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WILLIAM PATERSON AND THE DARIEN SCHEME

(Extracted from "A Biographical Dictionary of Emminent Scotsmen")

The original projector of the Bank of England and of Scotland, and of the celebrated settlement of Darien, was born, it is supposed, in the year 1660 at Skipmyre, in the parish of Tinwald, Dumfries-shire. It is deeply to be regretted that no satisfactory memorials have been preserved of this remarkable man. Of his education nothing is known, but it is stated in one memoir that he was bred to the church. He is also said to have represented the burgh of Dumfries more than once in the Scottish parliament; to have gone out to the West Indies, in the character of a Christian missionary, for the purpose of converting the negroes; and to have, while in that quarter, joined the buccanoers, a gang of desperadoes who infested the shores of America and the West Indian islands, making prizes indiscriminately of the ships of all nations; and it is in this character he is said to have acquired that intimate knowledge of the seas and coasts of America which led him to form the splendid idea of a settlement at Darien, by which he meant to connect the seas on the opposite sides of the globe, and to form a grand emporium of the productions of all the quarters of the earth. That Mr Paterson, however, was either a churchman or a buccaneer at any period of his life appears a gratuitous assumption, unsupported by any direct evidence, and at variance with the known course of his after life. It is certain, however, that he was in the West Indies, but it is much more likely that his pursuits there were commercial than either clerical or piratical. In whatever capacity he may have acquired his commercial and geographical knowledge, he returned to Europe with a scheme of trade wholly different from the methods and principles of any of the then trading companies of England, and which he was desirous of establishing under the protection and patronage of some European power, which might give greater privileges and immunities than were consistent with the laws of England then in force. This scheme he seems to have laid first before the merchants of Hamburg, afterwards before the Dutch, and then before the elector of Brandenburg, who all, however, received his proposals coldly.

Paterson next applied to the merchants of London, and with them concerted the plan of the bank of England, of which there seems no reason to doubt that he gave the first hint. As it has very frequently happened, however, in similar cases, though he was admitted one of the original directors, his richer associates no sooner became fully possessed of his ideas, than they found out pretexts for quarrelling with him, and finally expelled him from all share in conducting that business of which he had been the author. Under these circumstances, he became acquainted in London with some of his countrymen, particularly with Fletcher of Salton, who had penetration enough to see and to appreciate the simple splendour of his project with regard to Darien, and patriotism enough to desire to secure the benefits of it to his own country. Paterson had all the patriotism of Fletcher, without any of that national partiality which, in the former, somewhat dimmed its lustre and lessened its effect; but ho was yet, from the manner in which he had already been treated by all to whom he had communicated his plans, easily persuaded to give the benefit of his conceptions to the country to which he owed his birth, and where he had as yet suffered none of that painful mortification, of which he had experienced less or more in nil the places he had yet visited. He accordingly came to Scotland along with Fletcher, who introduced him to the Scottish administration, at the time greatly embarrassed by the affair of Glencoe, and who easily persuaded king William, that a little more freedom, and some new facilities of trade would have a happy effect in diverting the public attention from the investigation of that unfortunate affair, in which his majesty's credit was almost as deeply implicated as their own. The earl of Stair, in particular, gave the project of Mr Paterson the support of his powerful eloquence. The result of all this was, that an act was passed by the Scottish parliament on the 26th of June, 1695,

“constituting John, lord Belhaven, Adam Cockburn of Ormiston, lord justice-clerk, Francis Montgomery of Giffen, Sir John Maxwell of Pollock, Sir Robert Chiesly, present prorost of Edinburgh, John Swinton of that ilk, George Clark, late baillie of Edinburgh, Robert Blackwood, and James Balfour, merchants in Edinburgh, John Corse, merchant in Glasgow; William Paterson, Esq., James Fowlis, David Nairn, Esqrs., Thomas Deans, Esq., James Chiesly, John Smith, Thomas Coutes, Hugh Frazer, Joseph Cohaine, Daves Ovedo, and Walter Stuart, merchants in London, with such others as shall join with them within the space of twelve months after the first day of August next, and all others whom the foressaid persons, and those joined, or major part of them, being assembled, shall admit, and join into their joint-stock and trade, who shall all be repute as if herein originally insert, to be one body incorporate, and a free incorporation, with perpetual succession, by the name of the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies, Providing always, like as it is hereby in the first place provided, that of the fund or capital stock that shall be agreed to be adianced, and employed by the said undertakers, and their co-partners, the half at least shall be appointed and allotted for Scottishmen within this kingdom, who shall enter and subscribe to the said company before the first day of August, 1696. And if it shall happen, that Scotsmen living within the kingdom, shall not, betwixt and the foresaid term, subscribe for, and make up the equal half of the said fund or capital stock, tlien, and in that case allenarly, it shall be, and is hereby allowed to Scotsmen resid- ing abroad, or to foreigners, to come in, subscribe, and be assumed for the su|»erplui of tho said half, and no otherwise.”

By the same act the lowest subscription was fixed at one hundred pounds sterling, and the highest at three thousand. The shares of Scotsmen, too, it was provided could be sold, and alienated only to Scotsmen. The company was also rested with full powers to hold parliaments, make laws, and administer justice, &c., in any colonies they might plant; enter into treaties of peace and commerce with sovereigns, princes, estates, rulers, governors, or proprietors of lauds in Asia, Africa, and America; all their ships being bound, under penalty of confiscation, to return with their cargoes in the first instance to this country, without breaking bulk by the way. They had also the exclusive privilege of trading to Asia, Africa, and America, for the period of thirty-one years; together with the free and absolute right of property to all buds, islands, colonies, cities, towns, ports, and plantations they might come to establish or possess; paying yearly to his majesty, and his successor in sovereignty, one hogshead of tobacco in name of blench duty, if required. They had also tho power of purchasing, for tho enlargement of their trade and navigation, from foreign potentates, such exceptions, liberties, privileges, &c., as they might find convenient. Their ships were also exempted from all customs, cesses, and supplies, and their stock in trade from all taxes for the spaco of twenty-one years. All persons concerned in the company were declared denizens of the kingdom, and all persons settling in any of their colonies, cities, &c., were to he reputed natives of the kingdom, and enjoy privileges accordingly. This act, of which tho above are some of the outlines, was drawn up under the eye of Mr Paterson, and was certainly highly favourable for his purposes.

The isthmus of Darien, where there was a large tract of land bordering on both seas, the Indian and the Atlantic, which had never been in posessiou of any European nation, was the spot he had fixed upon for the scene of his operations, and tho advantages of which he thus graphically pointed out:

“The time and expense of navigation to China, Japan, the Spice Islands, and the far greater part of tho Host Indies, will be lessened more than half, and tbe consumption of European commodities and manufactures, will soon be more than doubled. Trade will increase trade, and money will beget money, and the trading world shall need no more want work for their hands, but will rather want hands for their work. Thus, this door of the sens, and key of the universe, with any thing of a reasonable management, will, of course, enable its proprietors to giro laws to both oceans, without being liable to the fatigues, expenses, and dangers, or contracting the guilt ami blood, of Alexander and Ctcsar. In all our empires that have been any thing universal, the conquerors have been obliged to seek out and court their conquests from afar, but the universal force and inlhiouco of this attractive magnet is such as can much more elfectually bring empire home to the proprietors’ doors. But from what hath been said, you may easily perceive, that the nature of these discoveries are such as not to be engrossed by any one nation or people with exclusion to others; uor can it bo thus attempted with- out evident hazard and ruin, as we may see in tho case of Spain aud Portugal, who, by their prohibiting any other peoplo to trade, or so much as to go to or dwell in tlio Indies, have not only lost that trade they were not able to maintain, but liave depopulated and ruined their countries therewith, so that the Indies have rather conquered Spain and Portugal than they have conquered tiie Indies; for by their permitting all to go out, and none to come in, they liave not only lost the people which are gone to the remote and luxuriant regions, but such as remain are become wholly unprofitable, and good for nothing. Thus, not unlike the case of the dog in tho fable, they liavo lost their own countries, and not gotten the Indies. People, and their industry, are the true riches of a prince or nation, and in respect to them all other things are but imaginary. This was well understood by the people of Home, who, contrary to the maxims of Sparta and Spain, by general naturalizations, liberty of conscience, and immunities of government, far more effectually aud advantageously conquered and kept tbe world than ever they did or pooibly could have dime by the sword."

Seeing clearly his way, Mr Paterson seems not to have had the smallest suspicion but that others would too it also, and

“ he makes no doubt, but that the affection we owe to our sister nation will incline the company to be zealous in using all becoming endeavours for bringing our fellow subjects to be jointly concerned in this great, extensive, and advantageous undertaking. That a proposal of this kind from the company will be other than acceptable ought not to be supposed, since by this means the consumption and demand of English manufactures, and consequently the employment of their people, will soon be more than doubled. England will be hereby enabled to become the long desired tea port, and yet its public revenues, instead of being diminished, will thereby bo greatly increased. By this their nation will at once be eased of iu laws of restraint and prohibi- tions, which, instead of being encouragements, always liave, ami still continue to be, the greatest lets to its trade and happiness."

These liberal views seem to have made a greater impression on the public mind than at that time could have been anticipated. In the month of October, 1695, Lord Belhaven, Mr Robert Blackwood, and Mr James Balfour, went on a deputation to London, accompanied by Mr Paterson, where the subscription books were first opened course of nine days three hundred thousand pounds were subscribed; one-fourth of all subscriptions being paid in rash. This promising state of things, however, was by the jealousy of the English monopolists suddenly reversed. The East India company were the first to take the alarm, and they communicated their terrors to the house of lords. The latter requeued a conference with the commons on the alarming circumstance, and a committee was appointed to inquire by what methods such an act had been obtained, who were the promoter*, and who had become subscribers to the company. This was followed by an address to tho king from both houses of parliament, stating,

“ That by reason of the superior advantages granted to tho Scottish East India company, and the duties imposed upon the Indian trade in England, a great part of the stock and shipping of this nation would be carried thither, by which means Scotland would be rendered a free port, and Europe from thenco supplied with the products of the East much cheaper than through them, and thus a great article in the balance of foreign commerce would be lost to England, to the prejudice of the national navigation and the royal revenue.” The address went on to state, “ that when the Scots should have established themselves in plantations in America, the western branch of traffic would also be lost. The privileges granted their company would render their country the general storehouse for tobacco, sugar, cotton, hides, and timber; the low rates at which they would be enabled to carry on their manufactures, would render it impossible for the English to compete with them, while, in addition, His Majesty stood engaged to protect, by the naval strength of England, a company whose success was incompatible with its existence.” This address his majesty received graciously, observing, “that he had been ill-served in Scotland, but he hoped some remedy might yet be found to prevent the inconvenieuce that might arise from the act"

To satisfy his English parliament that he was in earnest, William dismissed bis Scottish ministers, and among the rest the earl of Stair. The English parliament, with a spirit worthy of the darkest ages, and ilia most barbarous nations, proceeded to declare Lord Belhavcn, William Paterson, and the other members of the deputation guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour, for administering in that kingdom the oath de fideli to a foreign association. Those of their own people who had become partners in the company were threatened with an impeachment, and were by this means compelled to withdraw their subscriptions. Upwards of two hundred thousand pounds sterling had been subscribed to the scheme by the merchants of Holland and Hamburg, and the English resident at the latter city, Sir Paul Rycault, was instructed to present a remonstrance on tho part of tho king, to the magistrates, complaining of tho countenance they had giren to the commissioners of the Darien company, who had formed, and were prosecuting a plan fraught with many evils; a plan which his Majesty did not intend to support, and from which, if the Hamburgers did not withdraw their aid, they might bo prepared for an interruption of that kindly feeling, and those good offices, that it was the wish of his majesty to cultivate and to exercise towards them. The answer of the city was worthy of itself in its best days.

“They considered it strange, that the king of England should dictate to them, a free people, how, or with whom they were to engage in the arrangements of commerce, and still more so, that they should be blamed for offering to connect themselves in any way with a body of his own subjects incorporated under a special act of parliament.”

From this interference, however, the Hamburgers, aware that the company was to be thwarted in all its proceedings by the superior power of England, lost confidence in tho scheme, and finally withdrew their subscriptions.The Dutch, too, equally jealous of commercial haps by the same motives with the Hamburgers, withdrew their subscriptions also, and the company was left to the unassisted resources of their own poor and depressed country.

The eagerness with which the scheme had been patronized abroad by wealthy individuals, and the bitterness of the opposition directed against it by the government of England equally tended to give it importance in the eyes of Scotsmen, and they determined to go on with such means as thoy could command, secure of abundant support when the practicability of the plan should be demonstrated. The books for subscription were not opened in Glasgow and Edinburgh till tbe month of February, 1696, and they were not filled up till thee month of August, when, owing to tho interference of the English, and the consequent withdrawal of the foreign partners, another hundred thousand pounds sterling was shared in Scotland fourteen months after the passing of the act. Nothing could exoeed the eagerness with which all classes of the Scottish people hastened to enroll themselves in the magnificent co-partnery now forming. Every burgh, every city, and almost every family of any consequence became shareholders. Four hundred thousand pounds were subscribed; an astonishing sum when it is known, that at that time the circulating capital of the kingdom did not exceed eight hundred thousand pounds sterling. To this enthusiasm a variety of causes contributed. The scheme of Pateson was politically good. It was drawn up with great ability, and promised important results in a moral and religious, as well as in a commercial point of view. Many of the subscribers, indeed, were influenced solely by religious motives, as they considered the setting up of a church, regularly constituted, on that continent, the most likely means for spreading the gospel among the natives, and at affording facilities for that purpose which could not in any other way be obtained. But it must also be admitted, that the scheme, having become a national mania, was not left to work its way by its own intrinsic merits. The scene of the intended operations became the subject of numberless pamphlets, wherein fancy was much more largely employed than fact. The soil was represented as rich, and teeming with the most luxuriant fertility; the rivers, as full of fish, and their sands sparkling with gold; the woods smiling in perpetual verdure, at all times ringing with the melody of spring, and loading every breeze that swept over them with tbe most delightful odours.

Having completed their preparations, and the public authorities having assured them of protection and encouragement, the colony, in presence of tho whole city of Edinburgh, which poured out its inhabitants to witness the scene, embarked ; Mr Paterson going first on board at Leith, from tbe roads of which they tailed on the 26th of July, 1698. The fleet consisted of five ships purchased at Hamburg or Holland—for they were refused oven the trifling accommodation of a ship of war which was laid up at Bruntisland—and were named the Caledonia, St Andrew, Unicorn, Dolphin, and Endeavour; tho two last being yachts laden with provisions and military stores. The colony consisted of twelve hundred men ; throe hundred of them being your.g men of tho best Scottish families. Among them were also sixty officers who had been thrown out of employment by the peace which had just been concluded, and who carried along with them tbe troops they had commanded ; all of whom were men who had been raised on their own estates, or on those of their relations. Many soldier* and sailors, whose services had been refused —for many more than could be employed had offered themselves — were found hid in the ships, and when ordered ashore, clung to the ropes imploring to be allowed to go with their countrymen without fee or reward. The whole sailed amidst the praises, the prayers, and the tears of relations and countrymen; " and neighbouring nations," says Dairymple, " saw with a mixture of surprise and respect the poorest nation of Europe sending forth the most gallant colony which had ever gone from the old to the new world.”

The parliament of Scotland met in the same week that the expedition for Darien sailed, and on the 5th of August they presented a unanimous address to tho king, requesting that he would be pleased to support the company. The lord president. Sir Hugh Dalryrmple, and Sir Janies Stuart, lord advocate, also drew out memorials to the king in behalf of the company, in which they proved their rights to be irrefragable on the principles both of constitutional and public law. All this, however, did not prevent orders being sent out by the English ministry to all the English governors in America and tho West Indies, to withhold all supplies from the Scottish colony at Darien, and to have no manner of communication with it either in one shape or another. Meanwhile, the colony proceeded on its voyage without sny thing remarkable occurring, and on tho 3rd of November landed between Portobella and Carthagena at a place called Acta, where there was an excellent harbour, about four miles from Golden island. Having obtained the sanction of the natives to settle among them, they proceeded to cut through a peninsula, by which they obtained what they conceived to be a favourable site for a city, and they accordingly began to build one under the name of New Edinburgh. They also constructed a fort in a commanding situation for the protection of the town and the harbour, which they named St Andrew; and on the country itself they imposed the name of Caledonia. The first care of the council, which had been appointed by the company, and of which Mr Paterson was one of the chief, was to establish a friendly correspondence with the native chiefs, which they found no difficulty in doing, To the Spanish authorities at Carthagena and Panama, they also sent friendly deputations, stating their desire to live with them upon terms of amity and reciprocal intercourse. On the 26th of December, 1698, the council issued a proclamation dated at New Edinburgh, to the following effect:—

“We do hereby publish and declare, That all manner of persons, of what nation or people soever, are and shall from hence forward be equally free, and alike capable of the said properties, privileges, protections, immunities, and rights of government, granted unto us; and the merchants and merchant ships of all nations may freely come to and trade with us without being liable in their person or goods to any manner of capture, confiscation, seizure, forfeiture, attachment, arrest, restraint, or prohibition for, or by reason of any embargo, breach of the peace, letters of marque, or reprisals, declaration of war with any foreign prince, potentate, or state, or upon any other account or pretence whatsoever. And we do hereby not only grant, concede, and declare, a general and equal freedom of government and trade to those of all nations who shall hereafter be of or concerned with us; but also, a full and free liberty of conscience in matters of religion, so as the same be not understood to allow, connive at, or indulge, the blaspheming of God's holy name, or any of his divine attributes, or of the unhallowing or profaning the Sabbath day; and, finally, as the best and surest means to render any government successful, durable, and happy, it shall, by the help of Almighty God, be ever our constant and chiefest care, that all our further constitutions, laws, nnd ordinances be consonant and agreeable to the holy Scriptures, right reason, and the examples of the wisest and justest nations ; that from the righteousness thereof we may reasonably hope for and expect tho blessings of prosperity and increase.”

So far all was well, but the want of a leading spirit, of one who could overawe the refractory, and of summary laws for their punishment, soon began to be felt; Mr Paterson was too modest a man himself to assume such a position, and tho event showed that he had trusted too much to the constancy and good sense of others. After all his expense of time and trouble of contrivance, he seems to have reserved nothing for himself above tho meanest councillor upon the list. In the original articles of the company it had been agreed, that he should be allowed two per cent on the stock, snd three per cent, on the profits, but he had given up both these claims long before leaving Scotland.

"It was not," he said, " suspicion of the justice or gratitude of the company, nor a consciousness that his services could ever become useless to them, but the ingratitude of some individuals experienced in life, which made it a matter of common prudence in him to ask a retribution for six years of his time, and ten thousand pounds spent in promoting the establishment of the company. But now,” he continues, “that I see it standing upon the authority of parliament, and supported by so many great and good men, I release all claim to that retribution ; happy in the noble concession made to me, but happier in the return which I now make for it”.

With the same simplicity and generosity of character which led him to relinquish tho pecuniary advantages he had secured for himself, he relinquished all claim to any superiority in the direction of the colony, which was intrusted to men evidently but of ordinary capacity, and under regulations which supposed the persons composing it to be men of better tempers, and greater self-command, than they really were. The whole management was vested in a council of seven, under regulations, the fifth of which ran thus —

“That after their landing and settlement as aforesaid, they, the council, shall class and divide the whole freemen inhabitants of the said colony into districts, each district to contain at least fifly, and not exceeding sixty freemen inhabitants, who shall elect yearly any one freeman inhabitant whom they shall think fit to represent them in a parliament or council general of the said colony, which parliament shall be called or adjourned by the said council as they see cause : and being so constitute, may, with consent of the said council, make and enact such rules, ordinances, and constitutions, and impose such taxes as they think fitnnd needful for the good of the establishment, improvement nnd support of the said colony; providing alway, that they lay no further duties or impositions of trade than what is after stated."

This parliament was accordingly called, and held at least two sessions. During the first session, in the month of April, 1699, it enacted thirty-four statutes for the regulation of civil and criminal justice in the colony. This is a curious document, and in several items bears strong marks of the liberal spirit and philosophic mind of Paterson. It discovers a marked regard to personal liberty, and great jealousy of its infraction. Violation of women is declared a crime to be punished with death, though the women should belong to an enemy ; and to plunder Indians is rated as common theft. No man was to be confined more than three months before being brought to trial, and in all criminal case* no judgment was to pass without tho consent and concurrence of a jury of fifteen persons. No freeman could be subjected to any restraint for debt unless there should be fraud, or the design thereof, or wilful or apparent breach of trust, misapplication, or concealment first proved upon him. One of the councillors, writing at this time to the directors at home, says,

“we found the inconvenience of calling a parliament, and of telling the inhabitants that they were freemen so soon. They had not the true notion of liberty. The thoughts of it made them insolent, and ruined command. You know that it’s expressly in the ' Encouragement,’ that they are to serve for three years, and at the three years’ end to have a division of land."

It was the opinion of this director, that no parliament should have been called till at least the three years of servitude had expired. Even then, from the character of the settlers, who had not been selected with that care which an experiment of such vast consequence demanded, there might have existed causes for delaying the escape. Among the better class, there were too many young men of birth. These were inexperienced and wholly unfit for exercising authority, and equally ill adapted for submitting to it. Among the lower classes were many who had been opposed to the Revolution, aud who had resorted to tho colony purely from dissatisfaction with the government at home. These, instead of submitting with patience to the privatious and labour necessary in that state of society in which they wore now placed, would gladly have laid aside the mattock and the axe, and hare employed themselves in plundering incursions upon the Indians or the Spaniards. The subscribers to the scheme were so numerous, that the idle, the unprincipled, and profligate had found but too little difficulty in attaching themselves to the infant colony. Those who were nominated to the council, too, had been selected without judgment ; aud it was not till after a violent struggle, that Paterson could prevail on his colleagues to exercise their authority.

“There was not,” he writes in a letter to Mr Shields, “ one of the old council fitted for government, and things were gone too far before the new took place.”

Mr Paterson, when he first established his colony, had taken the precaution to land his people at the beginning of winter, the best season for Europeans first encountering the climate of Darien ; and the first letter from the council to the directors thus expresses the satisfaction of the colonists with their new destination :—

“As to the country, we find it very healthful; for, though we arrived here in tho rainy season, from which we had little or no shelter for several weeks together, and many sick among us, yet we arce so far recovered, and in so good a state of health, as could hardly anywhere be expected among such a number of men together. In fruitfulness, this country seema not to give place to any in the world ; for we have seen several of the fruits, as cocoa nuts, barillas, sugar canes, maize, oranges, &c. &c., all of them, in their kinds, the best anywhere to be found. Nay, there is hardly a foot of ground but may be cultivated ; for even upon the very tops and sides of tho hills, there is commonly three or four feet deep of rich earth, without so much as a stone to be found therein. Here is good hunting, and fowling, and excellent fishing in tho bays and creeks of the coast; so that, could we improve the season of the year just now begun, we should soon be able to subsist of ourselves; but building and fortifying will lose us a whole year’s planting.”

This was, however, no more than all of them must have foreseen ; and they never doubted of obtaining more provisions than they could want, from the West India islands, or from the American colonies. Orders, however, as has already been noticed, were sent out after them to all the English governors, prohibiting all communication with them. These proclamations were rigidly adhered to, and the unfortunate Scottish colonists were denied those supplies which had seldom been withheld from lawless smugglers, buccaneers, and pirates. In addition to this, which was the principal source of all their misfortunes, those who superintended the equipment of tho expedition, had, through carelessness or design, furnished them with provisions, part of which were uneatable; the consequence of which was, that the colony had to be put on short allowance, when the sickly season was thinning their numbers, and bringing additional duty on those who were in health. In this emergency, their Indian friends exerted themselves on their behalf, putting to shame their Christian brethren, who, from a mean jealousy, were attempting to starve them ; and they might still have done better, had not insubordination broken out among themselves, and a conspiracy been formed, in which some of the council were implicated, to seize one of the vessels, and to make their escape from the colony. After matters had come this length, Paterson succeeded in assuming new councillors; a measure which had the effect of checking the turbulence of the discontented. The new council also despatched one of their own number to Britain, with an address to tho king, and a pressing request to send them out supplies of provisions, ammunition, and men. On receiving this despatch, the directors lost no time in sending out the requisite supplies. They had already sent despatches and provisions by a brig, which sailed from tho Clyde in the end of February, 1699, but which unhappily never readied her destination. On the arrival in Britain of another of their number, Mr Hamilton, who was accountant-general to the colony, and whose absence was highly detrimental to its interests, the Olive Branch, captain Jamieson, and another vessel, with three hundred recruits and store of provisions, arms and ammunition, was despatched from Leith roads on the 12th of May, 1699.

Matters in the colony were in the mean time getting worse; and on the 22nd of June, they came to the resolution of abandoning the place within eight months of the time they had taken possession of it The unfortunate projector himself was at the time on board the Union, whither he had been conveyed some days before in a fever, brought on by anxiety and grief for tho weakness of his colleagues, and the frustration of those hopes which he had so sanguinedy cherished, and which he had found so nearly realized. Tho depression of his spirits continued long after tho fever had left him; aud while he was at Boston in the mouth of September following, one of bis friends writes concerning him :—

"Grief has broke Mr Paterson’s heart and turned his brain, aud now he’s a child; they may do what they like for him.”

He, however, recovered the full powers of his mind at New York, whence he returned to Scotland, to make his report to tho company, and give them his best advice regarding the further prosecution of their undertaking. Two of their captains, Samuel Veitch aud Thomas Drummond, remained at New York, to be ready to join tho colony, should it be again revived. The Olivo Branch, the vessel alluded to as having gone out to the colony with recruits and provisions, was followed by a fleet of four ships, the Rising Sun, Hope, Duke Hamilton, and Hope of Borrowstonuess, with thirteen hundred men. These ships all sailed from the Isle of Bute, on the 21th of September, 1699, and reached Caledonia Bay on the 30th of November following. With this fleet went out William Veitch, son of the reverend William Veitch of Dumfries, and brother to Samuel already mentioned. This person went out in the double capacity of a captain and a councillor. Individuals were also sent out by various conveyances, with bills of credit for the use of the colony. Everything now, however, went against them. The Olive Branch and her consort having arrived in tho harbour of New Edinburgh, the recruits determined to land, and repossess themselves of the place, the huts of which they found burnt down, and totally deserted. One of their ships, however, took fire, aud was burnt in the harbour, on which the others set sail for Jamaica. When the fleet which followed arrived in November, and, instead of a colony ready to receive them, found the huts burnt down, the fort dismantled, and the ground which had been cleared, overgrown with shrubs and weeds, with all the tools and implements of husbandry taken away, they were at a loss what to do. A general cry was raised in the ships to be conducted home, which was encouraged by Mr James Byres, one of the new councillors, who seems to have been himself deeply impressed with that dejection of spirit which, as a councillor, it was his duty to suppress. Veitch, however, assisted by captain Thomas Drummond, who had come out in the Olive Branch, and had taken up his residence among the natives till the fleet which he expected should arrive, succeeded in persuading the men to land. As the Spaniards had already shown their hostility, and, having been defeated by a detachment of the colonists in the preceding February, were preparing for another attack ; encouraged, no doubt, by the treatment which the colony had met with from the English government; Drummond proposed an immediate attack on Portobella, which they could easily have reduced, and whore they might have been supplied with such things as they were most in want of. In this ho was cordially seconded by Veitch, but was prevented by the timidity of his colleagues, and the intrigues of Byres, who at length succeeded in ejecting him from the council. Two ministers, Messrs James and Scott, went out with the first expedition, but the one died on tbe passage, and the other shortly after landing in New Caledonia. The council harving written home to the directors, regretting the death of their ministers, and begging that others might be sent to supply their place, the commission of the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, at the particular desire of the board of directors, sent out the reverend Messrs Alexander Shields, (the well- known author of the “ Hind let Loose,” “Life of Berwick,” &r.,) Borland, Stobo, and Dalgleish These persons sailed in the last fleet They were instructed, on their arrival, with the advice and concurrence of the government, to set apart a day for solemn thanksgiving, to form themselves into a presbytery, to ordain elders and deacons, aund to divide the colony into parishes, that thus each minister might have a particular charge. After which it was recommended to them,

“to soon as they should find the colony in case for it, to assemble the whole Christian inhabitants, and keep a day together for solemn prayer and fasting, and with the greatest solemnity and seriousness to avouch the Lord to be their God, and dedicate themselves and the land to the Lord.”

That he church of Scotland took so deep an interest in the colony of Darien, that the commission sent a particular admonition by the ministers, of which the following may be taken as a specimen :—

“We shall, in the next place, particularly address ourselves to you that are in military charge and have command over the soldiery, whether by land or sea. It is on you, honoured and worthy gentlemen, that a great share of the burden of the public safety lies. You are, in some respects, both the hands and the eyes of this infant colony. Many of you have lately been engaged in a just and glorious war, for retrieving and defonding the proteatant religion, the liberties and rights of your country, under the conduct of a matchless prince. And, now, when, through the blessing of the Lord of hosts, his and your arms have procured an honourable peace at home; you, and others with you, have, with much bravery, embarked yourselves in a great, generous, and just undertaking, in the remote parts of the earth, for advancing the honour and interest of your native country. If in this you acquit yourselves like men and Christians, your fame will bo renowned both abroad and at home.”

The ministers found the colony in circumstances very different from what the address of tbe commission naturally supposed ; and it was but few of their instructions they were able to carry into effect. Two of them, however, preached on land, and one on board the Rising Sun, every Sabbath-day. But, in addition to the unfavourable aspect of their affairs, the irreligion and licentiousness of the colonists, oppressed their spirits and paralyzed their efforts. With the view of forming an acquaintance with the natives, they undertook a journey into the interior, accompanied by a lieutenant Turnbull, who had some slight knowledge of the Indian language. They spent several nights in the cabins of the natives, by whom they were received with greet kindness; and on their return, brought back to the colonists the first notice of the approach of the Spaniards. When apprized of all the circumstances, tho directors felt highly indignant at the conduct of those who, upon such slight grounds, had left the settlement desolate ; and whose glory, they said, it ought to hare been to havo perished there, rather than to have abandoned it so shamefully. In their letters to their new councillors and officers, they implored them to keep the example of their predecessors before their eyes as a beacon, and to avoid those ruinous dissensions and shameful vices, on which they had wrecked so hopeful an enterprise.

“It is a lasting disgrace,” they add, “ to the memories of those officers who went in the first expedition that even the meanest planters were scandalized at the licentiousness of their lives, many of them living very intemperately and viciously for many months at the public charge, whilst the sober and industrious among them were vigilant in doing their duty. Nor can we, upon serious reflection, wonder if an enterprise of this nature has misgiven in the hands of such as, we have too much reason to believe, neither feared God nor regarded man.” They have also blamed the old council heavily for deserting tho place, without ever calling a parliament, or general meeting of the colony, or in any way con- sulting their inclinations, but commanding them to a blind and implicit obedi- ence, which is more than they ever can be answerable for. “ Wherefore,” they continue, “ we desire you would constitute a parliament, whose advice you are to take in all important matters and in the mean time you are to acquaint the officers and planters with the constitutions, and the few additional ones sent with Mr Mackay, that all and every person in the colony may know their duty, advantages, and privileges.”

Alarmed by the accounts which they soon after received from Darien, the council-general of the company despatched a proclamation, declaring

"that it shall be lawful to any person of whatever degree inhabiting tho colony, not only to protest against, but to disobey, and oppose any resolution to desert tbe colony and, “ that it shall be death, either publicly or privately, to more, deliberate, or reason upon any such desertion or surrender, without special order from the council-general for that effect. And they order and require the council of Caledonia to proclaim this solemnly, as they shall be answerable."

Before this act was passed in Edinburgh, however, New Caledonia was once more evacuated. The men had set busily to the rebuilding the huts, and repairing tho fort; but strenuous efforts were still made in the council to discourage them, by those who wished to evacuate the settlement Veitch was with difficulty allowed to protest against some of their resolutions; and for opposing them with warmth, captain Drummond was laid under arrest. Speaking of Drummond, Mr Shields says,

“Under God, it is owing to him, and the prudence of captain Veitch, that we have staid here so long, which was no small difficulty to accomplish.” And again, “ If wo had not met with Drummond at our arrival, we had never settled in this place, Byres and Lindsay being averse from it and designing to discourage it from the very first; Gibson being indifferent, if he got his pipe and dram; only Veitch remained resolved to promote it, who was all along Drummond’s friend, and concurred with his proposal to send men against the Spaniards at first, and took the patronising as long as he could conveniently, but with such caution and prudence, as to avoid and prevent animosity and faction, which he saw were unavoidable, threatening the speedier dissolution of this interest, if he should insist on the prosecution of that plea, and in opposition to that spate that was running against Drummond. But now Finab coming, who was Drummond's comrade and fellow officer in Lorne’s regiment in Flanders, he is set at liberty.” This was colonel Campbell of Finab, who, with three hundred of his own men, had come out and joined this last party about two months after their arrival.

The Spanish troops meantime from Panama and Santa Maria, conducted through the woods by negroes, were approaching them. They had advanced, to the number of sixteen hundred men, as far as Tubucantee, in the immediate neighbourhood of the colony, when Finab marched against them with two hundred men, and defeated them in a slight skirmish, in which he was wounded. The victory, which at one time would have been of signal service to the colony, was now unavailing; a fleet of eleven ships, under the command of the governor of Carthagena, Don Juan Pimienta, having blocked up the harbour, and Landed a number of troops, who, advancing along with the party which had found their way through tho woods, invested tbe fort. Cut off from water, reduced by sickness, and otherwise dispirited, the garrison was loud in its demands for a capitulation, and the council had no other alternative but to comply with it. Finab being laid up at the time with a fever, Veitch coonducted the treaty, and was allowed honourable terms. The inhabitants of the colony having gone on shipboard, with all that belonged to them, they weighed anchor on the 11th of April, 1700, and sailed for Jamaica, after having occupied New Caledonia somewhat more than four months. The Hope, on board of which was captain Veitch, and tbe greater part of the property, was wrecked on the rocks of Colorades, on the western coast of Cuba. Veitch, however, was dead before this accident happened. The Rising Sun was wrecked on tbe bar of Carolina, and the captain and crew, with the exception of sixteen persons who had previously landed, were lost. Of the few survivors, some remained in the English settlements, some died in Spanish prisons; and of the three thousand men that at different periods went out to the settlement, perhaps not above twenty ever regained their native land.

In this melancholy manner terminated the only attempt at colonization ever made by Scotland. That it was an attempt far beyond the means of the nation, must be admitted. The conception, however, was splendid, the promise great, and every way worthy of the experiment; and but for the jealousy of the English and the Dutch, more particularly the former, might possibly hare succeeded. The settlers, indeed, were not well selected ; the principles attempted to be acted on, were theoretic, and too refined for the elements upon which they were to operate; and, above all, the council were men of feeble minds, utterly unqualified to act in a situation of such difficulty as that in which they came to be placed. Had the wants of the Scottish settlers been supplied by tbe English colonies, which they could very well have been, even with advantage to the colonies, the first and most fatal disunion, and abandonment of tbeir station, could not have happened; and had they been acknowledged by their sovereign, the attack made upon them by the Spaniards, which put an end to the colony, would never have been made. Time would have smoothed down tbe asperities among the settlere themselves; experience would have corrected their errors in legislation; and New Caledonia, which remains to this day a wilderness, might have become the emporium of half the commerce of the world.

Mr Paterson, not disheartened by the failure of his Darien project, instead of repining, revived the scheme in a form that he supposed might be less startling, and which might induce England, whose hostility had hitherto thwarted all his measures, to become the principals in the undertaking, reserving only one-fifth part for Scotland. The controversy between the nations, however, was now running too high, and the ill blood of both was too hot to admit of any thing of the kind being listened to.

Mr Paterson, though he was pitied, and must have been respected, was almost entirely neglected, and died at an advanced age in poor circumslancea. After the Union, he claimed upon the Equivalent Money for the losses he had sustained at Darien, and none of the proprietors certainly had a fairer claim. But he never received one farthing. Had Paterson's scheme succeeded, and it was no fault of his that it did not, his name had unquestionably been enrolled among the most illustrious benefactors of his species; and if we examine his character in the light of true philosophy, we shall find it greatly heightened by his failure. Though defrauded of the honour due to him in the formation of the Bank of England, by persons, as has been well said, ‘ were inferior to him in genius, as they were in generosity,” we never hear a single murmur. When disappointed or defeated, he did not give dispair, but set himself coolly and calmly to another and still greater undertaking, for which he had no guarantee for the gratitude of mankind, more than for the former. When this, too, failed, through the injustice of those who ought to have been his protectors, and the imbecility of those whom he ought to have commanded, he never seems for a moment to have thought of abating his mortifications, or of vindicating his fame by recrimination, though be might, with the utmost truth and justice, hare recriminated upon every one with whom he had been connected. So far from this, however, he only sought to improve his plan, and enable them to correct their errors; and even when this, the last and bitterest insult that can be offered to an ingenuous mind, was neglected, he modestly retired to the vale of private life, and seems to have closed his days almost, if not altogether, without a murmur at the ingratitude of mankind. There is one part of his character which, in a manof so much genius, ought not to pass unnoticed : “He was void of passion ; and he was one of the very few of his countrymen who never drank wine.”


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Tom Paterson - Last updated 25 Jan 2019