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Mrs. Shelby believed in kind treatment and education for her slaves. She treated them almost like family, tried to do her best for each of them, and believed families should be kept together. She also makes note of Tom's loyalty, and the fact that her husband was to repay that loyalty with his freedom. Mrs. Shelby takes her religion and duty seriously; she puts her moral beliefs and the respect of who she calls her "servants" first. In a world of slavery, she didn't see the slaves as inhuman, but the human beings they were. Her intent was to shame her husband, to make him see that souls were woth more than money.
"Her husband, who made no professions to any particular religious character, nevertheless reverenced and respected the consistency of hers, and stood, perhaps, a little in awe of her opinion. Certain it was that he gave her unlimited scope in all her benevolent efforts for the comfort, instruction, and improvement of her servants, though he never took any decided part in them himself."
"What! our Tom?--that good, faithful creature!--been your faithful servant from a boy! O, Mr. Shelby!--and you have promised him his freedom, too,--you and I have spoken to him a hundred times of it. Well, I can believe anything now,--I can believe _now_ that you could sell little Harry, poor Eliza’s only child!" said Mrs. Shelby, in a tone between grief and indignation."
"I have tried--tried most faithfully, as a woman should--to do my duty to these poor, simple, dependent creatures. I have cared for them, instructed them, watched over them, and know all their little cares and joys, for years; and how can I ever hold up my head again among them, if, for the sake of a little paltry gain, we sell such a faithful, excellent, confiding creature as poor Tom, and tear from him in a moment all we have taught him to love and value? I have taught them the duties of the family, of parent and child, and husband and wife; and how can I bear to have this open acknowledgment that we care for no tie, no duty, no relation, however sacred, compared with money? I have talked with duty to him as a Christian mother, to watch over him, pray for him, and bring him up in a Christian way; and now what can I say, if you tear him away, and sell him, soul and body, to a profane, unprincipled man, just to save a little money? I have told her that one soul is worth more than all the money in the world; and how will she believe me when she sees us turn round and sell her child?--sell him, perhaps, to certain ruin of body and soul!"
Uncle Tom's Cabin