I really enjoyed this writing by Harriet Beacher Stowe. It gave me a new insight to the word liberty and once again made me reconsider the culture of slavery in our country and what it truly meant for those directly involved. These two writings are juxtaposed when it comes to the idea of liberty. The first writing gives the more traditional, accepted definition of liberty: one of American sacrifice, pride and loyalty. On page three the "altar of liberty" is first introduced and it is a symbol in each writing. The Ward family in the first writing gives up everything that makes them comfortable and puts it on the altar of liberty. Are those really sacrifices though? The mother tells her son in the writing that she can replace what they have given away fairly quickly (page seven). With this sacrifice on the altar comes a human's self worth which is seen in Grace when she is trying to give away her stockings for the soldiers on page five. Because of her hysterical reaction when she learns her stockings are not appropriate to give, the reader can tell that she obviously thinks less of herself and is scared of being looked down upon by those around her. On page four gender roles are referred to when talking about fetching wood chips which is a direct relation to the Stanton reading and discussions we've had in class.
The second reading painted a darker picture of the idea of liberty and the other sacrifices that lay on the altar. In this reading a man's self-worth, life, and his family's father and husband is put on the altar. I think in this reading it is obvious that Stowe is asking her readers to reexamine the traditions and laws of America. In the last sentence she flat out tells her readers that there has not been any change since the start of the country's independence. Through her picture of the altar and her heart-wrenching narration of the selling of men, women, and children she is begging her readers to start a change. The illustration of the altar of liberty really convinced me just how much slavery was a part of American culture and how it was the key to their independence and being a free Union (page eleven). I also want to highlight a quote that really made me stop and think from page eleven, "...truly American spectacle,-the sale of a man!" Slavery was a part of American culture, liberty, and everyday life. As normal to them as some of the less attractive parts of our society today. The continued but more subdued gender inequality, racism, and downright indifference to others?
One question I had and also one quote I would like to point out; the last sentence of the first writing. Is Stowe being sarcastic here or is she highlighting a generation of boys and girls who were willing to do anything for their country simply because that was the way they were raised and they cannot imagine a different life?