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CAMPBELL, PATRICK, author; fl. c. 1765–1823.

Patrick Campbell, like numerous others who wrote of their tours through North America during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, probably acquired his taste for travel while in the army, although it is not clear when and where he served. Undoubtedly of Scottish origin, he may have gained his knowledge of German during service on the Continent; he later claimed to have “fought in many parts of Europe [and] killed many men.”

By the mid 1760s Campbell had taken up the apparently hereditary office of head forester of the royal forest of Mamlorn, near Achallader, Scotland. He occupied the post for just over seven years, leaving because of “a slight misunderstanding with the factor.” Then, as he explained in 1792, “I betook myself to farming, traded a little by sea and land, by which I made out so well as now to be enabled to give up all business, and gratify a passion for travelling, and seeing as much of the world as my little finances will admit of.”

Accompanied by his servant and his dog, Campbell sailed from Greenock, Scotland, for North America on 2 July 1791 in order to assess the possibilities various settlements offered to immigrating Highland Scots. The chronicle of his journey, Travels in the interior inhabited parts of North America in the years 1791 and 1792, published in Scotland in 1793, is one of the most important accounts of British North America in the late 18th century. Campbell arrived on 28 August in Saint John, N.B., and after a stay of several days proceeded by boat and on foot to Fredericton. He called on Lieutenant Governor Thomas Carleton* to enquire about the assistance the government could provide to immigrants and then travelled up the Nashwaak River, visiting settlements established by disbanded soldiers of the 42nd Foot. He reached the mouth of the Miramichi River, where he stayed with merchant James Fraser, before returning to Fredericton. His investigations then took him on a long and difficult journey up the Saint John River and through the Madawaska valley to the St Lawrence. His nephew Dugald Campbell* accompanied him for part of this trip. Quebec was “ill looking” and did not impress Campbell, who quickly went on by land to Montreal and from there to Kingston and Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake) on foot, by boat, and on horseback. After spending two days as a guest of Mohawk chief Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea*] at Grand River, he returned to Niagara. With David Ramsay* as a guide, he set off through upper New York State to New York City. There he boarded a vessel to return to Saint John, where he arrived on 12 May 1792. Until his departure for Scotland on 4 November, he continued to explore southern New Brunswick, including the area around Fredericton, east along the Kennebecasis River to Sussex Vale (Sussex Corner), where he visited George Leonard, and St Andrews on the southwestern border.

Campbell presents his narrative in a clear, direct prose which only occasionally shows signs of having been hastily written. The importance of his work lies in his assessment of the prospects for settlers in North America. Over half of his account is devoted to New Brunswick, but he describes economic conditions all along his route, commenting on the advance of settlement, the various agricultural practices and returns that could be expected, as well as the progress of several other industries including shipbuilding, fishing, lumbering, and the fur trade. Like many other travellers, he stresses the success settlers could achieve by steady application and exertion, and draws attention to the abundance of natural resources in the New World. Deeply discontented with policies of the British government that he felt prevented Scotland from flourishing and promoted emigration, Campbell none the less encouraged his fellow countrymen to settle in British possessions and in his book enumerated the many advantages of these colonies over the United States. As a former forester, he took a great interest in wildlife, noting the existence of numerous species now extinct. Keen and curious as well as hardy and indefatigable, Campbell is usually accurate when he relies on his own observations. On occasions where he relates the stories told to him by others, his work is considerably less exact. Everywhere he went he endeared himself to leading members of society, and his friendly and personable manner probably accounted for much of the warm and generous hospitality he received. Although his descriptions of the people he encountered provide few glimpses into character, he presents interesting insights into their economic and social condition, information unavailable from other contemporary sources.

On 3 Dec. 1794, after his return to Scotland, Campbell was appointed a lieutenant in an independent company of foot which soon became part of the 116th Foot. He had little time to reap any benefit from his new commission since the 116th Foot was disbanded in 1795. While on half pay he was advanced to the rank of captain. He disappears from the army lists after 1823. No details are known of his personal life except that he had a son and a daughter. Although Campbell himself remains an elusive figure, his Travels is an important historical work, especially for New Brunswick, providing first-hand observations of the province less than a decade after its establishment.

Paulette M. Chiasson

[The author would like to thank Stuart R. J. Sutherland for his assistance.

The full title of Patrick Campbell’s narrative, which was published in Edinburgh in 1793, is Travels in the interior inhabited parts of North America in the years 1791 and 1792; in which is given an account of the manners and customs of the Indians, and the present war between them and the fœderal states, the mode of life and system of farming among the new settlers of both Canadas, New York, New England, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; interspersed with anecdotes of people, observations on the soil, natural productions, and political situation of these countries. A new edition, edited by Hugh Hornby Langton* and William Francis Ganong*, was published in Toronto in 1937; it contains the best commentary on Campbell’s work and most of the biographical data known about him.  p.m.c.]. Early travellers in the Canadas, 1791-1867, ed. and intro. G. M. Craig (Toronto, 1955). G.B., WO, Army list, 1759–1824. P. M. Chiasson, “Travellers in Nova Scotia, 1770–1860” (ma thesis, Queen’s Univ., Kingston, Ont., 1981).

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Cite This Article

Paulette M. Chiasson, “CAMPBELL, PATRICK,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 6, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/campbell_patrick_6E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/campbell_patrick_6E.html
Author of Article:   Paulette M. Chiasson
Title of Article:   CAMPBELL, PATRICK
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1987
Year of revision:   1987
Access Date:   December 6, 2023