Lord Kames, a judge, legal historian and philosopher, took his title from his birthplace in Berwickshire. He became an advocate in 1723 and was made a judge almost thirty years later. As well as writing books on Scots Law, he published prolifically on other subjects, such as his ‘Essays on Morality’ (1754) and ‘Loose Hints upon Education’ (1782). As a judge he had a reputation for being keen to convict, and was notorious for his coarse humour and language. One example of his biting wit is the remark with which he is said to have greeted the verdict against an old chess partner found guilty of murder: ‘That’s checkmate to you, Matthew!’ This portrait, painted more than a decade after his death, is presumably a copy of an earlier work.