Uncle Tom's Impact on 19th Century America

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For slaves, the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 ensured their doom in the perpetual cruelty of the slave market. This Act protected the rights of slaveholders, requiring - by law - that all slaves who escaped to the North be returned to their original owners. This action by the United States government contributed significantly to the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel was the first of its kind to express and fully embrace the idea that slavery should not be condoned. At the time this text was published, many Northerners took the pacifist approach by simply accepting the idea that “one person couldn’t change anything”, like St. Clare in the novel. Once this book was introduced to the Northern population, not only did it sell like hot cakes, but also it opened citizens’ eyes to the actual horrors occurring in the South, and under their same Constitution. They saw that merciless slave owners and continuous beatings left slaves with little hope and little faith. The sympathetic portrayal of slaves throughout the South lead many Northerners to side with the extreme abolitionists, which would soon create further tensions among the North and the South and eventually cause the friction prompting Southern states to secede and begin the Civil War. This progression of events inspired Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote to Harriet Beecher Stowe when he met her, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that caused this great war?”

Although the original intent of this novel was to educate the unaware masses, Stowe fell into some stereotypes of black men. When “Black Sam” received the order from Mrs. Shelby to slow down the retrieval of Eliza so that she may escape, it is clear that he does not care whether Eliza gets to freedom, but is purely interested in whether, if he succeeds, he can take over the spot of “trusted slave” that Tom filled. Stowe basically describes him as the “comic” black figure. A “comic” black figure is drawn into...
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