Vindiciae Gallicae was James Mackintosh’s first
major publication, a contribution to the debate
begun by Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the
Revolution in France (published by Liberty Fund in 1999). The success of Mackintosh’s defense of the
French Revolution propelled him into the heart of London Whig circles. The turn of events in France
following the September 1792 Massacres caused
Mackintosh, along with other moderate Whigs, to revise
his opinions and to move closer to Burke’s position.
A Discourse on the Law of Nature and Nations was the introduction to a popular course of public lectures at Lincoln’s Inn in 1799 and 1800. These lectures provided
Mackintosh with an opportunity to complete the evolution of his political thought by expounding the principles of a Scottish version of the science of natural
jurisprudence dealing with “the rights and duties of men
and of states,” to announce his withdrawal of support for the French Revolution, and to criticize former allies on the radical wing of the reform movement.
The Liberty Fund edition also includes Mackintosh’s
Letter to William Pitt, an attack on the prime minister,
Pitt the Younger, for going back on his own record as a
parliamentary reformer; and On the State of France in 1815, his reflections on the nature and causes of the
James Mackintosh (1765–1832)
was a prominent Scottish Whig
politician, a moral philosopher, and a historian of England. He belonged to the group of students that surrounded
Dugald Stewart, professor of moral
philosophy in Edinburgh, during the last
decades of the eighteenth century and the first decade of the nineteenth
century. He was a regular writer for the publishing enterprises this
group founded and edited, notably
the Edinburgh Review and the
Encyclopaedia Britannica; he contributed to the latter his “Dissertation on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy, Chiefly During the
Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,”
thereby completing a project begun by Dugald Stewart.
Donald Winch is Research Professor in the School of Humanities at the University of Sussex and a Fellow of the British Academy.
Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History and Director of the Centre for Intellectual History at the University of