THE LOFTY AND THE LOWLY; or Good in All and None all-good. By M. J. McIntosh, author of "Two Lives, or to seem and to be," &c. &c.
When we received this book, our first impression was that we had got another of the books that have been written to defend our glorious union against the results of the shock which it is supposed to have suffered from the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin. With that impression we began to read it in order to quality ourselves for our official duty of reviewing it. That which was undertaken as a task—not without reluctance, soon became a pleasure. We have read the two volumes with a degree of satisfaction and approbation altogether unexpected on our part. To compare it, as a work of fiction, with Mrs. Stowe's world-renowned production, or with any of the works of Dickens, would be to do it a serious injustice. Though like them it is a fiction and though like them it attempts to produce political and social effects, it belongs to a very different school of composition. It might be fairly enough compared with the compositions of Miss Edgeworth, which had so great a popularity thirty or forty years ago, and we think the author would have no reason to fear very much, the result of such a comparison.
In the dedication of this book to her brother Capt. McIntosh of the Navy, the author describes it as an "attempt to depict with an equal love the home of their childhood and that of their maturer life." Miss McIntosh, then, is a Southern lady, if not with Northern principles, at least with Northern attachments and sympathies. Her book is, on the whole, such as might be expected from an intelligent and high-minded lady whose heart is warm with natural affection toward her kindred and her birth-place, and who has felt something at least of those Christian sensibilities which are nobler and more inspiring than all the natural affections.
Our author informs us that her work was commenced two years ago, and that having been laid aside for a time in deference to other engagements, it was resumed last summer, and "completed with little if any deviation from the original plan." Of course it is only in the "deviations from the original plan," that it can be considered as having any reference to Uncle Tom's Cabin, or as aiming to counteract or modify the impression which that book is producing on the public, whether at the North or at the South. For our own part, we commend the book, as it is, to readers in all parts of the country, and especially to Southern readers, for whose benefit, "the original plan," we cannot but think, was especially intended, and to whose natural prejudices the few deviations from that plan may make it more acceptable.
Consciously or unconsciously, Miss McIntosh, if we mistake not, makes a distinction which too many are prone to overlook. The character of Southern ladies and gentlemen, or the character of Southern manners and society, is one thing; and the character of the institution of slavery as established and defined by Southern laws, and as illustrated by the statistics and the every day incidents of that slave-trade without which slavery would—slowly perhaps, but surely and safely—cease to be, is another thing. Doubtless these two things act upon each other and are intimately related to each other; but they are not the same. Miss McIntosh's feelings recognize this distinction. She loves and honors her native South; but in her heart she does not love or honor slavery. Her book seems to have been written, not, like some base books which we might name, for the purpose of making unwary readers believe that slavery is a just and wholly beneficent arrangement of the relations between the rich and the poor, but partly at least for the purpose of wakening intelligent and high minded people at the South to a consciousness of the duties which they owe to themselves and their children and to the poor and helpless laborers under their care and government.
The plan of the story in these two volumes made it impossible to avoid giving some representations of slavery. But these representations are only incidental to the main object. Slavery as it exists in those states where the whole natural increase of the enslaved population is swept away by a relentless slavetrade, or as it exists in those new states in which the victims of that slavetrade are absorbed,—the slavery which is portrayed in Mrs. Stowe's book—does not come without the scope of the work now before us. The only slavery described in these volumes, is that which exists on "the eastern shore of Georgia, south of the Savannah river,"—almost the same locality with that chosen by Dr. Hall the author of Frank Freeman's Barber-shop. If we wanted to exhibit to a foreigner the very fairest aspect which the institution of slavery can assume in the United States, we would conduct him to that region rather than to any other. The counties of Chatham, Bryan, Liberty, McIntosh, &c., are just at that stage of development at which the importation of slaves has ceased because the plantations are already supplied, while the exportation of slaves is not yet organized for the two-fold reason that the planters are rich by the sale of rice and cotton, and that the number of slaves has not yet outgrown the possibilities of lucrative employment. There if anywhere it is, that we may look for slaves like peasants, fearless of the slave-trader's lash, and for masters like educated and generous English landlords. There is anywhere we may look for masters loving the people among whom they were born, whose welfare is wholly committed to their kindness and justice, and among whom they expect to die. There it is that the earliest attempts were made, in a combined and systematic way, for the intelligent religious education and instruction of the slaves—attempts which began in the benevolent zeal of that truly Christian man Charles Colcock Jones. And even before that beginning, thirty years ago or more, Liberty country, with its old Congregational church at Midway, was familiarly spoken of as "the slave's paradise." Yet—shall we hesitate to say it?—we fully believe that even from those most favored counties along the coast of Georgia, "south of the Savannah river," facts might be collected to illustrate the capabilities of slavery, which would make the ears of Christendom to tingle. We have an undoubting conviction that if all the facts of slavery in those very counties could be fairly collected and philosophically digested, they would show to any candid and Christian mind, without going anywhere else for testimony, that the sovereign people of Georgia ought to address themselves, with the utmost wisdom of their statesmanship, and with the utmost zeal of their patriotism, to the legislative abolition of slavery.
We do not blame Miss McIntosh for taking her specimens of slavery from "the sample end." She took them, we dare say, with no unfair intention, where she found them. What her testimony is in regard to slavery, our limits this week will not permit us to show by citations; and we will not expose ourselves to a charge of misrepresentation by merely summing up our own impressions of her testimony.