Uncle Tom's Cabin (Excerpt)

Title page for Volume I of the first edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Original source.

Source Author
Harriett Beecher Stowe
Source Date

Print Source: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1852).

Background information: Harriet Beecher Stowe came from a family of prominent speakers and reformers.  Stowe's father Lyman Beecher was perhaps the most renowned minister of the Second Great Awakening.  Her brothers, Henry Ward and Edward Beecher, followed in their father's footsteps, becoming accomplished and famous clergymen and reformers in their own right. Harriet's older sister Catharine was a leading advocate of women's education.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was Stowe's own contribution to American reform. Published in serial form in the National Era between June 1851 and April 1852 and as a book early in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin became an instantaneous and phenomenal success.  Portraying slavery as a threat to both Christianity and domesticity, Stowe's novel helped galvanize anti-slavery sentiment in the North.  In the following excerpt from chapter 23, the two St. Clare brothers debate the possible onslaught of a "San Domingo hour" in the South after witnessing the young Henrique beat the slave Dodo.
The scene of the beating had been witnessed by the two brothers St. Clare, from another part of the garden.  

Augustine's cheek flushed; but he only observed, with his usual sarcastic carelessness.  
"I suppose that's what we may call republican education, Alfred?"  
"Henrique is a devil of a fellow, when his blood's up," said Alfred, carelessly.  
"I suppose you consider this an instructive practice for him," said Augustine, drily.  
"I couldn't help it, if I didn't. Henrique is a regular little tempest; -- his mother and I have given him up, long ago. But, then, that Dodo is a perfect sprite, -- no amount of whipping can hurt him."  
"And this by way of teaching Henrique the first verse of a republican's catechism, 'All men are born free and equal!'"  
"Poh!" said Alfred; "one of Tom Jefferson's pieces of French sentiment and humbug. It's perfectly ridiculous to have that going the rounds among us, to this day."  
"I think it is," said St. Clare, significantly.  
"Because," said Alfred, "we can see plainly enough that all men are not born free, nor born equal; they are born anything else. For my part, I think half this republican talk sheer humbug. It is the educated, the intelligent, the wealthy, the refined, who ought to have equal rights and not the canaille."  
"If you can keep the canaille of that opinion," said Augustine. "They took their turn once, in France."  
"Of course, they must be kept down, consistently, steadily, as I should," said Alfred, setting his foot hard down as if he were standing on somebody.  
"It makes a terrible slip when they get up," said Augustine, -- "in St. Domingo, for instance."  
"Poh!" said Alfred, "we'll take care of that, in this country. We must set our face against all this educating, elevating talk, that is getting about now; the lower class   
must not be educated."  
"That is past praying for," said Augustine; "educated they will be, and we have only to say how. Our system is educating them in barbarism and brutality. We are breaking all humanizing ties, and making them brute beasts; and, if they get the upper hand, such we shall find them."  
"They shall never get the upper hand!" said Alfred.  
"That's right," said St. Clare; "put on the steam, fasten down the escape-valve, and sit on it, and see where you'll land."  
"Well," said Alfred, "we will see. I'm not afraid to sit on the escape-valve, as long as the boilers are strong, and the machinery works well."  
"The nobles in Louis XVI.'s time thought just so; and Austria and Pius IX. think so now; and, some pleasant morning, you may all be caught up to meet each other in the air, when the boilers burst."  
"Dies declarabit," said Alfred, laughing.  
"I tell you," said Augustine, "if there is anything that is revealed with the strength of a divine law in our times, it is that the masses are to rise, and the under class become the upper one."  
"That's one of your red republican humbugs, Augustine! Why didn't you ever take to the stump; -- you'd make a famous stump orator! Well, I hope I shall be dead before this millennium of your greasy masses comes on."  
"Greasy or not greasy, they will govern you, when their time comes," said Augustine; "and they will be just such rulers as you make them. The French noblesse chose to have the people 'sans culottes,' and they had 'sans culotte' governors to their hearts' content. The people of Hayti -- "  
"O, come, Augustine! as if we hadn't had enough of that abominable, contemptible Hayti! 1 The Haytiens were not Anglo Saxons; if they had been there would have been another story. The Anglo Saxon is the dominant race of the world, and is to be so."  
"Well, there is a pretty fair infusion of Anglo Saxon blood among our slaves, now," said Augustine. "There are plenty among them who have only enough of the African to give a sort of tropical warmth and fervor to our calculating firmness and foresight. If ever the San Domingo hour comes, Anglo Saxon blood will lead on the day. Sons of white fathers, with all our haughty feelings burning in their veins, will not always be bought and sold and traded. They will rise, and raise with them their mother's race."  
"Stuff! -- nonsense!"  
"Well," said Augustine, "there goes an old saying to this effect, 'As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be; -- they ate, they drank, they planted, they builded, and knew not till the flood came and took them.'"  
"On the whole, Augustine, I think your talents might do for a circuit rider," said Alfred, laughing. "Never you fear for us; possession is our nine points. We've got the power. This subject race," said he, stamping firmly, "is down and shall stay down! We have energy enough to manage our own powder."  
"Sons trained like your Henrique will be grand guardians of your powder-magazines," said Augustine, -- "so cool and self-possessed! The proverb says, "'They that cannot govern themselves cannot govern others.'"  
"There is a trouble there" said Alfred, thoughtfully; "there's no doubt that our system is a difficult one to train children under. It gives too free scope to the passions, altogether, which, in our climate, are hot enough. I find trouble with Henrique. The boy is generous and warm-hearted, but a perfect fire-cracker when excited. I believe I shall send him North for his education, where obedience is more fashionable, and where he will associate more with equals, and less with dependents."  
"Since training children is the staple work of the human race," said Augustine, "I should think it something of a consideration that our system does not work well there."  
"It does not for some things," said Alfred; "for others, again, it does. It makes boys manly and courageous; and the very vices of an abject race tend to strengthen in them the opposite virtues. I think Henrique, now, has a keener sense of the beauty of truth, from seeing lying and deception the universal badge of slavery."  
"A Christian-like view of the subject, certainly!" said Augustine.  
"It's true, Christian-like or not; and is about as Christian-like as most other things in the world," said Alfred.  
"That may be," said St. Clare.  
"Well, there's no use in talking, Augustine. I believe we've been round and round this old track five hundred times, more or less. What do you say to a game of backgammon?"  
The two brothers ran up the verandah steps, and were soon seated at a light bamboo stand, with the backgammon-board between them. As they were setting their men, Alfred said,  
"I tell you, Augustine, if I thought as you do, I should do something."  
"I dare say you would, -- you are one of the doing sort, -- but what?"  
"Why, elevate your own servants, for a specimen," said Alfred, with a half-scornful smile.  
"You might as well set Mount AEtna on them flat, and tell them to stand up under it, as tell me to elevate my servants under all the superincumbent mass of society upon them. One man can do nothing, against the whole action of a community. Education, to do anything, must be a state education; or there must be enough agreed in it to make a current."