During the antebellum era, antislavery forces found their most persuasive appeal in The Fugitive Slave Act but in fictional drama of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Canin (1852), a combination of unlikely saints and sinners, stereotypes, and melodramatic escapades-- and a smashing commercial success. The long-suffering Uncle Tom, the villainous Simon Legree, the angelic Eva, the desperate Eliza taking her child to freedom across the icy Ohio River-- all become stock characters of the American imagination. Slavery, seen through Stowe's eyes, subjected its victims either to callous brutality or, at the hands of spendthrift masters, to the indignity of bankruptcy. It took time for the novel to work its effect on public opinion, however.