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As a slave owner in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Augustine St. Clare's attitude to slavery is not that clear and obvious. This paper focuses on his inclination and endorsement of Anti-Slavery. By looking into the details of his attitude toward slavery, northerners, human race and other things, by analyzing the concrete actions and attitudes he does to his own slaves and by showing his change in views and actions in the end, his inner belief can be known.
Anti-Slavery in Augustine St. Clare
In Uncle Tom's Cabin, when challenged by Ophelia's question that "do you think slavery right or wrong?Ë®  , Augustine St.Clare never tries to answer it clearly with the saying that "I am one of the sort that lives by throwing stones at other people's glass houses, but I never mean to put up one for them to stone.Ë®  He seems to like finding holes of others' theories but never sets up his own or defines his position. It is arguable to define his position since he is a slave owner and a non-religious guy. This paper intends to take one side to represent his inclination of Anti-Slavery by analyzing his attitudes and his actions.
To slavery, St.Clare admits that it is not a humane thing but the infringement of human rights because when slave owners buy a slave, they treat him like a commercial product or like an animal by "looking at his teeth, cracking his joints, and trying his paces and then paying down for him,--having speculators, breeders, traders, and brokers in human bodies and soulsË®  , which is certainly not a human like thing in the so-called civilized society. Meanwhile, he can't stand that "every brutal, disgusting, mean, low lived fellow was allowed by the laws to become absolute despot of as many men, women and children, as he could cheat, steal, or gamble money enough to buyË®  . Therefore, Augustine has expressed his contempt for this inhumane matter: "Talk of the abuses of slavery! The thing itself is the essence of all abuse! ...For pity's sake, for shame's sake, we would scorn to use the full power which our savage laws put into our handsË®  . Using law willingly to justify slavery for him is by no means a noble action in the progressing world. The whole country is dark and he would like to sink with it if that could "hide all this injustice and misery from the lightË®  , and he has been ready to "curse his country, to curse the human raceË®  , outpouring his strong objection for the violation of human rights in slavery and discontent at the terrible treatments of slaves. .
Knowing well about the northerners' typical attitudes toward slavery, he points out sharply that northerners like Ophelia loathes slaves as they would a snake or a toad, yet they are indignant at slaves' wrongs. Northerners usually would not have slaves abused or insulted, but they don't want to have anything to do with the black slaves themselves as Ophelia refuses to teach or touch Topsy at the beginning. What they like would be to "send those inferior servants to Africa out of their sight and smell, and then send a missionary or two to do up all the self-denial of elevating those low creatures compendiouslyË®  . Targeting at the coldness and hypocrisy of the northern folks, St.Clare is meant to warn the danger of such views, to push Ophelia to face squarely to her weakness and improper prejudice and to call for more fair treatments toward slaves. For his part, northerners who are advocates of democracy and are against slavery do not act more nobly or correctly than the slave owners. Protesting that "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 severeË®  , he scolds the deep-rooted bias of the northerners and represents the same essence of treating slaves both in the north and the south. His real purpose doesn't seem to justify the slavery but probably shows his anger and disagreement to the ambiguous and fallacious attitude in the north. At this point, he is against slavery.
Making fun of religion is another way for St. Clare to throw stones at slavery. Religion to him is what "can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly societyË® and what "is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for manË®  0. "Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together...The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the pulpitË®  1 since "Planters, who have money to make by it,--clergymen, who have planters to please,--politicians, who want to rule by it,Ë® may "warp and bend language and ethics to a degree that shall astonish the world at their ingenuity; they can press nature and the Bible...into the serviceË®  2. The Bible can be interpreted in various ways and everyone would intend to find the parts beneficial for his deeds and justify what he does by quoting doctrines from it. That's what slave owners usually do. As Augustine says, "It's pretty generally understood that men don't aspire after the absolute right, but only to do aboutË®  3. Relying on the injustice and misinterpretation of Scripture for slavery for him is quite doubtful and groundless: "Suppose that something should bring down the price of cotton once and forever, and make the whole slave property a drug in the market, don't you think we should soon have another version of the Scripture doctrine?Ë®  4. When the situation goes the other way, those who support slavery would change the way of understanding the Bible for their interests. By arguing that "When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me and not something beneathË®  5 he represents his objection to using the Scripture to justify slavery.
To carry the matter further, he renders the perspective in the essence and the class of human beings and the whole world. "Looking at the high and the low all the world over, and it's the same story since the lower class used up their body, soul and spirit for the good of the upper.Ë®  6 His brother Alfred reckons that "there must be a lower class, given up to physical toil and confined to an animal nature; and a higher one thereby acquires leisure and wealth for a more expanded intelligence and improvementË®  7 but St,Clare is doesn't believe in those theories and he "was born a democratË®  8to advocate of the equality of human race. Pointing out that "Our system is educating them in barbarism and brutality. We are breaking all humanizing ties, and making them brute beastsË®  9, Augustine accuses of the whole system that has been set up for years to dehumanize a race and, "if they get the upper hand,Ë® the situation would be turn around like the rebellion of the people of Hayti. They would find the liberty themselves and "They will rise, and raise with them their mother's race.Ë®  0
"One thing is certain,--that there is a mustering among the masses, the world over; and there is a dies irae coming on, sooner or later. The same thing is working in Europe, in England, and in this country. Ë®  1 St.Clare shows his affirmation and hope toward the day when the unfair and brutal things all over the world would has its final judgment. "My mother used to tell me of a millennium that was coming...Sometimes I think all this sighing, and groaning, and stirring among the dry bones foretells what she used to tell me was coming. Ë®  2
Acknowledging the inhuman of slavery, throwing stones at the hypocrisy of the northerners toward slaves, finding fault with the interpretations justifying the slavery in the Scripture, condemning the depravity in the human race of dividing the lower and upper classes, and targeting at the common coldness and prejudice of the whole country and even the whole world, Augustine as a slave owner expresses little support for the system, shows his contempt for those who brag of slavery and denounces the corruption of the human beings to abuse the inferior. Since he understands well about the situation of slavery in the country and the difficulties of solving the problems, he holds the belief that the final day of ending slavery and all those miseries brought by it and just waits for the final judgment.
The Actions toward Slaves
St.Clare has indicated of his disagreement and discontent of the status quo of slavery. Only when he matches his words with his deeds can he take his position clearly and express his attitude explicitly. Observing his actions toward slaves aids to penetrate into his heart.
When Augutine sees Adolph after coming back from , he "offers his hand to himË® and says "how are you, boy?Ë®  3 in greeting. This action shows St.Clare treats Adolph as a human being with his respect for the basic human right. Noticing that Adolph is wearing his vest, St. Clare doesn't scold him and seems careless for Adolph's excuse. What seems to other slave owners intolerable is forgivable for Augutine and he has his theory: "As to Dolph, the case is this: that he has so long been engaged in imitating my graces and perfectionsË® and "what's the harm of the poor dog's wanting to be like his master; and if I haven't brought him up any better than to find his chief good...why shouldn't I give them to him?Ë®  4 To free Adolph from the complaint of Marie, St. Clare takes the blame by acknowledging his encouragement and indulgence for Adolph to intimate himself. His punishment for Adolph is slight: "I have been obliged to give him a little insight into his mistake.Ë® and "I had to talk to him like a father, to bring him roundË®  5. Never does he take Adolph's mistakes seriously. Instead, he even encourages and hopes Adolph to behave like a normal human being and live a better life like his master.
The same case goes for Dinah. Paying little attention to Ophelia's complaint of Dinah's poor arrangement of a clean and ordered kitchen, Augustine again blames himself for not being the oppressor but "the oppressed ownerË®  6 who has no severity for the slaves and just "let things go just as they doË®  7 rather than scold the laziness of Dinah. Besides, he shows affirmation for Dinah's work: "she gets up glorious dinners, makes superb coffee; and you must judge her as warriors and statesmen are judged, by her success.Ë®  8 In spite of the chaos in the kitchen like "the rolling-pin is under her bed, and the nutmeg-grater in her pocket with her tobaccoË®  9, according to St. Clare, finally "Dinah gets you a capital dinner,--soup, ragout, roast fowl, dessert, ice-creams and allË® and that is "really sublime, the way she manages.Ë®  0What Ophelia can't bear is a not a big deal for Augustine and he usually tends to find out the positive side of his slaves.
Tospy, the slave girl whom Augustine saves for he is "tired of hearing her screaming, and them beating and swearing at herË®  1, is handed over to Ophelia by St. Clare as a way to test his cousin's religion and doctrine. When Ophelia is furious about Topsy's wrong behaviors, Augustine asks her to whip the slave girl, knowing that the lash which he never does by himself won't work on Topsy for she "is used to that style of operationË®  2. According to St. Clare, "Whipping and abuse are like laudanum; you have to double the dose as the sensibilities declineË® and that just make "the owner grow more and crueler, as the servant more and more callousË®  3. That represents his discontent and objection of the whippings and violent punishments for slaves. Meanwhile, St. Clare often calls Topsy to amuse himself, and gets her to "repeat the offending passagesË® as a way to mock the injustice of religion and annoys his cousin. Topsy, whenever her brings her into trouble she always takes refuge behind St.Clare's chair who "in one way or other, would make peace for herË®  4. Clearly, St. Clare is sympathetic with Topsy, tolerant of her wrong doing and use her to expose the evil of slavery and wrong education of the religion.
Appreciating Tom's help for saving Eva and buying him at the will of Eva, St.Clare at the beginning takes Tom as the other slaves like Adolph and warns him not to drink too much a week, which hurts Tom's feeling. But gradually, Augustine is "struck with Tom's soundness of mind and good business capacityË® and confides in him more and more "till gradually all the marketing and providing for the family are in trusted to TomË®.  5Never does Augustine cover his admiration for Tom, with the compliment that "Tom, is a hero to Eva...his songs and Methodist hymns are better than an opera, and the traps and little bits of trash in his pocket a mine of jewels, and he the most wonderful Tom that ever wore a black skin.Ë®  6 Convinced by Tom's capability, touched by Tom's loyalty and struck by Tom's piety to God, St. Clare realizes Tom is rare and eventually takes Tom as a friend and a good assistant rather than a slave, trusting and depending on him greatly. Augustine feels reluctant to part with Tom and does "not like it that Tom should be so ready to leave himË®  7 when he decides to emancipate Tom.
Tolerant of Adolph and Dinah's mistakes and offending behaviors, sympathetic of Topsy 's experience, confident of Tom's faculty and morality, Augustine can never be harsh on his slaves. "His own good sense taught him that such a training of his servants was unjust and dangerous.Ë®  8 but he is careless about the troubles and inconvenience brought by his way of treating slaves. "He passed lightly over the most serious faults, because he told himself that, if he had done his part, his dependents had not fallen into them.Ë®  9The story that he forgives Sciopo's escape and gives his freedom gaining the black's loyalty and friendship testifies his attitude of being a merciful owner. Whenever he hears of Marie's denunciations of slaves' selfishness and laziness, he is careless and dry to echo her words, amusing and opposing to her views with the saying that "it's wholly inexcusable in them, in the light of the example that Marie and I set them,--this laziness.Ë®  0 For St. Clare, it's the master who is responsible for slaves' seeming wrong and offending behaviors since "from the mother's breast the colored child feels and sees that there are none but underhand ways open to itË® and then "Cunning and deception become necessary, inevitable habits. It isn't fair to expect anything else of him.Ë®  1 From Marie's complaints that "He says their faults are all owing to us, and that it would be cruel to make the fault and punish it tooË®  2 the reader can tell St.Clare actually stands by slaves and backs up the weak. For their sake he really does many concrete and practical things to make them live better and to earn their good services and loyalty. His way of dealing with slaves as mercifully and indulgently as he can, if not totally show his denial of slavery, at least, tells the readers that he is definitely inclined to take slaves' sides and resists against the cruelty and punishments within slavery.
What is difficult for St.Clare is to emancipate his slaves, whom he is dependent on largely and reluctant to give up, since he is "very much temptedË®  3 to have all the conveniences they offer. "St.Clare, whose proximity to this saving femininity gives him the limited moral strength Ë®  4 and can't resist the temptation with more moral power. The reason he gives to Ophelia why he can't set them free is that he can't "hold them as tools for money-makingË® and keep them to "help spend moneyË®  5, besides, that's the property he inherits from his parents. By emphasizing that his slaves "All were well satisfied to be as they wereË® and that "everybody in this world ever does what they don't think is rightË®  6, he seems to have some reasonable and proper arguments to maintain his slaves. He knows exactly that what liberation means to slaves even though they have a kind-hearted owner. When Tom is told about Augustine's plan to give him liberty, "the sudden light of joy casted on Tom's face as he raised his hands to heaven and emphasized Ê»Bless the Lord!Ê¼Ë®  7. To have freedom Tom would "rather have poor clothes, poor house, poor everything, and have them hisË®  8. Smart enough to know that simple truth, Augustine still can't put it into practice for he is within that system and the weakness of a human being is overwhelmed by the force of the outside world. Learning about Prue's miserable death, St.Clare can just state that: "There would be no use in interfering; there is no law that amounts to anything practically, for such a case. The best we can do is to shut our eyes and ears, and let it alone. It's the only resource left usË®  9, which expresses his helplessness and frailty towards those inhuman treatments. What he chooses to do is just to shut his eyes and harden his heart since he can't "buy every poor wretch and can't undertake to redress every individual case of wrong. Ë®  0The "leave-things-alone" attitude is his usual way to escape the complexity and hardness of solving problems though he can exactly distinguish the right and the wrong.
Understanding well the evil of slavery but hesitating to take real actions, Augustine is a merciful slave owner but not an abolitionist. However, Eva's death is so striking a blow to him that he becomes more determined to take some measure. When asked by Eva if there is a way to end slavery at her last time, Augustine answers that "There's no doubt that this way is a very bad one; I do myself I heartily wish that there were not a slave in the land; but, then, I don't know what is to be done about it!Ë®  1. This shows clearly his hatred of slavery, sincere desire to get rid of it as well as the weakness of his power. Then, after Eva's death, St. Clare becomes "in many respects, another man. He read his little Eva's Bible seriously and honestly; he thought more soberly and practically of his relations to his servantsË®  2. Now he puts his casual attitude aside, tries to know more about the doctrines of the Scripture probably to find out what is profitable for the slaves, scrutinizes his relationship with his servants and contemplates on the problem of slavery more seriously. The brave and big step he takes is to "commence the legal steps necessary to Tom's emancipationË®  3.
St.Clare attaches himself to Tom more and more and even asks Tom to read the Bible. Touched by the verses of Lord that "In as much as ye did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to meË®  4 directing to the folk who do not show any mercy to those needing help, Augustine reads it twice as if he is "revolving the words in his mindË®  5. For a while, he says to Tom that "these folks that get such hard measure seem to have been doing just what I have,--living good, easy, respectable lives; and not troubling themselves to inquire how many of their brethren were hungry or athirst, or sick, or in prison.Ë®  6 Admitting his sins of not doing something practical to change the state-being of the slaves, he begins ponder on the problem more sincerely and his mind undergoes great testing and struggle.
Finally, he tells Ophelia his conclusion that "not doing positive good includes every possible harm.Ë®  7 With deep feeling, he implies to Ophelia he is the person "whose own heart, whose education, and the wants of society, have called in vain to some noble purpose; who has floated on, a dreamy, neutral spectator of the struggles, agonies, and wrongs of man, when he should have been a workerË®  8. His debate with Ophelia " becomes an occasion for him to echo the denunciatory testimonials of antislavery.Ë®  9 He is braver than he was and determines to take up his duty by "beginning with my own servants, and, perhaps, at some future day, it may appear that I can do something for a whole class; something to save my country from the disgrace of that false position in which she now stands before all civilized nations.Ë®  0 This represents his firm decision to put his words into practice and his far-sighted perspective to the future of slavery and the nation. Moreover, he is smart enough to point out the problems will be encountered and faced when all the slaves are emancipated and it will not be a easy task to deal with when the racism is common all over the country. Questioning Ophelia that "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...?Ë®  1, Augustine trys to carry the action further, to dig deeper into the problem and to make the emancipation more valuable, useful and beneficial to the slaves. He represents his tendency of becoming an actual democrat and a practiser gradually even if his death ends all the intentions.
With the words that "Was I not just telling you I despised it?Ë®  2, Augustine shows his protest against slavery by scrutinizing the defects of northerners, the Bible, the human race and rights, the whole country and even the whole world. What he wants is not to repudiate all of those things but to eliminate the negative parts within them and to make them relevant to each other to solve the problem together. Standing by the slaves, covering all their mistakes and being kind enough to them, St.Clare adopts actions to indicate his dissents and loathe of the inhumanity and brutality in slavery. For the reason that he is within the system and very tempted by the benefits of it, he can't take a further and more courageous step to give liberty to all his slaves, which tells his hypocrisy and hesitation. Changes is taking place after Eva's death and he makes up his mind to put some thoughts into practice from himself such as setting Tom free. Although he doesn't carry it out thoroughly for the accident, his anti-slavery position and tendency to end slavery is shown more distinctly.