'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and Dr. Parker of Philadelphia
MRS. STOWE, in relating one of those terrible but common incidents which illustrate American Slavery, attributed to the Rev. Dr. Parker, of Philadelphia, the assertion that the system has "no evils but such as are inseparable from any other relation in social and domestic life." Against the charge of having given utterance to so inhuman a sentiment, the Rev. gentlemen has never thought it worth while to defend himself till now, when the attention of a multitude of people is called to it in a way which exposes, not merely its fallacy, but its atrocity also. Its appearance in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' has called forth the following correspondence, which was published in the morning papers of this city a few days since. Whether the publication of Mrs. Stowe's letter "is all that is needed to place me (Dr. Parker) right in regard to this unpleasant affair," is a question; as it is not clear which it is that he regrets—that such a sentiment should have been attributed to him at all, or that, standing in the connection that it does, it should have brought upon him so universal a reprobation. Mrs. Stowe was certainly justified in attributing to him an assertion which he had permitted to be so long before the public uncontradicted; he certainly does not justify his long silence by speaking under the present circumstances. The inference is that if he never uttered so objectionable a sentiment, he has been willing to have it supposed that he entertained it.
On another ground, moreover, the correspondence fails to be utterly satisfactory. Dr. Parker thinks, and Mrs. Stowe acknowledges, that she was mistaken in the construction that she put upon his language. He does not assert, nor does she admit, that the language was misquoted, but merely that a meaning was given to it that it was not intended to convey. The fact, then, is acknowledged that Dr. Parker did use the terms attributed to him. Mrs. Stowe thinks he did not intend to convey by them their most obvious meaning when spoken in relation to Slavery. After all, if it is a question of inference, as it seems to be, a great many people might agree with Mrs. Stowe, and a great many might disagree with her. All of the latter class, probably, would be glad to know what Dr. Parker did mean, if he did not mean what he seemed to say. We rather doubt, however, that they will be gratified, as Dr. Parker will probably rest with the sort of explanation which is thus made:
MRS. H. B. STOWE—Dear Madam: I write to ask an interview with you at such time as may be convenient, for the purpose of laying before you such evidence as will, I think, satisfy you that you have been misled in quoting, in your recent work, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin,' certain language as mine.
"I feel deeply aggrieved by the use made of that paragraph, and am sure that you will not refuse to right me before the public when I shall have laid the whole matter before you. I am with great respect,
"Yours, JOEL PARKER."
DR. JOEL PARKER—Dear Sir: I have attentively considered the papers which you left for my examination. I am quite satisfied that the language quoted (page 191, vol. I of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin') conveys a meaning widely different from that which you intended to express in the articles which I have read; and you will allow me to say that my mind is greatly relieved from a painful conviction which I innocently but so far as you were concerned, unjustly entertained in regard to your real views.
"It is due to myself, however, to state that I did not carelessly employ the language attributed to you. It was published first in American newspapers, re-quoted in English journals, (the British Banner being one.) It was understood to have been employed in a large meeting of Congregational clergymen in England, as one of the evidences of the complicity of American ministers with slavery. It appeared next in the letter of the English correspondent of The Independent, and finally was embodied in the annual report of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1851. During all this time you had never publicly retracted the truth of this representation, and I understood your silence to be an admission of its correctness.
"While, therefore, I do not see how I could have acted with more caution in employing an allegation which had become historical, I am yet heartily glad to find that a sentiment so shocking to every Christian mind is not yours.
I shall order the immediate alteration of the paragraph in question, and shall be glad in any other way which shall appear proper, to set you right before the public.
"I am, dear Sir, respectfully yours, H. B. STOWE."
MRS. H. B. STOWE—My Dear Madam: I thank you for your prompt kindness in examining the documents which I submitted to you, and for the favorable opinions which you express. If you will allow me to publish your letter, I think that that will be all that is needed to place me right in regard to this unpleasant affair.
"I am, with unabated esteem, yours, JOEL PARKER."