English, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in PROSPECTS: AN ANNUAL OF AMERICAN CULTURAL STUDIES, vol. 27 (2002), pp. 201-245. Copyright 2002 Cambridge University Press. Used by permission.


In 1853, Harriet Beecher Stowe filed a copyright suit against F. W. Thomas, a Philadelphia printer who had published an unauthorized German translation of Uncle Tom's Cabin in his newspaper, Die Freie Presse. Stowe brought suit in the federal circuit court in Philadelphia, thus ironically placing her claim in the hands of Justice Robert Grier, a notable enforcer of slaver-owners' interests under the Fugitive Slave Law. Grier found that Stowe's property rights in her novelistic plea for resistance to the Fugitive Slave Law were very narrow and that she could not prevent Thomas from publishing a translation without her authorization.