When the wide-spread popularity and immense influence of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' became apparent, notices were extensively circulated of books to be written in reply to it. The work first and most loudly heralded by these anticipatory announcements was 'Uncle Tom's Cabin As It Is,' published in Buffalo and written by Mr. Smith. It is fair to mention the publisher before the author, as the former did his portion of the work far better than the latter. The book was well printed, on good paper, and the widely-distributed prospectus had such a capital portrait of Uncle Tom, its hero, who was represented smoking his home-made pipe with a nonchalant air expressing absolute leisure and perfect independence, that great curiosity was excited to see the book, and some expectation felt that it would display originality, if not merit. These hopes were doomed to disappointment. The book was bosh, nothing; it contained not a single well-drawn character, not a single natural conversation, not a single skilfully-adapted incident, not a single interesting chapter or page. A Buffalo editor very judiciously regretted, for the town's sake, that so wretched a book should have been published there, and the witty reviewer of the Boston Post remarked that for every copy of the book sold, one free and independent citizen was sold also.
The book next advertised, (though it actually appeared in the market earlier than the one just mentioned,) was 'Aunt Phillis's Cabin,' by Mrs. Eastman, the southern wife of an army-officer. Though possessing no positive merit, either as a literary production or as a delineation of manners and customs in the South, it is a far more readable book than Mr. Smith's. Its chief characteristic is piety. Mrs. Eastman is by no means regardless of the civil right and privilege of every white American to 'larrup his nigger;' one of her most vividly descriptive scenes is the meeting of two persons on a spacious sidewalk in Baltimore or Washington, where, neither having sufficient courtesy to deviate for the other from the exact line in which he is walking, they meet face to face, and the black man is knocked by the white into the gutter, with the hearty approbation of the slaveholding eye-witnesses, who seem quite unconscious that any one could regard the transaction otherwise. But the serious turn of mind which the book implies to be habitual with the author, is gratified chiefly by the fact that the course of discipline which the colored people, bond and free, receive in this country, is a fulfillment of prophecy. Slaveholders, throughout her book, are represented as—by the fact of their enslaving the blacks—friends and supporters of religion; abolitionists—by the fact of their seeking to elevate the blacks through freedom—the opposers of Christianity. A long preface, devoted to Noah, Han and Canaan, gives the key-note of the book, in which the profane and revengeful speech attributed to the old patriarch, after awaking from his wine, is assumed, not only to be as precious a portion of holy writ as 'The Lord is my shepherd,' and to have been inspired and authorized by the Infinite Father equally with the Golden Rule, but to impose on Christians of the nineteenth century the duty of keeping all persons of African decent in a subjugated and degraded condition—as a fulfllment of prophecy. The doing of whatever it was declared by 'them of old time' would be done, it seems, to Mrs. Eastman's highest idea of right and duty. If consistent with herself, she must feel a high veneration for the crucifiers of Jesus and the persecutors of the early Christians.
The next production put forth in reply to 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' was a handsome pamphlet, published at Cambridge, and probably written by a Southern student of the University, called 'Slavery in the Southern States.' This excelled its predecessors in the points of good English and good temper, stating, in a quiet and gentlemanly way, the considerations generally urged in favor of slavery by men of the world who are interested in its continence, and impartially presenting some the very weakest of these, as entitled to consideration equally with the more plausible. Entirely without force as an argument, this pamphlet will answer a useful purpose, by its practical protest against the doctrine of Edward Everett, Daniel Webster, and other pro-slavery Northern men, that the discussion of slavery, by speech of writing, should be forcibly prevented.
Next came a reprint, in pamphlet form, of an editorial article from the London Times, which, with some small criticism upon the literary execution of Mrs. Stowe's work, declared it an altogether exaggerated and overdrawn account, the incidents of which were too shocking for belief, only to be admitted, if at all, as very rare and exceptional instances. This long article was briefly, but very effectively, replied to in the Times a few days after, by one who said that, though not familiar with American slavery, he was well acquainted with slavery, and knew what vices did and must necessarily belong to it. He referred the editor and readers of the Times to abundant evidence in the reports of Parliamentary commissions, in the time of Wilberforce and Clarkson, upon West Indian Slavery, for the common occurrence of horrors greater than those described in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' and gave his judgement that in that work the evils of slavery were too feebly rather than too strongly stated. But no notice was taken of this reply in the pamphlet referred to.
The last work on our list is 'The Cabin and Parlor, or Slaves and Masters,' by J. Thorton Randolph, who is boasted of, in the publisher's newspaper recommendations of the work, as perfectly competent in every way to be the defender of slavery. The book is very interesting, and well written, except for the feeble stuff put into the mouths of those whom it suits the writer's purpose to represent as abolitionists. Having these unfortunate people completely in his own power, he routs them, right and left, horse, foot and dragoons, by the following ingenious process. When his model slaveholder, Mr. Walworth, says anything by way of argument to an abolitionist, the latter becomes either confused or angry, gives up that branch of the subject, and brings up another, from which he is driven by the same means, and so on till the conversation is finished. Apart from this feebleness (which, however, was the only way of gaining the victory, while appearing to let the abolitionists speak at all,) the book is much more skillfully managed than its two predecessors of the same size. It makes two principal points, each well adapted to produce an impression upon the careless reader. The first is to describe his slaveholders, for the most part, not in relation to their slaves, but to their equals and each other. He draws beautiful pictures, and represents amiable traits of character, and the manifestations of benevolence, friendship and love, in persons whom we know to be slaveholders, but who seldom appear exercising the functions of that relation. The book opens by narrating the death and insolvency of a planter who had been reputed wealthy. His slaves are sold, of course, to satisfy the creditors, but if you suppose poor deluded hearers of Anti-Slavery lectures, that they are sold to go South, or sold to traders at all, or sold in lots to suit purchasers, you are very much mistaken. They were sold, as always happens in such cases, to neighbors interested in the family and in the slaves themselves, and with particular care that no families should be separated. A trader who wished to buy was hustled off the ground, and dared not to bid for them as he had designed. N. B. Slave-traders are never allowed to bid at a sheriff's sale.
Well, a scheming Yankee, who has been paying his addresses to the planter's daughter, of course deserts her when she is no longer an heiress; and this incident is certainly true to nature. The daughter nobly sacrifices every thing to pay her father's debts, and undertakes, regardless of the inevitable loss of the caste in a slaveholding region, to support herself, her mother and two young brothers, by school teaching and domestic labor at home. In a short time, the elder brother, a spirited lad of fifteen, goes North to seek some occupation by which be may aid his sister in supporting the family. His expected clerkship dwindles to the post of errand-boy in the warehouse of a rich and fashionable abolitionist, who gives him one dollar a week for very hard labor, and pays even that in uncurrent money, which he buys at a discount of two per cent for that purpose. After exhausting his strength in the fruitless effort to recommend himself by assiduity and faithfulness, to his employers, and thus obtain an increased compensation, he falls sick and ultimately dies, in utter destitution. But meantime, a slaveholder (who, while dining at the house of the rich and fashionable abolitionist, had accidentally discovered his refusal to send a physician to the boy who had fallen sick of over-exertion in his service) seeks out the poor boy, supplies his necessities comforts his dying moments, writes the sad story in the most sympathizing manner to his friends, and acts the part of good Samaritan also to certain fugitive slaves, who had been treated with great outrage and cruelty by Northern people.
This is the first great point of the book—the delineation of amiable and excellent traits in slaveholders, represented apart from slaves; the hero of the book never appearing in connection with his own slaves, and the heroine developing the fine traits in her character while she is too poor to own any.
The second great point is a very graphic and very faithful representation of the privation, suffering contumely and outrage to which colored people are exposed in the city of Philadelphia, and of the vicious and degraded state in which many of them live there.
Upon these two elements of the truth (truth which abolitionists have never denied) as a basis, Mr. J. Thorton Randolph has erected, partly by insinuation and partly by direct assertion, the following false and sophistical positions:
1st. That the negroes of Philadelphia fairly represent those of all the Northern States and Canada.
2d. That the most vulgar and brutal portion of the white people in Philadelphia fairly represent the entire while population of the North.
3d. That slaves are very rarely sold from the Northern Slave regions to the Southern, and that families are very rarely separated in the selling.
4th. That both the happiness and welfare of the slaves generally are abundantly cared for by their masters.
5th. That it is wrong, and that the more intelligent slaves think it is wrong, for slaves to take and keep their own liberty, and that of their wives and children; in other words, that religion approves the enslavement, and discourages the emancipation of the colored people.
6th. That the condition of the slave is always made worse by running away. And finally,
7th. That the injustice and contumely with which the colored people are treated at the North, (instead of being, as it is, a direct and natural consequence of slavery, and incapable of even the commencement of a radical reform until slavery shall cease,) is an independent fact, leading fairly to the inference that slavery is better for the colored race than freedom.
If instead of inventing a rich, fashionable and stupid abolitionist for confutation, Mr. Randolph will put himself in correspondence with one of the ready-made ones, (say Foster, Pillsbury, or Burleigh,) he may find the confusion and defeat to have changed sides.
The appearance of these attempts to defend slavery is very welcome to abolitionists. The ill-temper of many of them, and the distorted facts and transparent sophistry of all, serve as useful foils to display the superiority, both in beauty and in power, of Anti-Slavery literature. 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' (even with its unsightly excrescence of Colonization,) 'The White Slave,' 'Despotism in America,' 'Slavery As It Is,' (on the testimony of a thousand Southern Witnesses,) and the 'Appeal in behalf of that class of Americans commonly called Africans,' with the auto-biographies of Douglass, Brown and Crafts, are doing great and steadily interesting work, which such defenses of slavery as the above will stimulate rather than check, but cannot by any possibility destroy.—C. K. W.