15 AUGUST 1846, Page 17


THIS publication has probably been suggested by the preceding collections of the contributions of Sydney Smith, Macaulay, and Jeffrey, to the Edinburgh Review • though it differs considerably from the contents of those collections, which consisted entirely of "articles," with some few exceptions in the case of Sydney Smith. In The Miscellaneous Works of Sir James Mackintosh the exception is almost the rule. The con- tributions to the Edinburgh Review are comparatively few in number ; but the volumes contain the choice productions of Mackintosh, whatever their nature—history, biography, essays, dissertation, pamphlet, article, address, and speech ; and they may be looked upon as the intellectual monument of a various and accomplished but somewhat overrated author and politician.

The collection begins with what many may think the best work of Mackintosh, the "Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy" ; which, though not devoid of his faults of diffusion and digression, exhi- bits a large amount of reading, carries the reader over the history of the subject, and varies an unattractive theme by the biography of those philosophers who contributed to the progress of the philosophy; so that it forms a portrait-gallery of moralists as well as a review of the prin- ciples and progress of morals. In a mere critical estimate, however, we are inclined to rate the introductory lecture on the Law of Nature and Nations as the most complete composition of Mackintosh ; for it possesses greater breadth and comprehensiveness, with less of extraneous topics, than perhaps any other of his productions. The agreeable Life of Sir Thomas Moore, (originally published, we think, in Lardner' s Cycloptedia,)

• does not call for particular remark. The" Vindiche Gallicte" is properly included for its biographical character—the pamphlet by which the fame of Mackintosh was at once formed and established, and he was introduced to • those party connexions by which he certainly "got," if "he gave." The

• reader, however, who now looks at this "lucky hit," will find it some- what empty, and sadly contrasting with the profound philosophy, rich eloquence, and elevated rhetoric of the Reflections it was assumed to overthrow or impair. But the fact was, that decorous Whi,ggery could not patronize Tom Paine or The Age of Reason; and the more scru- pulous of the party were glad of anything which seemed to meet Burke in his own style, and had the semblance of political philosophy if not the substance. Contemporary opinion long since passed judgment 7.on the defence of Peltier for a libel against Bonaparte, as a rather heavy lecture delivered in a wrono. place ; and those who should now attempt Its perusal will not feel inclined to disturb the verdict. It is as well to -lave the selection of the Parliamentary orations--from the speech on the case of Genoa, in 1815, to the expected and disappointing effort in favour of the Reform Bill, in 1831—as completing his works, and filling up the third volume, which had otherwise been scanty. They will not, bow- - ever, reverse the general judgment ; which was, that the speeches of Mackintosh were rather essays than orations—that the speaker talked about the scholastic commonplaces rather than applied the principles of

• the subject to the practical question. "Too deep for his hearers," he "still went on refining"—and it may be added, wearying; but, unlike • Burke, he neither rose to the height nor penetrated to the depths of a great argument, and was scholastic rather than universal. The same character of mind—disquisitional with digressions—is often visible in his articles. He rarely "sticks to his text " : a scholastic commonplace, elegant but artificial, brings us to the theme; which he continually leaves for collateral or subordinate topics—as if a composer should break off his melody in the middle, that the accompaniment might be heard alone. Nor were his subjects well chosen for permanent interest : they generally wanted largeness to sustain themselves after the occasion ; and Mackin- tosh was deficient in that richness of rhetoric, if not of imagination by which Macaulay renders his nominal theme a mere standing-place from which to make his cast and sweep contemporary history and biography into his net. Of his articles, the greatest subjects are an estimate of the characters of Bacon and Locke, and a review of the partition of Poland— a very able paper ; perhaps the completest is the refutation of the claim on behalf of Charles the First to the authorship of " Eikon Basilike."

The reputation of Mackintosh will finally rest upon his "Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy," and the fragment of his History of England, which the editor of this collection has properly rebaptized under the title of a " Review of the Causes of the Revolution of 1688." Of these two works, the last will unquestionably be the most read ; as it will furnish the best measure of the character of the genius of Mackintosh, both in its merits and defects. It was his pet subject ; he had considered it for years; as a practical, or at least a party poli- tician, he was enabled to correct speculation by experience; it was com- posed in the maturity of his mind; and as the greater includes the less, it exhibits all his qualities more completely than any other of his works. But those qualities did not form the historian. He had, no doubt, studied the subject in all its phases, not merely as an historian, but as a Whig : for the principles of the Glorious Revolution was one of the garments of the party till it was worn out ; and he enjoyed some peculiar facilities by his reputation and connexion in procuring access to information. His habitual political and philosophical studies had enriched and elevated bis mind, and long practice had formed his style. But it is useless to pro- ceed "invite Minerva " : Mackintosh was designed for a professor or lecturer, not for a politician or histoi ian. He was not so much deficient in narrative, as unable to continue narrating. Ile looked at things not to tell, but to talk about them. He must fuq explain the whole. Scaliger says that Lucan stops his narrative for a wise remark : Mackie- tosh suspends his history. for an episodical treatise. The determination of

James to force Papists Into the Church carries the writer back to the time of Henry the Eighth, and gives rise to a curious enough dissertation

of the power of the Crown as the held of the Church. The public feeling

which the persecution of the Protestants by Louis the Fourteenth gave rise to introduces the history of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,

an explanation of what the Edict was, and the causes which led to it,—

all informing and comprehensively brief, but an ill-timed exercise of the " suspending power." The appointment of Tyrconnell to Ireland tempts

into the eternal subject of English misrule ; and by. the time the end is reached we have lost the thread of the story. The aim of James to divide the Protestant Dissenters from the Church by the Act of Indulgence

facilitates an account of the persecutions of the Nonconformists under Charles the Second, and of the state of the prisons at the Hine ; as the mention of Jesuits serves to introduce the story of the order. The ap- proach of the Revolution gives rise to a disquisition on obedience, resist- ance, war, civil war, and so he goes on. These things not only impede the march of the main subject, but act as a drag upon the reader; and should all the more carefully have been avoided as the genius of Mackintosh, diffuse and deficient in vigour, had of itself a tendency to in- duce weariness.

Still, though not a great history, the Review of the Causes of the Re- volution is a very able and remarkable work ; and it contrasts forcibly with the hasty and flashy productions which it is our doom to have con- tinually before us. The very failings of the author, that detract from the character of the work as a history, add to its use as an exposition.

There is a fulness and minuteness of particulars which a critical his-

torian would have condensed, and much of which an artistical historian would have rejected, but which give a better picture of the age, and con- vey more specific information as to the ease against the Stuarts, than

might be considered consistent with the stately comprehensiveness and rapid march of history. The praise of general or historical impartiality must be allowed to Mackintosh : upon party points he is not, perhaps, so rigidly just. He handles a Whig Crown lawyer more tenderly than a Tory, and has a keen sensibility to the virtues of the house of Russell.

His style was a reflex of his mind. To all "universal propositions which denote a moral universality" there are many exceptions. "The

Cretans are always liars," merely means that in the Apostle's time liars were rife in Crete. With this qualification of the diffuseness of Mackin- tosh, it may be said that it was exhibited in single sentences. There is

continually something that might be struck out either as superfluous or not necessary. His deficiency of vigour is shown in a somewhat loaded ex- pansion, as his want of originality is visible in his imitative and artificial manner • not an imitation of any particular writer, but of the scholastic mode of rounding and balancing periods. His facility and elegance were more his own ; so was his sustained equality. He might not sear, but he never crept.

• His historical manner, so far as it was like anybody, resembled Hume;

but he pushed the balancing scepticism, the frequent reflections, and the occasional disquisition of that historian' to an undue extent. The intro-

duction of characters was a practice that Hume had in common with many other writers; but the mode of Mackintosh was closest to Hume. The sketch of Sunderland would furnish an example of needless or loaded members of sentences, but it is inferior in readable interest to that of the Marquis Halifax; not Montague, the poetaster, and the "Bufo" of Pope, but George Saville.

"Sir George Saville, created Marquis of Halifax by Charles H., claims the at

tention of the historian rather by his brilliant genius, by the singularity of his character, and by the great part which be acted in the events which preceded mid

followed, than by his political importance during the short period in which be held office under James. In his youth he appears to have combined the opinions of a republican with the most refined talents of a polished courtier. The frag-

ments of his writing which remain show such poignant and easy wit, such lively

sense, so much insight into character' and so delicate an observation of manners, as could hardly have been surpassed by any of his contemporaries at Versailles.

His political speculations being soon found incapable of being reduced to practice, melted away in the sunshine of royal favour: the disappointment of visionary hopes led him to despair of great improvements, to despise the moderate services which an individual may render to the community, and to turn with disgust from public principles to the indulgence of his own vanity and ambition. The dread of his powers of ridicule contributed to force him into office, and the attractions of his lively and somewhat libertine conversation were among the means by which he maintained his ground with Charles IL; of whom it was said by Dryden, that whatever his favourites of state might be, yet those of his affection were men of wit.' Though we have no remains of his speeches, we cannot doubt the eloquence of him who on the Exclusion Bill fought the battle of the Court against so great an orator as Shaftesbury. Of these various means of advancement be availed himself for a time, with little scruple and with some success. But he never obtained an importance which bore any proportion to his great abilities; a

failure which in the time of Charles II., may be in part ascribed to the remains of his opinions, but which, from its subsequent recurrence, must be still more im. put.W to the defects of his character. He had a stronger passion for praise than

For power, and loved the display of talent more than the possession of authority. The unbridled exercise of wit exposed him to lasting animosities, and threw a

shade of levity over his character. He was too acute in discovering difficulties— too ingenious in devising objections. He had too keen a perception of human weakness and folly not to find many pretexts and temptations for changing his

measures and deserting his connexions. The subtlety ot his genius tempted hirn to projects too refined to be understood or supported by numerous bodies of men. His appetite for praise, when sated by the admiration of his friends, was too apt to seek a new and more stimulating gratification in the applauses of his oppo- nents. • His weaknesses and even his talents contributed to betray him into in- constancy; which, if not the worst quality of a statesman, is the most fatal to his permanent importance. For one short period, indeed, the circumatances of his

situation snited the peculiarities of his genius. In the last years of Charles, his refined policy had found full scope in the arts of balancing factions, of occasion-

ally leaning to the vanquished, and always tempering the triumph of the victo- rious party, by which that monarch then consulted the repose of his declining years. Perhaps he satisfied himself with the reflection, that his compliance witia all the evil which was then done was necessary to enable him to save his mushy

from the arbitrary and bigoted faction which was eager to rule it." •

• The following account of the failures of James in conversion will fur- nish an example of the more familiar style.

"The King ailed in a personal attempt to convert Lord Dartmouth, whom he considered as his most faithful servant for having advised him to bring Irish troops into England, such being more worthy of trust than others; a remarkable instance of a man of honour adhering inflexibly to the Church of England, though his counsels relating to civil affairs were the most fatal to public liberty. Mid- dleton, one of the Secretaries of State, a man of ability, supposed to have no strong principles of religion, was equally inflexible. The Catholic divine who was sent to him began by attempting to reconcile his understanding to the mysterious doctrine of transubstantiation. Your Lordship,' said he, believes the Trinity.' Who told you so?' answered Middleton; 'you are come here to prove your own opinions not to ask about mine.' The astonished priest is said to have immediately retired. Sheffield, Earl of Alulgrave, is also said to have sent away a monk who came to convert him by a jest upon the same doctrine—' have convinced myself,' said he, by much reflection, that God made man; but I cannot believe that man can make God.' But though there is no reason to doubt his pleasantly or profaneness, his integrity, is more questionable. Colonel Kirke, from whom strong scruples were hardly to be expected, is said to have answered the King's desire that he would listen to Catholic divines, by declaring, that when . he was at Tangier he had engaged himself to the Emperor of Morocco, if ever he changed his religion, to become a Mahometan. Lord Churchill, though neither insensible to the kindness of James nor distinguished by a strict conformity to the epts of religion, withstood the attempts of his generous benefactor to bring over to the Church of Rome. He said of himself, 'that though he could not leadthe life of a saint, he was resolved, if there was ever occasion for it, to show the resolution of a martyr.' So much constancy in religious opinion may seem singular among courtiers and soldiers; but it must be considered, that the in- consistency of men's actions with their opinions is more often due to infirmity than to insincerity; that the members of the Protestant party were restrained from deserting it by principles of honour; and that the disgrace of desertion was much aggravated by the general impopultrity of the adverse cause, and by the violent animosity then raging between the two parties who divided England and Europe."

The acquittal of the Bishops may be taken as an example of the narra- tive.

" After a trial which lasted ten hours, the Jury retired, at seven o'clock in the evening, to consider their verdict. The friends of the Bishops watched at the door of the Jury-room, and heard loud voices at midnight and at three o'clock; so anxious were they about the issue, though delay be in such cases a sure symptom of acquittal. The opposition of one Arnold, the brewer of the King's house being at length subdued by the steadiness of the others, the Chief Justice was informed, at six o'clock in the morning, that the Jury were agreed in their verdict. The Court met at nine o'clock. The nobility and gentry covered the benches; and an Immense concourse of people filled the hall, and blocked up the adjoining streets. Sir Robert Langley, the foreman of the Jury, being, according to established form, asked Whether the accused were guilty or not guilty, pronounced the verdict, Not guilty.' No sooner were these words uttered than a loud huzza arose from - the audience in the court. It was instantly echoed from without by a shout of

• joy, which sounded like a crack of the ancient and massy roof of Westminster Hall. it passed with electrical rapidity from voice to voice along the infinite multitude who waited in the streets, reaching the Temple in a few minutes. For a short time no man seemed to know where he was. No business was done for hours. The Solicitor-General informed Lord Sunderland, in the presence of the Nuncio that never within the remembrance of man had there been heard such • es cri of applause mingled with tears of joy. The acclamations; says Sir John Reresby, were a very rebellion in noise.' In no long time they ran to the camp at lioueslow, and were repeated with an ominous voice by the soldiers in the hear- ing of the King; who,. on being told that they were for the acquittal of the Bishops, said, with an ambiguity probably arising from confusion, much the worse for them.' The Jury were everywhere received with the loudest acclamations: hun- -drede, with tears in their eyes, embraced them as deliverers. The Bishops, almost .alarmed at their own success, escaped from the buzzes of the people as privately as possible, exhorting them to fear God and honour the King. Cartwright, • Bishop of Chester, had remained in court during the trial unnoticed by any of the crowd of nobility and gentry; and Spiutt met with little more regard. The for- mer, in going to his carriage, was called a wolf in sheep's clothing'; and as he was very corpulent, the mob cried out, 'Room for the man with a Pope in his belly !' They bestowed also on Sir William Williams very mortifying proofs of

slisrespecL" • It is a general opinion that Mackintosh was ungratefully treated by the Whigs; and some such feeling was lurking in the mind even of Poulett 'Thomson, if we may judge by an entry in his journal. We are not cora- _pnrgators of Whiggery, but in this case the charge seems unjust. A re- currence to the works of Sir James has confirmed the opinion we intima- ted eleven years ago on a review of his Memoirs.* If the light of his re- putation reflected lustre on the party, it was in some sense a light of their own kindling ; at all events, they puffed the flame, if they did not pro- duce it. By accepting the Recordership of Bombay from the Tories, he forfeited his claim upon All the Talents ; and very lucky it was for Mack- intosh that they did not send for him home from India. For a quarter of a century the Whigs could give a place to nobody ; and when they reached power at last, Mackintosh was nearly worn out. He had not

• the steady industry and application of an official man ; perhaps the very nature of his mind indisposed him to business ; and he wanted the readi- ness and dexterity, the unscrupulous impudence, and artifice of a de- bater. The India Board was adapted to his knowledge of affairs, for India was the only field in which he had any peculiar experience; and his studies hail fitted him as well for that as for any other post. Looking at the slight character of his early writings, and his failure in actual affairs, James Mackintosh may on the whole be pronounced a lucky man ; and to his good fortune the Whigs contributed.

* Spectator for 1835, page 709.