Tag Archives: The National Era

The First Chapter of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published on June 5, 1851

On June 5, 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly began to appear in serial form in The National Era — an abolitionist weekly.  Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery story was released in forty installments over the next ten months. Mrs. Stowe was paid $300 for the rights to publish the story.

In 1951 The National Era had a fairly limited circulation, but readership increased rapidly as reader after reader passed their copies along to friends and family. In 1852 a Boston publisher decided to issue Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a book and it became an instant best seller. Three hundred thousand copies were sold the first year. Folks all over America debated the book and discussed the most pressing issue of the day dramatized in its narrative and brought the debate over slavery into many new homes.

Because Uncle Tom’s Cabin so polarized the abolitionist and anti-abolitionist debate, some claim that it is one of the causes of the Civil War. Indeed, when President Lincoln received its author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, at the White House in 1862, legend has it he exclaimed, “So this is the little lady who made this big war?”

The National Era can be found in our African American Newspapers Collection.  

Copyright Secured by the Author for the National Era.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Or, Life Among the Lowly by Mrs. H.B. Stowe

CHAPTER I. In which the Reader is introduced to a Man of Humanity

Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P—–, in Kentucky. There were no servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to be discussing some subject with great earnestness.

For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two gentleman. One of the parties, however, when critically examined, did not seem, strictly speaking, to come under the species. He was a short, thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and that swaggering air of pretension which makes a low man who is trying to elbow his way upward in the world. He was much over-dressed in a gaudy vest of many colors, a blue neckerchief, be dropped gaily with yellow spots, and arranged with a flaunting tie, quite in keeping with the general air of the man. His hands, large and coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings, and he wore a heavy gold watch-chain with a bundle of seals of portentous size and a great variety of colors attached to it which, in the ardor of conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction. His conversation was in free and easy defiance of Murray’s grammar, and was garnished at convenient intervals with various profane expressions, which not even the desire to be graphic in our account shall induce us to transcribe.


Library of Congress

The OTHER Fire at the Library of Congress – 1851

As many people know, after capturing Washington, D.C. in 1814, the British burned the U.S. Capitol and destroyed the Library of Congress. Thomas Jefferson, in retirement at Monticello, offered to sell his personal library to the Library Committee of Congress in order to rebuild the collection of the Congressional Library. On January 30, 1815, President James Madison approved an act of Congress appropriating $23,950 to purchase Thomas Jefferson’s library of 6,487 volumes.

On December 24, 1851 the largest fire in the Library’s history destroyed 35,000 books, about two–thirds of the Library’s 55,000 book collection, including two–thirds of Jefferson’s original transfer. Congress in 1852 quickly appropriated $168,700 to replace the lost books, but not for the acquisition of new materials. This marked the start of a conservative period in the Library’s administration under Librarian John Silva Meehan and Joint Committee Chairman James A. Pearce, who worked to restrict the Library’s activities.

The fire was reported in The National Era.

National Calamity

Our whole city is intensely excited by the great calamity which has just fallen upon the Capitol.

The Library of Congress, with its rich collection of valuable books, public documents, precious manuscripts, paintings, busts medals, and other works of art, is in ashes. The loss to the nation is great, and, to a certain extent, irreparable. This was probably, on the whole, the best library in the United States; it was enriched by the choice collection of works brought together by the care, discrimination, and taste of Mr. Jefferson, and had been an object of deep interest and regard to successive intelligent committees of Congress, who were intrusted with the duty of superintending its management, and adding annually to its treasures.

Sugarcane Harvest in Cuba

The Annexation of Cuba in The National Era

Rumors have prevailed for some months past, of secret negotiations between our Government and that of Spain for the purchase and annexation of Cuba by the former. The information furnished by the foreign correspondence of the New York Herald was positive and reiterated, and the English papers contain intimations of like purport.

Recently, Mr. Miller submitted a resolution, calling upon the President to inform the Senate whether such negotiations had been instituted; but on a suggestion by Judge Berrien, that the resolution was rather unusual, the mover withdrew it for the time. Subsequently he again introduced it, and, on the 5th, it was called up in the Senate.

It was as follows:

Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to inform the Senate whether any negotiations or correspondence have taken place between this Government and the Government of Spain, or between any persons acting under the direction of authority of Government, in relation to the purchase of Cuba by the United States; and to communicate to the Senate copies of such negotiations or correspondence, so far as the same may be communicated consistently with the public interests.


Death of Minnehaha

Longfellow’s Hiawatha – a Poetic Response

The very able article of M.D.C., in the Intelligencer, has conclusively settled the question of plagiarism brought against Mr. Longfellow by Mr. T.P.C., of Philadelphia. The facility with which a poem may be parodied is no proof against its originality, grace, or power.

The Albion, following the example of the Courier and Enquirer and New York Times, gives its opinion thus:

Should you ask our opinion
Of the song of Hiawatha
We should answer, we should tell you,
That the song of Hiawatha
Ripples, ripples, ripples, ripples,
Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles,
And with easy-flowing cadence
Courses innocent of rhyming.

If still further you should ask us,
Saying, “Who was Hiawatha?
Tell us of this Hiawatha.”
We should answer your inquiries
Straightway in such words as follow:

We are not profound admirers
Of the stalwart tragic actor,
Who in guise of Metamora
Raves of happy hunting diggings;
But we own that we should rather
Hear him tell his “simple story,”
See him play at Metamora,
Than be doomed again to wander,
‘Mid Dacotahs and Ojibways,
On the trail of Hiawatha.

Not a reader, then, will wonder
If abruptly he should hear of us Scream,
“Farewell, O Hiawatha!”



War Song for Thanksgiving, 1847

Augustine Joseph Hickey Duganne was an American novelist and poet born in Boston in 1823. While still in his teens he began publishing patriotic poems in various newspapers including this poem that appeared in The National Era in 1847.

Duganne was married in Philadelphia before moving to New York City where he published many nobels and sketches before dying on October 20, 1884.

Several volumes of his poems were issued while he was alive and he wrote numerous books on government, literature, and art.

War Song for Thanksgiving, 1847

For The National Era.

It were a glorious strife, to guard
The ramparts of our land –
And at her portals stand,
Hurling back the invading hordes:
But to stain our patriot swords
With the blood of those who never
Raised the hostile hand,
Save in freedom’s bold endeavor,
Foreign foemen to withstand –
Is but lust, and wrong, and crime –
Branding us to endless time.

And they are mad who counsel now
The fetters and the steel,
Our triumph dark to seal:
Better far the olive-wreath
Offer now, than flames and death.
Pause, ye rash, unthinking zealots,
Ere ye rivet chains!
Freedom brooks nor kings nor helots –
Crowns and whips alike disdains.
Better now, in glory pause,
Than to break great Freedom’s laws!

Christian men, who lift your hearts
To Heaven, this day, in prayer –
And lay your conscience bare –
Know YE not, that War and Wrong
Can never make your temples strong.
Know YE not that blood and battles
Are not from the Lord?
Serve ye God’s great laws, or Vattel’s?
Grasp ye gospels, or the sword?
Lo! on high the record stands –
Ye, like Pilate, wash your hands!



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