Thursday, October 16, 2008

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel about the evils of slavery that stirred the conscience of Americans and helped to bring about the Civil War.

Stowe’s father and six of her brothers were ministers. All of them were strongly opposed to slavery. After the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1832, she met many other abolitionists. Visiting plantations in nearby Kentucky, she saw slavery in operation, and her hatred of the institution deepened.

Harriet Beecher had married Professor Calvin Stowe in 1832. They moved to Maine in 1850, the same year that the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. The law made it easier for runaway slaves to be returned to the South. Stowe was so angry about this, she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly.

Published in 1852, it is the story of a slave named Uncle Tom who dies after he is beaten by a plantation owner named Simon Legree. The book’s powerful portrayal of the evils of slavery shocked its readers. Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold more than 300,000 copies in its first year and about two million copies before the start of the Civl War. When President Lincoln met Stowe during the Civil War, he said to her, “So this is the little lady who wrote the book that made this great war.”

Civil War, Literature, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1832, 1850, Slavery, 1852, Important People

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Benedict Arnold

Today, the name Benedict Arnold is a synonym for traitor. But in the early years of the American Revolution, Arnold was a hero. He led a daring attack on Quebec in 1775, and in 1777 his boldness and bravery helped win the Battle of Saratoga.

Why did Arnold turn traitor? First, he was deeply in debt and desperate for money. Second, he believed he had not been treated fairly. He felt he deserved more recognition and higher rank. The British promised to pay him handsomely for his treachery and give him high ranking in the British army.

Arnold began passing military information to the British in 1779. After he was named commander of the fort at West Point, a strategic post on New York’s Hudson River, he plotted to turn West Point over to the British.

Major John Andre, a British officer, met secretly with Arnold on September 21, 1780, but was captured by American soldiers, who found incriminating papers in his boot. Andre was hanged as a spy, and Arnold fled to safety aboard a British ship. After his treachery was exposed, Benedict Arnold led small British forces in destructive raids on Richmond, Virginia, and New London, Connecticut.

Although Arnold fought for the British against his own countrymen in the final years of the war, the British didn’t give him the high position or all the money they had promised him.

He died in England a bitter man.