Imágenes de páginas

called the practice of the court, he was almost untinctured. He had, therefore, considerable disadvantages to contend with at the bar.

I remember well hearing from a member of the Norfolk circuit, who was sitting next to Harry Blackstone, (a sound lawyer of that day, and a well-known reporter in the Common Pleas,) and near enough to overlook what he was writing, when his duty as junior enjoined him to take notes of a speech which Mackintosh was delivering in an ejectment cause, that poor Blackstone, who was making every struggle to follow him, at last growled in despair, and wrote in the folds of his brief" Here Mr. Mackintosh talked so much nonsense, that I was obliged to throw down the pen,”—accompanying the remark with a correspondent gesture, and actually jerking the pen across the table, and folding up his

papers. Yet there were cases, involving high and general questions of jurisprudence, in which Mackintosh was extremely powerful. . His speech for Peltier, who was prosecuted during the weak and incapable administration of Lord Sidmouth, for a libel on Buonaparte, has been deemed a masterpiece of eloquence and reason. Unquestionably it was a great production, but it was not adapted to a jury; for to a jury Mackintosh, in the slang of the courts, never knew how to go. Its merits were transcendently great, but they were relative only. The general topics of Buonaparte's restless and untameable ambition, his gigantic usurpations, the liberty of the press, and the impolicy of instituting such prosecutions at the instance of a potentate, who had left nothing undone to complete and to consolidate his enormous domination, but the extinction of the last remaining free press, that yet existed to plead the cause of the civilized world; these were urged with most splendid effect.

Unhappily, however, amidst all this blaze of eloquence, poor Peltier himself, who had engaged and paid the advocate to defend him, was wholly overlooked. His defence scarcely peeped forth, if I may use the phrase, from under a massy accumulation of general discussions of policy and justice, and the international rights of the two countries. The innocent quality of Peltier's animadversions, who was merely remarking upon acts of undeniable aggression against the liberties of Europe,—the dastardly spirit of the British government, who, in ordering that information to be filed, had actually been the foremost in obeying the mandates of a foreign usurper, were wholly passed over. I met Windham one day, returning from Concannon's election committee. He had just heard an able and ingenious speech from Mackintosh, and was talking of the pleasure which he had received from it, as an high intellectual treat: but recalling at the same time the impotent defence of Peltier, he could not help qualifying his panegyric, by exclaiming, Oh! si sic omnia dixisset ! He lamented that Mackintosh, on that most vital question, as it concerned the fortunes and fate of the poor emigrant, should have got up so elaborate an oration, which, notwithstanding the effect it produced, was framed, not for the protection of his client, but for the display of himself. It was nearly as bad as a surgeon, who being called in to perform a specific operation on a certain part of the body, should think nothing of his poor patient, but proceed, for the purpose of showing his skill in anatomy, to cut and hack the system in general.”

As a writer, Mackintosh has been variously estimated. His first work was the celebrated Vindiciæ Gallicæ. This was afterwards followed by a smaller tract, in a letter to Sir Philip Francis, on Parliamentary Reform. It fell still-born from the press. Of the former work, it would not be easy to say, how much of its merit was genuine and intrinsic, and how much casual and adventitious. Most happily for its reputation, it appeared at a period when party feelings were intensely excited, and when Burke's sublime and almost inspired Commentary upon the French Revolution, diffused so general a despair amongst its partisans, that scarcely any champion would be found hardy enough to descend into the arena against that fearful adversary. Mackintosh's tract appeared, and instantly overtopped the whole brood of answerers, whose ephemeral existence it speedily extinguished. It was universally read, and admired to enthusiasm by those who had embraced the popular cause. Yet, after

Burke, the flow of its sentences was cold and regular, and even its most finished passages seemed unimpassioned and lifeless. The few flowers that adorned it, showed pale and sickly; or, in their gaudiest hues, seemed as if they were forced and stercoraceous. Even Paine, in his celebrated answer to Burke, exhibited, on occasions, much more fervour of imagination than Mackintosh.

Windham said, that there was scarcely to be found in the writings of Burke, of whom he was a warm idolater, a metaphor more beautiful in itself, nor more exactly illustrative, than that which Paine used whilst he was commenting upon Burke's exclusive sympathy for the fallen throne and ruined aristocracy of France, without bestowing an equal portion of commiseration on the people, who had endured the ills of the subverted government. “ Mr. Burke pities the plumage,” says Paine,“ but he forgets the dying bird.” " When I read that passage,” said Windham, “ I almost cried with Pierre,- I could have hugged the greasy rogue, he pleased me so.'

From the monotonous and measured style of

« AnteriorContinuar »