Colquhoun, Patrick (DNB00)
|←Colquhoun, John Campbell (1803-1870)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11
COLQUHOUN, PATRICK, LL.D. (1745–1820), metropolitan police magistrate, was born on 14 March 1745 at Dumbarton, and received his early education at the grammar school there. His father was registrar of the records of Dumbartonshire. Before he was sixteen he proceeded to Virginia, where he engaged in commercial pursuits, in which he continued with marked success on returning to Scotland in 1766, when he settled in Glasgow. In 1778, during the excitement caused by the war of the American Revolution, he was one of the twelve principal contributors to the local fund for raising the Glasgow regiment, afterwards the 83rd of the line. In 1779-82 he paid several visits to London, to urge on the government legislative measures favourable to the industries of Glasgow and Scotland. He was so successful there, and in initiating schemes of local improvement, that in 1782 he was elected, and in 1783 re-elected, lord provost of Glasgow, in the latter year founding the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, of which he was appointed chairman. In 1785-9 he was again indefatigable, and often successful, in his exertions to procure administrative and legislative measures beneficial to the trade and commerce of Glasgow and to the British cotton manufactures generally, visiting Manchester to obtain information, which he embodied in a statement presented to Pitt, showing the condition of the cotton trade in 1788. In a visit which he paid in 1789 to Flanders and Brabant he is said to have made known on the continent the merits of the Lanarkshire and other British muslins. He published during this period a number of pamphlets none of them, apparently, are in the library of the British Museum in aid of his personal efforts. His zeal and success procured him formal expressions of thanks from the Lanarkshire and Lancashire manufacturers, and the title, since bestowed on him, of 'father of Glasgow' (Cleland, i. 177 n.)
In 1789, for some unexplained reason, Colquhoun removed with his family to London, and in 1792, when its police system was partially reconstructed, he was appointed, through the influence of Henry Dundas, afterwards Viscount Melville, one of the new justices. In 1794 he published anonymously a pamphlet previously printed for private circulation, 'Observations and Facts relative to Public-houses, by a Magistrate acting for the Counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, and Essex.' It contains curious particulars of the London liquor trade of the time. In 1794 appeared his pamphlet, 'A Plan for affording extensive Relief to the Poor, by raising a moderate sum of money by subscription, to be laid out in redeeming pledges of honest, industrious families, who have been compelled to pledge their goods and working-tools for subsistence during the late severe weather,' and in 1796 (Pettigrew, ii. 356) he established a society to carry out that object. In 1795, when political discontent was aggravated by the high price of food, he aided in establishing the soup-kitchen in Spitalfields, which was the first of its kind, publishing in that year two pamphlets, ' An Account of the Meat and Soup Charity,' and 'Suggestions … showing how a Small Income may be made to go far, … so as to produce a Considerable Saving in the article of Bread,' which were printed at the public expense neither of which is in the library of the British Museum. In the same year appeared the work by which Colquhoun is chiefly known, his 'Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis, explaining the various Crimes and Misdemeanours which are at present felt as a pressure upon the Community, and suggesting Remedies for their Prevention, by a Magistrate.' Much of the information still possesses some interest. Colquhoun suggested the appointment of a public prosecutor, the extension of the jurisdiction of stipendiary magistrates to the city proper, and the employment of convicts in reproductive labour. He pointed out the inevitable inefficiency of the old London watchmen, mainly dependent for support on their daily labour in other employments, often chosen out of charity for their poverty or advanced years, and directed by more than seventy different local authorities, who acted without co-operation and under no general system of superintendence. The work attracted the attention of the government, and even of the king, going through several editions, in the seventh of which (1806) Colquhoun proposed the establishment of a board of commissioners of police for the whole of London. It was doubtless this work which stimulated the university of Glasgow to confer on Colquhoun, in 1797, the degree of LL.D., and the West India merchants to to him in the same year to frame a plan for the prevention of depredations on their property in ships lying in the Thames a task which he undertook with the cooperation of the government, for the consequent loss of customs duties rendered the matter one of importance to the revenue. The result was the composition of his 'Treatise on the Commerce and Police of the River Thames,' 1800, and the establishment for the first time of an effective Thames police. The benefits which Colquhoun's exertions conferred on the West India planters 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, framing, at the request of the privy council, 'Suggestions . . . distributed over England and Wales, with a view to the encouragement of Soup Establishments, and containing plans and directions for carrying them into effect.' In 1799 was issued for private circulation his 'State of Indigence, and the Situation of the Casual Poor in the Metropolis explained,' in which he urged that wealthy parishes should be called on to mitigate the pressure of the rates on poor parishes, and recommended the establishment of a sort of charity organisation society to investigate the circumstances of applicants for relief, and to provide work for the unemployed. In the same year, one of great scarcity and distress, he suggested the provision of a supply of salt herrings and other cheap fish as food for the poor, a suggestion to which he saw effect ultimately given. 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 carried out in a school in Orchard Street, Westminster, of which three years before he had promoted the establishment, and in which 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, of a system of reproductive employment for those out of work, of a national poor-rate uniformly assessed, and 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, often on insufficient data, Colquhoun attempted to frame an estimate of the total wealth, in all kinds, of the British empire, and not only of the value of the 'new property' created in it from year to year, but of the distribution of this among the various classes of the community. It includes a history of the public revenue and expenditure from the earliest times to 1813, 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 war, the growth of a surplus population, and pointed to the colonies as a promising outlet for it. This idea he developed, with a specific application to South Africa, in an anonymous pamphlet, 'Considerations on the Means of affording Profitable Employment to the Redundant Population of Great Britain and Ireland,' &c., issued in 1818 (see Lowndes, i. 502). In that year Colquhoun resigned his office of police magistrate, and there appeared in the 'European Magazine' an exhaustive account of his useful and disinterested labours (reprinted separately in the same year) signed 'Ιατρός, contributed by his son-in-law, Dr. Yates, and containing a catalogue of his numerous writings. In the 'Additional MSS.' of the British Museum there are several letters from Colquhoun to Dr. H. Boase [q. v.], approving of the latter's currency proposals. Colquhoun died in Westminster on 25 April 1820, leaving by 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 (Irving, i. 123).
[Dr. Yates's Memoir; Annual Biography and Obituary for 1821; Gent. Mag. for May 1820; Irving's Book of Dumbartonshire, 1879; Cleland's Annals of Glasgow, 1816; PettigreVs Memoirs of Dr. Lettsom, 1817; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. (Bohn), 1864.]