Non-Slaveholding Whites! Look Well to Your Interests!
Hinton Helper

In 1856, there were assessed for taxation in the State of

Acres of land ............ 30,080,000
Valued at ................ $1,112,133,136
Average value per acre ... $36.97

Acres of land ............ 32,450,560
Valued at ................ $98,800,636
Average value per acre ... $3.06

It is difficult for us to make any remarks on the official facts above. Our indignation is struck almost dumb at this astounding and revolting display of the awful wreck that slavery is leaving behind it in the South. We will however, go into a calculation for the purpose of ascertaining as nearly as possible, in this one particluar, how much North Carolina has lost by the retention of slavery. As we have already seen, the average value per acre of land in the State of New York is $36.97; in North Carolina it is only $3.06; why is it so much less, or even any less, in the latter than in the former? The answer is, slavery. In soil, in climate, in minerals, in water-power for manufactural purposes, and in area of territory, North Carolina has the advantage of New York, and, with the exception of slavery, no plausible reason can possibly be assigned why land should not be at least as valuable in the valley of the Yadkin as it is along the banks of the Genesee.

The difference between $36.97 and $3.06 is $33.91, which, multiplied by the whole number of acres of land in North Carolina, will show, in this one particular, the enormous loss that Freedom has sustained on account of Slavery in the Old North State. Thus: -

32,450,560 acres at $33.91 .... $1,100,398,489.

Let it be indelibly impressed on the mind, however, that this amount, large as it is, is only a moity of the sum it has cost to maintain slavery in North Carolina. From time to time, hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars have left the State, either in search of profitable, permanent investment abroad, or in the shape of profits to Northern merchants and manufacturers, who have become the moneyed aristocracy of the country by supplying to the South such articles of necessity, utility, and adornment, as would have been produced at home but for the pernicious presence of the peculiar institution.

A reward of Eleven Hundred Millions of Dollars is offered for the conversion of the lands of North Carolina into free soil. The lands themselves, desolate and impoverished under the fatal foot of slavery, offer the reward. How, then, can it be made to appear that the abolition of slavery in North Carolina, and indeed, throughout all the Southern States - for slavery is exceedingly inimical to them all - is not demanded by every consideration of justice, prudence, and good sense? In 1850, the total value of all the slaves of the State, at the rate of four hundred dollars per head, amounted to less than one hundred and sixteen millions of dollars. Is the sum of one hundred and sixteen millions of dollars more desirable than the sum of eleven hundred millions of dollars? When a man has land for sale, does he reject thirty-six dollars per acre and take three? Non-slaveholding whites! look well to your interests! Many of you have lands; comparatively speaking, you have nothing else. Abolish slavery, and you will enhance the value of every league, your own and your neighbors', from three to thirty-six dollars per acre. Your little tract containing two hundred acres, now valued at the pitiful sum of only six hundred dollars, will then be worth seven thousand. Your children, now deprived of even the meagere advantages of common schools, will then reap the benefits of a collegiate education. Your rivers and smaller streams, now wasting their waters in idleness, will then turn the wheels of multitudinous mills. Your bays and harbors, now unknown to commerce, will then swarm with ships from every enlightened quarter of the globe. Non-slaveholding whites! look well to your interests!

Would the slaveholders of North Carolina lose anything by the abolition of slavery? Let us see. According to their own estimae, their slaves are worth, in round numbers, say, one hundred and twenty millions of dollars. There are in the State twenty-eight thousand slaveholders, owning, it may be safely assumed, an average of at least five hundred acres of land each - fourteen millions of acres in all. This number of acres, multiplied by thirty-three dollars and ninety-one cents, the difference in value between free soil and slave soil, makes the enormous sum of four hundred and seventy-four millions of dollars - showing that, by the abolition of slavery, the slaveholders themselves would realize a net profit of not less than three hundred and fifty-four millions of dollars!

Compensation to the slaveholders for the negroes now in their possession! The idea is preposterous. The suggestion is criminal. The demand is unjust, wicked, monstrous, damnable. Shall we pat the bloodhounds of slavery for the sake of doing them a favor? Shall we fee the curs of slavery in order to make them rich at our expense? Shall we pay the whelps of slavery for the privilege of converting them into decent, honest, upright men? No, never! The non-slaveholders expect to gain, and will gain, something by the abolition of slavery; but slaveholders themnselves will, by far, be the greater gainers; for, in proportion to population, they own much larger and more fertile tracts of land, and will, as a matter of course, receive the lion's share of the increase in the value of not only real estate, but also of other genuine property, of which they are likewise the principal owners. How ridiculously absurd, therefore, is the objection, that, if we liberate the slaves, we ruin the masters! Not long since, a gentleman in Baltimore, a native of Maryland, remarked in our presence that he was an abolitionist because he felt that it was right and proper to be one; "but," inquired he, "are there not, in some of the States, many widows and orphans who would be left in destitute circumstances, if their negroes were taken from them?" In answer to the question, we replied hat slavery had already reduced thousands and tens of thousands of non-slaveholding widows and orphans to the lowest depths of poverty and ignorance, and that we did not believe one slaveholding widow and three orphans were of more, or even of as much consequence as five non-slaveholding widows and fifteen orphans. "You are right," exclaimed the gentleman, "I had not viewed the subject in that light before; I perceive you go in for the greatest good to the greatest number." Emancipate the negroes, and the ex-slaveholding widow would still reatin her lands and tenements, which, in consequence of being surrounded by the magic influences of liberty, would soon render her far more wealthy and infinitely more respectable, than she could possibly ever become while trafficking in human flesh.

The fact is, every slave in the South costs the State in which he resides at least three times as much as he, in the whole course of his life, is worth to his master. Slavery benefits no one but its immediate, individual owners, and them only in a pecuniary point of view, and at the sacrifice of the dearest rights and interests of the whole mass of non-slaveholders, white and black. Even the masters themselves, as we have already shown, would be far better off without it than with it. To all classes of society the institution is a curse; an especial curse is it to those who own it not. Non-slaveholding whites! look well to your interests!


The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It by Hinton Rowan Helper of North Carolina, pages 325-330
A. B. Burdick, New York, 1860