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The following letters were written by Mrs. Stowe for her own personal friends, particularly the members of her own family, and mainly as the transactions referred to in them occurred. During the tour in England and Scotland, frequent allusions are made to public meetings held on her account ; but no report is made of the meetings, because that information was given fully in the newspapers sent to her friends with the letters. Some knowledge of the general tone and spirit of the meetings seems necessary, in order to put the readers of the letters in as favorable a position to appreciate them as her friends were when they were received. Such knowledge it is the object of this introductory chapter to furnish.
One or two of the addresses at each of several meetings I have given, and generally without alteration, as they appeared in the public journals at the time. Only a very few could be published without occupying altogether too much space; and those selected are for the most part the shortest, and chosen mainly on account of their brevity. This is certainly a surer method of giving a true idea of the spirit which actually pervaded the meetings than could be accomplished by any selection of mere extracts from the several speeches. In that case, there might be supposed to exist a temptation to garble and make unfair representations; but in the method pursued, such a suspicion is scarcely possible. In relation to my own addresses, I have sometimes taken the liberty to correct the reporters by my own recollections and notes. I have also, in some cases, somewhat abridged them, (a liberty which I have not, to any considerable extent, ventured to take with others,) though without changing the sentiment, or even essentially the form, of expression. What I have here related is substantially what I actually said, and what I am willing to be held responsible for. Many and bitter, during the tour, were the misrepresentations and misstatements of a hostile press; to which I offer no other reply than the plain facts of the following pages. These were the sentiments uttered, this was the manner of their utterance; and I cheerfully submit them to the judgment of a candid public.
I went to Europe without the least anticipation of the kind of reception which awaited us; it was all a surprise and an embarrassment to me. I went with the strongest love of my country, and the highest veneration for her institutions; I every where in Britain found the most cordial sympathy with this love and veneration; and I returned with both greatly increased. But slavery I do not recognize as an institution of my country; it is an excrescence, a vile usurpation, hated of God, and abhorred by man; I am under no obligation either to love or respect it. He is the traitor to America, and American institutions, who reckons slavery as one of them, and, as such, screens it from assault. Slavery is a blight, a canker, a poison, in the very heart of our republic; and unless the nation, as such, disengage itself from it, it will most assuredly be our ruin. The patriot, the philanthropist, the Christian, truly enlightened, sees no other alternative. The developments of the present session of our national Congress are making this great truth clearly perceptible even to the dullest apprehension.