The image above is a folk art painting by an unknown artist. The article below appeared in The New Yorker on Sept. 22, 2008.
In 1852, when Harriet Beecher Stowe finished “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” she wrote to a congressman, Horace Mann, who happened to be Nathaniel Hawthorne’s brother-in-law, to beg a favor. Might he know how to get a copy of her book to Charles Dickens? “Were the subject any other I should think this impertinent & Egotistical,” Stowe wrote, making of demurral a poor cloak for presumption. But she had reason to expect Dickens’s sympathy. A decade earlier, upon completing an unhappy tour of the United States, Dickens judged the country “the heaviest blow ever dealt at liberty.” Seeing slavery at first hand left him sick. “I really don’t think I could have borne it any longer,” he confessed, after riding a train whose passengers included a mother and her weeping children, sold away from their father by a fiend whom Dickens satirized as yet another American “champion of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”It would be going too far to say that Charles Dickens had it in for the original champion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Still, he rarely missed an opportunity to throw a dagger in Thomas Jefferson’s general direction, slurring, in his American novel, “Martin Chuzzlewit” (1844), that “noble patriot . . . who dreamed of Freedom in a slave’s embrace.”
Discerning readers knew which patriot he meant. Dickens was quoting the Irish poet Thomas Moore, who visited the United States soon after a scurrilous Scots journalist named James Callender published, in the September, 1802, Richmond Recorder, long-standing rumors that Jefferson, who was President at the time, had fathered children by one of his slaves: “Her name is SALLY.” Moore, inspired, wrote a poem--
The weary statesman for repose hath fled
From halls of council to his negro’s shed,
Where blest he woos some black Aspasia’s grace,
And dreams of freedom in his slave’s embrace!
—onto which Dickens, appalled, tacked an epilogue: “and waking sold her offspring and his own in public markets”
Hi, I'm Nina Mason, an author, investigative journalist, history buff, and self-professed Hamilton fan (not the musical, the historical figure). Herein, I will share interesting tidbits related to my investigation into my belief that the Reynolds Affair and duel with Aaron Burr were part of a larger conspiracy against Hamilton directed by Thomas Jefferson.