Warning: spoilers ahead.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of the most influential books written by an American. In addition to arousing the North to the horrors of slavery, the book influenced Russian landowners’ decision to emancipate their serfs. In addition, Uncle Tom’s Cabin proves to be is historically accurate, which will be the primary point of discussion within this report.
The first primary storyline involves the flight of Eliza and George Harrison to Canada. There fear of capture has ground: Two years prior to the book, the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850 was passed. The law declared that escaped slaves could be captured and returned in any state, which effectively forced the Runaways from the country if they valued their freedom. In addition, any policeman who refused to capture them would be heavily fined. This particular point contrasts with the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, which had no such “incentive”. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is historically correct when it describes their escape.
At one point in their journey, the Harrison family stops at a Quaker family, one of which owned slaves at one point. While the later point may seem to contradict historical beliefs, on closer examination it seems that while the Quaker law looked down on slavery, few enforced this viewpoint.
Tom’s story, too, is historically accurate. The first point of note is the slave auction, which Stowe accurately portrayed. In the one form discussed in the book, slaves would be orderly arranged onto a platform, during which slave-owners could inspect the slaves and choose which ones they desired. After some time, the men would bid on slaves, one after another. As described quite vividly in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, parents would often be separated from their children, and siblings from each other.
Another interesting point of note in his part of the book is how Marie reacts to slavery. Her opinion on it, that slaves were less than human and could not possibly feel the torment a white person would in the same situation, likely reflects on the how many slave-owners rationalized their behavior. This concept is backed up by the large number of Pro-Slavery books that sprung up at the time: most notably books such as The Planter’s Northern Bride. In many pro-slavery books, black people are portrayed as having a lower intellect, almost akin to children that the master needs to take care of.
In addition, Sam Legree’s “rationalization” for slavery (I.E. none at all), provides additional insight into the mind of a slave-owner. Legree chooses to believe that his slaves are nothing but a mindless, yet complaining, workforce whose only purpose is to increase his cotton output (Or, in the case of Cassy and Emmeline, for his pleasure.) He is perfectly willing to work the slaves to death, simply because he does not want to waste time or energy letting them rest. As Sam states in chapter 34, he can always buy new slaves as his old ones are used up.
In addition to the primary points listed above, Uncle Tom’s Cabin has many historical consistencies in its minor details. The first one notable is the reason Mr. Shelby had to sell Uncle Tom and Harry- Gambling Debts. Some slave traders used to tactic of getting a potential seller addicted to a vice so that the seller would have to sell slaves to break even. Others would trade alcohol in attempts to make a potential seller inebriated enough to lose common sense, in effect snaring the trader a good deal. The concept of gambling manipulation is more direct in Cassy’s story, although it is insinuated to have effect on Shelby’s deal.
Next, Ophelia’s disdain for Augustus St. Clair has a historical inerrancy in multiple ways. One of the first things she scorned him for was the lack of education among the slaves. This concept of keeping slaves in ignorance was upheld in many parts of the South. A common saying among masters at that time was “The bigger fool the better the nigger”. Intelligent slaves would have an easier time escaping.
In addition, St. Clair’s counterclaim holds just as much validity. While many people from the North opposed slavery, few actually liked the African American race. This became clearly evident after the Civil War, when segregation and terror groups were rampart. Even today, the racism that once drove slavery persists in most of our hearts.
Finally, many can see that Tom’s religious views play a major part in the novel. Tom attempted to convert every person he met into Christianity, in hopes of saving his or her immortal soul. Similarly, many slaves saw religion as a spiritual escape from their torment. Many slave owners tolerated this, because they believed it would aid the slave’s health and will. In fact, slave churches were set up, although many were directed by a foreman to prevent the slaves from getting out of hand.
In conclusion, it is quite obvious that, in addition to painting an excellent picture of the torment and horrors of slavery, Stowe was historically accurate in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This is fairly interesting, given that Stowe never actually visited a slave plantation in her life. Rather, the story is actually a piecemeal effort based on the collective stories she heard, in addition to first-hand accounts she heard from runaway slaves. It is quite clear, based on both the emotional and intellectual knowledge this books imparts, why this book influenced the thoughts of millions.