“Go it, husband; go it, bear,” was Mr. Lincoln’s comment on that part of Douglas’s address. I went to the debate with a very strong prejudice against Douglas, looking upon him as one of the most time-serving of those Northern men whom the Abolitionists called “dough-faces.” I confess that my views of the man were considerably modified. I admired the pluck he showed in speaking when his voice was in tatters. Still more did I like the resolution he displayed in defying those leaders of his own party, including the President, who wanted him to retreat from the ground he had taken, seeing that it had become practically Anti-Slavery.
At the same time I had an almost worshipful admiration for Lincoln, whom I had not before seen or heard. I expected a great deal from him. I thought his closing appeal in that great debate would contain some ringing words for freedom. He had, as I supposed, a great opportunity for telling eloquence. He stood almost on the ground that had drunk the blood of Lovejoy, the Anti-Slavery martyr. I felt that that fact ought to inspire him. I was disappointed. Mr. Lincoln’s speech was altogether colorless. It was an argument, able but perfectly cold. It was largely technical. There was no sentiment in it. Lovejoy had died in vain so far as that address was concerned. I am free to say that I was led to doubt whether Mr. Lincoln was then in hearty sympathy with any movement looking to the freedom of the slave, and this impression was not afterwards wholly removed from my mind.
My father was a subscriber to the National Era, the Anti-Slavery weekly that was published in Washington City before the war by Dr. Gamaliel Bailey. Being the youngest member of the family, I usually went to the post-office for the paper on the day of its weekly arrival. One day I brought it home and handed it to my father, who, as the day was warm, was seated outside of the house. He was soon apparently very much absorbed in his reading. A call for dinner was sounded, but he paid no attention to it. The meal was delayed a little while and then the call was repeated, but with the same result. At last the meal proceeded without my father’s presence, he coming in at the close and swinging the paper in his hand. His explanation, by way of apology, was that he had become very much interested in the opening installment of a story that was begun in the Era, and which he declared would make a sensation. “It will make a renovation,” he repeated several times.
That story, it is almost needless to say, was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and it is altogether needless to say that it fully accomplished my father’s prediction as to its sensational effects. Since the appearance of the Bible in a form that brought it home to the common people, there has been no work in the English language so extensively read. The author’s name became at once a cynosure the world over. When Henry Ward Beecher, the writer’s distinguished brother, delivered his first lecture in England, he was introduced to the audience by the chairman as the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher Stowe.