four's Historical Works, edited by James Haig from the Manuscript in Advocates' Library, 1824.]
BALFOUR, JAMES (1705–1795), philosopher, was born at Pilrig, near Edinburgh, in 1705, and, after studying at Edinburgh and at Leyden, was called to the Scottish bar. He held the offices of treasurer to the faculty of Advocates and sheriff-substitute of the county of Edinburgh. In 1754 he was appointed to the chair of moral philosophy in the university of Edinburgh, and in 1754 transferred to that of the law of nature and nations. He was the author of three philosophical books:
- 'A Delineation of the Nature and Obligation of Morality, with Reflexions upon Mr. Hume's book entitled "An Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals."' This book was published anonymously, the first edition in 1753, the second in 1763.
- 'Philosophical Essays,' published anonymously in 1768.
- 'Philosophical Dissertations,' published in 1782 under the author's name.
These writings are marked by a calm tone of good sense and good feeling, but are not very powerful in thought. Dr. M'Cosh, in his work on the 'Scottish Philosophy,' says of him: 'He sets out (in his "Delineation") with the principle that private happiness must be the chief end and object of every man's pursuit; shows how the good of others affords the greatest happiness; and then, to sanction natural conscience, he calls in the authority of God, who must approve of what promotes the greatest happiness. This theory does not give morality 'a sufficiently deep foundation in the constitution of man on the character of God, and could not have stood against the assaults of Hume. … In his "Philosophical Essays" he wrote against Hume and Lord Kaimes, and in defence of active power and liberty. Like all active opponents of the new scepticism he felt it necessary to oppose the favourite theory of Locke, that all our ideas are derived from sensation and reflexion.'
Balfour's mother was a Miss Hamilton, of Airdrie, great-grandaunt of the late Sir William Hamilton, Bart., professor of logic and metaphysics in the university of Edinburgh 1836-1856. His eldest sister married Gavin Hamilton, bookseller and publisher in Edinburgh (also, it is believed, a member of the Airdrie family), whose eldest son was Robert Hamilton, professor of mathematics in Marischal College and University, Aberdeen, author of a treatise on the national debt.
[The Imperial Dictionary of Universal Biography; Anderson's Scottish Nation; M'Cosh's Scottish Philosophy; Letter to the writer from John M. Balfour-Melville, Esq., of Pilrig and Mount Melville, great-grandson of Professor Balfour.]
BALFOUR, JOHN (d. 1688), third Lord Balfour of Burleigh, succeeded his father Robert, second Lord Balfour of Burleigh [q. v.], in 1663. In his youth he went to France for his education. In an 'affair of honour' he was there wounded. He returned home through London early in 1649 and married Isabel, daughter of another scion of his house — Sir William Balfour [q. v.] of Pitcullo, Fife, lieutenant of the Tower. The young married pair set off for Scotland in March. They found the father strongly displeased. The displeasure took the preposterous shape of asking the general assembly of the kirk of Scotland to annul the marriage. The petition was quietly shelved. The plea for the dissolution of the tie was 'the open wound' he still bore, and which paternal wrath deemed a disqualification for marriage. He died in 1688, leaving besides Robert, his heir and successor, two sons and six daughters. This Lord Balfour of Burleigh has been traditionally styled 'Covenanter,' which he assuredly never was. On Sir Walter Scott must be laid the blame — if blame it be — by having appropriated the name and designation in his 'John Balfour of Burley' in 'Old Mortality.' John Balfour, the 'Covenanter,' was historically 'of Kinloch,' not of Burleigh, and the principal actor in the assassination of Archbishop Sharp in 1679. For this crime his estate was forfeited and a large reward offered for his capture. He fought at Drumclog and at Bothwell Bridge, and is said to have escaped to Holland, and to have there tendered his services to the Prince of Orange. It is generally supposed that John Balfour of Burley died at sea on a return voyage to Scotland. But in the 'New Statistical Account of Scotland,' under 'Roseneath,' strong presumptions are stated for believing that he never left Scotland, but found an asylum in the parish of Roseneath, Dumbartonshire, under the wing of the Argyll family. According to this account, having assumed the name of Salter, his descendants continued there for many generations, the last of the race dying in 1815. Scott noted in his 'Old Mortality' that in 1808 a Lieutenant-Colonel Balfour de Burleigh was commandant of the troops of the King of Holland in the West Indies.
[Authorities as under Balfour, Robert, second Lord Balfour; Scott's Old Mortality, note 2, 3; Anderson's Scottish Nation; Letter from the present Lord Balfour of Burleigh, Kennet.]