Western Journal and Civilian
A. Beatty
St Louis: September 1853


Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin.—Review.



  I have read the Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, which you were so good as to send me.* Mrs. Stowe has exhibited a strong array of facts to prove the abuses of the uncontrolled power of slave-owners over their slaves.

  That arbitrary power, vested in any man or set of men, will, to a greater or less extent, be abused, is a truth that will be proved by the history of all mankind. Although the power, vested in slave-owners over their slaves, is not so unlimited as Mrs. Stowe seems to suppose, (as is proved by various decisions of our courts of Justice, that the master of a slave may be prosecuted and hanged for causing the death of a slave by excessive punishment,) yet that it will occasionally be greatly abused by bad men, all experience proves. Such an example is afforded in the case of Smith and Mima, (p. 104,) though it is manifest there is much exaggeration in the statement of the facts. For instance, it is related that with a rope round the neck of Mima, with a running noose, and tied to Smith's horse's neck, he rode at the rate of five miles an hour, his victim being compelled to run at that rate, to prevent being choked. That Smith "would jerk the rope every now and then; when jerked it would choke the prisoner." That "Smith was met, some time after dark, in about six miles of home, being 24 or 25 from Raleigh." Thus it is represented the woman Mima, was dragged about thirty miles, from Raleigh Jail, by a rope with a slip noose around her neck, and that occasionally jerked to choke her, yet she had strength enough to kill her master, after arriving at home.

  Mrs. Stowe speaks of this transaction being "disgraceful to the people, who tolerated it, in broad day-light," and she asks, why did they not strike the monster to the earth, and punish him for his infernal brutality?"

  Making every allowance for the exaggeration of the testimony, in the particulars alluded to, the circumstances still prove that Smith was guilty of inhuman conduct towards his slave Mima, and he perhaps justly suffered the retribution which awaited him, during the night after reaching home. Conduct of the kind, exhibited by Smith, would be reprobated by 99 out of every 100 slave-holders; as would be the case in relation to the other instances of cruel and excessive punishment inflicted upon slaves.

  If Mrs. Stowe would look at home, she would see that punishments equally cruel and inhuman, nay even more aggravated,


sometimes take their rise from the evil passions of men, in the North as well as in the South.

  Mrs. Stowe has justly spoken of the religious sect of "Friends" (Quakers), on various occasions, in the most favorable terms. Now let us see what kind of punishment was inflicted upon this harmless and amiable Christian people, by Mrs. Stowe's New England ancestors for no crime, but simply because they came among them. In Lossing's Pictoral Field Book of the Revolution, p. 450, the law in relation to Quakers, is thus laid down. "In 1657, it was enacted that for every hour's entertainment, given to a Quaker, the entertainer should pay forty shillings. It was also enacted that every male Quaker should lose an ear, on the first conviction, and the other on a second; and both males and females, on a third conviction, were to have their tongues bored through with a red hot iron. In 1658, the death principle was enacted. Under it, those who should return to the colony a second time, after banishment, were to suffer death. From an unwillingness to inflict death, it was provided by a new law, in 1658, that any person being convicted of being a Quaker, should be delivered to the constable of the town, "to be striped naked from the middle upward, and tied to a cart's tail, and whipped through the town; and thence be immediately conveyed to the constable of the next town, towards the border of our jurisdiction, and so from constable to constable to any the outermost town, and so to be whipped out of the colony." In case of return, this was to be twice repeated. The fourth time the convict was to be branded with a letter R on the left shoulder, and after that, if incorrigible, to incur the death penalty." These horrid enactments remained in force until abrogated by royal authority, in the reign of King William.

  This horrid code of laws, enacted against the innocent Quakers, provides for the infliction of punishment of a far more brutal character—because not founded on the slightest colour of criminality, and because it was to be inflicted upon all Quakers—than those shown to have been inflicted by a few slave-holders of the South, in moments of irritation and excited passion.

  Yet it would be equally unjust to upbraid the virtuous people of New England with these highly censurable acts of their ancestors as to charge upon southern society generally the acts of a few brutal and unfeeling slave-owners.

  If the state of society in the South is to be judged of by the collection of brutal advertisements; by the still more brutal conduct of negro-traders; and by the occasional infliction of brutal chastisements by slave-owners, doubtless an unfavorable estimate would be formed. According to this mode of estimating character, California would be ranked very low indeed. With a comparatively small population, her history would exhibit a number of violations of moral propriety ten times as great as those found to exist


among the slave-holders of the South, in the same length of time. In every State of the Union criminal acts abound in a greater or less degree. We have lately had a sad example of this kind, in our State, in Greenup county. One family connection, out of mere revenge, conspired to destroy another neighboring family. Their diabolical purpose was carried out, by murdering an entire family—men, women and children. How unjust would it be to form an estimate of the character of the citizens of Greenup county from a horrid act of this kind?

  Mrs. Stowe enters into a labored argument to prove that Legree (supposing him to be a real person,) would be justifiable, under the laws of Louisiana, in taking the life of Uncle Tom, because he refused to obey his unlawful and tyranical orders.

  I need only say, that Mrs. Stowe is not so good a lawyer as she is a novel writer, or she would not have argued, in support of so absurd an opinion. If Legree had been a real person, and the acts attributed to him, had been proved, he would have been hanged, as he deserved to be, for murder.

  The long argument "to show that justice has not been done in this horrible affair"—the prosecution of James Castleman for the murder of Lewis, p. 100, is still more puerile than that urged in the case of Legree; and proves that Mrs. Stowe's feelings are so strongly enlisted, in behalf of slaves against their masters, as to be wholly incapable of forming a correct opinion, in cases of this kind. Castleman was prosecuted for the murder of Lewis. The case, from the proofs in the cause, was so clear a one, that the jury did not deem it necessary to retire from the bar. Without a moment's hesitation, they pronounced a verdict of not guilty. The attorney for the Commonwealth proposed to enter a nolle prosequi, as to the case of Stephen D. Castleman, as the evidence, as to him, was the same as to James Castleman, who had just been acquitted. The Judge replied, that the case had been fully and fairly laid before the jury, upon the evidence, that the court was not only satisfied with the verdict, but if any other had been rendered, it must have been set aside; and if no other evidence was to be produced, on the trial of Stephen, the attorney for the Commonwealth would exercise a proper discretion in entering a nolle prosequi as to him, and the court would approve of its being done.

  In a case thus clearly shown not to be murder, an elaborate argument is put forth to show "that justice had not been done in this horrible affair." In other words, that the jury ought to have brought in a verdict of guilty, and that the judge should have pronounced a judgment of death against a man, whom every lawyer would, without hesitation, say was not guilty.

  Such are the opinions of Mrs. Stowe, in relation to a case, in which a person of colour is involved. Her sympathies are all enlisted on the side of the man of colour. She can behold nothing


but horrid acts of oppression, on the part of owners of slaves. Her sympathies are also strongly enlisted in favor of the white man, who is guilty of kidnapping slaves, in a slave-holding State, with an intention of transporting them to a free State. Her statement of the circumstances of the case of Richard Dillingham is ample evidence of this.—page 55—Another proof of the same fact is her bold approval of the declaration of John Garrett—p. 55—who declared his full determination to aid and assist run-away slaves, to escape from their masters. The facts of the case of Dillingham, as stated by Mrs. Stowe, are as follows.

  He was engaged, in Cincinnati in teaching the coloured people. Learning that some of them had friends, who were slaves in Nashville, Tennessee, he went thither, and "was actually taken up and caught in the very fact of helping certain poor people (slaves) to escape to their friends. He was seized and thrown into prison. In the language of this world, he was imprisoned as "a negro stealer." He was convicted and sent to the penitentiary for the term of three years, the shortest time prescribed by law. The evidence proved that he was in possession of these slaves, "whom he intended to convey with him to a free State." He made a full confession of his guilt. The case was therefore a clear one, and the Jury rendered as lenient a verdict as they could. Yet the case of Dillingham excited all the sympathies of Mrs. Stowe, and she details at large a variety of letters, and other circumstances, to excite sympathy in his behalf; but not a word of disapprobation of this clear case of "negro-stealing." Not satisfied with the full detail of the facts and circumstances (p. 55 to 59), she again refers to the case—p. 219—where she uses the following language: "There have been private Christians, who have counted nothing too dear for this sacred cause (abolition of slavery). Witness Richard Dillingham and John Garrett, and a host of others, who took joyfully the spoiling of their goods." "Tomy, meekly patient, died in prison, saying: If I am a guilty man, I am a very guilty one, for I have helped four hundred slaves to freedom, who, but for me, would have died slaves." Not a word of disapprobation of thus enticing away from their masters, 400 slaves.

  How different acted the Council, held in Ireland, in the year 583, as described by Mrs. Stowe—p. 239.—"The zeal for this work (emancipation of Christian slaves) was so ardent, that some of the clergy even went so far as to induce captives to runaway." The Council "condemns this practice, and says that the clergyman who desires to save some captives, must do so with his own money, for to induce them to run away, was to expose the clergy to be considered as robbers, which was dishonorable to the church."

  I will refer to only one other case to show how strongly Mrs. Stowe sympathises with all who aid and assist slaves to escape from their masters.


  On the "evening of the 15th of April, 1848, not less than seventy-seven men, women and children, with beating hearts and anxious secrecy, stowed themselves away, in the hold of the little schooner, and Captain Drayton was so wicked, that he could not, for the life of him, say no to one of them" (p. 158.) The little schooner set sail "at 12 o'clock at night." By eleven next night "they had sailed 200 miles from Washington." The little schooner was, however, overtaken by a steam-vessel, which had been sent in pursuit, and was brought back to Washington City.

  Mrs. Stowe fills thirteen of her closely printed pages in giving the incidents of this bold and daring attempt of Captain Drayton, in carrying off seventy-seven slaves from the City of Washington, in violation of the laws of his country, without the expression of one word of disapprobation of this wholesale system of stealing. All her eloquence and most earnest Efforts are poured forth to excite sympathy, on behalf of the recaptured slaves, and to justify Captain Drayton for his attempt to carry them to a free State.

  This, and the other cases referred to, show clearly that one great object of Mrs. Stowe's work (the Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin,) is to encourage abolitionists to entice away slaves from their masters, and to aid and assist them to escape to non-slaveholding States, or to Canada.

  She has shown a similar spirit, by her denunciation of the great men of the country, who have been patriotically laboring to preserve peace between the Northern and Southern States, and the perpetuation of our glorious Union, by advocating and successfully carrying through both Houses, what are commonly called the compromise acts.

  "This letter (Reuben B. Carlle'ys) strikingly illustrates the character of their fellow patriots with whom the great men of the land have been acting in conjunction, in carrying out the benificent provisions of the fugitive slave law."

  The sense in which she uses the term beneficent, may be seen p. 215, where she uses the following language:

  "In 1850, was passed the cruel fugitive slave law. What deeds were done then! Then to our free States were transported those scenes of fear and agony before acted only on slave soil."

  Carlley's letter referred to, to show the character of Henry Clay and his compatriots, proves him to be a low, rude and abominable slave-trader; and Mrs. Stowe associates him as a fit companion with such men as Henry Clay and the other honorable Senators and Representatives, who aided him in passing the several compromise acts, the object of which is to provide a legitimate mode of recapturing and carrying back absconding slaves from the non-slaveholding States.

  There are, no doubt, many great abuses of the power legitimat-


ley belonging to slave-owners over their slaves, and it is to be regretted, that the several State laws have not made excessive or unreasonable punishment of slaves, an indictable offence. Such laws would be just and proper. The exercise of almost unlimited power, by the owners of three million of slaves, in the very nature of things, must give rise to great abuses, on the part of unfeeling and hard hearted owners of slaves. The laws should protect slaves as far as possible, against the exercise of tyrannical authority, by their masters.

  I have remarked, that Mrs. Stowe has exhibited a strong array of facts to prove the abuses of the uncontrolled power, (uncontrolled except that death shall not be inflicted,) of slave-owners, over their slaves. But truth compels me to say, that in many cases the pictures drawn by her are highly coloured, and often much exaggerated. To notice them fully would too much extend my remarks. I will refer to one case only, as it relates to my own State. "The members of slave families may be forcibly seperated, so that they shall never more meet until the final judgment. And cupidity often induces the masters to practice what the law allows. Brothers and sisters, parents and children, husbands and wives are torn asunder, and permitted to see each other no more. These acts are daily occurring in the midst of us. The shrieks and the agony often witnessed, on such occasions, proclaim, with trumpet tongue, the inequity and cruelty of our system. There is not a neighborhood, where these heart-rending scenes are not displayed. There is not a village or road, that does not behold the sad procession of manacled outcasts."

  The above are represented as of daily occurrence, in Kentucky, which is described as one of the slave-breeding States. The following are facts within my own knowledge. I was married to my present wife 2d July, 1804. Shortly after my marriage, I purchased from a neighbour, (who had them to spare,) a servant girl, who had a husband and two children, with the full and free consent of the mother, who is still living in my family. Her children, grand children and great grand children (including those who have died,) number about thirty. Not one of them has ever been sold, in the space of forty-nine years. Nor have I given one of them to any of my children, living out of the State. My children to whom I gave a servant maid each, often visited us, and always brought their female servant with them, and thus they had frequent opportunities of visiting their relations. One of my sons has recently removed to California, who owned one of the children of old Juda. This one I purchased from my son, that she might not be separated from her mother. The wife of my oldest son, who lived many years in Washington, two miles from my residence, owned a grand daughter of old Juda, who had a husband and several children. She has recently removed to Lexington, Missouri, in order to be near her father and other relations. But


that her servant-maid might not be seperated from her husband, she purchased him, at his request, so that he might accompany his wife and children to Missouri. I owned the husband, who was the most valuable hand on my plantation, and one that I could not spare, without great inconvenience. Yet, at his desire, and to accommodate his wife and children, I readily assented to the wish of Mrs. Beatty, to purchase him. These are facts known to you, and they are but a fair representation of the course pursued by my neighbours generally, all of whom are owners of slaves. None of them have over witnessed the scenes of distress and suffering, described in the extract given above.

  Compare this with the representation of the condition of "every slave in the breeding States," Kentucky being set down as one of them. I give the following as the highly drawn picture from page 150:

  "An awful apprehension of his fate haunts the poor sufferer, by day and by night, from his cradle to his grave. Suspense hangs like a thunder cloud over his head. He knows that there is not a passing hour, whether he wakes or sleeps, which may not be the last, that ho shall spend with his wife and children. Every day or week some acquaintance is snatched from his side, and thus the consciousness of his own danger is kept continually awake. Surely my turn will come next is his horrifying conviction, for who knows that he was reared for this, as the ox for the yoke, or the sheep for the slaughter. In this respect, the slave's condition is truly indescribable. Suspense, even when it relates to an event of no great moment, and "endures but for a night," is hard to bear. But when it broods over all, absolutely all that is dear, chilling the present with its deep shade, and casting its awful doom over the future, it must break the heart! Such is the suspense, under which every slave, in the breeding States, lives. It poisons all his little lot of bliss."

  Now if this is true, all my slaves, and those of my neighbours, must be laboring under the horrors described above, and that night and day, from their cradles to their graves.

  I have always been, and hope I will ever continue to be, an ardent and devoted advocate for a system of emancipation, which shall, by a gradual and practical process, certainly relieve the country from the evils of slavery. I believe that such a system must be devised and carried out by a constitutional provision of the several States, in which slavery exists. Such a constitutional provision can be introduced only with the consent of a majority of the legal voters of the several States, in which the institution of slavery exists. All discussions, on this subject, ought to be conducted in such a way, as to produce a conviction on the minds of a majority of the citizens, that justice and sound policy require, that slaves should be restored to freedom, by such a gradual pro-


cess of emancipation, as would be accomplished without too great sacrifice of pecuniary interest, on the part of the masters, and in such a way, as would prepare and fit the persons emancipated for the enjoyment of the rights and benefits of freemen.

  This plan might be applicable only to those horn after the commencement of the system, and thus would avoid the objection, that vested rights ought not to be interfered with, for no one can have a vested right in a child unborn. The public mind ought to be prepared by discussing this subject cooly and deliberately; not by charging the entire body of the slave-holders, as tyrants and children of the devil, but by appealing to their magnanimity, their generosity, their sense of justice, and to their republican principles. Their love to the Saviour, and the desire that every Christian must feel that his kingdom on earth should embrace all mankind, might be appealed to with great effect. What Christian is there, who would not most ardently desire that all Africa should be colonized and christianized, by the transfer of the African race to their native homes, after having been educated sufficiently to read the Bible, and initiated in the divine principles of Christianity? Why charge upon the South the deadly sin of holding their fellow-men in bondage? Would it not be attended with infinitely better effect to persuade them that they are instruments in the beneficent hands of allmighty God, in preparing the African race for the enjoyment of freedom, and the blessings of Christianity? That the time has now arrived when they can acquire imperishable honour, by engaging heartily and unanimously in the God-like work of relieving our country from the evils of slavery, and laying the foundation, with the blessing of God, of christianizing the coloured race, in Africa as well as in America? When it is recollected, that slavery was introduced into the South against the wishes of its inhabitants; and the difficulties in the way of sudden emancipation, the sympathies of the friends of abolition ought to be enlisted in favor of any practical plan of general emancipation, by a slow and gradual process. They should look to the insurmountable difficulties, which would oppose all attempts to relieve the country from the evils of slavery, by a sudden and universal emancipation of slaves; whilst, by a gradual system of emancipation, these difficulties could all be overcome, and the great and God-like work of relieving the country from the evils of slavery be certainly accomplished.

  In looking over the work of Mrs. Stowe, I anxiously expected, from her fine talents, an exhibition of a practical plan for relieving the country entirely from the evils of slavery. When I came to her tenth chapter, under the head: "What is to be done?" I hoped to see some plan delineated, which would effectually and entirely remove the evil of slavery; but I found myself greatly disappointed. Her plan is, substantially, that emancipation shall be effected by the action of the various religious denominations. By church discipline, cutting off from church-membership all those who refuse


to emancipate their slaves. If this were attempted, it would inevitably split each church, of the different denominations into two separate branches, one the slaveholding, the other the non-slaveholding church.

  The history given by Mrs. Stowe of the proceedings of the several churches—Presbyterian, old school, new school, Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, &c. prove that these churches are fully aware of the difficulties that would arise, and the insurmountable obstacles that would prevent the carrying out this plan of abolition. It would be far better if all these churches were to recommend to all their church-members to advocate and vote for some practical plan of gradual emancipation, by constitutional provision, but leaving to every member the right of exercising his own judgment, as to the proposed amendment of the constitution. A recommendation of the various churches, sill leaving free scope to the exercise of their own judgments, by each individual member, would doubtless have great effect. This, coupled with a calm and dispassionate consideration of the proposed amendment of the constitution, could hardly fail to secure a majority in its favor.

  The declaration of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church, in 1846, goes far to show that the plan proposed by Mrs. Stowe can never be carried out. This declaration is a very sensible and discreet document. (p. 213.)

  Mrs. Stowe prefers, as the foundation of her system of emancipation, the declaration of the Presbyterian church, made in 1818. This declaration sets forth, in very strong terms, the sinfulness of the system of slavery, and its absolute inconsistency with pure Christianity. It enjoins as a duty, that all christians should "use honest, earnest unwearied endeavours to correct the errors of former tithes, and as speedily as possible to efface this blot on our holy religion, and to obtain the complete abolition of slavery throughout christendom, and throughout the world."

  This declaration, so far as it is quoted by Mr. Stowe, does not propose to enforce its principles, upon church members by the exercise of church discipline, but this seems to be inferred by Mrs. Stowe; who says: "here we have the Presbyterian church, slave-holding and non-slaveholding, virtually formed into one great abolition society, as we have seen the Methodist was." In 1784, in the Methodist church, "rules were adopted, prescribing the times at which members, who were already slave-holders, should emancipate their slaves." "Every person, who will not comply with these rules, shall have liberty quietly to withdraw from our society within the twelve months following, the notice being given him as aforesaid, otherwise the assistants shall exclude him from the society." "No person, holding slaves, shall, in future, be admitted into the society, or to the Lord's supper till ho previously comply with these rules, concerning slavery. Those who buy,


or sell, or give (slaves) away, unless on purpose to free them, shall be expelled immediately."

  Here is an abolition society, sufficiently strong and energetic, to meet the views of Mrs. Stowe, and such a one as she seems to desire should be introduced into all churches, and especially in the Presbyterian. But experience convinced both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, that they could not enforce such stringent regulations, without cutting up and dividing their churches, and thus doing more harm than good to the cause of emancipation, in as much as it would rivet slavery more firmly by the erection of slaveholding churches throughout all that region of country where slavery is tolerated. By such a division, the non-slaveholding churches would loose all their influence over the churches, located in slaveholding States, and could no longer, by the exercise of moral means, aid in promoting the cause of gradual emancipation.

  Both the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, from the best of motives, have been obliged to change the ground they had taken, in relation to the question of slavery. There is now, therefore, no hope for the removal of the evils of slavery, but by the adoption of a system of gradual emancipation, by a constitutional provision, in each of the several States, but adapted to the accomplishment of the great object of relieving the country from the evils of slavery.

  To those who object to this plan of emancipation because public sentiment is against it, I would say, that no plan of emancipation or abolition can be adopted, in any State, without the assent of a majority of the people of such State; and that whilst public sentiment is almost unanimous against every plan of sudden and immediate abolition of slavery, there is a wide spread and growing sentiment in favor of a reasonable and practical plan of gradual emancipation. If this subject is properly brought before the public, and discussed in a calm and dispassionate manner, by our own citizens, as a measure of State policy, justice and propriety, I do not doubt that it would meet the approbation of a majority of the citizens of Kentucky. We see, from the historical review of the proceedings of the various religious denominations, in the United States, as given by Mrs. Stowe, that they unanimously consider that slavery is a great evil, and that some plan ought to be devised for its entire removal. Let some reasonable plan be adopted to accomplish this object, and without doubt all or nearly all the members these several churches would heartily support such a plan. The influence of those churches, aided by the votes of great numbers of good men, who belong to no particular church-denomination, would secure a majority, in support of a judicious plan of gradual emancipation. Such a plan would certainly remove the evil, wholly and entirely, within a reasonable length of time. Other plans which have been suggested, would, at best, only partially remove the evil.


  If it be objected, that gradual emancipation will be too slow in its operation, I reply that all other plans will be still slower, because they will never completely emancipate our slave population.

  2d. The plan of gradual emancipation may provide that all the children to be emancipated shall be fitted for the enjoyment of freedom, by having them taught to such an extent as to prepare them for the enjoyment of that blessing.

  3rd. This plan will not interfere with vested rights. Mrs. Stowe estimates the value of slave property, at its present high rates, to be two thousand millions of dollars. If it is worth only half that amount, it is a very large sum. We could not reasonably expect that slave-owners would be willing to make so great a sacrifice as to yield up, at once, this immense sum, vested in slave-property. The plan suggested does not propose that one dollar of this immense sum shall be yielded up by slave-owners. May we not reasonably hope they, or at least a large number of them, will yield their support to the proposed plan of emancipation?

  4th. Children, born after the constitutional provision, should be raised and educated by their masters; in consideration of which, they should be entitled to their services, until they shall have arrived at such an age as would amply repay them for all their care in rearing and educating them. l would suggest twenty-four years, at which age boys and girls, and the offspring of the latter, after the commencement of the system, should be free. As to the age at which they shall be free, it is matter of only secondary importance, and should be the subject of reasonable adjustment by all our citizens, who are in favor of gradual emancipation.

  In relation to slaves in being, at the time the system of gradual emancipation commences, a majority of them will have passed of this stage of action, before any children will become free. Very many will be voluntarily emancipated by their owners, in their life time, or by will. Many will be emancipated to accompany their children to Liberia, or to non-slaveholding States, if they should choose to go there. In a word, the process of gradual emancipation, under the constitutional provision, will be greatly promoted by voluntary emancipation, to a greater or less extent, of those not coming within the constitutional provision. In fifty years, there will hardly be a slave remaining in any State which shall have adopted the system of gradual emancipation.

  But if nothing is done, we may reasonably calculate that in fifty years the slaves will number from twelve to fifteen millions. A great and united effort should be made to prevent such a result, springing from careless indifference.