Uncle Tom’s Abortuary.
No, not really. Uncle Tom did not have an abortuary. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was a timely novel that found fault with the pro-choice attitude toward slavery that was the prevailing active political position at the time, 1840, before the Civil War. And before Steven Douglas so eloquently phrased the pro-choice slavery position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. (Known to Douglas supporters as the Douglas-Lincoln debates.)
I have recently gone through Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and I thought it was mostly a singularly astonishing novel. There has been a great deal written about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, so you can go look all of that up. Knowing some history, and getting into the lengthy story, I think the writing ranges from fairly decent, to melodramatic, to profound and unprecedented. The characters are sharply drawn, and, yes, with lots of stereotypes, both white and black, but especially for black. While Beecher Stowe honestly perceived African-origin Americans as equal in God’s eyes, and believed all thing should be equal on this earthly side, she still lays down some heavy stereotypes for the black characters. The story works nonetheless.
The thing I want to note is a parallel between our current social status of abortioneers and the way that slavery, and especially the runaway-slave-bounty-hunter business, was noted to take on legitimacy due to two things: the legality of slavery, and the moneyed status of those in that profession.
Spoiler Alert: the novel has been out since 1840 – so I don’t feel so bad revealing what happens. Long story short, Uncle Tom is a slave who gets sold from a slaveholder/farm where he was treated relatively well (given that he was a slave), and ends up with a cruel slaveholder. Tom is – and watch out – there is no way to grasp this novel without recognizing God Almighty, who is certainly a character – a Christian through and through, and goes beyond what we would believe a mere mortal – especially an uneducated mortal – would endure to follow God’s instructions. He has a chance to fold, to wrinkle, to slip, but has love in his heart, and so is noble.
Is he the “Uncle Tom,” obedient plantation slave? Well, no. Our favorite liberal admonishment, the “Uncle Tom” ridicule, is a bastardization of the character. Tom suffers – he is a Christ analogy – because of his obedience to God, while defying his human, earthly “master.”
That reality should not be expected to slow us liberals down in the use of the “Uncle Tom” pejorative; we hate God as much as Karl Marx has instructed us to hate God. So, no skin off our nose (yet).
Along with Tom’s life, a couple other slaves are sold away from Happy Hills. One female and her young son are sold, but she runs away after the contract is signed and money has changed hands, so the buyer has seen his deal run away from him. Literally.
So, long story short, he contracts with a couple slave bounty hunters to go get his property.
The discussion of these slave-hunters by Beecher Stowe is what I will reflect upon. At the time, the Fugitive Slave Act had recently come to be law. This made the entire country pro-choice on slavery. Specifically, it obligated “free” states to permit and foster the conduct of the business of runaway-slave retrieving. In the free north, the status of the slave as property was acknowledged, and you could not look the other way or harbor a slave any more than a pawn shop owner could knowingly accept and resell stolen goods, to the loss of the legitimate owner.
I think this set up a very divisive issue, and gives parallels to today’s status of our nation as a pro-choice nation. To be good citizens, to not-ruffle feathers in polite society, and to keep the peace amongst family at gatherings, we who are pro-life need to defer to the prevailing pro-choice reality.
This gives the pro-choice view a false impression of broad acceptance.
Even among us Christians, who, by faith and creed, part and partial, should have no second thoughts about how we ought to regard slavery, or regard abortion.
This is what Uncle Tom’s Cabin is about: how can we Christians hold any view other than to formally, officially oppose slavery. Slavery, and connected activity, anywhere.
If they made you read this in school, or if some Marxist college professor assigns this book to make some point about dialectical materialism, they won’t make this central point. That is it.
We stride off to church on Sunday, and feel good that we have worshiped tithed, and at the same time our mind is free of the thought that somewhere the whip cracks, and somewhere a public sale is separating mother from child. Recorded in the county register with the legitimacy of our Christian, adult-male-to-adult-female, minister-presided wedding.
I will quote the text to show how Beecher Stowe highlights the legitimacy being given to slavery and the slave-trackers.
This may take a couple posts. I thought my intro would be brief, but I have written a lengthy post so far.
So, I will wrap up this blog entry with one leading quote, and save the rest for another post. Or two.
My goal is to help us see how this reality-based novel, seemingly of a bygone day, where we progressives and liberals will certainly side with the anti-slavery view is an exact parallel to what we should be thinking nowadays regarding abortion, but how we are failing, and giving the abortioneers legitimacy.
Chapter 8: Eliza’s Escape. At this point in the story, early on, Eliza has run away from the farm because she has learned that her owner has sold her in order to settle some debts, and that he has also sold her young son, to yet another buyer. The buyer, who held some debts from her owner and by the purchase has settled the debt, has discovered his property has run away, and has given chase. As well as he can, given that horses must be rounded up, and a direction determined, by a couple of complicit fellow-slaves.
The buyer cannot catch up with his runaway property, but at a tavern, he negotiated with a pair of men to retrieve his property. These are the salve-trackers. They are shown as rough, slippery jobbers in between the upstanding legitimate world and the lousy scoundrel world. They can talk business, and grasp the situation and laws involved, yet are ready for the brawling rough-and-tumble, and seem to have no steady work or location.
This deal is negotiated. Then, Stowe narrates: “ If any of our refined and Christian readers object to the society into which this scene introduces them, let us beg them to begin and conquer their prejudices in time. The catching business, we remind them, is rising to the dignity of a lawful and patriotic profession. If all the broad land between the Mississippi and the Pacific becomes one great market for bodies and souls, and human property retains the locomotive tendencies of this nineteenth century, the trader and catcher may yet be among our aristocracy.”
To me, that says the abortionists, and their advocates, will be among our aristocrats. High profile, high wages, high status, in high-level meetings, and held with high regard. And so they seem to be.