KENNEDY, Thomas Francis (1788-1879), of Dunure and Dalquharran Castle, Ayr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1818 - Feb. 1834

Family and Education

b. 11 Nov. 1788, o.s. of Thomas Kennedy of Dunure and Dalquharran Castle by Jane, da. of John Adam of Blair Adam, Kinross, sis. of William Adam*. educ. privately by James Pillans; Harrow 1801-5; Glasgow Univ. 1805; Edinburgh Univ. 1807; adv. 1811. m. 13 July 1820, Sophia, da. of Sir Samuel Romilly*, 1s. suc. fa. 1819.

Offices Held

Clerk of Ordnance Feb. 1832-33; ld. of Treasury Nov. 1832-Feb. 1834; paymaster of civil service [I] 1837-50; PC [I] 1837; commr. of woods, forests and land revenues Aug. 1850-54.


Kennedy was great-nephew of Thomas Kennedy, the Scottish judge, who represented Ayr Burghs 1720-1. His father was not inactive on the Whig side in Ayrshire politics and was thought of by Lord Cassillis in 1803 as a candidate for the county; but relations between father and son deteriorated following his parents’ separation in 1808 and it was to his uncle William Adam, whose favourite nephew he was, that he owed his parliamentary career.1 Writing to Lord Holland, 22 June 1817, Adam commended him as being ‘in character, capacity and information and in sound principles all that can be wished’; he added that his ‘station in life, and his habits and fortune all render Parliament his fit pursuit’ (Kennedy was an advocate who in 1811 had published an abstruse legal treatise). Adam hoped he might be brought in for Ayr Burghs by the 6th Duke of Argyll, whose Member Duncan Campbell did not care for Parliament and who might prefer an active Member of congenial politics, on the strength of his ‘hereditary connection with Lord Bute’, the other patron of the burghs, which would serve to ‘knit the connection’ between the two patrons. Adam sought to enlist the help of the Whig aristocracy in commending Kennedy to the duke and, to strengthen his case with Lord Holland, pointed out that Francis Horner* had thought highly of him.2

This plan was adopted and Kennedy sat for Ayr Burghs from the ensuing election in 1818 until his retirement. In Parliament he was a staunch Whig. He first spoke in criticism of the salt duties, 18 Mar. 1819, and five days later for an inquiry into lapsed Scottish statutes, but his chief effort in his first Parliament, in which he sat on the Poor Law committee, was to promote a Scottish poor relief bill for which he was given leave on 30 Mar. In securing its committal, 26 Apr., he explained that his was not an original proposal and he merely wished to settle the responsibility for poor relief firmly on the shoulders of the local authorities, who by discretionary powers were to prevent its abuse by idlers seeking it ‘in forma pauperis’. He failed then, and subsequently, to carry the bill. On 7 May he was named to the select committee on burgh reform, for which he had voted the day before. On 24 June he spoke in favour of the extension of the jury court in Scotland, where he had been detained by his father’s death for the last month: this culminated in 1825 in his carrying the substitution of the ballot for judicial choice in the composition of juries in Scottish criminal cases. On 7 Dec. 1819 he objected, for formal reasons, to the inclusion of Scotland in the seditious meetings prevention bill, and a fortnight later he warmly seconded Lord Archibald Hamilton’s presentation of the petition from Hamilton deploring the distress of the labouring poor in the district.

Kennedy, who married Romilly’s daughter in 1820, remained a prominent advocate of Scottish legal reform, as also of parliamentary reform and religious toleration. Inheriting an encumbered estate, he was awarded places by the Whigs from 1832 and devoted his later years to the redemption and improvement of his property. He died 1 Apr. 1879.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. See AYRSHIRE; Blair Adam mss, Kennedy to Adam, 27 Aug., 8 Sept. 1808.
  • 2. Add. 51595.