The contents of these volumes have been given, by installments, for several months past, as a consecutive narrative, in the National Era; exciting among the numerous readers of that journal, even with all the disadvantages of such a piecemeal publication, a deep and thrilling interest, increasing in intensity to the finishing stroke. We have waited till the appearance of the work in its present form, before attempting its perusal. Now that we have read it, we are able to express our opinions as to its merits
First, let the author speak for herself, as she does in her Preface:—"The object of these sketches is to awaken sympathy and feeling for the African race, as they exist among us; to show their wrongs and sorrows, under a system so necessarily cruel and unjust all to defeat and do away the good effects of all that can be attempted for them, by their best friends, under it. In doing this, the author can sincerely disclaim any invidious feeling towards those individuals who, often without any fault of their own, are involved in the trials and embarrassments of the legal relations of slavery."
In the execution of her very difficult task, Mrs. Stowe has displayed rare descriptive powers, a familiar acquaintance with slavery under its best and worst phases, uncommon moral and philosophical acumen, great facility of thought and expression, feelings and emotions of the strongest character. Intimate as we have been, for a score of years, with the features and operations of the slave system, and often as we have listened to the recitals of its horrors from the lips of the poor hunted fugitives, we confess to the frequent moistening of our eyes, and the making of our heart grow liquid as water, and the trembling of every nerve within us, in the perusal of the incidents and scenes so vividly depicted in her pages. The effect of such a work upon all intelligent and humane minds coming in contact with it, and especially upon the rising generation in its plastic condition, to awaken the strongest compassion for the oppressed and the utmost abhorrence of the system which grinds them to the dust, cannot be estimated: it must be prodigious, and therefore eminently serviceable in the tremendous conflict now waged for the immediate and entire suppression of slavery on the American soil.
The appalling liabilities which constantly impend over such slaves as have "kind and indulgent masters" are thrillingly illustrated in various personal narratives; especially in that of "Uncle Tom," over whose fate every reader will drop the scalding tear, and for whose character the highest reverence will be felt. No insult, no outrage, no suffering could ruffle the Christ-like meekness of his spirit, and shake the steadfastness of his faith. Towards his merciless oppressors, he cherished no animosity, and breathed nothing of retaliation. Like his Lord and Master, he was willing to be "led as a lamb to the slaughter," returning blessing for cursing, and anxious only for the salvation of his enemies. His character is sketched with great power and rare religious perception. It triumphantly exemplifies the nature, tendency and results of CHRISTIAN NON-RESISTANCE. We are curious to know whether Mrs. Stowe is a believer in the duty of non-resistance for the white man, under all possible outrage and peril, as well as for the black man; whether she is for self-defense on her own part, or that of her husband or friends or country, in case of malignant assault, or whether she impartially disarms all mankind in the name of Christ, be the danger or suffering what it may. We are curious to know this, because our opinion of her, as a religious teacher, would be greatly strengthened or lessened, as the inquiry might terminate. That all the slaves at the South ought, "if smitten on the one cheek, to turn the other also"—to repudiate all carnal weapons, shed no blood, "be obedient to their masters," wait for a peaceful deliverance, and abstain for all insurrectionary movements—is every where taken for granted, because the VICTIMS ARE BLACK. They cannot be animated by a Christian spirit, and yet return blow for blow, or conspire for the destruction of their oppressors. They are required by the Bible to put away all wrath, to submit to every conceivable outrage without resistance, to suffer with Christ if they would reign with him. None of their advocates may seek to inspire them to imitate the example of the Greeks, the Poles, the Hungarians, our Revolutionary sires; for such teaching would evince a most unchristian and blood-thirsty dispostion. For them there is no hope of heaven, unless they give the most liberal interpretations to the non-resisting injunctions contained in the Sermon on the Mount, touching the treatment of enemies. It is for them, though despoiled of all their rights and deprived of all protection, to "threaten not, but to commit the keeping of their souls to God in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator." Nothing can be plainer than that such conduct is obligatory upon them; and when, through the operations of divine grace, they are enabled to manifest a spirit like this, it is acknowledged to be worthy of great commendation, as in the case of "Uncle Tom." But, for those whose skin is of a different complexion, the case is materially altered. When they are spit upon and buffeted, outraged and oppressed, talk not then of a non-resisting Saviour—it is fanaticism! Talk not of overcoming evil with good—it is madness! Talk not of peacefully submitting to chains and stripes—it is base servility! Talk not of servants being obedient to their masters—let the blood of tyrants flow! How is this to be explained or reconciled? Is there one law of submission and non-resistance for the black man, and another law of rebellion and conflict for the white man? When it is the whites who are trodden in the dust, does Christ justify them in taking up arms to vindicate their rights? And when it is the blacks who are thus treated, does Christ require them to be patient, harmless, long-suffering, and forgiving? And are there two Christs?
The work, towards its conclusion, contains some objectionable sentiments respecting African colonization, which we regret to see.