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Was Harriet Beecher Stowe an Abolitionist

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by Pat Young, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    My colleague @uaskme made this point in the thread on whether John Brown was a hero:

    I told him that the point he was making deserved a thread of its own. So here it is. Was Harriet Beecher Stowe an Abolitionist?
     
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  3. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    I found an article in which the title asked that very question and which lends weight to @uaskme 's contention:

    http://werehistory.org/stowe/

    The article is written by no one less than Professor Manisha Sinha. Sinha has devoted decades to researching the Abolitionist Movement. I deeply esteem Sinha's knowledge of the subject. Here is her bio:

    Manisha Sinha is Professor and Graduate Program Director of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was born in India and received her doctorate from Columbia University, where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft Prize. She is currently working on a co-authored history of the South, to be published by the University of North Carolina Press. She is the author of The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition and The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina.
     
  4. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    According to Sinha:

    Ironically, though, even as Uncle Tom’s Cabin met with a hostile reception in the South as abolitionist propaganda and southern authors responded to it with a wave of highly forgettable “anti-Tom novels,” Stowe’s politics were actually much closer to the colonizationist movement that true abolitionists saw as an appeasement of slavery.
     
  5. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    From a reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe evidently did favor voluntary colonization, since that's how Eliza, her husband and son ended up.

    It's quite possible to favor the abolitiion of slavery and colonization of the freed slaves! In fact, the slaves would have to be freed before migrating to colonies!
     
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  6. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    Here is how the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center answers the question in the OP:

    Q. Was Stowe an abolitionist (meaning was she a radical)?

    Answer: Initially, Stowe believed in colonization (creating settlements in Liberia for emancipated people), but through experience of writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin and preparing the Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, she changed her mind and came to be


    https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/about/faqs.shtml
     
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  7. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    She received a lot of flak from abolitionists for that, until she explained that she was not endorsing colonization, but simply showing how the Fugitive Slave Law left no good alternatives. Many abolitionists, like the Tappans, accepted that explanation.

    This was true prior to the 1830s, but starting in the early 1830s, thanks in large part to William Lloyd Garrison, a critical distinction developed between abolitionists and colonizationists. Garrison abandoned colonization, pronounced himself an abolitionist, and announced to the world that if you're not with us, you're against us. It's a distinction that stuck. People who called themselves abolitionists would no longer have anything to do with colonization, and people who called themselves colonizationists would no longer identify as abolitionists.
     
  8. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    Here's a discussion of the issue at the 1853 convention of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society:

    Mr. C. B. Ray regretted that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" had been used at the anniversary of the New-York Colonization Society, and he hoped something would be done to counteract the Colonization influence of that book.

    The Corresponding Secretary read an extract from a note from Mrs. Stowe, to the effect that she had no sympathy with the coercive policy of the Colonization Society, but thought Liberia now a "fixed fact," and that the opportunity there afforded of sustaining a republican government of free people of color ought not to be disregarded by them or their friends; concluding with an assurance that she was "not a Colonizationist."

    Mr. George Downing spoke of the evil influence of the last chapter of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in the matter of Colonization.

    Mr. Bacon said he had assisted Mrs. Stowe in her correspondence, and could give an explanation of her views on the subject of Liberia.

    She had intended in "The Key" to have published a chapter on it, and to explain away the impression unexpectedly made by the book itself; but the size of "The Key" had so increased as she proceeded, that she had not space to do so. She had it in contemplation to publish such matter separately. He need scarcely tell them that Mrs. Stowe had the nicest regard for the feelings of the colored people themselves. She had no sympathy with the Colonization Society, but with the whole colored race, whether in Canada, the West Indies, or in Liberia. But she looked to Liberia as one of the means of elevating them; so that while she could point to a Frederick Douglass in this country, she might point also to a President Roberts in Liberia. They had held their places and maintained their standing when placed in a position to do so before their vaunted superiors; and knowing now their feelings against it, and that there was a demand at home for men of talent to be found amongst them, she would not advise all to go to Liberia. Mrs. Stowe had told him, that if she were to write "Uncle Tom" again, she would not send George Harris to Liberia. She thought, however, that they would there, in freedom, establish a good name and fame, which would be important, in its reflection, in abolishing distinctions of caste; and she looked to the colony as one of the great agents by which the colored race were to be elevated and dignified in the eyes of the lofty and contemptuous Saxon.

    Rev. Mr. Campbell was not aware that Mrs. Stowe had intended to publish a chapter explaining away the matter; and he did not know he was sorry it had not been done. He was opposed to the Colonization Society with all his heart and with all his soul; but he did not think that the chapter would do so much damage as some of his brethren feared. The book had done them a great service; it was still doing good for them; and he would circulate it in every family if he could. By the time the readers got to that chapter, they would be so full of Anti-slavery that they would never think of sending the colored man to Africa; so he would let it go as it was. It was a very natural resource for the novelist, in looking out for a place of rest and safety, to set the black man down in Africa, out of the atmosphere of slavery.


    Source: http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/abolitn/abesanoat.html


     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
  9. John Hartwell

    John Hartwell Captain Forum Host

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    There is no necessary contradiction between Abolitionism and Colonization.
    Colonization is simply one proposal as to what might be done after Abolition is achieved.
     
  10. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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  11. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    The contradiction came about because colonizationists made colonization a pre-condition of abolitionism. Slaves would not be emancipated until there were enough boats available to haul them off to some distant continent, and until enough free blacks had been sent there first to blaze the way for them. Garrison identified this as an excuse for interminable delay, and used it to demonstrate why colonizaton and true abolitionism could never mix.
     
  12. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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  13. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    Garrison's explanation of the difference between abolitionism (which he defined as immediatism) and colonization:

    Already the line of division is drawn; on one side are the friends of truth and liberty, with their banner floating high in the air, on which are inscribed, in letters of light, 'IMMEDIATE ABOLITION'—'NO COMPROMISE WITH OPPRESSORS'—'EQUAL RIGHTS'—'NO EXPATRIATION'—'DUTY, AND NOT CONSEQUENCES'—'LET JUSTICE BE DONE, THOUGH THE HEAVENS FALL!' On the opposite side stand the supporters and apologists of slavery, in mighty array, with a black flag, on which are seen, in bloody characters, 'AFRICAN COLONIZATION'—'GRADUAL ABOLITION'—'RIGHTS OF PROPERTY'—'NO EQUALITY'—'EXPUL-SION OF THE BLACKS'—'PROTECTION TO TYRANTS!' Who can doubt the issue of this controversy, or which side has the approbation of the Lord of hosts?

    - William Lloyd Garrison, Thoughts on African Colonization, 1832

    Source: http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/abolitn/abeswlgbt.html
     
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  14. AndyHall

    AndyHall Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    [​IMG]

    Yup. Garrison gave up on colonization thirty years before Sumter. From the fourth issue of The Liberator, January 22, 1831.:

    Formerly, the purchase of Texas by our Government, for the purpose of bestowing it as a gift upon our colored population, was a favorite opinion of ours; but we have settled down into the belief, that the object is neither practicable nor expedient. In the first place, it is not probable that the Congress would make the purchase; nor, secondly, is it likely that the mass of our colored people would remove without some compulsory process; nor, thirdly, would it be safe or convenient to organise them as a distinct nation among us,—an imperium in imperio. The fact is, it is time to repudiate all colonization schemes, as visionary and unprofitable; all those, we mean, which have for their design the entire separation of the blacks from the whites. We must take our free colored and slave inhabitants as we find them—recognise them as countrymen who have extraordinary claims upon our charities—give them the advantages of education—respect them as members of one great family, who may be made useful in society and honorable in reputation. This is our view of the subject.

    Notice also that for Garrison, using a “compulsory process” of colonization of African Americans, free or (formerly) enslaved, was a deal-breaker. Like Lincoln, whose interest in colonization schemes waffled back and forth over the years, for Garrison it was always a matter of voluntary resettlement rather than expulsion.

    From the online collection at Fair-Use.org, that includes what looks to be the entire 35-year run of The Liberator. Check it out.
     
  15. TerryB

    TerryB Major

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    Erastus Hopkins, of Northhampton, Mass., is a case in point. In the 1830s he was in Charleston, SC, promoting colonization. He was also active in the Underground Railroad. As a delegate to the 1856 Republican convention, he made a speech in which he favored bullets if ballots were not enough to end slavery. Clearly, this shows quite an evolution of thought on his part.

    Give Stowe credit where credit is due--her book changed thousands of attitudes in the North. The Fugitive Slave Laws galvanized her into action, she believing slavery to be a curse that was now threatening to involve private citizens in the North to become complicit in its evil.
     
  16. Pat Young

    Pat Young Colonel Forum Host

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    Thanks for the link.
     
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  17. KansasFreestater

    KansasFreestater 1st Lieutenant

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    Pat, have you had a chance to read her other great anti-slavery novel, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp? It came out in 1856, four years after Uncle Tom's Cabin, and it certainly has a darker, more pessimistic edge to it. I would agree that Harriet's ideas changed in part for the reasons the Stowe Center says, but I think even more important was that the whole country was changing. In between Uncle Tom and Dred, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, and Kansas began to bleed. Abraham Lincoln ended his retirement from politics and jumped back in with both feet. The Republican Party was founded, as the anti-slavery party. The United States was becoming more disunited with every passing day, and this deeply affected the tone of Dred. Though Hattie Stowe was above all else a Christian, with charity and goodwill abounding, it struck me when I was reading Dred that even a person with such a sunny disposition as Hattie Stowe was beginning to see very dark clouds and despair a little of the possibility of avoiding civil war. She virtually pleads with her audience to embrace widespread, voluntary, mass emancipation -- as the only possibility for peace. You read the book and you can almost hear battle drums in the distance....

    If my memory serves me right, the "colonization" idea does not appear in Dred, but don't quote me on that. I do remember one of the African-American characters escaping the South to live in the Northeast -- New York, I believe, but maybe it was Boston. (I read it on Kindle, and I never remember details as well with Kindle.) The point is: Unlike George and Eliza in Uncle Tom, they do not flee to Canada. Instead, the idea is that they will make a wonderful life for themselves in the northern United States, at least until the South is finally free -- something that the author hopes will come about voluntarily. Her title character, who was inspired in part by the real-life Denmark Vesey, is the prophetic witness in the book to what will inevitably result if Southerners do not heed the call to emancipate their slaves, educate them and help them improve their lives for themselves. And speaking of education, another thing that is very big in Dred is schools for African-Americans, organized by white people but with the goal of eventually turning over the schools to the black people themselves.
     
  18. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    Yes, and not only did Stowe talk the talk, she walked the walk. When a large group of slaves were captured escaping from Washington D.C. aboard the schooner Pearl and sold "down river", Stowe joined in with a group of abolitionists to buy the freedom of Mary and Emily Edmonson. Then, rather than colonizing them to some distant continent, she sent them to Oberlin College in Ohio and funded their education. Her handwritten letters to the sisters and to the college are in the possession of the Oberlin College Archives, and show that she took a very active role in their education.
     
  19. uaskme

    uaskme Corporal

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    Well. Her views changed after she wrote the book. One would suspect the book was the center of much discussion and pressure and education had influence on her position. In her book, Uncle Toms
    Cabin, She called for a intermediate Society. One that would Christianize Blacks and return them to Africa. It would seem her Stance taken at the time she wrote the book as being somewhere between Slavery and Abolition.

    The American Colonization Society was created with collaboration with Slave Holders. Garrison believed in Equality. Surely removal wasn't Equality. The Indians weren't removed in order to give them Equality. It was done because of Prejudice.

    Ms Stowe was writing a Narrative which would rally a cause and be accepted by an audience. Colonization which removed Blacks was accepted by the vast majority of Northerners. Especially in New England where the Black Population was less than 1 percent by 1860.
     
  20. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

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    No she didn't. Do you just make this stuff up?

    Colonization was a dead letter long before 1860, and New England was the epicenter of opposition to it. Are you aware that there really are people at this forum who actually research these things and can see through this kind of twaddle?
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
  21. uaskme

    uaskme Corporal

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    Preface xviii Uncle Toms Cabin
    It is a comfort to hope, as so many of the world's sorrows and wrongs have, from age to age, been lived down, so a time shall come when sketches similar to these shall be valuable only as memorials of what has long ceased to be.

    When an enlightened and Christianized community shall have, on the shores of Africa, laws, language, and literature, drawn from among us, may then the remembrance of Egypt to the Israelite,--a motive of thankfulness to Him who hath redeemed them!

    This Thought was pervasive during this time period, 1851 when the book was first published. She was from a Preacher Family. Colonization wasnt popular with Abolitionist. after the passing of the FSL it became more popular with Blacks. Above I said the population of Blacks was less than 1 Percent in 1860. I was speaking of attitudes when the book was written. Something that didnt change between 50 and 60 was the vast number of Northerners against Abolition and Equal Rights. The reason the anti-slavery party, Free Soil, eliminated it from their platform. The reason the Republicans never included it.
     

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