Sep 07

UncleTom

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe ★★★

This book is said by many to have been one of the most influential books in all of American history. I don’t doubt that. It is actually an assembly of articles that Stowe wrote for a magazine, eventually assembled into book format. It is written like a true story, though it is a fiction supposedly assembled from examples of how slaves were treated in the antebellum south. Unfortunately, I would not call it great literature, and is definitely written with a strong political slant to it.  The book has two main stories to it, the first being a slave lady with her child that escapes to safety. Then, there is Tom, the good boy who always does what he is told, who ends up being sold to a tyrannical slavemaster, leading to his death.

The book is written in an inflammatory manner designed to show that while slaves may have kind and loving owners, the entire system of slavery was rotten to the core. Uncle Tom had some kind owners, yet the picture is always lurking that he is essentially nothing but somebody else’s property, and that only pure luck gave him sympathetic owners. Stowe uses religion heavily during the narrative, emphasizing that Tom was a very religious man. This seemed to be directed at southern theologians who vociferously contended for the religious propriety of slavery as an institution.

What do we make it this book 150 years later? We know the outcomes now, and so are somewhat prejudiced in our reading of this book. Needless to say, when Union armies came close to slave lands, at least 1/6 of the slaves would run to the union front. There are simple reasons to explain why it wasn’t 100% of slaves, as confederate lost cause writers try to impress on us that most slaves were loyal to their masters and would have stayed with them out of contentment for their situation. The fact is that the south did not take careful measures to protect abuses in slavery (if slavery itself is not itself considered a serious abuse). There is a large movement today to resurrect the thinking of the lost cause writers, and strangely, this is found most prominent among libertarians, who are the most vociferous about individual rights. Arguments in these camps abound about how the civil war wasn’t about slavery but instead state rights, taxes, or Lord only knows what. They love to make Abe Lincoln look worse than the devil himself. It would have been best if America did not have to go through the bloodiest war in its history with the civil war. Thomas Fleming in his book A Disease in the Public Mind (reviewed recently by me) identifies the real cause of the war was mass public insanity regarding the issue of slavery, both in the south and the north, that led to this war. This book about Uncle Tom flamed the insanity in the north, and southern intrenched arrogance inflamed the insanity of the south. Needless to say, I do NOT have southern sympathies, while contending with the issue of slavery without the inflammatory nature of this book would have been a better way to go about it.

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4 Responses to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

  1. Andrew says:

    Methinks that the war was “about” many things.

    Old Abe himself wrote this in 1862:

    “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.”

    I don’t believe that all forms of slavery are inherently evil. But I do believe that race-based slavery is immoral and the way that slavery was practiced and participated in among both Northern and Southern businesses and landowners was immoral. The South certainly allowed abuses of slavery. Then again, the North did too. It was the North that primarily profited from the initial slave trade from Africa, although it was the South that perpetuated the practice and profited from the cheap labor.

    My beef with Lincoln is that he took the stance that we can violate whatever rules we may have for the sake of the Union. Suspension of Constitutional rights during the war is what makes me loath Lincoln in the same way that I loath Bush for similar encroachments on personal liberties.

    I don’t have a good answer for how government “ought” to work. I agree that capitalism without morality is an evil thing. But I don’t think that morality at the end of a barrel is better. Wars do not address or fix issues of morality. The Middle East is a great example. Without the presence of saving belief in Jesus Christ, there is no hope for peace between warring Sunnis and Shiites or Israelis and Palestinians. The United States plying either side with weapons, promises, alliances, or aid does not address the core issue.

    From this perspective, I’d say that both South and North erred in their morality. I’m not convinced that Northern abolitionism was exactly holy or authentic, but one could argue surely that the South clung longer to the immorality than the North. However, it was the North, I believe, that provoked the conflict itself and holds the brunt of the guilt for the resulting loss of life. And they accomplished nothing of moral value ultimately. One need only look at the ongoing race issues in the United States (and not just in the South) to see that the issues are still there and just as ugly as ever.

    Had I lived in Virginia at that time, I likely would have shouldered a rifle alongside Lee in defense from the tyranny of the North. One hopes that I would have had the foresight to acknowledge the evils that I saw in my own state as well. I wouldn’t have been free from sin or free from guilt in my participation of sin in the way that human beings were treated as a result of slavery, but I would have been willing to defend my state (with a clean conscience) from a government who had overstepped their bounds.

  2. Andrew; The war was about many things, and you are correct that both sides did their best at the beginning to assert that it was NOT about slavery. As I wrote before, it wasn’t a state’s rights issue. It wasn’t a taxation issue (on imports). Lincoln could not make it a slavery issue, since he so desperately needed to hold the four border states within the union. The motivation for the emancipation was more about giving in to foreign pressure from England and France, so that the war could be portrayed as a slavery issue. Most soldiers on either side really didn’t give a hoot about slavery. Racial prejudice was quite extreme in both the north and south. Regardless of that, if slavery never existed, I don’t believe that the war would have ever happened, but then, who could ever say? Your beefs with Lincoln also exist with the south. Their constitution prohibited succession from the confederate union. They were the first to instigate conscription of soldiers. Both sides strongly prohibited certain civil liberties, such as speaking out against the war. Both sides were aggressive and immoral in inflaming the conflict. I think of the gentlemen from South Carolina who caned a gentleman from Massachusetts into a coma in the senate chambers. There was no side that had a higher moral ground. It was mass public insanity, which still exists. We now have atoned for our sin of slavery by electing Uncle Tom (actually, a very immoral evil twin version of Uncle Tom) to be president of the United States. We continue our insanity about thinking about the Muslim issue, racial tensions such as in Henderson, the illegal immigrant issue, the federal reserve and taxation, and so many other issues. Had I lived in either Virginia or Illinois, I would have moved out west or to Canada. It wasn’t a war worth fighting, and saner minds would have resolved the conflict.

  3. Andrew says:

    1. Where did the CSA Constitution prohibit secession? I’ve never seen that part….

    2. One can always pull anecdotal support for any war indicating how both sides were bad. My statement isn’t about that at all. Although I respect Lee and Stonewall both men did both immoral and sometimes just dumb things (strategically). They were men after all. It’s about what side is in the right in a conflict. My argument remains that regardless of how bungled the CSA became over time (and it was definitely a mess) they were fighting a defensive war against a government seeking to impose its will on them. In that sense, as the aggressors, I blame the North for the war itself much as I blame the British for the American Revolutionary War.

    3. It wasn’t a war worth waging. But some wars are worth fighting when you’re defending your homeland.

  4. Onkel dennis says:

    Indeed, wars are not usually motivated by what the public is told about them. (See the movie Fair Game regarding CIA knowledge of White House lies about the Iraq War.) For the War Between the States, the U.S. Constitution made no provision for secession once a State had joined the Union, and this was a factor in what brought on the dispute. Slavery was not the issue, except perhaps at the popular level. It was the northern bankers who were the root cause. (Actually, their leader, the Devil, was.)

    The South fired first (at Ft. Sumter) but the North was interfering significantly in the South’s cotton sales to Britain, through unfair taxation. So, like (almost) all wars, this one too was motivated by avarice on the part of the “rich” – exactly what James said about who causes wars.

    Lincoln started out as a villain, as Andrew noted, but near the close of the War, with so much bloodshed, he apparently underwent some kind of change of mind which led to his assassination by the same kind of elements (in part) who assassinated JFK. Tupper Saussy makes the significant case that the Jesuits were involved in his book Rulers of Evil: Useful Knowledge About Governing Bodies.

    Andrew wrote: “I don’t have a good answer for how government “ought” to work.” Not to worry; the Bible does. Despite the widespread misunderstanding in the churches nowadays, God does tell us what human govt ought to be. Govts are defined by their laws, and Yahweh gives us the law for human govt, for humanity to live by. Yet the neo-Marcionist Christianity of our time politely ignores it (as irrelevant and outdated OT stuff) and continues to support Illuminati-inspired “democracy” popularized by the Enlightenment through the French Oriental Lodge of Freemasonry. That was the kind of govt Adam and Eve were practicing in the Garden. They outvoted Yahweh. As Francis Schaeffer said, it is the “tyranny of the 51 %”. It is not biblical govt nor is it even compatible with it.

    Today, there are no real representative governments in the developed world, only mind control by a ruling class of power elite led by the international banksters – not terribly different than in Lincoln’s time.

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