A Key to Chapter 30

Stowe provides further details about her story based on actual events in A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Chapter 30:

In  Chapter 10, p.200 of the Boston/Jewett 1854 publication, Stowe exemplifies the legal status of Legree’s fowl and vengeful treatment of Tom and the culminating murder of Tom, using the format of and end results of other trials; Simon Legree would not and legally could not be held culpable for these acts:

“…and by the understanding and usage of all slave-law, the power of life and death is always left in the hands of the master, in exigencies like this. This is not a case like that of Souther v. the Commonwealth. The victim of Souther was not in a state of resistance or insurrection. The punishment, in his case, was a simple vengeance for a past offence, and not an attempt to reduce him to subordination.”

 “There is no principle of slave jurisprudence by which a man could be pronounced a murderer, for acting as Legree did, in his circumstances. Everybody must see that such an admission would strike at the foundations of the slave system. To be sure, Tom was in a state of insurrection for conscience’s sake. But the law does not, and cannot, contemplate that the negro shall have a conscience independent of his master’s. To allow that the negro may refuse to obey his master whenever he thinks that obedience would be wrong, would be to produce universal anarchy. If Tom had been allowed to disobey his master in this case, for conscience’s sake, the next day Sambo would have had a case of conscience, and Quimbo the next. Several of them might very justly have thought that it was a sin to work as they did.”

An assertion Stowe addresses here is that the whole institution of slavery must go; even the kindest masters cannot escape death nor can their kind intentions protect their slaves from the Legree’s of the world or their doctrines.

 The full story of this connection can be read in Chapter X, “Principles Established—State V. Legree; A Case Not in the Books”  of A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Furthermore Emmeline, as a house and educated-to-read slave is caught up in the moral conflict of being property and how to relay the word of God to property via God’s liaison, the Master:

In A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe addresses this proverbial catch-22 scenario as befits Emmeline’s present status: “As the slave is a moveable and merchantable being, liable, as Mr. Jones calmly remarks, to ‘all the vicissitudes of property,’ this system of instruction, one would think, would be in something of a dilemma, when it comes to inculcate the Christian duties of the family state.”

Stowe proceeds further into this chapter literally with the very heart of dogmatic religious interrogatories to further cement her religious v. state conundrums concerning slaves and legal slavery and the edited-for-slaves Christian teachings that justified slavery.

“Suppose you were a slave–could not have a cent of your own earnings during your whole life, could have no legal right to your wife and children, could never send you children to school, and had, as you have told us, nothing but labour and poverty in this life–how would you like it? Would you not wish your Christian master to set you free from this condition?”


The full story of this connection can be read in Chapter IX , “Is the System of Religion Which Is Taught the Slave the Gospel?”  of A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Chapter and Commentary Table of Contents

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