Harriet Beecher Stowe

August 9, 2006


Abolitionist and author of more than 10 books
Born into a famous New England family
Brothers and sisters were major religious leaders of their time
Harriet and her sister, Catherine, founded a new seminary: the Western Female Institute
Married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor at her father’s theological seminary, after his wife and close friend to Harriet passed
Had 7 children
Themes of slavery, women’s position in society, the decline of Calvinism, the rise of industry and consumerism, and the birth of a great national literature

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

Uncle Tom’s Cabin 1852

Written as an angry response to the 1850 passage of the second Fugitive Slave Act and the murder of Eliza Lovejoy
First published in the anti-slavery newspaper The National Era as a series
The first major American novel with an African-American hero
When Abraham Lincoln met Stowe he joked, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.”

“I could not control the story, the Lord himself wrote it. I was but an instrument in His hands and to Him should be given all the praise.”


“‘I would rather not sell him,’ said Mr. Shelby, thoughtfully; ‘The fact is, sir, I’m a humane man, and I hate to take the boy from his mother, sir.'”

“There was something so piquant and original in these elucidations of humanity, that Mr. Shelby could not help laughing in company. Perhaps you laugh too, dear reader; but you know humanity comes out in a variety of strange forms now-a-days, and there is no end to the odd things that humane people will say and do.”

“So long as the law considers all these human beings, with beating hearts and living affections, only as so many things belonging to a master, -so long as the failure, or misfortune, or imprudence, or death of the kindest owner, may cause them any day to exchange a life of kind protection and indulgence for one of hopeless misery and toil, -so long it is impossible to make anything beautiful or desirable in the best regulated administration of slavery.”

“Her husband, who made no professions to any particular religious character, nevertheless reverenced and respected the consistency of hers, and stood, perhaps, a little in awe of her opinion. Certain it was that he gave her unlimited scope in all her benevolent efforts for the comfort, instruction, and improvement of her servants, though he never took any decided part in them himself. In fact, if not exactly a believer in the doctrine of the efficiency of the extra good works of saints, he really seemed somehow or other to fancy that his wife had piety and benevolence enough for two – to indulge a shadowy expectation of getting into heaven through her superabundance of qualities to which made no particular pretension.”

“‘It’s a free country, sir; the man’s mine, and I do what I please with him,-that’s it!'”

“A very humane jurist once said, The worst use you can put a man to is to hang him. No; there is another use that a man can be put to that is worse!”

“‘dat ar glory is a might thing! It’s a mighty thing, chil’en, -you don’no nothing about it, -it’s wonderful.'”

“‘This is God’s curse on slavery! -a bitter, bitter, most accursed thing! -a cruse to the mater and a curse to the slave! I was a fool to think I could make anything good out of such a deadly evil. It is a sin to hold a slave under laws like ours, – I always felt it was, -I always thought so when I was a girl, -I thought so still more after I joined the church; but I thought i could gild it over, -I thought, by kindness, and care, and instruction, I could make the condition of mine better than freedom- fool that I was!'”

“No tear dropped over that pillow; in such straits as these, the heart has no tears to give, -it drops only blood, bleeding itself away in silence.”

“He leaned over the back of the chair, and covered his face with his large hands. Sobs, heavy, hoarse and loud, shook the chair, and great tears fell through his fingers on the floor: just such tears, sir, as you dropped into the coffin where lay your first-born son; such tears, woman, as you shed when you heard the cries of your dying babe. For, sir, he was a man, -and you are but another man. And, woman, though dressed in silk and jewels, you are but a woman, and in life’s great straits and mighty griefs, ye feel but one sorrow!”

“If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a trubal trader, to-morrow morning, -if you had seen the man, and heard that the papers were signed and delivered, and you had only from twelve o’clock till morning to make good your escape, -how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom, -the little sleep head on your shoulder, -the small, soft arms trustingly holding on toy your neck?”

“There are in this world blessed souls, whose sorrows all spring up into joys for others; whose earthly hopes, laid in the grave with many tears, are the seed from which spring healing flowers and balm for the desolate and the distressed.”

“In order to appreciate the sufferings of the Negroes sold south, it must be remembered that all the instinctive affections of that race are peculiarly strong. Their local attachments are very abiding. They are not naturally daring and enterprising but home-loving and affectionate. Add to this all the terrors with which ignorance invests the unknown, and add to this, again, that selling to the south is set before the Negro from childhood as the last severity of punishment.”

“‘My country again! Mr. Wilson, you have a country; but what country have I, or any one like me, born of slave mother? What laws are there for us? We don’t make them, -we don’t consent to them, -we have nothing to do with them; all they do for us is to crush us, and keep us down. Haven’t I heard your Fourth-of-July speeches? Don’t you tell us all, once a year, that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed? Can’t a fellow think, that hears such things? Can’t he put this and that together, and see what it comes to?'”

“But who, sir, makes the trader? Who is most to blame? The enlightened, cultivated, intelligent man, who supports the system of which the trader is the inevitable result, or the poor trader himself? You make the public sentiment that calls for his trade, that debauches and depraves him, till he feels no shame in it; and in what are you better than he?”

“Of course, in a novel, people’s hearts break, and they die, and that is the end of it; and in a story this is very convenient. But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us. There is a most busy and important round of eating, drinking, dressing, walking, visiting, buying, selling, talking, reading, and all that makes up what is commonly called living yet to be gone through…”

“You would think no harm in a child’s caressing a large dog, even if he was black; but a creature that can think, and reason, and feel, and is immortal, you shudder at; confess it, cousin. I know the feeling among some of you northerners well enough. Not that there is a particle of virtue in our not having it; but custom with us does what Christianity ought to do, -obliterates the feeling of person prejudice.”

“‘I am one of the sort that lives by throwing stones at other people’s glass houses, but I never mean to put up one for them to stone.'”

“‘It is true what she told me; if we want to give sight to the blind, we must be willing to do as Christ did, -call them to us, and put our hands on them.’
‘I’ve always had a prejudice against Negroes,’ said Miss Ophelia, ‘and it’s a fact, I never could bear to have that child touch me; but, I didn’t think she knew it.'”

“It was like that hush of spirit which we feel amid the bright, mild woods of autumn, when the bright hectic flush is on the trees, and the last lingering flowers by the brooks; and we joy in it all the more, because we know that soon it will pass away.”

“ETERNITY, -the word thrilled through the black man’s soul with light and power, as he spoke; it thrilled through the sinner’s soul, too, like the bite of a scorpion.”

“Liberty! -electric word! What is it? Is there anything more in it than a name- a rhetorical flourish? Why, men and women of America, does your heart’s blood thrill at that word, for which your fathers bled, and your braver mothers were willing that their noblest and best should die?

To your fathers, freedom was the right of a nation to be a nation. To him, it is the right of a man to be a man, and not a brute…”

“Pity him not! Such a life and death is not for pity! Not in the riches of omnipotence is the chief glory of God; but in self-denying, suffering love! And blessed are the men whom he calls to fellowship with him, bearing their cross after him with patience. Of such it is write, ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.'”

“They knelt together, and the good man prayed, -for there are some feelings so agitated and tumultuous, that they can find rest only by being poured into the bosom of Almighty love, -and then, rising up, the new-found family embraced each other, with a holy trust in Him, who from such peril and dangers, and by such unknown ways, had brought them together.”

“‘In these days, a nation is born in a day. A nation starts, no, with all the great problems of republican life and civilization wrought out to its hand; -it has not to discover, but only to apply. Let us, then, all take hold together, with all our might, and see what we can do with this new enterprise, and the whole splendid continent of Africa opens before us and our children. Our nation shall roll the tide of civilization and Christianity along is shores, and plant there mighty republics, that, growing with the rapidity of tropical vegetation, shall be for all coming ages.'”

“‘It was on his grave, my friends, that I resolved, before God, that I would never own another slave, while it was possible to free him; that nobody, through me, should ever run the risk of being parted from home and friends, and dying on a lonely plantation, as he died. So, when you rejoice in your freedom, think that you owe it to that good old soul, and pay it back in kindness to his wife and children. Think of your freedom, every time you see Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was.'”

“For many years of her life, the author avoided all reading upon or allusion to the subject of slavery, considering it as too painful to be inquired into, and one which advancing light and civilization would certainly live down. But, since the legislative act of 1850, when she heard, with perfect surprise and consternation, Christian and humane people actually recommending the remanding escaped fugitives into slavery, as a duty binding on good citizens -when she heard, on all hands, from kind, compassionate and estimable people, in the free states of the North, deliberations and discussions as to what Christian duty could be on this head, she could only think, These men and Christians cannot know what slavery is; if they did, such a question could never be open for discussion. And from this arose a desire to exhibit it in a living dramatic reality. She has endeavored to show it fairly, in its best and its worst phases. In its best aspect, she has, perhaps, been successful; but, oh! who shall say what yet remains untold in that valley and shadow of death, that lies the other side?”

“But, what can any individual do? Of that, every individual can judge. There is one thing that every individual can do,  -they can see to it that they feel right. An atmosphere of sympathetic influence encircles every human being; and the man or soman who feels strongly, healthily and justly, on the great interests of humanity, is a constant benefactor to the human race. See, then, to your sympathies in this matter! Are they in harmony with the sympathies of Christ? or are they swayed and perverted by the sophistries of worldly policy?
Christian men and woman of the North! still further, -you have another power; you can pray! Do you believe in prayer? or had it become an indistinct apostolic tradition?”

“Do you say, ‘We don’t want them here; let them go to Africa’?
That the providence of God has provided a refuge in Africa, is, indeed, a great and noticeable fact; but that is no reason why the church of Christ should throw off that responsibility to this outcast race which her profession demands of her.”

“The first desire of the emancipated slave, generally, is for education. There is nothing that they are not willing to give or do to have their children instructed; and, so far as the writer has observed herself, or taken the testimony of teachers among them, they are remarkably intelligent and quick to learn. The results of schools, founded for them by benevolent individuals in Cincinnati, fully establish this.”

“O, Chruch of Christ, read the signs of the times! Is not this power the spirit of Him whose kingdom is yet to come, and whose will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?”

“A day of grace is yet held out to us. Both North and South have been guilty before God; and the Christian church has a heavy account to answer. Not by combining together, to protect injustice and cruelty, and making a common capital of sin, is this Union to be saved, -but by repentance, justice and mercy; for, not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law, by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!”


3 Responses to “Harriet Beecher Stowe”

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  2. Alexandria Says:

    She was really a great writer. I love reading about her. She is just so amazing how she handle everything. She is like wonder woman. I wish she was still alive. I would absoulutly love to meet her. She is my new romodle. Harriet I know you can’t see this now, but I hope you do get this. You are a real hero. I think everybody should look up to you. You are awesome. Thanks for writing such ggod books BYE!

  3. Alexandria Says:

    She was really a great writer. I love reading about her. She is just so amazing how she handleS everything. She is like wonder woman. I wish she was still alive. I would absoulutly love to meet her. She is my new romodle. Harriet I know you can’t see this now, but I hope you do get this. You are a real hero. I think everybody should look up to you. You are awesome. Thanks for writing such gOod books BYE!

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