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Uncle Tom's Cabin Effect on Civil War

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“So you’re the little woman that wrote the book that caused the Great War,” the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln once said. In the 1850s, a woman wrote a book called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her name was Harriet Beecher Stowe. “ In writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe had a deliberate goal: she wanted to portray the evils of slavery in a way that would make Americans relate to the issue” (McNamara par. 8). Uncle Tom’s Cabin influenced millions of northerners to go completely against slavery. On the other hand, it also made millions of southerners aggravated and hurt as they thought that this was an attack on their beliefs. As a result, the American Civil war began between certain southern states and certain northern states. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin greatly impacted the northerners and southerners and helped lay the ground for the Civil War.

During her life, Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist and a teacher, who lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, a slave state. Stowe claimed to have a vision of a dying slave during a communion service at the college chapel, which inspired her to write this story. However, what more likely allowed her to empathize with slaves was the loss of her eighteen month old son, Samuel Stowe. “In 1850, she and her husband moved to Maine, where she wrote the novel. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, inspired her to write the novel” (OhioHistoryCentral par. 2). This law stated that all fugitive slaves(runaway slaves) shall be returned back to their owners even if the slave was in a free state. Before Stowe's novel, abolitionism was unpopular even in the North, divided among small and warring groups. Moreover, there was an ugly prevalence of racism. Most Northerners had little sympathy for both free blacks amongst them and the millions enslaved in the South. Whites commonly saw blacks as subhuman and legal trade object. But it wasn't only the South that mistreated and misrepresented blacks. Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin forcefully challenged these views. She realized that most northerners had no idea on how brutal slavery was. She hoped that her readers would rise against slavery.

The Civil War, also known as “the war between the states,” was fought between the Union(North) and Confederate states(South), (The Confederate states were made up of a collection of eleven southern states that left the Union and formed their own country in order to protect the institution of slavery). “After the election of 1860, a number of slave states seceded from the Union which triggered the Civil War and problem why this war started was slavery and Harriet Beecher Stowe portrayed it through writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (McNamara par. 6). Harriet Beecher Stowe thought that by creating a story that people could relate to, she would be able to deliver a more powerful message. She was able to keep readers engaged by creating a story of suspense and drama. There are portrayals how slaves were treated, how they managed to escape to Canada, and how slave owners would buy and sell slaves and make slavery a business. The novel’s plot starts with the Shelby family being pushed to sell two of their slaves because of

economic woes. The names of those two slaves are Harry and Uncle Tom. They are sold and the novel follows their journey and the characters they meet. Uncle Tom’s crue master, Simon Legree, had the slave whipped to death. Just before Uncle Tom’s soul was separated from his body, he opened his eyes and whispered to Simon Legree, “ I forgive you.” In the story, she made it clear that all Americans, not only those in the South, were responsible for the institution of slavery.

“In the North, people were against slavery, which had been reinforced by Uncle Tom’s Cabin which resulted in the victory of Lincoln” (Reynolds, Uncle par. 4). It was common for people to gather at night at read Uncle Tom’s Cabin aloud. This story resonated deeply with Americans because the characters and incidents in the book were realistic. For the first time, Northerners felt the horrors of slavery.The issue of slavery was transformed from a general concern to a personal issue.



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