Henry Home, Lord Kames

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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 writer, philosopher, advocate, judge, and agricultural improver. A central figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, a founding member of the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, and active in the Select Society, he acted as patron to 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, son of George Home of Kames House. 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.

Kames held a primary interest in the production of linen in Scotland and encouraged the development of linen manufacture.[2] Kames was one of the original proprietors of the British Linen Company, and a director between 1754–1756.[3]

Kames 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.[4] Cassell's clarifies that this was a very fine mansion at the head of the street, on its east side, facing onto the Canongate.[5]

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 showed that the politics of Scotland were based not on loyalty to Kings, as the Jacobites had said, but on the royal land grants that lay at the base of feudalism, the system whereby the sovereign maintained "an immediate hold of the persons and property of his subjects".[6][7]

In Historical Law Tracts Home described a four-stage model of social evolution that became "a way of organizing the history of Western civilization".[8] The first stage was that of the hunter-gatherer, wherein families avoided each other as competitors for the same food. The second was that of the herder of domestic animals, which encouraged the formation of larger groups but did not result in what Home considered a true society. No laws were needed at these early stages except those given by the head of the family, clan, or tribe. Agriculture was the third stage, wherein new occupations such as "plowman, carpenter, blacksmith, stonemason"[9] made "the industry of individuals profitable to others as well as to themselves",[10] and a new complexity of relationships, rights, and obligations required laws and law enforcers. A fourth stage evolved with the development of market towns and seaports, "commercial society", bringing yet more laws and complexity but also providing more benefit.[11] Lord Kames could see these stages within Scotland itself, with the pastoral Highlands, the agricultural Lowlands, the "polite" commercial towns of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and in the Western Isles a remaining culture of rude huts where fishermen and gatherers of seaweed eked out their subsistence living.[12]

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.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]

Social milieu[edit]

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[edit]

  • 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.[16]
  • Sketches of the History of Man (1774)
  • Gentleman Farmer (1776)
  • Loose Thoughts on Education (1781)

See also[edit]


  • Crawford, Robert, ed. (1998). The Scottish Invention of English Literature. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-5215-9038-9. OCLC 1075448746.
  • Grant, James (1881). Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh. Vol. III. OCLC 977900584.
  • Herman, Arthur (2001). How the Scots invented the Modern World. New York: MJF Books. ISBN 978-1-6067-1049-4. OCLC 1035881924.
  • Home, Henry (1747). Essays upon several subjects concerning British antiquities. Edinburgh. OCLC 1156401996.
  • Home, Henry (1761). Historical law-tracts. OCLC 707960637.
  • Home, Henry (1766). The Progress of Flax Husbandry in Scotland. Edinburgh. ISBN 978-1-3799-2440-1. OCLC 315286892.
  • Home, Henry (1796). Elements of Criticism. Vol. 1. OCLC 745333311.
  • Jackson, John P.; Weidman, Nadine M. (2004). Largent, Mark A. (ed.). Race, Racism, and Science: Social Impact and Interaction. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-8510-9448-6. OCLC 940814226.
  • Malcolm, Charles Alexander (1950). The History of the British Linen Bank. ASIN B0007J336C. OCLC 3237473.
  • Millar, Andrew (16 July 1765). "Business while absent from London". Letter to Thomas Cadell. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  • Williamson, Peter (1776). Williamson's directory for the city of Edinburgh, Canongate, Leith, and suburbs, from June 1775, to June 1776. Edinburgh. OCLC 558664393.


  1. ^ "Henry Home, Lord Kames". Undiscovered Scotland.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Home 1766.
  3. ^ Malcolm 1950.
  4. ^ Williamson 1776.
  5. ^ Grant 1881, p. 18.
  6. ^ Home 1747, p. 23–24.
  7. ^ Herman 2001, p. 102.
  8. ^ Herman 2001, p. 100.
  9. ^ Herman 2001, p. 98.
  10. ^ Home 1761, p. 50.
  11. ^ Herman 2001, p. 99.
  12. ^ Herman 2001, p. 109.
  13. ^ Jackson & Weidman 2004, p. 39–41.
  14. ^ Home 1796, p. 16.
  15. ^ Crawford 1998, p. 28.
  16. ^ Millar 1765.

External links[edit]