“So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!” is one of the most famous quotes said by President Abraham Lincoln to Harriet Beecher Stowe regarding the Civil War and her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But was she really an abolitionist? Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought about great social change. With harsh visions of brutal slave beatings, it is hard to not feel compassion for the slaves. Uncle Tom’s Cabin became extremely popular in the North. According to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, after the first year it had already sold 300,000 copies. Uncle Tom’s Cabin appalled many people and was considered inaccurate by southern plantation owners yet it sold thousands of copies (HBS Center 7).
Uncle Tom’s Cabin takes place in several places in the south in the pre-Civil War era. It follows two main groups of people who are Tom, and then Eliza and George Harris and their son Henry (who are all black slaves). George is sold to an evil master so he runs away to the north and was soon joined by Eliza when she learns her son and Tom are to be sold because their master has debts. After a dramatic escape, they meet in a Quaker village and together they escape to Canada and eventually Africa. Tom does not run away with Eliza and Henry though, making the choice to be sold as a good slave would do. While on a boat to the slave auction, Tom rescues Eva, a pure white girl, when she falls overboard. Her father then buys him and Tom lives some peaceful years on their plantation and learning about God from the spiritual Eva. Upon Eva’s death and her father’s shortly after, Tom is sold to a new cruel master. This master does not understand why Tom has stayed true to his religion and therefore has an instant dislike for him. One day when Tom refuses to tell where some slaves run away to, his master beats him until he is near death. As he is laying there dying, his first master’s son arrives and sees Tom speak his last words. The novel ends with Eliza and George being reunited with some family that had been separated and they leave for Africa.
Most people today regard her to be an abolitionist because of the success of her novel in freeing the slaves. By today’s ideals, an abolitionist is someone who wanted to free all blacks from slavery and incorporate them into society. When looking at abolitionists from the Civil War era, it is important to realize that not all followed this definition but are still claimed to be abolitionists, which creates a serious problem of misrepresenting their ideals. While Harriet Beecher Stowe is credited as being an abolitionist today because of the impact of her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin she was in fact not because of her lifestyle, background, and belief in the necessity of slavery; her belief that blacks were inferior to the white race; and that former slaves could not be incorporated into society and should be returned to Africa.
An objection to the idea that Harriet Beecher Stowe was...