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SKETCH OF T. B. MACAULAY.
THOMAS BABINGTON Macaulay is the son of Zachary Macaulay, well known as the friend of Wilberforce, and, though himself an African merchant, one of the most ardent abolitionists of slavery. In 1818, T. B. Macaulay became a member of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his Bachelor's degree in 1822. He distinguished him. self as a student, having obtained a scholarship, twice gained the Chancellor's medal for English verse, and also gained the second Craven Scholarship, the highest honor in classics which the University confers. Owing to his dislike of mathematics, he did not compete for honors at graduation, but nevertheless he obtained a Fellowship at the October competition open to graduates of Trinity, which he appears to have resigned before his subsequent departure for India. He devoted much of his time to the “Union” Debating Society, where he was reckoned an eloquent speaker.
Mr. Macaulay studied at Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar in 1826. In the same year his
“Essay on Milton" appeared in the “Edinburgh Review ;” and out of Lord (then Mr.) Jeffrey's admiration of that paper, arose an intimate friendship. Macaulay, visiting Scotland soon afterward, went the circuit with Mr. Jeffrey. His connection with the “ Edinburgh Review” has continued at intervals ever since.
By the Whig administration Mr. Macaulay was appointed Commissioner of Bankrupts. He commenced his parliamentary career about the same period, as member for Colne in the reform Parlia. ment of 1832, and again for Leeds in 1834, at which time he was secretary to the India Board. His seat was, however, soon relinquished, for in the same year he was appointed member of the Supreme Council in Calcutta, under the East India Company's new charter.
Arriving in Calcutta, in September, 1834, Mr. Macaulay shortly assumed an important trust in addition to his seat at the Council. At the request of the Governor-general, Lord William Bentinck, he became President of the commission of five, appointed to frame a penal code for India; and the principal provisions of this code have been attributed to him. One of its enactments, in particular, was so unpopular among the English inhabitants, as to
receive the appellation of the “Black Act.” It abolished the right of appeal from the Local Courts to the Supreme Court at the Presidency, hitherto exclusively enjoyed by Europeans, and put them on the same footing with natives, giving to both an equal right of appeal to the highest Provincial Courts. Inconvenience and delay of justice had been caused by the original practice, even when India was closed against Europeans in general, but such practice was obviously incompatible with the rights and property of the natives under the new system of opening the country to general resort. This measure of equal justice, however, exposed Mr. Macaulay, to whom it was universally attributed, to outrageous personal attacks in letters, pamphlets, and at public meetings.
The various reforms and changes instituted by Lord W. Bentinck and Lord Auckland, were advocated in general by Mr. Macaulay. He returned to England in 1838.
Mr. Macaulay was elected member for Edinburgh on the liberal interest in 1839; and being appointed
Secretary at War, he was re-elected the following · year, and again at the general election in 1841.
No review of his political career is here intended; although in relation to literature, it should be men
tioned that he opposed Mr. Serjeant Talfourd's Copyright Bill, and was the principal agent in defeating it. As a public speaker, he usually displays extensive information, close reasoning, and eloquence; and has recently bid fair to rival the greatest names among our English orators. His conversation in private is equally brilliant and instructive.
Mr. Macaulay may fairly be regarded as the first critical and historical essayist of the time. It is not meant to be inferred that there are not other writers who display as much understanding and research, as great, perhaps greater capacity of appreciating excellence, as much acuteness and humor, and a more subtle power of exciting, or of measuring, the efforts of the intellect and the imagination, besides possessing an equal mastery of language in their own peculiar style ; but there is no other writer who combines so large an amount of all those qualities, with the addition of a mastery of style, at once highly classical and most extensively popular. His style is classical, because it is so correct; and it is popular because it must be intelligible without effort to every educated understanding.