Robertson, John Parish (DNB00)

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ROBERTSON, JOHN PARISH (1792–1843), merchant and author, was born at Kelso or Edinburgh in 1792. His father, at one time assistant-secretary of the Bank of Scotland, was engaged in business at Glasgow. His mother, Juliet Parish, was the daughter of a Hamburg merchant of Scottish extraction. Educated at the grammar school at Dalkeith, Robertson accompanied his father to South America in 1806. He landed at Monte Video on the day after its occupation by the British forces under Sir Samuel Auchmuty [q. v.] On the cession of that city, he was sent home by his father, but in 1808 sailed on his own account for Rio de Janeiro, where he was employed as a clerk for three years.

Robertson now tried to open up trade with Paraguay. At the end of 1811 he went as a mercantile agent to Assumption, but in 1815 was compelled by the dictator Francia to leave the country, along with his younger brother, William Parish Robertson, who had joined him. He sailed for Buenos Ayres with much merchandise, but was stopped by an accident at Corrientes, on the banks of the Paraná. During the next year he and his brother, with the aid of Peter Campbell, achieved great success by trading in hides with Paraguay. He returned to England in 1817, and established connections with London, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Paisley. Sailing for Buenos Ayres in 1820, he commenced trading with Chili and Peru, and landed at Greenock in 1824 or 1825, with a fortune of 100,000l., as the representative of some of the South American republics. Ruined in 1826, he went to South America with the object of recovering part of his fortune, but, failing to do so, returned to England in 1830. Intending to devote himself to study, Robertson entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, but in 1833 ill-health compelled him to retire to the Isle of Wight, where he attempted to arrange his business affairs. Obliged to earn a livelihood, he settled in London in 1834. He died at Calais on 1 Nov. 1843.

Robertson published: 1. ‘Solomon Seesaw … with Illustrations by Phiz,’ 3 vols. London, 1839, 12mo; 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1839, 12mo. 2. In conjunction with his brother, William Parish Robertson, ‘Letters on Paraguay; comprising an Account of a Four Years' Residence in that Republic, under the Government of the Dictator Francia,’ 2 vols. London, 1838, 12mo; Philadelphia, 2 vols. 1838, 12mo (a sequel, entitled ‘Francia's Reign of Terror,’ appeared in one volume, London, 1839, 12mo; 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1839, 12mo; 2nd edit. 3 vols. London, 1839, 12mo). 3. ‘Letters on South America, comprising Travels on the Banks of the Paraná and Rio de la Plata,’ 3 vols. London, 1843, 12mo.

[Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, new ser. 1884, i. 10–13; Dublin University Magazine, xii. 474; Gent. Mag. 1843, ii. 671; Athenæum, 1838 pp. 645, 671, 1839 pp. 27, 483, 1843 pp. 254–7.]

W. A. S. H.