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ACCOUNT of the LIFE AND WRITINGS of JOHN MILLAR, ESQ. - John Millar, The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks 
The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks; or, An Inquiry into the Circumstances which give rise to Influence and Authority in the Different Members of Society, edited and with an Introduction by Aaron Garrett (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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ACCOUNT of the LIFE AND WRITINGS of JOHN MILLAR, ESQ.
John Millar, late Professor of Law in the University of Glasgow, was born on the 22d June, 1735, in the parish of Shotts, twenty-four miles west from Edinbugh. His father, Mr. James Millar,3 a man much respected for his abilities, learning, and purity of manners, was then minister of that parish; but, two years afterwards, he was translated to Hamilton, where he spent the rest of his life. His mother4 was a daughter of Mr. Hamilton of Westburn, a gentleman of considerable estate in the county of Lanark.
When the family removed to Hamilton, Mr. Millar went to reside at Milheugh, in the parish of<ii> Blantyre, about eight miles from Glasgow, with his uncle Mr. John Millar, who had been educated in Edinburgh as a writer to the signet, but, from bad health, had given up that profession, and retired to a small estate which had been long in his family. Here Mr. Millar, being taught to read by his uncle, continued to reside, till he was of the proper age to go to the Latin school. In 1742 he was brought to Hamilton to learn Latin and Greek, under Mr. Pillans, who taught the Grammar School of that town with considerable reputation.
In 1746, he went to Glasgow College, where he distinguished himself as an attentive and intelligent student. During one or two winters, he boarded in the same house with Mr. Morehead, afterwards of Herbertshire, with whom he formed an early friendship, which their very different pursuits in after life never obliterated. When he was a few years older, he lived in College Chambers, and usually dined with the celebrated Dr. Cullen,5 then Lecturer in Chemistry, whose wife was cousin-german to his mother. Those who have been so happy as to be acquainted with Dr. and Mrs. Cullen will recollect, with delight, the elegance which distinguished their conversation, and will easily be able to appreciate the advantages of this connection, to a<iii> young man, in forming his manners, and improving his taste.
In the evenings, as a relaxation from study, Mr. Millar used frequently to pass an hour or two at the house of Mrs. Craig, whose eldest son possessed a taste for literary conversation and philosophical experiment, not at that time very common among merchants. Here he met with several young men, intended for different professions, but almost all fond of literary inquiries; in particular, it was here that he formed an acquaintance with Mr. Watt,6 now of Birmingham, whose discoveries have entitled him to the gratitude of his country, and the admiration of the world. At this time, Mr. Millar was remarkable among his companions for the vivacity of his conversation, as well as the extent of his knowledge, and his powers of argument. “In our meetings,” says Mr. Watt, (in a letter with which he honoured me relative to this memoir) “the conversation, besides the usual subjects with young men, turned principally on literature, religion, morality, history; and to these conversations my mind owed its first bias to such subjects. Mr. Millar was always looked up to as the oracle of the company; his attainments were greater than those of the others; he had more<iv> wit, and much greater argumentative powers.” He adds, with that modesty which ever accompanies real genius, “He was a man when I was a boy, though in years little my senior. The diversity of our pursuits made me know less of him afterwards than I should otherwise have done; but we always continued attached friends, and I consider myself as indebted to him for much useful knowledge.”
It was also during Mr. Millar’s studies at Glasgow, that he formed an acquaintance and friendship with Dr. Adam Smith. He had attended the Logic and Moral Philosophy Classes before Dr. Smith was appointed to these Chairs; but, having come to the University for instruction, not merely to go through a common routine, he eagerly seized the opportunity of hearing Lectures which excited, and fully gratified, the public expectation. His intelligence and ardour soon attracted Dr. Smith’s notice, and at this time was laid the foundation of that mutual esteem, which, during the few years they were afterwards Professors in the same University, produced lasting intimacy and friendship. It is probable that Mr. Millar’s attention was first directed to that particular line of research, in which he afterwards became so eminent, by Dr. Smith’s Lectures and conversa-<v>tion; and it was with much pleasure, that he afterwards seized every opportunity of acknowledging his obligations to the instructions he at this time enjoyed.* The very gratifying proof of Dr. Smith’s esteem, which he received long afterwards, in being intrusted by him with the education of his relation, Mr. Douglas, (at a time when he himself could ill spare the pleasure of his society) has been noticed by the elegant biographer of that celebrated philosopher.†
Mr. Millar’s friends intended him for the church, and it was with this view that he began his studies at Glasgow. In a young man ardent in inquiry, there must always, however, be some disinclination to fetter himself by established articles of belief; and the Church of Scotland holds out few inducements to the ambition of him who is conscious of superior talents: Mr. Millar, accordingly, soon betrayed a desire to adopt a different profession, and to this he was probably still farther induced, by his occasional residences, during the summer, at Milheugh. His uncle, though much retired from the world, and naturally diffident and reserved, was a man of excellent understanding and most amiable<vi> manners. He had read, with much attention, whatever related to the history of his own country, and had observed, with much acuteness, the various struggles of parties during his own times. An ardent friend of civil and religious liberty, zealously attached to the Revolution settlement, and to the party of the Whigs, his early instructions probably contributed to form, in his nephew’s mind, those sentiments of independence, which, through his whole life, he himself had steadily maintained. Next to history and politics, his favourite subject of reading and conversation was Scotch Law, for which he always retained a fondness, derived from his early education, and perhaps increased by the consequence it gave him as a Justice of Peace among his country neighbours. It was natural that Mr. Millar, in choosing a profession, should be influenced by the taste of his uncle, with whom he had passed the early period of his life, who had instructed him by his conversation, and whom he saw respected for his understanding and legal knowledge. Fortunately Mr. Millar’s father, though much attached to his own profession, and desirous that his son should succeed him in those duties, from the regular and able discharge of which he had derived much happiness and great respectabi-<vii>lity, was not inflexible in his determination; so that, with little opposition from his friends, Mr. Millar was allowed to turn his attention from the Pulpit to the Bar.
About the time that Mr. Millar had finished his studies at Glasgow, he received an invitation from Lord Kames to reside in his family, and superintend the education of his son. It would be superfluous to dwell on the advantages he must have derived from the society of a man, so remarkable for the variety of his knowledge, the ardour of his literary curiosity, and his talent in communicating information in its most pleasing form. Considering Mr. Millar as a young man of superior abilities and attainments, Lord Kames had much pleasure in solving any difficulties that occurred to him on subjects of law, and few days passed without some improving conversations on various topics of philosophical research.* In this society he spent about two years; during which time, that attachment to the study of the history of mankind and of political institutions, which Dr. Smith’s lectures had excited, could not fail to be strengthened by the<viii> communications of a philosopher engaged in nearly similar pursuits.
It was chiefly at this period, also, that Mr. Millar had an opportunity of cultivating an acquaintance with Mr. Hume. The urbanity of this illustrious author never failed to conciliate the friendship even of those who viewed his political opinions with dislike, and his metaphysical tenets with abhorrence. Mr. Millar had few prejudices of this kind to conquer. Though a steady and zealous Whig himself, he had no enmity to speculative Tories; and, convinced of the truth of Mr. Hume’s metaphysical opinions, he was not of a temper to abandon a system, which appeared to him to afford a satisfactory explanation of many of the phenomena of the human mind, because it had been attacked by ignorant and illiberal abuse. Mr. Hume’s visit to the Continent, which took place a few years after this, together with Mr. Millar’s change of residence and numerous avocations, prevented this acquaintance from being improved into that intimacy, which their mutual respect would, in other circumstances, have produced; but they never failed to seize such opportunities of enjoying each other’s society, as afterwards occurred. From Mr. Hume, Mr. Millar received the same flattering mark of confidence as<ix> from Dr. Smith, having been entrusted with the education of his nephew, the present very eminent Professor of Scotch Law in the University of Edinburgh.7
In 1760, Mr. Millar was called to the Bar; or, according to the Scotch technical phraseology, he passed advocate. He was fortunate enough, during the very short time he practised as a lawyer, to have some opportunities of appearing before the Inner House,* and, on these occasions, he received very flattering compliments from several of the Judges. He was indeed universally considered as a very rising young lawyer; and it was not without surprise that his friends learned his intention, on the death of Mr. Hercules Lindsay, of applying for the Law Professorship at Glasgow.8 It seemed to them an extraordinary want of ambition in a young man, whose talents entitled him to look forward to the highest honours of his profession, at once to abandon all these hopes, and sit down contented with the moderate revenue, and the less brilliant reputa-<x>tion, of a Teacher of Law. They knew that he could not be prompted to such a step by timidity, for his temper was uncommonly sanguine; nor by indolence, for never was a mind more active. He was induced, however, to take this resolution, by his having, about this time, married Miss Margaret Craig, a lady nearly of his own age, to whom, while visiting on a familiar footing at her mother’s, he had become strongly attached.
He saw that it was impossible for a young lawyer, whatever his abilities and diligence might be, to maintain a family, even with the most rigid oeconomy; and he was unwilling to risk the becoming a burden on his father and uncle. The emoluments of a Professor of Law were not, indeed, very great; but they were much superior to what, for many years, he could expect to reach at the bar; they were sufficient to enable him to maintain a family in a respectable manner; and, by his own exertions, he hoped to increase the number of students, on which, at Glasgow, the emolument of a Professor chiefly depends. The situation, too, if not brilliant, was highly respectable; and he was happy to think, that those speculations on law and government, which had always been his favourite studies, were now to become the business of his life, the<xi> source of his income, and the foundation of his future reputation.
With such views, he applied for the vacant Chair; and, through the interest of the guardians of the Duke of Hamilton, then a minor, and at the recommendation of Lord Kames and Dr. Smith, he was appointed Professor of Law in the University of Glasgow, in 1761, about sixteen months after he had been called to the bar.
From the absence of the higher Courts of Justice, Glasgow lies under many obvious disadvantages, as a school of law; and, accordingly, the students of Law in that University, previously to Mr. Millar’s appointment, seldom exceeded four or five, and sometimes fell short even of that number. From the first moment of his appointment, there was a very general expectation that Mr. Millar would greatly improve, in this branch of education, the character of the University,9 but I believe his most sanguine friends never entertained the idea, that he could possibly raise it to that degree of celebrity, which it soon attained. The improvement, in a few years, became rapid: he had, frequently, about forty students of Civil Law; while those who attended his Lectures on Government, often amounted to a much greater number. To establish and maintain the reputation<xii> of his classes, became with him the principal object of his life; and never, perhaps, was any object followed out with more ardour or perseverance. He was not merely desirous to convey to his students just views and accurate information; but he was anxious to convey them in the manner most likely to seize the attention, and to produce habits of original thought and philosophical investigation; thus rendering Lectures, formerly considered as useful only to lawyers, the most important schools of general education.
From the first establishment of the University, it had been the custom to employ the Latin language in all academical prelections; a custom originating in the exclusive admiration entertained of ancient literature, during the dark ages, and continued to later times, by the blind attachment of all public seminaries to old and antiquated forms. By degrees, it was discovered that every man will express his ideas with the greatest clearness and force in that language in which he is accustomed to think; and that an audience must lose much of the substance of a lecture, when part of the attention is necessarily occupied in estimating the exact import of the words. Such truths, obvious as they now appear, were but slowly received; but, at last, the practice of lecturing in English had been intro-<xiii>duced into the philosophical classes at Glasgow, and this alteration rendered it still more difficult for the students, now unaccustomed to follow the complicated arrangement of a Latin period, to comprehend, with facility and accuracy, the lectures on Roman Law, which still continued to be delivered in Latin. The old custom was however retained in those classes, after it had been laid aside in others, very possibly from some fancied propriety in lecturing on the Laws of Rome, in the language in which they had been promulgated and compiled; and so wedded were the older members of the profession to this practice, that, when Mr. Lindsay (Mr. Millar’s immediate predecessor) began to deliver lectures on the Institutes of Justinian, in English, the Faculty of Advocates made formal application to the University, requesting that the practice of teaching the Civil Law in Latin might be restored. Mr. Lindsay, with a steadiness which did him honour, refused to yield to this interference; and Mr. Millar, from the moment he was appointed to the Chair, adopted the English language in all the courses of lectures which he delivered. But, as Latin is still used in the customary trials, preparatory to a young man’s being called to the Bar, he thought it proper to employ it in the daily<xiv> examination of the Civil Law classes, that his students might not be under the disadvantage of being altogether unaccustomed to the language in which the Faculty of Advocates still conduct their examinations.
Perhaps it is in some measure to the adoption of the English language in his several classes, that Mr. Millar owed part of his success. Had the same improvement been introduced at Edinburgh, it may, I think, be doubted whether his talents and utmost exertions could have raised the Law Classes of Glasgow from the low state to which they had fallen, and in which, from the absence of the Courts, they seemed destined to remain. But the Law Professors of Edinburgh, for a long time, continued to read their lectures in Latin, and, before they thought proper to abandon this custom, Mr. Millar’s fame was too well established, and too widely diffused, to admit of any competition.
Mr. Millar never wrote his Lectures; but was accustomed to speak from notes, containing his arrangement, his chief topics, and some of his principal facts and illustrations. For the transitions from one part of his subject to another, the occasional allusions, the smaller embellishments, and the whole of the expression, he trusted to that extemporane-<xv>ous eloquence, which seldom fails a speaker deeply interested in his subject. In some branches of science, where the utmost precision of language is requisite to avoid obscurity or error, such a mode of lecturing may be attended with much difficulty, and several disadvantages: But in Morals, in Jurisprudence, in Law, and in Politics, if the Professor make himself completely master of the different topics he is to illustrate, if he possess ideas clear and defined, with tolerable facility in expressing them, the little inelegancies into which he may occasionally be betrayed, the slight hesitation which he may not always escape, will be much more than compensated by the fulness of his illustrations, the energy of his manner, and that interest which is excited, both in the hearer and speaker, by extemporaneous eloquence.
Lecturing is obviously more connected with public speaking than with writing. In a finished composition, we expect to find the author’s arrangement accurate, his language correct and elegant, his ideas clearly and concisely expressed. Prolixity we regard as a fault both disagreeable and inexcusable; because, having his book before us, we can easily refer to any passage which we have forgotten or imperfectly comprehended, and thus<xvi> supply the defects of our memory or attention. In lecturing, the same rules will by no means apply. An idea must be turned on every side, that all its various connections may be perceived; it must be presented in a variety of lights, and a variety of forms, that, in some of them, it may be so fully impressed on the mind, as readily to recur when afterwards alluded to. For these purposes, it must be repeatedly urged with that earnestness of manner, which can seldom be commanded, in reading over, year after year, what was written at a distant period, and, probably, in a very different frame of mind. Those who were so fortunate as to witness the animation with which Mr. Millar delivered his Lectures, the delicacy with which he seemed to perceive when his audience fully understood his doctrines, the interest which he gave to subjects sometimes in themselves not very inviting, the clear conceptions that he conveyed, and the ardour of inquiry which he excited, will never hesitate to pronounce, that written lectures could not possibly have been so fascinating, or so instructive.
It is also a most important advantage attending extemporary lectures, that the Professor can, with ease to himself, follow the general progress of science, or insert the occasional results of his own<xvii> private investigations. The trouble of making alterations on written lectures is apt, on the contrary, to deter from future inquiry, and even to prevent the correction of acknowledged error. He who has, with much labour, transcribed a system of lectures sufficient for his regular course, can neither omit nor insert a topic, without extending or condensing some other department of his subject; he can change none of his principles, without altering his inferences, and expunging many allusions that may occur in other parts of his course; he can neither adopt new opinions, nor admit new facts, without inserting new conclusions, and new modifications of his other doctrines. Such a revision of written opinions will usually be found too great a task for human exertion; and the lectures will continue to be delivered with all their original imperfections. In the mean time, some of the students, more industrious than the rest, will perceive that the professor seems ignorant of what has been published on the science which he pretends to teach; the secret will soon be whispered round the class; and all respect for his talents and information will be irrecoverably gone. But an extemporaneous lecturer can alter, modify, and improve his system, with little comparative trouble. The addition of a few lines,<xviii> the expunging of a few words, even a particular mark upon the margin of his note book, will enable him to correct any errors into which he may have fallen, and to add whatever important discoveries have been made by himself or others. Accordingly, in Mr. Millar’s notes, now before me, I find some pages effaced, many references, and many leaves inserted; and, from a distinct recollection of particular conversations, I can decidedly assert, that, although he delivered the same courses of Lectures for forty years, many improvements were made, many important disquisitions were introduced, within a very short period of his death.
Not satisfied with explaining his opinions in the most perspicuous manner in his Lecture, Mr. Millar encouraged such of the students as had not fully comprehended his doctrines, or conceived that there was some error in his reasonings, to state to him their difficulties and objections. With this view, at the conclusion of the Lecture, a little circle of his most attentive pupils was formed around him, when the doctrines which had been delivered were canvassed with the most perfect freedom. Before a professor can admit of such a practice, he must be completely master of his subject, and have acquired some confidence in his own quickness at refuting objections, and detecting sophistry. A few instan-<xix>ces of defeat might be injurious to his reputation, and to the discipline of the class. But, should he possess a clear comprehension of all the bearings of his system, joined to quickness of understanding and tolerable ease of expression, he will derive the most important advantages from the unrestrained communications of his pupils. He will learn where he has failed to convey his ideas with accuracy, where he has been too concise, or where imperfect analogies have led him into slight mistakes; and he will easily find a future opportunity to introduce new illustrations, to explain what has been misapprehended, or correct what was really an error. To the students, such a practice insures accurate knowledge; it teaches the important lesson of considering opinions before adopting them, and gives an additional incitement to strict and vigilant attention. Accordingly, to be able to state difficulties with propriety, was justly looked upon by the more ingenious and attentive students as no slight proof of proficiency; and to be an active and intelligent member of the fire-side committee, never failed to give a young man some consideration among his companions.
The proper business of the Professorship to which Mr. Millar was appointed, is to deliver Lectures on the Institutions and Pandects of Justinian.<xx> But the employment of a whole winter in tracing, with the utmost accuracy and tedious erudition, the exact line of Roman Law, seemed to him a mere waste of time and study. Whatever it was useful to know of the Institutes, he thought might be sufficiently taught in the half of the session, or term; and he wished to devote the rest of it to a course of Lectures on Jurisprudence. After, therefore, going over the Institutes, according to the arrangement of Heineccius,10 and explaining the nature and origin of each particular right as it occurred, he began a new course of Lectures, in which he treated of such general principles of Law as pervade the codes of all nations, and have their origin in those sentiments of justice which are imprinted on the human heart.
The multifarious doctrines to be explained in the Pandects prevented him from shortening the time allotted for that branch of legal study; but, aware that the ordinary arrangement is confused, and almost unintelligible, he soon published a new syllabus, following very nearly the order of the Institutes, according to which he discussed the various and sometimes discordant laws of Rome, and the still more discordant opinions of Roman lawyers. In these two courses, he gave every information that could be desired on Civil Law,<xxi> whether considered as merely an object of literary curiosity, or as the basis of modern Law, and consequently a most useful commentary on the municipal systems of the greater part of Europe.
These Lectures, which most men would have found sufficient to engross all their time, and occupy all their attention, still left Mr. Millar some leisure, which he thought he could not employ more usefully, than in giving a course of Lectures on Government.11 As this class occupied an hour only three times a week, he was afterwards induced to appropriate the same hour, on two other days, to the teaching of Scotch Law, a branch of study useful to every Scotchman, and particularly necessary to a number of young men, who had no other opportunity of becoming acquainted with the principles of that profession, which they were afterwards to exercise. The class of Scotch Law he thought it sufficient to teach every second year.
A few years before his death, Mr. Millar was led, by the attention he always paid to the advantage of his pupils, to prepare and deliver a course of Lectures on English Law. In this course it could not be expected that he should convey more information than is contained in the best authors; but he greatly simplified and improved the arrange-<xxii>ment, and accounted for the various rules and even fictions of English Law, in a manner more satisfactory, than by vague analogies, or that last resource of ignorance, an unmeaning reference to the pretended wisdom of our ancestors.
It would be uninteresting to many of my readers, were I to enter into details respecting the Lectures on Roman, Scotch, or English Law; but Jurisprudence and Politics are sciences so important to all, and so instructive in the views they exhibit of human nature, that a slight sketch of Mr. Millar’s manner of treating these subjects may not, perhaps, be unacceptable. Some view of these Lectures seems indeed the more requisite, as they were, in a great measure, the foundation of his high reputation; and, having never been committed to writing, they cannot now, in any perfect form, be submitted to the public. In attempting this sketch, I shall merely give an idea of the general principles and order, according to which he proceeded to investigate these most important sciences, passing slightly over the numerous and very ingenious disquisitions to which they naturally led, and omitting many important doctrines which he established on the firm basis of justice, and the public good. To enter fully into the subject, would not be so much to give an account of Mr. Millar’s<xxiii> life, as to write a number of treatises on what are at once the most abstruse, and most useful, branches of Law, Government, and Political economy.
The Ancients seem never to have thought of delineating a general system of laws founded on the principles of justice, independent of such modifications as have been produced, in each particular country, by circumstances not universally applicable to mankind. This important branch of science was reserved for the moderns, among whom Grotius is the first and most eminent author, who took a view of the subject so general and extended. He has been succeeded by a multitude of later writers, most of whom, however, may be considered rather as his commentators than as original authors. A science, promising such benefits to mankind, required only to be pointed out in order to excite the attention of the learned; it spread rapidly over the whole of Europe, and soon became an established branch of education in many Universities.
It was, indeed, a most important step in the advancement of legal study. By displaying to mankind an ideal perfection of Law, which, if attained, must have secured their prosperity and happi-<xxiv>ness, it furnished them with a standard by which the particular institutions of each country might be examined and corrected; and, by exhibiting the frequent deviations of municipal law from such a standard, it weakened that blind admiration of old and local usages, which is the great sanctifier of abuses, the most dangerous enemy of truth. The systems of Universal Law, however, which at different times have been given to the world, seem liable to several objections. They could be illustrated in no other way than by reference to particular laws, so intimately blended with other regulations, and with peculiar customs and manners, that the reasoning lost much of its universal character, and often assumed the appearance of dissertation on the institutions of an individual nation. For the most part, the writers on Jurisprudence followed too closely the system of Roman Law, even where that system is defective; but sometimes, also, in endeavouring to avoid this error, they entered so imperfectly into legal details, that their conclusions appeared vague and inaccurate.
It may farther be objected to almost all the writers on jurisprudence, that they have insisted too much on what a man, in a particular situation, ought to do, rather than on what he can justly be compelled to do; thus confounding the important distinction<xxv> between Ethics and Law, and forgetting that, though the one be a branch of the other, it is necessary to keep their respective limits strictly in view, if we would establish any system of rules for the conduct of individuals which society has a title to enforce. From the disregard of this distinction, systems of jurisprudence came to resemble systems of morals in almost every thing, except their being treated in a more formal, and far less interesting manner.
A new branch of study displayed itself to the capacious mind of Montesquieu. By considering the various and important deviations from the standards of jurisprudence observable in the laws of every state, he was led to compare together the different nations among whom similar deviations may be discerned; to contrast their situation with that of other countries where the laws have an opposite bias; and thus, from an extended view of human nature, to deduce the causes of those differences in laws, customs, and institutions, which, previously, had been remarked merely as isolated and uninstructive facts. In this inquiry he had been followed by many philosophers, in different parts of Europe, and by none more successfully than our countrymen, Lord Kames and Dr. Smith, the former in tracing the history of manners and<xxvi> of private law, the latter in delineating the progress of public institutions.
Mr. Millar, in his Lectures, conjoined those separate views of jurisprudence. He began by investigating the origin and foundation of each right in the natural principles of justice; and afterwards traced its progress through the different conditions of mankind; marking such deviations from the general rule as the known circumstances of particular nations might be expected to occasion, and accounting, in the most satisfactory manner, for those diversities in laws, which must otherwise have appeared irreconcilable with the idea that there is any thing stable or precise in the moral sentiments of mankind.
As a preparation for this course of inquiry, it was obviously necessary to investigate the principles of Moral Approbation. On this subject, Mr. Hume and Dr. Smith have written treatises, equally eloquent and ingenious; and, to Mr. Millar, little appeared to be wanting, but to combine their systems.
Both of these philosophers have shewn, by a very extensive induction, that whatever is considered as useful, to ourselves or others, gives us pleasure; whatever is thought detrimental, gives us pain. This is the case, whether the good or evil be produced<xxvii> by inanimate objects, or by sentient beings; but when by the latter, the pleasure, excited by the perception of increased happiness, is connected with a feeling of good-will towards the agent; and the pain, arising from the perception of hurt or injury, is attended with a sentiment of dislike. Whether the good or evil may affect ourselves or others, we never fail to experience such sentiments; where our own good is promoted, we feel direct pleasure and gratitude; where the good of others is increased, we experience a reflected or sympathetic pleasure and gratitude, exactly the same in their nature, though always weaker in degree.
The direct good, or evil, proceeding from an action, is often of less real importance to general happiness than such remote consequences as are neither intended by the agent, nor directly observable by the spectator. Every breach of duty, besides occasioning immediate evil, weakens the influence of those general rules, by which, while exposed to temptations, the virtuous regulate their conduct; and every crime that is unpunished tends to destroy the strongest barrier which human society can oppose to vice. But such remote and contingent results of actions, though they exert a powerful influence on our moral sentiments, do<xxviii> not affect us equally with their more direct and obvious effects. We enter more readily into what is immediately present to us, than into general and distant consequences, which it requires much experience and attention to discover, and some effort of imagination to delineate. Existing and present happiness makes a lively impression; future and contingent utility is more faintly and obscurely felt.
Although the system of utility thus accounts for much of our moral sentiments, Mr. Millar was convinced, that, by itself, it could afford no satisfactory solution of many difficulties suggested by the experience of mankind. The sentiment of approbation arising from utility seems cold and languid, when compared with the warm burst of applause sometimes excited by a virtuous action; an applause, too, which bears no proportion to that experience and knowledge, which might enable the spectator to grasp all the distant consequences of the action, but frequently is most enthusiastic in the young and ignorant. Nor does the degree, in which we approve of the different classes of virtues,12 correspond to the respective degrees of utility; Prudence is, in most situations, a more useful, though certainly a less admired quality, than Courage; and Justice, the most essential of all the vir-<xxix>tues to human welfare, meets with less rapturous applause than irregular, and perhaps thoughtless, Generosity.
What was thus defective in the theory of utility seemed to Mr. Millar, in a great measure, to be supplied, by the systems which found our approbation of virtue on the sentiment of Propriety. We approve of such actions as we are led to expect from the particular circumstances in which the agent is placed, of such as appear to us agreeable to the general standard of human nature; and, as any remarkable deviation from the ordinary figure of the human body is disgusting, so are we displeased with any remarkable deviation from the constitution of the human mind. These sentiments of approbation and dislike have, by some authors, been referred to the influence of Custom; but they seem too steady and regular in their operations, to be the offspring of what is so very capricious. It is true that custom may bestow a higher applause on particular classes of virtues than, in themselves, they deserve; that it may diminish the abhorrence of certain vices, by rendering them objects of more cursory observation; that it may even reconcile us to flagitious crimes, which, from particular circumstances, we have associated with some of the higher<xxx> virtues; but all such effects of custom are merely to modify, and that in a smaller degree than is usually apprehended, the other sentiments of moral approbation springing from more regular sources.
Dr. Smith has given a most ingenious and eloquent account of our sentiments of propriety, which he derives from the pleasure of Sympathy with the feelings of the agent.13 He has shewn, in the most satisfactory manner, that the perception of the coincidence of our own sentiments with those of others, is always attended with an exquisite enjoyment; and that the appearance of any repugnance between our feelings and those of our fellow-men is productive of disgust. Not only is this true with regard to moral sentiment, but in every taste, opinion, and emotion. Hence the charms of pure and disinterested friendship, and the difficulty of continuing an intimate intercourse with those who, on subjects of much interest and frequent occurrence, think very differently from ourselves. It is in judging of human conduct, however, that this principle acts its most important part. When our attention is called to the behaviour of another, we immediately conceive how we should have acted in similar circumstances; and, according as our sentiments do, or do not, correspond to those he<xxxi> has discovered, we feel pleasure and approbation, or pain and dislike. Nor are these moral feelings liable to any important irregularities. When removed from temptation, and free from the influence of passion, all men are brave, temperate, just, and generous; consequently, these virtues must always appear proper, and the opposite vices improper, to the unconcerned spectator.
Mr. Millar fully adopted this opinion of Dr. Smith; but still he thought the system would prove defective, unless more weight were given to an observation which had been stated, rather in a cursory manner, both by that author and Mr. Hume. The degree of applause excited by virtue is not dependent solely on the propriety and utility of the action, but also on the difficulty which we know the agent must have overcome, and the mental energy which he has displayed, in reducing his feelings to the level of those of the unconcerned spectator. The passions, in many cases, being slightly affected, a small exertion is sufficient; in other situations, the utmost effort of self-command is indispensible: The one we simply approve; the other we applaud and admire. In this view, our moral sentiments bear a striking analogy to the principles of taste; and, though Mr. Millar did not admit that intimate and necessary connection between them which has<xxxii> been asserted by an eminent author,* he traced, with much ingenuity, and much felicity of illustration, the likeness which exists, both between the sentiments themselves, and the means by which they are excited. That virtue which is new or extraordinary in its nature, which breaks forth when we expect and dread the opposite vice, which exhibits high powers of self-control, and produces some great and striking benefit to man, raises our admiration to sublimity and rapture; while a life spent in acts of beneficence and kindness, like a rich and beautiful landscape, excites the more gentle emotions of complacence and delight.
Such are the outlines of the analysis of our moral sentiments, according to which Mr. Millar accounted for the various rights acknowledged and protected by society. In doing this, he was careful to separate and distinguish Justice from the other virtues. The rules of Justice,14 he observed, are satisfied, when a man abstains from injuring others, although he should make no addition whatever to general or particular happiness. He who fails in prudence, in temperance, in courage, or beneficence, may become an object of dislike; he may destroy his own happiness, and disregard many<xxxiii> opportunities of promoting that of others; but, having done no direct injury, he can scarcely become the object of general indignation. The infringement of the rules of Justice, on the other hand, never fails to excite resentment in the breast of the person injured, and indignation in that of the spectators;—an indignation, sometimes satisfied with the redress of the wrong, sometimes demanding the infliction of farther pain or mortification on the delinquent. At the same time, he who has thus subjected himself to merited punishment, can never complain of a sentence, which his own conscience must approve, or pretend that he was not aware of the natural consequence of his crimes. The rules of conduct prescribed by Justice, unlike the dictates of the other virtues, are always clear and precise. Frequently it may be a matter of some difficulty to determine what measure, in the particular circumstances of the case, may be most prudent or most beneficent; but never can any person be at a loss to know, when he deliberately diminishes the comforts or enjoyments of others, or be unconscious, that by so doing, he renders himself the object of merited punishment. For these reasons, it is on the virtue of Justice, and on that virtue alone, that Laws, the object of which is to maintain<xxxiv> rights and repress injuries, must be altogether founded.
General systems of Law have rarely, if ever, been formed by the prospective wisdom of legislators, but have arisen gradually, and almost insensibly, from the slow progress of human experience. When a dispute has taken place between two individuals, the spectators will naturally assist him, with whose motives they sympathize; who seeks no undue advantage, but merely wishes to retain what, without loss to others, is already in his possession. They will disapprove of the conduct and motives of that person, who, disregarding the good of his fellow-men, seeks his own advantage by the direct injury of another, and they will perceive that, by preventing his intentions, they take nothing from those comforts, which, with innocence, he can command. Between two such competitors for the possession of any object, there being no room for hesitation, the spectators are led immediately to interfere, and prevent injustice. Being also sensible that they themselves are liable to similar wrongs, against which a general combination is the only effectual protection, they are farther prompted to such an interference, by a species of self-interest. Such simple and obvious considerations must occur to<xxxv> men even in the rudest state of society; and, in Mr. Millar’s opinion, they sufficiently account for that general resemblance, which may be discovered in the laws of all countries, however different in their circumstances, or remote in their situations. It was therefore to such simple ideas, not to great and extended views of policy, that he traced the origin of the different recognised rights of individuals, and on such universal feelings, that he established their justice.
But, when we examine more particularly the laws and customs of different countries, we are struck with a diversity, and even opposition, among their regulations, which might almost lead us to suspect, that different nations, had been influenced, by opposite, and inconsistent, principles of Morals.
A nearer inspection, however, will convince us, that these diversities, important as they certainly are, may frequently arise from diversities no less striking in the conditions of different nations. Some tribes, drawing a precarious subsistence from hunting and fishing, and improvident for futurity, seem scarcely raised above the rank of irrational beings: Others, having learned to domesticate particular animals, are exempted from the danger of immediate want, yet forced to wander from place to place, in search of the spontaneous productions<xxxvi> of the earth: Those who inhabit a country of greater fertility, or who have discovered the means of improving fertility by labour, relinquishing their wandering habits, trust for their subsistence to the more certain resources of agriculture: From particular situation, or gradual discovery, some nations are led to meliorate, by human art, the rude produce of the soil, or to exchange their superfluous commodities for other, and to them more desirable, means of enjoyment: Distinctions of professions, and of ranks, are introduced; new sources of gratification are discovered; new wants excite to new exertions; the human mind is cultivated and expanded; and man rises to the highest pitch of civilization and refinement.
It were surely unreasonable to expect that, during all these successive changes, the laws should remain the same. Rules are gradually multiplied, as inconveniencies are felt, as new modes of injustice are detected; and such rules, simple and inartificial at first, are gradually modified and rendered more complex, by the subterfuges and evasions of fraud, as well as by the more general views of utility suggested by extensive experience and improved habits of reasoning.
These observations, however, Mr. Millar considered as but one step in his proposed inquiry; for among<xxxvii> nations advanced very nearly to the same degree of civilization, very opposite laws often prevail. This may frequently be accounted for by accurate observation of the real line of progress, which these different nations have described. All have not passed through exactly the same stages of improvement; all have not advanced with equal rapidity; some have remained long stationary at an early period of their course; while others, hurrying on with rapid strides at first, have appeared to repose for a while at a more advanced station, from which they have again proceeded with increased celerity and vigour. From whatever circumstances of soil, climate, or situation, such differences may have arisen, they must be attended with corresponding differences in the rules of law. The powerful effect of custom is discernible in all the institutions of man. Those views to which he has long been habituated he does not easily relinquish; those laws from which he has long derived protection he does not easily perceive to be defective. The rude institutions of a nation, which has remained stationary at any particular stage of improvement, become so rooted in the habits of the people, and in the opinions even of legislators, that it is long before a change of circumstances can produce any correspondent<xxxviii> change upon the laws. It was thus that the Patria Potestas, originating in very rude ideas, maintained its ground even during the most civilized times of Rome:* and thus the Feudal law, adapted to a state of society which has long ceased to exist, still continues to regulate the landed property of Scotland.
But besides the direct tendency of the progress of civilization to alter and modify the Laws, it has an indirect influence, still more important. In another course of Lectures (which I shall soon have occasion to mention more particularly), Mr. Millar had traced the natural progress of Government, as arising from the most obvious views of utility, as improved and varied by the advancement of a community, from the state of a rude horde to that of a civilized nation, and as influenced by many circumstances both of general and of particular application. He had, at the same time, pointed out the various distributions of Property that took place; the various distinctions of Ranks; the innumerable diversities of Public Opinion, of Public Institutions, and of National Character. All these varieties, from whatever circumstances they proceed, cannot fail to oc-<xxxix>casion endless diversities in systems of Law. But, by an attentive inquirer the causes of such diversities may usually be discovered; and thus all anomalies of Law will be explained, and the uniformity of our moral principles established, by an examination of what, at first view, has the appearance of irreconcileable contradiction.
It was on these principles, that Mr. Millar proceeded in the investigation of the Origin and History of private Rights. He rejected, as fabulous, the great and sudden alterations said to have been introduced by particular legislators, or at least he reduced such interpositions to a mere modification of what must have been occasioned by the circumstances of the times; and he doubted, if he did not altogether discredit, those wonderful effects that have been ascribed to the direct operation of climate on the human mind. I shall only add to the reasons he himself has assigned for these opinions,* that, by accounting from moral causes for the varieties which occur between the codes of different nations, he rendered unnecessary and unphilosophical, all historical assertions resting on<xl> questionable authority, and all assumed physical affections of the human mind, from their own nature, incapable of proof; substituting for such gratuitous hypothesis, a simple and universal theory, founded on the acknowledged nature of man, and capable of receiving confirmation from the whole history of the human race.
A system of Jurisprudence, embracing so many and such important disquisitions, reducing such apparently discordant facts in human nature to a few simple principles, and exemplifying the operation of our moral sentiments in such a variety of situations and circumstances, is surely one of the noblest efforts of the mind of man: Nor can any branch of education be considered as more important. While, by the richness of its illustrations, the variety of its facts, and the unexpected simplicity of its results, it fixes the attention, and delights the imagination; it accustoms the student to an accuracy of discrimination, and a generalisation of ideas, which are the surest characteristics of a philosophic mind. But, unconfined in their operations to a few individuals, the effects of studies so conducted may often be extended to the welfare of nations. By proving that no institutions, however just in themselves, can be either expedient or permanent, if inconsistent with established ranks,<xli> manners, and opinions, a system of Jurisprudence checks inconsiderate innovation, and indiscriminate reform; while, on the other hand, it points out, to the enlightened Legislator, such parts of the municipal code, as, introduced during ruder times, have remained in force, long after the circumstances from which they arose have ceased to exist, and directs him in the noble, but arduous, attempt, to purify and improve the laws of his country.
The investigation of the Nature and History of the several rights, subsisting between Individuals, called Mr. Millar’s attention to another species of rights, those subsisting between different Orders, and Classes, of the community. The former are so remarkably modified by the latter, that, in his Lectures on Jurisprudence, he had very frequently found it necessary, to give some explanation of the principles, according to which, distinguished powers and privileges are committed to particular persons: but this he had always done in as concise a manner as was consistent with perspicuity. The origin and progress of authority seemed to demand a more detailed investigation, than could<xlii> be introduced into his other Lectures, and promised to open up both an amusing and very useful field of inquiry.
To many of his students, indeed, who, without any intention of becoming practical lawyers, had been sent to the University, as to a seminary of liberal education, a course of Lectures on Public Law seemed more important than on almost any other science. In a free country, every man may be said to be born a politician; and the higher classes of society, those who chiefly resort to Universities as general students, are frequently obliged, by their situation in life, to give opinions on various subjects of Government, which may have considerable influence on the welfare of their country. To them a knowledge of Public Law must be an object of the first importance, whether they look forward to the degree of estimation in which they would wish to be held in their respective counties, or listen to the voice of honourable ambition, which calls them to add lustre to their names, by defending the rights and augmenting the happiness of their fellow-men. With the view of being serviceable to this class of Students, and, at the same time, with the conviction that a knowledge of Public Law is essential to a just and liberal conception<xliii> of the rules of the Municipal Code, Mr. Millar paid very particular attention to the course of Lectures on Government; introducing whatever disquisitions, connected with his subject, he thought likely to awaken curiosity, or illustrate the general principles of his theory. Hence he indulged himself in many speculations on Manners, on National Character, Literature, and the Fine Arts, which, though arising naturally from his subject, and intimately related to it, both by their influence on the theory of Government, and their tendency to illustrate the general progress of improvement in man, might, in some points of view, be considered as digressions.
The order which Mr. Millar had followed in his Lectures on Jurisprudence was not, in its full extent, applicable to the subject of Government. In private rights, a very considerable uniformity may be traced in the regulations of all countries, arrived at the same stage of improvement. The same associations, and the same obvious views of utility, suggest to all very similar laws; and though, indeed, many diversities, and some contrarieties may be observed, yet the general rule is always apparent, and the exceptions may usually be traced, by a short investigation, to a few circumstances peculiar to those countries in which they have occurred.<xliv>
But, in looking to the governments that have existed in the world, little of a similar uniformity appears. So many circumstances, besides the gradual improvement of mankind, have influenced the distribution of political power, and these circumstances are so various in their nature, so complicated in their mutual relations, that, on a cursory view, every thing seems irregular and anomalous; and it is only by a careful survey of the history of each nation, that the causes of its particular institutions can be discovered.
In treating of Jurisprudence, the most convenient and most philosophical arrangement was, to state the origin and history of each several right, explaining, as they occurred, the most remarkable deviations from the general rules. But, had the same method been followed in the Lectures on Government, the digressions to the circumstances, and institutions, of particular nations, must have been so frequent, and so minute, that, all traces of uniform principle being lost, the course would have appeared a series of partial and unconnected disquisitions.
Influenced, as is probable, by such considerations, Mr. Millar divided the course of Lectures on Government into three parts.<xlv>
I. He began with what Mr. Stewart has called a theoretical or conjectural history of government,* tracing its natural progress, according to the gradual civilization of mankind. In this part of his course, he noticed the modifications arising from circumstances of extensive influence; from the fertility of the soil; the extent and population of the state; the condition of surrounding nations; the exposure to attack; the facility of making great or permanent conquests: But he treated the subject generally, without any farther reference to the history of particular nations than was necessary to explain and illustrate his system.
The different conditions in which mankind have been discovered, Mr. Millar, with other authors, divided into four; the state of Hunters and Fishers; the Pastoral state; the Agricultural; and the Commercial.15 He was far from meaning to assert, that every nation, which has arrived at a high state of improvement, must have passed, successively, through all these conditions. He knew well that narrowness of territory might prevent even an inconsiderable tribe from existing by hunting, and force them to have recourse to the rearing of cattle; that a mild and fertile region, by the abundance of<xlvi> its spontaneous productions, might induce a preference of grain and roots to animal food, which must be acquired by exertion, and preserved by care; that an ungrateful soil might very early turn the attention of a people inhabiting an island or bay to piracy or commerce; that, above all, great and extensive conquests sometimes made the most rapid change on the condition of the conquerors, and of the conquered. But he adopted the ordinary division as the most convenient for suggesting and introducing the various changes recorded on human institutions and manners; and, while the progress which it assumed had the advantage of leading from the simple to the more complex views of human society, he considered it, though not universal, as probably the most general course of improvement which could be traced in history.
In each of those stages of society, he examined the powers which were likely to be placed in the hands of the Sovereign, and in those of the Nobility; the privileges which might probably be asserted by the People; and the Judicial establishments naturally resulting from the distinction of ranks, and distribution of property and power. He was particularly careful to mark the variations which occurred, when a nation passed from one of those conditions to another; and he noticed the various modifica-<xlvii>tions arising from circumstances of such extensive operation, as to be reducible to general rules.
Mr. Millar was well aware that, in the early part of the progress of mankind, he could find few authentic materials for his theoretical history; but this defect was in some measure compensated, by the similarity of the public institutions of savage nations, in different parts of the world, and by the general agreement of travellers in describing the very few features which form their characters. As he proceeded, his authorities became more full, and more precise; while the discordances between the manners and institutions of different countries becoming also more important, made it necessary for him to enter more minutely into details, and to point out many distinctions, and many modifications of his general doctrines. In the commercial state, in particular, it was requisite to enumerate very fully the circumstances, which, on the one hand, exalted the power of the sovereign, and, on the other, raised up a spirit of independence among the people; as it depended altogether on the early prevalence of the one or the other, whether a despotical or free Government should be established or maintained.
Having followed the progress of civilization and government, till they reached the greatest perfec-<xlviii>tion of which we have experience, Mr. Millar examined, at some length, the question, whether this advancement can be continued without end, or whether, from the nature of human affairs, it be not subjected to certain limitations. Of those nations, which have sunk from riches and power to poverty and insignificance, the downfall has been occasioned, either by despotical government, a casual effect of opulence which may probably be corrected by the greater diffusion of knowledge, or by the inroads of barbarians now guarded against by the balance of power, and the improvements of modern tactics. Neither did Mr. Millar conceive that the high wages of labour, arising from the general diffusion of wealth, could so far counterbalance the advantages resulting from superior capital, from improved machinery, and from the division of labour, as to enable a poor nation to outstrip a richer, in the commercial competition. In none of those causes usually assigned for the decay of opulent states, did he see any reason for believing that there are fixed impassable limits to the improvement of man. But, in examining the changes produced by wealth on the national character, he was struck with that sordid love of gain, that exclusive attention to individual interests, which debase the character of man, and under-<xlix>mine the generous enthusiasm for the public welfare, on which alone Public Liberty can securely rest. Even without Patriotism, he did not deny that, by wise institutions, a semblance of Freedom might long be preserved; but this he considered as a mere phantom, always liable to disappear, through the arts of the court, or the blind fury of the populace. Nor did it escape his observation, that a very great diffusion of wealth has a tendency to impair those habits of active industry, on which the successful cultivation of the ordinary arts of life altogether depends. Should any such relaxation of industry take place, a relaxation which the influence of imitation and fashion may extend from the higher to the lower orders of society, it cannot fail very speedily to be followed by poverty and vice, with their usual concomitants, servility and oppression: neither can this deterioration be checked, while the profligate habits, occasioned by the former affluence of the country, continue to prevail.
This part of the course Mr. Millar concluded with a detailed examination of the principles which produce the idea of obligation in submitting to Government. He dismissed, as scarcely worthy of refutation, the doctrines of Divine Right; but he was at some pains to enforce Mr. Hume’s objections<l> to the fiction of an Original Compact, long the favourite opinion of English Whigs.* He referred the origin of the Rights of Government, partly to the natural deference for abilities, birth, and wealth, which he denominated the principle of authority; partly to obvious and powerful considerations of utility. His opinions on this subject are very distinctly stated in a posthumous publication, to which I shall refer the reader.†
II. This theoretical history of Mankind was followed by a survey of the particular forms of Government, established in the principal countries, of ancient and modern times; which, while it illustrated the principles that had been explained, pointed out many causes of deviation from the general system. Of the constitutional history of each of those nations, Mr. Millar gave a rapid sketch, in which, without omitting any thing material or fundamental, he passed slightly over the less important, or what may be considered as the technical, forms of their several Governments. His object was to delineate the successive changes that took place in each of these States; to shew how their Governments had arisen; what altera-<li>tions they had undergone during the progress of improvement; and in what manner these alterations had been produced by the peculiar circumstances in which they were respectively placed.
In this Review, the Athenian Government naturally attracted his attention, by its admirable effects in exalting the powers of Intellect, and in refining, to a degree hitherto unexampled, those of Taste. In another respect, also, it merited particular examination. From the barrenness of Attica, and the convenience of its harbours, the inhabitants, even before making any considerable advances in agriculture, had become first pirates, and afterwards merchants. A similar progress might probably have occurred in several other states of antiquity; but the memorials of such nations are few and mutilated, while the history of Athens has been transmitted to our times with uncommon accuracy and fulness. That country, therefore, he considered as one of the few instances in which the influence of early commerce on national character, and on the structure and genius of the government, may be duly appreciated.
In treating of Sparta, Mr. Millar examined, in detail, those regulations which are commonly ascribed to Lycurgus;16 proving them to have been such as would naturally prevail in a country which<lii> had long remained in a rude condition, and indeed very similar to customs and institutions which may be found in other parts of the world. He was ready to allow that Lycurgus might, in some respects, improve the Laws, and perhaps, by his personal influence, give superior stability to the Institutions of his country; but he ascribed their duration chiefly to particular circumstances, such as constant wars, and inattention to commerce, which, keeping Sparta poor and barbarous, confirmed her early customs, by the force of habit.
The Roman Government Mr. Millar considered at greater length, on account, both of the superior importance of that state, and of the more accurate information which has come down to us respecting its Laws and Institutions. That Government, too, seemed particularly deserving of attention, because the Roman Law has been the foundation of almost all the modern Codes, and is still appealed to, as decisive authority, in the silence of the municipal regulations of modern Europe.
To these Lectures may be applied Mr. Millar’s own remark, on what might have been expected from the Treatises Dr. Smith once proposed to write on the Greek and Roman Republics. “After all that has been published on that subject, his<liii> observations suggested many new and important views, concerning the internal and domestic circumstances of those nations, which displayed their several systems of policy, in a light much less artificial, than that in which they have hitherto appeared.”*
In the institutions of Modern Europe, a much greater similarity may be traced, than in the Governments of ancient states. All the kingdoms of the south of Europe, were founded by rude shepherds, overrunning extensive tracts of cultivated country, and incorporating with the civilized inhabitants of the Roman Provinces. All those barbarians, bringing with them similar institutions, and making similar conquests, established political systems, in their principal features, very nearly alike. Previously, therefore, to delineating any of the Governments of modern Europe, Mr. Millar thought it useful, to give a general picture of the whole; and, in doing so, he found it convenient to separate the Civil from the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction; a distinction unnecessary in treating of the ancient Governments, but important respecting those of modern times.
It would carry me too far, were I to attempt to<liv> give any account of Mr. Millar’s original and ingenious speculations, respecting the Feudal system: I shall merely remark, that he steered a middle course between the older Antiquarians, who conceived that the system of Tenures was completed soon after the settlement of the barbarians, and the partizans of the more modern opinion, that the whole lands were originally held allodially, and that Fiefs were introduced entirely by subsequent resignations.† Nor shall I attempt to follow him in his very masterly sketch of the rise, elevation, and decline, of Ecclesiastical Power.
Having taken a general survey of the constitutional history of Modern Europe, both in Church and State, Mr. Millar entered upon a particular examination of the Governments of France, Germany, and England; concluding this part of his course with a rapid view of the Histories of Scotland, and of Ireland. Here, it is unnecessary for me to attempt to follow him; as he has laid before the public the historical view of the English Government, which will sufficiently evince the saga-<lv>city of research, and the comprehensiveness of view, which so eminently characterised these Disquisitions.
III. The History of the British Government led, by a very natural transition, to an account of the Constitution, as settled at the Revolution in 1688, which formed the third branch of these Lectures. To this, indeed, the other parts of the course might be considered as in some degree subordinate. However curious and instructive speculations on the progress of Government may be, their chief use is to suggest different views, and various comparisons, by which we may estimate the advantages of our present institutions, and thence be led to venerate and support what is excellent, to correct and improve whatever may be defective.
In this important part of the Lectures, Mr. Millar entered with a minuteness, which renders it impossible for me, in this short essay, to give even an outline of his opinions, into the consideration of all the parts of the British Government; occasionally relieving the dryness of detail, by remarks, and even discussions, on the advantages of the present system; on the dangers to which it is exposed; and on such means of improvement as are consistent with the present state of manners and opinions, and with those established distinc-<lvi>tions of Rank which it is often unjust, and always hazardous, to abolish. Animated by the love of his country, he delivered his opinions openly and explicitly; opinions equally removed, on the one hand, from courtly servility, and on the other, from unbending republicanism. After discussing the constitution and rights of Parliament, the privileges of the several branches of the legislature, and the ministerial or executive powers of the Crown, he entered, at considerable length, into the detail of the Judicial establishments in England and in Scotland; concluding with a short comparison between them, in which, with what by many will be thought a Scottish prejudice, he, upon the whole, seemed to give the preference to those of his own country.
From the very slight sketch which I have now given of these Lectures, their high importance will be sufficiently apparent. Though nothing uninteresting was introduced, they comprehended a greater variety of topics than almost any other subject could have afforded; and gave occasion to very numerous disquisitions, having an immediate reference to the public welfare. The general student was delighted with the acuteness of the observations, the sagacity of the antiquarian researches; the number and elegance of the analo-<lvii>gies, the comprehensiveness and consistency of the doctrines: The young Lawyer, by tracing the progress and views of the Government, was instructed in the spirit and real intention of the Laws: But, to the future statesman, were opened up views of human society, of the nature and ends of Government, and of the influence of Public Institutions on the prosperity, morals, and happiness of states; views which could hardly fail to impress a veneration for liberty on his heart, and which, through his exertions, might essentially promote the welfare of his country.
When Mr. Millar was appointed Professor of Law, the University of Glasgow enjoyed that very high reputation for philosophical inquiry, which, by the continued exertions of its professors, it still maintains. Dr. Hutchison laid the foundation of this fame, by his very amiable and ingenious system of Morals, and, under his successors, Dr. Smith and Dr. Reid, the character which the Moral Philosophy Class then acquired has been both established and extended. The originality of the speculations of these Philosophers has given a de-<lviii>cided bias, at Glasgow, to moral and metaphysical research; a bias in some degree unfavourable to the study of the ancient languages, and even to the important sciences of Physics and Mathematics. Yet, in these departments, also, the University can boast of professors of no common reputation. Dr. Moor and Mr. Muirhead, joined to an intimate acquaintance with the stores of ancient literature, much critical knowledge and acuteness: Dr. Wilson distinguished himself by several astronomical discoveries of considerable moment: The writings of Dr. Simson are known and admired by every mathematician in Europe; and Dr. Cullen and Dr. Black, did more than perhaps any other English philosophers, in extending and improving the sciences of medicine and chemistry.*
In a university, where so many learned men had excited a general spirit of inquiry, and where so many original investigations were going forward, it was a natural wish, that there should be some established mode of mutual communication by which new ideas might be elicited, and error, ever prone<lix> to insinuate itself among new discoveries, might speedily be detected. Such were the views with which The Literary Society, consisting chiefly of Professors, together with some Clergymen of the city and neighbourhood, had been instituted in 1752.17
On Mr. Millar’s coming to Glasgow, he found this society in a very flourishing state, and, from a conviction of the advantages attending such an institution, both to its particular members, and to the general interests of science, he immediately became a very active and zealous promoter of its views. Till his death, he continued to attend the meetings with a punctuality of which I believe there are few examples. So far as I can learn, he never once failed, in the course of forty years, to read a discourse in his turn; and it was very seldom indeed that he allowed any other engagement to interfere with his attendance. The society became a kind of weekly habit to him; and he seemed to feel considerable disappointment and uneasiness, when any circumstance prevented its regular meeting.
The members of the Literary Society are accustomed to read papers on those subjects of science or taste, with which they are most conversant; each professor usually making choice of some to-<lx>pic connected with the particular business of his class, or taking the opinion of his colleagues on such speculations as he may be preparing for the press. The reading of the essay is followed by a conversation, sometimes by a debate, on the opinions that have been maintained; strictures are made on the arrangement, illustrations, or language; new ideas are occasionally started by the speakers; various improvements are suggested; and not unfrequently the whole foundations of the system are unreservedly attacked. The author is thus made sensible of any obscurity that may have pervaded his statements, or of any sophistry that may have insinuated itself into his arguments; he is led to revise his positions, to re-examine his authorities, and sometimes to perceive new views and new combinations, productive of the most important discoveries. To the other members, much useful knowledge is conveyed, on subjects often remote from their ordinary studies; and, by the diffusion of a general curiosity respecting all branches of science, that narrow exclusive attention to one particular study, which is so apt to proceed from the division of intellectual labour, is, in some measure, corrected.
Mr. Millar usually took a leading part in these discussions. Few subjects could be proposed on<lxi> which he had not, in some degree, reflected; and, though occasionally the essays entered so minutely into abstract science, that a person possessed only of general knowledge could not deliver a profound opinion; yet, even in such cases, his natural acuteness, and scientific habits, frequently enabled him to detect any inaccuracy in the arrangement, or inconsistent opinions in different parts of the discourse. His favourite subjects, however, those which he always canvassed with new interest and delight, were the sciences connected with the study of the human mind. A zealous admirer of Mr. Hume’s philosophical opinions, which he had early adopted, and of the truth of which, after inquiries increased his conviction,* he was necessarily engaged in frequent debate with Dr. Reid. Each, firmly persuaded that he maintained the cause of truth, used every exertion to support his own opinions and overthrow those of his opponent. No<lxii> weapon was rejected. To the utmost subtility of argument, to the most acute detection of sophistry, were sometimes joined the powers of ridicule; and occasionally, when arguments, conceived to be refuted in former debates, were again, on either side, introduced, some impatience might appear, some expressions might be used which seemed to convey the idea of contempt. But such feelings never, for a moment, survived the debate; and it is honourable to both, that frequent, and even acrimonious disputation never weakened their sentiments of friendship, nor impaired that mutual esteem which their worth, their talents, and their unwearied ardour in the investigation of truth, were calculated to inspire.
On several evenings, each winter, in place of a regular essay being read, a member of the society is appointed to open a debate on a given subject; and, on such evenings, the speeches assume more of the character of public harangues. Mr. Millar’s elocution when he became a member of the Literary Society, has been described to me as, in some degree, embarrassed, cold, and constrained. To him, who was resolved to deliver extemporary Lectures, nothing could be more important than to conquer such defects; nor could there be any more certain means of accomplishing this object,<lxiii> than were furnished by the meetings of the society. A flow of ideas and expression, can be acquired only by practice, and by that self-possession and confidence which spring from repeated attempts, and repeated success. In the Society, too, Mr. Millar had frequent opportunities of comparing very different styles of oratory, and, in particular, of listening to the elegant and pleasing eloquence of his friend Dr. Wight, who, by the liveliness of his manner, and brilliancy of his imagination, often foiled the superior information and strength of argument by which he was assailed.* By seizing every opportunity of improvement, Mr. Millar soon overcame any disadvantages under which he at first might labour, and placed himself, as a speaker, decidedly at the head of the Society. Feeling a lively interest in most of the questions proposed, he never failed to communicate something of this interest to his hearers; following the most natural order of ideas, he took a firm and steady hold of his subject; possessed of extensive knowledge, and a very lively imagination, he drew illustrations from a vast variety of topics; fond of wit, and not averse to ridicule, he enlivened the discussion with<lxiv> fanciful allusions, with delicate irony, and pointed satire; and, sometimes, rising with his subject, his eye on fire, his action strong and energetic, his tones impressive, his language bold and figurative, he astonished by the force of his declamation, and reached the highest pitch of impassioned eloquence.
After the business of the society was concluded, such of the members, as happened to have no other engagements, frequently adjourned, for a few hours, to a tavern in the neighbourhood. Here the discussion was sometimes continued, but with more sudden transitions, greater play of imagination, and all those sallies and deviations which are the charm of unrestrained conversation. In this part of the evening’s amusement, Mr. Millar was as conspicuous, as in the previous discussions. His convivial talents, his unfailing vivacity and good humour, called out the powers of many, who would otherwise have remained silent and reserved; the liveliness of his fancy suggested infinite topics of conversation or of mirth; and his rich stores of information enabled him to supply endless sources of knowledge and amusement.
In most men, distinguished powers of conversation are merely an agreeable talent, the source of pleasure to their friends, and of affection to-<lxv>wards themselves; but, in Mr. Millar’s particular situation, they were of higher importance; enabling him, with the most distinguished success, to discharge the duties of an instructor of youth. It has long been the custom at Glasgow, for several of the professors to admit into their houses young gentlemen, of whose education they take a general superintendence. While, by this means, they derive a considerable addition to their moderate incomes, they hold out a new inducement to men of fortune to send their sons to a University, where their conduct and manners, as well as their studies, will be under the watchful eye of a man of established reputation. For some years, Mr. Millar’s time was too much occupied, in collecting materials for his Lectures, to allow him to receive domestic pupils; but, when this part of his labour was nearly completed, he found that, notwithstanding his public duties as a professor, it was in his power to do full justice to such young men as, with the views above alluded to, might be entrusted to his care. To their instruction he devoted a very considerable part of his time; he had much delight in conversing with them on their several studies, in leading them to inquire and to reflect, and, particularly, in encouraging such talents as promised future discoveries in science, or future eminence in the state.<lxvi>
Perhaps nothing contributed so much to the improvement of his pupils, as the art with which he contrived to make them lay aside all timidity in his presence, and speak their sentiments without constraint. While he was thus enabled to judge of their abilities and attainments, he acquired, in addition to the respect due to his talents, that confidence and friendship which ensure the attention of young men, and render the office of a teacher not undelightful. This easy and liberal communication of sentiments extended equally to every subject; to the doctrines taught in his own classes; to criticism; to contested points of History; and to the political struggles of the day. Whatever Mr. Millar’s own opinions were on these subjects, he never wished to impose them on his pupils. In those discussions, which his conversation often introduced, and which, as a most useful exercise to their minds, he was always ready to encourage, he was pleased with ingenious argument, even when he did not adopt the conclusion; and he exposed sophistry, even when exerted in defence of his favourite opinions. In consequence of his own command of temper, he could at once repress any improper warmth that might appear; and, when the debate seemed to lead to unpleasing wrangling, he was always ready, with some whim-<lxvii>sical allusion, to restore good humour, or, by the introduction of some collateral topic, to change the subject of discourse. Wherever he discovered uncommon literary talents, his conversation called them into exertion, his warm applause produced that degree of self-confidence which is almost necessary to excellence, and his good humoured raillery, or serious remonstrances, reclaimed from indolence and deterred from dissipation.
In his domestic intercourse, he encouraged, at times, the detail of the juvenile pursuits and amusements of the young men, both from indulgence to their inclinations, and from a desire of tracing, in such unreserved communications, the temper and dispositions of his pupils; but he instantly repressed all trivial details, and all insignificant or gossiping anecdotes of individuals. Even in doing so, he avoided, as much as possible, every appearance of restraint or severity; and the ease and affability of his manners contributed more, perhaps, than even his talents, to produce that affectionate attachment, with which almost all his pupils were inspired. This attachment he had great pleasure in cultivating, as the most gratifying reward for his labours, and the most effectual control on young men, more apt to be influenced in their behaviour by their affections, than by stern,<lxviii> and what often appears to them, capricious, authority. While under Mr. Millar’s care, all his pupils were treated alike; or rather the differences which might be remarked in his attentions, were the consequence of superior talents or application, never of superior rank. When they left his house, his connection with most of them necessarily ceased. He was always delighted, indeed, to hear of their success or eminence; but his regular occupations rendered it impossible for him to continue an epistolary correspondence; and his proud independence of mind made him rather decline, than cultivate, the friendship of those who succeeded to honours, or rose to power.
Such were his regular and stated occupations, during the winter. For some years after he was settled in Glasgow, he was in the habit of spending great part of the summer with his father at Hamilton; but, as his family increased, this became more inconvenient; and his uncle, ever attentive to his comfort, gave him a small farm near the village of Kilbride, about seven miles from Glasgow.
The farm of Whitemoss consisted of about thirty acres of very indifferent land, lying in a climate no way genial. Such circumstances, however, did not prevent him from feeling all the ardour of an improver. Many a scheme did he devise for rais-<lxix>ing crops, and clothing his fields with verdure; and, though these schemes were never very successful, they were carried on at little expence, served to amuse his leisure, and, to a certain degree, diminished the natural bleakness immediately round his house.
His life at Whitemoss was very uniform; but, occupied with the cultivation of his little farm, interested in his studies, and surrounded by his family, he felt no languor, and desired no variety. He had few neighbours, and visited them very seldom. With Sir William Maxwell of Calderwood,18 to whose lady Mrs. Millar was distantly related, he always lived on terms of friendship; and with Dr. and Mrs. Baillie, on a footing of intimacy. Dr. Baillie,19 after being elected Professor of Divinity, resided, during the summer, at Long Calderwood, about a mile from Whitemoss; and, after his death, his widow and daughters made it their abode for several years. Their society added much to Mr. Millar’s enjoyments and to those of his family; the young people were together almost every day; their time of life and amusements were the same; and the celebrity which Dr. Baillie of London afterwards acquired in his profession, the universal admiration which his sister has secured by her<lxx> Dramatic Compositions, have been sources of the purest pleasure to their early friends.20
In the year 1784, Mr. Millar’s uncle, who had ever been most kind and attentive to him, from unwillingness to prevent improvements of which Milheugh was very capable, but which he was much too old either to direct or even altogether to approve, went to reside with his brother at Hamilton; where he remained till his death, which happened in the following year. The two old men had, during the whole of their lives, been very strongly attached to each other, and had often been heard to wish that the fate of two brothers who had died in Hamilton, within a few days of each other, might also be theirs. In this wish they were not disappointed. The old clergyman, after his brother’s death, became uneasy and restless, but could not be prevented from attending the funeral. Being so near Milheugh, he took a last view of the scenes of his infancy, and, with singular liberality of mind, gave his approbation to alterations which had swept away many objects of his early partiality. The agitation of his mind, the want of sleep, and the heat of the weather overpowered him. By the time he returned to Hamilton, symptoms of an inflammatory fever had appear-<lxxi>ed, and, in a few days, he followed his beloved brother to the grave.
Milheugh possesses many natural beauties. It consists of several small meadows, separated from each other by the Calder, a little stream which winds among them, sometimes skirting, at other times intersecting, the valley. The bushes which fringe the edges of the rivulet, and a number of large trees standing near the house, and shading several of the principal walks, give great richness to the scene, while the steep banks, which rise from each side of the valley, suggest ideas of retirement and seclusion. But, when Mr. Millar came to Milheugh, there was much to alter and improve. He removed many formal hedges, which subdivided the little meadows, or, by stiff unbending lines, marked too distinctly the course of the rivulet. He formed the old orchard into pleasing group of trees around the house; left bushes irregularly scattered on the banks of the stream; and carried plantations along the top of the banks. Every thing throve in this sheltered situation, and Milheugh is now one of the sweetest little retirements that could be desired. Its beauties are elegant and simple, and perhaps it would be difficult to point out any farther embellishments that would accord with the character of the place.<lxxii>
For some time, Mr. Millar’s summers were altogether devoted to his improvements. Every tree that was planted, still more every bush that was cut down, was the subject of many consultations with his family: The direction of a path, the opening up of a new view, or the discovery of a new object in one of his prospects, engrossed the whole of his mind: and, when he could not enjoy these higher pleasures, he watched, with delight, the progress of his young plantations, and enjoyed, by anticipation, the future beauties of his plans. By degrees, as his improvements were completed, Milheugh occupied less of his attention; but it never ceased to interest and delight him. It was endeared to him by no common ties; it had been the scene of his early years, and was now embellished by his mature taste: in one view, it was associated with his most pleasing recollections; in another, it might almost be considered as the production of his own mind.
Mr. Millar’s intercourse with his neighbours was scarcely more frequent at Milheugh, than it had been at Whitemoss. He was, indeed, no way dependent on society; but he was fond of the occasional visits of his acquaintances, and of the variety arising from the addition of a few strangers to the family circle. He was therefore much gratified,<lxxiii> soon after he went to Milheugh, by the establishment, in his near neighbourhood, of Mr. Jardine,* one of his most respected friends, who, induced chiefly by the desire of enjoying his society during the summer, purchased a small estate, not above two miles distant. Their frequent intercourse was to both a source of much enjoyment.
When in the country, Mr. Millar employed a great part of his leisure in perusing such books as his other avocations in winter had prevented him from reading, and in preparing his own works for the press. The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, was written chiefly at Hamilton, and Glasgow; The Historical View of the English Government, altogether at Whitemoss and Milheugh. While carrying on this last work, it very frequently became the subject of conversation in the family, and all the opinions and speculations it contains were freely canvassed. He had long been in the habit of consulting Mrs. Millar with regard to his literary works, and some of his children being, by this time, competent judges of composition, he oc-<lxxiv>casionally read over to his family the most amusing or interesting passages, and listened with much attention to their various criticisms. By this means, besides increasing that mutual confidence which ever subsisted between him and his family, he had the means of detecting any little errors which had escaped his own observation, and he formed the taste, while he improved the judgment of his children.
Of the subjects which Mr. Millar had occasion to discuss in his Lectures on Jurisprudence and Government, none seemed more interesting in themselves, or so capable of being detached from his other disquisitions, as that of the various Ranks which are established in society, the various degrees of authority and power which are distributed among the several members of a community. In so far as such differences of rank and power are founded on fixed and universal relations, they may be traced to four distinct sources. The difference of sex has, in every country, occasioned remarkable differences between the habits, occupations, acquirements, and authority of men and women: The helplessness of infancy, and the habits at that time contracted, have produced a dependence, more or less complete, of children on their parents: Various circumstances have subjected some men to<lxxv> others as servants or slaves: And the wants of society, the necessity of a warlike leader for each tribe, the natural authority of strength, courage, wisdom, and riches, have raised particular members of the community to political power. The three first of these sources of the distinction of Ranks are the foundation of what, in the Civil Law, are called the Rights of Persons, the last is the basis of the rights of Government; consequently they had all been the subjects of inquiry, in the several courses of Lectures delivered by Mr. Millar in the University.
Believing that some account of the origin and progress of those distinctions of Ranks might be generally interesting, Mr. Millar was induced, in 1771, to publish a short treatise on this subject, which was very favourably received. Even to cursory readers, it was calculated to afford amusement, by the various views of human nature which it exhibited, and by the singularity of many of the traits of manners, as well as of national characters and institutions, which it traced to their sources. To the philosopher, it delineated a general but instructive view of the changes consequent on the progress of improvement; accounting, in a satisfactory manner, for the introduction of many of the most singular institutions described in history; and, by the explanation it afforded of the causes of<lxxvi> what has existed, directing his speculations, and giving a reasonable degree of certainty to his conclusions respecting the future destinies of mankind. From its first publication, this work attracted considerable attention, and several successive editions have been called for by the public. It also became known and esteemed on the Continent, through a translation, executed, I believe, by Garat, who afterwards, at a most eventful period of the French Revolution,* was, little to his own honour or the public advantage, appointed Minister of Justice.
The subjects of this publication were part of those which had been treated of in the Lectures on Jurisprudence and Government; but the point of view in which they were considered was, in some respects, different. Mr. Millar, in this treatise, proposed to confine himself altogether to the changes produced on the several relations of society, by the gradual progress of civilization and improvement. He neither intended to give any account of the laws and institutions springing from these relations, except when necessary for illustration, nor to investigate, in a detailed manner, the effects produced upon them by particular systems of Government<lxxvii> or Religion. Thus, in tracing the condition of the female sex, he abstained from a detailed inquiry into the subjects of Marriage and Divorce, and took only a very cursory view of the effects of particular systems of Government or Religion on the condition of women, or of the comparative advantages attending the different degrees of consideration, which, at different periods, they have acquired. All these subjects, he had treated very fully in his Lectures on Jurisprudence; but, in this publication, his object was simply to exhibit a theoretical history of the condition of women, as affected by the gradual progress of refinement, and by that progress alone.
In those chapters which trace the progress of political power, Mr. Millar has bestowed much attention on the Feudal Governments of modern Europe. He has shewn how such institutions naturally arose from the condition of the German tribes, the extent of their conquests, and the reciprocal influence on each other of the manners of the old and new inhabitants; and he has detected many traces of similar institutions in the laws of other countries. This was indeed a very favourite subject with him, and his speculations respecting it were considerably different from those of other writers. They are marked by that simplicity and clearness of view<lxxviii> which characterise all his disquisitions, and they produce that conviction which never fails to attend a system, simple in its construction, consistent in itself, and satisfactory in accounting for a multitude of facts.
Of his opinions respecting the Feudal System, the changes on the state of servants in modern Europe, and the origin of that spirit of chivalry which has still left remarkable traces in modern manners, (subjects which are sketched in a very spirited manner in The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks) Mr. Millar had afterwards occasion to publish many additional illustrations, in his principal work, the Historical View of the English Government.
It has already been mentioned that, in his Lectures on Government, he paid particular attention to the constitution of his own country; tracing it through all its successive changes, and accounting for its several modifications, from the known state of manners, opinions, and property. On this subject, many rash and erroneous speculations have, at different times, been given to the world. Some authors have fondly traced the institutions of Britain to the woods of Germany, flattering the national vanity with the idea that our rude forefathers possessed juster views of Government, more liberal sen-<lxxix>timents, and better digested laws, than can be found among other barbarians.21 The majority of writers, less prone to investigation, have satisfied themselves with ascribing whatever is remarkable in the constitution, to the general wisdom of our ancestors; meaning, if indeed they have had any accurate meaning, that it arose from such views of remote utility, as may be sufficiently obvious to us, but never have had any very perceptible influence on the public measures of an early age. Several authors, among whom is Mr. Hume, have conceived that, at the Norman Conquest, all traces of former liberty were abolished, and an absolute government established, on which various encroachments have successively been made, when the weakness of the monarch, or the embarrassment of public affairs, afforded a favourable opportunity, to the turbulence of the Barons, or seditions of the people. Such being the favourite creed of the Tories, it was encountered with more ardour than acuteness by the Whigs, who pretended that, at a time when vassals held their lands chiefly during the pleasure of their superiors, and the inhabitants of towns were universally slaves, the present fabric of our constitution was completed, and a fair representation of the Commons in Parliament fully established.<lxxx>
Mr. Millar saw that a connected view of the changes which have taken place in the English Government would completely overthrow such opinions, from which many dangerous inferences have often been drawn: and, besides being in this view highly important, he conceived that a detail of the various steps by which a constitution, uniting the advantages of monarchy to those of popular government, has gradually been brought to its present form, (steps, in many instances, productive of consequences very different from the considerations of temporary convenience in which they originated) could not fail to afford a most interesting and improving object of research. Animated by such expectations, he devoted the leisure of his summers to the arranging and extending of this branch of his Lectures, and, in 1787, he gave to the world The Historical View of the English Government, from the settlement of the Saxons in Britain, to the accession of the house of Stewart. This work, containing much inquiry into the remote periods of our Government, and many disquisitions which it demands some effort of attention fully to understand, could not be of a very popular nature: but it has been justly appreciated by those who were fitted, by their habits and previous studies, to take an interest in such researches, and, consider-<lxxxi>ing the nature of the subjects of which it treats, its having already reached a third edition is no slight proof of public approbation.
It is by no means my intention to attempt any analysis of the Historical View; nor, indeed, is it possible, by an analysis, to do justice to a work in which every opinion is already stated with all the conciseness consistent with perspicuity. To detach any one speculation from the rest, to sketch the progress of the kingly power, of the privileges of parliament, of the judicial establishments, or of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, separately from each other, would be to deprive the whole of that evidence, (perhaps the most convincing to a philosopher), which results from the congruity of all its parts, from the connection of the several institutions with each other, and the dependence of the whole on the real and ascertained improvement in the condition of the people.
Indeed Mr. Millar is frequently obliged to rest the truth of his opinions on this internal proof. Ascending to a period of which the records are scanty, and disfigured with fable, he often, without reference to such uncertain authority, produces a conviction, stronger perhaps than can ever be derived from the testimony of an individual, always liable to be deceived. His argument, founded on<lxxxii> unconnected circumstances all tending to one effect; his successive positions, derived from the acknowledged condition of the several ranks of inhabitants, flowing naturally from the state of manners and property, and leading, by easy transition, to what we know was afterwards established; his frequent illustrations, by reference to similar institutions existing in other countries, and by a distinct enumeration of circumstances in some nations leading to opposite results: His disquisitions, so conducted, produce a confidence in his conclusions, to which the authority of rude and careless annalists can have no pretension.
Institutions familiar to early historians seldom appear to them objects of curiosity or research. Occupied in giving a bare narration of events, which have passed in their own times, or have been handed down by tradition, they may occasionally notice some existing institutions; but, with regard to their origin, the time of their introduction, or the successive steps which led to their improvement, they are usually extremely ignorant. Such objects of inquiry seem to them of no importance; what is familiar excites no curiosity; what has existed during the whole life of the author may have existed for ever. Long before the importance of any particular change in the manners, state of property,<lxxxiii> or government becomes apparent, the circumstances from which it arose are usually effaced; the want of information is supplied by the invention of some puerile story; or the fame of a particular prince, or the wisdom of our ancestors, are referred to as a satisfactory solution of all difficulties and doubts. Such vague accounts of the origin and progress of the most important Institutions, at first brought forward without authority, are afterwards repeated without examination, and are too frequently considered as the well authenticated facts of history.
From such authorities, Mr. Millar could derive little assistance. There was seldom any controversy respecting the existence of particular institutions, and it was in vain to seek, from such writers, any accurate information of their nature, or of the gradual and unobserved steps which led to their establishment. Nothing, indeed, could have been easier, than to have crowded his margin with references; but this show of erudition must have been altogether illusive, and such affectation he regarded with contempt. Where his opinion could derive real support from a reference, or quotation, he did not disregard it: where it could not, he never presumed on the ignorance or carelessness of his reader, but rested his doctrine, openly and fairly, on its intrinsic evidence. Yet, so much are we now accustomed to the cita-<lxxxiv>tion of numerous authorities even for what no man ever doubted, that, very possibly, Mr. Millar paid too little regard to the prevailing taste of antiquarians, and deprived his work too much of that kind of support, on which they are accustomed, almost exclusively, to depend.
It has been often remarked that the style of Mr. Millar’s writings is very different from what the vivacity of his conversation, and the copious diction of his extemporary eloquence, gave reason to expect. When he sat down to compose, he seems to have discarded every idea not strictly connected with the subject of his inquiry, and to have guarded, with a vigilance very unfavourable to the lighter graces of composition, against all equivocal expressions, or fanciful allusions. His language, as has been well observed by one of his friends,* is the expression rather than the ornament of his thoughts. Clear, accurate, precise, it never fails to convey his ideas with a distinctness which precludes all misapprehension; but frequently it conveys them in a manner, neither the most striking, nor the most alluring, to the reader. The structure of his sentences is always extremely simple. Following the most obvious arrangement, and avoiding all such inversions, as, though delighting the ear, might occasion<lxxxv> some risk of mistake in the sense, he produces a degree of monotony in his pauses, and gives a severity, sometimes repulsive, to his writings. These were circumstances which Mr. Millar was accustomed to disregard. His object was to convey clear and accurate ideas; and that object he so fully accomplished, that perhaps it would be impossible to find a sentence in his book, which can require a second perusal to be distinctly understood.
Similar views seem to have restrained him from employing those figurative expressions and fanciful allusions, which an imagination such as his could not fail to suggest. Simple correctness and accuracy are so much the characteristics of his style, that, even when he rises from plain narration to warmth and energy, (and there are many such passages in his writings), the force is always in the principal idea, seldom in the accessories. Not unfrequently, we meet with a strong conception distinctly expressed, and affecting the reader by its native energy; seldom with a collection of associated ideas and sentiments hurrying on the mind by their accumulated force.
It can scarcely be doubted that this steady rejection of metaphor and allusion, as well as the particular construction of his period, was adopted, after due consideration, as the style best suited to a<lxxxvi> didactic subject. No man had more command of his ideas; none could combine them more readily, where his purpose was to address the imagination: But, in establishing a great and comprehensive system, he was anxious that the mind should not be diverted from the full consideration of all its parts, and of their several relations and dependencies. Perhaps he did not sufficiently consider, that many readers can be engaged in such disquisitions, only by the charms of style, and that, to those unaccustomed to severe investigation, some relief is necessary from continued exertion; some relaxation is required, that they may afterwards proceed with renovated ardour. By a person already interested in such inquiries, Mr. Millar’s style may probably be preferred to one of greater variety and embellishment; but it may be doubted how far it is calculated to excite such interest, where it does not previously exist.
The Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, and the Historical View of the English Government, are the only works to which Mr. Millar prefixed his name. Nor do I find that he published any other Tracts, except one or two anonymous pamphlets, on such political questions as he thought important to the public welfare, and a few articles in the Analytical Review. These Tracts I shall not par-<lxxxvii>ticularize, because what he never acknowledged, even to his acquaintances, I do not feel myself at liberty to divulge. The plan adopted in the Analytical Review, at its first establishment, was to give such an abstract of the different publications as might enable its readers to judge of their matter, and to insert such extracts as might give some idea of their style.22 Mr. Millar, in the articles which he wrote, adhered very rigidly to this plan, stating, as shortly as possible, any observations that seemed necessary on the merits of the publications, and introducing very sparingly his own particular opinions. To review in this manner obviously requires a very accurate study of the several books; more study than is always convenient for Reviewers; and therefore it was gradually laid aside for that careless and rash Criticism, which are so conspicuous in most other publications of the same nature. No sooner did this change of system appear, than Mr. Millar thought it advisable to withdraw his assistance.
Mr. Millar, notwithstanding all these occupations, still found time for limited practice as a lawyer, a profession which he had not altogether abandoned, in undertaking the duties of a Public Teacher. He was very frequently consulted, as Counsel, previously to the commencement of a law suit, or<lxxxviii> when any difficulty occurred in conveyancing; and the time he could spare from his other employments was occupied in determining causes referred to his arbitration. The delay and expence of law-suits, partly unavoidable in a commercial country, but partly also owing to the constitution of the Court of Session, has rendered it extremely common for parties, when both are convinced of the justice of their claims, to refer their disputes to private arbitration. For the office of Arbiter, Mr. Millar was singularly qualified. While, from his residence in a mercantile town, he could easily be informed of the usages of merchants, he was led, by his professional habits, to pay that attention to strict law, which is requisite to substantial justice, in a country where all agreements are entered into with the knowledge that they may become the subject of legal interpretation. His natural acuteness, too, led him to seize very readily the important circumstances of a case, and to detach them from such collateral topics, as might have bewildered the judgment, and certainly must have protracted the investigation. His decisions were consequently prompt, but they never were inconsiderate. As the surest guard against error, he was in the habit, before pronouncing his awards, of submitting his opinion, with a short statement of<lxxxix> the principles on which it rested, to the parties; and, not unfrequently, these statements were drawn up in a manner so clear and satisfactory, as to convince even the party against whose claims he intended to decide.
At the circuits, Mr. Millar was in the habit, for many years, of appearing as counsel for those unfortunate men who are brought to the bar to answer for their crimes. Thinking, with other philosophers, that the criminal laws of this country are, in many instances, unnecessarily and unjustly severe, he entered with warmth into the defence of those who, however profligate in their morals, were in danger of being subjected to punishments more than adequate to their offences. In the examination of witnesses, he showed uncommon skill and penetration; and his addresses to the Juries,* besides containing a most acute and severe examination of such part of the evidence as seemed unfavourable to the prisoner, exhibited a clear view of whatever tended to establish his innocence, and, not unfrequently, were terminated by a most powerful appeal to the feelings of his audience. Before I was old enough to attend to criminal<xc> trials, Mr. Millar had declined appearing at the Circuits, that he might not deprive younger lawyers of an opportunity of displaying their talents; but I have been assured by many gentlemen, on whose opinions I can rely, that his addresses to the Jury were very brilliant and successful exertions of forensic eloquence.
Fully occupied, in the winter, with the duties of his office, and engaged, during the summer, in improving his Lectures, or preparing his works for the press, Mr. Millar went seldom from home: sometimes, however, he made a short excursion to different parts of Scotland, or the north of England, occasionally he passed a few days with his friends in Edinburgh, and, for several summers, he paid an annual visit to his favourite pupil, Lord Maitland, now the Earl of Lauderdale. With none of his pupils did Mr. Millar continue on a footing of so much intimacy and friendship as with Lord Lauderdale; and it is to their frequent and unreserved communication of sentiment, that a similarity, observable between their opinions of the nature of the profit of stock, may be ascribed.* Which of them first suggested this ingenious idea, it would probably have been difficult, even for<xci> themselves, to determine: it is likely to have occurred in some of their conversations on political oeconomy, and, having been afterwards developed and improved by both, it naturally conducted them to similar results.
Mr. Millar paid two visits to London; the first was in 1774. Having remained in the capital about two months, and having seen the principal objects of curiosity, he made a short excursion to Cambridge, and stopped for three weeks at Oxford, on his return; partly with the view of making himself acquainted with the present state of these celebrated Universities, and partly for the purpose of consulting several authors on the early history of Modern Europe, whose works he had not an opportunity of perusing at home.
His second visit to London he made in 1792, accompanied by Mrs. Millar and his eldest daughter. Having set off in the beginning of May, immediately after the conclusion of his Lectures, he arrived in London in sufficient time to be present at several very important debates, in both houses of Parliament, and he enjoyed the satisfaction of becoming acquainted with Mr. Fox and the other leaders of opposition, whose talents he admired, whose steady patriotism, unshaken by obloquy, and superior to popular cen-<xcii>sure or applause, was the object of his highest veneration. The chief part of his time, however, that from which he probably derived the greatest enjoyment, was passed in the society of his former pupils, Lord Lauderdale, and Mr. Adam, now one of the King’s Counsel, and Attorney General to the Prince of Wales, and in the family of his old friend, Dr. Moore, the celebrated author of Zeluco and Edward.23
The greatest intimacy had subsisted between Dr. Moore and Mr. Millar, from the time they were young men; an intimacy which had been farther promoted by their marrying ladies who were companions and friends. While Dr. Moore was on the continent, with the Duke of Hamilton, engaged in those travels, with an account of which he afterwards delighted the world, Mrs. Moore was a frequent visiter at the college, and Mr. Millar took a general superintendence of the education of her sons. During the short stay the Doctor made in Glasgow, after his return, he spent a great deal of his time with Mr. Millar, and, on his going to reside in London, they began a correspondence, some part of which might not have been uninteresting to the public, had they thought it proper to preserve letters written merely for each other’s<xciii> perusal.* Their talents were calculated to produce mutual esteem, and their powers of conversation to contribute very highly to each other’s amusement.
Mr. Millar had the art, in a most uncommon degree, of adapting his conversation to those around him. Even to children, he could make himself a most amusing companion; and no young person ever left his company without being charmed with his vivacity. His countenance was uncommonly animated and expressive; his stature about the middle size; his person strong, active, and athletic, rather than elegant. When he first entered a room, his manner was not altogether free from formality and constraint; but this continued only for a moment. The first subject that was started kindled animation in his eye, and seemed entirely to engross his mind. Never did he show the slightest absence, nor allow any carelessness, or contemptuous indif-<xciv>ference, to escape him. Never, indeed, did he feel that languor from which they most commonly proceed. However trifling the subject might be, he was always lively and animated; his constant flow of spirits enabled him to extract some amusement from every topic, and every character; and his repartees, though not rising to that high species of wit, which can delight on repetition, flowed so naturally from the conversation, and were accompanied with so much gaiety, playfulness, and good humour, that, perhaps, no company ever was dull or languid in his presence.
His conversation was equally agreeable to those who preferred subjects of a graver or more improving kind. His information reached to almost every subject which was likely to occur in conversation. He was completely master of whatever had been written on the sciences connected with the study of mind, and had added many new opinions and combinations to the discoveries of others. The whole range of history was familiar to him, and there was little in the manners or customs of any nation, which he could not state with accuracy, and account for with surprising quickness and ingenuity. Nor was he ignorant of the physical sciences, although his knowledge of them rather embraced the different theories by which the facts are<xcv> explained, than showed any very intimate acquaintance with the facts themselves. To the task of minute observation, or the drudgery of accurate experiment, he could not submit: but, wherever there was an appearance of system, his attention was roused so fully, that, for a time, it almost engrossed his mind. It was thus, that, after Lavoisier24 published his astonishing experiments, and no less astonishing system built on these experiments, Mr. Millar, for a whole winter, thought of nothing but chemistry; and so great was his veneration for that philosopher, that no circumstance in the French Revolution struck him with so much horror, as the murder of the man whom he considered as the brightest ornament of the age.
In Literature and Belles Lettres, perhaps the most delightful of all subjects for conversation, Mr. Millar was completely conversant. In his youth, he had read all the classics with such pleasure and discrimination, that, although his line of study was afterwards extremely different, he could always refer to the most impressive passages, and discuss, with much intelligence, their relative beauties and defects. His acquaintance with English Poetry was also very general, though his taste might be considered as somewhat fastidious. Mediocrity, in every thing, but particularly in verse, he was<xcvi> accustomed to treat with marked contempt; and the frequent recurrence of such expressions in his conversation, joined to the ridicule with which, in a sportive humour, he sometimes treated even compositions of considerable merit, gave those not intimately acquainted with him, an idea that he had little relish for poetry. Perhaps the severity in which he indulged rather arose from a taste too delicate and refined. Seldom have I known any person more alive to the higher kinds of poetry; to those striking and sublime allusions, that rich and varied imagery, that loftiness of thought, and dignity of expression, which delight the imagination and elevate the mind. Nor did he confine his admiration to poets of the highest order; to Milton, Akenside, and Gray: He was highly delighted with the fancy, the elegance, and varied talents of Pope, the natural and impressive descriptions of Thomson, and that charming blending of melancholy with ideas of pleasure, which a great critic has failed to discover, in the little poems of Prior.* He was also well acquainted with the best French<xcvii> and Italian Poets; but, while he was obliged to admit the more refined eloquence, and superior conduct of the French Drama, he always contended for the superiority of the English, in delineating the simple and genuine feelings of the human heart, and in using a measure of versification which is at once capable of approaching the looseness and facility of prose, and of being adapted to the expression of exalted and heroic sentiment.
Nor was Mr. Millar averse to argument; or to the display of his ingenuity in supporting paradoxes, often the children of the moment. He was indeed so complete a master of debate, that it was unsafe to attack him, even when he occupied most disadvantageous ground. Ever acute and collected, he was apt, by slight sarcasms, to put his antagonist off his guard, and to surprise him by unexpected inferences from whatever was unadvisedly admitted. He overpowered his opponent by innumerable analogies, drawn from the most remote quarters, and presented in the most forcible points of view. He covered, with infinite art, the weaker parts of his own argument, and exposed, with much ingenuity, any mistakes or fallacies by which he was assailed. When fairly driven from all his positions, he often became most formidable: seiz-<xcviii>ing some unguarded expression, or some unfortunate illustration, he held it up to ridicule, with a degree of vivacity and humour, which carried off the attention from the previous subject of debate, and secured him the honours of a triumph, when he had really suffered a defeat. On the subject of Politics he argued always with zeal; and, towards the end of his life, with a considerable degree of keenness. He, who had refused the offer of a lucrative place, which might have introduced him to higher honours, because he feared that his acceptance might be construed into an engagement to support an administration whose measures he condemned,* had little allowance to make for those who sacrificed their principles to their interest. Ever steady and consistent himself, he was apt to suspect the purity of the motives from which all violent or sudden changes in political opinion arose; without perhaps making a due degree of allowance for that alarm, which, however hurtful in its consequences, was the natural result of the blind fanaticism of several popular societies. On a subject, too, which he had studied with the utmost care, he naturally, might be rather impatient<xcix> of ignorant and presumptuous contradiction; nor could his mind brook the imputations, which, at a season of political intolerance, were so liberally passed on all the opposers of Ministerial power. Arguing, frequently, under considerable irritation of mind, perhaps unavoidable in his particular circumstances, it is not impossible that expressions may have escaped him which might afford room for mistake, or misrepresentation; and, on this account, it is but justice to his memory, to give an impartial detail of his real opinions and political conduct.
Occupied in the examination of different systems of Government, and in tracing their several effects on the morals, prosperity, and happiness of nations, it was scarcely possible that Mr. Millar should not take a lively interest in the political transactions of his own country, and of his own times. Even a general view of history is sufficient to prove the intimate connection between liberty and the improvement of man. Wherever the laws are dictated by the will of a few, wherever they can be altered or modified according to the caprice or<c> convenience of the rulers; there we shall find them ill digested and worse administered; there we shall find the people borne down by insolence, dispirited by oppression, indolent, ignorant, and profligate. On the other hand, the never failing results of free government are that justice in the laws, that fairness in their execution, which, by giving every man a certainty of enjoying the full produce of his labour, incite to industry and exertion, the only secure foundations of general prosperity and happiness. It is thus, that the particular distribution of Political Privileges exerts its powerful influence on the civil rights enjoyed by the inhabitants, on their morals, and their general welfare.
Political power, indeed, ought not to be distributed, in the same manner in all nations. Where the people are extremely ignorant and debased, from whatever circumstances this may have proceeded, it is obviously for their own advantage, that they should be excluded from all share in the government, and directed, even at the risk of being occasionally oppressed, by those of higher rank and more liberal education. But, as a nation improves in knowledge, as the manners become more civilized, as industry produces a more obvious interest in the peace and good order of the state,<ci> there comes to be not only less inconvenience, but the most important public advantage, in a more wide diffusion of political power.
Unhappily, the history of mankind very seldom displays this gradual and beneficial progress towards liberty. There seems a constant and incorrigible tendency in governors of all descriptions to extend their own powers, and abridge those of the people. This desire, which usually springs from the most despicable personal motives, may sometimes arise even from virtuous feelings, from an honest conviction of the beneficial tendency of many measures liable to be thwarted by public ignorance or private interests.* To whichever source we may be disposed to ascribe the spirit of encroachment, the whole history of mankind will prove that it never for an instant is asleep; that even when veiled under apparent moderation, it watches the most favourable opportunity; and that its prevalence is, either immediately or more remotely, destructive of patriotism, and of the prosperity of the state. A strong view of this almost universal tendency of<cii> government, and of the calamities inseparable from the loss of freedom, rendered Mr. Millar a strenuous opposer of the power of the Crown, whether in the undisguised shape of prerogative, or the more insidious, and perhaps more dangerous, form of secret influence.
He, accordingly, attached himself zealously to the party of the Whigs; and, in particular, to that branch of the Whigs, who acknowledged the Marquis of Rockingham, and afterwards Mr. Fox, as their leaders.25 From the opinions of these illustrious statesmen, he seldom had occasion to dissent; and, even when he could not altogether approve of their measures, he was led to acquiesce in their decisions, by his great deference for their authority, his full confidence in their uprightness, and, above all, his steady conviction, that no effectual barrier could be raised against the increasing influence of the Crown, without a regular and vigorous co-operation of all who agreed in the general principles of their political conduct. The necessity of a union of talents and rank, to limit the growing influence of the Court, might be considered as the leading article of Mr. Millar’s political creed; and it was only when he found this combination entirely broken by recent events, that he became fully convinced of the necessity of henceforward founding<ciii> National Liberty on a much more general diffusion of political power.
He has himself stated the grounds of his conviction, “That the power of the Crown has, since the Revolution, made the most rapid and alarming advances.” He has, distinctly and fairly, enumerated the various sources of a most extensive influence; and he has justly remarked, that such an influence “is apt to be the greater, as it operates upon the manners and habits of a mercantile people: a people engrossed by lucrative trades and professions, whose great object is gain, and whose ruling principle is avarice.”* Even to such elevated rank as might be thought most likely to exclude the operation of this mercantile spirit, the national character must always, in some measure, extend; and it is too obvious to be denied, that the general luxury of the times has introduced such a degree of extravagance, that the expences, even of the most opulent families, are apt to exceed their incomes, and to render ministerial dependence their only resource against what to them is really indigence. In such circumstances, he almost despaired of again witnessing so great a co-operation of leading families, of patriotism, and<civ> of talents, as might effectually check that increasing influence which seemed firmly erected on the immense patronage of the Minister, and the present manners and character of the nation. A change of circumstances implied a change in the mode of resisting the progress of power; and, no longer expecting to find this important object accomplished by the great families of England, Mr. Millar was led to consider more attentively the condition of the people.
Here he found some grounds for reasonable hope. The diffusion of riches has produced a general spirit of independence, and a very wide diffusion of knowledge. The simpler principles of politics, and even of political economy, are more universally studied, more frequently the ordinary topics of conversation, than at any former period; and it may safely be asserted, that the great majority of the middling ranks have now much more information, on such subjects, than was enjoyed by the highest orders of the community, before the Revolution. The great body of the nation, those who may justly be styled the People, attentive to the conduct of public men, and capable of estimating public measures, might now be entrusted with the power of choosing Representatives, without much risk of their choice being very inconsiderate,<cv> and without much disadvantage resulting from occasional errors or delusions affecting the public opinion. But, whenever such an extension of the elective suffrage has become safe, it must, of necessity, be highly beneficial. It prevents the enactment of laws favourable to private views or private interests; it gives the people a new motive of attachment to their country, a new incitement to virtuous and patriotic exertion; and, if any barrier can be effectual against the tide of corruption, it must be found in a body so large as to be independent of Court favour, and in some degree exempt from secret intrigue. At all times had Mr. Millar viewed the inequality of Representation as a defect in the Government; but, while there was a powerful union of great families to repress encroachment, he had considered it rather as a blemish, than a very important practical evil. Now, when all appearance of effective control has vanished before the luxury of the age, and the immense revenue and patronage of the Crown, he thought it essential to the existence of freedom that such a reform should take place, as might interest the great body of the people in public measures, and enable them, in a constitutional manner, to withstand the encroachment of the Executive Power.<cvi>
But, while he became more and more favourable to a wider extension of the elective franchise, Mr. Millar was ever decidedly hostile to the system of universal suffrage, conceiving it altogether impossible that the lowest of the people can ever be independent in their circumstances, or so enlightened as to prefer the public good to their immediate pecuniary interest. Universal suffrage, far from raising an effectual barrier against the influence of the Crown, could only, he thought, spread wider the evils of corruption, and more completely annihilate the control of the wiser part of the nation. It would, in ordinary cases, confirm the dominion of the Minister, whose means of corruption are almost inexhaustible; sometimes it might occasion disorderly tumult, or enable the poor to dictate laws equally unjust and destructive; never, in his opinion, could it tend to just equality of rights, or vindicate the cause of rational liberty.
Even a just and prudent reform of Parliament seemed to Mr. Millar no adequate defence, in itself, against an influence founded on so immense a revenue as that of Britain: But he trusted in the intelligence and virtue of a House of Commons, freely chosen by the people, for the adoption of other measures, imperiously demanded by every consideration of policy and justice. Of this nature he<cvii> deemed the abolition of all sinecure places, the diminution of the national expenditure, and the strict appropriation of the revenue to the several heads of the public service. He also considered it as most important, that the appointment to all offices, wherever such a regulation was consistent with the nature of the duty, should be vested in the freeholders of the several counties, or in some description of persons altogether unconnected with Administration. By such changes he hoped that the influence of the Crown might be checked, and the approach of what Mr. Hume has denominated the true Euthanasia of the British Constitution at least retarded.*
Mr. Millar’s opinions and conduct, respecting the principal events of the present reign, were in strict conformity to these principles. He openly disapproved of the attempt to tax America, as equally unjust and impolitic; and, when that country, by a series of ill digested measures was driven to the declaration of Independence, he explicitly avowed his wishes for a total separation, rather than a conquest. In the one, there was undoubtedly a humiliation of Great Britain, and some diminution of her power; though, as he suspected, and as the<cviii> event has shewn, none of her commerce: But the subjugation of America would have been the triumph of injustice, and was likely, by increasing the ministerial influence, and putting under the command of the crown a large army accustomed to act against the people, to be as fatal to the liberties of the conquerors, as to those of the conquered. In a town, such as Glasgow, depending wholly, at that time, on the American trade, it will easily be believed that those opinions were extremely unpopular, though now their truth is very generally admitted.
The much lamented death of the Marquis of Rockingham blasted the hopes raised by the dissolution of Lord North’s administration, and the triumph of the Coalition over a party, composed of the friends of Prerogative joined to some of those who had formerly supported the rights of the People, was incomplete and transient. Of the Coalition between Lord North and Mr. Fox, many defences have been made, not only as natural, when the grounds of their former differences no longer existed, but also as necessary, on the part of the Whigs, to prevent that uncontrollable influence which must have arisen from a coalition between Lord North and Lord Shelburne.26 Mr. Millar entered warmly into all these views, but the event<cix> has shown, that the nation considered it as a measure, by which principle was sacrificed to the love of power; and, however erroneous this opinion may be, its consequences have been very fatal to the cause of Liberty.
Soon after this occurred the important struggle between the Crown and the House of Commons, in 1784, which, terminating in the triumph of the former, gave, in Mr. Millar’s opinion, a fatal blow to the British Constitution. The right of the king to avail himself of his negative against any bill, which has passed through both Houses of Parliament, cannot be contested, though that negative seems nearly to have fallen into disuse; but in this case, it was almost admitted that an indirect interposition took place at a more early stage of Mr. Fox’s India Bill, and such an interposition has always been considered as highly illegal. Soon, however, a still more important question occurred. The House of Commons petitioned for the removal of Ministers; and his majesty was advised not only to refuse their desire, but to dissolve Parliament, for the avowed purpose of acquiring a majority in a new House of Commons. Mr. Millar did not deny that, according to the letter of the Constitution, such prerogatives are vested in the crown; but he contended for its being essential to all idea<cx> of free Government, that the Representatives of the people should have an effective control over the appointment of Ministers; and he maintained that the circumstances of England and of Europe, have rendered the old constitutional checks, by the withholding of the supplies, or the reduction of the army, altogether inapplicable. He held it to be the duty of the king to exercise all his prerogatives for the good of his people, and according to the advice of his Parliament: He, in an especial manner, considered it as important that he should act by such advice, in dismissing Ministers who had rendered themselves obnoxious or suspected, and he viewed a dissolution on account of a petition for the removal of Ministers, as an attempt not only to evade all practicable control, but to influence and overawe future Parliaments. He observed, that, if all the Prerogatives of the Crown are to be exercised in their full extent, after so great an influence, quite unknown at the Revolution, has been created, then has the Government of this country undergone a most material alteration; and he considered a threat of Dissolution as likely, in future, to establish a most pernicious influence over the members of the House of Commons, whose returns have usually been procured with much trouble and at great expence.<cxi>
But however highly Mr. Millar valued Civil Liberty, he considered Personal Freedom as infinitely more important; and had Mr. Pitt vigorously prosecuted the abolition of the Slave Trade, he might have been brought to overlook the mode in which his power was acquired, in consideration of its beneficial exertion. Domestic slavery he viewed as equally unjust and impolitic; as ruinous to the morals both of the masters and of the slaves; and as detrimental even to that industry, and that accumulation of riches, for which alone it is avowedly continued. Without pretending that West India planters are more cruel than others would be in their situation, he contended that absolute power is ever liable to abuse; that the habitual indulgence of every passion must engender cruelty; and that, where there is no restraint, there must frequently be vexatious caprice. The nominal interference of laws executed by the masters, in the very few cases capable of proof, must of necessity, be but a small and rare palliation of the evil.* But the abolition of the Slave Trade would have recommended humanity by the powerful motive of interest; and such are the laws of the Universe, that to assert the impossibility of keeping up the stock of slaves<cxii> without importation, is fully to acknowledge the misery of their condition, and to establish, in a manner more convincing than a thousand facts, the cruelty and oppression of their Masters. Mr. Millar accordingly took a most active part in favour of the abolition of the Slave Trade, by attending all the meetings held at Glasgow for that purpose, by drawing up the Petition to the House of Commons, and using every exertion to interest his Towns-men in the cause of humanity and justice.
The French Revolution, from its first appearance, rivetted Mr. Millar’s attention, and, in its early progress excited his fondest hopes. Doubtful, at first, of France being in a condition effectually to oppose the will of the king, and the joint power of the nobility and the church, he feared that the splendid attempt might end in the ruin of the friends of liberty, and the aggravation of the public wrongs. But Mr. Millar was not of a temper to despond after the will of the nation was distinctly pronounced; and, though he lamented, and sometimes ridiculed the precipitation with which the Constituent Assembly swept away all former institutions, he admitted that this, in some instances, might be unavoidable from the inveteracy of abuses, or useful in supporting the enthusiasm of the peo-<cxiii>ple. The confiscation of Church property, without an equivalent provision for the present incumbents, he never failed to reprobate, as an act of flagrant injustice; nor could he be brought to excuse the Assembly for rashly and presumptuously abolishing all those distinctions of ranks to which the people had been habituated, and by the influence of which they might have been restrained from many excesses. It was only in smaller deviations from rectitude, and in less hazardous experiments, that he thought allowance should be made for the inexperience of unpractised legislators, and the impatience of a nation new to liberty.
Similar considerations diminished his apprehensions from the few, and not very sanguinary, tumults, which occurred in the more early stages of the Revolution. No man could deplore such excesses more than Mr. Millar; none could be more convinced of their tendency to excite terror, and diffuse general misery; none could be more fully aware of the odium they must bring on the cause of freedom over the whole of Europe, and of their powerful influence in supporting ancient abuses: But, while he abhorred all instances of popular rage or revenge, he knew that, in so unexampled a change from slavery to freedom, some excesses<cxiv> were unavoidable; and in the temporary commotions which took place, he was more frequently struck with the generous patriotism of the people, than surprised at the occasional acts of cruelty, into which they were betrayed. When a nation, depraved by previous servitude, rises to assert privileges long trodden under foot, it were vain to expect regularity of proceedings, or even constant justice of intention: Yet for a considerable time, the conduct of the Assembly and that of the nation, with occasional exceptions, was firm, resolute, and temperate.
The spirit of freedom seemed to be aroused in this country, by the force of example, and, as might be expected, it was, by some, carried to the most extravagant lengths. Mr. Millar, who had always considered government as instituted for the good of the people, and who had been accustomed to examine all political institutions by this criterion alone, treated with the utmost contempt all assertion of metaphysical Rights, inconsistent with practical utility: But, while he ridiculed the idea of imprescriptible, indefeasible, right in the people, to conduct the affairs of Government, he was aware that the doctrines then afloat were of a popular nature, and he thought the best and only solid refutation of them, was such a reform of par-<cxv>liament, as, in itself highly desirable, had now become almost necessary, to rally the great body of the nation around the constitution. Actuated by such motives, he became a zealous member of the society of the Friends of the People, and, with those great characters whom he venerated, willingly exposed himself to obloquy in performing what he considered as an important duty to his country.
The inconsiderate violence of the Republicans of France, on the one hand, and the obvious determination of the Court, on the other, to obey the forms and evade the spirit of the new constitution, soon hurled the benevolent, but misguided, Monarch from his throne, and exposed the country to the most imminent danger of subjugation by a foreign power. Feeling every respect for the motives and characters of the Brissotine party, Mr. Millar regretted deeply that want of energy, of combination, and of resource, which unfitted them to contend either with their foreign or domestic foes. He was no way surprised to see the people, jealous after having been repeatedly betrayed, when struggling for the existence of their country, at last throw themselves into the arms of a faction, odious from its ferocity, but, able, prompt, and energetic. No person could lament more sincerely the disgusting and atrocious scenes which marked<cxvi> the administration of Robespierre in characters of blood; but his horror for such atrocities was always accompanied with the most lively indignation at that combination of the Princes of Europe, to which alone he ascribed the continental war, the destruction of the Brissotines, and the acquiescence of the nation in a system, which, however horrible in itself, was represented as the only means of opposing the dismemberment, or total conquest, of the state.
The imbecility and rapacity of the Directory excited the most sovereign contempt;27 and Mr. Millar, though he was far from approving of the means by which Buonaparte rose to supreme power, and still farther from approving of the constitution he established, acknowledged that this new revolution had been rendered almost unavoidable by previous misconduct, and trusted to the melioration of the Government, at the period of a general peace.
Before this event took place, Mr. Millar was no more. Had he lived to witness the servility of France, under the present system, he would have been grieved by so melancholy an illustration of his own remark. “Even in countries,” says he, “where the people have made vigorous efforts to meliorate their government, how often has the collision of parties, the opposite attractions of public and private interest, the fermentation of numberless discordant ele-<cxvii>ments, produced nothing at last, but a residue of despotism.”* But Mr. Millar’s sanguine disposition, even under all these disappointments, would have found reason still to hope for a final result less fatal to the future destinies of man. He would have remembered that England, after a noble and successful struggle against regal tyranny, sunk for a time under the arts of a hypocrite, the corruption of a profligate, and the sanguinary violence of a bigot: but that she roused herself at last, shook off her fetters, and established a constitution which has been the admiration of the world. So would he have expected France to rise from her depression, when the minds of men, no longer appalled by recent horrors, should return to reason, and again feel the salutary influences of patriotism and hope.
It must be sufficiently obvious that, to a man of Mr. Millar’s way of thinking, the whole conduct of the British Ministry towards France must have appeared highly reprehensible. Having seen them remain quiet spectators, and even refuse their mediation, when that country was threatened with subjugation, he could not easily credit that solicitude which they afterwards expressed for the ba-<cxviii>lance of power: Finding that Holland made no requisition for our protection, and recollecting that the same Ministers had taken no steps whatever, when the Emperor, some years before, had threatened to open the Scheldt by force, he could scarcely ascribe their interference at this juncture to a pure love of justice, or a scrupulous adherence to treaties: Being well convinced that their real intention was to force a Monarchical Government on France, he paid little regard to the abhorrence they expressed at that decree of the Convention, which, until explained, and restricted, threatened the most unjustifiable interference in the internal policy of independent states. Looking on all these as mere pretences, he was well convinced that the war originated in a determination to prevent the reforms meditated at home, to re-establish the ancient despotism in France, and to rivet the fetters of the rest of Europe. He rejoiced that the defeat of a combination, formed on such principles, though for the present unfavourable to the balance of power, rendered abortive the project of shackling, by open force, the spirit of Freedom, and cramping for ever the improvement of man: and he deeply lamented that the atrocities of the French insured complete success to one of the objects of the war,<cxix> by checking the progress of reform in Britain, and injuring the cause of liberty over the world.
So soon after the awful events to which we have been witnesses, it would be presumptuous to say that Mr. Millar’s views on this subject were always wise; that he never was deceived by his own passions, nor hurried away by those of others. In considering a situation of affairs, so new, so interesting, and so complicated, he might, occasionally, be misled by hasty or partial views, his hopes might be excited by his wishes, and his expectations might often be disappointed by the event. In the heat of debate, too, he might sometimes be hurried into assertions or illustrations, which his cooler judgment would have disowned; and, at a time when political rancour rose to an unexampled height, it is no way surprising, that the open and manly avowal of his sentiments should have exposed him to much calumny and misrepresentation. But those who knew his worth always did justice to the purity of his motives: and it is with much pleasure I quote the testimony of one of his Friends, who entertained opinions of the French Revolution and the late war, directly opposite to his. “However much,” says Mr. Jardine, “we may have differed from him on these subjects, respecting his zeal and good intentions, there can be, as I con-<cxx>ceive, but one opinion. No little ideas of private interest, no narrow views of advantage or emolument, sunk him to the level of party politicians; but firm, resolute, and decided, he was, from first to last, the enlightened and manly defender of what he conceived to be, The Rights and Liberties of Mankind.”
Mr. Millar’s virtues were the spontaneous growth of an understanding strong, enlightened, and capacious; of a heart overflowing with benevolence and sensibility. Of these, his uncommon candour in judging of his own claims, and those of others, was one of the most conspicuous. Never was his opinion warped by his private interest, never did he palliate or excuse that in himself, which he would have blamed in his friend. His conduct was uniformly guided by the most delicate attention to the rights, claims, and expectations of others, by the strictest sense of honour. Always aware of the tendency of a man’s interest, and desires, to pervert his judgment, against such partiality and self-deception, he guarded with the most vigilant care; anxious not only to abstain from all injustice, but to avoid every suspicion, in his own mind, of his<cxxi> having done what any person informed of the circumstances, could possibly disapprove.
This delicate purity of conduct is the more remarkable, as Mr. Millar’s temper was uncommonly sanguine. What he wished he always convinced himself was probable; what he dreaded he seldom allowed himself to think could take place. His ingenuity in deceiving himself was sometimes most surprising. The slightest favourable circumstances were so combined as to seem a solid foundation for confidence; the smallest doubt of the truth of unwelcome intelligence was strengthened and corroborated, till it lulled, if it could not entirely overcome, apprehension. Even when there was an end of hope and of fear; when a disagreeable or distressing event had actually occurred, he could turn his mind, with surprising facility, to new views, and new circumstances, from which he still expected favourable results. Such a temper, to a man engaged in active life, must be the source of many precipitate measures, of much disappointment and distress; not unfrequently of absolute ruin. But to him, who was rather a spectator than an actor in the scene, it could occasion no very serious calamity, and was often the cause of real happiness.<cxxii>
That sensibility, which was in some measure the source of this sanguineness of temper, made Mr. Millar enter, with the greatest warmth, into the feelings of every person around him. It was this sensibility, this delicacy of attention to the habits, wishes, and feelings of others, which rendered his conversation so generally agreeable, and gained him the affections of those friends to whom he was ever warmly and steadily attached. To all of them, when an opportunity offered, he was always ready to do every act of kindness, and to do it in that delicate manner which produces a more lasting gratitude than any favour; and from all of them, he experienced the most cordial affection and respect.
He was, indeed, always disposed to do good, whether to a friend or to a stranger. So far was he from being actuated by selfish considerations, that his generosity sometimes exceeded what his limited fortune might altogether warrant. Nothing was so despicable in his mind, as any sordid attention to money; and, while he knew that he could place his family in independent circumstances, he was less anxious about farther accumulation. The liberality of his disposition made him equally ready to contribute to every useful institution, and to relieve private distress; and in his charities, in his good offices, he was always attentive to save the feelings<cxxiii> of the person whom he relieved, from that sense of degradation which, to many, is more intolerable than want.
The same warmth of feeling which displayed itself in Mr. Millar’s services to strangers, and still more amiably in the kindness with which he treated every member of his family, and every person whom he called his friend, made him feel with the greatest poignancy, those more intimate distresses, from which no man can be exempt. Afraid, however, of intruding his grief on others less nearly interested, or less violently affected, he was at the utmost pains to repress every exterior mark of affliction, every thing which might appear a demand on the sympathy of his friends. So far did he carry this command over his own mind, that a stranger might have mistaken his character, and supposed him perfectly tranquil, at the very time when he was in the deepest affliction. No man could more completely bring his behaviour to a tone in unison with the feelings of those around him: But in his anxiety to accomplish this, and his unwillingness to be any restraint on society, he sometimes perhaps went beyond the exact line of propriety, and gave an impression of severity and unconcern, which were far from belonging to his character. In the astonishing exertions of self-<cxxiv>command he often displayed, it was scarcely possible that he should not occasionally be carried too far by the violence of the effort over his own feelings, and the want of confidence in his own strength of mind. Those who enjoyed his friendship were never deceived by such appearances of tranquillity. They saw them not as proofs of real ease, far less as proofs of indifference; but as the most unequivocal indications of an habitual attention to the feelings of others struggling against poignant distress.
For a long time, Mr. Millar, though exposed to many smaller misfortunes, was almost exempt from family affliction. He lost, indeed, two infants; but all his other children grew up around him, and repaid his cares by the most lively affection. It was not till 1791 that he had occasion to support their mother, under what might almost be considered as the first breach in the family. During that summer, their second daughter died of consumption. Mrs. Millar’s health, not long after, began to decline; and, in summer 1795, a long and painful illness, which she bore with admirable constancy and even cheerfulness, was terminated by her death. The first burst of Mr. Millar’s grief was such as might be expected in a man of the deepest sensibility, deprived of the companion of his life, the<cxxv> woman who, for 34 years, had enjoyed his fullest confidence, and possessed his fondest affections. On visiting him, the day after this melancholy event, I found that he had resumed his accustomed control over his own mind. He spoke to me of his loss with feeling, but without weakness; like a man deprived of much happiness, but not abandoning himself to affliction; neither priding himself in stoical indifference, nor undervaluing the comforts he still enjoyed in the affections of his family and of his friends.
It was not long till he was again called upon for a new exertion of his self-command. His eldest son, on whose education he had bestowed uncommon attention, who was respected for his literary talents, and endeared to all his friends by the singular excellence and amiableness of his dispositions, met, for some time, with a success at the Bar equal to his most sanguine hopes. With very flattering prospects of rising in his profession, he married the youngest daughter of Dr. Cullen, a lady of most fascinating manners and uncommon talents and acquirements. He was, however, soon after seized with an indisposition, which lasted for a considerable time; and, though he recovered from it in a great degree, yet his professional labours continued to be too severe, and indeed very hurtful to his health.<cxxvi> At this period, the violence of political parties rose to an extreme height in Scotland, and it was impossible for the son of Mr. Millar, carrying his conviction of the necessity of reform in some degree farther than his father, and equally open and steady in maintaining his opinions, to escape that obloquy with which the violent and interested in political parties always attempt to overwhelm their opponents. Averse to contention, hopeless of a pacific change in the political institutions of his country, and finding himself in a state of health which rendered laborious application improper, he resolved, in spring 1795, to emigrate to America. Soon after his arrival there, he was offered an advantageous purchase of lands, and the management of an extensive settlement in the back country of Pennsylvania. This, as he was particularly fond of agricultural pursuits, he immediately accepted. On arriving at the settlement, he began to plan and execute improvements, with all the ardour natural to his temper; but having incautiously exposed himself, in a very hot day of summer, he was struck with a coup de soleil, of which he almost instantly expired.
I saw Mr. Millar a few hours after he had received intelligence of his death; and, though still there were faint hopes that the accounts might be untrue, seldom have I witnessed more deep distress. He<cxxvii> had opposed his son’s quitting his profession and his country, in the full confidence that the political animosities could not be of long duration; already symptoms of the decline of party rancour were beginning to appear: and, perhaps, he had never relinquished the secret hope of again seeing him in the midst of those valued friends from whom he had parted with deep regret. The final disappointment of all these hopes Mr. Millar felt most acutely; but, after the first shock, he resumed his self-possession; and, even at the very time that he was most strongly agitated, I am convinced that the presence of a stranger would have recalled him to himself, and that he would have conversed with firmness and apparent ease.*
Mr. Millar’s athletic form, his agility, surprising in a man of his years, his temperance of every<cxxviii> kind, and his regular habits of exercise, gave his friends reason to expect that he would have enjoyed long life and continued health. He never was subject to those little temporary complaints, which spring from a weak constitution or indolent habits, and which, while they diminish the enjoyment of life, gradually bring on old age. Always vigorous and alert, his mind was free from languor, his appearance youthful, and his strength unimpaired. But, in the end of 1799, he was seized with a very dangerous inflammatory complaint, from which, after a few weeks of severe illness, he seemed perfectly recovered; and, although those who paid anxious attention to his appearance saw that he had lost something of the youthful spring of his step, and was less able to endure any violent exertion, to others he seemed as healthful and vigorous as ever.
In May 1801, when he was in perfect health he incautiously exposed himself to a hot sun for several hours, fearing no bad effect from changes of weather to which he had always accustomed himself. That very night he was taken ill; and his complaint soon put on the appearance of the most dangerous pleurisy. I happened to be at a distance from Glasgow, when I should have wished most to be near him. The instant I heard of his danger,<cxxix> I hurried to Milheugh; but, on the 30th of May, the day before my arrival, I had lost that Friend, whose continued kindness will always live in my remembrance. Of Mr. Millar’s behaviour during his last illness, his son-in-law, Mr. Mylne, who was present during the distressing scene, has given the following short, but interesting account:
“In the midst of his family, he encountered the severe trial presented by the sufferings and prospects of a death-bed. That trial he nobly sustained. His last scene was altogether worthy of the part he had uniformly maintained on the stage of life. Soon after the very unexpected attack of the disease which brought him to the grave, he foresaw the issue, and awaited it with the most perfect composure. No symptom of impatience or of alarm ever escaped him: and no thought gave him pain but the thought of being separated from his family, with whom he had long enjoyed the purest happiness, and to whose happiness his life was so important.”
On his death-bed, Mr. Millar committed the care of his manuscripts to his son the Professor of Mathematics, his son-in-law Mr. Mylne, and myself. As he had at one time given orders to destroy his whole manuscripts, a resolution from which he was<cxxx> with difficulty diverted, we considered ourselves as particularly called upon, in executing the trust reposed in us, to publish only what seemed to have been carefully revised, and written out for the press. The Historical View of the English Government, we found in a state less complete than we had expected. For several years, the public attention had been so fully engrossed by the important events passing on the theatre of Europe, that there remained little curiosity respecting those steps by which the British Constitution had reached its present state. The minds of men were more intent on discovering what is best, than what has actually taken place; and perhaps even the author was, for some time, less interested in his usual speculations, while every appearance indicated that a new era had commenced, and that the future Governments of Europe were likely to have little dependence on former institutions. But, though these considerations might, for a time, diminish Mr. Millar’s ardour in this particular study, he never for a moment abandoned his intention of completing the Historical View of the English Government, and of presenting to the Public a detailed account of the various branches of the British Constitution.
In pursuance of this intention, he had completed<cxxxi> his account of the period from the accession of the House of Stewart, to the Revolution, in a manner which cannot fail to add to his reputation. Here he appears more openly in opposition to Mr. Hume, than in the earlier part of the History; pointing out, with clearness and precision, the sources of that very eminent author’s misapprehensions. Without directly misrepresenting, or even suppressing, any important fact, Mr. Hume has passed slightly over the ambitious designs, and profligate insincerity of Charles the First, dwelling frequently and fully on such irregularities as were probably unavoidable in the measures of the Commons, and on what, in a more enlightened age, appears the revolting bigotry of the times. What had occasionally been done, when obviously useful and necessary, without exciting the attention of a rude and simple age, even exercises of power which had been declared illegal by statute, he represents as the ordinary rule of the Constitution: what had become requisite to guard public liberty against the future attempts of a king who, never yielding without mental reservations, had stretched his prerogative far beyond its just bounds, and, aided by the clergy, had well nigh put an end to all the liberties and privileges of the Nation, he has ventured to re-<cxxxii>prehend as unwarrantable encroachments. In opposition to such representations, Mr. Millar, without a particular examination of every measure of the Crown or Parliament, has given a very masterly sketch of the transactions of that important period, characterising, in a just and striking manner, the views and motives of the several parties, whose struggles and collisions prepared the Revolution settlement, by which the prerogatives of the Crown were defined, and the Rights of the People finally ascertained.
Of the period since the Revolution, we found several chapters; but in a state so incomplete, that we did not think it proper to give them to the public. There were, however, several Dissertations, written with the intention of forming part of the History, or perhaps with the view of having the substance of their speculations interwoven with it; and these treatises contained such ingenious disquisitions on the rise of the influence of the Crown, and on the effects of extended commerce in giving birth to a spirit of independence in the people; they exhibited so animated a sketch of the changes produced by refinement on national character, and of the natural progress of poetical composition; that we thought, we should be doing injustice to the me-<cxxxiii>mory of our Friend, by withholding them from the world.*
Among Mr. Millar’s manuscripts, we found no others, which, consistently with the rule we had laid down for ourselves, we thought proper for publication. There were indeed many valuable chapters of The Account of the Present State of the British Government, and several ingenious treatises on various subjects, composed for the Literary Society; but some of them were imperfect, and none were written with that care which, without many alterations and corrections, would have justified us in sending them to the press. From what Mr. Millar had written of the delineation of the British<cxxxiv> Government, and from the very excellent Lectures he used to deliver on that subject, it is particularly to be regretted that he did not live to finish a work which must have added greatly to his reputation, and which might have been of the most important advantage to his country.
After all that has been published on the British Constitution, a work which should exhibit, not a fanciful theory, but the real practice of the Government, is still wanting;28 and such a work, if executed with judgment and impartiality, would resolve the important questions, how far, in the course of the last century, the various branches of the Legislature have actually, though silently, encroached on the powers of each other, and what changes in the forms of Government have consequently become necessary, to restore it, in principles and spirit, to the Revolution settlement in 1688.
[3. ]James Millar (1701–85).
[5. ]William Cullen (1710–90), first a professor of medicine at Glasgow then professor of chemistry at Edinburgh, was the main reforming influence on the teaching of medicine in Scottish universities as well as a celebrated medical researcher.
[6. ]James Watt (1736–1819) was the discoverer of the steam engine and instrument maker to the University of Glasgow.
[* ]See Historical view of the English Government, Book ii. Chap. 10. Note. [[“I am happy to acknowledge the obligations I feel myself under to this illustrious philosopher, by having, at an early period of life, had the benefit of hearing his lectures on the History of Civil Society, and of enjoying his unreserved conversation on the same subject.—The great Montesquieu pointed out the road. He was the Lord Bacon in this branch of philosophy. Dr. Smith is the Newton.”]]
[† ]See Mr. Stewart’s Life of Dr. Smith, at the conclusion. [[David Douglas (1769–1819), later Lord Reston as a senator of the College of Justice (i.e., judge in the Court of Session), was Smith’s heir. See Dugald Stewart, “Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LL.D.” included in Adam Smith, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. L. D. Wightman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 331–32.]]
[* ]I am indebted for this information to Lord Kames’ son, G. Drummond Home, Esq.
[7. ]Baron David Hume (1757–1838), author of Commentaries on the Laws of Scotland (1797).
[* ]The supreme Civil Court, composed of all the fifteen Judges. A lawyer is often many years at the Bar before he has an opportunity of speaking, except in the Outer House where all causes are tried in the first instance, by a single Judge, without a jury.
[8. ]Hercules Lindesay (d. 1761).
[9. ]“(as a place for legal study);” appeared here in the third edition.
[10. ]See the introduction.
[11. ]For a partial listing of the contents of the course, see appendix 3.
[12. ]Appeared as “different classes of their virtues” in the third edition.
[13. ]Cf. Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, vol. 1.
[* ]Lord Kames, in the Introduction to the Elements of Criticism. [[“[A] taste in fine arts goes hand in hand with the moral sense” (Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, 3rd ed. [Edinburgh, 1765], 5).]]
[14. ]Appeared as “The rules of virtue” in the third edition.
[* ]See the Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, Chap. II. Sect. II.
[* ]In the Introduction to the Origin of the Distinction of Ranks. With regard to the direct effects of climate on the human mind, see Hume’s Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, Part I. Essay XXI. [[“Of National Characters,” in David Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, rev. ed., ed. Eugene V. Miller (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985), 197–215. Passages from Hume’s Essays are cited by essay number and paragraph number as well as page number.]]
[* ]Life of Dr. Smith, page 34. [[Essays on Philosophical Subjects, 293.]]
[15. ]Adam Smith and Lord Kames. See the introduction.
[* ]See Hume’s Essays, Part I. Essay 5. [[“Of the Original Contract,” in Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, 465–87.]]
[† ]See the Historical View of the English Government, Vol. IV. chap. 7.
[16. ]Semimythical founder of the Spartan legal code.
[* ]See Mr. Stewart’s Life of Dr. Smith, page 36. [[Essays on Philosophical Subjects, 295.]]
[† ]Some account of Mr. Millar’s views of the feudal system may be found in the Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, chap. IV. and V. They are much more fully illustrated in the Historical view of the English Government, where his opinions, respecting the progress of Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, are also detailed. [[See An Historical View, II:4.]]
[* ]For obvious reasons, I have avoided mentioning the names of any professors still alive, otherwise I should have had much pleasure in bearing testimony to the distinguished abilities of some gentlemen whom I have the honour to rank among my personal friends. [[Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746), Smith (1723–90), and Thomas Reid (1710–96) were the three most famous holders of the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow and three of the most eminent philosophers of the eighteenth century. James Moor (1712–79), the professor of Greek at Glasgow, and George Muirhead (1715–73), the professor of Oriental languages at Glasgow, together produced the renowned Foulis edition of Homer (1747). Alexander Wilson was the type-founder of the Foulis press and later professor of practical astronomy and observer. Craig is likely referring to Wilson’s discoveries of sunspots. Robert Simson (1687–1768) was a professor of mathematics at Glasgow and a geometer (much admired by Adam Smith) who produced an important edition of Euclid’s Elements, also with the Foulis press (1756). Joseph Black, one of Smith’s closest friends (1728–99), was among the most celebrated chemists of the eighteenth century; his discoveries in thermal chemistry led to Watts’s steam engine. All of these professors and intellectuals socialized together in Glasgow’s clubs and intellectual societies.]]
[17. ]The Literary Society was one of the main meeting places for Glasgow intellectuals. Black, Smith, Watt, and others initially presented some of their most influential research to the society.
[* ]In saying that Mr. Millar adopted Mr. Hume’s metaphysical opinions, I chiefly allude to those contained in his Essays. It is not a little surprising, that, even after this author had expressly stated his desire that these writings alone should be considered as containing his philosophical opinions, his opponents should still continue to refer to the Treatise of Human Nature; a work of equal or perhaps still greater ingenuity, but wanting the elegance, and accuracy of expression, which distinguish Mr. Hume’s later publications. [[See David Hume, “Advertisement,” Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects (London, 1777), II:2. By “opponents,” Millar seemed to have James Beattie, John Oswald, and, perhaps, Thomas Reid in mind. As the volume of the Essays to which the “Advertisement” was appended included the Enquiries, Hume was suggesting that his opponents read the Enquiries as opposed to the Treatise for his most current views. It is notable that Craig remarks that the Treatise is of “greater ingenuity,” showing, pace common opinion, that the Treatise did not go completely unappreciated by Hume’s readers.]]
[* ]Dr. Wight, a man of most engaging manners and amiable character, was first Professor of Church History, and afterwards of Divinity. [[William Wight (1730–82), professor of church history, later of divinity, at Glasgow.]]
[18. ]The 5th Baronet of Caldwell (d. 1789).
[19. ]James (d. 1778) and Dorothea Baillie (the sister of William and John Hunter). James was elected professor of divinity at Glasgow in 1775.
[20. ]Their son, Matthew Baillie (1761–1823), was the author of the first work on morbid anatomy and later physician extraordinary to George III. Joanna Baillie (1762–1851) was a well-known playwright and poet.
[* ]Professor of Logic. To this Gentleman I am indebted for many particulars of Mr. Millar’s life, and for the free use of a memoir which he read in the Literary society, at the first meeting after Mr. Millar’s death; a memoir, which, had it not been composed with a particular view to the society, might have rendered this essay unnecessary. [[George Jardine (1742–1827) was a younger colleague of Millar’s. He moved the Glasgow logic curriculum away from traditional formal logic and toward the modern subject of the mental faculties for language and taste.]]
[* ]During the struggle between the Brissotines and Terrorists, 1792. [[The Brissotines, more commonly referred to as the Girondists, were a moderate revolutionary faction (associated with Jacques-Pierre Brissot) who struggled for control of the revolution with Robespierre and the “Mountain,” in particular following the massacres of September 2–6, 1792. Many leading Brissotines were subsequently expelled from the Convention and fled to the provinces (their main base of support) or were guillotined (including Brissot himself). Dominique Joseph Garat was the minister of justice during this period—the period of the trial and execution of Louis XVI—and read the king his death verdict. He was not a member of the most radical faction of the revolution, and was imprisoned during the Terror. It appears that Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Suard, not Garat, translated the work. Garat and Suard were friends, and Garat later wrote a well-known work about his friend Suard, Mémoires historiques sur la vie de M. Suard, sur ses écrits et sur le XVIIIe siècle (1820). Whether true or not, the association of the work with a regicide would be embarrassing!]]
[21. ]This likely refers to Gilbert Stuart, An Historical Dissertation Concerning the Antiquity of the English Constitution (Edinburgh, 1768).
[* ]Mr. Jardine.
[22. ]“The true design of a Literary Journal is, in our opinion, to give such an account of new publications, as may enable the reader to judge of them for himself” (Prospectus of the Analytical Review [London, 1788], i).
[* ]In Scotland, the counsel for the prisoner is allowed to address the jury upon the whole evidence, as well as to state the nature of the defence in an opening speech.
[* ]See the Historical View, vol. iv. chap. 3. and Lord Lauderdale on Public Wealth, chap. 3. [[James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale, An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Public Wealth (Edinburgh, 1804). Smith had argued (Wealth of Nations, I.vi.9) that profit derived from stock was actually derived from the labor added by the workman to the raw materials. Lauderdale argued, against Smith and Turgot, that “in every instance where capital is so employed as to produce a profit, it uniformly arises, either—from its supplanting a portion of labour, which would otherwise be performed by the hand of man; or—from its performing a portion of labour, which is beyond the reach of the personal exertion of man to accomplish” (161).]]
[23. ]John Moore (1729–1802).
[* ]This was almost the only regular correspondence in which Mr. Millar ever engaged. When absent from his family, he indeed wrote letters calculated for their amusement, and remarkable for the same playfulness which distinguished his conversation; but he was very averse to the preservation of any of his letters. His numerous avocations rendered it impossible for him to correspond with his friends, except when some kind of business required it.
[24. ]Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743–94), discoverer of oxygen, executed in the Terror.
[* ]It is surprising that Dr. Johnson seems never to have perceived this beauty in Prior. The same blending of ideas of pleasure and of melancholy constitutes the greatest charm in the writings of Horace and in the beautiful little odes of Cheaulieu. [[Mark Akenside (1721–70) was a celebrated poet and doctor best known for the “Pleasures of Imagination”; James Thomson (1700–1748) was a Scottish poet best known for The Seasons and probably the author of “Rule Britannia”; Guillaume Amfrye de Chaulieu (1639–1720) was a well-known French poet. Johnson said of Matthew Prior (1664–1721): “Whatever Prior obtains above mediocrity seems the effort of struggle and of toil” (Samuel Johnson, Lives of the English Poets, ed. George Birkbeck Hill [New York: Octagon Books, 1967; reprint of the 1905 Clarendon Press edition], II:209.)]]
[* ]I am not at liberty to give the particulars of this transaction, but I pledge myself to its truth.
[* ]It was in this view, that the French Economists favoured despotical government. They thought it easier to convince a monarch, than a whole nation, of the truth of those abstract principles, on which they had founded their system. [[Craig is describing the doctrine of legal despotism as exemplified in François Quesnay’s Despotisme de la Chine (1767).]]
[25. ]Charles Watson-Wentworth, Marquess of Rockingham (1730–82), and Charles James Fox (1749–1806) were leaders of the Whig faction successively named after them. Rockingham and Fox vigorously opposed the war against America and attempted to constrain the authority of George III. Fox strongly supported the French Revolution.
[* ]See Hist. View of the English Gov. vol. iv. chap. ii.
[* ]Hume’s Essays, Part I. Essay 7. [[“Whether the British Monarchy Inclines More to Absolute Monarchy, or to a Republic,” in Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, p. 53 (I.vii.7).]]
[26. ]Craig describes one of the most heated dramas in late-eighteenth-century British politics. Frederick, Lord North (1732–92), was prime minister of England between 1770 and 1782, including the years of Britain’s disastrous defeat by the colonies. North resigned after Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown and was followed in short order by Rockingham and a coalition of Fox and North. The king loathed Fox, and so took Rockingham’s death in 1782 as the chance to make Shelburne prime minister and to bring William Pitt into the government. Fox went into opposition but then in 1783, following upon Shelburne’s unpopular negotiations with the colonies, formed a government with his erstwhile opponent Lord North. The cohabitation was necessary as neither North nor Fox had enough votes to form a government on his own, but it was shocking to important parts of the Whig constituency and abhorred by George III. The defeat of Edmund Burke’s reform bill for India in 1783 gave Pitt and George III the upper hand in the 1784 elections and for many years after. Craig intimates that had Fox not cohabited with North, a Shelburne-North government dominated by George III would have resulted. It is notable that in spite of Craig’s comments Shelburne was a complete, confirmed Smithian: “I owe a Journey I made with Mr. Smith from Edinburgh to London, the difference between light and darkness through the best part of my life. The novelty of principles, added to my youth and prejudice, made me unable to comprehend them at the time, but he urged them with so much benevolence, as well as eloquence, that they took a certain hold, which, though it did not develop itself so as to arrive at full conviction for some few years after, I can fairly say, has constituted, ever since, the happiness of my life, as well as any consideration I may have enjoyed in it” (Dugald Stewart, “Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith, LL.D.,” in Adam Smith, Essays on Philosophical Subjects, ed. W. L. D. Wightman [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992], 347). Shelburne’s attempt to resume trade relations quickly with the colonies after the British surrender, and his antimercantilist, antimonopolist rhetoric, were fully Smithian. Cf. “Speech on Preliminary Articles of Peace,” in On the Wealth of Nations: Contemporary Responses to Adam Smith, ed. Ian S. Ross (Bristol: Thoemmes, 1998), 149–51.
[* ]If this required any proof, it has been abundantly furnished by the official documents lately published.
[27. ]The French instituted the Directory in 1795, following the fall of Robespierre and the end of the Terror in 1794; it lasted until Bonaparte’s coup in 1799. It was widely, if not entirely fairly, reviled for incompetence and corruption.
[* ]Hist. View of the English Gov. Vol. IV. Chap. 7.
[* ]The rest of his family, three sons and six daughters, survived him. His eldest son [[James Millar (1762–1832) is Professor of Mathematics in the University of Glasgow; the second William Millar is a Major of Artillery, and the third Archibald Millar a writer to the signet in Edinburgh: one of his daughters Agnes is married to Mr. James Mylne (1757–1839), Professor of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow; and another Margaret to Mr. John Thomson (1765–1846, Professor of Surgery in Edinburgh. With that attention to the comfort of his family which ever guided his conduct, Mr. Millar directed by his will, that Milheugh, to which they were so fondly attached should continue to be the place of residence of his unmarried daughters. There was a son older than James, John (1760–96), who wrote Elements of the Law Relating to Insurances (1787). Craig left him off the list of Millar’s children because he did not survive his father.]]
[* ]Several circumstances prevented the publication of Mr. Millar’s posthumous works till late in spring, 1803; and then the distance we all were from London induced us to trust the publication too much to others. In consequence of this, there are such blunders in the edition, as, though they do not obscure the sense, require an apology to the public. It was originally intended that the posthumous work should appear alone under the title of A Historical View of the English Government from the Accession of the House of Stewart: but afterwards it was thought better to give a uniform edition of the whole work. The present title page was therefore sent up, with orders, which were neglected, to entitle the third volume Book III. of the Historical View, and to publish the fourth volume as separate Dissertations. As to the verbal errors, they were occasioned by the absence of the Publisher from London, while the work was in the press.
[28. ]Appeared as “still a wanting” in the third edition.
[29. ]R. Potter, ed. and trans., The Tragedies of Aeschylus (Norwich, 1777), 262. [Translation of Agamemnon 846–50.]