MACQUEEN, Thomas Potter (1792-1854), of Ridgmont, Eaton Bray, Beds.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



15 Apr. 1816 - 1826
1826 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 28 May 1792, 1st s. of Malcolm MacQueen,1 MD (Edinburgh), of St. Luke’s, Norwich, Norf. by Mariana, da. and event. h. of Thomas Potter of 30 Harley Street, Mdx. and Ridgmont. educ. at Dr Roberts’s, Camberwell (3 yrs.); at Mr Nicholson’s, St. Albans (2½ yrs.); Caius, Camb. 1810; L. Inn 1813, called 1819. m. 26 Oct. 1820, Anne, da. of Sir Jacob Henry Astley* 5th Bt., of Melton Constable, Norf., 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1829.

Offices Held

Capt. Beds. yeoman cav. 1817, maj. commdt. 1818, lt.-col. 1820.


MacQueen’s origins were sufficiently varied: his paternal grandfather was Rev. Donald MacQueen of Kilmuir, Skye, of whom Dr Johnson spoke so well during his Highland tour. His father, described in 1775 as ‘a young gentleman bred to physic’ was nephew of Macleod, the laird of Raasay, spoke ‘the Gaelic in all its purity’2 but practised in Norwich and subsequently (about 1794) in London;3 in 1807 he retired to Ridgmont, his wife’s inheritance since 1801, and became a country gentleman. His wife was the daughter and granddaughter of Members of Parliament, both named Thomas Potter of Ridgmont, and the great granddaughter of an archbishop of Canterbury. Both Thomas Potters were renowned for their wit.

Thomas Potter MacQueen was bred to the law, called, but never practised, and in Parliament three years before he qualified. Col. John MacLeod was given credit for launching him in public life and so was (Sir) John Osborn*,4 but he owed his introduction to Parliament to the MacQueens’ next door neighbour in town, David Vanderheyden: when the latter vacated his seat at East Looe on the Buller interest in 1816, MacQueen succeeded to it. Moreover, he had the backing of Lord Liverpool the prime minister and was a regular supporter of administration, though no speech by him is known before 1820. In 1817 he was a member of the Pitt Club.5 In March 1818 he was invited to contest Grimsby, but retained his Cornish seat.

He aspired, like his great grandfather Thomas Potter in 1758, to a county seat; in 1826 he obtained it, but it proved his ruin, for he was involved at the ensuing election in a contest with the Russells that swallowed up his inheritance of the year before and drove him to New South Wales. Ironically, in 1820, claiming to be the Member of Parliament most conversant with South African affairs, he had been interested in promoting Scottish emigration thither; better still, on 5 Aug. 1820 he applied to government to be governor of New South Wales, claiming to have an ‘intimate knowledge’ of its history. Among other qualifications, he mentioned that ‘from the application of chemistry to various important articles of manufacture I have produced samples of hemp, flax, cotton, silk—animal and vegetable of a quality which has excited the wonder of the first manufacturers of this country’.6 He later returned to England and died 31 Mar. 1854 at Oswestry.7 In his will he attempted to provide for his children, but was evidently still in debt, as administration was granted to a creditor’s attorney; he claimed that his eldest son John was already provided for from the sale of his Bedfordshire estate.8

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. There is an account of him in W. Munk, Roll R. Coll. Physicians, ii. 446, under the Latinised name of Columbus MacQueen.
  • 2. HMC Laing, ii. 483.
  • 3. His younger children were born at 45 Parliament Street.
  • 4. NLS mss 1054, f. 149; Add. 38286, f. 371.
  • 5. Add. 38458 f. 238; Gent. Mag. (1818), i. 559. MacQueen late in 1820 corresponded with Liverpool on the subject of a Radical conspiracy, egged on by a character called Maj. Williams who proved an expensive and unhelpful informant. (Add. 38288, ff. 80, 82, 245, 251, 253, 261.)
  • 6. Cape Recs. (1820-1), 2; Add. 38286, f. 372. On his return to England, he published Australia: what she is and what she might be (1840). He had published two previous pamphlets on the state of the nation, 1830 and 1832 (in BL).
  • 7. Gent. Mag. (1854), i. 558; Cathrall, Oswestry, 147.
  • 8. PCC 1856, f. 226.