The writer has often been inquired of, by correspondents from
different parts of the country, whether this narrative is a
true one; and to these inquiries she will give one general answer.
The separate incidents that compose the narrative are, to
a very great extent, authentic, occurring, many of them, either
under her own observation, or that of her personal friends.
She or her friends have observed characters the counterpart of
almost all that are here introduced; and many of the sayings are
word for word as heard herself, or reported to her.
The personal appearance of Eliza, the character ascribed to her,
are sketches drawn from life. The incorruptible fidelity,
piety and honesty, of Uncle Tom, had more than one development, to
her personal knowledge. Some of the most deeply tragic and romantic,
some of the most terrible incidents, have also their paralle
in reality. The incident of the mother's crossing the Ohio river
on the ice is a well-known fact. The story of "old Prue," in the
second volume, was an incident that fell under the personal
observation of a brother of the writer, then collecting-clerk to
a large mercantile house, in New Orleans. From the same source
was derived the character of the planter Legree. Of him her brother
thus wrote, speaking of visiting his plantation, on a collecting
tour; "He actually made me feel of his fist, which was like a
blacksmith's hammer, or a nodule of iron, telling me that it was
'calloused with knocking down niggers.' When I left the plantation,
I drew a long breath, and felt as if I had escaped from an ogre's den."
That the tragical fate of Tom, also, has too many times had
its parallel, there are living witnesses, all over our land,
to testify. Let it be remembered that in all southern states it
is a principle of jurisprudence that no person of colored lineage
can testify in a suit against a white, and it will be easy to see
that such a case may occur, wherever there is a man whose passions
outweigh his interests, and a slave who has manhood or principle
enough to resist his will. There is, actually, nothing to protect
the slave's life, but the character of the master. Facts too
shocking to be contemplated occasionally force their way to the
public ear, and the comment that one often hears made on them is
more shocking than the thing itself. It is said, "Very likely such
cases may now and then occur, but they are no sample of general
practice." If the laws of New England were so arranged that a master
could now and then torture an apprentice to death, would it be
received with equal composure? Would it be said, "These cases are
rare, and no samples of general practice"? This injustice is an
inherent one in the slave system,--it cannot exist without it.
The public and shameless sale of beautiful mulatto and quadroon
girls has acquired a notoriety, from the incidents following the
capture of the Pearl. We extract the following from the speech
of Hon. Horace Mann, one of the legal counsel for the defendants
in that case. He says: "In that company of seventy-six persons,
who attempted, in 1848, to escape from the District of Columbia in
the schooner Pearl, and whose officers I assisted in defending,
there were several young and healthy girls, who had those peculiar
attractions of form and feature which connoisseurs prize so highly.
Elizabeth Russel was one of them. She immediately fell into the
slave-trader's fangs, and was doomed for the New Orleans market.
The hearts of those that saw her were touched with pity for
her fate. They offered eighteen hundred dollars to redeem her;
and some there were who offered to give, that would not have much
left after the gift; but the fiend of a slave-trader was inexorable.
She was despatched to New Orleans; but, when about half way there,
God had mercy on her, and smote her with death. There were two
girls named Edmundson in the same company. When about to be sent
to the same market, an older sister went to the shambles, to plead
with the wretch who owned them, for the love of God, to spare his
victims. He bantered her, telling what fine dresses and fine
furniture they would have. 'Yes,' she said, 'that may do very well
in this life, but what will become of them in the next?' They too
were sent to New Orleans; but were afterwards redeemed, at an
enormous ransom, and brought back." Is it not plain, from this,
that the histories of Emmeline and Cassy may have many counterparts?
Justice, too, obliges the author to state that the fairness
of mind and generosity attributed to St. Clare are not without a
parallel, as the following anecdote will show. A few years since,
a young southern gentleman was in Cincinnati, with a favorite
servant, who had been his personal attendant from a boy. The young
man took advantage of this opportunity to secure his own freedom,
and fled to the protection of a Quaker, who was quite noted in
affairs of this kind. The owner was exceedingly indignant. He had
always treated the slave with such indulgence, and his confidence
in his affection was such, that he believed he must have been
practised upon to induce him to revolt from him. He visited the
Quaker, in high anger; but, being possessed of uncommon candor and
fairness, was soon quieted by his arguments and representations.
It was a side of the subject which he never had heard,--never had
thought on; and he immediately told the Quaker that, if his slave
would, to his own face, say that it was his desire to be free,
he would liberate him. An interview was forthwith procured, and
Nathan was asked by his young master whether he had ever had any
reason to complain of his treatment, in any respect.
"No, Mas'r," said Nathan; "you've always been good to me."
"Well, then, why do you want to leave me?"
"Mas'r may die, and then who get me?--I'd rather be a free man."
After some deliberation, the young master replied, "Nathan, in your
place, I think I should feel very much so, myself. You are free."
He immediately made him out free papers; deposited a sum of
money in the hands of the Quaker, to be judiciously used in
assisting him to start in life, and left a very sensible and kind
letter of advice to the young man. That letter was for some time
in the writer's hands.
The author hopes she has done justice to that nobility, generosity,
and humanity, which in many cases characterize individuals at the,
South. Such instances save us from utter despair of our kind.
But, she asks any person, who knows the world, are such characters
For many years of her life, the author avoided all reading
upon or allusion to the subject of slavery, considering it as too
painful to be inquired into, and one which advancing light and
civlization would certainly live down. But, since the legislative
act of 1850, when she heard, with perfect surprise and consternation,
Christian and humane people actually recommending the remanding
escaped fugitives into slavery, as a duty binding on good
citizens,--when she heard, on all hands, from kind, compassionate
and estimable people, in the free states of the North, deliberations
and discussions as to what Christian duty could be on this head,--she
could only think, These men and Christians cannot know what slavery
is; if they did, such a question could never be open for discussion.
And from this arose a desire to exhibit it in a living dramatic
reality. She has endeavored to show it fairly, in its best and
its worst phases. In its best aspect, she has, perhaps, been
successful; but, oh! who shall say what yet remains untold in that
valley and shadow of death, that lies the other side?
To you, generous, noble-minded men and women, of the
South,--you, whose virtue, and magnanimity and purity of character,
are the greater for the severer trial it has encountered,--to you
is her appeal. Have you not, in your own secret souls, in your
own private conversings, felt that there are woes and evils, in
this accursed system, far beyond what are here shadowed, or can
be shadowed? Can it be otherwise? Is man ever a creature to be
trusted with wholly irresponsible power? And does not the slave
system, by denying the slave all legal right of testimony, make
every individual owner an irresponsible despot? Can anybody fall
to make the inference what the practical result will be? If there
is, as we admit, a public sentiment among you, men of honor, justice
and humanity, is there not also another kind of public sentiment
among the ruffian, the brutal and debased? And cannot the ruffian,
the brutal, the debased, by slave law, own just as many slaves as
the best and purest? Are the honorable, the just, the high-minded
and compassionate, the majority anywhere in this world?
The slave-trade is now, by American law, considered as piracy.
But a slave-trade, as systematic as ever was carried on on the
coast of Africa, is an inevitable attendant and result of
American slavery. And its heart-break and its horrors, can they
The writer has given only a faint shadow, a dim picture, of
the anguish and despair that are, at this very moment, riving
thousands of hearts, shattering thousands of families, and driving
a helpless and sensitive race to frenzy and despair. There are
those living who know the mothers whom this accursed traffic has
driven to the murder of their children; and themselves seeking in
death a shelter from woes more dreaded than death. Nothing of
tragedy can be written, can be spoken, can be conceived, that equals
the frightful reality of scenes daily and hourly acting on our
shores, beneath the shadow of American law, and the shadow of the
cross of Christ.
And now, men and women of America, is this a thing to be
trifled with, apologized for, and passed over in silence?
Farmers of Massachusetts, of New Hampshire, of Vermont, of
Connecticut, who read this book by the blaze of your winter-evening
fire,--strong-hearted, generous sailors and ship-owners of Maine,--is
this a thing for you to countenance and encourage? Brave and generous
men of New York, farmers of rich and joyous Ohio, and ye of the
wide prairie states,--answer, is this a thing for you to protect
and countenance? And you, mothers of America,--you who have learned,
by the cradles of your own children, to love and feel for all
mankind,--by the sacred love you bear your child; by your joy in
his beautiful, spotless infancy; by the motherly pity and tenderness
with which you guide his growing years; by the anxieties of his
education; by the prayers you breathe for his soul's eternal good;--I
beseech you, pity the mother who has all your affections, and not one
legal right to protect, guide, or educate, the child of her bosom!
By the sick hour of your child; by those dying eyes, which you
can never forget; by those last cries, that wrung your heart when
you could neither help nor save; by the desolation of that empty
cradle, that silent nursery,--I beseech you, pity those mothers
that are constantly made childless by the American slave-trade!
And say, mothers of America, is this a thing to be defended,
sympathized with, passed over in silence?
Do you say that the people of the free state have nothing
to do with it, and can do nothing? Would to God this were true!
But it is not true. The people of the free states have defended,
encouraged, and participated; and are more guilty for it, before
God, than the South, in that they have not the apology of education
If the mothers of the free states had all felt as they should,
in times past, the sons of the free states would not have been
the holders, and, proverbially, the hardest masters of slaves;
the sons of the free states would not have connived at the extension
of slavery, in our national body; the sons of the free states would
not, as they do, trade the souls and bodies of men as an equivalent
to money, in their mercantile dealings. There are multitudes of
slaves temporarily owned, and sold again, by merchants in northern
cities; and shall the whole guilt or obloquy of slavery fall only
on the South?
Northern men, northern mothers, northern Christians, have
something more to do than denounce their brethren at the South;
they have to look to the evil among themselves.
But, what can any individual do? Of that, every individual
can judge. There is one thing that every individual can do,--they
can see to it that they feel right. An atmosphere of sympathetic
influence encircles every human being; and the man or woman who
feels strongly, healthily and justly, on the great interests of
humanity, is a constant benefactor to the human race. See, then,
to your sympathies in this matter! Are they in harmony with the
sympathies of Christ? or are they swayed and perverted by the
sophistries of worldly policy?
Christian men and women of the North! still further,--you have
another power; you can pray! Do you believe in prayer? or has
it become an indistinct apostolic tradition? You pray for the
heathen abroad; pray also for the heathen at home. And pray for
those distressed Christians whose whole chance of religious
improvement is an accident of trade and sale; from whom any
adherence to the morals of Christianity is, in many cases, an
impossibility, unless they have given them, from above, the courage
and grace of martyrdom.
But, still more. On the shores of our free states are emerging
the poor, shattered, broken remnants of families,--men and women,
escaped, by miraculous providences from the surges of
slavery,--feeble in knowledge, and, in many cases, infirm in moral
constitution, from a system which confounds and confuses every
principle of Christianity and morality. They come to seek a refuge
among you; they come to seek education, knowledge, Christianity.
What do you owe to these poor unfortunates, oh Christians?
Does not every American Christian owe to the African race some
effort at reparation for the wrongs that the American nation has
brought upon them? Shall the doors of churches and school-houses
be shut upon them? Shall states arise and shake them out?
Shall the church of Christ hear in silence the taunt that is thrown
at them, and shrink away from the helpless hand that they stretch out;
and, by her silence, encourage the cruelty that would chase them
from our borders? If it must be so, it will be a mournful spectacle.
If it must be so, the country will have reason to tremble, when it
remembers that the fate of nations is in the hands of One who is
very pitiful, and of tender compassion.
Do you say, "We don't want them here; let them go to Africa"?
That the providence of God has provided a refuge in Africa, is,
indeed, a great and noticeable fact; but that is no reason why
the church of Christ should throw off that responsibility to this
outcast race which her profession demands of her.
To fill up Liberia with an ignorant, inexperienced,
half-barbarized race, just escaped from the chains of slavery,
would be only to prolong, for ages, the period of struggle and
conflict which attends the inception of new enterprises. Let the
church of the north receive these poor sufferers in the spirit of
Christ; receive them to the educating advantages of Christian
republican society and schools, until they have attained to somewhat
of a moral and intellectual maturity, and then assist them in their
passage to those shores, where they may put in practice the lessons
they have learned in America.
There is a body of men at the north, comparatively small,
who have been doing this; and, as the result, this country has
already seen examples of men, formerly slaves, who have rapidly
acquired property, reputation, and education. Talent has been
developed, which, considering the circumstances, is certainly
remarkable; and, for moral traits of honesty, kindness, tenderness
of feeling,--for heroic efforts and self-denials, endured for the
ransom of brethren and friends yet in slavery,--they have been
remarkable to a degree that, considering the influence under which
they were born, is surprising.
The writer has lived, for many years, on the frontier-line
of slave states, and has had great opportunities of observation
among those who formerly were slaves. They have been in her family
as servants; and, in default of any other school to receive them,
she has, in many cases, had them instructed in a family school,
with her own children. She has also the testimony of missionaries,
among the fugitives in Canada, in coincidence with her own experience;
and her deductions, with regard to the capabilities of the race,
are encouraging in the highest degree.
The first desire of the emancipated slave, generally, is
for education. There is nothing that they are not willing to
give or do to have their children instructed, and, so far as the
writer has observed herself, or taken the testimony of teachers
among them, they are remarkably intelligent and quick to learn.
The results of schools, founded for them by benevolent individuals
in Cincinnati, fully establish this.
The author gives the following statement of facts, on the
authority of Professor C. E. Stowe, then of Lane Seminary, Ohio,
with regard to emancipated slaves, now resident in Cincinnati;
given to show the capability of the race, even without any very
particular assistance or encouragement.
The initial letters alone are given. They are all residents
"B----. Furniture maker; twenty years in the city; worth
ten thousand dollars, all his own earnings; a Baptist.
"C----. Full black; stolen from Africa; sold in New Orleans;
been free fifteen years; paid for himself six hundred dollars; a
farmer; owns several farms in Indiana; Presbyterian; probably worth
fifteen or twenty thousand dollars, all earned by himself.
"K----. Full black; dealer in real estate; worth thirty
thousand dollars; about forty years old; free six years; paid
eighteen hundred dollars for his family; member of the Baptist
church; received a legacy from his master, which he has taken good
care of, and increased.
"G----. Full black; coal dealer; about thirty years old; worth
eighteen thousand dollars; paid for himself twice, being once
defrauded to the amount of sixteen hundred dollars; made all his
money by his own efforts--much of it while a slave, hiring his time
of his master, and doing business for himself; a fine, gentlemanly
"W----. Three-fourths black; barber and waiter; from Kentucky;
nineteen years free; paid for self and family over three
thousand dollars; deacon in the Baptist church.
"G. D----. Three-fourths black; white-washer; from Kentucky;
nine years free; paid fifteen hundred dollars for self and family;
recently died, aged sixty; worth six thousand dollars."
Professor Stowe says, "With all these, except G----, I have been,
for some years, personally acquainted, and make my statements
from my own knowledge."
The writer well remembers an aged colored woman, who was employed
as a washerwoman in her father's family. The daughter of this
woman married a slave. She was a remarkably active and capable
young woman, and, by her industry and thrift, and the most persevering
self-denial, raised nine hundred dollars for her husband's freedom,
which she paid, as she raised it, into the hands of his master.
She yet wanted a hundred dollars of the price, when he died.
She never recovered any of the money.
These are but few facts, among multitudes which might be
adduced, to show the self-denial, energy, patience, and honesty,
which the slave has exhibited in a state of freedom.
And let it be remembered that these individuals have thus
bravely succeeded in conquering for themselves comparative wealth
and social position, in the face of every disadvantage and
discouragement. The colored man, by the law of Ohio, cannot be a
voter, and, till within a few years, was even denied the right of
testimony in legal suits with the white. Nor are these instances
confined to the State of Ohio. In all states of the Union we see
men, but yesterday burst from the shackles of slavery, who, by a
self-educating force, which cannot be too much admired, have risen
to highly respectable stations in society. Pennington, among
clergymen, Douglas and Ward, among editors, are well known instances.
If this persecuted race, with every discouragement and
disadvantage, have done thus much, how much more they might do if
the Christian church would act towards them in the spirit of her Lord!
This is an age of the world when nations are trembling and convulsed.
A mighty influence is abroad, surging and heaving the world,
as with an earthquake. And is America safe? Every nation
that carries in its bosom great and unredressed injustice has in
it the elements of this last convulsion.
For what is this mighty influence thus rousing in all nations
and languages those groanings that cannot be uttered, for
man's freedom and equality?
O, Church of Christ, read the signs of the times! Is not
this power the spirit of Him whose kingdom is yet to come, and
whose will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?
But who may abide the day of his appearing? "for that day
shall burn as an oven: and he shall appear as a swift witness
against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow
and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger in his right:
and he shall break in pieces the oppressor."
Are not these dread words for a nation bearing in her bosom
so mighty an injustice? Christians! every time that you pray that
the kingdom of Christ may come, can you forget that prophecy
associates, in dread fellowship, the day of vengeance with the
year of his redeemed?
A day of grace is yet held out to us. Both North and South have
been guilty before God; and the Christian church has a heavy
account to answer. Not by combining together, to protect injustice
and cruelty, and making a common capital of sin, is this Union to
be saved,--but by repentance, justice and mercy; for, not surer is
the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than
that stronger law, by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on
nations the wrath of Almighty God!