THE WHITE SLAVE; or Memoirs of a Fugitive.
LIFE AT THE SOUTH: or "Uncle Tom's Cabin" as it is. Being narratives, scenes, and incidents in the real "life of the lowly." By W. L. G. Smith. Buffalo: Geo. H. Derby & Co.
AUNT PHILLIS'S CABIN: or Southern Life as it is. By Mrs. Mary H. Eastman. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co.
UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, CONTRASTED WITH BUCKINGHAM HALL, THE PLANTER'S HOME; or a fair view of both sides of the Slavery Question. By Robert Criswell, Esq., Author of "Letters from the South and West."
These books are only an installment of the Uncle Tom literature which has accumulated on our table. Having already given them the benefit of such notices as books receive in our weekly column of literary intelligence, we have not felt that our duty to the authors or publishers required much more of us. Duty of the public, however, requires us to say what, in our judgment, these volumes may be worth, and to what uses an intelligent reader may apply them. Perhaps we shall find another opportunity of dealing with the rest of the sequels and antidotes to Uncle Tom's Cabin that crowd our table—most of them, as yet, unread.
One of the volumes in the present catalogue, is neither an imitation of Mrs. Stowe's world-famous story, nor a reply to it. As an independent work it deserves a measure of respect from reviewers and from readers generally, beyond what can be easily conceded to books written for the purpose of profiting by the sympathy with Uncle Tom's Cabin or by the attempted reaction against it. The White Slave is a book which would have been just what it is, if Mrs. Stowe had never been invited to write a story for the National Era. A portion of it was published several years ago under the title of Archy Moore. It has now been completed and given to the public with a new title. We observe that it has been republished in England. The author is understood to be Mr. Richard Hildreth the historian. We cannot better express our view of it than by repeating a criticism which was published in the New Englander for November.
"It has many qualities which might be expected to secure for it a large share of present and permanent popularity. It has little of the dramatic interest which so enlivens Uncle Tom's Cabin from first to last; it rarely takes the form of a dialogue; it gives no specimens of the negro-English dialect; it is almost wholly destitute of humor; but it has a masculine vigor in the narrative, and in the political and philosophical analysis of slavery, which no female writer could be expected to rival. The author excels in description; and the impression which his story produces, is extremely picturesque and vivid throughout. Its style of representing things is far enough from being good natured; the only smile that seems to glimmer on the author's countenance, is bitterly scornful; but his satire, relentless as death, burns, wherever it touches, like some consuming fluid.
"To this book many of the criticisms preferred against Uncle Tom's Cabin, are justly applicable. It is written in professed sympathy with that distinct and well known Anti-slavery movement, which was inaugurated, a little more than twenty years ago, by Mr. William Lloyd Garrison; and it is abolitionist in that party sense of the word. The representation which it makes of slavery and of southern society, of life among the slaves and of life among their masters, is wholly unfavorable. With the exception of one master and one mistress, every slaave-holder in the whole story is represented as a selfish and unfeeling tyrant. Nor is there any infusion of a religious spirit in the book. No Christian hope, no sentiment of confidence in God, sustains the oppressed under their sufferings, or teaches them to 'do all things heartily as to the Lord and not unto men.' Presbyterians, Baptists, and, for the most part, Methodists, are represented as restrained by no religious scruple, and guided by no feeling of responsibility to God, in the management and government of slaves, and as utterly insensible to the injustice of slavery. The most consummate villain of the story—upon whom the indignation of the reader is concentered—is sneeringly represented as 'pious,' inasmuch as 'during a visit to New York, some two or three years before, he had been converted to Unitarian Christianity by the preaching of Dr. Dewey,' and 'had since exerted himself with so much zeal to get up a Unitarian society in New Orleans, as to have acquired the nick name of 'the Deacon.' One owner of slaves, and one clergyman, Episcopalians both, are pictured as none the worse for their religious character. In brief, while the book is characterized by a strong sense of justice, and by a reasonable abhorrence of that injustice which is the essence of slavery, it is no less characterized by the absence of a kind and candid spirit, and of all Christian sentiment. Thus we might almost say of it, what the critic, whose lucubration is republished by the New York Observer, says of Uncle Tom's Cabin, 'One who could know nothing of the United States and its people, except what he might gather from this book, would judge that it was some region just on the confines of the infernal world.' Can anybody tell us why this book escapes the reprobation of those journals which are so vehement in condemning Mrs. Stowe? Is there any other reason than this? The White Slave is just what they say Uncle Tom's Cabin is; and therefore there is little danger that it will be effective in rousing the religious feelings of the country against slavery. The White Slave being really an Abolitionist book in the odious sense of Abolitionism, is not likely to disturb the repose of great ecclesiastical organizations, or to impede the arrangements of scheeming politicians.
"Yet though this book, by its want of kindly feeling towards citizens of the southern states, and by its gross defect in respect to religious views and sensibilities, cuts itself off from popular sympathy, and is therefore to a great extent incapable of wakening abhorrence against slavery, except in minds already in sympathy with itself, it is a book which some men would do well to study. If the facts which it weaves into a representation of slavery and its influences, are often 'exceptional,' they are not 'impossible.' The only thing in the story which strikes the reader as a pure impossibility is, that the heroine, Cassy, with so much beauty, passing through the hands of so many owners, sold for her beauty in the New Orleans market, is not only restored to her husband, but is restored uncorrupted, after twenty years of separation. The author, with a profound knowledge of the selfish side of human nature, and well versed in the philosophy of society and of history; so far as that philosophy can be comprehended from his point of view. has studied the facts of American slavery, partly (as he says) by personal observation; he has studied the law of slavery, in its identity and in its variations; he has studied the mutual relations of the two races, the masters and the enslaved; and he has given the results in the form of a philosophical romance. We may safely commend the book to the serious attention of American statesmen, to all who in a philosophic spirit are inquiring after the probabilities of our future as a people, and above all, to southern statesmen. It is Wheeler's Law of Slavery, in another shape. That title alone, WHITE SLAVE, has an ominous import. By a law of human nature, perfectly irresistible in such circumstances, the dominant race and the enslaved are becoming one race, with a portentous rapidity. The master and the slave will in time be all of one blood, 'not merely by a pedigree derived from Adam, but as a matter of notorious and contemporary fact.' They are so now, to an extent which puts to shame the sanctimonious sophistry about the curse upon the race of Ham. Be it that the negroes are the descendants of Ham, and that there is a warrant for enslaving the children of Ham to all ages;—what warrant is there for enslaving the children of Japeth?—the near kindred, the brothers and sisters, the sons and daughters of the enslavers?—Where is the warrant for enslaving not only the children of emigrant and renegade New England men, but children whose blood came, three-fourths of it or more, from the cavaliers of Virginia? Where the warrant for enslaving children born of the blood which circulated in the veins of Thomas Jefferson, or whose descent may be traced back, paralell with that of the great PATER PATRIAE, to the royal house of Plantagenet? Partus sequitur ventrem, is not written in the Bible."
The three other works named at the head of this notice, were written avowedly for the purpose of correcting the alleged misrepresentations of Mrs. Stowe. Uncle Tom's Cabin, it is pretended, gives a one-sided view. These books give "a fair view of both sides"; they represent "southern life as it is"; they show us "the real life of the lowly." It is worth the while then to see what these witnesses testify.
Mr. W. L. G. Smith, whose book is published at Buffalo, seems to be a Northern man. We doubt whether any Southern man could write so mean a book. He is one of those Northern men who might reasonably enough be sold for slaves, inasmuch as they pretend, not only that there is no injustice in slavery, but that the condition of slaves in the United States is one of great contentment and enjoyment. He writes as if he had been in some of the slaveholding states; and for that reason, if he were a competent and true witness his testimony would be worth studying. In the words used in the New Englander,
"We have examined this book with a desire to ascertain what idea of slavery 'as it is,' a reader would derive from it, who had no other means of knowledge. Some of the chief results are the following:—
"1. The slave population is exclusively negro. No slave of any other shade than black, is introduced to the reader's acquaintance, if our memory serves us.
"2. In respect to civilization, the slaves, after having inhabited a Christian country for several generations, are at the lowest mark. A population more degraded in all that distinguishes the life of man from the life of a brute, can hardly be found in any, save the most barbarous countries.
"3. The slaves are wholly in the power of masters and overseers. The lash is familiarly spoken of as the natural and fit punishment of indolence, and yet, though the slaves are habitually indolent beyond all human patience, it does not appear that the lash is ever used in actual punishment. The severest penalty known to be inflicted on a refractory slave, is imprisonment without food or drink for twenty-four hours in a lonely hovel, secured by a strong padlock.
"4. The slaves, in addition to the rent of their cabins, and the supplies of food and clothing which they receive from their masters, receive a regular 'stipend,' which is sometimes increased as a reward of merit, or as a stimulus to increased activity. In this way every slave has it in his power to earn the means of purchasing his own freedom; and all would soon be free, but for their indolent and spendthrift habits.
"5. The slave-pen or slave-market is an institution peculiar to the District of Columbia. Or, to speak within bounds, it does not exist in Virginia. There is no slave-trade in that model commonwealth. 'If we,' says the planter, who in this book is the representative of all slave-holders, 'part with any of our blacks, it is at our own door, and that is done hardly once in an age.' What becomes of the increase which every census ought to show, but does not show, in the colored population of Virginia, is a question on which 'this deponent saith not.'
"6. The attachment of the slaves to their masters, to their native soil, and to the graves of their ancestors, enclosed with good white fences, and covered with monumental marble, is so strong, that they would never think of running away but for the invitations and persuasions of interlopers from the north; and the utmost persuasion is successful only with slaves of a malignant and discontented temper.
"We need not pursue any further this summing up of the testimony of Mr. W. L. G. Smith, concerning slavery as it is. This is one of the books which literary journals of some repute have been base enough to recommend, as giving that full, true, and 'uncolored' representation, which Uncle Tom's Cabin, it is said, does not give.
Aunt Phillis's Cabin by Mrs. Eastman, is a much more respectable performance. It appears to be written by a Southern woman out of the fullness of her Southern feelings, grieved at what she verily supposes to be the misrepresentations made by Mrs. Stowe, and, we will add, out of the fullness of her ladylike ignorance in regard to the facts of the internal slavetrade. We transfer, again, the summing up given in the New Englander.
"She represents slavery, we doubt not, as she has seen it, in the best aspect which it can put on. Mr. Weston's plantation in Virginia, as she describes it, is parallel to Mr. Shelby's in Kentucky, as described by Mrs. Stowe, except that Mr. Weston is a dignified and Christian gentleman, in altogether easy circumstances, while Mr. Shelby is a careless, flexible man, dreadfully embarrassed with debts, and cornered by a remorseless creditor. Life on such a plantation as Mr. Shelby's might have been, had he been equal to his wife in resolute energy and Christian conscientiousness, is all that Mrs. Eastman knows about 'southern life as it is.' And yet with her woman's heart, she does not pretend—as heartless men sometimes pretend—that slavery is a good thing for the slaves, better than freedom could be in its stead. In one instance, she portrays with powerful touches the agony and life-long sorrow of a slave-mother, whose master had robbed her of all her seven children at a stroke; though the interlocutors, where this incident is narrated in a dialogue, testify to each other, that they never before knew an instance of the separation of children from their mother by a master. For the poor mother, however, there was no redress—for the cruel man who 'only used within limits the power that the law gave him,' there was no penalty, not even the penalty of popular vengeance. 'Mobs of any kind,' says Mrs. Eastman, in the person of one of her chief characters, 'are rear in the southern country. We are not (in spite of the bad qualities ascribed to us by the Abolitionists) a fussy people. Sometimes, when an Abolitionist comes along, we have a little fun with him, the negroes enjoying it exceedingly.' But 'a little fun' with the scoundrel who robs a mother of her seven children at one fell swoop, and sells them into a returnless exiles, is not to be thought of among a law-abiding people, however the negroes might enjoy it."
For an illustration of Mrs. Eastman's ignorance, we refer the reader to p. 270. She there alleges without any equivocation that to speak of dogs for hunting runaway negroes after the manner practised by Legree in Uncle Tom's Cabin, is a slander on the South. In answer to this we copy the following advertisement from the Onachita Register, a newspaper dated "Monroe, La., Tuesday evening, June 1, 1852."
THE undersigned would respectfully inform the citizens of Onathita and adjacent parishes, that he has located about 2 1/2 miles east of John Whit's, on the road leading from Monroe to Hastrop, and that he has a fine pack of Dogs for catching negroes. Persons wishing negroes caught will do well to give him a call. He can always be found at his stand when not engaged in hunting, and even then information of his whereabouts can always be had of some one on the premises.
Terms.—Five dollars per day and found, when there is no track pointed out. When the track is shown, twenty-five dollars will be charged for catching the negro. M. C. GOFF
Monroe, Feb. 17, 1852.
Let any reader say, how much Mrs. Eastman's testimony is worth concerning "southern life as it is."
The book by Robert Criswell, Esq., is of no great account, but as it undertakes to give a favorable view of slavery its testimony may be examined. Some part of it is thus condensed in the New Englander.
"'Generally the feeling between the slave and a kind master' is altogether affectionate; 'but alas! there are too many slave-holders whose cruelty makes them feared by the unfortunate objects of their tyranny,' p. 11. Mr. Jones 'would not send his daughter to school, nor his son to college; "for," said he, "I would be a fool to spend five or six hundred a year on their learning, when I can leave them a slave worth that amount for every year they would be there,"' p. 13. 'As a general thing, the slaves are treated kindly...I have not seen a grown slave whipped for years:...when we task them, they generally get through in half a day, so that they are not obliged to do more than a common day's work in two days. When they get sick they are always allowed a physician, and are much better fed and clothed than any free negroes around them,' pp. 38, 39. 'Slave-dealers are held in contempt by all honorable men. but this system will continue as long as Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina remain slave states, as a great portion of those states are worn out, and will not grow cotton, tobacco, and other produce. Consequently the inhabitants find it more profitable to breed slaves to supply the other states, and stock the new slave territories,' p. 47. 'There are always a number of "stock cars" on these southern railroads, attached to the end of the passenger train, for the purpose of freighting slaves—perfectly round like a coal wagon, or like a large hogshead on wheels, yet capacious enough to hold near a hundred; and here the poor creatures are huddled together, like so many pigs or cattle going to market, and when the weather is warm they suffer intensely from the heat and closeness of the cars,' p. 52. 'Anybody unused to slaves, would be mistaken in some of them; they are so white,' p. 62. A story is told with great relish, about a northerner traveling on business in the south, who purchased a beautiful quadroon at a slave sale in Richmond, traveled with her as his wife to New Orleans, and thence up the Mississippi to Ohio and Louisville, where he sold her again, not being able to take her further northward, without losing his property in her.—pp. 142-45."