Harriet Beecher Stowe.

A key to Uncle Tom's cabin : presenting the original facts and documents upon which the story is founded : together with corroborative statements verifying the truth of the work online

. (page 1 of 57)
Online LibraryHarriet Beecher StoweA key to Uncle Tom's cabin : presenting the original facts and documents upon which the story is founded : together with corroborative statements verifying the truth of the work → online text (page 1 of 57)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by


In the Clerk's Office of the Distric', Court for the District of Massachnsetta.


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Dainrcll & Moore, Printers, 16 Devonshire St., Bostoo.


The work which the writer here presents to the public is one which has
been written with no pleasure, and with much pain.

In fictitious writing, it is possible to find refuge from the hard and the
terrible, by inventing scenes and characters of a more pleasing nature. No
such resource is open in a work of fact ; and the subject of this work is one
on which the truth, if told at aU, must needs be very dreadful. There is no
bright side to slavery, as such. Those scenes which are made bright by the
generosity and kindness of masters and mistresses, would be brighter still if
the element of slavery were withdrawn. There is nothing picturesque or
beautiful, in the family attachment of old servants, which is not to be found
in countries where thes'e servants are legally free. The tenants on an Eng-
lish estate are often more fond and faithful than if they were slaves. Slavery,
therefore, is not the element which forms the picturesque and beautiful of
Southern life. What is peculiar to slavery, and distinguishes it from free
servitude, is evil, and only evil, and that continually.

In preparing this work, it has grown much beyond the author's original
design. It has so far overrun its limits that she has been obliged to omit
one whole department ; — that of the characteristics and developments of
the colored race in various countries and circumstances. This is more
properly the subject for a volume ; and she hopes that such an one will
soon be prepared by a friend to wliom she has transferred her materials.

The author desires to express her thanks particularly to those legal
gentlemen who have given her their assistance and support in the legal part
of the discussion. She also desires to thank those, at the North and at the
South, who have kindly furnished materials for her use. Many more 'have
been supplied than could possibly be used. The book is actually selected
out of a mountain of materials.

The great object of the author in writing has been to bring this subject of
slavery, as a moral and religious question, before the minds of all those who


profess to be followers of Christ, in this country. A minute history has
been given of the action of the various denominations on this subject.

The writer has aimed, as far as possible, to say what is true, and only
that, without regard to the effect which it may have upon any person or
party. She hopes that what she has said will be examined without bitter-
ness, — in that serious and earnest spirit which is appropriate for the
examination of so very serious a subject. It would be vain for her to
indulge the hope of being wholly free from error. In the wide field which
she has been called to g^ over, there is a possibility of many mistakes. She
can only say that she has used the most honest and earnest endeavors to
learn the truth.

The book is commended to the candid attention and earnest prayers of
aU true Christians, throughout the world. May they unite their prayers
that Christendom may be delivered from so great an evil as slavery '



At different times, doubt has been ex-
pressed Avhether the representations of
•'Uncle Tom's Cabin" are a fair repre-
sentation of slaver J as it at present exists.
This work, more, perhaps, than any other
work of fiction that ever was written,
has been a collection and arrangement of
real incidents, — of actions really per-
formed, of words and expressions really
uttered, — grouped together with reference
to a general result, in the same manner
that the mosaic artist groups his fragments
of various stones into one general picture.
His is a mosaic of gems, — this is a mosaic
of facts.

Artistically considered, it might not be
best to point out in which quarry and from
which region each fragment of the mosaic
picture had its origin ; and it is equally un-
artistic to disentangle the glittering web of
fiction, and show out of what real warp and
woof it is woven, and with what real color-
ing dyed. But the book had a purpose en-
tirely transcending the artistic one, and
accordingly encounters, at the hands of the
public, demands not usually made on fic-
titious works. It is treated as a reality,
— - sifted, tried and tested, as a reality ; and
therefore as a reality it may be proper
that it should be defended.

The writer acknowledges that the book is
a very inadequate representation of slavery ;
and it is so. necessarily, for this reason, —
tluit slavery, in some of its workings, is too
dreadful for the purposes of art. A work
which should represent it sti-ictly as it is
would be a work which could not be read.
And all works which ever mean to give
pleasure must draw a veil somewhere, or
they cannot succeed.

The author will now proceed along the
course of the story, from the first page on-
ward, and develop, as far as possible, the
incidents by which different parts were



In the very first chapter of the book we
encounter the character of the negro-trader,
Mr. Haley. His name stands at the head
of this chapter as the representative of all
the different characters introduced in tlie
work which exhibit the trader, the kidnap-
per, the negro-catcher, the negro-whipper,
and all the other inevitable auxiliaries and
indispensable appendages of what is often
called the "divinely-instituted relation'^
of slavery. The author's first personal
observation of this class of beings was some-
what as follows :

Several years ago, while one morning
employed <in the duties of the nursery, a
colored woman wa-s announced. She was
ushered into the nursery, and the author
thought, on first survey, that a more surly,
unpromising face she had never seen. The
woman was thoroughly black, thick-set,
firmly built, and with strongly-marked Af-
rican features. Those who haveljeen ac-
customed to read the expressions of the
African face know what a peculiar effect is
produced by a lowering, desponding expres-
sion upon its dark features. It is like the
shadow of a thunder -cloud. Unlike her
race generally, the woman did not smile
when smiled upon, nor utter any pleasant
remark in reply to such as were addressed
to her. The youngest pet of the nursery,
a boy about three years old, walked up, and
laid his little hand on her knee, and seemed
astonished not to meet the quick smile Avhich
the negro almost always has in reserve for
the little child. The writer thought her
very cross and disagreeable, and, after a few
moments' silence, asked, with perhaps a
little impatience, "Do you vrant anything
of me to-day 7 ' '

" Here are some papers," said the wo-
man, pushing them towards her; "perhaps
you would read them."

The first paper opened was a letter from


a negro-trader in Kentucky, stating con-
cisely that he had waited about as long as
he could for her child ; that he wanted to
start for the South, and must get it oiF
his hands ; that, if she would send him
two hundred dollars before the end of the
week, she should have it; if not, that he
would set it up at auction, at the court-
house door, on Saturday. He added, also,
that he might have got more than that for
the child, but that he was willing to let her
have it cheap.

"What sort of a man is this 7 " said the
author to the woman, when she had done
reading the letter.

" Dunno, ma'am ; great Christian, I
know, — member of the Methodist church,

The expression of sullen irony with which
this was said was a thing to be remem-

" And how old is this child'?" said the
author to her.

The woman looked at the little boy who
had been standing at her knee, with an ex-
pressive glance, and 'said, " She will be
three years old this summer."

On further intjuiry into the history of
the woman, it appeared that she had been
set free by the will of her owners; that
the child was legally entitled to freedom,
but had been seized on by the heirs of
the estate. She was poor and friendless,
without money to maintain a suit, and the
heirs, of course, threw the child into the
hands of the trader. The necessary sum, it
may be added, was all raised in the small
neighborhood which then surrounded the
Lane Theological Seminary, and the child
was redeemed.

If the pul)lic would like a specimen of
the correspondence which passes between
these worthies, who are the principal reli-
ance of the community for supporting acid
extending the institution of slavery, the fol-
lowing may be interesting as a matter of
literary curiosity. It Wiis forwarded by
Mr. M. J. Thomas, of Philadelphia, to the
National Era, and stated by him to be "a
copy taken verbatim from the original,
found among the |>a[)crs of the person to
whom it was addressed, at the time of his
arrest and conviction, for passing a variety
of counterfeit bank-notes."

Poolsvilk, Montgomery Co., Md.,
March 24, 1831.

Dear Sir : T arriviMl Ii Hne in safety with Lou-
ifUi, Jylm having been rescued from me, out of a

two-story winduw, at twelve o'clock at night. I
offered a reward uf fifty dollars, and have him here
safe in jail. The persons who took him brought
him to Fredericktownjail. I wish you to ^vriteto
no person in this state but myself. Kephart and
myself are determined to go the wh^le hog for any
negro you can find, and you must give me the ear-
liest information, as soon as you do find any. En-
closed you will receive a handbill, andl can make
a good bargain, if yuu can find them. I will in
all cases, as soon as a negro runs off, send you a
handbill immediately, so that you may be on the
look-out. Please tell the constable to go on witli
the sale of John's property ; and, Avhen the money
is made, 1 will send on an order to you for it.
Please attend to tliis for me ; likewise write to me,
and inform me of any negro you think has run away,
— no matter where you think he has come' from,
nor how far, — and I will try and find out his mas-
ter. Let me know where you tliink he is from,
with all particular marks, and if I don't find his
master, Joe 's dead !

Write to me about the crooked-fingered negro,
and let me know which hand and which finger,
color, &c.; likewise any mark the fellow has w^ho
says he got away from the negro-buyer, with his
height and color, or any other you think has
run off.

Give my respects to your partner, and be sure
you \vrite to no person but myself. If any person
writes to you, you can inform me of it, and I will
try to buy from them. I think we can make mon-
ey, if we do business together ; for I have plenty
of money, if you can find plenty of negroes. Let
me know if Daniel is still where he was, and if
you have heard anything of Francis since I left
you. Accept for yourself my regard and esteem.
Reuben B. Carllev.

John C. Saunders.

This letter strikingly illustrates the
character of these fellow-patriots w'ith
whom the great men of our land have been
acting in conjunction, in carrying out the
beneficent provisions of the Fugitive Slave

With regard to the Kephart named in
this letter the community of Boston may
have a special interest to know further par-
ticulars, as he was one of the dignitaries
sent from the South to assist the good citi-
zens of that [)lace in the religious and pa-
triotic enterprise of 1851, at the time that
Shadrach was unfortunately rescued. It
therefore may be well to introduce somewhat
particularly John Kepuart, as sketched
by RiciiAKi) H. Dana, Jr., one of the
lawyers em})loycd in the defence of the per-
petrators of the rescue.

I shall never forget John Caphart. I have been
eleven years at the bar, and in tliat time have seen
many develo{iment8 of vice and liardness, but I
never met with anything so cold-l)looded as the
testimony of tliat man. John Caphnrt is a tall,
sallow man, of al)out fifty, with jet-black hair, a
restless, dark eye, and an anxious, care-w«rn
look, which, had there been enough of moral ele-


ment in the expression, might be called melan-
choly. His frame was strong, and in youth he
had evidently been powerful, but he was not ro-
bust. Yet there was a calm, cruel look, a power
of will and a quickness of muscular action, which
still render him a terror in his vocation.

In the manner of giving in his testimony there
was no bluster or outward show of insolence. His
contempt for the humane feelings of the audience
and community about him was too true to require
any assumption of that kind. He neither paraded
nor attempted to conceal the worst features of his
calling. He treated it as a matter of business
which he knew the community shuddered at, but
the moral nature of which ho was utterly indif-
ferent to, beyond a certain secret pleasure in thus
indirectly inflicting a little torture on his hearers.

I am not, however, altogether clear, to do John
Caphart justice, that he is entirely conscience-
proof. There was something in his anxious look
which leaves one not without hope.

At the fii'st trial we did not know of his pur-
suits, and he passed merely as a police-man of
Norfolk, Virginia. But, at the second trial, some
one in the room gave me a hint of the occupations
many of these police-men take to, which led to my

From the Examination of John Caphart, in the

" Rescue Trials,'" at Boston, in June and Nov.,

1851, and October, 1852.

Question. Is it a part of your duty, as a police-
man, to take up colored persons who are out after
hours in the streets?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Q. What is dime with themi

A. We put them in the lock-up, and in the
morning they are brought into court and or-
dered to be punished, — those that are to be

Q. What punishment do they get?

A. Not exceeding thirty-nine lashes.

Q. Who gives tliem these lashes ?

A. Any of the officers. 1 do, sometimes.

Q. Are you paid ixtra for this? How much?

A. Fifty cents a he;id. It used to be sixty-two
cents. Now it is fifty. Fifty cents for each one
we arrest, and fifty more for each one we flog.

Q. Are these persons you flog men and boys
only, or are they women and girls also ?

A. Men, women, boys and girls, just as it hap-

[The government interfered, and tried to pre-
vent any further examination ; and said, among
other things, tliat he only performed his duty as
police-Dfficer under the law. After a discussion.
Judge Curtis allowed it to proceed.]

Q. Is your Hoggijig confined to these cases ?
Do you not flog slaves at the request of their
masters ?

A. Sometimes I do. Certainly, when I am
called upon.

Q. In these cases of private flogging, are the
negroes sent to you ? Have you a place for
flogging ?

A. No. I go r(mnd,a8 I am sent for.

Q. Is this part of your duty as an officer ?

A. No, sir.

Q. In these cases of private flogging, do you
inquire into the circumstances, to see what the
fault has been, or if there is any ?

A. That 's none of my business. I do as I am
tequt^sted. The master is responsible.

Q. In these cases, too, I suppose you flog wo-
men and girls, as well as men.

A. Women and men.

Q. Mr. Caphart, how long have you been en-
gaged in this business?

A. Ever since 1836

Q. How many negroes do you suppose you have
flogged, in all, women and children included?

A. [Looking calmly round the room.] I don't
know how many niggers you have got here in Mas-
chusetts, but I should think I had flogged as many
as you 've got in the state.

[The same man testifiea that he was often em-
ployed to pursue fugitive slaves. His reply to
the question was, " I never refuse a good job in
that line."]

Q. Don't they sometimes turn out bad jobs 1

A. Never, iff can help it.

Q. Are they not sometimes discharged after
you get them ?

A. Not often. I don't know that they ever are,
except those Portuguese the counsel read about.

[I had found, in a Virginia report, a case of
some two hundred Portuguese negroes, whom this
John Caphart had seized from a vessel, and en-
deavored to get condemned as slaves, but whom
the court discharged.]

Hon. Jolin P. Hale, associated with Mr.
Dana, as counsel for the defence, in the
Rescue Trials, said of him, in his closing
argument :

Why, gentlemen, he sells agony! Torture is
his stock-in-trade ! He is a walking scourge !
He hawks, peddles, retails, groans and tears about
the streets of Norfolk !

See also the following correspondence
between two traders, one in North Carolina,
the othei' in New Orleans ; with a word of
comment, by Hon. William Jay, of New

Halifax, N. C, Nov. IG, 1839.
Dear Sir : I have shipped in the brig Addison,
— prices are below :

No. 1. Caroline Ennis,
" 2. Silvy Holland,
" 3. Silvy Booth, .
" 4. Maria Pollock,
" 5. Emeline Pollock,
" 6. Delia Averit, .

$650 00

The two girls that cost $650 and $625. were
bought before I shipped my first. I have a great
many negroes offered to me, but I will not pay the
prices tliey ask, for I know they will come down.
I have no opposition in market. I will wait until
I hear from you before I I)uy, and then I can
judge what I must pay. Goodwin will send you
the bill of lading- for my negroes, as he shipped
them with his own. VV'fite often, as the times
are critical, and it depends on the prices you get
to govern me- in buying. Yours, &c.,

G. W. Barnes.
Mr. Theophilus Freeman,
New Orleans.

The above was a small but choice invoice of
wives and mothers. Nine da}s before, namely,
7th Nov., Mr. Barnes advised Mr. FrecMan of
having shipped a lot of forty-three men and


women. Mi. Freeman, informing one of his cor-
respondents of the state of the market, writes
{Sundmj, 21st Sept., 1839), " I bought a boy yes-
terday, sixteen years old, and likely, weighing
one hundred and ten pounds, at $700. I sold a
likely gu-1, twelve years old, at $500. I bought a
man yesterday, twenty years old, sis feet high, at
$820 ; one to-day, twenty-four years old, at $850,
black and sleek as a mole."

The writer has drawn in this work only
one class of the negro-traders. There are
all varieties of them, up to the great whole-
sale purchasers, who keep their large trad-
ing-houses ; who are gentlemanly in man-
ners and courteous in address ; who, m many
respects, often perform actions of real gen-
erosity ; who consider slavery a very great
evil, and hope the country will at some
time be delivered from it, but who think

pered by just discipline and religious instruc-
tion, skilfully and judiciously imparted.

The writer did not come to her task with-
out reading much upon both sides of the
question, and making a particular effort to
collect all the most favorable representa-
tions of slavery which she could ob-
tain. And, as the reader may have a
curiosity to examine some of the documents,
the writer will present them quite at large.
There is no kind of danger to the world iii
letting the very fairest side of slavery be
seen; in fact, the horrors and barbarities
which are necessarily inherent in it are so
terrible that one stands absolutely in need
of all the comfort which can be gained from
incidents like the subjoined, to save them
from utter despair of human nature. The first

that so long as clergyman and layman, saint j^account is from Mr. J. K. Paulding's Letters
and sinner, are all agreed in the propriety
and necessity of slave-holding, it is better
that the necessary trade in the article be
conducted by men of humanity and decency,
than by swearing, brutal men, of the Tom
Loker school. These men are exceedingly
sensitive with regard to what they consider
the injustice of the world in excluding them
from good society, simply because they un-
dertake to supply a demand in the com-
munity which the bar, the press and the
pulpit, all pronounce to be a proper one. In
this respect, society certainly imitates the
unreasonableness of the ancient Egyptians,
Avho employed a certain class of men to
prepare dead bodies for embalming, but
flew at them with sticks and stones the mo-
ment the operation was over, on account of
the sacrilegious liberty which they had
taken. If there is an ill-used class of men
in the world, it is certainly the slave-trad-
for," if there is no harm in the institu-

ers ^

tion of slavery,— if it is a divinely-appointed
and honorable one, like civil government
and the fiimily state, and like other species of
property relation. — then there is no earthly
T-eason why a man may not as innocently
be a slave-trader as any other kind of



It was the design of the writer, in delin-
eating the domestic arrangements of Mr.
and Mrs. Shelby, to show a picture of the
faii-csl side of slave-life, where easy indul-
gence and good-natured forljoarunce are tem-

on Slavery; and is a letter from a Virginia
planter, whom we should judge, from his
style, to be a very amiable, agreeable man,
and who probably describes very fairly the
state of things on his own domain.

Dear Sir : As regards the first query, which .
relates to the " rights and duties of the slave," I
do not know how extensive a view of this branch
of the subject is contemplated. In its simplest
aspect, as understood and acted on in Virginia, I
should say that the slave is entitled to an abun-
dance of good plain food ; to coarse but comfortable
apparel ; to a warm but humble dwelling ; to pro-
tection when well, and to succor when sick ; and,
in return, that it is his duty to render to his mas-
ter all the service he can consistently with per-
fect health, and to behave submissively and hon-
estly. Other remarks suggest themselves, but
they will be more appropriately introduced under
different heads.

2d. " The domestic relations of master and
slave." — These relations are much misunderstood
by many persons at the North, who regard the
terms as synonymous with oppressor and op-
pressed. Nothing can be further from the fact.
The condition of the negroes in this state haa
been greatly ameliorated. The proprietors were
formerly fewer and richer than at present. Dis-
tant «(uarters were ofteri kept up to support the
aristocratic mansion. They were rai-ely visited
by their owners ; and heartless overseers, fre-
quently changed, were employed to manage them
for a share of the crop. These men scourged the
land, and sometimes the slaves. Their tenure
was but for a year, and of course they made the
most of their brief authority. Owing to the influ-
ence of our institutions, property has become sub-
divided, and most persons live on or near their
estates. There are exceptions, to be sure, and
particularly among Avealthy gentlemen in the
towns ; but these last are almost all enlightened
and humane, and alike liberal to the soil and to
the slave who cultivates it. I could point out
some noble instances of patriotic and spn-ited im-
provement among them. But, to return to the
resident proprietors : most of them have beea
raiiiod on the estates ; from the older negroes


they hLve received in infancy numberless acts of
kindness ; the younger ones have not unfrequently
been their playmates (not the most suitable, I

Online LibraryHarriet Beecher StoweA key to Uncle Tom's cabin : presenting the original facts and documents upon which the story is founded : together with corroborative statements verifying the truth of the work → online text (page 1 of 57)