"UNCLE TOM'S CABIN."
In our paper of the 5th inst, we copied from the Liverpool Times an account of the reception of Mrs. and Mr. Stowe in that city. Professor S. in the course of his speech on the occasion is reported to have said:
"Incredible as it may seem to those who are without prejudice, it is nevertheless a fact that this book was condemned by the leading religious newspaper in the United States as anti-christian, and its author associated with infidels and disorganizers. And had it not been for the decided expression of the mind of English Christians and of Christendom itself on this point, there is reason to fear that the pro-slavery power of the United States would have succeeded in putting the book under foot. Therefore it is peculiarly gratifying that so full an endorsement has been given the work, in this respect, by eminent Christians of the highest character in Europe; for, however some in the United States may effect to despise what is said by the wise and good of this kingdom and the Christian world, they do feel it, and feel it intensely."
The condemnation here referred to, we presume, is that uttered by the New-York Observer last summer, during the absence in Europe of the senior editor, who avails himself of this opportunity to give his opinion of this famous book,—a book which has probably been more extensively read during the past year than any other in the English language, the Bible itself not excepted.
In general terms, our opinion is that the book is the product of genius of a high order; that in its moral and religious character there is throughout a strange mixture of good and bad; but that one of its great and obvious purposes, to incite the people of the Northern states to refuse to comply with their constitutional engagement to deliver up fugitive slaves, and, especially, its adaptedness to incite the slaves to escape and to shoot down the officer of the law, are features for which every right minded American and Christian must decidedly condemn the book, and associate its author with the most dangerous of disorganizers.
Among the good points in the book are,
1. The character of Uncle Tom.
Uncle Tom is a truly pious negro slave; one of the converts at a Methodist camp meeting in Kentucky; a really conscientious, simple hearted, evangelical Christian, and the character is well sustained throughout the narrative. Uncle Tom loves the Bible and loves to pray; loves and obeys his master; refuses to escape to Canada when he has a fair opportunity, and is strongly tempted to do so; forgets himself, and sacrifices himself, constantly for the good of others; prays for his oppressor; respectfully refuses to allow himself to be made an instrument of cruelty and injustice; and dies for the firmness with which he adheres to his resolution.
It is good that all men should know that such Christians are reared in the midst of American slavery. But they ought also to know that public sentiment in almost every part of our slaveholding states is in favor of efforts to convert all the slaves into just such Christians; and they ought to know that hundreds of slaveholders are themselves personally and zealously engaged in these efforts. They ought to know too that when the slaves are converted, the severance of the relation of the master by any sale of the slave, except with the slave's own consent, is an almost unheard of occurence, and that the sale of a real Christian of Uncle Tom's character to such monsters as Haley and Legree is a mere figment of the novelist.
2. The character of little Eva.
Evangeline St. Clare, or little Eva, is the daughter of a wealthy Louisiana slaveholder, a beautiful and remarkably intelligent child, six or seven years old, full of life and love, and overflowing with pity for the oppressed and suffering, which prompts her to the kindest modes of comforting and relieving them. She is a model of those Christian graces which befit her age and station.
3. Mrs. Stowe has the fairness to exhibit one of the bright features in the system of Slavery.
Slavery is a great evil, but it is not all evil. Mrs. S. shows that the relation of master and slave is capable of being made an exceeding endearing one. Mrs. Shelby and her son George, Augustine St. Clare and his daughter Eva love the slaves, and are loved in return with a simplicity and warmth of affection truly captivating. This strong mutual attachment grows directly out of the power of the master under the system of slavery to make the relation a permanent one. Such attachment is comparatively rare between employers and their hired dependents in England and in the Northern States. In a book clearly intended to excite the reader against the system of slavery, it is no small merit, in these days of denunciatory abolitionism, that the author dared to say anything in its favor.
4. The liability of the slave to be separated forever, at the arbitrary will of another, from his nearest relatives and friends, is justly represented as the great evil of American slavery.
This is indeed a sore evil, demanding the earnest attention of all wise and humane legislators at the South. As a practical evil, no doubt, it is greatly exaggerated by Mrs. Stowe, for almost every slave in her book is represented as having been torn away from his dearest kindred, under circumstances of the most aggravated cruelty; while the fact is that, in many large districts of the South, the humanity of the master and the public sentiment are almost as efficient as a law would be in protecting the slave from such a calamity. In some parts of the South, indeed, the law does not and has for many years forbidden the sale of the slave child from its mother; and Southern philanthropists, we know, have for a long time been anxious to extend the legal protection to the conjugal relation. When the attention of the wise and good in any land is awake to a domestic evil, a great clamor about it elsewhere is unnecessary, and commonly is not calculated to aid in removing it.
5. Mrs. Stowe does not regard slaveholding as in itself a sin.
She makes Miss Ophelia, a rigidly conscientious Christian from New-England, after residing for a short time in Louisiana, become a slaveholder, at her own request, by receiving a regular deed conveying a legal title to a slave named Topsy, who is carried to Vermont, educated and sent as a missionary to Africa. If Miss Ophelia had been a Quaker, or an abolitionist of the Garrison or English stamp, she could not have received the deed, and poor Topsy, instead of being a free happy Christian preacher of the gospel in Africa, would probably have continued all her life a miserable heathen, and might have been sent to pick cotton too, under the lash, on Simon Legree's Red river plantation. Mrs. S. probably made Miss Ophelia a slaveholder for the purpose of administering a reproof to those abolitionists who maintain that slaveholding under all circumstances is a sin.
6. Mrs. Stowe is friendly to the colonization of the negroes in Africa.
After landing several fugitive slaves safely in Canada, and after carrying Topsy to New-England, and placing her there in a Christian fammily, Mrs. S. seems to be conscious that she has done very little for their benefit. She knows that the climate of those cold countries is not suited to the physical constitution of negroes, and that, if left there, the deaths will exceed the births and the race soon run out. She knows too that the other circumstances of their situation in those countries are unfavorable to a full development of their intellectual and moral faculties, and she has the good sense, therefore, to send them all to Liberia, to help build up in Africa a nation which will prove, to all who undervalue the capabilities of the negro race, that God has fitted them to act a conspicuous and glorious part in the future history of the world. The English will see in this part of Mrs. Stowe's book that the American scheme, which they have not only refused to aid, but have been constantly denouncing for the last twenty years, is, in the view of their favorite, a great and good scheme. It is in fact doing more for the negro race than any other; and, in connection with the work of the religious instruction of the slaves in our Southern States, is the great hope of Africa.
These are among the good points of the book. We will now name some of its faults.
1. Full justice is not done to the character of the American slaveholder for humanity and generosity.
Mrs. Stowe does indeed represent some slaveholders at the South as kind and generous masters, but the reader rises from her book with the impression that, as a body, they are cruel and selfish. Now there are two great facts which will go far towards satisfying reflecting men that the slaves at the South are on the whole remarkably well treated, and that their masters are no where excelled in willingness to make generous sacrifices of property to principle.
First. The census of 1850 shows that the natural increase of the slaves during the ten years previous was 29 per cent. while that of the whites in the whole U. States was only 26 per cent. and that of the free blacks only about 10 per cent. Slaves could not increase 29 per cent. in ten years if infanticide, and suicide, and working men to death on the plantations, and general mistery prevailed to the extent that many readers of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" imagine. Increase at that rate implies that the slaves generally are well cared for; and the fact that the free blacks increase only at about one third of that rate amounts almost to a demonstration that their condition is less happy than that of the slaves; and that mere emancipation is not the true remedy for the great evil of the South.
Secondly. The negroes voluntarily emancipated at the South would be worth in the market as slaves more than $100,000,000. Neither the people of England, nor the people of any other country on the globe ever made such a sacrifice as this to anti-slavery principles. But this is not all. The sacrifice might probably have been doubled and trebled if emancipation had proved a blessing to the negro.
2. Justice is not rendered to American slaveholders for what they have done in the religious instruction of the slaves.
With the system of Slavery forced upon them by the mother country—a demoralizing system, and a system which, when once introduced, tends inevitably to perpetuate itself; a system incompatible in this country with any occupation but a coarse agriculture, which scatters the population sparsely over the soil, making it difficult to introduce schools or churches, or other means of intellectual and moral improvement; with this cursed institution pressing constantly upon them and fettering all their efforts, Christian slaveholders at the South have been laboring for the spiritual welfare of their negroes, and as the fruit of their labors, more than 300,000 have been admitted into evangelical churches! Mrs. Stowe professes to present the bright as well as the dark side of American slavery, but who that reads "Uncle Tom's Cabin" would suspect the existence at the South of so much true Christian love for the negro as this great fact indicates?
3. The grosses injustice is done to ministers of the Gospel in America.
They are scarcely ever introduced but with a sneer; and they are represented as not merely justifying the temporary continuance of the system of slavery, but as not daring to preach the Gospel faithfully in relation to the system, and, some of them, as holding sentiments which render them callous to the most grevious oppressions practised under it! This libel on the American clergy is extensively believed throughout Europe, and must for a time do much to destroy the influence of American example on the progress of Reform in that part of the world.
4. The book is obviously intended to incite the people of the Northern states to refuse to comply with their constitutional engagements.
The constitution of the U. States, as our readers well know, provides, that "if any person owing labor or service in any state under the laws thereof, escape into another he shall be delivered up, on the claim of the person to whom such labor or service may be due." This provision was introduced into the constitution at its formation, with the unanimous consent of all the states. So far as we can learn, there was not a word uttered against it by any member of any one of the thirteen State conventions that deliberated and voted upon it. The provision was adopted as a matter of course. It was in accordance with the practice, even in New-England, from the earliest period of our colonial history. Within a few years, however, a conscience has been got up on this subject, and many persons at the North now think it is wrong to deliver up fugitive slaves, not only in cases of extreme oppression, but in any case whatever; and they wish to create a public sentiment which will prevent the execution of the law. Mrs. Stowe's book was written to aid in the creation of such a public sentiment, and it is adapted to encourage the formation of regularly organized associations to harbor and protect every fugitive slave, without regard to his character or the circumstances of his case. The slaveholder may have bought the slave at the slave's own earnest solicitation; he may have expended much time and money in educating him for an important station, and may have been intending, after remunerating himself by a short term of service, to manumit him and send him to Liberia. No matter! At the stations of "the underground railroad" they summon no witnesses, and hear no story but that of the fugitive himself. They see nothing, and care for nothing, but "the poor abused negro;" and reckless of the claims of the master, of the law of the land, of the pledges of the constitution, and of every other consideration which would weigh with Christian men and honorable men, they pass him out of the country.
We condemn all combinations for thus violating our sacred obligations; and we condemn every book that encourages such combinations. No honorable man will have anything to do with them. All that we hold most dear in this world,—life, liberty, property, the prospects of our children, the glory of our country, the hopes of the world—depend on the preservation of the constitution and union of these States. A refusal by the people of the Northern States to comply with their engagement in the provision of the constitution to which we have referred, would nullify the whole instrument. If we think it morally wrong to deliver up fugitive slaves let us frankly say so, and ask the slaveholders on what terms they will release us from our engagements. If they demand the whole value of their slaves it would be better to pay it than to dissolve the Union; and far better than to disgrace ourselves by a resort to such methods as are described in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of nullifying our contract.
5. The book is calculated to incite slaves to run away from their masters, and, if necessary to secure their escape, to shoot the officer of the law.
Slavery is bad enough at best; but to exaggerate its evils, as they are exaggerated in this book, and especially to exaggerate the danger of good slaves being sold away forever from their best friends, is not only to do injustice to the Southern slaveholder, and to the American character, but is calculated to incite good slaves to run away from good masters. At this moment a story is circulating in our papers, that a slave on a farm in Kentucky, who had obtained a copy of "Uncle Tom's cabin," read it to his fellow slaves, and, in consequence, 25 of them escaped to Ohio, and were passed on "the underground railroad" to Canada. This is related exultingly in the Abolition papers as one of the good effects of the book. But will no bad effect follow? With such facts before them can we wonder that Southern legislatures pass laws making it a penal offence to teach any slave to read? And if the slaves are not taught to read, when will they be prepared for liberty?
That the book is calculated to incite slaves to run away from their masters is not however the chief charge we bring against it. In some cases almost every man would justify a slave in quietly making his escape. But the book goes further. It is calculated to incite the slave, to shoot, if necessary to secure his escape, the officer of the law.
George Harris, a high-spirited Kentucky slave, is represented as running away, and deliberately shooting one who has a legal warrant to arrest him; and every slave who reads "Uncle Tom's Cabin," is left to understand that this is all right, and that if he should do the same thing, and kill the officer, good Christians would not condemn him, but would applaud him for such an act: and if he should be captured and hung, that the public sentiment of Christendom would pronounce him not a murderer, but a martyr!
We condemn this doctrine. It strikes at the foundation of all law and social order. We hold it to be the duty of every man in this country to submit quietly to every law of the land however oppressive. We do not hold to the duty of obeying the precept of every law. We will obey no law which our conscience tells us is in conflict with the law of God; (for we are "higher law" men, as our readers well know, although we do not, like some other other law men, believe that there is a conflict between that law and the constitution of the U. States,) but we will never forcibly resist any law; and we must condemn as anti-Christian every book, and must class with dangerous disorganizers the author of every book, that encourages any man to resist any law of the land. On this law, in this country, are suspended the dearest interests of more than 25,000,000 people; and no one man, or one thousand men, or one million men, have any right to resist it, unless they are prepared to overthrow the government and establish a better government on its ruins.
This doctrine of the New-York Observer, in relation to resisting the law, is the doctrine of the great body of the American people. It is the doctrine of the Bible, as taught by those American divines at whom Mrs. Stowe constantly sneers throughout her book. It is not the doctrine, if seems, of Professor Stowe. It is not the doctrine that is to be taught hereafter from his chair in the Theological Seminary at Andover. It is not the doctrine of the Rev. Mr. McNeile, of Liverpool; or of the Rev. Thomas Binney, of London. It is not now the doctrine of the earls of Carlisle and Shaftesbuty, or of the dukes of Sutherland and Argyle, although members of that great landed artistocracy which has for centuries so controlled the law of the United Kingdom, as to exclude forever more than ninety-nine hundredths of the people from all right to their native soil. At present, even these aristocrats admire the heroism and doctrine of George Harris, because they see in him only a negro slave, and in the officer whom he shoots only an officer of the law and government of the hated American republic. But, a few years hence, when they see the pistols in the hands of their own tenants, in cabins scattered all over England, Scotland and Ireland; when they hear these tenants demanding, "What right have a few thousand men to make laws appropriating to themselves the land which God gave to the whole human race?" when these tenants point to America as the only country in which Englishmen, Scotchmen and Irishmen are really free; when they quote from "Uncle Tom's Cabin," to show that even Mrs. Stowe regarded the English laborer as equally oppressed with the American slave; and when they see the constable, whom they sent to collect their rents, returning with nothing but a coat of tar and feathers on his back and a bullet in his body, they will perhaps think that they were a little too hasty in getting up a public sentiment, which threatened to create a riot in Exeter Hall, at the jubilee meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, to hustle from the platfrom the editor of the New-York Observer, merely for saying that the book from which these tenants learned to do such deeds is an anti-Christian book, and its author a disorganizer.