The North American Review
James Freeman Clarke
Boston: January 1875

[from] Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America

  . . . But just at that moment, when the darkness was the deepest, and all the great powers in the Church and State had decreed that there should be no more said concerning American slavery, the voice of a woman broke the silence, and American slavery became the one subject of discussion throughout the world. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written by Mrs. Stowe for the "National Era," Dr. Bailey's paper in Washington. It was intended to be a short story, running through two or three numbers of the journal, and she was to receive a hundred dollars for writing it. But as she wrote the fire burned in her soul, a great inspiration came over her, and not knowing what she was about to do, she moved the hearts of men on two continents to their very depths. After it had appeared in the newspaper, she offered it as a novel to several publishers, who refused it. Accepted at last, it had a circulation unprecedented in the annals of literature. In eight weeks its sale had reached one hundred thousand copies in the United States, while in England a million copies were sold within the year.


On the European Continent the sale was equally immense. A single publisher in Paris issued five editions in a few weeks, and before the end of 1852 it was translated into Italian, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, Flemish, German, Polish, and Magyar. To these were afterward added translations into Portuguese, Welsh, Russian, Arabic, and many other languages. For a time, it stopped the publication and sale of all other works; and within a year or two from the day when the politicians had decided that no more should be said concerning American slavery, it had become the subject of conversation and discussion among millions.

  "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published in 1852. Those were very dark hours in the great struggle for freedom. Who that shared them can ever forget the bitterness caused by the defection of Daniel Webster, and his 7th of March speech in 1850; by the passage of the Fugitive-Slave Law, which made the whole area of the free States a hunting-ground for the slaveholders; and by the rejection of the Wilmot Proviso, which abandoned all the new territory to slavery? This was followed by the election of Franklin Pierce as President in 1852, on a platform in which the Democratic party pledged itself to resist all agitation of the subject of slavery in Congress or outside of it. And in December, 1853, Stephen A. Douglas introduced his Nebraska Bill, which repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and opened all the territory heretofore secured to freedom to slaveholders and their slaves. This offer on the part of Mr. Douglas was a voluntary bid for the support of the slaveholders in the next Presidential election. And in spite of all protests from the North, all resistance by Democrats as well as their opponents, all arguments and appeals, this solemn agreement between the North and the South was violated, and every restriction on slavery removed. Nebraska and Kansas were organized as Territories, and the question of slavery left to local tribunals, or what was called "squatter sovereignty."