“Witness, eternal God! Oh, witness that, from this hour, I will do what one man can to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!”
George Shelby makes this dramatic vow after Tom’s death in Chapter XLI, when he decides to work against slavery. The quote instances Stowe’s most sentimental, melodramatic style, but it also brings a note of moral conclusion to the problem of how a person should undertake to stop slavery. Men like George’s father and St. Clare can see the evil of slavery but continue to tolerate and practice it. St. Clare says that he does so because there is nothing one man can do to change an entire system. But Stowe advocates acting on one’s own conscience, in accordance with one’s personal relationship to God. When George declares that he will do “what one man can” he essentially overrides all concerns about “the system.” Every individual should work against oppression to the extent that he or she can, in his or her own life. If all people did this, Stowe implies, following their consciences and practicing Christian love, then slavery would cease to exist.