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Of this fact we have the most conclusive evidence in the testimony of the greatest of English advocates. Erskine was present during its delivery, and before going to bed he sent to Mackintosh the following remarkable note:
“Dear SIR :- I can not shake off from my nerves the effect of your powerful and most wonderful speech, which so completely disqualifies you for Trinidad or India. I could not help saying to myself, as you were speaking : 'O terram illam beatam quæ hunc virum acciperit, hanc ingratam si ejicerit, miseram si amiserit.' I perfectly approve the verdict, but the manner in which you opposed it I shall always consider as one of the most splendid monuments of genius, literature, and eloquence. “Yours ever,
And Robert Hall, scarcely inferior to Erskine as a judge of what is worthy of praise in human speech, wrote to his old friend concerning it: “I speak my sincere sentiments when I say, it is the most extraordinary assemblage of whatever is most refined in address, profound in political and moral speculation, and masterly eloquence, which it has ever been my lot to read in the English language."
A few months after the defence of Peltier,
Mackintosh received the honor of knighthood and was appointed Recorder at Bombay. This position took him to India, where he passed the next eight years, devoting his time to the duties of the bench and the pursuits of literature. On his return in 1812 to England he entered the House of Commons, and for four years was a firm supporter of the Whigs. In 1818 he accepted the Professorship of Law and General Politics in the newly established Hail. eybury College, a position which he filled with great distinction until 1827.
During all this period he did not relax his interest in the active affairs of government, nor in the questions that agitated the House of Commons. His speeches in the House, of which he continued to be a member, were remarkable for their wisdom; though perhaps not for their persuasive power. He will be remembered, not so much for his parliamentary services, as for his unrivalled plea in behalf of free speech, and for the many essays on philosophical and political subjects with which he
enriched the literature of our language. Until his death in 1832, he was one of the most highly esteemed writers of the “Encyclopedia Britannica” and of the Edinburgh Review.
SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.
IN BEHALF OF FREE SPEECH, ON THE TRIAL OF
ARY 21, 1803.
GENTLEMEN OF THE JURY :
The time is now come for me to address you in behalf of the unfortunate gentleman who is the defendant on this record.
I must begin with observing, that though I know myself too well to ascribe to any thing but to the kindness and good nature of my learned friend, the Attorney-General, the unmerited praises which he has been pleased to bestow on me, yet, I will venture to say, he has done me no more than justice in supposing that in this place, and on this occasion, where I exercise the functions of an inferior minister of justice, an inferior minister, indeed, but a min. ister of justice still, I am incapable of lending myself to the passions of any client, and that I will not make the proceedings of this court subservient to any political purpose. Whatever is respected by the laws and government of my country shall, in this place, be respected by me. In considering matters that deeply interest the quiet, the safety, and the liberty of all mankind, it is impossible for me not to feel warmly and strongly; but I shall make an effort to control my feelings however painful that effort may be, and where I can not speak out but at the risk of offending either sincerity or prudence, I shall labor to contain myself and be silent.
I can not but feel, gentlemen, how much I stand in need of your favorable attention and indulgence. The charge which I have to defend is surrounded with the most invidious topics of discussion ; but they are not of my seeking. The case and the topics which are inseparable from it are brought here by the prosecutor. Here I find them, and here it is my duty to deal with them, as the interests of Mr. Peltier seem to me to require. He, by his choice and confidence, has cast on me a very arduous duty, which I could not decline, and which I can still less betray. He has a right to expect from me a faithful, a zealous, and a