Uncle Tom Abroad.
"Uncle Tom has done us a world of mischief abroad," writes the foreign correspondent of some Hunker journal, and straightway our injured patriots quote the remark as conclusive proof of the pernicious character and consequences of the book. We do not accept such testimony, because there is nothing in the work itself calculated to do harm to American character or institutions, and because we can see no indications in any quarter that our country has fallen in the estimation of the people of the Old World.
Southern Slavery, a local and exceptional system, is the subject of Mrs. Stowe's volume. It is not represented as a National institution, but as existing under State authority, and only in a portion of the Union. The institutions of the country are nowhere assailed, nor can any inference to their discredit be drawn from the work.
Intelligent foreigners by this time have a tolerably clear idea of the relative powers of our Federal Government and State Governments; they know that the former can exercise only delegated powers, and that the power to abolish Slavery in the States, is not among these. They know that, while two and a half millions of colored people are held in one section of the Union in degrading bondage, more than twenty millions of white citizens are enjoying the rich benefits of such free institutions as exist nowhere else on the face of the earth. They know that, if some of the States of this Union exhibit in its worst form the principle of Despotism, the United States, as a whole, exhibit in its best form the principles of Democracy; and they will find nothing in Mrs. Stowe's book to discourage the confident hope that the Democracy of the whole will triumph at last over the Despotism of a part.
Nor can we see indications in any quarter that the book has actually injured us in the judgment of mankind. It has arraigned Slavery at the bar of the world, and vividly exposed to its gaze and abhorrence the malignant principle and hateful working of Despotism, under every form. It is a deadly blow at Tyranny, whether in the guise of political or personal Slavery, the oppression of the Southern Slaveholder, or that of the European Despot; everywhere it must quicken and exalt the popular sentiment in favor of Human Rights; and wherever this sentiment is active, there will prevail a deep sympathy with our free institutions. At no time has the press of England and Europe spoken with more respect of this country, with more admiration of its growth and power, than since the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin—a fact which clearly shows that the book has done no harm to American character or institutions, whatever damage it may have inflicted upon the cause of Despotism.
Under one aspect, especially, has it benefitted the nation; for certainly it is something to the credit of our National Literature, that it has produced the book of the age—a work which has gone through more editions and translations, been more widely circulated, and has created more sensation and discussion than any work issued during the present century. If it has covered Southern Slavery with odium, it has established beyond all question the power of American genius.
Observe the tone of the English Reviews. In all of them this remarkable work has been made the subject of elaborate criticism, and they have seized the occasion to bring their influence to bear against Slavery; but there is nothing supercilious or condescending in their style of comment; they betray no national animosity or jealousy, no disposition to disparage the institutions of our country, or to bring our political system into disrepute, by making an unfair use of the Anti-Slavery sentiment. Their tone is respectful and fraternal.
Those who are so sensitive on the point of national character, would do well to expend their indignation where it is really deserved—upon a system which, in gross violation of the immortal principles proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence, degrades two millions and a half of human beings to the level of the beast; upon the advocates of the divine right of Slavery; upon the Northern Swiss who are willing, for the sake of some petty preferment, to prostitute the Federal Government to its base uses; upon that dastardly Prejudice, which in its hatred of the colored man brutally outrages every principle of Democracy and Christianity; upon that class of politicians which encourages brawls in our National Legislature, indulges in ridiculous vauntings of our country's greatness, and in mean appeals to popular passion and vanity, and fosters a rapacious and licentious spirit among the People.
These are the men and these are the vices that dishonor the nation, and dim the lustre of its great example.