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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Clan Colquhoun of North America Newsletter
May 2006

May 2006

Next Month we will be honored clan at the Blairsville, GA festival. Our honored guest will be our Society president, James H. Kilpatrick, Jr. FSA (Scot). Jim has had many roles besides being our president both in and out of the American Scottish community, and is a fascinating person to get to know if you don’t already know him. We’re proud to be honored clan at this new but expertly run festival that will be held the weekend of June 10th. Over the internet contact them at

or at:

Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 789
Blairsville, GA 30514
Phone: 706-745-5789 or (877) 745-5789

Thanks so much to Alastair Dinsmor chairman of the Glasgow Police Heritage Society for donating this article about one of his favorite people. His web site is here:


Patrick Colquhoun was born on 14 March 1745 at Dumbarton and received his early education at the grammar school there. His father, who was a local judge and registrar of the records of Dumbartonshire, died at the age of 44 years.  He was related to the Colquhouns of Luss. 

Before he was sixteen he proceeded to Virginia, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits on his own account, and associating largely with the legal profession. He continued with marked success on returning to Scotland in 1766 with his health impaired and settled in Glasgow. He became a Virginian merchant, a calling then at the height of its prosperity. 

On 22 July 1775, he married Janet Colquhoun, daughter of James Colquhoun (Provost of Dumbarton 1783-9).  They had three sons and four daughters. 

In 1777, his firm of Colquhoun, Ritchie & Co. was situated at the back of Mr. Colquhoun’s lodging on the north side of Argyle Street (next to No.28). 

In 1778, during the excitement caused by the war of the American Revolution, he was one of the twelve principal contributors (£100) to the local fund for raising the Glasgow Regiment, afterwards the 83rd Foot, to fight in America.

In February 1781, he founded the Tontine Society, as premises for merchants to meet for business, read newspapers and exchange, and on 2 October, that same year he was appointed Baillie.  

In 1782 he bought the lands of ‘Woodcroft’, (which he renamed ‘Kelvingrovein 1783) and erected a mansion house. Property later became a municipal museum and public park.  

On 1 October 1782, he was elected Provost (Mayor) of Glasgow to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Provost Hugh Wyllie and on 30 September 1783, he was re-elected Provost. In the latter year, he founded the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.  This was the first Chamber of Commerce in Britain. 

In 1786-9 he succeeded in procuring commercial laws beneficial to the trade and commerce of Glasgow and to the British cotton manufactures generally.  He visited Manchester to obtain information and then, in 1789, visited Belgium, promoting the merits of the Lanarkshire and other British textile industries. His success earned him the thanks of the Lanarkshire and Lancashire manufacturers; and the title, since bestowed on him, of 'Father of Glasgow'.

In 1789, Colquhoun removed with his family to London.  He was hoping for a Government post in the West Indies, but this was not to be.

In 1792, when London’s judicial system was reformed, he was appointed one of the new justices.  Between 1793 and 1795, he investigated the making and distributing of counterfeit coin in London drew up a list of 130 individuals so engaged and many others who made a living passing the coins.  Exerted himself to bring these people to justice and consulted with the Government regarding the deficiencies in the laws which lead to the passing of a new more effective law in 1796.

In 1794 he published a pamphlet suggesting that a charitable organisation should be set up to buy back from pawnbrokers, the work-tools of honest and industrious families, which they had been compelled to pledge due to financial hardship.  In 1796 he established a society to carry out that objective, the result of which, he suggested, would be to allow them to resume their trades and avoid them falling into crime.

In 1795, when political discontent was aggravated by the high price of food, he aided in establishing the soup kitchen in Spitallfields, which was the first of its kind.

In the same year (1795) appeared the work by which Colquhoun is chiefly known, his 'Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis’, which highlighted the disorganised state of policing in London.  He pointed out the inefficiency of the old London watchmen, often chosen out of charity for their poverty or advanced years.  He suggested a proactive police force which, although he did not admit it was other than his own idea, was based largely on the police established in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1789.  As a magistrate, he had seen the effectiveness of the Glasgow Police and incorporated the idea in his book.  The work attracted the attention of the Government, and even of the King, going through seven editions, which were translated into ‘all the languages of Europe’.  

It was doubtless this work which stimulated the University of Glasgow to confer the degree of LL.D on Colquhoun, in 1797.  The West India merchants applied to him in the same year to frame a plan for the prevention of thefts from their property and ships lying in the Thames.  He undertook this with the encouragement of the Government, for the consequent loss of custom duties rendered the matter one of importance to the revenue. On 2 July 1798, Colquhoun establishes the private Marine Police Establishment, London.  This later became the Thames River Police, by the Act of 27 July 1800.  Coincidentally, Glasgow Police achieved the honour of being the first British municipal police force four weeks before with their Glasgow Police Act of 30 June 1800 (29 years before Peel’s London Police).

The benefits achieved by the West India planters by Colquhoun’s work led the colonies of St.Vincent, Nevis, Dominica, and the Virgin Islands to appoint him their agent in England.

In 1798 Colquhoun was appointed magistrate of the Queen Square Office, Westminster, where he proceeded to procure the establishment of a soup-kitchen for the poor.

In 1803 appeared his 'Treatise on the Functions and Duties of a Constable,' and in 1804 the free town of Hamburg appointed him its resident and consul-general in London, an example which was followed by the other Hanseatic towns.

In 1806 he published 'A New and Appropriate System of Education for the Labouring People,' explaining that in a school in Orchard Street, Westminster, a sound and very cheap elementary education was given to the children of the poor on Dr. Bell's system. In the same year was issued his 'Treatise on Indigence', in which he recommended the establishment of a Board of Education, of a National Savings Bank with a state guarantee to the depositors. He also suggested the issue of a police gazette, containing instructive reading, with the statistics of crime and descriptions of the persons of offenders.

His last work of importance was his ' Treatise on the Population, Wealth, Power, and Resources of the British Empire in every quarter of the World,' (1814), of which a second edition appeared in 1815. The most noticeable section of it is that in which Colquhoun attempted to frame an estimate of the total wealth of the British empire, and a descriptive sketch of the British colonies and of the foreign dependencies of the crown. In a concluding chapter Colquhoun predicted, with the close of the Napoleonic Wars, the growth of a surplus population, and pointed to the colonies as a promising outlet for it with particular reference to South Africa.

In that year (1818) Colquhoun resigned his office of Police Magistrate. He died in Westminster on 25 April 1830, aged 76 years, leaving in his will £200 the interest of which was to be divided among poor people of the name of Colquhoun in several specified parishes of his native county, and not in receipt of parochial relief.  A memorial tablet was erected in St. Margaret’s Chapel, Westminster.

Although Patrick Colquhoun is hailed as a police reformer in England, there are no statues of him in Glasgow, where he is all but forgotten.  The Chamber of Commerce celebrate his founding of their organisation by having the ‘Colquhoun Suite’ in their meeting rooms, on George Square.

The only other organisation to recognise him is the Glasgow Police Heritage Society which has his story in their Glasgow Police Museum in St. Andrew’s Square, Glasgow.  Every day, groups of visitors are told the story of the development of policing in Glasgow and how Patrick Colquhoun carried the idea to London…….the rest, as they say, is history.

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