"Uncle Tom's" Attacked Once More.
When the New York Age, a Negro paper, characterized "The Clansman" as an "infamous book" we were moved to comment on the inaccuracy of the characterization in terms which The Huntsville (Ala.) Mercury quotes with a high approval that is, of course, very pleasant to us, but then, alas! it goes on to make some comments of its own on another book, and these to us seem to be fully as inaccurate, and inaccurate in much the same way, as were those of The Age on "The Clansman." "There was," says The Mercury, "but one 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' and there will never be another. It lived its day and served its purpose of malignant hatred of the white South." Now, it is an approximation to certainty as close as things often get in this uncertain world that the inspiration of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was not hatred, malignant or other, of the white South, and the book did not serve any such purpose. Undoubtedly it had its effect in crystallizing and making definite the North's antagonism to slavery, but there is no reason for supposing that it did anything more—that, for instance, it created bitterness where none existed before, or that it appreciably hastened the day of the great settlement. Northern readers did not then find any more than they do now, anything in the book to justify or ever to explain the interpretation which its fiercer critics made and make of it. Practically every one of its scenes and characters is duplicated in the works of Southern authors, the black hero is a man of exactly the sort held up by Southern authority as the model Negro of other days, and if the story has a white villain painted in blackest colors, surely it is not alone among stories in that peculiarity. And was any malignant hatred displayed in the description of Little Eva, of her father—of a dozen other representatives of the white South? Was not the difference between Northern theory and Northern practice in the treatment of Negroes well illustrated by the relations between Aunt Ophelia and Topsy? "Uncle Tom's Cabin," it seems to us, has much the same right as other novels to be judged on its intrinsic worth as a piece of literature. That it had a "purpose" at the time it was written cannot be denied, but there is little evidence in the book and none outside of it to indicate that the writer's object was anything worse than to present a picture of Southern conditions as nearly true as she could. Unquestionably she made mistakes and heightened her effects by conscious or unconscious exaggeration, but did no Southern writers—and journalists—do that in the evil days that all of us would like to forget?