Chapter 9 Notes from Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 9

In a comfortable house in Ohio, a man and his wife are spending an evening with their young children. The woman prepares a cup of tea for her tired husband, Senator Bird, and asks him what has been happening in the Senate. Somewhat surprised, as his wife rarely asks him about matters of legislation, he begrudgingly tells her that the Senate has just passed a new law forbidding Ohio residents to give food and shelter to fugitive slaves from Kentucky. Mrs. Bird, a normally quiet and timid woman, strongly expresses her disgust at the legislation:

"'You ought to be ashamed, John! Poor, homeless, houseless creatures! It's a shameful, wicked, abominable law, and I'll break it, for one, the first time I get a chance; and I hope I shall have a chance, I do! Things have got to a pretty pass, if a woman can't give a warm supper and a bed to poor, starving creatures, just because they are slaves, and have been abused and oppressed all their lives, poor things!'" Chapter 9, pg. 81

The two begin to argue fervently, with Mr. Bird insisting that the legislation is sensible and sound, and Mrs. Bird calling it cruel and "unchristian." Mr. Bird is unwavering in his argument that the law must exist, if only to quell the growing public agitation in Kentucky. Mrs. Bird tries to appeal to her husband's humanity, demanding to know if he could truly turn away a slave should one appear, cold and hungry, at their door, begging for help. Mr. Bird, clearly unnerved by the question, drags his feet and attempts to offer a rebuttal.

Topic Tracking: Morality 1

Just then, the Birds' servant Cudjoe enters the room and urgently asks Mrs. Bird to follow him into the kitchen. Upon entering the kitchen, she calls for her husband, and they discover Eliza, with torn garments and one shoe missing, passed out on a chair. When she comes to, Eliza begs them to let her stay awhile, and Mrs. Bird eagerly complies, with no objections from her husband. After making up a bed for her and seeing her to sleep, Mr. and Mrs. Bird begin conversing, wondering who Eliza is and how she got there. Mr. Bird, in a contradiction of his earlier arguments, suggests that his wife might loan her some clothing and a cloak. Just then, Eliza awakens and asks to see Mrs. Bird. Eliza explains her predicament and appeals to Mrs. Bird, asking her if she has ever lost a child. Mrs. Bird begins to sob, as she has buried a child only a month before. Eliza tells her that she herself has lost two children and couldn't bear to live if she lost Harry as well:

"'I have lost two, one after another,--left 'em buried there when I came away; and I had only this one left. I never slept a night without him; he was all I had. He was my comfort and pride, day and night; and, ma'am, they were going to take him away from me,--to sell him,--sell him down south, ma'am, to go all alone,--a baby that had never been away from his mother in his life!'" Chapter 9, pg. 85

Mrs. Bird tells her they will make up a bed for her in another servant's room and discuss what to do in the morning. When she and Mr. Bird retire to the parlor, he tells her that Eliza will have to leave that night, lest she get caught. Mrs. Bird asks where he would take her, and he tells her that he knows of a former client who set his slaves free and bought some property in a secluded area, for the purpose of helping slaves who are trying to escape to freedom. Mr. Bird says that the passage to the place is tricky and he will have to drive her himself. After Mrs. Bird gathers some provisions for Eliza, she wakes her up, and Mr. Bird, Cudjoe, Eliza and Harry all gather into Mr. Bird's carriage. After a rough passage, the group at last makes it to the house, where they are received warmly by Mr. Bird's acquaintance. After the man welcomes Eliza into the house, Mr. Bird and his friend shake hands, and the Bird party leaves.

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