Where does Harriet Beecher Stowe's moral fervor lie?
Uncle Tom's Cabin can be read as a point of arrival in a long American quest to evolve a morality out of the Puritan heritage, the words of the chartering documents of the Republic, the ethos of the Enlightenment, and the values of Transcendentalism. Where does Stowe's moral fervor seem to be based?
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I think that Stowe's fervor lies in a spiritual point of view. Stowe's background is devoutly evangelical and lies in the realm of social reform. Her fervor is geared towards the abolition of slavery. I think that she is inheriting an American legacy, infant at that point, that seeks to call attention to that which is untenable on political and moral grounds. One sees the same level of desire for transformation that Jefferson seeks to bring out inThe Declaration of Independence. It is this idea that something which offends the moral and political sensibility must be brought out and illuminated in order for change to be transformative and lasting. Stowe's writing on a level that is both political and moral helps to continue this legacy. At the same time, Stowe is seeking to make the argument consistent with the fledgling Constitution. Stowe's outrage is at slavery, naturally. Yet, the Fugitive Slave Law that enabled Southern slaveowners to cross into Free States and take back slaves that had escaped brings out a Constitutional element in Stowe's work. The question becomes where does freedom lie. She almost brings out a First Amendment argument in terms of at what point is the individual entitled the right to be left alone? Stowe understands that the nation is only fledgling at this point to bring out this issue, but in making the Fugitive Slave Law such a point in her work, she is bringing out a Constitutional element that gives rise to her fervor, as well. It is here where Stowe's desire for change resides. In this, Stowe is part of a genesis of what American Literature will become in terms of an appeal to its past to bring to light how present injustice lies in opposition to the promises and possibilities of a nation like America.
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