January 8, 1852

National Era

Image and link courtesy of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center-Hartford, CT

Transcription of Part 2 of Chapter 28

Chapter XXVIII—Continued.

She found Marie sitting up in her easy-chair, with Mammy standing by her, combing her hair. Jane sat on the ground before her, busy in chafing her feet.

“How do you find yourself to day?” said Miss Ophelia.

A deep sigh and a closing of the eyes was the only reply, for a moment, and then Marie answered, “Oh, I don’t know, cousin; I suppose I’m as well as I ever shall be;” and Marie wiped her eyes with a cambric handkerchief, bordered with an inch deep of black.

“I came,” said Miss Ophelia, “with a short, dry cough, such as commonly introduces a difficult subject.”

“I came to speak with you about poor Rosa.”

Marie’s eyes were open wide enough now, and a flush rose to her sallow cheeks as she answered, sharply,

“Well, what about her?”

“She is very sorry for her fault.”

“She is, is she? She’ll be sorrier before I’ve done with her. I’ve endured that child’s impudence long enough, and now I’ll bring her down—I’ll make her lie in the dust.”

“But could not you punish her some other way—some way that would be less shameful?”

“I mean to shame her; that’s just what I want. She has all her life presumed on her delicacy, and her good looks, and her lady-like airs, till she forgets who she is—and I’ll give her one lesson that will bring her down, I fancy.”

“But, cousin, consider that if you destroy delicacy and a sense of shame in a young girl, you deprave her very fast.”

[Continue reading the remaining text of chapter 28, here.]

Commentary by Audrey Fisch

 Professor of English at New Jersey City University

In its September 3, 1852 review of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Times of London scolds Harriet Beecher Stowe for her radical “portraiture” of “African nature,” mocking what it sees as her “ludicrous” attempt to “establish the superiority of the African nature over that of the Anglo-Saxon and of every other known race.”  The racism in the assertion is implicit: no race, and certainly, not the African, could be superior to the Anglo-Saxon.

Yet by the time of The Times’s review, Stowe and a number of others were part of a growing number of people who were concerned that slavery was making whites, if not inferior to Africans, then into brutes.   An important thread that runs through Stowe’s novel and throughout the Anglo-American abolitionist tradition is the argument that slavery should be abolished because it is damaging to white people who are being rendered inferior by their participation in and contact with the institution.  Nowhere is this argument made more strongly than in the section under consideration this week, in which Marie St. Clair decides to have Rosa sent to the whipping house and to sell Tom and most of the slaves.

Before we look at these episodes, I want to turn to Robert Southey’s “The Sailor, Who Had Served in the Slave Trade” (1790), an illustration of the argument that slavery damages whites with strong resonances both with this section and with Stowe’s novel generally.  Southey advances his anti-slavery argument in the poem through his examination of the effect that slavery, and the slave trade in particular, has on a good English sailor, the eponymous protagonist.  “The Sailor” centers around his state of misery; he has been rendered “miserable” and “wretched,” suffering in ”such heart-anguish as could spring/ From deepest guilt alone.”

The sailor’s guilt stems from an event on his journey on board a “Guinea-man” to the “slave-coast” where his ship takes on a cargo of three-hundred slaves.  Of the “sulky” who refused to eat, one woman is “sulkier than the rest,” and, under the direction of the ship’s captain, the sailor is forced to tie her up and flog her until she is nearly dead.  Finally, the woman is untied and taken down, and the sailor records his relief:

She could not be more glad than I

When she was taken down,

A blessed minute—’twas the last

That I have ever known!

[Continue reading the full text of Audrey Fisch ‘s commentary here.]

How did Stowe connect this chapter to real-life stories? Find out here!

Read the top new stories of this week in 1852 here!

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