Introduction to British Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe
London: Thomas Bosworth, 1852


  THE Author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" cannot but express gratification at the feeling and generous response which it has awakened in that old and noble nation from which her country derives its birth.

  The book is an appeal to the public sentiment of a common humanity: it presents in this last high court the cause of an injured and helpless race, who cannot speak for themselves. To this race both England and America in times past have been unjust. The wrong on England's part has been atoned in a manner worthy of herself, and her national example in this respect is a constant bene-


faction to the civilised world. It is a prouder glory than that of her fleets and armies, that a slave ceases to be a slave the moment he touches her shores, and that the fugitive from oppression of all nations finds beneath her flag an inviolable sanctuary.

  The public sentiment of the generous and just in England cannot but act powerfully in America. But, in order that it may have its full weight, it is necessary that it should be dispensed with exact justice.

  Unintentional injustice has often been done to the American nation by imagining that the General Government of the United States has the same power over slavery in the States that the British Parliament had in the Colonies. It must be borne in mind, that each particular State is in this respect as independent of the General Government as the island of Great Britain herself. The Free States, therefore, have no power at all over this subject, excepting that of example, of argument, and public sentiment.

  But for the Fugitive Slave Law—its framers, aiders, and abettors, both north and south, no mercy is claimed at the hands of the British public, or of the civilised world.

  One of our most eminent senators, Hon. Charles Sumner, in his late masterly expose of this enactment, has proved conclusively that it is as much opposed to the


letter and spirit of the United States' constitution as it is to the spirit of religion and humanity.

  The Author has seen in English prints some strictures respecting the parallel drawn in a part of the book between the condition of the English labouring poor and that of the slave population of the United States.

  It must be borne in mind that these ideas occur in the dramatic part of the book, and are placed in the mouth of an honourable and high-minded slaveholder. It was impossible to give a dramatic representation of such a character without the introduction of this parallel. Every Southern print, every Southern politician, makes it a stereotyped apology for slavery, that the slave is better off than the labouring class of any other part of the world,—with the exception, perhaps, of the Free States of America; and statistics with regard to the condition of the English poor are more eagerly seized upon by them than those of any other nation, because England's national example and public sentiment with regard to slavery would otherwise be a weight too intolerable to be borne.

  Our ideas with regard to the condition of the English poor are drawn from current English literature. Such works as Charlotte Elizabeth's little "Pin-headers," and "Lace-makers," and "Helen Fleetwood," where all the worst details are established by Parliamentary reports and other documents,—the works of Dickens, of the author of


"Alton Locke" and "Yeast," have had a wide circulation in this country, and have excited a sensation with regard to the condition of the English poor little inferior to that excited in England by the details of American slavery.

  So inextricably are the destinies of humanity interwoven, that every effort made in England to improve the condition of the labouring poor tells immediately upon the interests of freedom in America; and when all the various causes now in operation, and yet to be set in operation, shall have materially and permanently bettered their condition, then the noble example of England with regard to human freedom will act with unbroken force. Daniel Webster has truly said that there is a force rising in these days superior to that of fleets and armies,—the "public sentiment of nations." That, at last, must put an end to every form of injustice and cruelty.

  The author has seen it stated in English prints that the representation of the insecurity of family ties in the Slave States is exaggerated, and it has been said that the families are not so much exposed to compulsory separation as the families of labouring classes in some parts of England and Scotland.

  In reply to this, it can only be stated that the slave is to all intents and purposes as much property as a bale of merchandise,—can be sold, leased, mortgaged, taken for debt, without any protection or reserve, except in the single


state of Louisiana, where the "Code Noir" imposed certain restrictions, which are, however, dead letter in practice. Another fact which must be borne in mind is, that in the northernmost tier of Slave States there is a regular and established system of raising and trafficking of slaves to Southern states. Hon. Horace Mann, in a late speech in the House of Representatives, gives the following items of this trade:—

  "In 1820, Virginia had a slave population of 425,153. According to the ratio of increase in the whole slave population of the United States, her slaves in 1850 should have amounted to 800,000. But the actual number was only 472,528, that is, more than 300,000 less than the proportionate natural increase. This number, or at least most of them, must have been sent to the South for sale.

  "In 1833, Professor Dew, of William and Mary College, said that Virginia exported her own native population at the rate of 6000, for which she received $1,200,000 annually.

  "So in 1820, the population of Maryland was 107,398. Making all due abatements for manumissions and escapes, this number should have increased, in thirty years, to nearly 200,000. But in 1850 it was only 90,368. The difference has gone to the remorseless South. And, doubtless, in most of these cases, members of families have been torn asunder—man from woman, parents from children.

  "The same slave-trade is carried on from North Carolina.


The slaves are borne from the less rigorous bondage of the Northern Slave States to a more unrelenting prison-house."

  If the family ties of any class of labouring people in England are more uncertain than these facts and statistics show, they are much to be pitied.

  The character of Uncle Tom has been objected to as an improbability. While something might be claimed on this head for artistic license, the Author desires to quote a slaveholder's description of a favourite slave, as a parallel to her conception.

  The subjoined is quoted from the published will of Judge Upshur, late Secretary of State under President Tyler:—

  "I emancipate and set free my servant, David Rice, and direct my executors to give him one hundred dollars. I recommend him in the strongest manner to the respect, esteem, and confidence of any community in which he may happen to live. He has been my slave for twenty-four years, during all which time he has been trusted to every extent, and in every respect; my confidence in him has been unbounded; his relation to myself and family has always been such as to afford him daily opportunities to deceive and injure us, yet he has never been detected in any serious fault, nor even in an unintentional breach


of the decorum of his station. His intelligence is of a high order, his integrity above all suspicion, and his sense of right and propriety correct, and even refined. I feel that he is justly entitled to carry this certificate from me in the new relations which he must now form; it is due to his long and most faithful services, and to the sincere and steady friendship which I bear to him. In the uninterrupted confidential intercourse of twenty-four years, I have never given, nor had occasion to give him, one unpleasant word. I know no man who has fewer faults or more excellencies than he."

  Such a character, as St. Clare has said, is indeed "a moral miracle;" but surely enough of obloquy and enforced degradation has been heaped on the head of the unhappy African, to entitle him to a full benefit of all such instances in his favour.

  The Author might add to this, her own personal knowledge of one now wearing the chain of slavery, who, for nobleness of mind and consistent, blameless goodness, might be indeed a lesson to the highest in education and position.

  The beauty of Eliza, and the spirit, intelligence, and gentlemanly language of George Harris, are also no uncommon instances.

  With regard to the practical results of slavery, the


picture cannot be overdrawn: the half is not told, and cannot be told,—it could neither be believed nor read, if it were. It can only be expressed in the eloquent words of Hon. Horace Mann, in a late debate on the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law:—

  "As the complex and infinite meaning of the word GOD cannot be adequately understood, until you analyse it, and divide and subdivide it, and give to it the thousand names of omnipotence, and omniscience, and omnipresence, of infinite justice, and holiness, and benevolence, of all sanctities, and verities, and benignities, of all energies and beauties, of all wisdom and all law; so when you penetrate and lay open the infinite meaning of the word SLAVERY, it resolves itself into all crimes and all cruelties, all debasements and all horrors. The telescope of the astronomer resolves the star-dust of the universe into refulgent systems that glorify their Maker; the telescope of the moralist resolves the Tartarean cloud of Slavery into all the impieties and wickednesses that deform humanity."