American writer Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle
Tom’s Cabin from 1851 to 1852. The
book convinced many Americans, especially in the northern United States, to
support the Abolitionist movement against slavery. The following scene, embedded
with references to the New Testament and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ,
demonstrates Stowe, the daughter of a clergyman, used her Christian perspective
to advocate the abolition of slavery. Simon Legree, the brutal plantation
master, murders Tom after two of his fellow slaves, Cassy and Emmeline, escape
and elude Legree.
By Harriet Beecher Stowe
"Deem not the just by Heaven forgot!
Though life its common gifts deny,?}
Though, with a crushed and bleeding heart,
And spurned of man, he goes to die!
For God hath marked each sorrowing day,
And numbered every bitter tear;
And heaven's long years of bliss shall pay
For all his children suffer here." BRYANT.
The longest way must have its close,?the gloomiest night will wear on to a
morning. An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the
evil to an eternal night, and the night of the just to an eternal day. We have
walked with our humble friend thus far in the valley of slavery; first through
flowery fields of ease and indulgence, then through heart-breaking separations
from all that man holds dear. Again, we have waited with him in a sunny island,
where generous hands concealed his chains
with flowers; and, lastly, we have followed him when the last ray of earthly
hope went out in night, and seen how, in the blackness of earthly darkness, the
firmament of the unseen has blazed with stars of new and significant lustre.
The morning-star now stands over the tops of the mountains, and gales and
breezes, not of earth, show that the gates of day are unclosing.
The escape of Cassy and Emmeline irritated the before surly temper of Legree
to the last degree; and his fury, as was to be expected, fell upon the
defenceless head of Tom. When he hurriedly announced the tidings among his
hands, there was a sudden light in Tom's eye, a sudden upraising of his hands,
that did not escape him. He saw that he did not join the muster of the pursuers.
He thought of forcing him to do it; but, having had, of old, experience of his
inflexibility when commanded to take part in any deed of inhumanity, he would
not, in his hurry, stop to enter into any conflict with him.
Tom, therefore, remained behind, with a few who had learned of him to pray,
and offered up prayers for the escape of the fugitives.
When Legree returned, baffled and disappointed, all the long-working hatred
of his soul towards his slave began to gather in a deadly and desperate form.
Had not this man braved him,?steadily, powerfully, resistlessly,?ever since he
bought him? Was there not a spirit in him which, silent as it was, burned on him
like the fires of perdition?
"I hate him!" said Legree, that night, as he sat up in his
bed; "I hate him! And isn't he MINE? Can't I do what I like with
him? Who's to hinder, I wonder?" And Legree clenched his fist, and shook
it, as if he had something in his hands that he could rend in pieces.
But, then, Tom was a faithful, valuable servant; and, although Legree hated
him the more for that, yet the consideration was still somewhat of a restraint
The next morning, he determined to say nothing, as yet; to assemble a party,
from some neighboring plantations, with dogs and guns; to surround the swamp,
and go about the hunt systematically. If it succeeded, well and good; if not, he
would summon Tom before him, and?his teeth clenched and his blood boiled?}then
he would break that fellow down, or?there was a dire inward whisper, to which
his soul assented.
Ye say that the interest of the master is a sufficient safe-guard for
the slave. In the fury of man's mad will, he will wittingly, and with open eye,
sell his own soul to the devil to gain his ends; and will he be more careful of
his neighbor's body?
"Well," said Cassy, the next day, from the garret, as she
reconnoitred through the knot-hole, "the hunt's going to begin again,
Three or four mounted horsemen were curvetting about, on the space front of
the house; and one or two leashes of strange dogs were struggling with the
negroes who held them, baying and barking at each other.
The men are, two of them, overseers of plantations in the vicinity; and
others were some of Legree's associates at the tavern-bar of a neighboring city,
who had come for the interest of the sport. A more hardfavored set, perhaps,
could not be imagined. Legree was serving brandy, profusely, round among them,
as also among the negroes, who had been detailed from the various plantations
for this service; for it was an object to make every service of this kind, among
the negroes, as much of a holiday as possible.
Cassy placed her ear at the knot-hole; and, as the morning air blew directly
towards the house, she could overhear a good deal of the conversation. A grave
sneer overcast the dark, severe gravity of her face, as she listened, and heard
them divide out the ground, discuss the rival merits of the dogs, give orders
about firing, and the treatment of each, in case of capture.
Cassy drew back; and, clasping her hands, looked upward, and said, "O,
great Almighty God! we are all sinners; but what have we done,
more than all the rest of the world, that we should be treated so?"
There was a terrible earnestness in her face and voice, as she spoke.
"If it wasn't for you, child," she said, looking at
Emmeline, "I'd go out to them; and I'd thank any one of them that would
shoot me down; for what use will freedom be to me? Can it give me back my
children, or make me what I used to be?"
Emmeline, in her child-like simplicity, was half afraid of the dark moods of
Cassy. She looked perplexed, but made no answer. She only took her hand, with a
gentle, caressing movement.
"Don't!" said Cassy, trying to draw it away; "you'll get me to
loving you; and I never mean to love anything, again!"
"Poor Cassy!" said Emmeline, "don't feel so! If the Lord gives
us liberty, perhaps he'll give you back your daughter; at any rate, I'll be like
a daughter to you. I know I'll never see my poor old mother again! I shall love
you, Cassy, whether you love me or not!"
The gentle, child-like spirit conquered. Cassy sat down by her, put her arm
round her neck, stroked her soft, brown hair; and Emmeline then wondered at the
beauty of her magnificent eyes, now soft with tears."O, Em!" said
Cassy, "I've hungered for my children, and thirsted for them, and my eyes
fail with longing for them! Here! here!" she said, striking her breast,
"it's all desolate, all empty! If God would give me back my children, then
I could pray."
"You must trust him, Cassy," said Emmeline; "he is our
"His wrath is upon us," said Cassy; "he has turned away in
"No, Cassy! He will be good to us! Let us hope in Him," said
Emmeline,?"I always have had hope."
The hunt was long, animated, and thorough, but unsuccessful; and, with grave,
ironic exultation, Cassy looked down on Legree, as, weary and dispirited, he
alighted from his horse.
"Now, Quimbo," said Legree, as he stretched himself down in the
sitting-room, "you jest go and walk that Tom up here, right away! The old
cuss is at the bottom of this yer whole matter; and I'll have it out of his old
black hide, or I'll know the reason why!"
Sambo and Quimbo, both, though hating each other, were joined in one mind by
a no less cordial hatred of Tom. Legree had told them, at first, that he had
bought him for a general overseer, in his absence; and this had begun an ill
will, on their part, which had increased, in their debased and servile natures,
as they saw him becoming obnoxious to their master's displeasure. Quimbo,
therefore, departed, with a will, to execute his orders.
Tom heard the message with a forewarning heart; for he knew all the plan of
the fugitives' escape, and the place of their present concealment;?he knew the
deadly character of the man he had to deal with, and his despotic power. But he
felt strong in God to meet death, rather than betray the helpless.
He sat his basket down by the row, and, looking up, said, "Into thy
hands I commend my spirit! Thou hast redeemed me, oh Lord God of truth!"
and then quietly yielded himself to the rough, brutal grasp with which Quimbo
"Ay, ay!" said the giant, as he dragged him along; "ye'll
cotch it, now! I'll boun' Mas'r's back's up high! No sneaking out, now!
Tell ye, ye'll get it, and no mistake! See how ye'll look, now, helpin' Mas'r's
niggers to run away! See what ye'll get!"
The savage words none of them reached that ear!?a higher voice there was
saying, "Fear not them that kill the body, and, after that, have no more
that they can do." Nerve and bone of that poor man's body vibrated to those
words, as if touched by the finger of God; and he felt the strength of a
thousand souls in one. As he passed along, the trees and bushes, the huts of his
servitude, the whole scene of his degradation, seemed to whirl by him as the
landscape by the rushing car. His soul throbbed,?his home was in sight,?and the
hour of release seemed at hand.
"Well, Tom!" said Legree, walking up, and seizing him grimly by the
collar of his coat, and speaking through his teeth, in a paroxysm of determined
rage, "do you know I've made up my mind to KILL you?"
"It's very likely, Mas'r," said Tom, calmly.
"I have," said Legree, with grim, terrible calmness, "done?just?that?thing,
Tom, unless you'll tell me what you know about these yer gals!"
Tom stood silent.
"D' ye hear?" said Legree, stamping, with a roar like that of an
incensed lion. "Speak!"
"I han't got nothing to tell, Mas'r," said Tom, with a slow,
firm, deliberate utterance.
"Do you dare to tell me, ye old black Christian, ye don't know?"
Tom was silent.
"Speak!" thundered Legree, striking him furiously. "Do you
"I know, Mas'r; but I can't tell anything. I can die!"
Legree drew in a long breath; and, suppressing his rage, took Tom by the arm,
and, approaching his face almost to his, said, in a terrible voice,
"Hark'e, Tom!?ye think, 'cause I've let you off before, I don't mean what I
say; but, this time, I've made up my
mind and counted the cost. You've
always stood it out agin' me: now, I'll conquer ye, or kill ye!?one
or t'other. I'll count every drop of blood there is in you, and take 'em, one by
one, till ye give up!"
Tom looked up to his master, and answered, "Mas'r, if you was sick, or
in trouble, or dying, and I could save ye, I'd give ye my heart's blood;
and, if taking every drop of blood in this poor old body would save your
precious soul, I'd give 'em freely, as the Lord gave his for me. O, Mas'r! don't
bring this great sin on your soul! It will hurt you more than 't will me! Do the
worst you can, my troubles'll be over soon; but, if ye don't repent, yours won't
Like a strange snatch of heavenly music, heard in the lull of a tempest, this
burst of feeling made a moment's blank pause. Legree stood aghast, and looked at
Tom; and there was such a silence, that the tick of the old clock could be
heard, measuring, with silent touch, the last moments of mercy and probation to
that hardened heart.
It was but a moment. There was one hesitating pause,?one irresolute,
relenting thrill,?and the spirit of evil came back, with seven-fold vehemence;
and Legree, foaming with rage, smote his victim to the ground.
Source: Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle
Tom’s Cabin. Ammons, Elizabeth, ed.
New York: W. W. Norton & Company,