Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a book that was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852. According to Will Kaufman from University Press, it helped to lay the groundwork for the Civil War. While there are a lot of factors that contributed to the Civil War, Uncle Tom’s Cabin personalized slavery and helped some people empathize with those who were oppressed by slavery. It is rumored that Abraham Lincoln once said to Harriet Beecher Stowe, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” While we do not know if this happened or not, it is common knowledge that Uncle Tom’s Cabin had an effect on what was to eventually become the Civil War.
The story was written by a teacher and activist against slavery. It focused on the life of Uncle Tom, who was a black slave. This book is a realistic look at slaves that relays a message that Christian love can conquer all – including enslaving other human beings. It became a best-seller during its era, second only to The Bible. It was inspired by the writings of a former slave known as Josiah Henson. The original writings by Josiah Henson were called The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself. After Beecher’s book became a best-seller, Josiah republished his writings and was able to go on tour and speak about his history.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin contributed to the Civil War because it stripped down what the political speeches, tracts, and newspapers at the time could not relay to the people. She made it a personal story, something that people could relate to better than reading what a politician had to say. It made many people decide what they wanted in America and showed more of what a human being who was a slave’s life was like. While it outraged those who were pro-slavery, it was glorified by those who were against it.
While some gave high praise to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, others demeaned it as not being accurate. Those who were more liberal felt that the book did not really show a strong enough stance when it came to abolishing slavery and felt it did nothing to show the force behind the main character. Some were not happy with how she portrayed her support of the colonization movement.
Those who were pro-slavery brought up the verses in the Bible that showed human slavery and felt that her book only showcased one side of the story. They also felt that her version of events was unrealistic and unfeasible. However, those who were in the middle or more moderate were the ones who praised the book the most. They felt that putting a real person into the story could help others understand more about slavery and what those human beings went through. It even spotlighted enslaved mothers and their plight, leading many people to applaud this breakthrough novel.
While there are a number of contributing factors that led to the Civil War, such as humanitarian concerns, economic forces, and conflicts between regions of the South and North, it is accurate to say that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book placed a face on slavery and turned it into something that people could understand, relate to, and feel as human beings. Harriet Beecher Stowe went on to write The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, which was more of a call to immediate action to end slavery.