Frederick Douglass' Paper
Rochester: 21 January 1853

"Uncle Tom's Cabin in Ruins"

  Some professed defender of Slavery, has written a series of letters under this title to Mrs. H. B. Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, in which he undertakes to demolish her work, and sustain slavery. We copy below, his twenty-sixth letter to her, by which our readers can see how he disposes of the escape of the Israelites, when slaves, from Egypt, and the abolitionism of Moses:


Israelites' Escape from Slavery under Moses—Account Doubtful—The Escape probably not by Divine Direction—Moses probably an Impostor—his Abolitionism—Great amount of Property lost by Means of him—He would be lynched by Southrons.


  I am aware that the malignant abolitionists are prone to allege that the Israelites were once slaves for many generations, and that, under the divine auspices, and by the leadership of Moses, they undertook and executed a stampede out of Egypt in a body. Hence these fanatics pretend to discern a precedent for the rightful ruin of slavery, and the righteousness of our slaves' endeavoring to escape from their masters.

  1. It is by no means certain but that this whole account of the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, and their running away from their masters, is a sheer fabrication, having been foisted, it may be, into the Bible by some lying and wicked abolitionists.

  2. Admitting the main facts to have been as stated, it is by no means certain that this movement was by divine suggestion and instigation. It is very obvious that evil spirits or magic were at hand, and somewhat concerned, as appears in confronting the magicians with Moses. Nor is it entirely clear to my mind that they were not the prime agents in all the calamities that befell Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Does it seem possible to you that the great and benevolent Supreme would make all this display of disasters commonly called "the ten plagues," merely because the Egyptians were holding a few hundred thousand people in slavery? Why, as nearly as I am able to calculate, our majestic American system comprises five or six as many as were held by our ancient brethren, the Egyptians; and yet we have never seen a symptom of any such treatment as this from our kind heavenly Father. On the contrary, he protects us; and under his smiling providence, our riches in niggers increase day by day. I am driven to the conclusion, therefore, that, admitting the truth of the ten plagues upon the Egyptians, they must have been by satanic agency, permitted by some inscrutable reasons, known only to the great Arbiter. We must regard this matter with the cool, clear eye of reason. We are to remember that the Israelites had been enslaved to the Egyptians for a much longer term of time than the Africans have as yet, been enslaved to us. They were, therefore, as well by long possession as by law, the rightful property of the Egyptians—just as much as our three millions belong to us. There could, of course, be no more propriety in their emancipation than in the emancipation of our niggers; that is to say, there could be no propriety in it whatever. And hence it follows that the Almighty could have had nothing to do with the whole matter of their liberation.

  3. I am aware of the grave conclusion from all this with respect to the character of Moses, the leader of the Israelites; but I am not the man, madam, to dodge consequences; and, if this course of reasoning bears heavily and fatally against this great leader, he alone is responsible, and not myself. If he was a hypocrite and impostor in pretending to be under divine influence, when he was under the influence of the devil and his angels, I have only to say that he was not the only character of this sort that has happened in the great arena of earthly affairs. We are to judge of men by their fruits, not by their pretensions. And what were Moses' fruits? I submit whether he was not an abolitionist of the very worst stamp—not merely an abolitionist in principle, but in practice also, and that to all intents and purposes. Consider the prodigious series of injuries and calamities by which he so dreadfully harassed the Egyptian people, pretending, all the while, that they were from the Lord. Then think of his wickedly instigating so many slaves, amounting to hundreds of thousands, to escape from their lawful owners and masters.

  As nearly as I am able to calculate, this man was the grand agent in filching away from the Egyptian people an amount of property, whose value, according as we estimate our slaves, must have ranged from three to five hundred millions of dollars! And not only this, but we are able to add the baleful influence of his example upon all succeeding generations. The abolition scamps that infest our own country, in all their vile instigations to our slaves to run away from their masters—in all their aiding and abetting in this bad business,—in all their urging them along towards Canada, as Moses urged the Israelites towards Canaan—in the whole of this thievish and diabolical process, they are enabled, and, for aught I can see, rightly enabled to lean back upon the pernicious example of Moses, and reason from the righteousness of that old abolitionist and emancipator, to the righteousness of their own vile and detestable proceedings.

  It cannot be denied that the Israelites, in leaving Egypt as they did, were, in reality, fugitive slaves. They were running away from their masters, and Moses was the prime mover and agent in this business.

  But for slaves to run away from their masters is unlawful and wicked. It was so in the case of the Israelites to the full extent that it now is in this glorious country. So it was obviously claimed by Pharaoh and his people, who immediately marched an army in pursuit of the fugitives, with a view to their recapture; and, had they not somehow been swamped by the sudden remarkably high tide that happened just then, the fugitives would have, undoubtedly, all been caught, and returned back to bondage.

  The Egyptian people, in pursuit of their property, seemed to occupy a position strikingly similar to the present position of the American people since the passage of the blessed fugitive law. Our people, whether north, south, east or west, like the ancient Egyptians, are all, by law, constituted slave catchers; and if it should so happen that all our slaves, or any number of them, should attempt to escape, like the perfidious Israelites, then we, like the faithful and patriotic Egyptians, are to turn out en masse, and chase them even through the Red Sea, if there were any such, and chase them thro' all the deserts of the northern Moabites, even to the lines of that miserable modern Canaan called Canada.

  In all these observations, it clearly appears that Moses was not only an impostor and necromancer, but a wholesale enticer and robber of human property; and, were just such a personage to make his appearance among us and proceed to enact similar measures for the emancipation of our slaves as he enacted in Egypt, nothing is more obvious than that he would be apprehended immediately, and lynched on the spot. We are fixed in this—firm as the everlasting hills. Whosoever undertakes to meddle with our nigger property is a doomed man, and may be as sure to receive summary vengeance as he is detected. We would have hung Moses had we been in the place of the ancient Egyptians; we will hang every Moses we can catch on our free soil.

  Having advanced so far and so successfully in my Scripture, I shall defer the further presentation thereof until my next.