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this class; but from his youth onward, he was too prone to leave the direction of his efforts to transient circumstances or impulses, and thus imparted a desultory character alike to the culture of his earlier and the fruits of his maturer years. Why he studied medicine it is difficult to ascertain, and equally difficult to say why he dropped the profession almost before the ink was dry on his diploma, as it would seem with hardly an aim beyond becoming a political pamphleteer. In his subsequent professional life, both at the bar and on the bench, the little leisure which he could command seems to have been dissipated in a great diversity of pursuits, and much of it passed in miscellaneous reading without system or object. The last twenty years of his life, after his resignation of the Recordership of Bombay, were exempted from the necessity of public engagements, and would, with a little more strength of purpose on his part, have been consecrated to the production of some standard work in his favorite branch of philosophy. But they were in fact frittered away by an essay at parliamentary life, for which he had neither genius nor taste, by public employments which an inferior man might as well have filled, and by innumerable social engagements ; so that a few historical and critical essays, and a course of lectures, of which the syllabus only remains, constitute all the surviving memorials of his richest harvest-season.
But most of all, Mackintosh sacrificed fame to immediate effect and utility. He threw his whole soul into occasions of but transient interest. He would labor as sedulously in the preparation of an address to a jury, as if he had had a packed audience from the literati of all Europe. He would waste in a newspaper article thoughts and sentiments which a more thrifty mind would have reserved for the most precious uses. The word no seems not to have been in his vocabulary. His genius and learning were at the world's service, and whoever sought to employ them (no matter for how ephemeral a purpose, if only essentially worthy) could have the use of them for the asking. Many of his works were, no doubt, most injuriously contracted within far narrower dimensions than he would have chosen, by the bookwrights to whom he goodnaturedly lent his aid. The extended History of England, which he had long had in contemplation, and for which he had been accumulating materials of the utmost value, was reduced to Liliputian proportions at the solicitation of the
editor of the Cabinet Cyclopædia ; while his Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy, in his own favorite walk of science, bears indubitable marks of its reluctant circumscription within the limits of a preliminary discourse to the Encyclopædia Britannica.
In estimating the actual worth and power of a mind like his, it is necessary to look beyond his finished productions, and to take an accurate survey of his social position and influence. He might have left works bearing the broad seal of universal and undying celebrity, and yet have accomplished far less than he did for the improvement of his country and his race.
His intellectual life was under the control of the purest philanthropy. We look in vain through his career for a trace of selfishness, vanity, jealousy, or pride. He envied no man's laurels, and would have been among the foremost to award the crown to his own successful competitor. He lent the most generous aid and encouragement to those just entering the lists. He fostered rising merit by kindly appreciation and no less kindly criticism. His advice and assistance in the labors of others were more readily bestowed than asked. His correspondence was extensive, with men of the most various pursuits, on subjects the most diversified, and always suggestive and fruitful. His social powers were peculiarly brilliant and fascinating, and habitually employed on subjects of the highest interest, and involving profound and original thought. Add to all this his uniform advocacy, as a lawyer, a judge, a legislator, and a man, of the principles of freedom and humanity against arbitrary prescriptions and venerable wrongs. The beneficent outgoings of a mind and life like his surpass human calculation. He undoubtedly is more fully represented in other works of the day than in his own ; nor can we tell to how many spirits his influence may have been an essential condition of mental activity and soundness.
Mackintosh first attracted to himself general regard and admiration by his Defence of the French Revolution, in reply to Burke. He was then but twenty-five years of age, and, with the generous ardor becoming his years, had, in the controversy then beginning to shake Europe to the centre, embraced the popular cause, not yet stained by the atrocities of its adherents, and commended by the weaknesses, vices, and crimes of its opponents. He was moved by sincere indignation at the conservatism of Burke's Reflections, and wrote
with the honest, earnest purpose of arresting the tide of feeling that seemed to be setting irresistibly against the French movement. His argument is at once elaborate and vehement, sustained by a careful analysis of facts, yet instinct throughout with impassioned enthusiasm, - chaste and perspicuous in style, yet often rolling on in a rushing torrent of appeal, vituperation, or invective. His were the natural sentiments of a hopeful optimist ; Burke's were the well-weighed deductions of a wary and experienced statesman. Mackintosh's Defence did honor to his heart, though subsequent events refuted its logic, and vindicated the wisdom that he assailed. Though he may have regretted in after life the impetuosity that made him the popular and successful advocate of a
cause with which good men could no longer sympathize, there is hardly a principle or sentiment involved in the work, to which he would not have given the cordial assent of his ripest wisdom and virtue. The Defence met with the most brilliant and unexpected success. Three large editions were disposed of almost simultaneously, the French party in Great Britain received an immediate accession of respectability and influence, and Mackintosh himself became at once a prominent man in the eyes of all England, thenceforth to be watched, conciliated, kept at bay, or provided for, by the party in power. .
His next enterprise was the delivery of a course of Lectures on the Law of Nature and of Nations. Only the introductory lecture was fully written out; but this, the few extracts preserved from the others, and their flattering reception as coming from a young man unsustained by patronage, and making his way by merit alone, lead us to suppose them second, in point of thorough research, mature thought, and attractive rhetoric, to no other intellectual effort of his whole life.
Here he was in his true sphere. As a mere metaphysician, we doubt whether he could have distinguished himself. Abstractions had no hold upon him. His power of subtile and patient analysis shrank from essences and attributes, when divested of their sentient subjects. His perfectly trained moral sympathies were at once his instruments of investigation and latent premises to his conclusions. In the relations and liabilities of conscious and self-determining moral agents, not in the underlying facts and the a priori necessities of their natures, he found his appropriate range of inquiry and conjecture. He treated even metaphysical theories mainly in their ethical
aspects. Witness his critique on Jonathan Edwards, admirable and perfect in its way, endowed with all the power of conviction that attaches itself to a logic stern and close as Edwards's own, yet in fact a mere appeal to consciousness and an argument from sympathy.
“ This remarkable man, the metaphysician of America, was formed among the Calvinists of New England, when their stern doctrine retained its rigorous authority. His power of subtile argument, perhaps unmatched, certainly unsurpassed among men, was joined, as in some of the ancient Mystics, with a character which raised his piety to fervor. He embraced their doctrine, probably without knowing it to be theirs. "True religion,' says he, ' in a great measure consists in holy affections. A love of divine things, for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excel. lency, is the spring of all holy affections.' Had he suffered this noble principle to take the right road to all its fair consequences, he would have entirely concurred with Plato, with Shaftesbury, and Malebranche, in devotion to the first good, first perfect, and first fair.' But he thought it necessary afterwards to limit his doctrine to his own persuasion, by denying that such moral excellence could be discovered in divine things by those Christians who did not take the same view as he did of their religion. All others, and some who hold his doctrines with a more enlarged spirit, may adopt his principle without any limitation. His ethical theory is contained in his Dissertation on the Nature of True Virtue ; and in another, On God's Chief End in the Creation, published in London thirty years after his death. True virtue, according to him, consists in benevolence, or love to being in general, which he afterwards limits to 'intelligent being,' though sentient' would have involved a more reasonable limitation. This good-will is felt towards a particular being, first in proportion to his degree of existence (for, says he, ' that which is great has more existence, and is farther from nothing, than that which is little '), and secondly, in proportion to the degree in which that particular being feels benevolence to others. Thus God, having infinitely more existence and benevolence than man, ought to be infinitely more loved ; and for the same reason, God must love himself infinitely more than he does all other beings. He can act only from regard to himself, and his end in creation can only be to manifest his whole nature, which is called acting for his own glory.
“ As far as Edwards confines himself to created beings, and while his theory is perfectly intelligible, it coincides with that of universal benevolence, hereafter to be considered. The term
- p. 130.
being' is a mere encumbrance, which serves indeed to give it a mysterious outside, but brings with it from the schools nothing except their obscurity. He was betrayed into it by the cloak which it threw over his really unmeaning assertion or assumption, that there are degrees of existence ; without which that part of his system which relates to the Deity would have appeared to be as baseless as it really is. When we try such a phrase by applying it to matters within the sphere of our experience, we see that it means nothing but degrees of certain faculties and powers. But the very application of the term being 'to all things shows that the least perfect has as much being as the most perfect; or rather, that there can be no difference, so far as that word is concerned, between two things to which it is alike applicable. The justness of the compound proportion on which human virtue is made to depend is capable of being tried by an easy test. If we suppose the greatest of evil spirits to have a hundred times the bad passions of Marcus Aurelius, and at the same time a hundred times his faculties, or, in Edwards's language, a hundred times his quantity of being,' it follows from this moral theory, that we ought to esteem and love the devil exactly in the same degree as we esteem and love Marcus Aurelius.”
The force of this argument could not have scratched the surface of the triple brass and bull's hide which Edwards held before his heart, in his passionless logic ; but it would be conclusive and irresistible, wherever the higher reason was not merged in the unsubjective logomachy of ratiocination.
In the whole Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy, as in the passage just quoted, Mackintosh keeps the concrete being, man, constantly in the foreground, and tests all the various theories and systems which he successively passes in review solely by their accordance with or discrepancy from the obvious and undoubted phenomena of his moral constitution. He thus lays bare many metaphysical juggles and fallacies, which from their very nature admit of refutation only by a reductio ad absurdum ; for it is undeniably a very
; easy thing to reach, by trains of logical reasoning in which no flaw can be detected, conclusions which consciousness promptly negatives, just as one may so use postulates, which none are prepared to deny, respecting zero or other inappreciable quantities in mathematics, as to reach the most glaringly absurd results. It is interesting, also, to mark in this Dissertation the strength of the author's personal sympathies. As philosophers, divines, and moralists are brought upon