There are very few references to blacks in the book, and certainly slavery as an economic institution is denounced, not black people. It generated a furor in the South, where authorities banned its possession and distribution and burned copies that could be seized. Between 1857 and 1861 nearly 150,000 copies of the book were circulated, and in 1860 the Republican party distributed it as a campaign document. In December 1859 Democrats returning to Congress reacted with indignation because 68 Republicans had endorsed the book and planned to use it as campaign literature in the presidential election of 1860. The opponents blocked the election of Republican John Sherman as speaker because he had endorsed the book.
The success of The Impending Crisis of the South made Helper famous overnight. It also heightened the political crisis by raising fears among Southerners that poor landless Southern whites might turn against slavery if they saw that it did not benefit them. The fear of class divisions within the white community was enough to lead many Southerners who had previously been opponents of secession to embrace it after the election of Abraham Lincoln.
After the war Helper appeared as a white supremacist, urging the wholesale expulsion of former slaves. His hatred of blacks eventually became a phobia, to the point that he would not patronize hotels or restaurants that employed Negroes. Southern enemies of Reconstruction were unwilling, however, to forgive his previous opposition to slavery, so he remained a marginal, and increasingly unstable, character in postwar America.
Lincoln appointed Helper as United States consul in Buenos Aires from 1861 to 1866. He spent most of the postwar years promoting a scheme to build an intercontinental railroad connecting North and South America; which would displace the black and brown peoples by whites. The "Three Americas Railway" was supposed to extend from the Bering Sea to the Strait of Magellan. His schemes never came to anything and he died by his own hand in Washington, D.C.
Cornelis A. van Minnen and Sylvia L. Hilton, eds., Nation on the Move: Mobility in U.S. History.(Book Review)
Jun 01, 2004; Cornelis A. van Minnen and Sylvia L. Hilton, eds., Nation on the Move: Mobility in U.S. History (Amsterdam: VU University Press...