Slavery was a very divisive and controversial issue throughout the country during the antebellum period. For most of the new country of the United States, the spread of slavery was highly contested and debated. Most Americans disagreed with the practice of slavery, but many did not think emancipation was the answer. However, in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a narrative describing the evils and malpractices of slavery. This novel changed the public opinion of forced servitude which ultimately had a significant effect on the already sectionalist nation. Although most southern slave owners disagreed with her opinion, Harriet Beecher Stowe accurately represented the practice of slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Known by Abraham Lincoln as “the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war”, Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut. She was the sixth of eleven children whom all grew to become important public figures. All seven sons became minister, the oldest daughter pioneered women’s education, and the youngest daughter founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association. It's very appropriate to say that Stowe was born into a family of innovators.
Primarily, one of Stowe's largest influence in her abolitionist ideas was her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, who was "already an outspoken abolitionist"; by the 1850s, he would become the "driving force" for Free Soil movement in banning slavery in Kansas. Although this was a significant influence, Stowe decided to write the novel after visiting Cincinnati; she wrote several short stories of all the monstrosities and mistreatments of slaves she witnessed and heard of. She finally combined these short stories and published Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1851.
Just as a general overview of the story, it begins when Tom's master sells him to another slaveholder to pay off some debts. This old master was very kindhearted, and Tom is sold to an even nicer family in which he is the personal servant to a young white girl which he later befriends. However, the young girl, Eva, soon dies of an illness, and Tom is ordered to be free by his master. Sadly, that master dies before the order can be carried out, and Tom is sold at auction. His next owner is the section of the story that touched the hearts of so many readers. This master was very cruel and advocated prostitution and rape of his slaves as well as beating. Eventually Tom is beat to death, and the true monstrosities of slavery were revealed. Mostly, it is this latter master that is most easily compared to the slavery situation in the south during the antebellum period.
Although many think that Uncle Tom's Cabin was simply to point out the abusive slaveholders, the novel offered many instances where the owners truly felt sympathetic towards their slaves. When selling two of his slaves, Mr. Shelby was very regretful because he would hate to split the family.
I would rather not sell him," said Mr....