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Robertson, John Parish, and William Parish

Robertson, John Parish, and William Parish

The Robertson brothers (John Parish Robertson, 1792–1843, and William Parish Robertson, 1795–?), born in Scotland, became successful businessmen in South America, lost their fortune, returned to Britain, and published chronicles of their experiences. They were active in trade between Great Britain and Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru from 1813 to 1830. The letters between them provide a personal insight into business, finance, and politics.

John Robertson first visited the River Plate region in 1806. At twenty-one, he set himself up in Asunción as a mercantile agent. The future was so promising that his brother William joined him. Their partnership thrived until the financial crisis of 1826, when they lost their fortune.

During the years that their firm thrived they were active on many fronts: commercial, financial, social, and political. The immediacy and intimacy of their correspondence provides a revealing account of life when these countries were becoming institutionally viable.

After their auspicious start in Asunción, the dictator José Gaspar Francia expelled them from Paraguay in 1815. Still in their twenties, they moved their operations to Corrientes. In 1817, John returned to London to consolidate connections in the financial world, returning to Argentina in 1820, when he established an agricultural colony for Scottish immigrants on 6,500 hectares of prime land in Monte Grande in Buenos Aires Province. The initiative was authorized by Bernardino Rivadavia, governor of the province, in a decree signed on March 11, 1824. Fifteen months later, more than two hundred Scottish settlers arrived from Scotland. The colony failed in 1829.

The riskiest project the brothers undertook was syndicating loans for the governments of Peru and Buenos Aires Province. John convinced Alexander Baring that the profitability of loans to Latin American governments outweighed the risks involved. Baring Brothers' loan to Argentina set a precedent for Argentina's future erratic handling of international loans and public finance. The brothers' books on their experiences in South America were entertaining and sold well in their different editions.

See alsoBaring Brothers; Francia, José Gaspar Rodríguez de; Paraguay: The Nineteenth Century; Rivadavia, Bernardino.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Robertson, John Parish. Solomon Seesaw. Philadelphia: Lea & Blanchard, 1839.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Letters on Paraguay, Comprising an Account of a Four Years' Residence in That Republic. 2 vols. London: John Murray, 1838, 1839.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Francia's Reign of Terror, Being the Continuation of Letters on Paraguay. Vol. III. London: John Murray, 1839.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Letters on South America, Comprising Travels on the Banks of the Parana and the Rio de la Plata. London: John Murray, 1843.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Cartas del Paraguay (1838–1839). Translated by Carlos A. Aldao. Buenos Aires: La Cultura Argentina, 1920.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Cartas de Sud-América: Andanzas por el litoral argentino. Translated by José Luis Busaniche. Buenos Aires: Editorial Nova, 1946.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Cartas de Sud-América. 3 vols. Translated by José Luis Busaniche. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1950.

Robertson, J. P. and W. P. Cartas de Sudamérica. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 2000.

Robertson, William Parish. Visit to Mexico, 2 vols. London: Simpkin Marshall, 1853.

                                            Edward L. Shaw

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