Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/149

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SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH. 519

heir to that venerable title had been captivated by the fluency and sentimental descriptions of the democracies of Greece and Rome, which he found in his favourite classics, and he formed opinions of his own on the subject of political freedom with but little reference to the creed of his family. Pym, Hampden, and Algernon Sidney, were the objects of his idolatry ; their example excited his imagination, and their writings imbued him with those political principles which " grew with his growth, and strengthened with his strength." The Utopian notions, however, which so often mislead men of weak minds, had no such effect on Mr Mackintosh. He saw the necessity of sobering down all such fanciful theories to the level of real life, and of pruning and adapting them to the passions and weaknesses of human nature. He was above all impressed with the necessity of circumscribing his ideas of political freedom, which had before run wild, by the great outlines of the British constitution. In his own impres- sive and figurative language, he desired, that the light which might break in on England should be, " through well-contrived, and well-disposed windows, and not through flaws and breaches, the yawning chasms of our ruin."

The singular talents which young Mackintosh discovered while at Fortrose, and the extraordinary proficiency which he made in his studies, determined his friends to bestow upon him a university education, and he was accordingly, through the kindness of a relative, placed in King's college, Aberdeen, under Mr Leslie. He here also attended the lectures of James Uunbar, LL.D., pro- fessor of moral philosophy, and Mr William Ogilvie, professor of humanity.

While at Aberdeen he formed an acquaintance and intimacy with the late Rev. Robert Hall of Leicester, which continued throughout their future lives. They were inseparable while at college, and a biographical sketch of his deceased friend was amongst the last literary efforts of Mackintosh. It was in- tended for the new edition of Mr Hall's works published by Dr Gregory.

Having acquired a complete knowledge of Greek and mathematics, Mr Mackintosh, who had now determined on adopting the medical profession, re- paired to Edinburgh to complete his education at the university of that city. Here he attended the lectures of Dr Cullen and professor Black, preparatory to his taking the degree of doctor of medicine, and applying himself to regular practice in that profession. He also joined the well known literary club called the Speculative Society, instituted in 1764, in which he became a keen debat- er, and distinguished himself by the boldness of his opinions, and the ability and eloquence with which he expounded and maintained them. Amongst his associates at this period were Mr, afterwards lord Gillies, Mr, afterwards lord Moncrieff, and the late earl of Lauderdale, and amongst the number of his friends, the illustrious author of the " Wealth of Nations," who early discovered, and warmly encouraged, the promising talents of the young orator.

It was at this period that Mr Mackintosh's mind became seriously directed to- wards general literature, and to moral, political, and speculative philosophy, the result of his studying, which he did with the most serious attention, the works of Robertson, Smith, Clark, and Brown, who were then in the zenith of their fame. Having received his medical degree, although he had now determined to abandon that profession, to which, indeed, he had never been attached, he set out for London in the year 1787, in company with the eldest son of Sir James Grant of Grant, who had, about this period, become knight of the shire for the county of Moray. Undetermined as to his future pursuits, he lingered idly about the metropolis for some time, made a short visit to the continent, and finally returned to study law, having fairly parted with physic. In the year fol- lowing, viz. 1788, he succeeded, by the death of his father, to the estate of Kil- lochy, now worth about 900 per annum. Method and economy, however, were