The Book that Started a War
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, also called Life Among the Lowly, was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is a realistic, although fictional view of slavery. The main characters in this story are Uncle Tom, Eliza and George Harris. Uncle Tom is a pious, trustworthy, slave. He never wrongs anyone and always obeys his master. A very spiritual person, Uncle Tom tries his best to obey the Bible and to do what is right. Eliza is a beautiful slave owned by George Shelby, Sr., the same person who initially owns Tom. Eliza has a son, Harry. Eliza’s husband, George Harris, lives on a nearby plantation. George is a brilliant man, and invented a machine that was used in the factory he works in. His owner became jealous and demoted George from his factory job to doing hard labor on the plantation. This story takes place throughout the states of Kentucky and Mississippi.
Because his Kentucky plantation was overwhelmed by debt, George Shelby, Sr. makes plans to trade some slaves to a slave dealer named Haley in exchange for debts being canceled. The dealer selects Uncle Tom as payment for the debt. While the two are discussing the possible transaction, Eliza’s son, Harry, comes rushing into the room. Haley decides he wants to take Harry also, but Shelby refuses to part with the child. Eliza, overhearing part of the conversation, is frightened and confides her fears to her husband, George Harris. The fact that George’s owner is mistreating him, combined with a possible sale of his son persuades George to begin planning to run away. After inferring from an overheard conversation between Mr. & Mrs. Shelby that they are indeed going to sell Harry and Uncle Tom, Eliza warns Tom and she runs away.
Eliza is able to cross the Ohio River and get to a safe place before Haley’s two hired slave-catchers can catch up with her. Although he was warned, Uncle Tom stays on the plantation, leaving it up to God to protect him. At the same time, George Harris begins his escape. Disguised as a Spaniard, George takes his time finding a route on the underground railroad. He just happens to go to the same place where Eliza and Harry are being hidden.