James MacQueen

1778 - 1870

Claimant or beneficiary


Pro-slavery polemicist; geographer.

In 1851 James Macqueen was living at 18 The Crescent aged 72 'Parliamentary Agent' born Scotland with wife Louisa born Middlesex aged 59, daughter Margaret 49 [?] born Grenada, James 38 and Jemima 34, both born Scotland; 1861 James MacQueen aged 82 born Scotland 'Retired Independent' was living with his wife Louisa aged 70 in a lodging house at 16 Victoria Road St Mary Abbotts Kensington.

Born Crawford, Lanarkshire. 1796: manager of a sugar plantation in Grenada; subsequently travelled extensively in the West Indian colonies. Became leading authority on African geography, inspired initially by reading Mungo Park's Travels (1799). However, he never went to Africa.

Collected much information concerning the features of the upper Niger area from the Mandingo enslaved on the Grenada estate, and the merchants and slave agents with whom he had dealings. One of the first to claim (in 1816), that the Niger entered the Atlantic in the bights of Benin and Biafra. (This was later demonstrated by Landers in 1830.)

By 1821 MacQueen settled in Glasgow. Became editor and part-proprietor of the Glasgow Courier. Staunch defender of the ‘rights’ of the West India interest.

Projected and organized the Colonial Bank and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.

Later, moved to London; wrote extensively on politics, geography, economics, and general literature in the newspapers and magazines.

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and contributed ‘several interesting memoirs’ to the RGS Journal and Proceedings.

In the 1840s he projected a scheme [the Niger Expedition of 1841-2] for a chartered company to cultivate cotton at the Niger–Benue confluence. This was undertaken with the collaboration of the anti-slavery advocate Thomas F. Buxton.

The scheme failed. Later he persuaded the Royal Geographical Society to take it up during the American Civil War, when cotton supplies were disrupted; but once again nothing resulted.

MacQueen died at 10 Hornton Street, Kensington, London.

Among his numerous works, the best known are A geographical and commercial view of northern central Africa: containing a[n] … account of the … termination of the … Niger in the Atlantic Ocean (1821); A Geographical Survey of Africa (1840), with a map by John Arrowsmith; and Journals of the Missionaries Isenberg and Krapf (1843), to which he prefixed a geographical memoir of Abyssinia and south-eastern Africa.

‘. . .he is mostly remembered as a staunch defender of imperial commercial interests and their extension, particularly into west Africa, not least as he was one of the first to advocate the extension of legitimate commerce as the way to overcome the slave trade in Africa.’ (Oxford DNB)


David Lambert, The "Glasgow King of Billingsgate": James Macqueen and an Atlantic proslavery network, Slavery and Abolition, 29 (30) (January, 2008), pp. 389-413

1851 and 1861 census online.

Oxford DNB.

See also David Lambert, Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s Map of Africa and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery (Chicago University Press, 2013).

Further Information

Name in compensation records
James M'Queen
Margaret, James, Jemima
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Claims (7)

£117 6s 11d
Awardee (Mortgagee)
£104 5s 6d
£1,164 6s 9d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£1,939 13s 7d
Awardee (Owner-in-fee)
£604 16s 2d
Awardee (Assignee)
£1,317 14s 1d
Unsuccessful claimant (Owner-in-fee)
£2,770 6s 7d
Unsuccessful claimant (Owner-in-fee)

Associated Estates (4)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
01/05/1827 [SD] - 1834 [LA] → Mortgagee-in-Possession
  1. A total of 115 enslaved people were "transferred to Messrs Macqueen [&] McKay with the Belle Vue Estate May 1 1827"
  2. Partner in the firm Macqueen McDonnell & Company of Glasgow.
1828 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Joint owner
1834 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Joint owner
1831 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Joint owner

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

General Superintendent of Affairs
notes →
See firm notes on the Royal Mail Steam Packet...

Historical (3)

A Geographical and Commercial View of Northern Central Africa: Containing a Particular Account of the Course and Termination of the Great River Niger in the Atlantic... 1821 
notes →
Reprinted, Cambridge University Press,...
The West India colonies; the calumnies and misrepresentations circulated against them by the Edinburgh Review, Mr. Clarkson, Mr. Cropper, &c. &c., Examined and Refuted. .... 1824 
notes →
There is a reprint of the 1825 edition: New York, Negro Universities Press, 1969. The 1824 edition is available as a Google books...
A geographical survey of... 1840 

Relationships (2)

Business partners
Business associates