James Buchanan of Dowanhill

1756 - 1844


Partner in the Glasgow firms of Dennistoun Buchanan and Buchanan, Steven. and in William Duff & Co. of New Providence with among others James Dennistoun (q.v.). In 1822 nine enslaved people were registered in the name of the 12 partners in the firm of William Duff & Co., which was discontinued in 1825. He left £118,919 in 1844.

  1. The Loyal Refomers' Gazette in 1831 characterised James Buchanan of Dowanhill as a 'West India Slave Merchant'. "Merchant in partnership with his cousin Moses Steven, afterwards of Poladie, in the firms of Buchanan, Steven & Co. and Dennistoun, Buchanan & Co. [of Glasgow]." "Merchant, partner of Dennistoun, Buchanan & Co., in its day one of our foremost foreign firms" "Founded [sic] the trading firm of Buchanan Steven & Co. in the late eighteenth century."

  2. 'James Buchanan of Dowanhill (1756-1844) originally a linen trader. He matriculated with the Merchants House in 1790 as the ‘son of George Buchanan, Farmer, Drymen, Dumbartonshire’. He went into partnership with his first cousin, Moses Steven, in two prominent West India merchant firms in Glasgow, Buchanan, Steven & Co., and its successor firm, Dennistoun, Buchanan & Co. Buchanan of Dowanhill was a leader of the Glasgow West India trades as one of the 1807 subscribers to the pro-slavery Glasgow West India Association. He was also involved with the East India Association. When James Buchanan died in 1844, the inventory of his property suggested that he was one of the wealthiest men in Great Britain, with a fortune of £126,987. When considering his son John Buchanan’s (1807-1876) gift to the University of Glasgow, the connection to New World slavery is therefore inherited (second generation). When John Buchanan (1807-1876) died, his estate was worth £371,259. His settlement of 28 February 1876 seemingly provided no provision for the University of Glasgow. The main bequests were arranged separately eleven years before he died.'

  3. James Buchanan of Dowanhill was a second-wave investor in The Glasgow Bank or The Glasgow Banking Company (founded in 1809), which is a predecessor firm of Lloyds, having merged with The Ship Bank in 1836 and the Union Bank of Glasgow in 1843. The Glasgow Banking Company 'was the last of the old private partnership banks to be established in the city.'

  4. Will of James Buchanan, merchant in Glasgow and partner in Dennistoun Buchanan & Co., of Dowanhill proved 27/06/1844.


Edinburgh Gazette 3374 04/10/1825 p. 187; 1822 Bahamas Slave Register Vol. 1 no. 1. London Gazette 18339 27/02/1827 p. 476 shows James Buchanan formerly of Buenos Ayres, at present residing at Edinburgh, retiring from Dennistoun Buchanan in 1826, and another James Buchanan continuing in the business. A James Buchanan jun. then in London retired from the firm in 1853. LBS has tentatively concluded that the parter retiring in 1826 was James Buchanan of Moray Place; the continuing partner in 1826 was James Buchanan of Downhill; and the partner retiring in 1853 was a third James Buchanan.

  1. The Loyal Refomers' Gazette Vol. III (Glasgow, 1831), p. 376; John Guthrie Smith, Strathendrick and Its Inhabitants From Early Times (1896), p. 344; Exhibition Illustrative of Old Glasgow (1894), p. 74, online, concerning his portrait; ODNB for his grandson Thomas Ryburn Buchanan; W.D. Rubinstein, Who were the rich? Vol. II [MS] 1844/44.

  2. S. Mullen and S. Newman, Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow report and recommendations of the University of Glasgow History of Slavery Steering Committee (2018) p. 50.

  3. Memoirs and Portraits of 100 Glasgow men No. 26 'Alexander Dennistoun'; http://www.lloydsbankinggroup.com/Our-Group/our-heritage/our-history/bank-of-scotland/glasgow-banking-company [accessed 24/05/2015].

  4. PROB 11/1999/349.

Further Information

Ellison McCallum
4 s 1 d
Wealth at death
West India merchant

Legacies Summary

Commercial (3)

Name partner
Buchanan, Steven
West India merchant  
Firm Investment
Dennistoun Buchanan
West India merchant  

Relationships (2)

Business partners
Business partners

Addresses (1)

Dowanhill, Glasgow (near), Lanarkshire, Central Scotland, Scotland