Macfie, Robert Andrew (DNB01)

MACFIE, ROBERT ANDREW (1811–1893), free-trade advocate, son of John Macfie, sugar refiner, of Leith, by Alison, second daughter of William Thorburn, was born at Leith on 4 Oct. 1811. Educated at the high schools of Leith and Edinburgh, and at the university of Edinburgh, he entered, in 1827, his father's business, of which about ten years later he established a branch at Liverpool. There he co-operated with Leone Levi in founding the chamber of commerce, and was elected trustee of the Exchange. He retired from business about 1863 and devoted the rest of his life to public objects. As member for Leith Burghs in the parliament of 1868-74, he made himself conspicuous by his uncompromising advocacy of free trade in inventions, proposing a system of 'national recompenses' in lieu of patents. He also agitated for the abridgment of authors' copyrights. These extreme views he combined with an earnest solicitude for the consolidation and defence of the empire, which rendered him a determined opponent of all tampering with the Union, and a pioneer of imperial federation. He died at his country seat, Dreghorn, near Edinburgh, on 16 Feb. 1893. He was F.R.C.I. and F.R.S.E., and a Knight Commander of the Hawaian Order of Kalakaua.

Macfie married in 1840 Caroline Eliza, daughter of John Eastin of Conrance Hill, Dumfries.

Macfie published : 1. 'The Patent Question: a solution of difficulties by abolishing or shortening the Inventor's monopoly and instituting National Recompenses,' London, 1863, 8vo. 2. 'Recent Discussions on the Abolition of Patents for Inventions in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands,' London, 1869, 8vo. 3. 'Colonial Questions pressing for immediate solution in the interest of the Nation and the Empire,' London, 1871, 8vo. 4. 'Copyright and Patents for Inventions. Pleas and plans for cheaper books and greater industrial freedom,' Edinburgh, 1871, 8vo. 5. 'A Glance at the Position and Prospects of the Empire,' London, 1872, 8vo. 6. 'The Patent Question in 1875; with a suggestion as to Copyright,' London, 1875, 8vo. 7. 'Cries in a Crisis for Statesmanship popular and patriotic to test and contest Free Trade in our Manufactures,' London, 1881, 8vo. 8. 'The Patent Bills of 1883: private aims and public claims,' Edinburgh, 1883, 8vo. 9. 'The Questions put by the Royal Commissioners on the Depressed State of Trade dealt with in an independent but sympathetic spirit,' Edinburgh, 1885, 8vo. 10. 'The Scotch Church Question. Letter of an Heritor in a country parish, and Notes on the Question how to adapt and improve the Ecclesiastical System of Scotland without destroying it,' Edinburgh, 1885, 8vo. 11. 'Offhand Notes on "Prayers for Social and Family Worship for the use of Soldiers, Sailors, Colonists, Sojourners in India, prepared by a Committee of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland: a revised edition, 1889,"' Edinburgh, 1892.

[Scots Mag. 1810, p. 957; Men and Women of the Time, 1891; Scotsman, 18 Feb. 1893; Ann. Reg. 1893, ii. 151; List of Members of Parliament (official); Simmonds's British Roll of Honour; Brit. Mus Cat.]

J. M. R.