The Columbus (Georgia) Enquirer-Sun
W. C. Butler
23 November 1898

Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Bishop Wilmer Showed the Good Book to the Southern and the Evil Northern.


  Messrs Editors: The seething, vexatious and damaging troubles—social, political and moral—fomented and focused and foisted upon the people of these United States for long generations to come, in large part by Mrs. Stowe's book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," make it specially timely just now to lay before the public a pithy and pointed, careful and logical analysis of that book by a distinguished Southern bishop, the Rt. Rev. Richard H. Wilmer, still bishop of Alabama. The narrative was had years ago from the Bishop's lips.

  Shortly after the close of the war between the States of the Union the Bishop met a gentleman from the North, and in the course of the conversation was asked whether he had read Mrs. Stowe's book. "Of course I have," said the Bishop. "It is very remarkable as a work of fiction, (fine irony,) for if the book pretends to describe the condition of the slave in the South as generally existing, and not exceptionally, then it is pretty much a work of falsehood. And I venture to say," continued the Bishop, "few have extracted its truest and deepest and most consistent meaning."

  "As how?" replied the interlocutor.

  "In this way," responded the Bishop. "In the first place, who was the hero of the story?"

  "Why, Uncle Tom, of course," was the reply, "a most conspicuous character for honesty, fidelity, and piety; one of the finest characters I have ever read of."

  "Precisely so," said the Bishop, "and was not this man a slave and reared under that condition, a condition tending to that and producing just such elements of character, fostering by patient degrees in the native African the instinct of obedience to lawful and kind authority, out of which instinct sprang reverence and faith and dutifulness?

  "So, according to Mrs. Stowe's testimony, doubtless unintended, but none the less, perhaps the more, emphatic and valuable, slavery was not incompatible with a very high type of integrity and piety in the slave."

  Musing for a moment the reply was made: "Of course, I must admit that much; it is set forth in the book."

  "Now for the second point," said the Bishop. "Please tell me who was the most conspicuous, most lovable, womanly character in the whole book?"

  "Eva," was the answer, "one of the most lovely of the sex, gentle, kind, refined, a most attractive, womanly character."

  "Was not Eva a slave holder, descended from a long line of such gentlewomen?" queried the Bishop.

  "Yes, she was," was the reply.

  "Then you will perceive that this noble woman represented a refinement which was defended and honored when the fathers and sons of the South left their homes in the keeping of the slaves, while they fought on the battle-fields of Virginia, and the behavior of these slaves over the whole South belied the 'suggesto falsi' of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' You must admit that womanly refinement and worshipful influence were not inconsistent with slave ownership."

  "I may not deny that," was the admission, "for so has Mrs. Stowe announced to the world."

  "Now once more and finally," continued Bishop Wilmer, "who was the villain of the plot—the execrable wretch?"

  "Why, Legree," hesitatingly and with somewhat of indignation, faltered the Northern brother.

  "And who was this man?" was the next question. "Was he not a Northern born man who came South and, of course, mismanaged and, according to the testimony, most cruelly maltreated the slaves, as did not such families as that of Eva?"

  "I never read the book from that standpoint," was the slowly uttered response, "I never thought of it at all in that way."

  "Just so," was the final word of the Bishop. "The whole trouble in this whole matter from start to finish has come from the ignorant or designing maliciousness and selfishness of intermeddling outsiders who have not hesitated to put bungling fingers to most delicate civil, political and social machinery, and the wretched result is before the world.

  "Almost all of the beautiful resultant of that by-gone condition is rapidly passing away forever—the faithful old nurse, the decent and comely servant, reverence, obedience, faithfulness—loving care for them in all sickness and in health—Uncle Tom's piety vanishing. And what instead? Conflicts of races, animosity and distrust, suffrage without sense, religion without morals, service without reverence, the old war between oppressive capital and discontented labor."—Baltimore Sun.