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Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe

Miss Ophelia's Experiences and Opinions Continued

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"It's all nonsense to talk to me about slaves _enjoying_ all this! To this day, I have no patience with the unutterable trash that some of your patronizing Northerners have made up, as in their zeal to apologize for our sins. We all know better. Tell me that any man living wants to work all his days, from day-dawn till dark, under the constant eye of a master, without the power of putting forth one irresponsible volition, on the same dreary, monotonous, unchanging toil, and all for two pairs of pantaloons and a pair of shoes a year, with enough food and shelter to keep him in working order! Any man who thinks that human beings can, as a general thing, be made about as comfortable that way as any other, I wish he might try it. I'd buy the dog, and work him, with a clear conscience!"

"I always have supposed," said Miss Ophelia, "that you, all of you, approved of these things, and thought them _right_--according to Scripture."

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"Humbug! We are not quite reduced to that yet. Alfred who is as determined a despot as ever walked, does not pretend to this kind of defence;--no, he stands, high and haughty, on that good old respectable ground, _the right of the strongest_; and he says, and I think quite sensibly, that the American planter is `only doing, in another form, what the English aristocracy and capitalists are doing by the lower classes;' that is, I take it, _appropriating_ them, body and bone, soul and spirit, to their use and convenience. He defends both,--and I think, at least, _consistently_. He says that there can be no high civilization without enslavement of the masses, either nominal or real. There must, he says, be a lower class, given up to physical toil and confined to an animal nature; and a higher one thereby acquires leisure and wealth for a more expanded intelligence and improvement, and becomes the directing soul of the lower. So he reasons, because, as I said, he is born an aristocrat;--so I don't believe, because I was born a democrat."

"How in the world can the two things be compared?" said Miss Ophelia. "The English laborer is not sold, traded, parted from his family, whipped."

"He is as much at the will of his employer as if he were sold to him. The slave-owner can whip his refractory slave to death,--the capitalist can starve him to death. As to family security, it is hard to say which is the worst,--to have one's children sold, or see them starve to death at home."

"But it's no kind of apology for slavery, to prove that it isn't worse than some other bad thing."

"I didn't give it for one,--nay, I'll say, besides, that ours is the more bold and palpable infringement of human rights; actually buying a man up, like a horse,--looking at his teeth, cracking his joints, and trying his paces and then paying down for him,--having speculators, breeders, traders, and brokers in human bodies and souls,--sets the thing before the eyes of the civilized world in a more tangible form, though the thing done be, after all, in its nature, the same; that is, appropriating one set of human beings to the use and improvement of another without any regard to their own."

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Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe

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