, David M., Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas Andrew Bailey. The American Pageant: A History of the American People. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

"The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It." North Carolina History Project. John Locke Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.