|Sir James Mackintosh|
Sir James Mackintosh
—by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
24 October 1765|
|Died||30 May 1832(aged 66)|
|Citizenship||United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland|
|Occupation||Political philosopher and politician|
Sir James Mackintosh (24 October 1765 – 30 May 1832) was a Scottish jurist, politician and historian. His studies and sympathies embraced many interests. He was trained as a doctor and barrister, and worked also as a journalist, judge, administrator, professor, philosopher and politician.
Mackintosh was born at Aldourie, 7 miles from Inverness. Both his parents were from old Highland families. His mother died while he was a child, and his father was frequently abroad, so he was brought up by his grandmother, and then schooled at Fortrose Seminary academy. He went in 1780 to King's College, University of Aberdeen, where he made a lifelong friend of Robert Hall, later a famous preacher. In 1784 he began to study medicine at Edinburgh University. He participated to the full in the intellectual ferment, became friendly with Benjamin Constant, but did not quite neglect his medical studies, and took his degree in 1787.
In 1788 Mackintosh moved to London, then agitated by the trial of Warren Hastings and the first lapse into insanity of George III. He was much more interested in these and other political events than in his professional prospects; and specially interested in the events and tendencies which caused or preceded the Revolution in France.
Marriages and children
In 1789 he married Catherine Stuart, whose brother Daniel later edited the Morning Post. His wife's prudence counteracted Mackintosh's own unpractical temperament, and his efforts in journalism became fairly profitable. They had a son, who died in infancy, and three daughters:
- Mary Mackintosh (1789–1876) married Claudius James Rich
- Maitland Mackintosh (1792–1861), married William Erskine
- Catherine Mackintosh (1795-18??) married William Saltonstall Wiseman, 7th Baronet (1794–1845), was the mother of William Saltonstall Wiseman, 8th Baronet, the Naval officer.
In 1797 his wife died, and next year he married Catherine Allen (died 6 May 1830), sister-in-law of Josiah II and John Wedgwood, through whom he introduced Coleridge to the Morning Post. They had two sons, one of whom died in infancy, and two daughters:
- Frances Emma Elizabeth Mackintosh (Fanny) (1800–1889), married Hensleigh Wedgwood.
- Robert Mackintosh (1803), died in infancy.
- Bessy Mackintosh (1804–1823)
- Robert James Mackintosh (1806–1864), colonial governor.
Meanwhile, Mackintosh was soon absorbed in the question of the time; and in April 1791, after long meditation, he published his Vindiciae Gallicae, a reply to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution. It was the only worthy answer to Burke that appeared in Burke's estimation. It placed the author in the front rank of European publicists, and won him the friendship of some of the most distinguished men of the time, including Burke himself. The success of the Vindiciae finally decided him to give up the medical for the legal profession. He was called to the bar in 1795 and gained a considerable reputation there as well as a tolerable practice.
His Vindiciae Gallicae was the verdict of a philosophic Liberal on the development of the French Revolution up to the spring of 1791. The excesses of the revolutionaries compelled him a few years later to oppose them and agree with Burke, but his earlier defence of the rights of man is a valuable statement of the cultured Whig's point of view at the time.
The width of his intellectual sympathies, joined to a constitutional indecision and vis inertiae, prevented him from doing more enduring work. His History of the Revolution in England, breaking off at the point where William of Orange is preparing to intervene in the affairs of England, is chiefly interesting because of Macaulay's admiring essay on it and its author.
As a lawyer his greatest public efforts were his lectures (1799) at Lincoln's Inn on the law of nature and nations, of which the introductory discourse was published and ran to several editions; the resulting fame helped open doors for him later in life. Mackintosh was also famed for his speech in 1803 defending Jean Gabriel Peltier, a French refugee, against a libel suit instigated by Napoleon - then First Consul (military dictator) of France. Peltier had argued that Napoleon should be killed at a time when Britain and France were at peace. The speech was widely published in English and also across Europe in a French translation by Madame de Staël, who became a friend of Mackintosh's. In 1803 he was knighted.
Judge of Bombay
He was appointed Recorder (chief judge) of Bombay, taking up the post in 1804. He was not at home in India, where he became ill, was disappointed by his literary progress with the mooted History of England, and he was glad to leave for England in November 1811.
Member of Parliament
Mackintosh declined the offer of Spencer Perceval to resume political life under the wing of the dominant Tory party, despite prospects of office. He entered Parliament in July 1813 as a Whig. He was the member for Nairn until 1818, and afterwards for Knaresborough, till his death. In London society, and in Paris during his occasional visits, he was a recognized favourite. On Madame de Staël's visit to London he was able to keep up in talk with her. A close friend was Richard Sharp MP, known as "Conversation Sharp". and both men belonged to the Whig social group, the King of Clubs. Mackintosh's parliamentary career was marked by his liberalism: he opposed reactionary measures of the Tory government; he supported and later succeeded Samuel Romilly in his efforts to reform the criminal code; and took a leading part both in Catholic emancipation and in the Reform Bill. He was, however, too diffuse and elaborate to be a telling speaker in parliament.
From 1818 to 1824 he was professor of law and general politics in the East India Company's College at Haileybury. While there, on 12 August 1823, Mackintosh wrote a two-sheet letter from Cadogan Place, London to James Savage asking for source material for Savage's edition of The History of Taunton by Joshua Toulmin.
In the midst of the attractions of London society and of his parliamentary avocations Mackintosh felt that the real work of his life was being neglected. His great ambition was to write a history of England; he also cherished the idea of making some worthy contribution to philosophy. It was not till 1828 that he set about the first task of his literary ambition. This was his Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy, prefixed to the seventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. The dissertation, written mostly in ill-health and in snatches of time taken from his parliamentary engagements, was published in 1831. It was severely attacked in 1835 by James Mill in his Fragment on Mackintosh. About the same time he wrote for the Cabinet Cyclopaedia a History of England from the Earliest Times to the Final Establishment of the Reformation. His more elaborate History of the Revolution, for which he had made great researches and collections, was not published till after his death. A privy councillor since 1828, Mackintosh was appointed Commissioner for the affairs of India under the Whig administration of 1830.
History of the Revolution in England in 1688
Mackintosh only completed to James II's abdication. However his voluminous notes on the Glorious Revolution came into the possession of Thomas Macaulay, who used them for his own History of the Revolution. Mackintosh's notes stopped in the year of 1701, where Macaulay's History also ends.
The premature death of Sir James Mackintosh at the age of sixty-six was attributed to a chicken bone becoming stuck in his throat, causing a traumatic choking episode. Although the bone was eventually removed, his suffering continued until he died a month later on 30 May 1832 and he was buried in Hampstead churchyard, having lived for much of his later life in London at 15 Langham Place.
A Life, by his son R. J. Mackintosh, was published in 1836. An edition of his works, in three volumes, (apart from the History of England) was published in 1846, containing his ethical and historical dissertations, a number of essays on political and literary topics, reviews, and other contributions to periodical publications, and speeches on a variety of subjects delivered at the bar and in parliament.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sir James Mackintosh.|
- For an account of Mackintosh's correspondence and relationship with Sharp, see Knapman, D. - Conversation Sharp - The Biography of a London Gentleman, Richard Sharp (1759-1835), in Letters, Prose and Verse. [Private Publication], 2004. British Library
- Harvard College Library (2005) Hill, George Birkbeck Norman, 1835-1903. Johnsonian Miscellanies, extra-illustrated: Guide 21 October 2006.
- Christopher J. Finlay, ‘Mackintosh, Sir James, of Kyllachy (1765–1832)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2010, accessed 16 Sept 2010.
- Arguments Concerning the Constitutional right of Parliament to Appoint a Regent (1788).
- Vindiciæ Gallicæ: A Defence of the French Revolution and its English admirers against the accusations of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke, including some strictures on the late production of Mons de Calonne (1791).
- A Letter to the Right Honourable William Pitt (1792).
- A Letter from Earl Moira to Colonel McMahon (1798).
- A Discourse on the Study of the Law of Nature and Nations (1799).
- The Trial of Jean Peltier for Libel against Napoleon Buonaparte (1803).
- Proceedings at a General Meeting of the Loyal North Britons (1803).
- Plan of a Comparative Vocabulary of Indian Languages (1806).
- Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy (1830).
- The Life of Sir Thomas More (1830).
- The History of England (1830–1832, 3 vols.).
- History of the Revolution in England in 1688, prefaced by a notice of the Life, Writings and Speeches of Sir James Mackintosh (1834).
- Memoirs (edited by Robert James Mackintosh, 1835, 2 vols.).
- Inaugural Address (edited by J. B. Hay, 1839).
- Speeches, 1787-1831 (1840).
|Rector of the University of Glasgow
Baron Brougham and Vaux
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: James Mackintosh|
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Harrington, Jack (2010), Sir John Malcolm and the Creation of British India, Chs. 1 &3, New York: Palgrave Macmillan., ISBN 978-0-230-10885-1
- Mackintosh, James (1791). Vindiciae Gallicae: Defence of the French revolution and its English admirers, against the accusations of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke, London: Printed for G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 378 p. (online)
- Mackintosh, James (1792). Apologie de la Révolution française: et de ses admirateurs anglais, en réponse aux attaques d'Edmund Burke, avec quelques remarques sur le dernier ouvrage de M. de Calonne, Paris: F. Buisson, 362 p.
- Mackintosh, James (1799). A Discourse on the Study of the Law of Nature and Nations, London: Thomas Cadell, W. Davies, John Debrett, W. Clarke, 68 p. (online)
- Mackintosh, James (1814). Considérations sur la liberté de la presse, puisées dans la plaidoyer ... du M. Mackintosh, defenseur de M. Peltier, accusé ... d'être l'auteur d'un libelle politique contre Napoléon Buonaparte, Paris: J.G. Dentu, 121 p.
- Mackintosh, James (1829). Mélanges philosophiques, Paris: A. Johanneau, 358 p. (online)
- Mackintosh, James, William Wallace, Robert Bell (1830). The History of England, Philadelphia: Carey & Lea (online: vol. 1, 2, 3)
- Mackintosh, James (1834). History of the Revolution in England in 1688, Paris: Baudry's European Library (online: vol. 1)
- Mackintosh, Robert James (1836). Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh, London: E. Moxon, (online: vol. 1, 2)
- Mackintosh, James (1846). The Miscellaneous Works of the Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, three volumes (online: vol. 1, 2, 3)