Frederick Douglass' Paper
Reprinted Letter
Rochester: 25 March 1853

Uncle Tom's Cabin in Persia

From the N. Y. Independent

Oroomiak (Persia) Dec. 18, 1852.

  MESSRS. EDITORS:—Though I often, thro' the telescope of our newspapers, see things in my loved native country that startle and shock me, and awaken in me the serious inquiry, "what do these things mean and whither do they tend?" I seldom give utterance to my musings. I see the great Hungarian patriot abused and vilified, (I would be one of the last to espouse his particular theory,) in quarters where he ought to have received a very different treatment, and I say nothing. I read of steamers burnt and sunk by the wholesale, and hundreds of men, women and children burned and drowned by the criminal recklessness of captains and owners. I sigh over them, but if I speak, I only say to a companion, "How much less guilty are the civilized men who thus wantonly destroy life than the savage Koord, who would cut our throats for the clothes we wear!"

  But I have just fallen upon one thing in our papers, over which I cannot keep silent, and I beg a very humble space in your paper to expose my astonishment and grief. When I read, in one of the oldest religious papers in our country, and a paper that has so long been my favorite, that Uncle Tom's Cabin is "unchristian," I feel like uttering the Roman orator's exclamation, "O tempora! O mores!"

  But I will not more formally arraign that paper. I have loved it too well and too long to allow me willingly to do so. Of Uncle Tom's Cabin I must, however, be allowed to bear my humble testimony, however late and however gratuitous, as in my view one of the most "Christian," as well as one of the most interesting and timely of human productions. Two copies have been sent me by one of the gentlemenly publishers; and they have been read here by all or nearly all who use the English language, with most absorbing interest. Mr. Stevens, British consul, on returning the copy I lent him said, "I never read a book with greater interest nor so much pain." One of those copies solicited by the consul, has gone on to Tehran, the capital of Persia, to the English ambassador, to perform its mission there.

  This so-called "anti-Christian" book was read, about four months ago, by my beloved daughter Judith, who was soon afterward suddenly cut down by cholera. It did much to prepare her mind to triumph in the hour of death. The charming Christian characters there drawn, of "Uncle Tom" and "little Eva," were like beckoning angels to her. Her young heart went strongly after them; and soon, I doubt not, she joined them in their celestial mansions.

  But is Uncle Tom's Cabin true? It might seem presumption in me to pronounce an opinion on this subject; but I happen to have at my elbow a fellow laborer from Tennessee, beloved brother R——., who grew up among slaves and slaveholders, and is perfectly familiar with the system. Though a hater of that system, he is a strong lover of the South, and justly jealous of its honor. Still he says that not a feature of the system is overdrawn, and not an iota of wrong is done to slaveholders in that book. He was himself charmed and deeply affected by it, though by no means a technical abolitionist.

  I trust the favored authoress of this wonderful book will permit me to acknowledge, in this connection, my deep feelings of obligation to her, for my own gratification and benefit, in the perusal of her book; but especially for the great benefit derived from it, by my now sainted daughter whom I have mentioned.

  Uncle Tom's Cabin, I am fully aware needs not my humble commendations, but I have said thus much, because I could not say less. Its glorious mission will surely be fulfilled; and whatever obstructions and from whatever quarters are thrown before, it will in the end only like "bulrushes to dam up the Nile."

As ever yours,