Kennedy, Thomas Francis (DNB00)

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KENNEDY, THOMAS FRANCIS (1788–1879), politician, born at Greenan, near Ayr, on 11 Nov. 1788, was only son of Thomas Kennedy of Dunure and Dalquharran Castle, Ayrshire, and grand-nephew of Thomas Kennedy (d. 1754) [q. v.], Scottish judge. His mother was Jane, daughter of John Adam of Blair Adam, Kinrosshire, architect (see Adam, Robert, 1728–1792; Burns, The Brigs of Ayr). Kennedy was educated, first under James Pillans [q. v.], afterwards professor of humanity at Edinburgh, then at Harrow, where he was a contemporary of Byron, and subsequently at the university of Edinburgh, where he attended Dugald Stewart's lectures and studied law, but took no degree. He was called to the Scottish bar in 1811, and in 1818 he entered parliament as member for the Ayr burghs, which he continued to represent until his retirement from political life in 1834. A strong whig, he took from the first a prominent position in the House of Commons. In 1819 he introduced, but failed to carry, a measure for the reform of the Scottish poor law, and subsequent attempts met with no better success. He was more successful with a measure for substituting a system of ballot with peremptory challenge on the part of the prisoner for the arbitrary power which the Scottish judges then possessed and sometimes abused of nominating juries in criminal cases. His measure was in 1825 adopted by the government and carried into law (6 Geo. IV, c. 22). Kennedy also advocated the abolition of the inquisitorial powers vested by the Scottish law in the public prosecutor, and of the Scottish law of entail. He took much interest in the salmon fisheries of Scotland, and was chairman of a committee appointed in 1824 to inquire into the laws relating to them, which initiated the measure passed in 1828 for their preservation (9 Geo. IV, c. 39). In 1831 he piloted through the House of Commons the government bill providing for the eventual extinction of the Scottish court of exchequer.

In general politics Kennedy supported the removal of religious disabilities, the extension of the franchise, and the reduction of the corn duties. He was the close friend of Henry Cockburn, Lord Minto, Jeffrey, Sir James Graham, and other eminent members of the whig party in Scotland, in concert with whom he prepared in 1830 a scheme for the extension of the franchise in that country, and gave notice of motion on the subject in the House of Commons, but withdrew it on the government announcing their intention of introducing a comprehensive measure of reform. The draft, however, was submitted to the cabinet and adopted as the basis of their measure. In recognition of his services to the cause of reform, Lord Grey in February 1832 gave him the post of clerk of the ordnance, and in the following November promoted him to a junior lordship of the treasury. Financial embarrassment, due in great measure to his voluntary assumption of responsibility for his father's debts, compelled his retirement from political life in 1834. In 1837 he was appointed to the newly created office of paymaster of the civil services in Ireland, and sworn of the privy council for that kingdom. This office he administered with great efficiency until 1850, when he exchanged it for a commissionership of woods and forests. A dispute with one of his subordinates led to his retirement from this post without a pension in 1854 (see Letter to the Right Hon. Lord John Russell from the Right Hon. T. F. Kennedy, relative to his Removal from the office of Commissioner of Woods, Forests, and Land Revenue of the Crown, with Lord John Russell's Reply and Remarks and Correspondence, Lond. 1854, 8vo). For the rest of his life Kennedy resided for the most part on his Ayrshire estates, occupying himself with county affairs, stock-breeding, sanitation, and the application of science to agriculture. He did not, however, lose interest in politics; he approved of the reform movement of 1867–8, and of the Education Act of 1870. Kennedy was chosen an extraordinary director of the Highland Agricultural Society in 1835, and was a deputy-lieutenant and a justice of the peace for Ayrshire. An attack of congestion of the lungs terminated in his death at Dalquharran Castle on 1 April 1879. Kennedy married in 1820 Sophia, only daughter of Sir Samuel Romilly [q. v.], who survived him. The only issue of the marriage was a son, Francis Thomas Romilly Kennedy.

Kennedy was the author of: 1. ‘Disputatio Juridica ad Tit. i. lib. xix. Digest. de Actionibus Empti et Venditi’ (an academical legal exercise, privately printed at Edinburgh, 1811, 4to). 2. ‘Three Letters to the Right Honourable Henry Austin Bruce, M.P., Secretary of State for the Home Department, in reference to the Public Prosecutor in Scotland’ (an argument for the abolition of the ‘secret system’ in the initial stages of criminal procedure), Lond. 1869 and 1872, 8vo. 3. ‘Two Letters addressed to the Editor of the “Scotsman” relating to a Passage in the Life of Lord Brougham written by Himself’ (a vindication of the memory of James Abercromby, first baron Dunfermline [q. v.], from some aspersions by Brougham), Lond. 1872, 8vo. 4. ‘Papers relating to the Improvement of the Salmon Fishery in the District of the River Girvan in the County of Ayr,’ Edinburgh, 1872, 8vo.

[Paterson's Hist. of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton, ii. 204 et seq., 380 et seq.; Scotsman, 2 April 1879; Henry Cockburn's Letters, 1818–1852; Hansard; Edinburgh Review, xxxvi. 110 et seq., and xli. 248; Burke's Landed Gentry; private information.]

J. M. R.