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Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin to protest the Fugitive Slave Act, which was part of the Compromise of 1850. The act meant that runaway slaves could be arrested even in the North and returned to their masters, or if the master could not be found, sold at auction. The law was weighted heavily in favor of a finding that a person was a runaway, even if he were a freedman. Stowe somewhat melodramatically plays this up by having Eliza run away before her child, Little Harry, is sold to a Slave Broker. She goes to great length to show the cruelty of separating families from each other, even depicting one mother as committing suicide with her child before seeing herself separated from it. She depicts the hero, Uncle Tom, as being carried away from his family and treated cruelly and inhumanely by an alcoholic owner who eventually kills him. Aside from the legal arguments against slavery, the moral argument of its abject cruelty seemed to carry the day in the book.
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