Being a writer can be challenging. Being a female writer can be even more challenging. But being a female author who wrote a story on one of the most morally and socially controversial topics of that era is by far the most challenging. I’m Harriet Beecher Stowe, a supporter of the abolishment of the captivity and forced labor of Africans, as well as a very productive writer. I came from a family that was based on religion; my father was a Reverend. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old and I even attended Litchfield Female Academy, which was one of the first schools to encourage women to study academics.
I married and settled down in Cincinnati where I pursued my love for writing which was fueled by sympathetic feelings for others. I wrote countless short stories, articles, and essays. I made a slow transition into writing about slavery which is in my opinion, one of the largest issues in America. My stories have educated the North of the horrors of slavery, at the expense of backlash in the South over my “propaganda. ” It all started when my sister-in-law wrote me a letter that convinced me to express my feelings through writing.
I had a built up hatred for slavery after hearing vivid stories and interacting with former slaves in Cincinnati. In fact, my grandmother’s servant was a slave on the run who we eventually helped cross the Canadian border. Not only were these poor African souls treated inhumanely, but barely Northerners were aware. Those who were aware either ignored or hid the looming thought. I still wonder: did the government have anything to do with the avoidance of the subject of slavery? Why? Slavery had to be acknowledged and the government couldn’t keep censoring the wrongdoings of our Southern neighbors.
As I once said, “the past, the present and the future are really one: they are today. ” Leading up to the release of my story that would change the world, the “improved” fugitive slave law was introduced by the Compromise of 1850. The slave trade was outlawed, which was a step in the right direction. However, the greedy oligarchy of the South had to secure their profits somehow. American citizens were now required to submit any knowledge of escaped slaves. Failure to comply meant exorbitant fines and a year in jail. Federally appointed judges also sent back every slave that they could find.
After all, they were paid by commission. Every slave sent South meant five dollars for the judge. Usually the “slave” was actually a free man. I want to make it clear that the fugitive slave law infringed on personal rights and beliefs. A few years later, the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed through congress. The introduction of popular sovereignty enraged us abolitionists. We had considered the now-repealed Missouri Compromise to be a binding agreement between us and the government! Besides this, the freeport doctrine seemed to be strangely similar.
The Freeport Doctrine train of thought felt like an excuse that there’s no way to change the country. Either way, I knew that it was my duty from God to open the eyes of my country to the corrupt government system and the sinful Southern practices. I didn’t have much of a public voice before, just like every other woman around me. Writing was the way to go. I could reach millions of people without opening my mouth. I I was hired to write a story for The National Era, a popular abolitionist newspaper. The story was titled Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
My writing was released in installments, as I was only expected to write a short story. I ended up writing over forty passages and getting it published. I decided to “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn. ” Uncle Tom’s Cabin follows an enslaved man by the name of Tom and a young enslaved boy called Harry. The pair is sold to a New Orleans family by a struggling farmer and his wife. In the meantime, Harry’s mom escapes to be with him. He’s her only living son. A living, loving, breathing human being is assigned a value in currency and sold as property.
This is a common occurrence in the South. How? The slave owners see themselves as physically and evolutionarily superior. The treatment that comes from these claims literally kills African men. In chapter eighteen of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a heavily abused slave called Prue refuses to follow the Word of the Lord due to the influence of her captors. “I looks like gwine to heaven,’ said the woman; ‘an’t thar where white folks is gwine? S’pose they’d have me thar? I’d rather go to torment, and get away from Mas’r and Missis” (Beecher Stowe 313). Refusing Christianity is uncommon and frowned-upon.
This poor woman has been abused so much by the “white folks” that she won’t associate with them in any way, even if it means refusing heaven. This passage was written to bring religion into the issue of slavery. Overall, my book was written to familiarize and personalize the issues of slavery that were being overlooked. How did my fellow Northerners not realize this was actually going on in their own country? Why don’t Southerners hold the opinion that all men are created equal? And my question for those who oppose me: It’s the nineteenth century.
Do you consider Africans men? If so, what justifies your treatment of these men? Africans are exactly like us. They have emotional and physical feeling. The second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence clearly states that all men are created equal and are entitled to unalienable rights. Not only do slaves and free men lack unalienable rights, but they lack legal rights as well. If the most important guidelines of our country can’t be recognized by plantation owners, why should they be able to participate in our economy?
Back in the story, Tom is eventually sold again; this time to a cruel and twisted man. In the end, Tom is killed because he won’t reveal where his fellow slaves have escaped to. The personal sacrifice from Tom truly shows the lengths that slaves reached to save themselves. Many back up their claims with the fact that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is fictional, but I consider the events to be realistic and accurate. My story is based on my personal opinions, my personal encounters, and my personal religion. The response was an assortment of positive and negative responses, most being the latter.
After my story was published as a novel, over 300,000 copies were sold in the first year. Over one million have been sold in England. I even wrote a letter to Prince Albert, attempting to persuade him to read my story. I told him the honest purpose of my story and left it up to him to read it. “This simple narrative is an honest attempt to enlist the sympathies both of England and America in the sufferings of an oppressed race, to whom in less enlightened days both English and America were unjust. I was hoping that if he read the story it would open his eyes to the horrors of slavery in America.
He and the Queen read it, and four years later I actually visited them to chat about the book. An abolitionist connection with England would be powerful. If they side with our beliefs we could possibly receive support from them if an internal conflict arises. Would getting England involved pressure the South to end slavery, or would it encourage them? If an internal conflict does arise, I hope it will not lead to civil war as I feel I would be partially at fault.