Civil Conflict Draws Nearer

Those who thought the slavery problem would solve itself were reckoning only with politicians and editors. Time proved that a single book, published in 1852, would exert a far greater influence than legislators or the press: Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

When Mrs. Stowe began writing her book, she thought of it as only a minor sketch, but it widened in scope as the work progressed. Immediately upon its publication, it caused a sensation. More than 300,000 copies were sold the first year, and eight power presses ran day and night to keep up with the demand. It was soon translated into many languages.

The novel showed how inseparable cruelty was from the institution of slavery and how fundamentally irreconcilable were free and slave societies. The rising generation of voters in the north was deeply stirred by it. It inspired widespread enthusiasm for the antislavery cause, among young and old, appealing as it did to basic human emotions - indignation at injustice and pity for the helpless individuals exposed to ruthless exploitation.

In 1854, the old issue of slavery in the territories was renewed and the quarrel became more bitter. The region that now comprises Kansas and Nebraska was already attracting settlers, and, with a stable government instituted, it promised rapid development.