Mrs. Stowe and Her Assailants
The Whig and Examiner, of Richmond, Virginia, leading political papers, one Democratic, the other Whig, call Mrs. Stowe a coarse, ugly, ill-natured, ill-mannered, old woman. The National Democrat, of New York, a Hunker organ of Democracy, holds her up as mean and hypocritical, because she declined making a contribution in a single instance that came to its knowledge. The New York Express expatiates upon the good that she might do with her money, by buying slaves and fitting them out for Liberia, but assumes that she intends to engage in the "negro-stealing" business, and to make appropriations for the support of incendiary prints, the aim of which is to destroy the Union. Bennett's Herald lampoons her with its characteristic elegance of diction; and many newspapers, North and South, Whig and Democrat, denounce her as a libeller, an enemy to her country, an ally of England; impute to her the meanest motives in writing her book, and charge her with the purpose of visiting Great Britain for the purpose of being feasted, flattered, and enriched with alms.
If the subject of these gentlemanly assaults were a man, there would not be much reason for surprise—for the gentlemen of the press in this country, we know, are in the habit of taking strange liberties with one another, which, among the less-civilized people of Europe, are deemed decidedly vulgar; but, when it is considered that it is a woman whom they are striving to hunt down—a woman, gentle, delicate, full of the amenities and sweet charities of life, who, with a noble forbearance, refuses to utter a word in defense or retort—a woman, whose genius, consecrated to the cause of the Weak and Oppressed, has produced a work over which Humanity alternately weeps and exults—a work which has done more than any other single publication for the reputation of American Literature; a work which, by the confession of its enemies, owes much of its popularity in Europe to the fact that it everywhere strikes a deadly blow at the oppression of the masses—we say, when all this is considered, these gentlemen of the press must lay themselves open to the suspicion that their exquisite sensibilities have been somewhat blunted by their devotion to a system which lays the lash equally upon the shoulders of men and women. Slavery, we know, has no peculiar respect for woman. In makes no more of subjecting her to the lash, or putting her up in the market place, than if she were a man. No wonder that its supporters should lose something of that boasted gallantry, which, it has been reported, shields woman in this country for impertinence and vituperation.
It may gratify some fastidious people to know that Mrs. Stowe is not ugly, ill-natured, or ill-mannered. She is a plain, quiet, good-natured woman—modest, unpretending, genial—with a countenance radiant with benevolence. No one can look on her and not feel that she is without guile and hypocrisy, and full of truth and goodness. What a crime for such a woman to write a book unfavorable to an institution which breaks down all barriers around the virtues of her sex! What an offense against good taste to tell a tale against a system which regards woman as property, and violates all her natural rights and relations! What a libel on her countrymen to treat this barbarous system as exceptional to their principles, and repugnant to their sentiments!
Mrs. Stowe is nobly welcomed in England, as Kossuth was in this country. She is deemed one of the benefactors of her race. The English papers give full reports of the manner of her reception, of her deportment, of the addresses made to her, and of the responses of Professor Stowe, her husband. No American print can quote anything to her discredit. There are those among us who understand how to misrepresent, distort, caricature, and lie outright, but the republication of the reports of those who are on the spot, and testify to what they see and hear, will serve to show that Mrs. Stowe everywhere maintains a modest and dignified demeanor; that her husband, Professor Stowe, says nothing which will need retraction or qualification on this side of the Atlantic; and that her British entertainers are careful to abstain from any demonstrations calculated to wound the self-love of this country, or to glorify their own institutions at the expense of ours.
Read the well-timed remarks of Prof. Stowe at Glasgow, and the sensible, discriminative speech of Rev. Mr. King on the same occasion, and your patriotism, sensitive as it may be, provided it be not silly, will be satisfied.
As for the chivalrous gentlemen who are exercising their pens upon Mrs. Stowe, it is well for the good name of the country that they are not known beyond the few hundreds of unfortunate people condemned to read their papers; and the time will come when, much as human nature lusts for notoriety, they themselves will rejoice in the obscurity which will have consigned their spiteful paragraphs to perpetual oblivion.