Papers of Sir David Patrick Chalmers (1835-1899)

Scope and Content

The collection contained in Gen. 1915-1918 includes the papers from 1867-1899 of Sir David Patrick Chalmers in his capacity of Chief-Justice of the Gold Coast (Ghana), Africa, and later of British Guiana (Guyana). The material consists of manuscripts, typescripts, newspaper cuttings and printed ordinances and relates to the Gambia 1867-1869, the Gold Coast 1869-1878, and Sierra Leone 1898-1899. There is also material relating to Enquiries on British Guiana 18791894, Jamaica 1895-1896, and Newfoundland 1897, and Commission material. There is personal material, and address, a photograph, pamphlets and articles relating to the Sierra Leone Hut Tax Enquiry in 1898, and a diary kept by W. H. Campbell on an expedition from Georgetown to Upata, British Guiana, in 1857. Gen. 1919 and Gen. 1920 consist of The law reports of British Guiana. Vol.1. 1890-1891, published in Demerara by the Argosy press, 1892, and an album of newspaper cuttings. At Gen. 1934-1935 there is correspondence covering the periods 1859-1878 and including letters to the family, and diaries.

Administrative / Biographical History

David Patrick Chalmers was born in 1835. He was educated at the Edinburgh Institution and at Edinburgh University. Chalmers was called to the Scottish Bar in 1860. He was appointed Magistrate of Gambia in 1867, with full powers of a Judge. In 1869, he became the Magistrate of the Gold Coast (Ghana) with similar powers, and also native chief's assessor. In 1872, Chalmers was appointed Queen's Advocate of Sierra Leone, then he again served on the Gold Coast during the Ashantee (Asante) invasion. In 1876, he became first Chief -Justice of the Gold Coast, and in 1878 Chief-Justice of British Guiana (Guyana). Chalmers was appointed as the Royal Commissioner to enquire into the 1898 revolt in Sierra Leone which had arisen because of the imposition of a hut tax and because the ruling chiefs had not been consulted about the country's protectorate status which had been proclaimed by the British in 1896. Chalmers also served in Jamaica on a Judicial Commission of Enquiry in 1893, and as a special Judge in a prosecution for fraud in Newfoundland in 1897. He was knighted in 1876. Sir David Patrick Chalmers died 5 August 1899.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Material at Gen. 1915-1920 including the diary kept by W. H. Campbell from Miss E. B. Chalmers, Anstruther, Fife, June 1972, Accession no. E72.27.


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Walford, Edward. The county families of the United Kingdom .... London: Chatto and Windus, 1885. (2) Who was who. A companion to who's who ... 1897-1916. London: A. and C. Black, 1920.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.