The New York Observer
23 September 1852

"Scoffers and Scandal Mongers"

  Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, in the N. Y. Independent last summer, devoted more than a column to the editors of the N. Y. Observer, whom she designates "religious scoffers."

  Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, in three late numbers of the N. Y. Independent, occupies twice as many columns in the same work employing the euphonious and charitable term of "Scandal mongering," as applied to the editors of this paper.

  The N. Y. Tribune of Aug. 25, re-echoes the charges of Mrs. Stowe, applying the epithet "Slanderers" to the editors of this paper.

  The brethren and sister having thus relieved themselves, it is proper that we should say something in reply. Instead of taking up the enemy in detail, we prefer to dispose of them all at once: it will take less time and space, and as "variety is the spice of life," our readers will be more entertained with one chapter, than with a discussion protracted through several papers.

  We dislike exceedingly to go to war with a woman. One of our eastern editors says that he would rather have a dozen women subscribers than one man: so would we; but we would also prefer to quarrel with a dozen men to one woman. We shall therefore reply to Mrs. Stowe, by saying that the Tribune is guilty of its usual disregard of truth, when it gives circulation to the statement of its Wisconsin correspondent, that the N. Y. Observer has charged Kossuth with "debauchery," or that the Observer was influenced by any other than patriotic motives in resisting, from the beginning, the doctrines of that distinguished man. But we expect such misrepresentation from the Tribune. It is a paper more regardless of truth than any other with which we are acquainted. It is the most mischievous paper in the English language. We have not a doubt that it is doing more this moment to undermine the morality, virtue and good order of this country, than all the other newspapers in it. Its pretended zeal for temperance gives it favor with many moral and religious people, who admit it to their houses, where it silently sows the seeds of infidelity, socialism and humbug generally. Such a paper will naturally say, as it does, that the N. Y. Observer "by a natural instinct, opposes and maligns whatever is noble, generous and humane in the aspirations and tendencies of men or parties." Judged by the Tribune's standard of what is "noble, generous and humane," we deserve the reproach, and count it our highest praise.

  Ultraism, especially the ultraism of modern abolitionism, now happily dying out, and giving place to a healthy progressive and Christian reform cherishes the spirit that pervades the Tribune. Hence the affinity of the Tribune and the Independent, and the writers, male and female, who are at home in their columns. Orthodox Christianity is necessarily at war with them all, and will one day be the death of them.

  . . . "Uncle Tom's Cabin," by Mrs. Stowe, has been read by thousands, and almost universally praised by the newspapers reviewing it. The Vermont Chronicle, after a column of high eulogy, very modestly ventures a criticism, as if it were next to a sin to find fault with such a book, and says:

"A more important criticism relates to the writer's treatment of the Christian ministry. Here she has given the worst without the best. No white minister of the Gospel is put in a respectable position, except one young man in a single instance; and he makes no impression. The impression generally made by the book must, we think, be decidedly anti-ministerial; which, of course, with a father, a husband and half a dozen brothers in the ministry, the writer cannot have intended."

  We have read the book, and regard it as "anti-Christian," on the same grounds that the Chronicle regards it as "decidedly anti-ministerial." We have marked numerous passages in which religion is spoken of in terms of contempt, and in no case is religion represented as making a master more humane, while Mrs. Stowe is careful to present the indulgent and amiable masters as men without religion. This taint pervades the work, just as it does the writings of all the modern school of philanthropy. It is essentially non-religious, if not an anti-evangelical school. Mrs. Stowe labors through all her book to render ministers odious and contemptible, by attributing to them sentiments unworthy of men or Christians. In no case, however, does she venture to give her authority for the atrocious doctrines she charges upon them, except in a single instance, where she places, in a foot-note, the name of the Rev. Joel Parker, D.D., now of this city. Thousands of her book had been read with this charge against Dr. Parker, before he knew that he was thus travelling over the country, gibbeted as a monster by the pen of the lady philanthropist. So soon as he was informed of the bad distinction he had acquired, Dr. Parker wrote a letter to Mrs. Stowe, informing her that she had been misled by erroneous information, and offering to put the proof into her hands that he was not the author of the sentiment she had attributed to him. Mrs. Stowe took no notice of his letter. Dr. Parker wrote to her again. Mrs. Stowe deigned no reply. Dr. Parker wrote the third time. Mrs. Stowe now replied in a defiant tone, and affirmed that she had documentary evidence and living witnesses to prove that Dr. Parker had uttered the sentiments which she had imputed to him. Finding that no sense of justice could be reached in the lady-author, Dr. Parker employed the most eminent legal counsel, and with good advice resolved to commence an action of libel against Mrs. Stowe, laying damages at $20,000! This was a new argument which the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin had not expected. She addressed a note in gentle terms to the injured Dr.; this led to an interview in which she admitted that she had imputed to him words and sentiments which were not his, but justified herself on the ground that she had been misled by the newspapers. At this point, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher stepped in to assist his sister in getting Dr. Parker out of Uncle Tom's Cabin. $20,000 would make a sad hole in the profits of that book of fiction, and by some means the matter must be mended. Shortly after that interference was the publication in the N. Y. Tribune and the Independent, June 24 of the following letters:

  "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN."—Mrs. H. B. Stowe has requested us to publish the following correspondence:

  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,


  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,


  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,


  Now, what will be the surprise of every reader, not of the Abolition school, when we state, as we now do, that Dr. Parker assures us that he never wrote one word of the above letters; that he never signed his name to one of them, that he never authorized their publication, that he was as much surprised as any one else could be, when he heard that such letters were in the newspapers. Rev. H. W. Beecher called on him, and in his (Dr. Parker's) house, drew up certain letters as if between Mrs. S. And Dr. P., and proposed to Dr. P. to adopt those in his name as his own; Dr. P. informed Mr. B. that he would take the matter into consideration, consult his legal advisor into whose hands he had placed the business, and as he (Dr. P.) had no wish to obtain Mrs. Stowe's money, but merely justice, he hoped that by some such method the whole matter might be settled. With this, Mr. B. took his departure, and shortly afterwards the letters quoted above appeared in the Tribune and the Independent. Dr. P. presumes (though he does not know) that the letters are the same which Mr. Beecher showed him in his house: but Dr. P. affirms that no inducement would have led him to write, or sign his name to, such letters as those ascribed to him, nor to accept of Mrs. Stowe's as satisfactory.

  We have been thus particular in reciting the facts in this case, for two reasons. 1. The whole story shows the morality of modern ultraism in general and Uncle Tom's Cabin in particular. Mrs. Stowe did not hesitate to avail herself of the floating lies of abolition newspapers to vilify the good name of a Gospel minister, and to all his remonstrances, and even to his offers of documentary evidence to prove his innocence, she turns a deaf ear, until the arm of the law is raised, and then new light breaks in, and the law makes clear what the gospel could not do.

  But 2. We wish to contrast Mrs. Stowe's and Mr. Beecher's sentiments as expressed in this correspondence, with their treatment of the editors of this paper. Mrs. Stowe calls us "religious scoffers," and heaps upon us a column of ill-tempered and unbecoming abuse, because we have spoken of Kossuth and his brandy guzzling friends in such terms as our sense of duty required. But Mrs. S. justifies herself in stigmatizing a minister of the gospel, a distinguished American preacher and pastor, as the author of a sentiment which she says is "shocking to every Christian mind," and with no better authority than the abolition newspapers, and when that injured pastor offers quietly to give her the evidence that she is mistaken, she does not condescend to look at the subject, while she enjoys the incense of popular applause, as the successful author of a work of fiction.

  Mr. Beecher charges us with "scandal-mongering" in picking up the stories about him in the newspapers, and publishing them without making inquiries as to their truth, which, as a 'neighbor,' we might easily have done. But Mr. Beecher, in his sister's letter, says, "I do not see how I could have acted with more caution"—using a statement as true which was going to rounds of the papers undenied by Dr. Parker. Now he [illegible] it a high crime in us to do what he justifies his sister in doing. Nay worse: for Mrs. Stowe is compelled to admit that she was wrong, while we can prove by any number of witnesses that we have not misstated Mr. Beecher's views or position as publicly defined by himself.

  Without following this matter any farther at present, we submit it to the judgment of Christian and candid men. As Mrs. Stowe, Mr. Beecher, the Tribune, and the Independent, are partners in these attacks on the editors of this paper, we have disposed of them all at once, for the double purpose of economizing space, and affording greater entertainment to the reader.

  We cannot, however, leave the subject without giving expression to our regret that so much space must be occupied with this matter, when great questions of religious and political interest demand our attention. We have no heart for personal controversy. But in a long course of editorial experience, we have never received such coarse, unladylike, and ungentlemanly treatment as we have recently met with from Mrs. Stowe, Mr. H. W. Beecher, and their natural allies the N. Y. Tribune and the Independent. If self-respect requires us to say anything in reply, perhaps the above will suffice; if it does not, we can say something more whenever it is demanded. We never put our hand to a plough and look back.