Uncle Tom's Cabin
How we cite our quotes:
"Now, John, I want to know if you think such a law as that is right and Christian?"
"You won't shoot me, now, Mary, if I say I do!"
"I never could have thought it of you, John; you didn't vote for it?"
"Even so, my fair politician."
"You ought to be ashamed, John! Poor, homeless, houseless creatures! It's a shameful, wicked, abominable law, and I'll break it, for one, the first time I get a chance; and I hope I shall have a chance, I do! Things have got to a pretty pass, if a woman can't give a warm supper and a bed to poor, starving creatures, just because they are slaves, and have been abused and oppressed all their lives, poor things! [. . .] Now, John, I don't know anything about politics, but I can read my Bible; and there I see that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate; and that Bible I mean to follow." (9.19-23, 25)
Much like Mrs. Shelby, Mrs. Bird rejects any defense of slavery – here, her husband’s political support of the Fugitive Slave Act. But Mrs. Bird adds a new layer to the argument that slavery is manifestly against the loving tenets of the Gospel: she also believes that moral citizens should disobey laws if obedience would be un-Christian. Mrs. Bird’s reliance on faith and morality over law and politics paves the way for the Quakers’ civil disobedience later in the novel.
"It's undoubtedly the intention of Providence that the African race should be servants, – kept in a low condition," said a grave-looking gentleman in black, a clergyman, seated by the cabin door. "'Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be,' the scripture says."
[. . .]
A tall, slender young man, with a face expressive of great feeling and intelligence, here broke in, and repeated the words, "'All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.' I suppose," he added, "that is scripture, as much as 'Cursed be Canaan.'" (12.70-77)
Although one minister uses a Bible verse to justify slavery by implying that blacks are a race cursed by God, another points out that every person is enjoined to treat others as they would be treated themselves, and slavery is a clear violation of this golden rule. While Stowe obviously encourages her 19th century reader to agree with the second minister, she also shows how the moral force of the Bible is fought over by the pro-slavery and abolitionist factions. Christianity has become disputed ground – which group will get to claim it in the end?
"O, Dr. G— preached a splendid sermon," said Marie. "It was just such a sermon as you ought to hear; it expressed all my views exactly."
"It must have been very improving," said St. Clare. "The subject must have been an extensive one."
"Well, I mean all my views about society, and such things," said Marie. "The text was, 'He hath made everything beautiful in its season;' and he showed how all the orders and distinctions in society came from God; and that it was so appropriate, you know, and beautiful, that some should be high and some low, and that some were born to rule and some to serve, and all that, you know; and he applied it so well to all this ridiculous fuss that is made about slavery, and he proved distinctly that the Bible was on our side, and supported all our institutions so convincingly. I only wish you'd heard him." (16.151-153)
Marie St. Clare, of course, is thoroughly in love with any minister who claims that everything in the world is inherently right just because it exists and God created it. That means she doesn’t have to do anything! This reminds us of a famous quote from Alexander Pope, who satirized this attitude in four words: "Whatever IS, is RIGHT!" Today, it’s absurd to think of ministers telling us that everything’s OK, lowly people were meant to suffer and rich people were meant to prosper, and we don’t need to do anything to solve problems in the world.