Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Can a Novel strike a Cannon and Declare War?

Culture shapes politics.

            That’s the centralizing idea in why Historians believe that “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” started the Civil War. An antislavery novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe challenged the stereotypical views based on enslaved blacks during the 1850s. The Novel aroused anti-slavery sentiment among Northerners, pushed the Abolitionist movement, and indirectly caused the election of Abraham Lincoln. Within a year, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” sold 1.5 million copies, thus many Northerners, horrified by the effects of the slavery, jumped on the bandwagon that only leads to emancipation and war. (Uncle Tom’s Cabin)

Without knowing, in current times we’re pulling a Stowe. Strikes and protests are used to influence the government and politics of today, as an example the Chicago Teachers Union Strike and Occupy Wall Street protests caused a media frenzy and an impact. Just like Stowe, our society voices their opinions about current situations around the world, but Stowe was a woman. Woman had no say in politics and Women Suffrage did not exist yet, thus Stowe revolutionized the use of a pen and affected the nation as a whole.

Before Stowe’s novel, abolitionism was not very popular in the North and most Northerners disliked African Americans. The South and North, both alike, dislike and mistreated African Americans. Whites characterized African Americans during the 1850s as animals or slow-minded creatures, not humans. (History of African Americans.) In 1850, the Fugitive slave Act made Stowe even more furious. As a Compromise between the Free states and slave states, the U.S congress decided to create a law that requires that everyone, law enforcers and ordinary citizens, help catch fugitives. (Slave Narrative and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”) This undermines the work abolitionist movement and anti-slavery groups have done toward their goal, emancipation for all blacks.

Furthermore, Stowe wanted the public to understand that enslaved blacks are humans, not animals and gave her characters relatable traits to show the effects of slavery. She emphasize the tragic separation of family in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in effect stirred up the Northerners and politicians of the time to fight for the Union and emancipation.  Around the 1850s, Stowe’s novel caused such debate about slavery that the North elected Abraham Lincoln, anti-slavery politician, to lead the country.

Culture affects the beliefs of the common people and until now we use it to alter the course of history for the good and the bad. Today, twitter and Facebook posts from politician and influential leaders arouses either negative or positive reactions, which could have a political impact. Our modern world is modeled after Stowe’s bravery to publish her opinions. And Opinions can do the simplest things like fire the first bullets of war.

Author of Image: W.M. Rhoads

Image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Uncle_Tom%27s_Cabin_for_Children_book_cover.jpg


“English Online.” History of African Americans. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

Slave Narrative and Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe Center., 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.

5 thoughts on “Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Can a Novel strike a Cannon and Declare War?

  1. I thought this was interesting and well-written. We heard a lot about Uncle Tom’s Cabin during this unit, but I like how you analyzed how it helped start the war.

  2. I really like how you went more in depth to what Uncle Tom’s Cabin was about, and like Hopey said, we touched on it in class but having this better idea of the main plots of it besides the broad topic of slavery, it helps augment the connections between then and now. It was really a great idea and the idea that Harriet Beecher Stowe helped form our opinion based society today is an ingenious one.

  3. I think it is very true that Stowe’s book gave the North a face for Southern slavery. While the war may have eventually happened regardless, her opinion put added an emotional fire to the Northern cause – It wasn’t just about maintaining a strong union, it was about the suffering of human beings. While Lincoln initially proposed that former slaveowners be compensated for their loss of “property,” he eventually revoked that proposal and refused to compensate them. This wasn’t coincidence, he realized the true wrongfulness of slavery, probably in part because of Stowe’s book.

  4. I really like how you tied Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the modern world. While i feel that you could further improve your blog post by explaining the modern examples even more. Other than that i think you did a spectacular job and really enjoyed reading your short but informative blog post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s