Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Uncle Tom's cabin : or, Negro life in the slave states of America online

. (page 1 of 42)
Online LibraryHarriet Beecher StoweUncle Tom's cabin : or, Negro life in the slave states of America → online text (page 1 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Harriet Beecher Stowe

"J&nerson and Oarlyle were
greatly admired "by Herndon, "but Lincoln
cared little for them. He enjoyed
particularly H<3mes, Theodore Parker,
Beecher, Lowell, Whittier, the elder Abbott,
and Hawthorne. He cared little for fiction,
though Mrs. Stowe 1 s Uncle Tom's Cabin moved
him deeply while reading it. His literary
taste was keen and delicate, and his zest
for the best in current literature was
unerring to recognize and appreciate
beauty of style and strength of personality
in a writer's method of expressing thought.
He was deeply moved only by such writing.
Kis likes and dislikes in literature were
quick, strong, and positive, a few brief
glances, a sentence read here and there,
a hasty turning hf leaves, sufficed with
him for a decision to toss the book
aside, or to make it his own as he found
leisure to read it. Lincoln «an an earnest
seeker of the best thought and form in
literature. M

(Rankin 1 s Personal Recollections,
page 130).

H. E. Barker

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

The Institute of Museum and Library Services through an Indiana State Library LSTA Grant



<y-a>vat <^Wc^k.











/7>4 55SJU


Salisbury ami Co., Printerp, Bouverie Street and Primrose Hill. Fleet Street.


Good books, like good actions, best explain themselves ; they
most effectually storm both heart and head, their virtues drape
them with greatest dignity, the less they are cumbered by eulo-
gistic comment. But while, therefore, we may be content with
merely introducing this good book to British readers, leaving
them to discover what beauties and excellences, what tenderness,
and humour, and delicate pencillings, have rendered the story so
popular in the free states of America — the purpose of the book
we ourselves have some property in, and iu reprinting it must
assert the claim. And not " we" alone, as expressive merely of
an editorial fraction, but the English nation, and all the British
peoples, more than all nations and all peoples, dead or living,
may assert the claim ; for the purpose is to disabuse large com-
munities of mankind of the belief that the Lord our God, when
He gave dominion to man " over the fish of the sea, and over
the fowl of the air, and over the cattle," bestowed this dominion
only on prospective races of a certain colour, and included under
the designation " cattle" other prospective races of another

Were this, however, only a belief, pitiful and blasphemous as
it is, the full luxury of its enjoyment might be allowed to those
who hold it ; leaving them to defend the creed in the face of Our
Father, one day, while the avenging angel, with his flaming
sword, shall turn the leaves of Holy Writ. But since this be-
lief is acted upon — since the dominion of mankind over man is
established through violence and theft, and maintained by knotted
thongs, hissing branding-irons, rifles, dogs, and the laws of glori-
ous republics, it is another thing. This is our business also, as
well as of Him who drowned the might of Egypt at the feet of
its slaves. It is incumbent upon every honest man, it is incum-
bent even upon every fettered thief, so he have respect for a
single virtue, or detestation of a solitary vice, to aid in shaming

down the man-trade; for it is scarcely possible to name a
crime, from murder downward, that it does not prolifically

To have been foremost in acknowledging the evils inflicted in
the traffic, the first to atone for its guilt, and to force some
measure of redress from other nations, England may justly
claim credit for ; the fact that to stand once within the boun-
daries of British lule is to place the artillery of an empire
betwixt any man and slavery, advances that empire, all burdened
and heavy laden as it is, to a degree of national excellence un-
attained elsewhere either in old times or in new. But when
Wilberforce preached and Brougham thundered, it was not only
that the disgrace of such oppression should be removed from us,
but that the pains of such oppression should be removed from
all mankind. It was not to whitewash the national dignity, but
to reclaim a degraded race from degradation, that so mighty
efforts were made by a generation now almost past. If, then,
this spirit be still in us, we shall cease to regard our efforts in
this direction as accomplished ; and though we have not power
further to enforce obedience to those laws of humanity by which
all nations are brought equally under the government of God,
and of which every man is an officer, and though appeals to the
sense and feeling of American slave-owners and slave-breeders
have hitherto fallen short of the mark, and got drowned in their
breeches-pockets, the moral influence of all free nations is still a
debt due to their victims.

Mainly through such considerations has the present edition of
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" become published. We believe — it is
already evident, in fact — that the dissemination of this work
throughout America will effect what " La Picciola" elsewhere
effected against tyranny less complete and vile. It will sap the
foundations of an institution which has prospered amid tempests
of indignant eloquence ; and we prophesy that what has been
denied to Justice, contrary to the lowest instincts of brute com
passion, will now be resigned, bit by bit, at the shrine of Respec-
tability. Wherever the book is read — and thousands of copies
are already quietly at work in thousands of homes — contempt
for the upholders of slavery must follow. Now, contempt, un-
like indignation, is a weapon impossible to parry ; it loses little
of its force by being struck from a distance, and, in a good cause,
spreads like contagion. Therefore the sooner the story is cir-
culated in every colony and village where English can be read,
the sooner must the dreadful realities it chronicles become mere
traditions to wonder over.

Until, however, this consummation be effected in so far as she
is criminal, it is vain to assert for the republic of the United
States greatness, or any share in the progress of the world.

Commercial greatness vre are willing to allow her ; but prosper-
ous infamy is not palliated infamy, and cruelty imbibes no virtue
from purple and fine linen. It may or may not be great to be
powerful and rich, according as the question is approached from
earth or heaven ; but when increase grows from tears and blood,
when power is subserved by crushing into the hearts of thousands
all those feelings and impulses by which men are known to be
the children of an Almighty Father — to prove that greatness we
must view it neither from earth nor heaven. Nor is the world
progressed by destroying in certain races both the power and
the motive for advancement — by depriving them even of their
right to their children, and their wives and daughters of the right
of being virtuous — by heaping upon them such indignities that
they themselves resign all pretensions to manhood and to im-
mortal life, and are content to live and die like horned beast in
the stall. Let the slave-breeder and slaveholder reflect upon this
last consideration. There is surely something frightfully respon-
sible in thus standing between God and the souls of men — in ren-
dering these souls lies to their possessors ; surely there is some
danger in treading out that image of Himself which God has im-
pressed upon the heart of every woman and man. In view of
such enormity, even to barter the bodies of living men is a venial
offence ; but as this fearful sin against Heaven grows out of the
smaller sin against humanity, it becomes obligatory upon us a
thousandfold to use whatever means are at hand to destroy
altogether the curse of slavery. Regarding it, however, simply
as a sin against humanity, it is sufficiently terrible to excuse
destruction, spite of vested interest. " Tell me not of rights,"
said Lord Brougham, " talk not of the property of the planter
in his slaves. I deny the right, I acknowledge not the property.
The principles, the feelings of our common nature rise in re-
bellion against it. Be the appeal made to the understanding or
the heart, the sentence is the same that rejects it. In vain you
tell me of laws which sanction such a claim. There is a law
above all the enactments of human codes, the same throughout
the world, the same in all times, such as it was before the daring
genius of Columbus pierced the night of ages, and opened to one
world the sources of power, wealth, and knowledge, to another
all unutterable woes, such as it is at this day. It is the law
written by the finger of God upon the heart of man ; and by
that law, unchangeable and eternal, while men despise fraud, and
loathe rapine, and abhor blood, they will reject with indignation
the wild and guilty phantasy that man can hold property in

It is unnecessary to add another word. We resign this
volume into the hands of the public, trusting that by such gentle
means as it embodies an iniquity so gigantic and terrible will

speedily be done away, and the statute-books of America purged
of those leaves which render her laws contradiction and absur-
dity. If, however, the slave states continue to resist the whole-
some influences mercifully arrayed against their staple traffic,
and still persist in wickedness, we need only turn to history and
Holy Writ to understand the results. Not always shall Loving-
kindness plead with Cain. Not always shall the blood of lashed
and murdered men reek at the gates of Heaven — the cries of
bereaved mothers, of bereaved children, riDg around the Throne;
nor will He always await the return of the oppressor to justice.
For in Eastern deserts the ruins of past nations, whitening like
skeletons in the sun, declare that, surrounded as we are by
mercy, there yet stands upon the verge of heaven an avenging
angel armed to destroy that city whose gates are barred against
justice and humanity.







Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen -were
sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlour, in the

town of P , in Kentucky. There were no servants present, and the

gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to be discussing some
.subject with great earnestness.

For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two gentlemen. One of
the parties, however, when critically examined, did not seem, strictly
speaking, to come under the species. He was a short, thick-set man,
with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering air of pretension
which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his way upward in the
world. He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest of many colours, a
blue neckerchief, bedropped gaily with yellow spots, and arranged with
a flaunting tie, quite in keeping with the general air of the man. His
hands, large and coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings ; and he
wore a heavy gold watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of portentous size,
and a great variety of colours, attached to it, which, in the ardour of
conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident
satisfaction. His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray's
Grammar, and was garnished at convenient intervals with various pro-
fane expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account
shall induce us to transcribe.

His companion, Mr. Shelby, had the appearance of a gentleman; and
the arrangements of the house, and the general air of the housekeeping,
indicated easy and even opulent circumstances. As we before stated, the
two were in the midst of an earnest conversation.

" That is the way I should arrange the matter " said Mr. Shelby



" I can't make trade that way — I positively can't, Mr. Shelby," said
the other, holding up a glass of wine between his eye and the light.

"Why, the fact is, Haley, Tom is an uncommon fellow ; he is cer-
tainly worth that sum anywhere, — steady, honest, capable, manages my
whole farm like a clock."

" You mean honest, as niggers go," said Haley, helping himself to a
glass of brandy.

"Iso, I mean really, Tom is a good, steady, . sensible, pious fellow.
He got religion at a camp-meeting, four years ago ; and I believe ho
really did get it. I've trusted him, since then, with everything I have,
— monej r , house, horses, — and let him come and go round the country;
and I always found him true and square in everything."

" Some folks don't believe there is pious niggers, Shelby," said Haley,
with a candid flourish of his hand ; " but I do. I had a fellow, now, in
this yer last lot I took to Orleans — 'twas as good as a meetin' now,
really, to hear that critter pray , ana ne was quite gentle and quiet like.
He fetched me a good sum, too ; for I bought him cheap of a man that
was 'biiged to sell out ; so I realized sis hundred on him. Yes, I con-
sider religion a valeyable thing in a nigger, when it's the genuine article,
and no mistake."

" "Well, Tom's got the real article, if ever a fellow had," rejoined the
other. " Why, last fall, I let him go to Cincinnati alone, to do business
for me, and bring home five hundred dollars. ' Tom,' says I to him, 'I
trust you, because I think you're a Christian — I know you wouldn't
cheat.' Tom comes back sure enough — I knew he would. Some low
fellows, they say, said to him: 'Tom, why don't you make tracks for
Canada?' 'Ah, master trusted me, and I couldn't!' They told me
about it. I am sorry to part with Tom, I must say. You ought to let
him cover the whole balance of the debt; and you would, Haley, if you
had any conscience."

" Well I've got just as much conscience as any man in business can
afford to keep, — just a little, you know, to swear by, as 'twere," said the
trader, jocularly ; " and then I'm ready to do anything in reason, to
'blige friends; but this yer, you see, is a leetle too hard on a fellow — a
leetle too hard."

The trader sighed contemplatively, and poured out some more brandy.

"Well, then, Haley, how will you trade?" said Mr. Shelby, after an
uneasy interval of silence.

" Well, have n't you a boy or gal that you could throw in with Tom ?"

"Hum! — none that I could well spare; to tell the truth, it's only
hard necessity makes me willing to sell at all. I don't like parting with
any of my hands, that's a fact."

Here the door opened, and a small quadroon boy, between four and
five years of age, entered the room. There was something in his ap-
pearance remarkably beautiful and engaging. His black hah - , fine as
floss silk, hung in glossy curls about his round, dimpled face, while a
pair of large dark eyes, full of fire and softness, looked out from beneath
the rich long lashes, as he peered curiously into the apartment. A gay
robe of scarlet and yellow plaid, carefully made and neatly fitted, set off
to advantage the dark and rich style of his beauty ; and a certain comic
air of assurance, blended with bashfulness, showed that he had been not
unused to being petted and noticed by his in?j»<*s\


" Hulloa, Jim Crow!" said Mr. Shelby, whistling, and snapping a
bunch of raisins towards him, " pick that up, now !"

The child scampered, with all his little strength, after the prize, while
his master laughed.

" Come here, Jim Crow," said he.

The child came up, and the master patted the curly head, and chucked
him under the chin.

" Now, Jim, show this gentleman how you can dance and sing."

The boy commenced one of those wild, grotesque songs common
among the negroes, in a rich, clear voice, accompanying his singing with
many comic evolutions of the hands, feet, and whole body, all in perfect
time to the music.

" Bravo !" said Haley, throwing him a quarter of an orange.

"Now, Jim, walk like old Uncle Cudjoe when he has the rheumatism,"
said his master.

Instantly the flexible limbs of the child assumed the appearance of
deformity and distortion, as, with his back humped up, and his master's
stick in his hand, he hobbled about the room, his childish face drawn
into a doleful pucker, and spitting from right to left, in imitation of an
old man.

Both gentlemen laughed uproariously.

" Now, Jim, said his master, " show us how old Elder Bobbins leads
the psalm."

The boy drew his chubby face down to a formidable length, and
commenced toning a psalm-tune through his nose with imperturbable

"Hurrah! bravo! what a young 'un !" siid Haley ; "that chap's a
case, I '11 promise. Tell you what," said he, suddenly clapping his hand
on Mr. Shelby's shoulder, "fling in that chap, and I'll settle the business
— I will. Come, now, if that ain't doing the thing up about the rightest !"

At this moment, the door was pushed gently open, and a young
quadroon woman, apparently about twenty-five, entered the room.

There needed only a glance from the child to her, to identify her as
its mother. There was the same rich, full, dark eye, with its long lashes ;
the same ripples of silky black hair. The brown of her complexion gave
way on the cheek to a perceptible flush, which deepened as she saw the
gaze of the strange man fixed upon her in bold and undisguised admira-
tion. Her dress was of the neatest possible fit, and set off to advantage
her finely moulded shape. A delicately formed hand, and a trim foot
and ankle, were items of appearance that did not escape the' quick eye of
the trader, well used to run up at a glance the points of a fine female

" Well, Eliza ?" said her master, as she stopped and looked hesi-
tatingly at him.

" I was looking for Harry, please, sir ;" and the boy bounded toward
her, showing his spoils, which he had gathered in the skirt of his robe.

" Well, take him away, then," said Mr. Shelby ; and hastily she
withdrew, carrying the child on her arm.

" By Jupiter !" said the trader, turning to him in admiration, " there's
an article now ! You might make your fortune on that ar gal in Orleans,
any day. 1 've seen over a thousand, in my day, paid down for gak nox
Ci bit handsomer."

4 t:xcle tom's cajux, ob

"I clon't want to make my fortune on her," said Mr. Shelby, drily ;
and, seeking to turn the conversation, he uncorked a bottle of fresh wine,
and asked his companion's opinion of it.

"Capital, sir — first chop !" said the trader; then turning, and slap-
ping his hand familiarly on Shelby's shoulder, he added : " Come, how
■will you trade about the gal? what shall I sav for her? what '11 you
take ?"

"Mr. Haley, she is not to be uold," said Shelby ; " my wife would
not part with her for her weight in gold."

"Ay, ay, women always say such things, 'cause they ha'nt no sort
of calculation. Just show 'em how many watches, feathers, and trinkets
one's weight in gold would buy, and that alters the case, I reckon."

" I tell you, Haley, this must not be spoken of. I say no, and I mean
no," said Shelby, decidedly.

" "Well, you'll let me have the boy, though ?" said the trader ; " you
must own I've come down pretty handsomely for him."

" "What on earth can you want with the child ?" said Shelby.

"Why, I've got a friend that's going into this yer branch of the
business — wants to buy up handsome boys to raise for the market.
Fancy articles entirely — sell for waiters, and so on, to rich 'uns, that can
pay for handsome 'uns. It sets off one of yer great places — a real hand-
some boy to open door, wait, and tend. They fetch a good sura ; and
this little devil is such a comical, musical concern, he 's just the article."

" I would rather not sell him," said Mr. Shelby, thoughtfully; "the
fact is, sir, I'm a humane man, and I hate to take the boy from his mother.

" Oh, you do ? — La ! yes — something of that ar natur. I understand,
perfectly. It is mighty onpleasant getting on with women sometimes.
I al'ays hates these yer screechin', screamin' times. They are mighty
onpleasant; but, as I manages business, I generally avoids 'em, sir.
Now, what if you get the girl off for a day, or a Aveek, or so ; then the
thing's done quietly, — all over before she comes home. Your wife
might get her some ear-rings, or a new gown, or some such truck, to make
up with her."

" I'm afraid not."

" Lor bless ye, yes ! These critters an't like white folks, you know ;
they gets over things, only manage right. Now, they say," said Haley,
assuming a candid and confidential air, " that this kind o' trade is har-
dening to the feelings ; but I never found it so. Fact is, I never could
do things up the way some fellers manage the business. I 've seen 'em
as would pull a woman's child out of her arms, and set him up to sell,
and she screechin' like mad all the time; — very bad policy — damages
the article — makes 'em quite unfit for service sometimes. I knew a real
handsome gal once, in Orleans, as was entirely ruined by this sort o'
handling. The fellow that was trading for her didn't want her baby;
and she was one of your real high sort, when her blood was up. I tell
you, she squeezed up her child in her arms, and talked, and went on real
awful. It kinder makes my blood run cold to think on't ; and when they
carried off the child, and locked her up, she jest went ravin' mad, and
died in a week. Clear waste, sir, of a thousand dollars, just for want of
management, — there 's where 't is. It 's always best to do the humane
thing, sir ; that's been my experience."


And the trader leaned back in his chair, and folded his arm, Avith an
air of virtuous decision, apparently considering himself a second Wil-
bcr force.

The subject appeared to interest the gentleman deeply ; for while Mr.
Shelby was thoughtfully peeling an orange, Haley broke out afresh, with
becoming diffidence, but as if actually driven by the force of truth to say
a few words more.

44 It don't look well, now for a feller to be praisin' himself; but I say
it jest because it's the truth. I believe I 'm reckoned to bring in about
the finest droves of niggers that is brought in — at least I 've been told
so ; if I have once, I reckon I have a hundred times— all in good case-
fat and likely, and I lose as few as any man in the business. And I lays
it all to my management, sir ; and humanity, sir, I may say, is the great
pillar of my management."

Mr. Shelby did not know what to say, and so he said, " Indeed !"

44 Now, I 've been laughed at for my notions, sir, and I 've been
talked to. They an't pop'lar, and they an't common ; but I stuck
to 'em sir; I've stuck to 'em, and realized well on 'em; yes, sir,
they have paid their passage, I may say;" and the trader laughed at his

There was something so piquant and original in these elucidations of
humanity, that Mr. Shelby could not help laughing in company. Perhaps
you laugh too, dear reader ; but you know humanity comes out in a
variety of strange forms now-a-days, and there is no end to the odd
things that humane people will say and do.

Mr. Shelby's laugh encouraged the trader to proceed.

44 It's strange, now, but I never could beat this into people's heads.
Now, there was Tom Loker, my old partner, down in Natchez ; he was a
clever fellow, Tom was, only the very devil with niggers— on principle
'Uvas you see, for a better hearted feller never broke bread ; 'twas his
system, 'sir. I used to talk to Tom. ' Why, Tom,' I used to say, « when
your gals takes on and cry, what 's the use o' crackin on 'em over the
head, and knockin' on 'em round ? It's ridiculous,' says I, ' and don't
do no sort o' good. Why, 1 don't see no harm in their cryin',' says I ;
4 it is natur,' says I, ' and if natur can't blow off one way, it will another.
Besides Tom,' says I, ' it jest spiles your gals; they get sickly, and down
in the mouth ; and sometimes they gets ugly'— particular yallow girls do,
and it's the devil and all gettin' on 'em broke in. Now,' says I, 'why
can't you kinder coax 'em up, and speak 'em fair? Depend on it, Tom,
a little humanity, thrown in along, goes a heap further than all your
jawin' and crackin' ; and it pays better,' says I, ' depend on V But

Online LibraryHarriet Beecher StoweUncle Tom's cabin : or, Negro life in the slave states of America → online text (page 1 of 42)