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intellectual achievement, was yet in substantial control of the governmental power. In the North, by the very magnitude of the commercial and industrial development the moral sentiment in public affairs seemed submerged or at least eclipsed.
It was during such a period of apathy that there was held an anti-slavery meeting at which two negroes were present, Sojourner Truth, an old woman whose shrewdness matched her fervor, and Frederick Douglas. Douglas was the son of a white father and a slave mother; he taught himself to read and write, made his escape into freedom, gained an education, and became an effective speaker for the antislavery cause. On this occasion he spoke with power and passion of the gloomy prospects of their people; government, wealth, social advantage, all were on the side of their oppressors; good people seemed indifferent to their wrongs; was there indeed any help or hope? Then rose Sojourner Truth, and looking at him said only, "Frederick! Is God dead?”
SLAVERY AS IT WAS
And now, in the year 1852, there befell an event perhaps as momentous in American history as any between the establishment of the Constitution and the Civil War. A frail little woman, the wife of an obscure theological professor in a Maine village, wrote a story, and that story captured the heart of the world. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that Uncle Tom's Cabin converted the North to the cause of the slave. The typical Union volunteer of 1861 carried the book in his memory. It brought home to the heart of the North, and of the world, that the slave was a man,-one with mankind by that deepest tie, of human love and aspiration and anguish,—but denied the rights of a man.
The book was a birth of genius and love. It is absolutely sweet-spirited. Its intense and irresistible plea is not against a class or a section, but against a system. It portrays among the Southern slave-holders characters noble and attractive,-Mrs Shelby, the faithful mistress, and the fascinating St. Clare. The worst villain in the story is a renegade Northerner. Its typical Yankee, Miss Ophelia, provokes kindly laughter. The book mixes humor with its tragedy; the sorrows of Uncle Tom and the dark story of Cassy are relieved by the pranks of Black Sam and the antics of Topsy. With all its woes, the story somehow does not leave a depressing effect; it abounds in courage and action; the fugitives win their way to freedom; the final impulse
is to hopeful effort against the wrong. Its basal motive was the same as that of the Abolitionists, but its spirit and method were so different from Garrison's that it won response and sympathy where he had roused antagonism. Against pharisaical religion it uses effective satire,—which was intensified in its successor, Dred, but the Christianity of faith and life is its animating spirit. No book is richer in the gospel of love to man and trust in God. Its rank is high in the new literature which has stimulated and led the great modern movement for the uplifting of the poor and oppressed. Its place is with Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and Tolstoi's War and Peace.
The motive of Uncle Tom's Cabin was an appeal to the heart of the American people. There was no reference to political action, far less any suggestion of servile insurrection, and there was no discussion of methods of emancipation. The book set forth an organized, monstrous wrong, which it was in the power of the American nation, and above all, of the Southern people, to remove. The effect at the North was immeasurably to widen and deepen the conviction of the wrong of slavery, and the desire to remove it. But the way to practical action did not open; and strangely enough there was at first no visible effect on politics. The political logic of the situation led straight, as a first step, to the support of the Free Soil party. But though Uncle Tom's Cabin appeared (as a book) in April, 1852, and its popularity was instant, the Presidential election seven months later showed a Free Soil vote less by 100,000 than four years before. The political effect of the book was to appear only when public events two years later gave a sudden spur to the hesitating North.
The South turned a deaf ear to the appeal. It shut the book out from its borders as far as it could, and one who inquired for it in a Southern bookstore would probably be
offered Aunt Phillis's Cabin or some other mild literary anti-toxin. The South protested that the book's picture of slavery was untrue and unjust. It was monstrous, so they said, that their labor system should be shown as having its natural result in the whipping to death of a saintly negro for his virtuous conduct. Another reply was: “If the book is true, it is really a eulogy of slavery, for it depicts slavery as producing in Uncle Tom a perfect character.”
To the objections to the fidelity of her portraiture Mrs. Stowe replied with A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin,-a formidable array of proved facts, as to the laws of the slave States, and specific incidents which paralleled or exceeded all she had told. As now judged, the novel has some serious imperfections as a picture of slavery. Probably the most important of these was expressed by Judge Tourgee, paraphrasing the proverb about the Russian and the Tartar: “Scratch one of Mrs. Stowe's negroes, and you will find a white man.” She failed adequately to differentiate the two races, and described the negro too much from such specimens as Uncle Tom and George and Eliza Harris. She had never lived in the South, and her knowledge was obtained from observation in the border town of Cincinnati, from acquaintance with fugitives, and from the reports of Northern travelers—all interpreted with the insight of genius and the impulse of philanthropy. Her avowed purpose was not to make a literal or merely artistic picture, but to show the actual wrongs and legalized possibilities of wrong which called for redress. It did not lessen the justice of her plea, that the mass of negroes were more degraded than she knew, or that their average treatment was kinder than her protrayal showed.
But a true historical judgment of slavery must rest on a comparison of documents. The story told from the master's
standpoint should be heard. Among the faithful and graphic narrations of this sort may be named Mrs. Burton Harrison's Flower de Hundred,-a volume of personal reminiscences of Virginia before the war. It is a charming story, without motive other than the pleasure of recalling happy memories, and it describes a society of various and vivid charm. The mention of the slaves is occasional and incidental; but the description of the plantation hands, and especially the household servants, trusted and beloved, gives a sunny and doubtless a real side of slavery. Another book is fuller and more impressive in its treatment. It might be said that every American ought to read Uncle Tom's Cabin as a part of his education, and to follow it with two other books of real life. One of these is A Southern Planter,-a biography of Thomas Dabney, of Virginia and later of Mississippi, written by his daughter. It is a story amply worth reading for its human interest, and for its presentation of a man of noble and beautiful character. One is enriched by the acquaintance, even through a book, of a man like Thomas Dabney. And it is most desirable for the Northerner to vivify his impression of the South by the knowledge of men like him. We are misled by general and geographical terms: "an Englishman is a vague and perhaps unattractive term to an American until he knows, in books or in flesh and blood, a few Britons of the right stamp. And so South and North need mutual interpretation not alone through their historic heroes, but through the best of their everyday people. And of those best, surely Thomas Dabney was one,-a strong, tender, noble man, fulfilling each relation in family and society with loyal conscience and sympathetic heart.
From the book we can give but a few instances of plantation life as such a man made it. When he was to move from Virginia to Mississippi he called together all his slaves,