Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/151

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SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH. 521

against an array of talent on the opposite side which would have appalled any man of less resolution, and which nothing but a strong confidence in his own abilities and intellectual researches could have enabled him to encounter.' His principal antagonists in this case were Mr Perceval, at that period attorney general, afterwards prime minister, and Mr Abbot, afterwards lord Tenterden. Mr Mac- kintosh's pleading on this celebrated trial was one of the most masterly efforts of the kind which had ever been witnessed. It was one continued strain of powerful, impressive, and classical eloquence. His whole energies were concentrated in the effort, and the whole stores of his vast and retentive memory, and of his elegant and felicitous fancy were brought forth and mingled with the current of his eloquence, imparting to it a richness and splendour of tint, which great and original minds only can produce. His speech on this occasion was de- clared by lord Ellenborough to be " the most eloquent oration he had ever heard in Westminster Hall." A still more flattering compliment was paid the orator by Madame de Stael, who translated the speech into French, in which shape it was circulated throughout Europe.

Mr Mackintosh was at this period professor of general polity and the laws in the East India college at Hertford, an appointment which the reputation he had acquired from his " Lectures on the Law of Nature and of Nations " had obtained for him ; but the splendid display of talent which he had exhibited in his defence of Peltier procured him much more powerful patronage, and opened up to him prospects more commensurate to his deserts. He now attracted the notice of the government, by which he was considered a person who might be profitably employed in some official situation connected with the state, and he was accordingly offered in the same year the recordership of Bombay. This appointment he accepted, though not without some hesitation, and before setting out he received the honour of knighthood. He remained in Bombay for seven years, discharging the grave and important duties of a chief judge with an upright- ness, integrity, and ability unsurpassed in the annals of criminal jurisprudence. Faithful to the high trust reposed in him, he yet tempered the severity of the laws by mingling, whenever it was possible to do so, some drops of mercy in the cups of bitterness, which duty to his country and to society compelled him to administer. A well judged and discriminate lenity, that lenity which makes the laws not an object of contempt and ridicule, but of love and reverence, and which leaves no room for grudge or reflection at their awards, formed one of the most prominent and god-like features in the judicial character of Sir James Mackintosh. A re- markable and beautiful instance of his application of this principle occurred during his recordership in Bombay. Two young natives were brought before him, tried, and convicted of having conspired to waylay and murder a Dutch- man from Cochin. The penalty attached to the crime by the law was death. Some circumstances in the case, however, afforded Sir James an opportunity of extending mercy to them so far as to save their lives, and he availed himself of it. The prisoners were in the mean time withdrawn from the bar, and during this interval came to a resolution, between themselves, of murdering their judge when they should be called up to receive, as they expected, sentence of death, and for this purpose they provided themselves with knives. The design of the ruffians was most providentially discovered in sufficient time to prevent its being carried into effect. The sequel, a story worthy of the best days of Home, and of the noblest and best of her citizens, will be best told in the language which Sir James himself addressed to the culprits, when they were brought again be- fore him to receive the commuted sentence which his lenity had procured for them. " I was employed," he said, addressing the prisoners, " in considering the mildest judgment which public duty would allow me to pronounce on you,