The Liberator
Unsigned Reprint
Boston: 7 January 1853

'The Cabin and the Parlor.'

From the Saco (Me.) Union.

  The old dodge, of extenuating one evil by holding it up in comparison with another, is the ready recourse of those who are indifferent to all evil. If a man gets into your cellar and steals pork, and is arraigned for the theft, he has a large class of sympathizers who are ready to affirm that 'pork stealing' is not so good as it should be; but, then, what is the use of saying much about it, so long as 'chicken stealing' is prevalent? After 'chicken stealing' is suppressed, let us take 'pork stealing' in hand. All this grumbling about the crime of stealing pork is done in a community where hen-roosts are sometimes robbed; and sometimes even those who are engaged in the business, are very severe upon the pork stealers. The consequence is, that this class, being really indifferent to all evil, do nothing to prevent either chicken stealing or pork stealing, and would as soon turn the argument in favor of the chicken stealer as the pork stealer, if chickens instead of pork happened to be stolen. 'The Cabin and Parlor' is the title of a book, written by J. Thornton Randolph, which has recently appeared in the Literary World, published by T. B. Peterson, &c., Philadelphia, and sent all around to the press for examination and notice. We have been favored, among others, with a copy, and as in duty bound for this act of grace, have given the book an attentive reading, and recognize in its author one of that class of dodgers, who endeavor to justify or extenuate one class of social evils, by the prevalence of other classes. He does not want the crime of pork stealing talked about, because there is chicken stealing occasionally; or, in other words, he palliates and defends the system of negro slavery, which he calls only one of the modifications that capital takes, by bringing up evils which are found in the Free States, and particularly in the manufacturing system, and in the relations which paid labor sustains to capital in the Free States. The work is intended by its author, who has an ardent affection for those old decayed Virginian families, whose armorial bearings are to be seen on the tomb-stones in deserted graveyards in 'Old Virginia,' as a reply to Mrs. Stowe's Uncle Tom, and designed by him to show the beauties of slavery 'as it is,' or as he has witnessed them. The plot of the book is well enough, and some of the scenes are very well delineated. The author, although writing with a ready pen, it is evident but skims upon the surface of the slave system, and mistakes some of its less repulsive features, which are its tinsel and covering, for the very soul of the system itself.—It was Mrs. Stowe's aim, in 'Uncle Tom,' to give a faithful portraiture of slavery; to show its lights and shadows, in a kind of compassionate manner; and the popularity of her work sufficiently indicates that her aim has been successful. We need not even go further than Mr. Thornton's book for abundant evidence to sustain this; for he tells us, that when Mr. Courtenay's (one of the characters of his book) slaves were sold to pay his debts, 'the sentiment of honor,' in regard to the separation of slaves, alone actuated his neighbors in purchasing; and the very treatment, which the author describes Mr. Courtenay's family as receiving from those families who had enjoyed their hospitality when in affluence, goes to show that the system of slavery is no better calculated to produce generous feelings than the conventional systems to be found in free communities, about which he complains.

  We do not believe Mrs. Stowe herself need to go further than this work to prove the general truth of her conclusions; for its author seems singularly blind in bringing forward incidents in slave life, as he has seen it, which disclose the fact that slavery, in the mildest type, is steeped with evil, and pernicious alike to the master and slave.

  Two classes will be entirely satisfied with Mr. Randolph's work. First, those who are really indifferent to all evil, and do not care a whit about the existence of slavery; or, if they think of it at all, only think of it in its relations to barter and trade, and do not like to see the muddy fountains of evil displaced by the clear, living springs of truth, lest they be disturbed in their profits; and secondly, that class, so numerous, who are abundantly satisfied that slavery is misrepresented by the 'odious abolitionists,' and are content to take the representations of those who have seen it in its milder aspects as gospel truth, and as evidence that no grievous wrongs are or can be perpetrated where it exists. These may read the book with pleasure; and if they choose to believe, with its author, that because less sugar is exported from Jamaica now than before the slave system was abolished, the blacks are not so well off, why, let them do so; it will pamper preconceived opinions, and the author, if he does this, is entitled to this credit. But there is another class, those who do not conceive that chicken stealing is any palliation for pork stealing; and who, familiar with the principles upon which human action may proceed when unrestrained by law, and ready to go beneath the surface and make an application of these principles to the country where slavery exists, will not conceive Mr. Thornton's book as conveying any very just ideas of the evils that must always exist in a community where the right of property in man is recognized, and that right protected by unequal laws, and so framed as to be no protection against the unbridled passion and lawless violence of humanity.

  We have not set down to write a review of this book. We have no time to do so, nor room for its insertion; but we may say here, for once, that we have very little sympathy with that class of writers, who, when they say anything, palliate and excuse social evils, whether North or South. There are great evils in the net-work of all social fabrics. The North is not free from them, we are aware, and they should be eradicated. Pharisaical righteousness and hollow-hearted philanthropy are found everywhere. The maudlin reformer with a smooth tongue, who 'devours widows' houses, and for a pretence makes long prayers,' and calls upon others to 'stand back, for he is holier than they,' is confined to no section of the Union. Men, everywhere, are pretty much alike, and will be until they feel the life-giving influence of that religion 'which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, is without partiality and without hypocrisy.'