Uncle Tom's Cabin
How we cite our quotes:
"These yer knowin' boys is allers aggravatin' and sarcy," said a coarse-looking fellow, from the other side of the room; "that's why they gets cut up and marked so. If they behaved themselves, they wouldn't."
"That is to say, the Lord made 'em men, and it's a hard squeeze gettin 'em down into beasts," said the drover, dryly.
"Bright niggers isn't no kind of 'vantage to their masters," continued the other, well entrenched, in a coarse, unconscious obtuseness, from the contempt of his opponent; "what's the use o' talents and them things, if you can't get the use on 'em yourself? Why, all the use they make on 't is to get round you. I've had one or two of these fellers, and I jest sold 'em down river. I knew I'd got to lose 'em, first or last, if I didn't."
"Better send orders up to the Lord, to make you a set, and leave out their souls entirely," said the drover. (11.29-32)
In this scene, the drover functions as a mouthpiece for Stowe’s narrator, refuting the arguments of the "coarse-looking fellow," a stubborn pro-slavery advocate in the Kentucky tavern. In a few choice words, the drover points out that the very things that make slaves rebellious are the things that should make it obvious that no human being should be a slave anyway.
"But now what? Why, now comes my master, takes me right away from my work, and my friends, and all I like, and grinds me down into the very dirt! And why? Because, he says, I forgot who I was; he says, to teach me that I am only a nigger! [. . .] And all this your laws give him power to do, in spite of God or man. Mr. Wilson, look at it! There isn't one of all these things, that have broken the hearts of my mother and my sister, and my wife and myself, but your laws allow, and give every man power to do, in Kentucky, and none can say to him nay! Do you call these the laws of my country? Sir, I haven't any country, anymore than I have any father. But I'm going to have one. I don't want anything of your country, except to be let alone, – to go peaceably out of it; and when I get to Canada, where the laws will own me and protect me, that shall be my country, and its laws I will obey. But if any man tries to stop me, let him take care, for I am desperate. I'll fight for my liberty to the last breath I breathe. You say your fathers did it; if it was right for them, it is right for me!" (11.72)
George Harris hints to the reader that his rebellion against the injustice of slavery is much like another American rebellion against unjust treatment by the government and the law. Just as the early American colonists were justified in rejecting the exploitation of England, slaves are justified in rejecting the exploitation of their masters.
"I think you slaveholders have an awful responsibility upon you," said Miss Ophelia. "I wouldn't have it, for a thousand worlds. You ought to educate your slaves, and treat them like reasonable creatures, – like immortal creatures, that you've got to stand before the bar of God with. That's my mind," said the good lady, breaking suddenly out with a tide of zeal that had been gaining strength in her mind all the morning. (16.80)
Miss Ophelia claims that, if you buy men’s bodies, then you are responsible also for their souls. We applaud her instinct to educate and care for others, but from a modern perspective, we’d like her to go a step further and realize that no amount of education can compensate for the evils of slavery. At any rate, we’ll be more skeptical of her morality when we realize that she herself is a racist.