January 1, 1852

National Era

Transcription of Chapter 27, Part 2 and Chapter 28, Part 1

Chapter XXVII—Continued.

“Well, are you going to do differently now?” said Miss Ophelia.

“God only knows the future,” said St. Clare. “I am braver than I was, because I have lost all; and he who has nothing to lose can afford all risks.”

“And what are you going to do?”

“My duty, I hope, to the poor and lowly, as fast as I find it out,” said St. Clare, “beginning with my own servants, for whom I have yet done nothing; and perhaps at some future day it may appear that I can do something for a whole class—something to save my country from the disgrace of that false position in which she now stands before all civilized nations.”

“Do you suppose it possible that a nation ever will voluntarily emancipate?” said Miss Ophelia.

“I don’t know,” said St. Clare. “This is a day of great deeds. Heroism and disinterestedness are rising up here and there in the earth. The Hungarian nobles set free millions of serfs, at an immense pecuniary loss; and perhaps among us may be found generous spirits who do not estimate honor and justice by dollars and cents.”

“I hardly think so,” said Miss Ophelia.

[Continue reading the full text of 1 January installment, here.]

Commentary by Wesley Raabe

Assistant Professor of English at Kent State University

A New Year, A New Augustine St. Clare, a New Marie?

On 1 January of 1852, the new year brought a new installment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the discomfited Augustine St. Clare resumes his effort to postpone, if not forestall, the actions to which an awakened Christian conscience seems to call him, freeing his slaves. But he finds himself hounded by the relentless interrogations of his Vermont cousin, for whom “now,” what Stowe’s narrator in the previous installment calls “the present tense of action,” is the only moment in which a thing can be done. In the previous installment, St. Clare turned to his newspaper to fend off Miss Ophelia’s efforts to purchase Topsy, but he found her unyielding: “But I want it done now.…Because now is the only time there ever is to do a thing in.” One of Stowe’s frequent techniques is to repeat a word for thematic emphasis, so when the split chapter resumed on 1 January Stowe reminded her reader of the topic by Miss Ophelia’s pointed query to Augustine: “Well, are you going to do differently now?”

St. Clare initially appears to recognize that “now” might be a propitious moment for emancipation in the world, the nation, and his own household. Stowe’s Era readers would have been broadly familiar with the gathering signs of the times, as the Era followed such developments faithfully. When Stowe’s 18 December installment was missed, editor Gamaliel Bailey requested the readers’ forbearance with “long articles,” one of which was an international sensation, “the long speech of [Louis] Kossuth at the great Banquet at New York.” This is the international event to which St. Clare refers in this installment with regard to the emancipation of Hungarian serfs. A national matter that may have offered another sign for the times was the Christiana incident. A free black community harboring fugitive slaves in Pennsylvania successfully resisted an attempt by the Maryland slaveholder Edward Gorsuch to re-enslave men he claimed as his property. Gorsuch was killed in the violent exchange. A Quaker, Castner Hanway was charged with treason for aiding the fugitive slaves’ escape, but he was acquitted of the treason charges on 11 December. The reverberations of this incendiary incident, another test of the Fugitive Slave Act, promised to echo long but would fade into a historical footnote. Stowe’s readers may well have recognized the Harris family’s escape with the aid of a Quaker as an uncanny parallel to Christiana. But if the international and national signs were propitious for the march toward greater freedom, domestic signs were decidedly negative, and Augustine St. Clare’s tentative resolution to emancipate his slaves—including Tom—appears to falter on this matter.

[Continue reading the full text of Wesley Raabe’s commentary here.]

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