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For FEBRUARY, 1833.
Art. I. The History of England. By the Right Hon. Sir James Mackintosh, LL.D. M.P. Volume the Third. (Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopedia, Vol. xxxvn.) Fcap. 8vo- pp. xlii. 368. London, 1832.
'CIR James Mackintosh had proceeded to the 211th page of *^ 'this third volume of his History of England, when litera
* ture and his country were deprived of him by his lamented
• death.' A melancholy interest attaches to this portion of his unfinished labours; and we avail ourselves of the opportunity, to attempt, with the aid of two well written notices of his life and writings, now before us *, a brief memoir of a man who united in no ordinary degree the qualities, rarely associated, of the philosopher, the jurist, the forensic orator, and the man of letters.
The father of Sir James Mackintosh was a captain in the army, whose life was chiefly spent in foreign and garrison service. James, the eldest son, was born at Alldowrie in the county of Inverness, on the 24th of October, 1765. For his early instruction and discipline, he was greatly indebted to the superintending care of an excellent grandmother, upon whom the charge of him chiefly devolved. He was afterwards placed at the school of Mr. Stalker, at Fortrose in Kosshire, where his talents were so far elicited as to encourage his friends to determine on sending him to college, with a view to his being qualified for some liberal profession. He was accordingly placed at King's College, Aberdeen, under Mr. Leslie, where he soon distinguished himself by his proficiency in
• The Annual Biography and Obituary. 1833. Vol. xvn. Art. X.
North American Review. No. Lxxvii. Art. Sir James Mackintosh. The writer of this last article was introduced to Sir James, when on a visit to London in 1817, and during that and some subsequent visits, enjoyed, he says, a good deal of his society.
vOL. IX. N.s. N
Greek and mathematics; and it was there, when in his eighteenth year, that he first formed an acquaintance and close intimacy with that eminent friend of whom he had undertaken to be the biographer, when his own death prevented his paying that tribute to his memory. Mr. Hall was about a year and a half older than Sir James Mackintosh. Their tastes, at the commencement of their intercourse, were widely different; and upon some most important topics of inquiry, there was little or no congeniality of sentiment between them. But ' the sub-stratum of their minds 'seemed of the same cast'; and upon this, Sir James himself thought, their mutual friendship was founded. He became attached to Mr. Hall, he said, 'because he could not help it ' . He was 'fascinated by his brilliancy and acumen, in love with his 'cordiality and ardour, and awe-struck by the transparency of 'his conduct and the purity of his principles.' We cannot refrain from forestalling our notice of Dr. Gregory's Memoir of Mr. Hall, by transcribing from it the following paragraph, describing the intimacy of these two distinguished class-mates.
'They read together; they sat together at lecture, if possible; they walked together. In their joint studies, they read much of Xenophon and Herodotus, and more of Plato; and so well was all this known, exciting admiration in some, in others envy, that it was not unusual, as they went along, for their class-fellows to point at them, and say, "There go Plato and Herodotus". But the arena in which they met most frequently, was that of morals and metaphysics, furnishing topics of incessant disputation. After having sharpened their weapons by reading, they often repaired to the spacious sands upon the seashore, and still more frequently to the picturesque scenery on the hanks of the Don, above the old town, to discuss with eagerness the various subjects to which their attention had been directed. There was scarcely an important position in Berkeley's Minute Philosopher, in Butler's Analogy, or in Edwards on the Will, over which they had not thus debated with the utmost intensity. Night after night, nay, month after month, for two sessions, they met only to study or to dispute; yet no unkindly feeling ensued. The process seemed rather, like blows in that of welding iron, to knit them closer together. Sir James said, that his companion, as well as himself, often contended for victory; yet never, so far as he could then judge, did cither make a voluntary sacrifice of truth, or stoop to draw to and fro the serra Xoyopaxias, as is too often the case with ordinary controvertists. From these discussions, and from subsequent meditation upon them, Sir James learned more, as to principles, (such, at least, he assured me, was his deliberate conviction,) than from all the books he ever read. On the other hand, Mr. Hall through life reiterated his persuasion, that his friend possessed an intellect more analogous to that of Bacon, than any person of modern times; and that if he had devoted his powerful understanding to metaphysics, instead of law and politics, he would have thrown an uuusual light upuu that intricate but valuable region of inquiry. Such was the cordial, reciprocal testimony of these two distinguished men.' Memoir of Robert Hall. (Works, Vol. VI. pp. 14, 15.)
From Aberdeen, Mackintosh repaired to Edinburgh, to complete his education, where he spent three years, attending the lectures of Dr. Cullen and Professor Black, preparatory to his taking up the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Medical studies, however, had but a small portion of his attention; they had few attractions for him; and we are surprised that he should ever have thought of adopting, as a means of subsistence, a profession so little suited to his taste and habits of mind. Was it that the practice of law seemed to present still less scope for speculative and excursive inquiries, and that the science of law, in which he was so peculiarly fitted to excel, has hitherto been deemed an elegant study, rather than a branch of professional accomplishment? Mackintosh pursued the study of medicine, however, so far as to obtain, in IfttJ, his medical degree; on which occasion, he composed a Latin thesis, 'On Muscular Action,' afterwards published. On leaving the university, he repaired to the metropolis, ostensibly for the purpose of practising as a physician. If he had any serious intention of this nature, the step which he took, in engaging in political controversy, was the most likely to defeat his purpose. The great question of the day was the proposed Regency, in consequence of the first illness of George III. Mackintosh made his debut as a political writer, by a pamphlet in support of the views of Fox; and his first essay shared the fate of the cause which he espoused. Foiled and disappointed, the young politician repaired to the Continent, apparently with the view of renewing his professional studies. After spending a short time at Leyden, then the most celebrated medical school in Europe, he proceeded to Liege, where he was an eye-witness of the memorable contest between the Prince-Bishop and his subjects. His visit to the Continent must have been little more than a summer tour, since we find him, in this same year, again in London. About the same time, his father died, and bequeathed him a small landed property in Scotland. This may, perhaps, explain another circumstance; that, while as yet a physician without fees, and a writer without fame or influential friends, he ventured upon matrimony. In 17^9, he married Miss Stuart, 'a Scottish lady without beauty or fortune, but of * great intelligence and most amiable character;'—the sister to Mr. Charles Stuart, the author of several dramatic pieces. In her, he found a partner of his heart, who appreciated his character, and 'urged him on to overcome his almost constitutional in'(faience.'
In the spring of 1791, Mackintosh started into notoriety, as the Author of " Vindicice Gallicce, or a Defence of the French Revolution and its English admirers against the accusations of the lit. Hon. Edmund Burke." This work, an octavo volume of 379 pages, he is said to have sold, before it was completely written, for a trifling sum; but the publisher liberally presented the Author with triple the original price. At the end of four months, two editions had been sold, and a third appeared at the end of August 1791. The powerful talent displayed in this performance, procured for its Author the acquaintance of Sheridan, Grey, Whitbread, Fox, and the Duke of Bedford. It afterwards led to his being introduced to Burke himself, who invited him to his seat at Beaconsfield; and the visit is said to have resulted in a very considerable modification of the political opinions avowed in that brilliant but immature performance. Time—the very events of the following year—must, even without any such aid from the corrective wisdom of the venerable political philosopher, have wrought some change upon Mackintosh, in common with every sanguine admirer of the French revolution. Yet, those who were the most disappointed by the issue, were not the least sagacious observers; and history rejects alike the generous illusions to which Mackintosh surrendered himself, and the more elaborate misrepresentations of his great anti-Gallican antagonist *.
Fully determined now to relinquish the medical profession, Mr. Mackintosh, in 1792, entered himself as a student of Lincoln's Inn; and in 1795, he was called to the bar; but he does not appear to have obtained any considerable practice. In the year 1798, he projected, as a means of improving his income, the delivering a course of lectures on the Law of Nature and of Nations; and he applied to the Benchers of Lincoln's Inn, to be allowed the use of their Hall for that purpose. It was not without difficulty that he succeeded in overcoming the objections
* 'Mackintosh,' remarks the American Reviewer, 'gives us the 'frothy effervescence of an immature mind which is still in a state of 'fermentation, while in Burke we have the pure, ripe, golden, glowing 'nectar.' There is certainly more ripeness and body in Burke's performance, though it is scarcely less heady. We little expected, however, to meet with so unqualified a panegyric upon that beautiful political romance from a Republican writer. 'Even now,' adds the Reviewer, 'although his (Burke's) practical conclusions have been 'confirmed by the event, and are generally acquiesced in, the public 'mind has no where—no, not even in England—readied the elevation 'of his theory. If it had, we should not witness the scenes that are 'now acting on the theatre of Europe!' This is strange language to come from a New-Englander; and we are really at a loss to know what is meant by Mr. Burke's political theory.
which were raised on the ground of his supposed Jacobin principles. To disprove the calumny, he published his Introductory Lecture, which met with general admiration; and Mr. Pitt himself, who was a bencher of Lincoln's Inn, spoke of it as the most able and elegant discourse on the subject in any language. It is said to have been at the immediate recommendation of Lord !L.oughborough, the Chancellor, that permission was at length given to use the Hall; and Mackintosh delivered his course to a large and most respectable audience. The Introductory Lecture is generally considered as the most valuable and important of his printed works; and the whole course, if of any corresponding merit, would be a precious acquisition. But we can scarcely entertain the hope that he has left any thing more than imperfect memoranda. In these lectures, it is remarked by Mr. Campbell, Mackintosh, with the eye of a true philosopher, laid bare the doctrines of Rousseau and Vattel, and of a host of their followers, who borrowed their conceptions of the law of nature from the savages of the forest, or from the abodes of the brute creation.' The errors which he combated, have now, however, become so far obsolete, that, eminent as was the service rendered to science at the time, these Lectures would now, perhaps, be deprived of some portion of their interest.
Subsequently to the general election in 1802, Mr. Mackintosh was retained as counsel in several cases of contested elections, and acquitted himself with ability before committees of the House of Commons. The first occasion, however, on which he distinguished himself at the bar, was as counsel in defence of Peltier, the Kilitor of the Ambigu, who was prosecuted in Feb. 1803, for a libel against Bonaparte, then First Consul of France. Mr. Perceval, afterwards prime minister, as attorney general, conducted the prosecution, and was seconded by Mr. Abbot, afterwards Lord Tenterden. Against this array of talent and power, Mackintosh appeared as the single counsel for the defendant; and he delivered, on this occasion, an oration in defence of the liberty of the press, which has been pronounced one of the most finished specimens of modern eloquence. Lord Ellenborough declared it to be the most eloquent oration he had ever heard in Westminster Hall. A translation of it into French, by Mad. de Stael, was circulated throughout Europe. 'We are not sure,' remarks the writer in the North American Review, 'that there 'is any single speech in the English language, which can fairly 'be compared with it.'
The reputation which Mr. Mackintosh had previously acquired from his Lectures at Lincoln's Inn, had obtained for him the appointment of Professor of the Laws in the East India College at Hertford. His eloquent defence of Peltier procured him the offer of the Recordership of Bombay, which, after some hesitation,