Uncle Tom's Cabin
Contrasting Regions Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
"This is perfectly horrible!" said Miss Ophelia; "you ought to be ashamed of yourselves!"
"I don't know as I am. We are in pretty good company, for all that," said St. Clare, "as people in the broad road generally are. Look at the high and the low, all the world over, and it's the same story, – the lower class used up, body, soul and spirit, for the good of the upper. It is so in England; it is so everywhere; and yet all Christendom stands aghast, with virtuous indignation, because we do the thing in a little different shape from what they do it."
"It isn't so in Vermont."
"Ah, well, in New England, and in the free States, you have the better of us, I grant. But there's the bell; so, Cousin, let us for a while lay aside our sectional prejudices, and come out to dinner." (18.100-103)
Augustine St. Clare suggests that societies that are undemocratic – societies that have aristocracies and social classes – are no "better" or more righteous than slave-holding societies. But New England – now there is some righteousness in New England’s democratic society, he will admit. Perhaps the North does have some claim to moral superiority. Or perhaps he’s just making fun of her and giving in so they can go to dinner.
"What poor, mean trash this whole business of human virtue is! A mere matter, for the most part, of latitude and longitude, and geographical position, acting with natural temperament. The greater part is nothing but an accident! Your father, for example, settles in Vermont, in a town where all are, in fact, free and equal; becomes a regular church member and deacon, and in due time joins an Abolition society, and thinks us all little better than heathens. Yet he is, for all the world, in constitution and habit, a duplicate of my father. I can see it leaking out in fifty different ways, – just the same strong, overbearing, dominant spirit. You know very well how impossible it is to persuade some of the folks in your village that Squire Sinclair does not feel above them. The fact is, though he has fallen on democratic times, and embraced a democratic theory, he is to the heart an aristocrat, as much as my father, who ruled over five or six hundred slaves."
Miss Ophelia felt rather disposed to cavil at this picture, and was laying down her knitting to begin, but St. Clare stopped her.
"Now, I know every word you are going to say. I do not say they were alike, in fact. One fell into a condition where everything acted against the natural tendency, and the other where everything acted for it; and so one turned out a pretty wilful, stout, overbearing old democrat, and the other a wilful, stout old despot. If both had owned plantations in Louisiana, they would have been as like as two old bullets cast in the same mould." (19.73-75)
The systems the two cousins (and their fathers before them) find themselves in have everything to do with the societies and families into which they were born – their geographical locations – not with some inherent righteousness that one has over the other. A moral man can be corrupted by living in a society that condones an immoral system; an immoral man might never fall into sin if his society outlaws it.