JAMES MACKINTOSH, THE REVOLUTIONARY PHASE
THE fame of Sir James Mackintosh has been based more upon the solidity of his learning than upon the liberality of his ideas, which has been too much eclipsed by the conservatism into which he hardened, for a time at least, at the end of the century.
His mind was early subjected to the force of liberal opinion. In the winter of 1781-82 at Aberdeen University, he fell under the influence of the independent-minded Dr. Dunbar, an active opponent of the American war. Here the Dissenter, Robert Hall, was his closest and most admired friend. With him a debating society, called The Hall and Mackintosh Club, was formed, "the members of which to a man . . . lived and died," so Mackintosh's son and biographer wrote, "the zealous supporters of what are called liberal principles."1 At the University of Edinburgh, where in 1784 he had gone to attend lectures in medicine, he delivered his first speech in the Speculative Society against the slave trade. Here he came to know Adam Smith, Thomas Beddoes, and Sayers, of Norwich. His preference for metaphysics and political philosophy over medical science soon asserted itself. His father had been too poor to send him to the Scottish bar as the son had wished.____________________