"UNCLE TOM'S CABIN"
BY MRS. HARRIET B. STOWE
"Spread it around the world"! is the feeling which come first, the instant, urgent, inevitable impulse, as one rises from the perusal of this fascinating book. It is not so much for the exquisite delineations of scenery and of character which are assembled in it—though these range every whither, from the Ohio roads to the swamps of the Red-River, and from Tom Loker, the swearing gigantic Kentuckian, to the placid Aunt Deborah who smoothes his coverlid, and distils upon his sick-bed her spirit of peace. It is not so much for the admirable qualities of genius and of character which are brightly expressed in it; though in this regard also it stands preeminent among recent publications, the glowing utterance of a generous, affluent, intensely sympathetic and earnest soul. But it is for the moral of the book that we would spread it. For the freshness and power with which the experience of the Christian is developed in it, amid the most difficult and painful circumstances; for the sudden light which is thrown on many passages of the Scriptures; the disclosures which are made, transcendent yet self-evidencing, of the attainments which are possible in Christian faith, as well in this as in the distant martyr-ages; for this, and also even mainly, for the vivid and mighty revelation which it makes of the internal structure and operations of the Slave-system; for the clearness, thoroughness, dramatic vigor with which it unfolds into visible procession the horrible elements of that great valley and shadow of Death, into which so many northern Christians are zealous to hurl back the panting trembling Christians who have escaped from it;—for this we welcome it. For this we would spread it, till every family in the land had read it; till Northward and Southward, Eastward and Westward it had become familiar, (as thank God, it bids fair to be!) as household words.
There is no exaggeration in this book. There is no attempt made to conceal the brighter aspects of the Slave-system, as they are met in the more northern agricultural districts, or sometimes in the household life of the cities. There is shown too a really wonderful appreciation of the difficulties in which the master finds himself entangled, when aroused to his duty as a Christian toward those who have come into his hands from his Fathers; and we have never heard the arguments of the Slave-holder more fairly or forcibly stated by his own lips than they are by Mrs. Stowe, in the clear, sarcastic, ringing words of the generous St. Clare. But yet the truth of the matter is told, after all. The book is full of the intensest Truth; the very Truth, of facts and of ethics. As the artist attains the highest truth, that which is really enduring and valuable, not in the simple mechanical imitation of lines and colors as they meet him at any one point in Nature, but in the gathering from different scenes the element which in each is differential and characteristic, and in grouping and combining these various elements, breadth of view, sharpness of outline, softness of tone, with exquisite commingling of rock, meadow, stream and homestead, until they form a scene such as perhaps has never been strictly and literally realized in any one existing landscape, yet such as might be combined at any time, as lies within the range of constant possibility—so in this book, though the several incidents as connected with the life of "Uncle Tom" may not all have occurred, we have the fullest clearest Truth on the matter of Slavery. The tremendous liability under which the husbands and wives whom it afflicts continually lie, of being severed forever and hopelessly at any moment; the perfect power which it gives to the master over the strength of man, the chastity of woman, and the keenest sensibility of the youth and the child; the cruelties which it allows and does not punish; the debasement and barbarism which it tends to perpetuate in the black, and the terrible reacting influence on the Master which is diffused from its whole structure—all is truthfully expressed here.
With a careful unexaggerating fidelity to facts that the Southerner must accept, it unites an outspoken energy and fearlessness of portraiture that the Northerner must feel. We cannot but hope that this book is to accomplish a great work for Humanity. Not only here, but in Baltimore, in Washington, in New Orleans, it will be read. The Twentieth Thousand of copies, we rejoice to know, has already been published; and the pressure for a supply exceeds continually the number that can be furnished. Is there one who can read it without the purpose, self-reforming in his heart on the instant as he reads, that for himself he will not be allied, in any the remotest responsible connection, with this ungodly and desolating system! The man who is in it may not see his way to get out of it readily; at least without a pecuniary sacrifice to which only the spirit of the largest Christian benevolence can impel him. But we of the North, we who boast of our freedom, and are uncursed with bondmen— is it possible there are those among us who will uphold the system, by effective and guilty participation in it? who will aid and abet, by political action at least, in sending black men and shuddering women to this horrible bondage; horrible in its constant liabilities and hazards, even when most mildly and humanely administered?
For ourselves, we try hard to think calmly on the matter; and we will not judge those who differ in opinion and in action from us. But there are times when to us the very air of Society seems heavy and pestilential with the taint of this iniquity; when the burden of the thought of it is greater than we can bear. Sooner than send back a human being into this oppression, unrighteously begun, iniquitously maintained, and crushing daily the souls of men for the profit of their oppressors—sooner than aid by vote or by influence any man or any system that would do this—certainly we would pray to God to give us strength to bear what Uncle Tom did, and manifold more if it came! Our heartiest efforts are ever for the fugitive; our prayers, and our desires. To him our purse shall always be open, as long as God permits us to have one. And almost any national revulsion would seem to us slight and easy to be borne, if not directly and positively desirable, which should shake the shackles from these millions of souls! God speed the day, and give us grace in our measure and sphere to help it forward, when such a book as that before us shall be valuable only as historically suggestive; shall be read as the almost incredible record of barbarities and endurances thenceforth impossible! The man who has met, in travelling at the South, the groups of women, men and children, each one of whom has parents, a husband, a wife, a circle of friends, to whom each personally is as sacred and dear as we to ours, as any mother or child in Brooklyn to that dear group in which they move—but all of whom have been bought, beneath the shadow of our national flag, to be scattered over the cotton fields and the rice swamps of the far South, to meet no more this side of the Judgement—that man will not be ready, if he be a Christian in his heart, to 'curse God and die,' nor even to curse his country and abjure it and strip himself of allegiance to it, but he will be ready, if he has a heart that is any way softer than the slave-master's mallet, to resolve that for him, so help him God, he will do his uttermost to break down the system! By the dear allegiance he owes to wife, and the reverent homage he pays to parents, and the thirst of his soul as he looks on the glowing faces of his babes, by the anguish of his heart at the thought of their being torn violently from him, he will not rest or sleep, or enjoy, till personally he is purged of this fearful wickedness! No possible political or ecclesiastical relation should stand with us for a moment in the way of this deep-sunk and determined conviction!
We have essayed so far from the starting point, that we had almost omitted to mention that the book is for sale in New York by Mr. Harned, 48 Beekman street; and that he will supply copies in answer to orders from a distance, as he has already had the pleasure of doing for booksellers at Baltimore and other Southern cities. Again, we add, let ALL MEN read it!