The issue of slavery in the nineteenth century produced an overwhelming issue in society. There were some writers that favored slavery and then there were some that did not favor slavery. In favor of slavery were William Gillmore Simms, and Caroline Hentz. Those opposed to slavery were Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, and Herman Melville. All of these writers
presented their views of slavery
in the their literary works.
William Simms was a supporter of slavery and this evident in his novel, “Woodcraft.” This novel takes place in the south during the closing of the Revolutionary War. Simms was born in Charleston, South Carolina, so he was raised on the souths’ position
of pro-slavery. In Simms novel Woodcraft, he states, “ Exhaustion not wisdom, or a better state of feeling, was the secret of the peace which was finally concluded between the two nations (America and Great Britain), and of which, South Carolina, and Charleston in particular, was eagerly expecting the benefits. (Simms 35) Great Britain had spent most of the Revolutionary War occupying Charleston and the soldiers would stay at the peoples’ home with out the homeowners consent. This angered many townspeople in Charleston and many other townspeople throughout the south. Since the war was coming to an end the people of Charleston could have their city and homes again. Also meaning plantation owners and slaver owners could resume back to their work of the land, which was the major source of economy in the south. During the Revolutionary War, Great Britain was re-stealing the slaves of slave owners in the south. In “Woodcraft,” it is stated, “ South Carolina had already lost twenty-five thousand slaves, which British philanthropy had transferred from the rice-fields of Carolina to the sugar estates of the West India Islands; and there were yet other thousands waiting to be similarly transported.” (Simms 35,36) Great Britain was taking slaves from America to use for their sugar estates. Many slave owners were very angry with the British for this, but in hindsight the slave owners had done the same thing when they would take slaves from their families or would split slaves families up. Carolina Hentz was also a supporter of slavery. She believed that the slaves were treated well and that they were best suited as slaves. Hentz uses examples in her novel, “The Planter’s Northern Bride,” as to how well treated slaves were. In this novel, Hentz shows how the slave owner Mr.Moreland treats Albert, whom is Mr.Moreland’s slave. Albert is dressed just as eloquently as Mr.Moreland and his dialect was not that of a Negro. Hentz tells this to show that the slaves would have just as good a life living in the south as in the north. This novel also shows how Hentz believes that the slaves are very loyal to their slave owners or masters. Hentz shows this by the answer Albert gives to his master of the question, how does he feel about the north trying to persuade to him that he is free and that he can runaway from his master. Albert states, “…they couldn’t come around this boy with that story; I’ve hearn it often enough already; I ain’t afraid of anything they can say and do, to get me away from you as long you want me to stay with you.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglass were writers that led the way against slavery. Stowe became an internationally known writer and helped start the Civil War sooner than later. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” in which Stowe depicts how slaves were treated and how they were perceived. Stowe often presents how slave owners just thought of their slaves as an article. This is best shown in Uncle Tom’s Cabin were Mr.Shelby states to a young black boy, “ Now Jim, show this gentleman how you can dance and sing.” (Stowe 2354) Here Mr.Shelby treats the young boy as if he is just a possession and a toy to him. Here is another example of this action as Mr.Shelby says, “Why, I’ve got a friend that’s going into this yer branch of the business--wants to buy up handsome boys to raise for the market. Fancy articles entirely—sell for waiters, and so on, to rich’uns, that can pay for handsome’uns. It sets off one of yer great places—a real handsome boy to open door, wait, and tend. They fetch a good sum; and this little devil is such a comical, musical concern, he’s just the article.” (Stowe 2355) Stowe also presents in this novel how blacks are treated unequal and sometimes treated as if they are of another species to whites. As for example, Mr. Shelby states, “Lor bless ye, yes! These critters (slaves) an’t like white folks, you know; they gets over things, only manage right.” (Stowe 2356) Mr.Shelby said this right after he talks about how slaves handle being split from the their families and especially their birth mothers. Stowe is also very adamant towards how slaves were spilt from their birth mothers and their families. In this novel a lot of blacks are ridiculed by being referred to as Cudjoe and Sambo. Mr. Shelby states to Jim Crow, “Now Jim, walk like old Uncle Cudjoe, when he has the rheumatism.” Harriet Beecher Stowe opened a lot of eyes about the life that slaves endured and she helped start the Civil War sooner that it would have probably started. Frederick Douglass was a man that was a slave that became a United States Ambassador. Douglass’s narrative told how slaves were being treated and how difficult of a life they had. Douglass’s autobiography also shows what slavery did to the mind and spirit of the slaves, but perhaps more, of its terrible effect on the slaveholders and white Americans in general. Douglass talks about the Auld family in Maryland, where he lived for a few years, and how they he was treated by them. Mrs. Auld teaches young Douglass how to read and write, but she then as to stop due to her husbands’ request, cause he believes slaves should not hold such attributes. Douglass also showed us how slaves were beaten by their owners and in some cases just to show their power they had over them. For example Douglass states, “I lived with Mr.Covey one year. During the first six months, of that year, scarce a week passed without his whipping me. I was seldom free from a sore back.” (Douglass 265) Douglass also shows some of the reality of how slaves were fed, which was sometimes not very much or they were just not given much time to eat at all. Douglass states, “Mr.Covey gave us enough to eat, but scarce time to eat it. We were often less than five minutes taking our meals.” (Douglass 265) Douglass was really the first prominently known black man that became successful and well- known. With out Douglass there would not have been black regiments. Douglass devoted his time and energy to freedom and he wrote to try to abolish slavery.
Henry Thoreau was another writer that was against slavery. When the United States was at war with Mexico, which was a war that was perceived as a war to try and acquire more land for slaveholders’. Thoreau refused to pay a Massachusetts tax because he believed that the money was going to support an unjust war and help southern slaveholders’. Thoreau was jailed for his failing to pay the tax and some unknown person paid the tax for him and he was released. Thoreau was not a practical man, meaning he did not do things in a practical solution. Thoreau always wanted to do something purposely and thoughtfully. Thoreau did not believe in slavery and he purposely did not pay the tax to show he did not support slavery. Herman Melville was also another writer that was against slavery. Melville wrote about voyages on the sea and how sailors of different colors were not perceived any different than anyone else. Everyone was treated the same and they all held a bond to each other. They were all mates to one another. Melville did not believe in slavery and in his writings he tries to perceive that people of color are no different than from whites.
The issue of slavery produced some great writings in the nineteenth century. Slavery was a very hotly contested issue during the nineteenth century. Writers were split between the ones’ who opposed slavery and the ones’ who supported it. Those who were opposed to slavery were Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Thoreau, Herman Melville. Those who favored slavery were W.G. Simms and Caroline Hentz.