Henry Home, Lord Kames

Henry Home, Lord Kames, by David Martin.
Henry Home, Lord Kames; Hugo Arnot; James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, by John Kay.
The Home-Drummond grave, Kincardine-in-Menteith

Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696 – 27 December 1782) was a Scottish advocate, judge, philosopher, writer and agricultural improver. A central figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, a founder member of the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, and active in the Select Society, he acted as patron some of the most influential thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment, including the philosopher David Hume, the economist Adam Smith, the writer James Boswell, the chemical philosopher William Cullen, and the naturalist John Walker.


He was born at Kames House, between Eccles and Birgham, Berwickshire, the son of George Home of Kames. He was educated at home by a private tutor until the age of 16.

In 1712 he was apprenticed as a lawyer under a Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh, was called to the Scottish bar as an advocate bar in 1724.[1] He soon acquired reputation by a number of publications on the civil and Scottish law, and was one of the leaders of the Scottish Enlightenment. In 1752, he was "raised to the bench", thus acquiring the title of Lord Kames.

Home was on the panel of judges in the Joseph Knight case which ruled that there could be no slavery in Scotland.

His address in 1775 is shown as New Street on the Canongate.[2] Cassell's clarifies that this was a very fine mansion at the head of the street, on its east side, facing onto the Canongate.[3]

He is buried in the Home-Drummond plot at Kincardine-in-Menteith just west of Blair Drummond.


Home wrote much about the importance of property to society. In his Essay Upon Several Subjects Concerning British Antiquities, written just after the Jacobite rising of 1745 he described how the politics of Scotland were not based on loyalty to Kings or Queens as Jacobites had said but on royal land grants given in return for loyalty.

In Historical Law Tracts and later in Sketches on the History of Man he described human history as having four distinct stages. The first was as a hunter-gatherer where people avoided each other out of competition. The second stage he described was a herder of domestic animals which required forming larger societies. No laws were needed at these stages except those given by the head of the family or society. Agriculture was the third stage requiring greater cooperation and new relationships to allow for trade or employment (or slavery). He argued that 'the intimate union among a multitude of individuals, occasioned by agriculture' required a new set of rights and obligations in society. This requires laws and law enforcers. A fourth stage moves from villages and farms to seaports and market towns requiring yet more laws and complexity but also much to benefit from. Kames could see these stages within Scotland itself,[4] with the pastoral/agricultural highlands, the agricultural/industrial lowlands and the growing commercial ("polite") towns of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Home was a polygenist, he believed God had created different races on earth in separate regions. In his book Sketches of the History of Man, in 1774, Home claimed that the environment, climate, or state of society could not account for racial differences, so that the races must have come from distinct, separate stocks.[5]

The above studies created the genre of the story of civilization and defined the fields of anthropology and sociology and therefore the modern study of history for two hundred years.

In the popular book Elements of Criticism (1762) Home interrogated the notion of fixed or arbitrary rules of literary composition, and endeavoured to establish a new theory based on the principles of human nature. The late eighteenth-century tradition of sentimental writing was associated with his notion that 'the genuine rules of criticism are all of them derived from the human heart.[6] Prof Neil Rhodes has argued that Lord Kames played a significant role in the development of English as an academic discipline in the Scottish Universities.[7]

Social milieu

He enjoyed intelligent conversation and cultivated a large number of intellectual associates, among them John Home, David Hume and James Boswell.[1]. Lord Monboddo was also a frequent debater of Kames, although these two usually had a fiercely competitive and adversarial relationship.


He was married to Agatha Drummond of Blair Drummond. Their children included George Drummond-Home.

Major works

  • Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session (1728)
  • Essays upon Several Subjects in Law (1732)
  • Essay Upon Several Subjects Concerning British Antiquities (c. 1745)
  • Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (1751) He advocates the doctrine of philosophical necessity.
  • Historical Law-Tracts (1758)
  • Principles of Equity (1760)
  • Introduction to the Art of Thinking (1761)
  • Elements of Criticism (1762) Published by two Scottish booksellers, Andrew Millar and Alexander Kincaid.[8]
  • Sketches of the History of Man (1774)
  • Gentleman Farmer (1776)
  • Loose Thoughts on Education (1781)

See also


  1. ^ https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/h/henryhome.html
  2. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1775
  3. ^ Cassell's Old and New EDinburgh vol. III p.18
  4. ^ How the Scots Invented the Modern World, by Arthur Hermann, ISBN 0-609-60635-2
  5. ^ John P. Jackson, Nadine M. Weidman Race, Racism, and science: social impact and interaction, Rutgers University Press, 2005, pp. 39–41
  6. ^ Vol. 1, p. 16.
  7. ^ See 'From Rhetoric to Composition' in The Scottish Invention of English Literature, ed. Robert Crawford, p. 28.
  8. ^ "The manuscripts, Letter from Andrew Millar to Thomas Cadell, 16 July, 1765. See footnote no. 7". www.millar-project.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 1 June 2016.

External links

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