Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/152

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


522 SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.

when I learned from undoubted authority, that your thoughts towards me were not of the same nature. I was credibly, or rather certainly informed, that you had admitted into your minds the desperate pi'oject of destroying your own lives at the bar where you stand, and of signalizing your suicide by the previous de- struction of at least one of your judges. If that murderous project had been executed, I should have bceu the first British magistrate who ever stained with his blood the bench on which he sat to administer justice. But I could never have died better than in the discharge of my duty. When I accepted the office of a minister of justice, I knew that I ought to despise unpopularity and slander, and even death itself. Thank God I do despise them ; and I solemnly assure you, that I feel more compassion for the gloomy and desperate state of mind which could harbour such projects, than resentment for that part of them which was directed against myself. I should consider myself as indelibly disgraced, if a thought of your projects against me were to influence my judgment." He then passed sentence on them to be imprisoned for twelve months, the exact amount of punishment he had originally proposed.

During his residence in India, Sir James contributed a number of valuable papers to the " Asiatic Register," and supplied the late Dr Buchanan with a large quantity of material for his voluminous works on India. His return to England was hastened by a severe illness. He left Bombay in November 1811, retiring from the Recordership with a pension of 1200 per annum.

In July 1813, a little more than twelvemonths after his arrival in his native country, he was elected, through the interest of lord Cawdor, as representative for the county of Nairn ; an occasion which called him to visit the friends and the scenes of his youth; and no man could enjoy the happiness, or be more feelingly alive to all the romantic, endearing, and delightful recollections and associations, which the contemplation of objects familiar to our boyhood, and from which we have been long absent, is calculated to produce. He was, as all men of noble and generous minds are, an enthusiastic admirer of the external beauties of nature, and his native district afforded ample induce- ments forthe indulgence of this pure and exalted taste ; a taste -uhirh he him- self has beautifully said, " preserves those habits of reflection and sensibility which receive so many rude shocks in the coarse contests of the world.'*

In 1818, he was elected for Knaresborough in Yorkshire, through the in- fluence of the duke of Devonshire, and was re-chosen at the subsequent elections of 1820, 1826, 1830, and 1831. He was also elected Lord Rector of the uni- versity of Glasgow in 1822, and again in 1823. Sir James was now become a person to whom a national importance and consideration were attached, one of the marked and elevated characters of the country, who had acquired a conven- tional right from the soundness and capacity of his judgment, and the extraor- dinary splendour of his abilities, to take an active and prominent part in the management of her affairs, and a conviction of this truth prevailing in those high quarters where it could be acted upon, he was appointed in 1828, one of his nicTJesty's privy council, and on the formation of the Earl Grey adminis- tration in 1830, he was made on the 1st December a commissioner for Indian affairs.

In parliament Sir James took a prominent part in all questions connected with foreign policy, and international law; but more especially distinguished himself in the discussions on the alien bill, the liberty of the press, religious toleration, the slave trade, the settlement of Greece, reform in parliament, and on the right of our colonies to self-government But a question still more congenial to his philanthropic disposition and benevolent nature, than any of these, devolved upon him on the death of Sir Samuel Romilly. This was the consideration of