The Liberator
Unsigned Reprint
Boston: 4 March 1853

Uncle Tom on His Travels.

From the New York Tribune.

  Europe has achieved the luxury of a new sensation in the reception and digestion of Mrs. Stowe's great work. Our militia generals on professional tours of observation among the fortresses of Flanders and on the lines of the Adige and Mincio are as much perplexed and annoyed by the Uncle Tom furore, as they would be if required to draw lines of circumvallation or distinguish a lunette from an escarpment. Even our Diplomacy stands aghast at the rushing, swelling flood of Uncle Tomism which is now sweeping over the Continent, writes home indignant remonstrances against Americans disgracing their country by telling any but the other sort of truth about it, and sorrowfully admits that the counterblasts to Uncle Tom, so elaborately puffed in our Cotton journals, make no more impression on the Christian sentiment of the Old World, than would a popgun broadside on the walls of Gibraltar. Even the labored replies of sundry squads of American ladies to the Stafford House Appeal are notoriously felt not to have touched the right spot, whence the necessity realized for perpetually renewing and multiplying them. Unless Mrs. Julia Gardiner Tyler, or some equally ambitious imitator, shall hereafter contrive to outdo all that has yet been done, the verdict of Europe will be all but unanimous that Silence would have served the cause of American Slavery better than any Speech elicited by the Duchess's memorial.

  Meantime, Uncle Tom shines in every feuilleton, rests on every center-table, and faces the foot-lights of every stage. The despots and feudal robbers are soothed and gratified by the contemplation of a form of injustice and oppression more flagrant and shameless than their own. The ouvriers and gamins of Paris, chafing under the sense of their own enslavement and degradation, crowd the theatres to marvel at the spectacle of a man bidding at a slave auction for his own wife or daughter against the coarse and tipsy ruffian who has fixed lecherous eyes upon her, and to whose unbridled will the law of the land inexorably consigns her, in case he bids a dollar more for her than will (or can) be given by the competitor who has been moved by the husband's woe to bid in his behalf. 'If this is Democracy,' say the gamins dubiously, 'the despotism of our head burglar is not so bad after all; if this is Republican purity, our Emperor's lewd and shameless Court is relatively decent. Foul as it is, it has never yet resorted to legal constraint or outright violence in pursuit of licentious gratification.'

  There can be no doubt that not merely the American name, but the cause of Human Freedom has temporarily suffered in Europe by the exposures of Mrs. Stowe's book. If it were understood there that our most fanatically slave-holding State (South Carolina) was likewise the most unanimously and intensely 'Democratic,' according to our blinding party designations, the marvel and the revulsion might be still greater. But 'this sickness is not unto death.' The freedom of investigation and discussion which true Democracy affirms, but which Slavery systematically subverts, will yet dissolve the monstrous fabric of injustice and inevitable vice whereupon 'our Southern brethren' insist on reposing. In spite of Gag-law and Cotton proscription, in spite of our drugged Pulpit, fettered Press and debauched Politics, Slavery shall yet silently melt away in the sunshine of Christian Truth and Republican principle, and ours become in reality, what it now is in name, a Nation of Freemen.

  Meantime, the device of counteracting the untoward effect of 'Uncle Tom' in European conceptions of America are alike numerous and futile. The latest that has attracted our notice originates with a Virginian, 'ardent [for office] as a Southern sun can make him,' who patriotically suggests that President Pierce should fill all the Foreign Embassies of any consequence with Southerners, to enable them to counteract officially and efficiently, the baleful influence of Mrs. Stowe's work.

  We do not feel sure that this prescription, if administered, would prove efficacious. 'Punch,' we remember, in the time of the potato rot, when Prince Albert distributed gratuitously among the poor a pamphlet showing how the disease might be resisted if not wholly counteracted, suggested that, in view of the actual needs of the peasantry, it would seem advisable to distribute potatoes rather than pamphlets. In the same spirit, we should suggest that sending over slaveholders, even though they were once French Jacobins, as Embassadors to convince Europe that slavery is an eminently humane, beneficent and joy-diffusing institution, will not be exactly the thing. There is a sound principle of law which says, 'Secondary evidence is not admissible where the primary is within reach'; and though blacks are not permitted to testify at the South in any case where whites are interested, there is no such rule known in Europe. We would urge, then, that if it be desirable to adduce before Europe, Southern testimony versus Uncle Tom, the proper witnesses to send there would be the slaves themselves. That Mr. Soule, Mr. Venable, Gov. Cobb, Mr. Guthrie, and such other slaveholders as Gen. Pierce may send out as embassadors, will assure Europe that slavery is a mild, benignant, moral, humanizing institution, is a matter of course; as also that Europe will be too polite to contradict them; but if an impression on the public sentiment of the old world is aimed at, let Cuffee and Dinah, Sambo and Phillis, Pompey and Dandy Jim be sent out as witnesses. If they being released from all constraint or undue influence, shall say that they like to be fed, lodged, worked, flogged, hunted and sold according to the laws of Carolina and Mississippi, Europe will be very likely to believe them; but so long as the South shall keep them gagged at home, and send Soule & Co. to testify in their stead, we suspect that the evidence will not go a great way toward removing the impression produced by Mrs. Stowe's book.