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Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe
Chapter VII: Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852.
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
The wonderful story that was begun in the "National Era," June 5,
1851, and was announced to run for about three months, was not
completed in that paper until April 1, 1852. It had been contemplated
as a mere magazine tale of perhaps a dozen chapters, but once begun it
could no more be controlled than the waters of the swollen
Mississippi, bursting through a crevasse in its levees. The intense
interest excited by the story, the demands made upon the author for
more facts, the unmeasured words of encouragement to keep on in her
good work that poured in from all sides, and above all the ever-
growing conviction that she had been intrusted with a great and holy
mission, compelled her to keep on until the humble tale had assumed
the proportions of a volume prepared to stand among the most notable
books in the world. As Mrs. Stowe has since repeatedly said, "I could
not control the story; it wrote itself;" or "I the author of 'Uncle
Tom's Cabin'? No, indeed. The Lord himself wrote it, and I was but the
humblest of instruments in his hand. To Him alone should be given all
Although the publication of the "National Era" has been long since
suspended, the journal was in those days one of decided literary merit
and importance. On its title-page, with the name of Dr. Gamaliel
Bailey as editor, appeared that of John Greenleaf Whittier as
corresponding editor. In its columns Mrs. Southworth made her first
literary venture, while Alice and Phoebe Gary, Grace Greenwood, and a
host of other well-known names were published with that of Mrs. Stowe,
which appeared last of all in its prospectus for 1851.
Before the conclusion of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" Mrs. Stowe had so far
outstripped her contemporaries that her work was pronounced by
competent judges to be the most powerful production ever contributed
to the magazine literature of this country, and she stood in the
foremost rank of American writers.
After finishing her story Mrs. Stowe penned the following appeal to
its more youthful readers, and its serial publication was concluded:--
"The author of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' must now take leave of a wide
circle of friends whose faces she has never seen, but whose sympathies
coming to her from afar have stimulated and cheered her in her work.
"The thought of the pleasant family circles that she has been meeting
in spirit week after week has been a constant refreshment to her, and
she cannot leave them without a farewell.
"In particular the dear children who have followed her story have her
warmest love. Dear children, you will soon be men and women, and I
hope that you will learn from this story always to remember and pity
the poor and oppressed. When you grow up, show your pity by doing all
you can for them. Never, if you can help it, let a colored child be
shut out from school or treated with neglect and contempt on account
of his color. Remember the sweet example of little Eva, and try to
feel the same regard for all that she did. Then, when you grow up, I
hope the foolish and unchristian prejudice against people merely on
account of their complexion will be done away with.
"Farewell, dear children, until we meet again."
With the completion of the story the editor of the "Era" wrote: "Mrs.
Stowe has at last brought her great work to a close. We do not
recollect any production of an American writer that has excited more
general and profound interest."
For the story as a serial the author received $300. In the mean time,
however, it had attracted the attention of Mr. John P. Jewett, a
Boston publisher, who promptly made overtures for its publication in
book form. He offered Mr. and Mrs. Stowe a half share in the profits,
provided they would share with him the expense of publication. This
was refused by Professor Stowe, who said he was altogether too poor to
assume any such risk; and the agreement finally made was that the
author should receive a ten per cent royalty upon all sales.
Mrs. Stowe had no reason to hope for any large pecuniary gain from
this publication, for it was practically her first book. To be sure,
she had, in 1832, prepared a small school geography for a Western
publisher, and ten years later the Harpers had brought out her
"Mayflower." Still, neither of these had been sufficiently
remunerative to cause her to regard literary work as a money-making
business, and in regard to this new contract she writes: "I did not
know until a week afterward precisely what terms Mr. Stowe had made,
and I did not care. I had the most perfect indifference to the
The agreement was signed March 13, 1852, and, as by arrangement with
the "National Era" the book publication of the story was authorized
before its completion as a serial, the first edition of five thousand
copies was issued on the twentieth of the same month.
In looking over the first semi-annual statement presented by her
publishers we find Mrs. Stowe charged, a few days before the date of
publication of her book, with "one copy U. T. C. cloth $.56," and this
was the first copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" ever sold in book form. Five
days earlier we find her charged with one copy of Horace Mann's
speeches. In writing of this critical period of her life Mrs. Stowe
"After sending the last proof-sheet to the office I sat alone reading
Horace Mann's eloquent plea for these young men and women, then about
to be consigned to the slave warehouse of Bruin & Hill in Alexandria,
Va.,--a plea impassioned, eloquent, but vain, as all other pleas on
that side had ever proved in all courts hitherto. It seemed that there
was no hope, that nobody would hear, nobody would read, nobody pity;
that this frightful system, that had already pursued its victims into
the free States, might at last even threaten them in Canada."
[Footnote: Introduction to Illustrated Edition of Uncle Tom, p.
xiii. (Houghton, Osgood & Co., 1879.)]
Filled with this fear, she determined to do all that one woman might
to enlist the sympathies of England for the cause, and to avert, even
as a remote contingency, the closing of Canada as a haven of refuge
for the oppressed. To this end she at once wrote letters to Prince
Albert, to the Duke of Argyll, to the Earls of Carlisle and
Shaftesbury, to Macaulay, Dickens, and others whom she knew to be
interested in the cause of anti-slavery. These she ordered to be sent
to their several addresses, accompanied by the very earliest copies of
her book that should be printed.
Then, having done what she could, and committed the result to God, she
calmly turned her attention to other affairs.
In the mean time the fears of the author as to whether or not her book
would be read were quickly dispelled. Three thousand copies were sold
the very first day, a second edition was issued the following week, a
third on the 1st of April, and within a year one hundred and twenty
editions, or over three hundred thousand copies of the book, had been
issued and sold in this country. Almost in a day the poor professor's
wife had become the most talked-of woman in the world, her influence
for good was spreading to its remotest corners, and henceforth she was
to be a public character, whose every movement would be watched with
interest, and whose every word would be quoted. The long, weary
struggle with poverty was to be hers no longer; for, in seeking to aid
the oppressed, she had also so aided herself that within four months
from the time her book was published it had yielded her $10,000 in
Now letters regarding the wonderful book, and expressing all shades of
opinion concerning it, began to pour in upon the author. Her lifelong
friend, whose words we have already so often quoted, wrote:--
"I sat up last night until long after one o'clock reading and
finishing 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' I could not leave it any more than I
could have left a dying child, nor could I restrain an almost
hysterical sobbing for an hour after I laid my head upon my pillow. I
thought I was a thorough-going abolitionist before, but your book has
awakened so strong a feeling of indignation and of compassion that I
never seem to have had any feeling on this subject until now."
The poet Longfellow wrote:--
I congratulate you most cordially upon the immense success and
influence of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." It is one of the greatest triumphs
recorded in literary history, to say nothing of the higher triumph of
its moral effect.
With great regard, and friendly remembrance to Mr. Stowe, I remain,
Yours most truly,
HENRY W. LONGFELLOW.
Whittier wrote to Garrison:--
"What a glorious work Harriet Beecher Stowe has wrought. Thanks for
the Fugitive Slave Law! Better would it be for slavery if that law had
never been enacted; for it gave occasion for 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.'"
Garrison wrote to Mrs. Stowe:--
"I estimate the value of anti-slavery writing by the abuse it brings.
Now all the defenders of slavery have let me alone and are abusing
To Mrs. Stowe, Whittier wrote:--
Ten thousand thanks for thy immortal book. My young friend Mary Irving
(of the "Era") writes me that she has been reading it to some twenty
young ladies, daughters of Louisiana slaveholders, near New Orleans,
and amid the scenes described in it, and that they, with one accord,
pronounce it true.
Truly thy friend,
JOHN G. WHITTIER.
>From Thomas Wentworth Higginson came the following:--
To have written at once the most powerful of contemporary fiction and
the most efficient of anti-slavery tracts is a double triumph in
literature and philanthropy, to which this country has heretofore seen
Yours respectfully and gratefully,
T. W. HIGGINSON.
A few days after the publication of the book, Mrs. Stowe, writing from
Boston to her husband in Brunswick, says: "I have been in such a whirl
ever since I have been here. I found business prosperous. Jewett
animated. He has been to Washington and conversed with all the leading
senators, Northern and Southern. Seward told him it was the greatest
book of the times, or something of that sort, and he and Sumner went
around with him to recommend it to Southern men and get them to read
It is true that with these congratulatory and commendatory letters
came hosts of others, threatening and insulting, from the Haleys and
Legrees of the country.
Of them Mrs. Stowe said: "They were so curiously compounded of
blasphemy, cruelty, and obscenity, that their like could only be
expressed by John Bunyan's account of the speech of Apollyon: 'He
spake as a dragon.'"
A correspondent of the "National Era" wrote: "'Uncle Tom's Cabin' is
denounced by time-serving preachers as a meretricious work. Will you
not come out in defense of it and roll back the tide of vituperation?"
To this the editor answered: "We should as soon think of coming out in
defense of Shakespeare."
Several attempts were made in the South to write books controverting
"Uncle Tom's Cabin," and showing a much brighter side of the slavery
question, but they all fell flat and were left unread. Of one of them,
a clergyman of Charleston, S.C., wrote in a private letter:--
"I have read two columns in the 'Southern Press' of Mrs. Eastman's
'Aunt Phillis' Cabin, or Southern Life as it is,' with the remarks of
the editor. I have no comment to make on it, as that is done by
itself. The editor might have saved himself being writ down an ass by
the public if he had withheld his nonsense. If the two columns are a
fair specimen of Mrs. Eastman's book, I pity her attempt and her name
as an author."
In due time Mrs. Stowe began to receive answers to the letters she had
forwarded with copies of her book to prominent men in England, and
these were without exception flattering and encouraging. Through his
private secretary Prince Albert acknowledged with thanks the receipt
of his copy, and promised to read it. Succeeding mails brought scores
of letters from English men of letters and statesmen. Lord Carlisle
"I return my deep and solemn thanks to Almighty God who has led and
enabled you to write such a book. I do feel indeed the most thorough
assurance that in his good Providence such a book cannot have been
written in vain. I have long felt that slavery is by far the
topping question of the world and age we live in, including all
that is most thrilling in heroism and most touching in distress; in
short, the real epic of the universe. The self-interest of the parties
most nearly concerned on the one hand, the apathy and ignorance of
unconcerned observers on the other, have left these august pretensions
to drop very much out of sight. Hence my rejoicing that a writer has
appeared who will be read and must be felt, and that happen what may
to the transactions of slavery they will no longer be suppressed."
To this letter, of which but an extract has been given, Mrs. Stowe
sent the following reply:--
MY LORD,--It is not with the common pleasure of gratified authorship
that I say how much I am gratified by the receipt of your very kind
communication with regard to my humble efforts in the cause of
humanity. The subject is one so grave, so awful--the success of what I
have written has been so singular and so unexpected--that I can scarce
retain a self-consciousness and am constrained to look upon it all as
the work of a Higher Power, who, when He pleases, can accomplish his
results by the feeblest instruments. I am glad of anything which gives
notoriety to the book, because it is a plea for the dumb and the
helpless! I am glad particularly of notoriety in England because I see
with what daily increasing power England's opinion is to act on this
country. No one can tell but a native born here by what an
infinite complexity of ties, nerves, and ligaments this terrible evil
is bound in one body politic; how the slightest touch upon it causes
even the free States to thrill and shiver, what a terribly corrupting
and tempting power it has upon the conscience and moral sentiment even
of a free community. Nobody can tell the thousand ways in which by
trade, by family affinity, or by political expediency, the free part
of our country is constantly tempted to complicity with the
slaveholding part. It is a terrible thing to become used to hearing
the enormities of slavery, to hear of things day after day that one
would think the sun should hide his face from, and yet, to get used
to them, to discusss them coolly, to dismiss them coolly. For
example, the sale of intelligent, handsome colored females for vile
purposes, facts of the most public nature, have made this a perfectly
understood matter in our Northern States. I have now, myself, under
charge and educating, two girls of whose character any mother might be
proud, who have actually been rescued from this sale in the New
I desire to inclose a tract [Footnote: Afterwards embodied in the
Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin.] in which I sketched down a few
incidents in the history of the family to which these girls belong; it
will show more than words can the kind of incident to which I allude.
The tract is not a published document, only printed to assist
me in raising money, and it would not, at present, be for the good of
the parties to have it published even in England.
But though these things are known in the free States, and other
things, if possible, worse, yet there is a terrible deadness of moral
sense. They are known by clergymen who yet would not on any account so
far commit themselves as to preach on the evils of slavery, or pray
for the slaves in their pulpits. They are known by politicians who yet
give their votes for slavery extension and perpetuation.
This year both our great leading parties voted to suppress all
agitation of the subject, and in both those parties were men who knew
personally facts of slavery and the internal slave-trade that one
would think no man could ever forget. Men united in pledging
themselves to the Fugitive Slave Law, who yet would tell you in
private conversation that it was an abomination, and who do not
hesitate to say, that as a matter of practice they always help the
fugitive because they can't do otherwise.
The moral effect of this constant insincerity, the moral effect of
witnessing and becoming accustomed to the most appalling forms of
crime and oppression, is to me the most awful and distressing part of
the subject. Nothing makes me feel it so painfully as to see with how
much more keenness the English feel the disclosures of my book than
the Americans. I myself am blunted by use--by seeing, touching,
handling the details. In dealing even for the ransom of slaves, in
learning market prices of men, women, and children, I feel that I
acquire a horrible familiarity with evil.
Here, then, the great, wise, and powerful mind of England, if she will
but fully master the subject, may greatly help us. Hers is the same
kind of mind as our own, but disembarrassed from our temptations and
unnerved by the thousands of influences that blind and deaden us.
There is a healthful vivacity of moral feeling on this subject that
must electrify our paralyzed vitality. For this reason, therefore, I
rejoice when I see minds like your lordship's turning to this subject;
and I feel an intensity of emotion, as if I could say, Do not for
Christ's sake let go; you know not what you may do.
Your lordship will permit me to send you two of the most
characteristic documents of the present struggle, written by two men
who are, in their way, as eloquent for the slave as Chatham was for us
in our hour of need.
I am now preparing some additional notes to my book, in which I shall
further confirm what I have said by facts and statistics, and in
particular by extracts from the codes of slaveholding States,
and the records of their courts. These are documents that
cannot be disputed, and I pray your lordship to give them your
attention. No disconnected facts can be so terrible as these legal
decisions. They will soon appear in England.
It is so far from being irrelevant for England to notice slavery that
I already see indications that this subject, on both sides, is
yet to be presented there, and the battle fought on English
ground. I see that my friend the South Carolinian gentleman has
sent to "Fraser's Magazine" an article, before published in this
country, on "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The article in the London "Times" was
eagerly reprinted in this country, was issued as a tract and sold by
the hundred, headed, "What they think of 'Uncle Tom' in England." If I
mistake not, a strong effort will be made to pervert the public mind
of England, and to do away the impression which the book has left.
For a time after it was issued it seemed to go by acclamation. From
quarters the most unexpected, from all political parties, came an
almost unbroken chorus of approbation. I was very much surprised,
knowing the explosive nature of the subject. It was not till the sale
had run to over a hundred thousand copies that reaction began, and the
reaction was led off by the London "Times." Instantly, as by a
preconcerted signal, all papers of a certain class began to abuse; and
some who had at first issued articles entirely commendatory, now
issued others equally depreciatory. Religious papers, notably the "New
York Observer," came out and denounced the book as anti-
Christian, anti-evangelical, resorting even to personal slander on
the author as a means of diverting attention from the work.
All this has a meaning, but I think it comes too late. I can think of
no reason why it was not tried sooner, excepting that God had intended
that the cause should have a hearing. It is strange that they should
have waited so long for the political effect of a book which they
might have foreseen at first; but not strange that they should, now
they do see what it is doing, attempt to root it up.
The effects of the book so far have been, I think, these: 1st. To
soften and moderate the bitterness of feeling in extreme
abolitionists. 2d. To convert to abolitionist views many whom this
same bitterness had repelled. 3d. To inspire the free colored people
with self-respect, hope, and confidence. 4th. To inspire universally
through the country a kindlier feeling toward the negro race.
It was unfortunate for the cause of freedom that the first agitators
of this subject were of that class which your lordship describes in
your note as "well-meaning men." I speak sadly of their faults, for
they were men of noble hearts. "But oppression maketh a wise man mad"
and they spoke and did many things in the frenzy of outraged humanity
that repelled sympathy and threw multitudes off to a hopeless
distance. It is mournful to think of all the absurdities that have
been said and done in the name and for the sake of this holy cause,
that have so long and so fatally retarded it.
I confess that I expected for myself nothing but abuse from extreme
abolitionists, especially as I dared to name a forbidden shibboleth,
"Liberia," and the fact that the wildest and extremest abolitionists
united with the coldest conservatives, at first, to welcome and
advance the book is a thing that I have never ceased to wonder at.
I have written this long letter because I am extremely desirous that
some leading minds in England should know how we stand. The
subject is now on trial at the bar of a civilized world--a Christian
world! and I feel sure that God has not ordered this without a design.
Yours for the cause,
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE.
In December the Earl of Shaftesbury wrote to Mrs. Stowe:--
MADAM,-It is very possible that the writer of this letter may be
wholly unknown to you. But whether my name be familiar to your ears,
or whether you now read it for the first time, I cannot refrain from
expressing to you the deep gratitude that I feel to Almighty God who
has inspired both your heart and your head in the composition of
"Uncle Tom's Cabin." None but a Christian believer could have produced
such a book as yours, which has absolutely startled the whole world,
and impressed many thousands by revelations of cruelty and sin that
give us an idea of what would be the uncontrolled dominion of Satan on
this fallen earth.
To this letter Mrs. Stowe replied as follows:--
ANDOVER, January 6, 1853.
To THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY:
My Lord,-The few lines I have received from you are a comfort
and an encouragement to me, feeble as I now am in health, and pressed
oftentimes with sorrowful thoughts.
It is a comfort to know that in other lands there are those who feel
as we feel, and who are looking with simplicity to the gospel of
Jesus, and prayerfully hoping his final coming.
My lord, before you wrote me I read with deep emotion your letter to
the ladies of England, and subsequently the noble address of the
Duchess of Sutherland, and I could not but feel that such movements,
originating in such a quarter, prompted by a spirit so devout and
benevolent, were truly of God, and must result in a blessing to the
I grieve to see that both in England and this country there are those
who are entirely incapable of appreciating the Christian and truly
friendly feeling that prompted this movement, and that there are even
those who meet it with coarse personalities such as I had not thought
possible in an English or American paper.
When I wrote my work it was in simplicity and in the love of Christ,
and if I felt anything that seemed to me like a call to undertake it,
it was this, that I had a true heart of love for the Southern people,
a feeling appreciation of their trials, and a sincere admiration of
their many excellent traits, and that I thus felt, I think, must
appear to every impartial reader of the work.
It was my hope that a book so kindly intended, so favorable in many
respects, might be permitted free circulation among them, and that the
gentle voice of Eva and the manly generosity of St. Clare might be
allowed to say those things of the system which would be invidious in
any other form.
At first the book seemed to go by acclamation; the South did not
condemn, and the North was loud and unanimous in praise; not a
dissenting voice was raised; to my astonishment everybody praised. But
when the book circulated so widely and began to penetrate the Southern
States, when it began to be perceived how powerfully it affected every
mind that read it, there came on a reaction.
Answers, pamphlets, newspaper attacks came thick and fast, and certain
Northern papers, religious,--so called,--turned and began to denounce
the work as unchristian, heretical, etc. The reason of all this is
that it has been seen that the book has a direct tendency to do what
it was written for,--to awaken conscience in the slaveholding States
and lead to emancipation.
Now there is nothing that Southern political leaders and capitalists
so dread as anti-slavery feeling among themselves. All the force of
lynch law is employed to smother discussion and blind conscience on
this question. The question is not allowed to be discussed, and he who
sells a book or publishes a tract makes himself liable to fine and
My book is, therefore, as much under an interdict in some parts of the
South as the Bible is in Italy. It is not allowed in the bookstores,
and the greater part of the people hear of it and me only through
grossly caricatured representations in the papers, with garbled
extracts from the book.
A cousin residing in Georgia this winter says that the prejudice
against my name is so strong that she dares not have it appear on the
outside of her letters, and that very amiable and excellent people
have asked her if such as I could be received into reputable society
at the North.
Under these circumstances, it is a matter of particular regret that
the "New York Observer," an old and long-established religious paper
in the United States, extensively read at the South, should have come
out in such a bitter and unscrupulous style of attack as even to
induce some Southern papers, with a generosity one often finds at the
South, to protest against it.
That they should use their Christian character and the sacred name of
Christ still further to blind the minds and strengthen the prejudices
of their Southern brethren is to me a matter of deepest sorrow. All
those things, of course, cannot touch me in my private capacity,
sheltered as I am by a happy home and very warm friends. I only grieve
for it as a dishonor to Christ and a real injustice to many noble-
minded people at the South, who, if they were allowed quietly and
dispassionately to hear and judge, might be led to the best results.
But, my lord, all this only shows us how strong is the interest we
touch. All the wealth of America may be said to be interested
in it. And, if I may judge from the furious and bitter tone of some
English papers, they also have some sensitive connection with the
I trust that those noble and gentle ladies of England who have in so
good a spirit expressed their views of the question will not be
discouraged by the strong abuse that will follow. England is doing us
good. We need the vitality of a disinterested country to warm our
torpid and benumbed public sentiment.
Nay, the storm of feeling which the book raises in Italy, Germany, and
France is all good, though truly 'tis painful for us Americans to
bear. The fact is, we have become used to this frightful evil, and we
need the public sentiment of the world to help us.
I am now writing a work to be called "Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin." It
contains, in an undeniable form, the facts which corroborate all that
I have said. One third of it is taken up with judicial records of
trials and decisions, and with statute law. It is a most fearful
story, my lord,---I can truly say that I write with life-blood, but as
called of God. I give in my evidence, and I hope that England may so
fix the attention of the world on the facts of which I am the
unwilling publisher, that the Southern States may be compelled to
notice what hitherto they have denied and ignored. If they call the
fiction dreadful, what will they say of the fact, where I cannot deny,
suppress, or color? But it is God's will that it must be told, and I
am the unwilling agent.
This coming month of April, my husband and myself expect to sail for
England on the invitation of the Anti-Slavery Society of the Ladies
and Gentlemen of Glasgow, to confer with friends there.
There are points where English people can do much good; there are also
points where what they seek to do may be made more efficient by a
little communion with those who know the feelings and habits of our
countrymen: but I am persuaded that England can do much for us.
My lord, they greatly mistake who see, in this movement of English
Christians for the abolition of slavery, signs of disunion between the
nations. It is the purest and best proof of friendship England has
ever shown us, and will, I am confident, be so received. I earnestly
trust that all who have begun to take in hand the cause will be in
nothing daunted, but persevere to the end; for though everything else
be against us, Christ is certainly on our side and He must
at last prevail, and it will be done, "not by might, nor by power,
but by His Spirit." Yours in Christian sincerity, H. B. STOWE.
Mrs. Stowe also received a letter from Arthur Helps [Footnote: Author
of Spanish Conquest in America.--ED.] Accompanying a review of
her work written by himself and published in "Fraser's Magazine." In
his letter Mr. Helps took exception to the comparison instituted in
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" between the working-classes of England and the
slaves of America. In her answer to this criticism and complaint Mrs.
MR. ARTHUR HELPS: My dear Sir,--I cannot but say I am greatly
obliged to you for the kind opinions expressed in your letter. On one
point, however, it appears that my book has not faithfully represented
to you the feelings of my heart. I mean in relation to the English
nation as a nation. You will notice that the remarks on that subject
occur in the dramatic part of the book, in the mouth of an
intelligent Southerner. As a fair-minded person, bound to state for
both sides all that could be said in the person of St. Clare, the best
that could be said on that point, and what I know is in fact
constantly reiterated, namely, that the laboring class of the South
are in many respects, as to physical comfort, in a better condition
than the poor of England.
This is the slaveholder's stereotyped apology,--a defense it cannot
be, unless two wrongs make one right.
It is generally supposed among us that this estimate of the relative
condition of the slaves and the poor of England is correct, and we
base our ideas on reports made in Parliament and various documentary
evidence; also such sketches as "London Labor and London Poor," which
have been widely circulated among us. The inference, however,
which we of the freedom party draw from it, is not that
the slave is, on the whole, in the best condition because of this
striking difference; that in America the slave has not a recognized
human character in law, has not even an existence,
whereas in England the law recognizes and protects the meanest
subject, in theory always, and in fact to a certain
extent. A prince of the blood could not strike the meanest laborer
without a liability to prosecution, in theory at least, and
that is something. In America any man may strike any slave he meets,
and if the master does not choose to notice it, he has no redress.
I do not suppose human nature to be widely different in England
and America. In both countries, when any class holds power and wealth
by institutions which in the long run bring misery on lower classes,
they are very unwilling still to part with that wealth and power. They
are unwilling to be convinced that it is their duty, and unwilling to
do it if they are. It is always so everywhere; it is not English
nature or American nature, but human nature. We have seen in England
the battle for popular rights fought step by step with as determined a
resistance from parties in possession as the slaveholder offers in
There was the same kind of resistance in certain quarters there to the
laws restricting the employing of young children eighteen hours a day
in factories, as there is here to the anti-slavery effort.
Again, in England as in America, there are, in those very classes
whose interests are most invaded by what are called popular rights,
some of the most determined supporters of them, and here I think that
the balance preponderates in favor of England. I think there are more
of the high nobility of England who are friends of the common people
and willing to help the cause of human progress, irrespective of its
influence on their own interests, than there are those of a similar
class among slaveholding aristocracy, though even that class is not
without such men. But I am far from having any of that senseless
prejudice against the English nation as a nation which, greatly to my
regret, I observe sometimes in America. It is a relic of barbarism for
two such nations as England and America to cherish any such unworthy
For my own part, I am proud to be of English blood; and though I do
not think England's national course faultless, and though I think many
of her institutions and arrangements capable of much revision and
improvement, yet my heart warms to her as, on the whole, the
strongest, greatest, and best nation on earth. Have not England and
America one blood, one language, one literature, and a glorious
literature it is! Are not Milton and Shakespeare, and all the wise and
brave and good of old, common to us both, and should there be anything
but cordiality between countries that have so glorious an inheritance
in common? If there is, it will be elsewhere than in hearts like mine.
Sincerely yours, H. B. STOWE.