James Mackintosh, fully Sir James Mackintosh

Mackintosh, fully Sir James Mackintosh

Scottish Jurist, Politician and Historian

Author Quotes

Disciplined inaction.

There is not, in my opinion, in the whole compass of human affairs so noble a spectacle as that which is displayed in the progress of jurisprudence; where we may contemplate the cautions and unwearied exertions of wise men through a long course of ages, withdrawing every case, as it arises, from the dangerous power of discretion, and subjecting it to inflexible rules, extending the dominion of justice and reason, and gradually contracting within the narrowest possible limits the domain of brutal force and arbitrary will.

Every fiction since Homer has taught friendship, patriotism, generosity, contempt of death. These are the highest virtues; and the fictions which taught them were therefore of the highest, though not of unmixed, utility.

Those who differ most from the opinions of their fellow-men are the most confident of the troth of their own.

It is not because we have been free, but because we have a right to be free, that we ought to demand freedom. Justice and liberty have neither birth nor race, youth nor age.

Whatever is popular deserves attention.

It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are.

Masterly inactivity.

Maxims are the condensed good sense of nations.

My only consolation is in that Being under whose severe but paternal chastisement I am bent down to the ground. The philosophy which I have learned only teaches me that virtue and friendship are the greatest of human blessings, and that their loss is irreparable. It aggravates my calamity, instead of consoling me under it. My wounded heart seeks another consolation. Governed by these feelings, which have in every age and region of the world actuated the human mind, I seek relief and I find it in the soothing hope and consolatory opinion that a Benevolent Wisdom inflicts the chastisement as well as bestows the enjoyments of human life; that superintending goodness will one day enlighten the darkness which surrounds our nature and hangs over our prospects; that this dreary and wretched life is not the whole of man; that an animal so sagacious and provident, and capable of such proficiency in science and virtue, is not like the beasts that perish; that there is a dwelling-place prepared for the spirits of the just, and that the ways of God will yet be vindicated to man.

Praise is the symbol which represents sympathy, and which the mind insensibly substitutes for its recollection and language

Sir Isaac Newton and Milton were equally men of genius. Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Godolphin were ministers of great abilities, though they did not possess either the brilliant talents of Bolingbroke or the commanding genius of Chatham.

The Commons, faithful to their system, remained in a wise and masterly inactivity.

The feminine graces of Madame de Sevigne's genius are exquisitely charming; but the philosophy and eloquence of Madame de Stael are above the distinction of sex.

“Law,” said Dr. Johnson, “is the science in which the greatest powers of the understanding are applied to the greatest number of facts;” and no one who is acquainted with the variety and multiplicity of the subjects of jurisprudence, and with the prodigious powers of discrimination employed upon them, can doubt the truth of this observation.

The frivolous work of polished idleness.

A vice utterly at variance with the happiness of him who harbors it, and, as such, condemned by self-love.

The law of England has been chiefly formed out of the simple principles of natural justice by a long series of judicial decisions.

A writer [Lord Macaulay] of consummate ability…. The admirable writer whose language has occasioned this illustration—who at an early age has mastered every species of composition—will doubtless hold fast to simplicity, which survives all the fashions of deviation from it, and which a man of a genius so fertile has few temptations to forsake.

The variety and splendor of the lives of such men render it often difficult to distinguish the portion of time which ought to be admitted into history from that which should be preserved for biography. Generally speaking, these two parts are so distinct and unlike that they cannot be confounded without much injury to both: either when the biographer hides the portrait of the individual by a crowded and confined picture of events, or when the historian allows unconnected narratives of the lives of men to break the thread of history. Perhaps nothing more can be universally laid down than that the biographer never ought to introduce public events except as far as they are absolutely necessary to the illustration of character, and that the historian should rarely digress into biographical particulars except as far as they contribute to the clearness of his narrative of political occurrences.

As the mind of Johnson was robust, but neither nimble nor graceful, so his style was void of all grace and ease, and, being the most unlike of all styles to the natural effusion of a cultivated mind, had the least pretension to the praise of eloquence.

The weakness of the social affections and the strength of the private desires constitute selfishness.

Diffused knowledge immortalizes itself.

The wealth of society is its stock of productive labor.

Men are never so good or so bad as their opinions.

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Mackintosh, fully Sir James Mackintosh
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Scottish Jurist, Politician and Historian