Harriet Beecher Stowe on freedom

Harriet Beecher Stowe's ''Uncle Tom's Cabin'' (1852) was widely credited with what might have been called public consciousness-raising a century later. However, few today have read even a word of a novel that may sound quaint and sentimental but that helped prepare a nation for the freeing of the slaves. Here is a passage in which a slave-owner's ailing daughter - who became legendary as ''little Eva'' - displays the concern for others that Mrs. Stowe sought to generate.

''Why, dear child, what has made your poor little heart so sad? You have had everything, to make you happy, that could be given you.'' . . .

''Oh, things that are done, and done all the time. I feel sad for our poor people; they love me dearly, and they are all good and kind to me. I wish, papa, they are all free.''

''Why, Eva, child, don't you think they are well enough off now?''

''Oh, but, papa, if anything should happen to you, what would become of them? There are very few men like you, papa. Uncle Alfred isn't like you, and mamma isn't; and then, think of poor old Prue's owners! What horrid things people do, and can do!'' and Eva shuddered.

''My dear child, you are too sensitive. I 'm sorry I ever let you hear such stories.''

''Oh, that 's what troubles me, papa. You want me to live so happy, and never to have any pain, - never suffer anything, - not even a sad story, when other poor creatures have nothing but pain and sorrow, all their lives; - it seems selfish. I ought to know such things, I ought to feel about them! Such things always sunk into my heart; they went down deep; I've thought and thought about them. Papa, isn't there any way to have all slaves made free?''

''That's a difficult question, dearest. There's no doubt that this way is a very bad one; a great many people think so; I do myself. I heartily wish that there were not a slave in the land; but, then, I don't know what is to be done about it!''

''Papa, you are such a good man, and so noble, and kind, and you always have a way of saying things that is so pleasant, couldn't you go all round and try to persuade people to do right about this?'' . . .

The shadows of the solemn evening closed round them deeper and deeper, as St. Clare sat silently holding the little frail form to his bosom. He saw no more the deep eyes, but the voice came over him as a spirit voice, and, as in a sort of judgment vision, his whole past life rose in a moment before his eyes: his mother's prayers and hymns; his own early yearnings and aspirings for good; and, between them and this hour, years of worldliness and scepticism, and what man calls respectable living. We can think much, very much, in a moment. St. Clare saw and felt many things, but spoke nothing; and, as it grew darker, he took his child to her bedroom; and, when she was prepared for rest, he sent away the attendants, and rocked her in his arms, and sung to her till she was asleep.

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