Mr. Shelby, a slaveholder, and Mr. Haley, a slave trader, barter over the terms of their trade.
Mr. Shelby, who owes Mr. Haley money, thinks that his trusty slave Tom should cover his debt. Mr. Haley believes there is no such thing as an honest black man.
Harry – the young son of Eliza, a slave on the Shelby farm – comes in and performs a dance and jig for the two men.
Mr. Haley decides he wants Harry, too. The two men bicker over it.
Mr. Shelby says he is humane and doesn’t like to take the boy from his mother. Mr. Haley says it isn’t inhumane because blacks don’t have feelings the way whites do. He suggests that Mr. Shelby sell the boy while his mother is away to prevent a fuss. Then Mrs. Shelby can give Eliza a trinket to help her forget the boy.
Mr. Shelby agrees to think about it and they arrange to talk later that evening.
Eliza, who overheard part of the conversation, is worried enough to talk to Mrs. Shelby about it.
Mrs. Shelby reassures Eliza that Mr. Shelby has no intention of selling any of his "good," well-behaved servants. When Eliza asks if Mrs. Shelby would give her consent to selling Harry, Mrs. Shelby declares she would never agree to such a proposal.