Uncle Tom’s Cabin part 1

hey Becca hi Kim alright so we're here to talk about Uncle Tom's Cabin and I think this is such an interesting book because when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe he said to her so you're the little lady that started this great war he said Uncle Tom's Cabin actually started the Civil War so how does a book start a war I think that's a really good question Kim and these next two videos are gonna help us understand a little bit more widely consent that how does a little book start a war so this book was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe here she is Stowe and Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield Connecticut to this kind of great abolitionist families so what solution ISM Kim well abolitionism was the belief in mostly in the early 19th century that slavery should be ended immediately so there were varieties of beliefs about the institution of slavery in early America some people obviously were very pro-slavery believed that it was a natural institution sanctioned by the Bible some people like Abraham Lincoln at least early in his political career just wanted to slavery to stay where it was and those were what we would call Free Soilers or anti-slavery advocates they said alright we can't get rid of slavery in the south it's too entrenched there as an institution but we can make sure that it does not spread to any of the western territories that we might settle in the future but abolitionists were the strongest opponents of slavery they said that slavery should be ended today everywhere in the United States and the world and that it is an immoral unchristian institution so these western territories were a really big part of the increasing tension over the institution of slavery in the 1850s so in 1848 the United States won the mexican-american war and they got a whole bunch of new territory that had once been Mexico and these will become the states of Texas and Oklahoma and many of the sort of Midwestern states we have today but this now threatened the balance of power between those slaveholding states in US Congress and those that were free states so now everyone is wondering is slavery going to spread to the West should slavery spread to the West and this kind of anxiety about the Western expansion of slavery was more tense and became more sexually divided after the compromise of 1850 so the compromise of 1850 happened right here in 1850 and the compromise of 1850 I like to think of it kind of like a band-aid over this sectional tensions all choice this is abandoned it's like a gaping wound right and the compromise of 1850 is just like this tiny little band-aid that's kind of holding this dam together to mix my metaphors the compromise of 1850 actually admitted California as a free state which was a really big win for the North obviously the goal but it also had a really strong Fugitive Slave Act so this was a really kind of critical part of the compromise of 1850 and this was a big win for the south so why was it a big win well the Fugitive Slave Act said that if a marshal was in your town requesting your help in rounding up an escaped slave you had to help that marshal or face charges yourself so this meant that anytime that someone who was enslaved in the south made a run for the north run for Canada as many of the enslaved people did anyone in the North might be drafted to help return that person to the south and if they didn't they were oftentimes find and this really made all northerners participatory in slavery even if they weren't slaveholders themselves or living on a plantation in the south northerners were participating in the way that slavery was held together by disallowing runaway slaves from continuing their lives in free territories so you can imagine how this might really galvanize a northern audience into action about slavery because before you might think well I don't like slavery but what does it have to do with me right I'm just a grain Miller living in Pennsylvania none of my business I don't like it but I can't do anything about it and it's not my fault now all of a sudden if an escaped slave comes past your house and a marshal follows him or her now you've got to be a person to round that person up and so that means you have to participate in slavery directly and so you might find yourself thinking you know what I refuse to do that and that means that I really do hate slavery and this was definitely the sentiment that Stowe and her family had on the Underground Railroad so Stowe lived on a stop in the Underground Railroad and that was this passageway for southern slaves to get to the north and Stowe and her husband actually helped a lot of runaway slaves so the Underground Railroad wasn't like a literal railroad right I mean that would be pretty sweet if there were a railroad that went under the ground all the way up to Canada but it was more like a sort of informal network of people who might help escaped slaves direct them to food and shelter and just kind of send them along to the next way post on their trip either to the north or to Canada and so when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed with the compromise of 1850 the band-aid this really upset Harriet Beecher Stowe and really was one of the main catalysts for her writing this book she also witnessed a slave auction and this Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about as just this terrible kind of scene of a family being just torn apart and this was a really common practice within slavery that the unit of the family was not respected as slaveholders wanted to sell their slaves to different plantations throughout the south and this slave auction really became the basis for the plot of Uncle Tom's Cabin slave auctions were absolutely terrible in fact not long before the Civil War the main slave auction site in Washington DC was just around the corner from the White House so imagine walking down the thoroughfare of this great democracy seeing the president's house the seat of government and turning a corner and seeing people being sold off the block you know Abraham Lincoln saw a slave auction in New Orleans and he said it was one of the things that most influenced him to hate slavery just witnessing these families being torn apart and imagined either watching a mother being sold away from her infant children or being that mother wondering what it would be like if you're ever going to see them again I think that's a really important point just to show that this was something that was happening all around the United States and this was just abolitionist fervor was bubbling up and then in 1852 when this book was published it really set into motion this new wave of political rhetoric and other novels and just a lot of talk about these fundamental contradictions between Christianity and Human Bondage and we'll get to that in the next video

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