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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Problem of Emancipation

A Golden Eagle, Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935)
"But, suppose we should rise up to-morrow and emancipate, who would educate these millions, and teach them how to use their freedom? They never would rise to do much among us. The fact is, we are too lazy and unpractical, ourselves, ever to give them much of an idea of that industry and energy which is necessary to form them into men. They will have to go north, where labor is the fashion, -- the universal custom; and tell me, now, is there enough Christian philanthropy, among your northern states, to bear with the process of their education and elevation? You send thousands of dollars to foreign missions; but could you endure to have the heathen sent into your towns and villages, and give your time, and thoughts, and money, to raise them to the Christian standard? That's what I want to know. If we emancipate, are you willing to educate? How many families, in your town, would take a negro man and woman, teach them, bear with them, and seek to make them Christians? How many merchants would take Adolph, if I wanted to make him a clerk; or mechanics, if I wanted him taught a trade? If I wanted to put Jane and Rosa to a school, how many schools are there in the northern states that would take them in? how many families that would board them? and yet they are as white as many a woman, north or south. You see, Cousin, I want justice done us. We are in a bad position. We are the more obvious oppressors of the negro; but the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally severe" (Ch. 28)

Up to this point, Stowe seemingly advocates the emancipation of the slaves.  She describes the horrors of the system and satirizes the so-called "good masters" who are not as cruel to their slaves as most but allow the system to perpetuate.  Nevertheless, Stowe examines the problem of emancipation through the character of Augustine St. Clare and shows that emancipation without education results in continued enslavement.

Stowe advocates the proliferation of education among the slaves.  St. Clare asserts that emancipation alone is injustice in that it must be complemented by education.  In order for this venture to be successful, St Clare contends that northerners must abandon their prejudicial tendencies and agree to provide shelter as well as the necessary training.  His fear is that northerners' unfamiliarity with blacks will cause the former to be intolerant though they willingly perform missionary work abroad.

This fear may figure significantly in Stowe's advocacy of a back to Africa movement.  George, who reaches Canada with his wife, thus securing his freedom, envisions going to Liberia, a nation of free blacks.  From there, George believes he can help his African brethren by condemning slavery and getting support from other world powers. 

"If Europe ever becomes a grand council of free nations, -- as I trust in God it will, -- if, there, serfdom, and all unjust and oppressive social inequalities, are done away; and if they, as France and England have done, acknowledge our position, -- then, in the great congress of nations, we will make our appeal, and present the cause of our enslaved and suffering race; and it cannot be that free, enlightened America will not then desire to wipe from her escutcheon that bar sinister which disgraces her among nations, and is as truly a curse to her as to the enslaved" (Ch. 43).

In this way, George believes he can help blacks in America better from Africa than from America or Canada.  Similarly, Miss Ophelia educates Topsy in America and the latter travels to Africa as a missionary.
Apparently, Stowe sees no place of refuge in America for the slaves. 
Do you say, "We don't want them here; let them go to Africa"?

That the providence of God has provided a refuge in Africa, is, indeed, a great and noticeable fact; but that is no reason why the church of Christ should throw off that responsibility to this outcast race which her profession demands of her (Ch. 45).

Nevertheless, she believes that education should precede any exodus.

Let the church of the north receive these poor sufferers in the spirit of Christ; receive them to the educating advantages of Christian republican society and schools, until they have attained to somewhat of a moral and intellectual maturity, and then assist them in their passage to those shores, where they may put in practice the lessons they have learned in America (Ch. 45).

Stowe also believes it to be the duty of white Americans to provide the necessary assistance.

What do you owe to these poor unfortunates, oh Christians? Does not every American Christian owe to the African race some effort at reparation for the wrongs that the American nation has brought upon them?  (Ch. 45).

Ultimately, Stowe has little faith in the ability of the two races to co-exist.

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