The Christian Inquirer
Unsigned Review
New York: 10 April 1852



  This book, written by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, daughter of that famous old man, Dr. Beecher, and wife of Dr. Calvin Stowe, is a very noble one. We have read it, as it was published piecemeal, in the National Era, with ever-increasing delight. The deepest spirity of piety, and the largest spirit of humanity prevail on every page, and charm in every line.

  The main purpose of the book is to show the system of Slavery in the United States as it really is. This is done with singular truthfulness and remarkable wisdom. It is evident at first glance that she has obtained all her knowledge at first-hand. No one who had not lived in the midst of slavery, and observed it most sharply, could have made a picture so faithful in its minute details, as well as in its general effect. The book breathes the very air of the Kentucky farm and the Louisiana plantation. In this respect alone it is a real addition to American literature. Nine-tenths even of the good books written in the country might, for all we can see, have been as easily written in England, or on the Continent. Only the tenth book bears the stamp of an American growth, and is an autocthon—born of the soil. Such a book is this of Mrs. Stowe, one which could not have been written but by an American—by one acquainted with the actual workings of slavery, and acutely observing its most casual and fleeting shadows. We have the virtues and the vices, the rudeness and refinement, the chivalry and meanness, the wild generosity and the Yankee cunning which are found mixed together in this singular system of American Slavery, which is so fast becoming the American institution. Even that curious patois, the negro dialect, is very accurately represented in these chapters.

  But the spirit of truth—of stern, downright truth of this story, is far more extraordinary than its picturesque fidelity in details. Mrs. Stowe has avoided all the dangers to one or another of which most of those who write on this subject fall a prey. She has resisted the temptation to exaggeration of every kind. She has shown the evils inherent in the system, but has painted generous and noble characters among those involved in it. Mr. Garrison's proverb that "Where there is a sin there is a sinner," has not blinded her to nature's proverb, that "This is a very mixed-up world." On the other hand, no longing after poetic justice, no wish of the novelist to bring about a happy termination of the story, has caused her to shrink from the tragic truth of the facts as they are. Her slaves are not all good, nor all evil. It is shown how they are brutified and made brutal by the system. It is shown how they may be mirthful, yet not joyous; happy, under a kind and conscientious master, yet liable in a week's time, by the uncertainty of life and of earthly possessions, to come under the control of a brutal and wicked one. It is shown how, as a matter of course, and as a necessary part of the system, parents and children, husbands and wives, are suddenly and forever separated; the conscientious and the pure thrown upon the mercy of the merciless and licentious; and how every slave, no matter how well situated he may be, is liable every moment to be transferred to a situation where his previous happiness only imbitters his present misery, and where even his piety may give offence, and his Christianity be a crime.

  But Mrs. Stowe, while making a book true as death to the unspeakable evils of this system, has show that even here Life can triumph over Death, and the power and presence of God be a sufficient support to his most lowly children. She has made it very possible to believe that the greatest triumphs of Christ and of his Gospel are still, as at first, taking place among the down-trodden and the wretched. We have long thought that the real romance and heroism of our time was to be found among the slaves and fugitives from slavery. We begin to believe now, that to their most miserable and most needy condition there may have come a deeper manifestation of the power and love of Christ than elsewhere; and, at all events, while the story of Uncle Tom's religious experiences reads like a chapter out of mediæval hagiographa, we know that it is true to the real accounts of religous experiences among the slaves.

  In conclusion, we would say that, having lived seven years in the midst of slavery, we can testify to the perfect and full accuracy of these pictures of the American institution. It is the book for the times, and we trust that it will be everywhere read and circulated.