Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/150

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520 SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.

not, at tills period, amongst the number of Mr Mackintosh's virtues, and the consequence was, that notwithstanding this handsome accession to his means, he soon found himself involved in pecuniary difficulties of so extensive and ur- gent a kind as compelled him to part with his patrimonial inheritance for the very inadequate sum of 9000. Still but loosely attached to his professional studies, he now permitted his attention to be diverted to the science of politics, and in 1789, published a pamphlet on the Regency Question, in which he as- serted the constitutional right of the heir-apparent to supply his father's place in the circumstances which then gave rise to the discussion. Pitt's theory, how- ever, prevailed, and thus the first published literary essay of Mr Mackintosh was found upon the losing side. Hitherto he had attracted but little public notice, and had been foiled in his attempt to obtain political celebrity. Both of these, however, were awaiting him, and on no distant day. In 1791, he published his celebrated work entitled " Vindiciae Gallicas, or a defence of the French Revolution and its English admirers, against the accusations of the right honourable Edmund Burke ; including some strictures on the late pro- duction of Monsieur de Calonne," an octavo volume of 379 pages. This work he sold, while yet but partly written, for a trifling sum ; but the merits and success of the production induced the publisher to depart from the original con- tract, and to give its author triple the sum stipulated for. The first two editions were disposed of within four months ; and a third appeared in the end of Au- gust, 1791. The extraordinary talent which this work displayed, procured Mr Mackintosh an extensive and illustrious circle of acquaintances, in which were, amongst others, Sheridan, Grey, Whitbread, Fox, the duke of Bedford, and his celebrated antagonist, Burke himself, who soon after the appearance of the " Vindioiae," opened a correspondence with him, and it is said succeeded in chang- ing and modifying to a considerable extent many of the opinions of its author.

Mr Mackintosh now (1792) entered himself as a student of Lincoln's Inn, and in 1795, was called to the bar by that society; but did not, for several years thereafter, attain any considerable practice. He attended the courte, however, and went the Norfolk circuits, but without much improvement to his business.

With the view of enlarging his income, which the want of professional suc- ress kept within narrow bounds, he, in the year 1798, announced his intention of delivering a course of lectures on " The Law of Nature and of Nations." A suspicion of his motives in a political point of view raised some obstacles in the way of this attempt ; but these being effectually removed by his Introductory Lecture, which was printed under the title of " A Discourse on the Law of Na- ture and of Nations," and which drew the most flattering eulogiums from both Mr Fox and Mr Pitt, he was permitted to proceed, and delivered his course in Lincoln's Inn hall to a large and respectable audience. These " Discourses " are allowed by all to comprehend nearly every excellency which human sagacity and human intelligence can bring to bear on such subjects ; profundity and felicity of thought, high intellectual power, and chaste and elegant language.

After the general election of 1802, Mr Mackintosh was retained as counsel in several controverted cases, and acquitted himself with great ability before committees of the house of commons, but still without attracting much public notice as a barrister. Next year, however, a case was put into his hands which at once gained him the highest professional reputation. This was the defence of M. Peltier, editor of " The Ambigu," a French journal, for a libel against Bonaparte, then first consul of France, and at that time at peace with this coun- try. The trial took place on the 2 1st of February, 1803, in the court of King's Bench. Mr Mackintosh stood alone and unsupported in the defence of Peltier,