Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/141

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SIR GEORGE MACKENZIE. 511

as both to acquit and sacrifice more than the whole number accused by his brethren. It was not those who were forgiven, but those who were not for- given, that fix upon the reign of Charles II., and also upon his Scottish advo- cate, the indelible character of oppression and blood-thirstiness. It must, at the same time, be allowed, that the acute mind of Sir George Mackenzie was never asleep to practical improvements in jurisprudence, although the lust of power was sufficient to subdue his efforts, or turn them into another course. While he wielded the sword of persecution himself, he did much to unfit it for the use of others. He countenanced and cherished a principle, which called for the exa- mination of all witnesses in criminal cases, in presence of the accused, instead of the secret chamber of the privy council. A frightful fiction of the law of both countries, by which no evidence could be led by a prisoner in opposition to the assertions of the libel made by the prosecutor, as representing the king, was removed by Sir George, forty years before it ceased to exist in England ; and he put a stop to the system of permitting the clerk of court to be enclosed with the king, for the purpose of assisting him. This was done with a view to pre< serve the independence of jurymen ; but let it be remarked, that in his work on criminal law, Ije advises the total abolition of trial by jury. In 1686, Mac- kenzie showed that he had a feeling of conscience, and that his religion, if en- tirely political, was not accurately squared to personal aggrandizement, by suf- fering himself to be dismissed for not agreeing to the catholic projects of James II. In 1688, however, he was restored, on the advancement of his successor, Dalrymple, to the presidency of the court of session. 7 The Revolution ter- minated his political career. At this feverish moment of struggle and disap- pointment, he could so far abstract his mind from politics, as to perform the greatest public service which is even now connected with his name, by founding the Advocates' Library. The inaugural speech which was pronounced on the occasion, is preserved in his works. The institution has flourished, and re- deems Scotland from the imputation of not possessing an extensive public library. After the Revolution, Sir George threw himself into the arms of the university of Oxford, the fittest receptacle for so excellent a vindicator of the old laws of divine right. He was admitted a student on the 2nd of June, 1690 ; but he did not long live to feel the blessings of the retirement he had praised, and for the first time experienced. He died at St James's on the 2nd May, 1691. He was still remembered in the national feeling as a great man, and his funeral was one of unusual pomp. He lay several days in state in the abbey of Holyrood House, whence his body was conveyed to the Grey Friars' churchyard, attended by a procession, consisting of the council, the nobility, the college of justice, the college of physicians, the university, the clergy, and many others.

Sir George wrote several works of a more laborious cast than those to which we have referred. His Institute of the Law of Scotland is well arranged, but, in comparison with the profoundness of Dalrymptaj is meagre, and its brevity inakes it of little use. His Laws and Customs in Matters Criminal, is full of useful information, and is the earliest arrangement (though not a very clear one) of our criminal code. His " Observations on the Laws and Customs of Nations as to Precedency, with the Science of Heraldry as part of the Law of Nations," is esteemed by heralds. When Stillingfleet and Lloyd made their critical at- tacks on the fabulous history of Scotland, Sir George, who seemed to consider it a very serious matter to deprive his majesty of forty ancestors, wrote in 1680 " A Defence of the Royal Line of Scotland," in which he comes forward as liis majesty's advocate, and distinctly hints to the contemners of the royal line, 7

' Fountainhall, 267.