Francis Horner (1778-1817)

About Horner

  • Educated at Edinburgh High School (For Horner and his legal contemporaries there see Old and New Edinburgh)
  • Matriculated University of Edinburgh, 1792
  • Studied law in England but corresponded with friends in Scotland about intellectual interests including natural law (Horner, Memoirs 16-18*)
  • Advocate, 1800
  • One of the founders of the Edinburgh Review
  • MP

Natural Law in Horner’s Memoirs

  • ‘Next to law, political philosophy, history and natural jurisprudence are to be my principal objects of pursuit. To these I shall give most of my evenings for six months to come….[T]he last branch is that of natural jurisprudence, where I shall have rather to think for myself than derive much light from books. I understand from Reddie that the best he has met with is a treatise by Cocceius, published in his edition of Grotius. This I shall read, and just as I have time, the work of Grotius himself…’ (Horner, Memoirs 53*)
  • ‘When Grotius, and of course his followers, talk of the law of nature, it is evident that they stagger beween the Roman law, which they knew too familiarly, and the institutions of savage life, which they had not philosophy enough to understand. Who had that was born before Montesquieu?’ (Horner, Memoirs 65*)

NPG 485; Francis Horner by Sir Henry Raeburn

Francis Horner
by Sir Henry Raeburn
oil on canvas, 1812
NPG 485
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Creative Commons Licence

*For references, please see the Site Bibliography.