In this set of short stories Harriet Beecher Stowe paints two pictures of American families. One story takes place in 1776 and the other in 1850. In the first story the young family of a Revolutionary war captain discusses the importance of the war and the fight for liberty. In the end of the story the small family gives away most of what they own to support the soldiers who fight for freedom and equality. This is their sacrifice to the Altar of Liberty. In the second story Stowe writes about a young black family who live like any other American family. They work hard for a living, read the bible, and discuss how lucky they are live in “a free country now”. The family’s domestic bliss is quickly interrupted by police who arrest the father claiming that he is still a slave and that he still belongs to a man in Georgia. The father is sold on the auction stand soon after. This is his sacrifice on the Altar of Liberty.
Stowe highlights in these stories the two very different Altars of Liberty that have in many ways defined America’s history. The heart wrenching story of the innocent family giving up everything the own, down to the socks on their feet, portrays an image of the American Revolution that many people can identify with. This is the America we like to think about. This is the self-sacrificing “American Spirit” that many people hold so dear. But what good was all of this sacrifice and suffering when less than 100 years later there are groups of American citizens, such as the young family in the second story, who are treated more poorly than any colonist was ever treated by the British? The altar at which the young black father gave his sacrifice is the portrait of America people like to forget. I think it is easy for people to get so wrapped up in American pride that they fail to remember the many injustices our country has done to other people including African Americans, American Indians, and others.
Both of these stories hold equal importance in American history. They emphasize the bitter irony that those revolutionary war soldiers were fighting for freedom and liberty, but only for white people… white men as a matter of fact. I believe Stowe was trying to make a point about the way Americans were treating their fellow Americans in the 1850’s. Through these stories she illustrates the backwards motion of freedom after the Revolutionary War.