Drifting Toward Disunion
I. Stowe and Helper: Literary Incendiaries
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a popular book that
awakened the passions of the North toward the evils of slavery.
In one line, it’s about the splitting up of a slave familyand the cruel
mistreatment of likeable Uncle Tom by a cruel slavemaster.
The book sold millions of copies, and overseas, British people were charmed
The South cried foul, saying Stowe’s portrayal of slavery was wrong and
The book helped Britain stay out of the Civil War because itspeople, who had
read the book and had now denounced slavery becausethey sympathized with Uncle
Tom, wouldn’t allow intervention onbehalf of the South.
Another book, The Impending Crisis of the South, writtenby Hinton R. Helper , a non-
aristocratic white North Carolinian, triedto prove, by an array of statistics, that the non-
slave-holdingSouthern whites were really the ones most hurt by slavery.
Published in the North, this book and Uncle Tom’s Cabin were both banned
in the South, but widely read in the North. They drove the North—South wedge deeper.
II. The North-South Contest for Kansas
Northerners began to pour into Kansas, and Southerners wereoutraged, since they had
supported the Compromise of 1850 under theimpression that Kansas would become a
Thus, on election day in 1855, hordes of Southerners “borderruffians” from Missouri
flooded the polls and elected Kansas tobe a slave state; free-soilers were unable to
stomach this and set uptheir own government in Topeka.
Thus, confused Kansans had to chose between two governments: oneillegal
(free government in Topeka) and the other fraudulent (slaverygovernment in Shawnee).
In 1856, a group of pro-slavery raiders shot up and burnt part of Lawrence, thus starting
III. Kansas in Convulsion
John Brown, a crazy man (literally), led a band of followers toPottawatomie Creek in May
of 1856 and hacked to death five presumablepro-slaveryites.