For the National Era.
REV. JOEL PARKER, D.D., AND UNCLE TOM.
The former of these gentlemen has succeeded in making himself both very notorious and very ridiculous. It is owing to his own folly that his name has been made known most unfavorably by Uncle Tom, throughout the civilized world; and it is equally owing to his silly rashness that the attempt he has made to injure Mrs. Stowe has resulted in disclosures vindicating her character, and dreadfully damaging his own.
The wonderful pathos and wit of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" have given it a circulation greater than was ever attained in the same time by any book ever printed, and have at the same time rendered it the most powerful Anti-Slavery work ever written. No person not directly or indirectly interested in Slavery, can rise from its perusal without a feeling of disgust towards all the champions of American Slavery, and more especially towards its clerical apologists. Of course, Uncle Tom, however beloved and admired by the world at large, is regarded as a most pestilent fellow by all cotton gentlemen, whether parsons, editors, merchants, or politicians. Hence these people have raised one loud and universal cry of exaggeration against Uncle Tom, and on precisely the same principle of self-defence that they have united in glorifying and canonizing Daniel Webster. But of all the assailants of Uncle Tom, no one has entered the arena in such an absurd plight as our Doctor of Divinity, shaking a writ at him, and asking for $20,000 to mend a reputation sadly battered before Tom was born.
In Mrs. Stowe's celebrated work occurs the following passage:
"Tom had watched the whole transaction from first to last, and had a perfect understanding of its results. To him it looked like something unutterably horrible and cruel, because, poor ignorant black soul! he had not learned to generalize, and to take enlarged views. If he had only been instructed by certain ministers of Christianity, he might have thought better of it, and seen in it an every-day incident of a lawful trade, which is the vital support of an institution which an American divine tells us has 'no evils but such as are inseparable from any other relations in social and domestic-life.'"
A note at the bottom of the page gives "Dr. Joel Parker, of Philadelphia," as the American divine referred to.
Dr. Parker had in fact never used the precise language imputed to him, and of course the authoress could not verify her quotation. Here, then, it seemed that Uncle Tom had one vulnerable heel, through which it was hoped he might receive a fatal wound. He had uttered a falsehood, and must be made, if possible, to confess it. If he admitted he had lied about Dr. Parker, it would readily be inferred that he had also lied about the slaveholders. If a confession could not be extorted, a jury might mulet him in damages, and as a convicted libeller he would no longer exert an influence against the patriarchal institution and its reverend defenders.
The Doctor accordingly commenced a correspondence with Mrs. Stowe, on the subject of the great wrong she had done him; and it is really edifying to find a Northern clergyman so exceedingly sensitive to an impeachment of his Anti-Slavery integrity.
"It is to me," he writes, "a matter of profound regret, that before you made this assault upon my Christian and ministerial character, you had not conferred with me, or sought information from some reliable source, so that I might have been spared an aspersion so widespread and so injurious to my professional reputation and usefulness." And he demands a full and public retraction of the calumny.—Letter of May 8, N. Y. Observer, 7th, Oct.
Again, on the 19th of May, he tells her—
"You have made this assault upon a minister of the Gospel, upon one whose professional reputation, like the reputation of your sex for chastity, is blasted by mere suspicion. I do say, with indignant remonstrance against the injustice of this libel, that your language is untrue and slanderous, and I again demand a full and public retraction. If such retraction is not made in a prompt and satisfactory manner, I shall feel obliged to take the best means I can to throw off from myself the odium you have sought to heap upon me."
We have put a few words in italics, to call the reader's attention to the fact that the Doctor imputes to Mrs. Stowe, personally, the authorship of the alleged libel. She made the assault, and it is her language that is untrue and slanderous.
The threat in the second letter is more clearly expressed in the third, of the 25th May:
"Though you can never repair the wrong you have done me, you can make such amends as will, if made now, satisfy me. Should you find yourself in difficulty thereafter, therefore, be pleased to remember that it is not of my seeking. I greatly prefer that you should not compel me to appear before the public in a conflict with you, respecting a matter which you can so easily bring to an amicable adjustment.
The nature of the contemplated "conflict" is thus revealed by the Doctor's friend and confidant, the editor of the New York Observer. "Dr. Parker employed the most eminent legal counsel, and, with good advice, resolved to commence an action for libel against Mrs. Stowe, laying damages at $20,000!"—N. Y. Observer, 23d Sept.
All this time our divine was well aware that of what he was pleased to call her slanderous language, not one single word had proceeded from her pen. He well knew that the quotation she had used had been long floating about in various publications, and that he himself had led her into the error of believing it genuine, by his own folly in not condescending to deny it. Says Mrs. Stowe, in a letter to him of the 21st May, (New York Observer, Oct. 7:)
"It is considerable more than a year ago that I saw the sentence in question quoted in one of the leading papers of the day, with your name. I said immediately that I did not believe you had said it, and that I knew you would contradict it. I searched the papers, week after week, with the eye of a friend, for that denial. I only found the thing re-affirmed in paper after paper, both religious and secular. It was embraced in a schedule of the sayings and sentiments of American ministers in regard to Slavery, which was read at a public meeting in the World's Fair, and which formed a basis of some considerable discussion and action on the propriety of admitting American preachers, without examination, into English pulpits. These papers in which all this was recorded were the leading religious prints—prints which I could not suppose you were not familiar with; and I could not suppose that you would allow any sentiment to go the rounds of them, printed in capitals, with your name in full, unless it were a statement to which you were fully committed, and which you were determined to abide by and sustain. If you thought the imputation of this sentimental 'stain' on your character, an injury to your Christian and ministerial reputation, why have you never before contradicted it? Your note was the first shadow of any reason I have ever had for thinking this opinion was not yours."
The quotation was also published in the New York Independent, a widely-circulated religious paper, edited by three clergymen. It was moreover inserted in the report of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and the report sent to him; and he acknowledged to a brother minister that he had read it there, but did not think it necessary to contradict it. (See Independent of 12th October.) It would really seem as if nobody could make a calumnious assault upon the Christian and ministerial character of our reverend Doctor—a reputation which he avers "is blasted by mere suspicion"—with the exception of the authoress of "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Mrs. Stowe, justly astonished to find herself held responsible for a sentence which had been spread on the wings of the wind by the press, both in England and America, endeavored to discover its origin. The Doctor had resided in Philadelphia. Letters were addressed to friends in that city, who returned for answer that the quotation was genuine. It was recollected that the divine had there been engaged in a newspaper controversy about slavery, six years before. Old files were searched, and a copy of the Philadelphia Christian Observer was found, containing a letter from the reverend gentleman, in which was this passage:
"WHAT, THEN, ARE THE EVILS THAT ARE INSEPARABLE FROM SLAVERY? THERE IS NOT ONE THAT IS NOT EQUALLY INSEPARABLE FROM DEPRAVED HUMAN NATURE IN OTHER LAWFUL RELATIONS."
This passage was at the time subjected to severe criticism in a subsequent number of the paper, the Doctor's opponent replying, after quoting the sentence in small capitals:
"Slaveholders, under teaching like this, may well resist all exhortations and appeals to adopt a course of measures to subvert a system which is brooding like a mighty incubus over them. If I were a slaveholder, and believed this representation, I should make myself quite contented, and let slavery work out its own redemption."
Dr. Parker, in return, defended the sentiment. All this drew the attention of the public to the strange and loathsome assertion, and some writer, (who it is not now known,) probably trusting to his memory, quoted the passage as follows: Slavery has "NO EVILS BUT SUCH AS ARE INSEPARABLE FROM ANY OTHER RELATION IN SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC LIFE."
The passage thus undesignedly altered was repeated and repeated on both sides of the Atlantic. In the mean time, our Doctor, perfectly indifferent to the "libel" on his ministerial character, took no steps to arrest its progress, till an opportunity occurred of branding Uncle Tom as a calumniator. Had his sole object been to vindicate himself, his purpose would have been fully answered by addressed a civil note to Mrs. Stowe, stating the precise language he had used, pointing out its variance from the quotation she had used, and requesting her in her next edition to acknowledge the mistake, and to substitute the one for the other. An immediate and willing compliance with his wishes would have followed.
The attempt of the Pro-Slavery party to make a fuss about this pretended libel, has led to the publication, in a pamphlet form, of the old discussion in the Philadelphia paper; and a beautiful commentary does it form, on the divine's tender regard for his Anti-Slavery character and his ministerial usefulness, and his claim on Mrs. Stowe for $20,000 damages for innocently mistaking tweeedle-dum for tweedle-dee. Throughout his letters he vigorously contends for the perfect consistency of slaveholding with the obligations of Christianity. Take, for example, the following:
"I assert that there are many hundreds of slaveholders, I mean voluntary slaveholders—men who have inherited plantations stocked with slaves—who have no plan for emancipating them, but who expect to transmit them to their heirs; and yet they are excellent Christian men, and are not guilty of one of the sins specified. They do not brutalize their servants; they do not enshroud one in ignorance; they do not exercise an unlawful control over the children of their slaves, or refuse to permit them to obey their own parents. They do not hesitate to obey the Apostle's injunction, to render to them what is just and equal."
This Doctor of Divinity, so sensitive himself to slander, does not hesitate thus to launch his shaft against a multitude of good men, in America and Europe—including in the latter almost the whole body of Christian ministers, of every name. "The closing allusion in the correspondent's last communication to Satan as a slaveholder, if it were of any consequence, might be retorted. Satan has no involuntary servants. HE IS AN ABOLITIONIST, AND 'AN ACCUSER OF HIS BRETHREN.'
Let us now see how far our much-injured Doctor has himself been, like his satanic majesty, "an Abolitionist, and an accuser of his brethren."
In 1834, the Rev. Amos A. Phelps, pastor of the Pine-street church, Boston, published a volume entitled, "Lectures on Slavery, and its Remedy." Previous to its publication, he prepared and distributed in the form of circulars, for the purpose of procuring signatures, a paper which he called "Declaration of Sentiment." In this way he procured the signatures of one hundred and twenty- four clergymen, and the declaration, with the names attached to it, is prefixed to his volume. One of these circulars was sent to New York, and was there signed by the Rev. Joel Parker with his own hand, and the declaration now appears in Mr. Phelps's book with the Doctor's signature, as may be seen by examining the book itself, at the Anti-Slavery office, No. 48 Beekman street, N. York. We copy from the book:
"Declaration of Sentiment.
"The undersigned, after mature deliberation, feel themselves constrained, by a sense of duty to God and man, to make the following expression of opinion: We believe—
"1. That slavery in our land is a great and threatening evil.
"2. That it is a great and crying national sin.
"3. That every man, whether he live at the North, South, East, or West, is personally responsible, and has personal duties to discharge in respect to it.
"4. That every man who adopts opinions or pursues practices which, adopted and pursued by all others, would go to perpetuate this sin, does thereby become personally guilty in respect to it.
"5. We believe that Slavery, like other sins, ought to be remedied as soon as the nature of the case admits; and further, that the nature of the case admits the possibility, and therefore imposes the obligation, of Immediate Emancipation.
"6. That such emancipation is both the duty and the interest of the master.
"7. That although the people of the non-slaveholding States have not the right of physical or legal interposition in the case, they have the right, and that it is their solemn duty, to do what they can by 'light and love,' to enlighten the public mind, arouse the public conscience, and change and elevate the tone of public sentiment on the subject, in every section of the land.
"And, finally, we believe that the grand obstacle to the abolition of this sin lies in the will of the slaveholder; that this will being changed, there would of necessity be a change in the various laws and other obstacles which have grown out of it; and that this will is to be changed by the power of public sentiment among non-slaveholders, and by means of kind, candid, and thorough discussion with slaveholders themselves:
"In respect to the scheme of Colonization, which at the North professes to be a scheme of gradual and ultimate, though 'incidental' emancipation, we feel constrained to say—
"1. That, whatever its merits are, it can never be an adequate remedy for Slavery; and,
"2. That whatever of good it may have done, the time has now come when the friends of God and man ought to take a higher stand, and adopt and act on principles which lay the axe directly at the root of the tree."
It is an old saw, that "a renegade is worse than a Turk;" and all experience testifies that apostles are the most bitter opponents of the faith they have discarded.
It is very painful to the Christian to witness the impulse given to infidelity by our Pro-Slavery clergy—an impulse not to be checked by attempting to conceal and cover up their delinquencies, but by exposing the utter inconsistency of their conduct with the just and merciful precepts of that blessed Gospel of which they are ministers.