The Confederate Veteran
Howard Meriwether Lovett
Nashville: December 1929

"Uncle Tom's Cabin"

  "The source of the abolition outburst against the Fugitive Slave Law, against Webster, against the government, was not only the statute itself, but certain dramatic attempts to execute it in New York, Boston, and Pennsylvania."

  In this fashion was the public mind prepared for a most effective piece of propaganda against slavery and the South. Nine months after the Fugitive Slave Law went into effect, and while the country was ringing with denunciations of the first cases of its enforcement, the National Era, organ of the American Anti-Slavery Society, began the serial publication of a story entitled "Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly." The author was Harriet Beecher Stowe, sister of Henry Ward Beecher and Edward Beecher, and wife of a Presbyterian minister and professor in the Theological Seminary in Andover, Calvin E. Stowe.

  The narrative was written with dramatic genius. It was a succession of incidents, each picturesque, some startling. In this fashion the whole abolition argument and appeal was presented. The entire story, or any section of it, could be dramatized and acted with little effort. Characters were so drawn as to give the impression that they were typical. The distinct and emphatic idea thus conveyed to the reader was that, as a class, the slaves were frightfully abused and yearning for freedom; that Southern men, with tepid exceptions, were tyrannical and vile; that, in general, Southern women were incompetent, sluggish, and cruel. While figures were made to appear and things to happen that showed the easier side of slavery, they were subordinated to the drama and used to make prominent the horrible and the base. Early in 1852, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published in book form. One hundred thousand copies were sold in two months, and within a year the American public had absorbed three times that number. Not a city, town, or village in the North was without it, and it was read even in the South. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was the literary sensation of the period. It did more to create sentiment against slavery, and even more against the South, than all that had been or was to be spoken or written on the subject. In this sense Mrs. Stowe may be said to have been a principal agent in bringing about the Civil War. "Is this the little woman who made this big war?" asked Lincoln, when she went to see the President during that conflict. (Albert J. Beveridge, in "Abraham Lincoln," Volume II, pages 137, 138.)

  This war propaganda, written in ignorance of the South by one who had never put foot on that soil, but gathered atrocities from revolutionary writings of abolitionists, was used for the subjugation of the South by the conspirators against


the government and Constitution of the United States.

  Read now the final and truest summary of what this conspiracy meant, set forth in Beveridge's "Life of Lincoln." If Senator Beveridge had lived to finish his work, myths would have been laid low. He did it well as far as he went, and no student of American history can ever ignore the plain facts. And what of that piece of propaganda, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the falsest ever used to bring about a war and to feed fanaticism and hatred of all people against the South? Dead "Slavery," the object of this hatred, dead the cause of Southern independence, and yet the lying propaganda lives, diligently reprinted and kept in circulation in America and foreign countries. Every library in the North circulates it; it is put into the hands of young generations of negroes, of the young foreigners who are being Americanized; it is cherished among standard works and used for every reading course possible. There is no purpose this book can ever justly fulfill; it represents no historic truth, no social condition that ever existed. It is pure melodrama, fit only for the stage, and, strangely, on the stage it lives, as well as in libraries. . . . This war propaganda carried on so unscrupulously after more than half a century of peace is a crime against humanity. No political expediency can in the least justify the keeping alive of forces conceived in ignorance and malice against fellow countrymen, and now acknowledged by the intelligent and informed as beyond the pale of ethical standards. To have this creation of a fanatical and unscrupulous writer fastened forever on American literature and drama is a disgrace to America and a perpetual insult to that part that gave birth to Washington and Lee, and to all that class of men who added to the greatness and achievement of the English-speaking people from the day of Sir Walter Raleigh to this present hour of Richard Evelyn Bird.