Southern History Series: Hinton Rowan Helper’s Negroes In Negroland (1868)
Editor’s Note: Hinton Rowan Helper and Andrew Johnson are proof that the faction of Whites who opposed slavery and secession in the Old South were often even more racist than the planter class. The same was also true of “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman and the Bourbons.
Hinton Rowan Helper of North Carolina is known for being the most notorious homegrown critic of slavery in the Old South. His book The Impending Crisis of the South was a hit in the North and it was used as a campaign document by the Republicans in the 1860 election.
Helper criticized slavery from the perspective of the economic harm that he believed the institution inflicted on the White working class of North Carolina. It is less well known that in the aftermath of the war Helper wrote a trilogy of books – Nojoque: A Question for a Continent (1867), Negroes in Negroland (1868) and Noonday Exigencies (1871) and became obsessed with the idea of building a transcontinental railroad to deport all blacks from the United States.
The Republican Party had little use for Helper in his later years when he was no longer of service to them in indicting slavery. The following excerpt comes his postwar book Negroes In Negroland (1868):
“The party has, since the termination of the war, viciously and unpardonably abandoned the old landmarks of just and sacred fealty to race ; and it is now advocating what means the prostitution in bulk of a great and good white integer to a small and bad black fraction. The policy of the Radical (not the Republican) party, if carried out to its logical ends, will inevitably result in the forced political, religious, civil, and social equality of the white and black races ; and the direful sequence of that result, so flagrantly unnatural and wrong in itself, can only be reasonably looked for in the ultimate degradation, division, and destruction of the Republic.
It is in the sincere hope of lessening at least some of the dangers of the shocking and wide-spread calamities thus alluded to, that this compilation is offered to an intelligent and discriminating public.
There are now in the United States of America thirty millions of white people, who are (or ought to be) bound together by the ties of a kindred origin, by the affinities of a sameness of noble purpose, by the links of a common nationality, and by the cords of an inseparable destiny. We have here also, unfortunately for us all, four millions of black people, whose ancestors, like themselves, were never known (except in very rare instances, which form the exceptions to a general rule) to aspire to any other condition than that of base and beastlike slavery.
These black people are, by nature, of an exceedingly low and grovelling disposition. They have no trait of character that is lovely or admirable. They are not high-minded, enterprising, nor prudent. In no age, in no part of the world, have they, of themselves, ever projected or advanced any public or private interest, nor given expression to any thought or sentiment that could worthily elicit the praise, or even the favorable mention, of the bet’er portion of mankind.
Seeing, then, that the negro does, indeed, belong to a lower and inferior order of beings, why, in the name of Heaven, why should we forever degrade and disgrace both ourselves and our posterity by entering, of our own volition, into more intimate relations with him ? May God, in his restraining mercy, forbid that we should ever do this most foul and wicked thing !
Acting under the influence of that vile spirit of deception and chicanery which is always familiar with every false pretence, the members of a Radical Congress, the editors of a venal press, and other peddlers of perverted knowledge, are now loudly proclaiming that nowhere in our country, henceforth, must there be any distinction, any discrimination, on account of color ; thereby covertly inculcating the gross error of inferring or supposing that color is the only difference and that a very trivial difference between the whites and the blacks ! Now, once for all, in conscientious deference to truth, let it be distinctly made known and acknowledged, that, in addition to the black and baneful color of the negro, there are numerous other defects, physical, mental, and moral, which clearly mark him, when compared with the white man, as a very different and inferior creature. …
Never will it be possible for the compiler to erase from his memory the feelings of weighty sadness and disgust which overcame him, a few months since, when, while sojourning in the city of Washington, he walked, one day, into the Capitol, and, leisurely passing into the galleries of the two houses of Congress, beheld there, uncouthly lounging and dozing upon the seats, a horde of vile, ignorant, and foul-scented negroes.
He was perplexed, shocked, humiliated, and indignant, and could not sit down. With merited emotions of bitterness and contempt for those narrow-minded white men, through whose detestable folly and selfishness so great an outrage against public propriety and decency had been perpetrated, he turned away ; indeed, it was not in his power to contemplate with calmness that motley and monstrous manifestation of national incongruity, ugliness, and disgrace.
Then it was that, for the first time in his life, he wished himself a Hercules, in order that he might be able to clean, thoroughly and at once, those Augean stables of the black ordure and Radical filth which, therein and elsewhere, had already accumulated to an almost insufferable excess.
It was the powerful and long-lingering momentum of the impressions received on that occasion, more than any other circumstance, that gave definite form and resolution to the purpose (although the idea had been previously entertained)of preparing this compilation. The object of the compiler will have been well attained if the work aids materially in more fully convincing his countrymen, North, South, East and West, that negro equality, negro supremacy, and negro domination, as now tyrannically enforced at the point of the bayonet, are cruel and atrocious innovations, which ought to be speedily terminated.
Hinton Rowan Helper as Hercules and along with Sen. Theodore Bilbo as a Founding Father of White Nationalism isn’t a story that you are likely to come across anywhere outside of this website. You will certainly never read about any of this on a Rainbow Confederate website either.
H. R. H.
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