Uncle Tom's Cabin

"The Great Push for Abolition"


Brought to you by: John Brucker & Lawren Geer


Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Her father, Reverend Lyman Beecher was a prominent Congressional minister, though her mother, Roxanne, died when Harriet was only five years old. Reverend Lyman was a good father, and encouraged an intellectual and educational home environment for all eleven of his children. He gave many anti-slavery sermons, especially in 1820 when it was being debated whether or not Missouri should enter as a free or enslaved state. Harriet attended one of the few school around that took women's education seriously, Hartford Female Seminary, which was founded by her sister Catharine. Catharine helped change the idea that women only had to stay at home and didn't need a lot of education. She wanted women to be taken seriously and taught them how to do so. She also was an advocate for the importance of written expression, and often had her students composing many essays. As a result of this belief, Harriet received an uncommonly fine education and began to develop her writing career and talent. In 1832 the Beechers moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where Harriet met and married Calvin E Stowe who was a professor at Lane. It was in Cincinnati where she was exposed to the horrors of slavery and gathered some of her stories that she would later use in her novel. She also joined the Semi-Colon Club, a local literary society which helped harvest her writing skills. In 1850, the Stowe family moved to Brunswick, Maine where they lived untill 1853 and where most of Uncle Tom's Cabin was written. [http://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/life/]


Uncle Tom's Cabin was a book written by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1853 which expressed a form of social protest. The novel tells a tale about two slaves, middle-aged Tom and young Harry, who were going to be sold by their owners, Arthur and Emily Shelby, to a harsh slave trader and separated from their families. Harry's mother, Eliza, takes her son and runs away from Kentucky hoping to escape to Canada to find freedom with her husband. They find a Quaker settlement who agrees to help them with their escape and eventually Harry and Eliza are united with their husband and father, George. On the other hand however, Uncle Tom is taken by the slave trader, Haley, and taken on a boat to be transported. Its on this boat that he meets and befriends a little white girl, Eva, who he saves when she falls in the river. Her family in return purchases him and he lives with them in New Orleans where he becomes older and weaker, but all the more closer to Eva with whom he shared an adherent Christian faith with. Meanwhile, the Shelby's had hired a slave hunter names Loker who has his men chasing after Harry and Eliza. When he gets close to catching them, George shoots him in the side and the others retreat, but Eliza convinces George to bring Loker to the next settlement to be healed. In Tom's world, after two years of working for the St. Clares, Eva becomes sick and dies, impacting all those around her. St. Clare decides to set Tom free but is stabbed to death before he can do so, and his horrible wife Marie sells him to an even more vicious plantation owner, Legree, in Louisiana. Legree dislikes Tom and has him severely beaten when he refuses to whip a fellow slave as ordered. During all this, George, Eliza and Henry finally escape to Canada with help from the changed man, Loker, where they obtain their freedom. Back in Louisiana, Tom's faith is tested and he encourages two slaves he has befriended to escape, which they do. When Legree finds out he demands Tom to tell him where they went, then has him beaten by his overseers when he refuses to tell. During this beating Tom forgives Legree and the overseers just as Arthur Shelby arrives to purchse Tom's freedom. Shelby is too late and watches Tom get beaten to death, a hero in the eyes of fellow slaves. Shelby returns back to his Kentucky farm where he sets all his slaves free in Tom's honor and urged them to remember Tom's sacrifice and remain strong in their faith just like he did. [http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/uncletom/summary.html]


The setting in the story takes place in several different areas. First is the Shelby farm in Kentucky where we are introduced to the several main characters and main slaves, Uncle Tom, Harry and Eliza. The next setting to show up is the Quaker settlements which are peaceful towns filled with good Christian people who help runaway slaves escape in the name of God. River steamboats is also and important setting in Tom's part of the story, along with Ohio and Loiusiana where he spends time on a farm with two different owners, the St. Clares and Legree. The last important setting is Canada where Eliza and her family find their freedom at last.


Uncle Tom's Cabin was written in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and caused a big deal in the United States at the time. Harriet Beecher Stowe used the book as a way to sway the public's opinion and open their eyes to the horror and immoralities of slavery. Stowe's arguments were not based on equality among African-Americans, but rather they were more religion-based and family-centered, because she knew these arguments would have more influence on whites in the North and South. In the first chapter, Stowe explains why she wrote the book, claiming that no Christian man would allow and support the Fugitive Act, or even slavery in general, and it angered her that the men who claimed to be God-fearing Christians claimed that this was the right thing to do and the right way to handle slavery. The Northerners were enlightened and inspired by her novel, and they rallied around the cause, aiding in the start of the Civil War. [http://www.civilwar.org/historyclassroom/hc_uncletomlesson.htm]


Uncle Tom's Cabin first showed up in serial form in The National Era, which was an abolitionist newspaper in 1851-1852. At first the installments did not attract too much attention, but after being published in book form in two volumes in 1852 the story caught fire and in the first year 300,000 copies were sold. In 1856 her numbers reached 2 million and the story was translated into over 13 different languages.[http://www.africanaonline.com/slavery_toms_cabin.htm]


North vs. South

Harriet's tale provided a harsh view into the world of slavery that had never been published before, and gave an interesting spin to commonly held ideas about slavery, proving its immoral and unchristian-like aspects. The northern United States and many foreign countries favored the book and its captivating melodrama, accepting its message and using it to awaken and push forward the anti-slavery movement in the 1850's. The South, on the other side of the spectrum, harshly criticized the book and its author, declaring her a liar and unreliable source due to the fact that she had never set foot into a southern state and therefore did not know anything firsthand about slavery and how plantations worked. Clearly this book angered southerners who felt attacked and wrongly portrayed.



The rating for this "event" would have to be rather low. Maybe a 1 or 2 out of 5 would suit this novel. Although in the form of writing, Uncle Tom's Cabin speaks volumes, and stirs feelings surrounding slavery, it was only a novel. It was not actually a hands-on event, such as a battle or an election. The book definitely has its place on the list of events that led to the eruption of civil war, but on a much smaller scale than other items on the list.