Harriet Beecher Stowe was the highly talented author who wrote the famous anti-slavery classic book, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Tom, a black slave, was the central character of the novel. The book purported to expose the harsh realities of slavery. In the book, Tom died at the hands of a cruel slave master.
She wrote the book for the columns of an anti-slavery newspaper in Washington, D. C. In book form, it sold hundreds of thousands of copies. It was one of the most popular books of the nineteenth century. The book was eagerly received by the northern population that was strongly anti-slavery. It certainly played a role in inflaming the sectional tensions of the time.
At the end of the nineteenth century the story appeared that Abraham Lincoln met Mrs. Stowe in Washington. Upon being introduced, he is reported to have said, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!" The story is almost certainly apocryphal, for there is no evidence of it from Stowe herself or from Lincoln. The story, however, is constantly repeated by historians, probably because it seems to authenticate the view that slavery somehow caused the war.
The origins of the book are in tariff soil. Stowe famously declared, in an 1838 letter to her best friend Mary Dutton, that she wrote for publication "for the pay." Who paid her, then, to write Uncle Tom's Cabin?. It was Gamaliel Bailey, the editor of the National Era anti-slavery newspaper, who paid her $400 for the job.
Bailey, however, was the hired editor of the paper. It is appropriate to ask who founded the newspaper, who financed the newspaper, who hired Bailey and who directed him to do what he did. The answer to all these questions is one man: Lewis Tappan, the nation's foremost pro-tariff organizer. Lewis prepared a circular letter announcing the newspaper, soliciting funds for its financing and announcing the hiring of Bailey as editor.
Tappan established the National Era shortly after southerners regained control in the Congress and the Presidency in 1846. By a single-vote majority in the Senate, Democrats lowered the tariff, both senators from the newly-admitted slave state of Texas voting for the reduction. It was the second major defeat for the pro-tariff forces, the first being the Compromise Tariff of 1833.
The Uncle Tom character was said to be modeled on Josiah Henson, a slave who escaped to Canada. Henson narrated his autobiography and it was published in 1849 in Boston. The transcriber and editor, however, was Samuel Atkins Eliot, the son of William H. Eliot, one of the fellow investors with Harrison Gray Otis in the Taunton Manufacturing Company and a man with a deep and desperate interest in the tariff.
Henson was not whipped to death as was the Uncle Tom of the novel. Henson lived to the ripe old age of 93 in Canada.