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13 January, 2012
The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin
Chapter VI: Uncle Tom.
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
The character of Uncle Tom has been objected
to as improbable; and yet the writer has received more confirmations of that
character, and from a great variety of sources, than of any other in the book.
Many people have said to her, "I knew an Uncle Tom in such-and-such
a Southern State." All the histories of this kind which have thus been
related to her would of themselves, if collected, make a small volume. The
author will relate a few of them.
While visiting in an obscure town in Maine, in the family of a friend,
the conversation happened to turn upon this subject, and the gentleman with
whose family she was staying related the following. He said, that when on
a visit to his brother in New Orleans, some years before, he found in his
possession a most valuable negro man, of such remarkable probity and honesty
that his brother literally trusted him with all he had. He had frequently
seen him take out a handful of bills, without looking at them, and hand them
to this servant, bidding him go and provide what was necessary for the family,
and bring him the change. He remonstrated with his brother on this imprudence;
but the latter replied that he had had such proofs of this servant's impregnable
conscientiousness that he felt it safe to trust him to any extent.
The history of the servant was this. He had belonged to a man in Baltimore,
who, having a general prejudice against all the religious exercises of slaves,
did all that he could to prevent his having any time for devotional duties,
and strictly forbade him to read the Bible and pray, either by himself or
with the other servants; and because, like a certain man of old, named Daniel,
he constantly disobeyed this unchristian edict, his master inflicted upon
him that punishment which a master always has in his power to inflict--he
sold him into perpetual exile from his wife and children, down to New Orleans.
The gentleman who gave the writer this information says that, although
not a religious man at the time, he was so struck with the man's piety, that
he said to his brother, "I hope you will never do anything to deprive
this man of his religious privileges, for I think a judgment will come upon
you if you do." To this his brother replied that he should be very foolish
to do it, since he had made up his mind that the man's religion was the root
of his extraordinary excellences.
Some time since there was sent to the writer from the South, through the
mail, a little book, entitled "Sketches of Old Virginia Family Servants,"
with a preface by Bishop Meade. The book contains an account of the following
servants: African Bella, Old Milly, Blind Lucy, Aunt Betty, Springsfield Bob,
Mammy Chris, Diana Washington, Aunt Margaret, Rachel Parker, Nelly Jackson,
My Own Mammy, Aunt Beck.
The following extract from Bishop Meade's preface may not be uninteresting:--
The following sketches were placed in my hands with a request that I would
examine them with a view to publication.
After reading them, I could not but think that they would be both pleasing
Very many such examples of fidelity and piety might be added from the old
Virginia families. These will suffice as specimens, and will serve to show
how interesting the relation between master and servant often is.
Many will doubtless be surprised to find that there was so much intelligence
as well as piety in some of the old servants of Virginia, and that they had
learned to read the Sacred Scriptures, so as to be useful in this way among
their fellow-servants. It is, and always has been true, in regard to the servants
of the Southern States, that although public schools may have been prohibited,
yet no interference has been attempted, where the owners have chosen to teach
their servants, or permit them to learn in a private way how to read God's
word. Accordingly, there always have been some who were thus taught. In the
more Southern States the number of these has most abounded. Of this fact I
became well assured about thirty years since, when visiting the Atlantic States,
with a view to the formation of auxiliary colonization societies, and the
selection of the first colonists for Africa. In the city of Charleston, South
Carolina, I found more intelligence and character among the free coloured
population than anywhere else. The same was true of some of those in bondage.
A respectable number might be seen in certain parts of the Episcopal churches
which I attended, using their prayer-books, and joining in the responses of
Many purposes of convenience and hospitality were subserved by this encouragement
of cultivation in some of the servants, on the part of the owners.
When travelling many years since with a sick wife, and two female relatives,
from Charleston to Virginia, at a period of the year when many of the families
from the country resort to the town for health, we were kindly urged to call
at the seat of one of the first families in South Carolina;
and a letter from the mistress, then in the city, was given us, to her servant,
who had charge of the house in the absence of the family. On reaching there,
and delivering the letter to a most respectable-looking female servant, who
immediately read it, we were kindly welcomed and entertained, during a part
of two days, as sumptuously as though the owner had been present. We understood
that it was no uncommon thing in South Carolina for travellers to be thus
entertained by the servants in the absence of the owners, on receiving letters
from the same.
Instances of confidential and affectionate relationship between servants
and their masters and mistresses, such as are set forth in the following sketches,
are still to be found in all the slave-holding States. I mention one, which
has come under my own observation. The late Judge Upshur, of Virginia, had
a faithful house-servant (by his will now set free), with whom he used to
correspond on matters of business when he was absent on his circuit. I was
dining at his house, some years since, with a number of persons, himself being
absent, when the conversation turned on the subject of the presidential election,
then going on through the United States, and about which there was an intense
interest; when his servant informed us that he had that day received a letter
from his master, then on the western shore, in which he stated that the friends
of General Harrison might be relieved from all uneasiness, as the returns
already received made his election quite certain.
Of course it is not to be supposed that we design to convey the impression
that such instances are numerous, the nature of the relationship forbidding
it; but we do mean emphatically to affirm that there is far more of kindly
and Christian intercourse than many at a distance are apt to believe. That
there is a great and sad want of Christian instruction, notwithstanding the
more recent efforts put forth to impart it, we most sorrowfully acknowledge.
Bishop Meade adds that these sketches are published with the hope that
they might have the effect of turning the attention of ministers and heads
of families more seriously to the duty of caring for the souls of their servants.
With regard to the servant of Judge Upshur, spoken of in this communication
of Bishop Meade, his master has left, in his last will, the following remarkable
tribute to his worth and excellence of character:--
I emancipate and set free my servant, David Rice, and direct my executors
to give him one hundred dollars. I recommend him in
the strongest manner to the respect, esteem, and confidence of any community
in which he may happen to live. He has been my slave for twenty-four years,
during all which time he has been trusted to every extent, and in every respect;
my confidence in him has been unbounded; his relation to myself and family
has always been such as to afford him daily opportunities to deceive and injure
us; yet he has never been detected in any serious fault, nor even in an unintentional
breach of decorum of his station. His intelligence is of a high order, his
integrity above all suspicion, and his sense of right and propriety
correct, and even refined. I feel that he is justly entitled to carry this
certificate from me in the new relations which he must now form; it is due
to his long and most faithful services, and to the sincere and steady friendship
which I bear to him. In the uninterrupted confidential intercourse of twenty-four
years, I have never given him, nor had occasion to give him, one unpleasant
word. I know no man who has fewer faults or more excellences than he.
In the free States there have been a few instances of such extraordinary
piety among negroes, that their biography and sayings have been collected
in religious tracts, and published for the instruction of the community.
One of these was, before his conversion, a convict in a State-prison in
New York, and there received what was, perhaps, the first religious instruction
that had ever been imparted to him. He became so eminent an example of humility,
faith, and, above all, fervent love, that his presence in the neighbourhood
was esteemed a blessing to the church. A lady has described to the writer
the manner in which he would stand up and exhort in the church-meetings for
prayer, when, with streaming eyes and the deepest abasement, humbly addressing
them as his masters and misses, he would nevertheless pour forth religious
exhortations which were edifying to the most cultivated and refined.
In the town of Brunswick, Maine, where the writer lived when writing "Uncle
Tom's Cabin," may now be seen the grave of an aged coloured woman, named
Phebe, who was so eminent for her piety and loveliness of character, that
the writer has never heard her name mentioned except with that degree of awe
and respect which one would imagine due to a saint. The small cottage where
she resided is still visited and looked upon as a sort of shrine, as the spot
where old Phebe lived and prayed. Her prayers and pious exhortations were
supposed to have been the cause of the conversion of many young people in
the place. Notwithstanding that the unchristian feeling of caste prevails
as strongly in Maine as anywhere else in New England, and the negro, commonly
speaking, is an object of aversion and contempt, yet, so great was the influence
of her piety and loveliness of character, that she was uniformly treated with
the utmost respect and attention by all classes of people. The most cultivated
and intelligent ladies of the place esteemed it a privilege to visit her cottage;
and when she was old and helpless, her wants were most tenderly provided for.
When the news of her death was spread abroad in the place, it excited a general
and very tender sensation of regret. "We have lost Phebe's prayers,"
was the remark frequently made afterwards by members of the
church, as they met one another. At her funeral, the ex-governor of the State
and the professors of the college officiated as pall-bearers, and a sermon
was preached, in which the many excellences of her Christian character were
held up as an example to the community. A small religious tract, containing
an account of her life, was published by the American Tract Society, prepared
by a lady of Brunswick. The writer recollects that on reading the tract, when
she first went to Brunswick, a doubt arose in her mind whether it was not
somewhat exaggerated. Some time afterwards she overheard some young persons
conversing together about the tract, and saying that they did not think it
gave exactly the right idea of Phebe. "Why, is it too highly coloured?"
was the inquiry of the author. "Oh, no, no, indeed!" was the earnest
response; "it doesn't begin to give an idea of how good she was."
Such instances as these serve to illustrate the words of the Apostle, "God
hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God
hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are
John Bunyan says, that although the valley of humiliation be unattractive
in the eyes of the men of this world, yet the very sweetest flowers grow there.
So it is with the condition of the lowly and poor in this world. God has often,
indeed always, shown a particular regard for it, in selecting from that class
the recipients of his grace. It is to be remembered that Jesus Christ, when
he came to found the Christian dispensation, did not choose his apostles from
the chief priests and the scribes, learned in the law and high in the church;
nor did he choose them from philosophers and poets, whose educated and comprehensive
minds might be supposed best able to appreciate his great designs; but he
chose twelve plain, poor fishermen, who were ignorant, and felt that they
were ignorant, and who, therefore, were willing to give themselves up with
all simplicity to his guidance. What God asks of the soul more than anything
else is faith and simplicity, the affection and reliance of the little child.
Even these twelve fancied too much that they were wise, and Jesus was obliged
to set a little child in the midst of them, as a more perfect teacher.
The negro race is confessedly more simple, docile, childlike, and affectionate,
than other races; and hence the divine graces of love and faith, when in-breathed
by the Holy Spirit, find in their natural temperament a more congenial atmosphere.
A last instance parallel with that of Uncle Tom is to be found in the published
memoirs of the venerable Josiah Henson, now, as we have said, a clergyman
in Canada. He was "raised" in the State of Maryland. His first
recollections were of seeing his father mutilated and covered with blood,
suffering the penalty of the law for the crime of raising his hand against
a white man--that white man being the overseer, who had attempted a
brutal assault upon his mother. This punishment made his father surly and
dangerous, and he was subsequently sold South, and thus parted for ever from
his wife and children. Henson grew up in a state of heathenism, without any
religious instruction, till, in a camp-meeting, he first heard of Jesus Christ,
and was electrified by the great and thrilling news that He had tasted death
for every man, the bond as well as the free. This story produced an immediate
conversion, such as we read of in the Acts of the Apostles, where the Ethiopian
eunuch, from one interview, hearing the story of the cross, at once believes
and is baptized. Henson forthwith not only became a Christian, but began to
declare the news to those about him; and, being a man of great natural force
of mind and strength of character, his earnest endeavours to enlighten his
fellow-heathen were so successful, that he was gradually led to assume the
station of a negro preacher; and though he could not read a word of the Bible
or hymn-book, his labours in this line were much prospered. He became immediately
a very valuable slave to his master, and was intrusted by the latter with
the oversight of his whole estate, which he managed with great judgment and
prudence. His master appears to have been a very ordinary man in every respect,--to
have been entirely incapable of estimating him in any other light than as
exceedingly valuable property, and to have had no other feeling excited by
his extraordinary faithfulness than the desire to make the most of him. When
his affairs became embarrassed, he formed the design of removing all his negroes
into Kentucky, and intrusted the operation entirely to his overseer. Henson
was to take them alone, without any other attendant, from Maryland to Kentucky,
a distance of some thousands of miles, giving only his promise as a Christian
that he would faithfully perform this undertaking. On the way thither they
passed through a portion of Ohio, and there Henson was informed that he could
now secure his own freedom and that of all his fellows, and he was strongly
urged to do it. He was exceedingly tempted and tried, but his Christian principle
was invulnerable. No inducements could lead him to feel that it was right
for a Christian to violate a pledge solemnly given, and his
influence over the whole band was so great that he took them all with him
into Kentucky. Those causists among us who lately seem to think and teach
that it is right for us to violate the plain commands of God, whenever some
great national good can be secured by it, would do well to contemplate the
inflexible principle of this poor slave, who, without being able to read a
letter of the Bible, was yet enabled to perform this most sublime act of self-renunciation
in obedience to its commands. Subsequently to this, his master, in a relenting
moment, was induced by a friend to sell him his freedom for four hundred dollars;
but, when the excitement of the importunity had passed off, he regretted that
he had suffered so valuable a piece of property to leave his hands for so
slight a remuneration. By an unworthy artifice, therefore, he got possession
of his servant's free papers, and condemned him still to hopeless slavery.
Subsequently, his affairs becoming still more involved, he sent his son down
the river with a flat boat loaded with cattle and produce for the New Orleans
market, directing him to take Henson along, and sell him after they had sold
the cattle and the boat. All the depths of the negro's soul were torn up and
thrown into convulsion by this horrible piece of ingratitude, cruelty and
injustice; and, while outwardly calm, he was struggling with most bitter temptations
from within, which, as he could not read the Bible, he could repel only by
a recollection of its sacred truths, and by earnest prayer. As he neared the
New Orleans market, he says that these convulsions of soul increased, especially
when he met some of his old companions from Kentucky, whose despairing countenances
and emaciated forms told of hard work and insufficient food, and confirmed
all his worst fears of the lower country. In the transports of his despair,
the temptation was more urgently presented to him to murder his young master
and the other hand on the flat boat in their sleep, to seize upon the boat,
and make his escape. He thus relates the scene where he was almost brought
to the perpetration of this deed:--
One dark, rainy night, within a few days of New Orleans, my hour seemed
to have come. I was alone on the deck; Mr. Amos and the hands were all asleep
below, and I crept down noiselessly, got hold of an axe, entered the cabin,
and looking by the aid of the dim light there for my victims, my eye fell
upon Master Amos, who was nearest to me; my hand slid along the axe-handle,
I raised it to strike the fatal blow, when suddenly the thought came to me,
"What! commit murder! and you a Christian?"
I had not called it murder before. It was self-defence--it was preventing
others from murdering me--it was justifiable, it was even praiseworthy.
But now, all at once, the truth burst upon me that it was a crime. I was going
to kill a young man, who had done nothing to injure me, but obey commands
which he could not resist; I was about to lose the fruit of
all my efforts at self-improvement, the character I had acquired, and the
peace of mind which had never deserted me. All this came upon me instantly,
and with a distinctness which made me almost think I heard it whispered in
my ear; and I believe I even turned my head to listen. I shrunk back, laid
down the axe, crept up on deck again, and thanked God, as I have done every
day since, that I had not committed murder.
My feelings were still agitated, but they were changed. I was filled with
shame and remorse for the design I had entertained, and with the fear that
my companions would detect it in my face, or that a careless word would betray
my guilty thoughts. I remained on deck all night, instead of rousing one of
the men to relieve me; and nothing brought composure to my mind, but the solemn
resolution I then made to resign myself to the will of God, and take with
thankfulness, if I could, but with submission, at all events, whatever he
might decide should be my lot. I reflected that if my life were reduced to
a brief term, I should have less to suffer, and that it was better to die
with a Christian's hope, and a quiet conscience, than to live with the incessant
recollection of a crime that would destroy the value of life, and under the
weight of a secret that would crush out the satisfaction that might be expected
from freedom, and every other blessing.
Subsequently to this, his young master was taken violently down with the
river fever, and became as helpless as a child. He passionately entreated
Henson not to desert him, but to attend to the selling of the boat and produce,
and put him on board the steamboat, and not to leave him, dead or alive, till
he had carried him back to his father.
The young master was borne in the arms of his faithful servant to the steamboat,
and there nursed by him with unremitting attention during the journey up the
river; nor did he leave him till he had placed him in his father's arms.
Our love for human nature would lead us to add, with sorrow, that all this
disinterestedness and kindness was rewarded only by empty praises, such as
would be bestowed upon a very fine dog; and Henson indignantly resolved no
longer to submit to the injustice. With a degree of prudence, courage, and
address, which can scarcely find a parallel in any history, he managed, with
his wife and two children, to escape into Canada. Here he learned to read,
and by his superior talent and capacity for management, laid the foundation
of the fugitive settlement of Dawn, which is understood to be one of the most
flourishing in Canada.
It would be well for the most cultivated of us to ask, whether our ten
talents in the way of religious knowledge have enabled us to bring forth as
much fruit to the glory of God, to withstand temptation as patiently, to return
good for evil as disinterestedly, as this poor ignorant slave. A writer in
England has sneeringly remarked that such a man as Uncle Tom
might be imported as a missionary to teach the most cultivated in England
or America the true nature of religion. These instances show that what has
been said with a sneer is in truth a sober verity; and it should never be
forgotten that out of this race whom man despiseth have often been chosen
of God true messengers of his grace, and temples for the indwelling of his
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth
eternity, whose name is holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him
also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the
humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
The vision attributed to Uncle Tom introduces quite a curious chapter of
psychology with regard to the negro race, and indicates a peculiarity which
goes far to show how very different they are from the white race. They are
possessed of a nervous organisation peculiarly susceptible and impressible.
Their sensations and impressions are very vivid, and their fancy and imagination
lively. In this respect the race has an Oriental character, and betrays its
tropical origin. Like the Hebrews of old and the Oriental nations of the present,
they give vent to their emotions with the utmost vivacity of expression, and
their whole bodily system sympathises with the movements of their minds. When
in distress, they actually lift up their voices to weep, and "cry with
an exceeding bitter cry." When alarmed, they are often paralysed, and
rendered entirely helpless. Their religious exercises are all coloured by
this sensitive and exceedingly vivacious temperament. Like Oriental nations,
they incline much to outward expressions, violent gesticulations, and agitating
movements of the body. Sometimes in their religious meetings they will spring
from the floor many times in succession, with a violence and rapidity which
is perfectly astonishing. They will laugh, weep, and embrace each other convulsively,
and sometimes become entirely paralysed and cataleptic. A clergyman from the
North once remonstrated with a Southern clergyman for permitting such extravagances
among his flock. The reply of the Southern minister was, in effect, this:
"Sir, I am satisfied that the races are so essentially different that
they cannot be regulated by the same rules. I at first felt as you do; and
though I saw that genuine conversions did take place, with all this outward
manifestation, I was still so much annoyed by it as to forbid it among my
negroes, till I was satisfied that the repression of it was a serious hindrance
to real religious feeling; and then I became certain that all men cannot be
regulated in their religious exercises by one model. I am assured that conversions
produced with these accessories are quite as apt to
be genuine, and to be as influential over the heart and life, as those produced
in any other way." The fact is, that the Anglo-Saxon race--cool,
logical, and practical--have yet to learn the doctrine of toleration
for the peculiarities of other races; and perhaps it was with a foresight
of their peculiar character and dominant position in the earth, that God gave
the Bible to them in the fervent language and with the glowing imagery of
the more susceptible and passionate Oriental races.
Mesmerists have found that the negroes are singularly susceptible to all
that class of influences which produce catalepsy, mesmeric sleep, and partial
The African race, in their own climate, are believers in spells, in "fetish
and obi," in "the evil eye," and other singular influences,
for which probably there is an origin in this peculiarity of constitution.
The magicians in scriptural history were Africans; and the so-called magical
arts are still practised in Egypt, and other parts of Africa, with a degree
of skill and success which can only be accounted for by supposing peculiarities
of nervous constitution quite different from those of the whites. Considering
those distinctive traits of the race, it is no matter of surprise to find
in their religious histories, when acted upon by the powerful stimulant of
the Christian religion, very peculiar features. We are not surprised to find
almost constantly, in the narrations of their religious histories, accounts
of visions, of heavenly voices, of mysterious sympathies and transmissions
of knowledge from heart to heart without the intervention of the senses, or
what the Quakers call being "baptized into the spirit" of those
who are distant.
Cases of this kind are constantly recurring in their histories. The young
man whose story was related to the Boston lady, and introduced above in the
chapter on George Harris, stated this incident concerning the recovery of
his liberty: That after the departure of his wife and sister, he for a long
time, and very earnestly, sought some opportunity of escape, but that every
avenue appeared to be closed to him. At length, in despair, he retreated to
his room, and threw himself upon his bed, resolving to give up the undertaking,
when just as he was sinking to sleep, he was roused by a voice saying in his
ear, "Why do you sleep now? Rise up, if you ever mean to be free!"
He sprang up, went immediately out, and in the course of two hours discovered
the means of escape which he used.
A lady whose history is known to the writer resided for some time on a
Southern plantation, and was in the habit of imparting religious
instruction to the slaves. One day a woman from a distant plantation called
at her residence, and inquired for her. The lady asked in surprise, "How
did you know about me?" The old woman's reply was, that she had long
been distressed about her soul; but that, several nights before, some one
had appeared to her in a dream, told her to go to this plantation and inquire
for the strange lady there, and that she would teach her the way to heaven.
Another specimen of the same kind was related to the writer, by a slave-woman
who had been through the whole painful experience of a slave's life. She was
originally a young girl of pleasing exterior and gentle nature, carefully
reared as a seamstress and nurse to the children of a family in Virginia,
and attached with all the warmth of her susceptible nature to these children.
Although one of the tenderest of mothers when the writer knew her, yet she
assured the writer that she had never loved a child of her own as she loved
the dear little young mistress who was her particular charge. Owing, probably,
to some pecuniary difficulty in the family, this girl, whom we call Louisa,
was sold to go on to a Southern plantation. She has often described the scene
when she was forced into a carriage, and saw her dear young mistress leaning
from the window, stretching her arms towards her, screaming and calling her
name with all the vehemence of childish grief. She was carried in a coffle,
and sold as cook on a Southern plantation. With the utmost earnestness of
language she has described to the writer her utter loneliness, and the distress
and despair of her heart, in this situation, parted for ever from all she
held dear on earth, without even the possibility of writing letters or sending
messages, surrounded by those who felt no kind of interest in her, and forced
to a toil for which her more delicate education had entirely unfitted her.
Under these circumstances, she began to believe that it was for some dreadful
sin she had thus been afflicted. The course of her mind after this may be
best told in her own simple words:--
"After that, I began to feel awful wicked--oh, so wicked, you've
no idea! I felt so wicked that my sins seemed like a load on me, and I went
so heavy all the day! I felt so wicked that I didn't feel worthy to pray in
the house, and I used to go way off in the lot and pray. At last one day,
when I was praying, the Lord he came and spoke to me."
"The Lord spoke to you? What do you mean, Louisa?"
With a face of the utmost earnestness she answered, "Why, ma'am,
the Lord Jesus he came and spoke to me, you know; and I never, till the last
day of my life, shall forget what he said to me."
"What was it?" said the writer.
"He said, 'Fear not, my little one; thy sins are forgiven thee;'
" and she added to this some verses, which the writer recognized as
those of a Methodist hymn.
Being curious to examine more closely this phenomenon, the author said,
"You mean that you dreamed this, Louisa?"
With an air of wounded feeling, and much earnestness, she answered,
"O no, Mrs. Stowe; that never was a dream; you'll never make me believe
The thought at once arose in the writer's mind, If the Lord Jesus is indeed
everywhere present, and if he is as tender-hearted and compassionate as he
was on earth--and we know he is-- must he not sometimes long to
speak to the poor desolate slave, when he knows that no voice but His can
carry comfort and healing to his soul?
This instance of Louisa is so exactly parallel to another case, which the
author received from an authentic source, that she is tempted to place the
two side by side.
Among the slaves who were brought into the New England States, at the time
when slavery was prevalent, was one woman, who immediately on being told the
history of the love of Jesus Christ, exclaimed, "He is the one; this
is what I wanted!"
This language causing surprise, her history was inquired into. It was briefly
this:--While living in her simple hut in Africa, the kidnappers one day
rushed upon her family, and carried her husband and children off to the slave-ship,
she escaping into the woods. On returning to her desolate home, she mourned
with the bitterness of "Rachel weeping for her children." For
many days her heart was oppressed with a heavy weight of sorrow; and, refusing
all sustenance, she wandered up and down the desolate forest.
At last, she says, a strong impulse came over her to kneel down and pour
out her sorrows into the ear of some unknown Being whom she fancied to be
above her, in the sky.
She did so; and to her surprise, found an inexpressible sensation of relief.
After this, it was her custom daily to go out to this same spot, and supplicate
this unknown Friend. Subsequently, she was herself taken and brought over
to America; and when the story of Jesus and his love was related to her, she
immediately felt in her soul that this Jesus was the very friend who had spoken
comfort to her yearning spirit in the distant forest of Africa.
Compare now these experiences with the earnest and beautiful language of
Paul: "He hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on
all the face of the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed
and the bounds of their habitation, that THEY SHOULD seek the Lord,
if haply they might FEEL AFTER HIM AND FIND HIM, though he be not
far from every one of us."
Is not this truly "feeling after God and finding
Him?" And may we not hope that the yearning, troubled, helpless
heart of man, pressed by the insufferable anguish of this short life, or wearied
by its utter vanity, never extends its ignorant pleading hand to God in vain?
Is not the veil which divides us from an almighty and most merciful Father
much thinner than we, in the pride of our philosophy, are apt to imagine?
and is it not the most worthy conception of Him to suppose that the more utterly
helpless and ignorant the human being is that seeks His aid, the more tender
and the more condescending will be His communication with that soul?
If a mother has among her children one whom sickness has made blind, or
deaf, or dumb, incapable of acquiring knowledge through the usual channels
of communication, does she not seek to reach its darkened mind by modes of
communication tenderer and more intimate than those which she uses with the
stronger and more favoured ones? But can the love of any mother be compared
with the infinite love of Jesus? Has He not described himself as that good
Shepherd who leaves the whole flock of secure and well-instructed ones, to
follow over the mountains of sin and ignorance the one lost sheep; and when
He hath found it, rejoicing more over that one than over the ninety and nine
that went not astray? Has He not told us that each of these little ones has
a guardian angel that doth always behold the face of his Father which is in
heaven? And is it not comforting to us to think that His love and care will
be in proportion to the ignorance and the wants of His chosen ones?
* * * * *
Since the above was prepared for the press the author has received the
following extract from a letter written by a gentleman in Missouri to the
editor of the Oberlin (Ohio) Evangelist:--
I really thought, while reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin," that the
authoress, when describing the character of Tom, had in her mind's eye a slave
whose acquaintance I made some years since, in the State of Mississippi, called
"Uncle Jacob." I was staying a day or two with a planter, and
in the evening, when out in the yard, I heard a well-known hymn and tune sung
in one of the "quarters," and then the voice of
prayer; and oh, such a prayer! what fervour! what
unction! nay, the man "prayed right up;" and when I read of Uncle
Tom, how "nothing could exceed the touching simplicity, the child-like
earnestness, of his prayer, enriched with the language of Scripture, which
seemed so entirely to have wrought itself into his being as to have become
a part of himself," the recollections of that evening prayer were strangely
vivid. On entering the house, and referring to what I had heard, his master
replied, "Ah, sir, if I covet anything in this world, it is Uncle Jacob's
religion. If there is a good man on earth, he certainly is one." He
said Uncle Jacob was a regulator on the plantation; that a word
or a look from him, addressed to younger
slaves, had more efficiency than a blow from the overseer.
The next morning Uncle Jacob informed me he was from Kentucky, opposite
Cincinnati; that his opportunities for attending religious worship had been
frequent; that at about the age of forty he was sold South, was set to picking
cotton; could not, when doing his best, pick the task assigned him; was whipped
and whipped, he could not possibly tell how often; was of opinion that the
overseer came to the conclusion that whipping could not bring one more pound
out of him, for he set him to driving a team. At this and other work he could
"make a hand;" had changed owners three
or four times. He expressed himself as well pleased with his present situation
as he expected to be in the South, but was yearning to return to his former
associations in Kentucky.