Darien scheme

The Darien scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading state by establishing a colony called "Caledonia" on the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darién in the late 1690s. The aim was for the colony to have an overland route that connected the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. From its contemporary time to the present day, claims have been made that the undertaking was beset by poor planning and provisioning, divided leadership, a lack of demand for trade goods particularly caused by an English trade blockade,[1] devastating epidemics of disease, collusion between the English East India Company and the English government to frustrate it,[1] as well as a failure to anticipate the Spanish Empire's military response. It was finally abandoned in March 1700 after a siege by Spanish forces, which also blockaded the harbour.[2]

As the Company of Scotland was backed by approximately 20% of all the money circulating in Scotland, its failure left the entire Lowlands in substantial financial ruin and was an important factor in weakening their resistance to the Act of Union (completed in 1707). The land where the Darien colony was built, in the modern province of Guna Yala, is virtually uninhabited today.

Colony of the Kingdom of Scotland

Flag of Caledonia
Flag of the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies
Location of Caledonia
Caledonia on a modern map
Capital New Edinburgh
Coordinates: 8°50′02.47″N 77°37′54.47″W / 8.8340194°N 77.6317972°W
King of Scotland
 •  1689–1702 William II
 •  1698–1700 Thomas Drummond
 •  January – February 1700 Alexander Campbell of Fonab
Historical era Colonial period
 •  Landfall 2 November 1698
 •  First colony abandoned July 1699
 •  Second colony established November 30, 1699
 •  Second colony abandoned February 1700
 •  1698 1,200 
 •  1700 2,500 
Today part of  Panama


The late 17th century was a difficult period for Scotland, as it was for much of Europe; the years 1695-97 saw catastrophic famine in present-day Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway and Sweden plus an estimated two million deaths in France and Northern Italy. [3] Scotland's economy was relatively small, its range of exports very limited and it was in a weak position in relation to England, its powerful neighbour (with which it was in personal union, but not yet in political union). In an era of economic rivalry in Europe, Scotland was incapable of protecting itself from the effects of English competition and legislation.[4] The kingdom had no reciprocal export trade and its once thriving industries such as shipbuilding were in deep decline; goods that were in demand had to be bought from England for sterling. Moreover, the Navigation Acts further increased economic dependence on England by limiting Scotland's shipping, and the Royal Scots Navy was relatively small.[4]

A series of domestic conflicts, including the 1639-51 Wars of the Three Kingdoms and unrest related to religious differences between 1670-1690 exhausted the people and diminished their resources. The so-called "seven ill years" of the 1690s saw widespread crop failures and famine, while Scotland's deteriorating economic position led to calls for a political or customs union with England. However, the stronger feeling among Scots was that the country should become a great mercantile and colonial power like England.[4]

In response a number of solutions were enacted by the Parliament of Scotland: in 1695 the Bank of Scotland was established; the Act for the Settling of Schools created a parish-based system of public education throughout Scotland; and the Company of Scotland was chartered with capital to be raised by public subscription to trade with "Africa and the Indies".[5]

The Darien Chest, Royal Museum, Edinburgh
The Darien chest, which held the money and documents of the Company of Scotland. Now in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

In the face of opposition by English commercial interests, the Company of Scotland raised subscriptions in Amsterdam, Hamburg and London for the scheme.[6] For his part, King William II of Scotland and III of England had given only lukewarm support to the whole Scottish colonial endeavour.[a] England was at war with France and hence did not want to offend Spain, which claimed the territory as part of New Granada.[8]

One reason for English opposition to the Scheme was the then prevalent economic theory of Mercantilism, a concept as widespread and accepted then as capitalism is today. Modern economics generally assumes a constantly growing market but mercantilism viewed it as static; that meant increasing your own market share required taking it from someone else.[9] This meant the Darien Scheme was not simply competition but an active threat to English merchants.

England was also under pressure from the London-based East India Company, who were keen to maintain their monopoly over English foreign trade.[8] It therefore forced the English and Dutch investors to withdraw. Next, the East India Company threatened legal action on the grounds that the Scots had no authority from the king to raise funds outside the English realm, and obliged the promoters to refund subscriptions to the Hamburg investors. This left no source of finance but Scotland itself.[5]

Returning to Edinburgh, the Company of Scotland for Trading to Africa raised £400,000 sterling in a few weeks (equivalent to roughly £51 million today),[b] with investments from every level of society, and totalling about a fifth of the wealth of Scotland.[10][11] It was, for Scotland, a massive amount of capital.[12]

Scottish-born trader and financier William Paterson had long promoted a plan for a colony on the Isthmus of Panama to be used as a gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific – the same principle which, much later, would lead to the construction of the Panama Canal. Paterson was instrumental in getting the company off the ground in London. He had failed to interest several European countries in his project but, in the aftermath of the English reaction to the company, he was able to get a hearing for his ideas.[12]

The Scots' original aim of emulating the East India Company by breaking into the lucrative trading areas of the Indies and Africa was forgotten, and the highly ambitious Darien scheme was adopted by the company. Paterson later fell from grace when a subordinate embezzled funds from the company, which then took back Paterson's stock and expelled him from the Court of Directors; he was to have little real influence on events after this point.[12]

First expedition (1698)

African Company House, Edinburgh, 18thC
Darien House, headquarters of the Company of Scotland in Edinburgh, now demolished

Many former officers and soldiers, who had little hope of other employment, eagerly joined the Darien project. Many of them were acquainted from serving in the army and several – Thomas Drummond, for example – were notorious for their involvement in the Massacre of Glencoe. In some eyes they appeared to be a clique and this was to cause much suspicion among other members of the expedition.[13] The first Council (appointed in July 1698), which was to govern the colony until a parliament was established, consisted of Major James Cunningham of Eickett, Daniel Mackay, James Montgomerie, William Vetch, Robert Jolly, Robert Pinkerton and Captain Robert Pennecuik (commodore of the expedition fleet).

The first expedition of five ships (Saint Andrew, Caledonia, Unicorn, Dolphin, and Endeavour) set sail from the east coast port of Leith to avoid observation by English warships in July 1698,[c] with around 1200 people on board. The journey around Scotland while kept below deck was so traumatic that some colonists thought it comparable to the worst parts of the whole Darien experience. Their orders were "to proceed to the Bay of Darien, and make the Isle called the Golden Island ... some few leagues to the leeward of the mouth of the great River of Darien ... and there make a settlement on the mainland". After calling at Madeira and the West Indies, the fleet made landfall off the coast of Darien on 2 November.

The settlers christened their new home "Caledonia" declaring "we do here settle and in the name of God establish ourselves; and in honour and for the memory of that most ancient and renowned name of our Mother Country, we do, and will from henceforward call this country by the name of Caledonia; and ourselves, successors, and associates, by the name of Caledonians". With Drummond in charge, they dug a ditch through the neck of land that divided one side of the harbour in Caledonia Bay from the ocean, and constructed Fort St Andrew, which was equipped with 50 cannon, but no source of fresh water. A watchhouse on a mountain completed the fortifications. Although the harbour appeared to be a natural one it later proved to have tides that could easily wreck a vessel trying to leave.[5] The colony was a potential threat to the Spanish Empire by being near to routes used for silver shipments. The feasibility of the scheme, especially for a country of Scotland's limited resources, has often been considered doubtful, although some modern authorities consider it might have possessed good prospects of success, if it had been given the support of England.[5][10]

New Edinburgh

New Caledonia in Darien2
"A New Map of the Isthmus of Darien in America, The Bay of Panama, The Gulph of Vallona or St. Michael, with its Islands and Countries Adjacent". In A letter giving a description of the Isthmus of Darian, Edinburgh: 1699.

Close to the fort they began erecting the huts of the main settlement, New Edinburgh (until 2011 known as Puerto Escocés (Scottish Harbour), now Puerto Inabaginya, in Guna Yala Province, Panama), and clearing land to plant yams and maize. Letters sent home by the expedition created a misleading impression that everything was going according to plan. This seems to have been by agreement, as certain optimistic phrases kept recurring. However, it meant the Scottish public would be completely unprepared for the coming disaster.[5]

Agriculture proved difficult and the local Indians, though hostile to Spain, were unwilling to trade for the combs and other trinkets offered by the colonists. Most serious was the almost total failure to sell any goods to the few passing traders who put into the bay. With the onset of summer the following year, malaria and fever led to many deaths. Eventually, the mortality rate rose to ten settlers a day.[10] Local Indians brought gifts of fruit and plantains, but these were appropriated by the leaders and sailors who mostly remained on board ships. The only luck the settlers had was in giant turtle hunting, but fewer and fewer men were fit enough for such strenuous work. The situation was exacerbated by the lack of food mainly due to a high rate of spoilage caused by improper stowing. At the same time, King William instructed the Dutch and English colonies in America not to supply the Scots' settlement so as not to incur the wrath of the Spanish Empire.[10] The only reward the council had to give was alcohol, and drunkenness became common, even though it sped the deaths of men already weakened by dysentery, fever and the rotting, worm-infested food.

After just eight months, the colony was abandoned in July 1699, except for six men who were too weak to move. The deaths continued on the ships, and only 300 of the 1200 settlers survived. A desperate ship from the colony had called at the Jamaican city of Port Royal, but it was refused assistance on the orders of the English government, which feared antagonising the Spanish. Those on the single ship that returned home found themselves regarded as a disgrace to the country and were even disowned by their families.[10] The Caledonia, with 250 survivors, including William Paterson and the Drummond brothers, made a desperate passage to New York, then just a small town of 5000, landing on 10 August. Four days later, Unicorn (Captain John Anderson, master) limped into New York harbour. When the Scots were told that two ships, the Olive Branch and Hopeful Beginning, had already sailed to re-supply the now deserted colony, Thomas Drummond commissioned two sloops to aid their efforts in Darien.[16]

Re-supply (1699)

In August 1699, the Olive Branch and Hopeful Beginning with 300 settlers arrived in Darien to find ruined huts and 400 overgrown graves. Expecting a bustling town, the ship's captains debated their next move. When the Olive Branch was destroyed by an accidental fire, the survivors fled to Jamaica in the Hopeful Beginning, and landed in Port Royal harbour. The Scots were not allowed ashore, and illness struck the crowded ship.

On 20 September, Thomas E. Drummond set sail from New York in the sloop Ann of Caledonia, (formerly the Anne), picking up another fully supplied vessel (the Society) on the way. They arrived in Darien to find the burnt timbers of the Olive Branch rotting on the shore.[17]

Second expedition (1699)

New Caledonia in Darien
The Bay of Caledonia, west of the Gulf of Darien. New Edinburgh is on the isthmus on the right.

Word of the first expedition did not reach Scotland in time to prevent a second voyage of more than 1000 people.

A new company flagship, The Rising Sun, boasting 38 cannon, led the way, supported by The Duke of Hamilton, the Hope of Bo'ness, and a smaller vessel, the Hope. They sailed from the Clyde, on the west of Scotland, cutting out the perilous round-Scotland route taken by the previous ships.[18]

The second expedition arrived in Caledonia Bay on 30 November 1699 and found Thomas Drummond's New York sloops already there. Some men were sent ashore to rebuild the huts, which caused others to complain that they had come to join a settlement, not build one.[19]

Morale was low and little progress was made. Drummond insisted there could be no discussion, and the fort must be rebuilt as a Spanish attack would surely come soon.[19]

Drummond clashed with the merchant James Byres, who maintained that the Counsellors of the first expedition had now lost that status and had Drummond arrested. Initially bellicose, Byres began to send away all those he suspected of being offensively minded – or of being allegiant to Drummond. He outraged a kirk minister by claiming it would be unlawful to resist the Spanish by force of arms, as all war was unchristian. Byres then deserted the colony in a sloop.[19]

The colonists sank into apathy until the arrival of Alexander Campbell of Fonab, sent by the company to organise a defence. He provided the resolute leadership which had been lacking and took the initiative by driving the Spanish from their stockade at Toubacanti in January 1700. However, Fonab was wounded in the daring frontal attack and then became incapacitated with a fever.[19]

The Spanish force – who were also suffering serious losses from fever – closed in on Fort St Andrew and besieged it for a month. Disease was still the main cause of death at this time. The Spanish commander called for the Scots to surrender and avoid a final assault, warning that if they did not, no quarter would be given.[19]

After negotiations, the Scots were allowed to leave with their guns, and the colony was abandoned for the last time. Only a handful of those from the second expedition returned to Scotland.[19] Of the total 2500 settlers that set off, just a few hundred survived.[20][21]

Reactions to the disaster

The failure of the colonisation project provoked tremendous discontent throughout Lowland Scotland where almost every family had been affected. Some held the English responsible, while believing that they could and should assist in yet another effort at making the scheme work. The company petitioned the King to affirm their right to the colony. However, the monarch declined, saying that although he was sorry the company had incurred such huge losses, reclaiming Darien would mean war with Spain. The continuing futile debate on the issue served to further increase bitter feelings.

Hoping to recoup some of its capital by a more conventional venture, the company sent two ships from the Clyde, the Speedy Return and the Continent, to the Guinea coast laden with trade goods. Sea captain Robert Drummond was the master of the Speedy Return; his brother Thomas, who had played such a large part in the second expedition, was supercargo on the vessel. Instead of trying to sell for gold as the company's directors intended, however, the Drummond brothers had exchanged the goods for slaves, whom they sold in Madagascar. Carousing with the buccaneers for whom the island was a refuge, the Drummonds fell in with pirate John Bowen, who offered them loot if they would lend him their ships for a raid on homeward bound Indiamen. Robert Drummond backed out of the agreement, only to have Bowen appropriate the ships while Drummond was ashore. Bowen burnt the Continent on the Malabar coast when he decided she was of no use to him, and he later scuttled the Speedy Return after transferring her crew to a merchant ship he had taken. The Drummonds apparently decided against returning to Scotland, where they would have had to explain the loss of the ships they had been entrusted with, as no more was ever heard of them.

The company sent out another ship, but she was lost at sea. Unable to afford the cost of fitting out yet another, the Annandale was hired in London to trade in the Spice Islands. However, the East India Company had the ship seized on the grounds that this was in contravention of their charter. This provoked an uproar in Scotland, greatly aided by the inflammatory rhetoric of the company's secretary, a relentless enemy of the English named Roderick MacKenzie. Fury at the country's impotence led to the scapegoating and hanging of three innocent English sailors.[22]


In July 1704, Thomas Green, the 25-year-old master of the Worcester, an English merchant ship, arrived at Leith. Mackenzie convinced himself that the ship was an East India Company ship that should be seized in reprisal for the Annandale. He succeeded in getting legal authority and Green – who had been given the command at 21 – watched as his ship's cargo was impounded and the sails, guns and rudder were removed over the next three months.

In December the crew was arrested for piracy. Although many in Scotland were delighted, it soon became clear to the directors of the Darien company that Mackenzie's charges were not supported by any proof so it seemed the men would be released. However, Mackenzie suddenly claimed to have ascertained from the crew of the Worcester that Green had drunkenly boasted of taking the Speedy Return, killing the Drummonds and burning the ship. Despite a total lack of evidence, Green and two of his crew, John Madden and James Simpson, were sent for trial in Edinburgh. The prosecution case, which was made in medieval Latin and legal Doric, was unintelligible to jury and accused alike. The defence advocates seem to have presented no evidence and fled after the trial. Some jurors did resist bringing in a verdict of guilty. Nevertheless, the men were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.

The Queen advised her 30 privy councillors in Edinburgh that the men should be pardoned but the common people demanded the sentence be carried out. Nineteen councillors made excuses to stay away from the deliberations on a reprieve, fearing the wrath of a huge mob that had arrived in Edinburgh to demand the sailors be put to death. Even though they had affidavits from London by the crew of the Speedy Return, who testified that Green and his crew had no knowledge or involvement in the fate of the ship, the remaining councillors refused to pardon the men. Green, Madden and Simpson were subjected to derision and insults by the mob before they were hanged. Green had complete faith that, as an innocent man, he would be reprieved and was still looking to the Edinburgh road for a messenger as the hangman placed the hood over his head.[22]

Consequences of failure

The failure of the Darien colonisation project has been cited as one of the motivations for the 1707 Acts of Union.[23] According to this argument, the Scottish establishment (landed aristocracy and mercantile elites) considered that their best chance of being part of a major power would be to share the benefits of England's international trade and the growth of the English overseas possessions, so its future would have to lie in unity with England. Furthermore, Scotland's nobles were almost bankrupted by the Darien fiasco.

Some Scottish nobility petitioned Westminster to wipe out the Scottish national debt and stabilise the currency. Although the first request was not met, the second was and the Scottish shilling was given the fixed value of an English penny. Personal Scottish financial interests were also involved. Scottish commissioners had invested heavily in the Darien project and they believed that they would receive compensation for their losses. The 1707 Acts of Union,[24] Article 15, granted £398,085 10s sterling to Scotland to offset future liability towards the English national debt.

In popular culture


  • The Rising Sun by Douglas Galbraith (2000). Fictional account of the Darien catastrophe, written in the style of a journal, from the perspective of a cargo-master on the Rising Sun.

Stage plays


  • "Dreams of Darien" by The Paul McKenna Band (2011). A Scottish folk song describing the events of the Darien Scheme and the reaction in Scotland.[25][26]

See also

Other Scottish settlements in the Americas:


  1. ^ On signalling his approval for the creation of the Company of Scotland, the King declared before Parliament: "I have been ill-served in Scotland, but I hope some remedies may be found to prevent the inconveniences which may arise from this Act."[7]
  2. ^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Sources vary about the exact date of departure, placing it anywhere between 8 July[14] and 26 July.[15]


  1. ^ a b Ibeji, Mike (17 February 2017). "The Darien Venture". BBC British History. BBC. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  2. ^ Monaghan, Renaissance, Reformation ..., p. 56.
  3. ^ de Vries, Jan (2009). "The Economic Crisis of the 17th Century" (PDF). Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. 40 (2): 151–194. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Prebble, Darien: The Scottish Dream.
  5. ^ a b c d e Prebble, The Darien Disaster.
  6. ^ Prebble, The Darien Disaster, pp. 84–90.
  7. ^ Prebble, The Darien Disaster, p. 48.
  8. ^ a b Insh, Papers, p. x.
  9. ^ Rothbard, Murray. "Mercantilism as the Economic Side of Absolutism". Mises.org. Good summary of the concept. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e Carroll, "The Sorry Story ..."
  11. ^ Hidalgo, "To Get Rich For Our Homeland".
  12. ^ a b c Prebble, Darien: The Scottish Dream, p. 90.
  13. ^ Prebble, Darien: The Scottish Dream, p. 103.
  14. ^ New York Public Library, Bulletin, p. 487.
  15. ^ Baynes, Encyclopædia Britannica, p. 360.
  16. ^ Prebble, The Darien Disaster, pp. 206–207 & 220.
  17. ^ Prebble, The Darien Disaster, p. 237.
  18. ^ Prebble, The Darien Disaster, p. 238.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Prebble, Darien: The Scottish Dream
  20. ^ The Week, "How Scottish Independence Vanished ..."
  21. ^ Little, "The Caribbean colony ..."
  22. ^ a b Prebble, Darien: The Scottish Dream, pp. 1–9 & 308–315.
  23. ^ Brocklehurst, "The Banker who Led Scotland to Disaster".
  24. ^ 1707 Acts of Union
  25. ^ "Paul McKenna Band | Folkmama's Blog". folkmama.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2017-05-08.
  26. ^ "Dreams of Darien | The Paul McKenna Band". www.paulmckennaband.com. Archived from the original on 2015-09-15. Retrieved 2017-05-08.


Further reading

  • Devine, Tom (2003), Scotland's Empire 1600–1815, London: Allen Lane, ISBN 0-7139-9498-3
  • Edwards, Nat (2007), Caledonia's Last Stand: In Search of the Lost Scots of Darien, Edinburgh: Luath Press, ISBN 978-1-905222-84-1
  • Fry, Michael (2001), The Scottish Empire, Edinburgh: Birlinn, ISBN 1-86232-185-X
  • Galbraith, Douglas (2001), The Rising Sun, New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 0-87113-781-X (fictionalisation)
  • Storrs, Christopher (1999). "Disaster at Darien (1698–1700)? The Persistence of Spanish Imperial Power on the Eve of the Demise of the Spanish Habsburgs". European History Quarterly. 29 (1): 5–38. doi:10.1177/026569149902900101.

External links

1699 in Scotland

Events from the year 1699 in the Kingdom of Scotland.

Alien Act 1705

The Alien Act was a law passed by the Parliament of England in 1705, as a response to the Parliament of Scotland's Act of Security of 1704, which in turn was partially a response to the English Act of Settlement 1701.

The Alien Act provided that Scottish nationals in England were to be treated as aliens (foreign nationals), and estates held by Scots would be treated as alien property, making inheritance much less certain. It also included an embargo on the import of Scottish products into England and English colonies – about half of Scotland's trade, covering goods such as linen, cattle and coal.The Act contained a provision that it would be suspended if the Scots entered into negotiations regarding a proposed union of the parliaments of Scotland and England. Combined with English financial offers to refund Scottish losses on the Darien scheme, the Act achieved its aim, leading to the Acts of Union 1707 uniting the two countries as the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Andrew Fletcher (patriot)

For other persons named Andrew Fletcher, see Andrew Fletcher (disambiguation).

Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1655 – September 1716) was a Scottish writer and politician, remembered as an advocate for the non-incorporation of Scotland, and an opponent of the 1707 Act of Union between Scotland and England. Fletcher became an exile after being accused of promoting insurrection. He was appointed the cavalry commander of the Monmouth Rebellion, but shortly after landing in England he killed another leading figure. He again went into exile, this time as a fugitive and with his estates forfeit. He returned with William of Orange, becoming Commissioner of the old Parliament of Scotland.

Fletcher was a defender of the Darién scheme, although suspicious of the effect of conventional commerce on traditional virtues. He also deplored the effect of London's relative size, which he said would inevitably draw an accelerating proportion of wealth and decision making to the south-east corner of Britain.

Clan Forbes

Clan Forbes is a Highland Scottish clan from Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Clan Leask

Clan Leask is a Scottish clan.

Clan Paterson

Clan Paterson is a Lowland Scottish clan. The clan is officially recognized as such by the Lord Lyon King of Arms; however, as the clan does not currently have a chief it is considered an Armigerous clan.

Company of Scotland

The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, also called the Scottish Darien Company, was an overseas trading company created by an act of the Parliament of Scotland in 1695. The Act granted the Company a monopoly of Scottish trade to India, Africa and the Americas, similar to English charter companies' monopolies, and also extraordinary sovereign rights and temporary exemptions from taxation.

Financial and political troubles plagued its early years. The governors were divided between those residing and meeting in Edinburgh and those in London, amongst whom were both Scots and Englishmen. They were also divided by business intentions; some intended to trade in India and on the African coast, as an effective competitor to the English East India Company, while others were drawn to William Paterson's Darien scheme, which ultimately prevailed.

In July 1698 the company launched its first expedition, led by Paterson, who hoped to establish a colony in Darien (on the Isthmus of Panama), which could then be used as a trading point between Europe and the Far East.

Though five ships and 1,200 Scottish colonists landed successfully in Darien, the settlement was poorly provisioned and eventually abandoned. A second, larger expedition (launched before the fate of the first was known) took up the deserted settlement, but was quickly besieged by the Spanish. More than a thousand succumbed to hunger and disease, and in April 1700, two ships carried the few survivors home.

David Boyle, 1st Earl of Glasgow

David Boyle, 1st Earl of Glasgow (c. 1666 – 31 October 1733) was a Scottish politician and peer. He was the last Treasurer-depute before the Union with England.

Economy of Scotland in the early modern period

The economy of Scotland in the early modern era encompasses all economic activity in Scotland between the early sixteenth century and the mid-eighteenth. The period roughly corresponds to the early modern era in Europe, beginning with the Renaissance and Reformation and ending with the last Jacobite risings and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

At the beginning of this period Scotland was a relatively poor country, with difficult terrain and limited transport, relying on traditional agricultural methods of jointly run fermtouns and bailes. The late sixteenth century saw economic distress, inflation and famine, but also the beginnings of industrial production as new techniques were imported to the country. The seventeenth century saw economic development led by trade, particularly to England and with the Americas, despite the problems of tariffs. There was continued occasional famine, culminating in the "seven ill years" of the 1690s. Attempts to establish a Scottish colony in Central America as part of the Darién scheme ended in disaster in the 1690s. After the Union with England in 1707 there was increasing introduction of improvements in agriculture that helped improve the food supply and growing trade with the Americans that produced the Tobacco Lords of Glasgow, the trade in sugar and rum and Paisley in cloth. There was also the development of financial institutions, including the Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and British Linen Company, and improvements in roads both of which would help facilitate the Industrial Revolution that would accelerate in the late eighteenth century.

Gulf of Darién

The Gulf of Darién is the southernmost region of the Caribbean Sea, located north and east of the border between Panama and Colombia. Within the gulf is the Gulf of Urabá, a small lip of sea extending southward, between Caribana Point and Cape Tiburón, Colombia, on the southern shores of which is the port city of Turbo, Colombia. The Atrato River delta extends into the Gulf of Darién.

James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton

Lieutenant General James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton and 1st Duke of Brandon (11 April 1658 – 15 November 1712) was a

Scottish nobleman, the Premier Peer of Scotland, and Keeper of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. He was a Master of the Great Wardrobe, Master-General of the Ordnance, Ambassador, and Colonel-in-Chief of his regiment. Hamilton was a major investor in the failed Darien Scheme, which cost many of Scotland's ruling class their fortunes, and he played a leading role in the events leading up to the Act of Union in 1707. He died on 15 November 1712 as the result of a celebrated duel in Hyde Park, Westminster, with Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, over a disputed inheritance.

John Hay, 1st Marquess of Tweeddale

John Hay, 1st Marquess and 2nd Earl of Tweeddale (c. 13 August 1625, Yester, East Lothian – 11 August 1697, Edinburgh) was Lord Chancellor of Scotland.

During the English Civil War he repeatedly switched allegiance between the Royalist cause and the Parliamentarians. He fought for Charles I and joined him at Nottingham in 1642, then for Parliament at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, on account of his attitude towards Covenanters, and four years later was again on the side of the Royalists at the Battle of Preston.

He succeeded as Earl of Tweeddale in 1654, and was imprisoned for support of James Guthrie in 1660. He was a member of the Commonwealth Parliaments of 1656 and 1659.

When Charles II was restored to the throne, he was appointed Lord President of the Scottish Council in 1663 and an Extraordinary Lord of Session in 1664. He was elected in the latter year a Fellow of the Royal Society.He used his influence to moderate proceedings against the Covenanters, but with the hardening of the official attitude in 1674 he was dismissed from office and from the Privy Council on the advice of Lauderdale.

He returned to the Treasury in 1680. Tweeddale supported William III and became a privy councillor in 1689. He was Lord Chancellor of Scotland from 1692-6.

He supported the Glorious Revolution in Scotland, and was created Marquess of Tweeddale in 1694. As Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland from 1694 to 1696 he ordered the inquiry into the Glencoe massacre in 1695. He was dismissed from the Chancellorship in 1696 for supporting the Darien scheme.

His portrait by Sir Peter Lely is held by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Robert Blackwood of Pitreavie

Robert Blackwood of Pitreavie (1624–1720) was an 17th century Scottish silk merchant who served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh from 1711 to 1713.

Samuel Vetch

Samuel Vetch (9 December 1668, Edinburgh, Scotland – 30 April 1732) was a Scottish soldier and colonial governor of Nova Scotia. He was a leading figure in the Darien scheme, a failed Scottish attempt to colonise the Isthmus of Panama in the late 1690s. During the War of the Spanish Succession he was an early proponent of the idea that Great Britain should take New France, proposing in 1708 that it be conquered and that the residents of Acadia be deported. (The latter idea would acted on during the Seven Years' War of the 1750s.) He was the grandfather of Samuel Bayard.

Scottish colonization of the Americas

Scottish colonisation of the Americas comprised a number of failed or abandoned Scottish settlements in North America; a colony at Darien on the Isthmus of Panama; and a number of wholly or largely Scottish settlements made after the Acts of Union 1707, and those made by the enforced resettlement after the Battle of Culloden and the Highland Clearances.

Scottish trade in the early modern era

Scottish trade in the early modern era includes all forms of economic exchange within Scotland and between the country and locations outwith its boundaries, between the early sixteenth century and the mid-eighteenth. The period roughly corresponds to the early modern era, beginning with the Renaissance and Reformation and ending with the last Jacobite risings and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

At the beginning of this period Scotland was a relatively poor country, with difficult terrain and limited transport. There was little trade between different areas of the country and most settlements depended on what was produced locally. International trade followed the format of the Middle Ages, exporting raw materials and importing luxury goods and scarce raw materials. The early sixteenth century saw economic expansion from a low base before the English invasions of the 1540s. The late sixteenth century saw economic distress, inflation and famine, but also greater stability and the beginnings of industrial production as new techniques were imported to the country. The early seventeenth century saw economic expansion until the end of the 1630s, followed by disruption caused by the Bishop's Wars, English Civil Wars and English invasion and occupation.

After the Restoration there was a recovery of trade, particularly to England and with the Americas, despite the problems of tariffs. Attempts to establish a Scottish colony in Central America as part of the Darién scheme ended in disaster in the 1690s. After the Union with England in 1707 the cattle trade and coal production continued to expand and the major area of industrial production was linen. There was growing trade with the Americas, which produced the Tobacco Lords of Glasgow, the trade in sugar and rum from Greenock, while Paisley specialised in cloth. There was also the development of financial institutions, such as the Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and British Linen Company, and improvements in roads both of which would help facilitate the Industrial Revolution that would accelerate in the late eighteenth century.

Seven ill years

The seven ill years was a period of national famine in Scotland in the 1690s. It resulted from an economic slump created by French protectionism and changes in the Scottish cattle trade, followed by four years of failed harvests (1695, 1696 and 1698–99). The result was severe famine and depopulation, particularly in the north. The famines of the 1690s were seen as particularly severe, partly because famine had become relatively rare in the second half of the seventeenth century, with only one year of dearth (in 1674). The shortages of the 1690s would be the last of their kind.

During this period, starvation probably killed 5–15 per cent of the Scottish population, but in areas like Aberdeenshire death rates reached 25 per cent. The system of the Old Scottish Poor Law was overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis, although provision in the urban centres of the burghs was probably better than in the countryside. It led to migration between parishes and emigration to England, Europe, the Americas and particularly Ireland. The crisis resulted in the setting up of the Bank of Scotland and the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies. The eventual failure of the Company in the Darién scheme increased the pressure for political union with England, which occurred in 1707.

Thomas Green (captain)

Thomas Green (1679/1680[?]-1705) was an English sailor and alleged pirate, who was captain of the Worcester. He was hanged on Leith sands in Scotland along with two of his crew on 11 April 1705.Green was celebrated in a contemporary ballad:

Of all the pirates I’ve heard and seenThe basest and the bloodiest is Captain Green

The Worcester was seized, probably at the bequest of the Secretary of the Company of Scotland (Roderick Mackenzie), when she came into the Firth of Forth simply to weather a storm; Green and his crew were alleged to have boarded a ship, the ironically named Speedy Return, off the Malabar coast in India, killed the crew, stolen the goods on board, then sold the ship.

However, the evidence against Green has been considered flimsy; during the trial, the ship in question was never named, and neither the ship's owner nor any next of kin of the alleged deceased came forward. Furthermore, the exact time and place of the incident were never specified ("upon one or other Days of the Months of February, March, April or May, in the year 1703").As the alleged incident was outside Scottish waters, the veracity of the trial was also called into question; however the prosecution argued that the subjects of the piracy had, according to different witnesses, either sailed under an English flag or had spoken English, and as such, Green and his crew were subject to the justice of Admiralty. To further dispel any pretence of a fair trial, many of the crew were forbidden to provide evidence, and one of those who was allowed - the captain's Indian servant - had been "chained and nailed to the Floor of the Fore-Castle" at the time of the alleged incident." The evidence given by this hardly objective witness was accepted. The English historian G. M. Trevelyan complained that while "the 'evidence' did not even pretend to be more than hearsay [...] the court [was] drunk with patriotic prejudice."Green was sentenced to death, originally intended for the 3 April 1705, but this was postponed for a time at the request of the Queen's Privy Council. During this time it became known to those involved in the trial that survivors of the Speedy Return had arrived back in England, and were ready to testify to the innocence of Green and his colleagues. Nevertheless, the Crown's Scottish representatives failed to stand up to an angry Edinburgh mob, and did not postpone the execution date further.

Green and two of his crew members, an Englishman, Simpson, and John Madder, a Scot, were found guilty and hanged on Leith Sands on 11 April. The men met their deaths, amongst the braying mob, with calm and resolve. It is probable that the Worcester was seized in an act of revenge against the East India Company (for whom Green had earlier worked) that had seized one of the last ships of the Company of Scotland, the Annandale, the previous year. After the executions of the three, the remaining crewmen were quietly released with no further charge. The incident caused great consternation and anger throughout much of England and provided fodder for the vitriolic patriots on both sides of the border.

Trevelyan concluded that the deaths of the three men served as an outlet for a widely held Scottish resentment of their Anglo-centric government's mismanagement. Examples of the problems partially caused by this mis-governance included the Glencoe Massacre, the ill-fated Darien Scheme (the failure of which was partially attributable to King William's concession to English mercantile interest) and the "seven ill years" (seven bad harvests experienced by Scottish farmers between 1692 and 1698, blame for which must also lie partially with archaic tools, expertise and practices in use at that time).

William Paterson (banker)

Sir William Paterson (April 1658 - 22 January 1719) was a Scottish trader and banker. He was one of the founders of the Bank of England and was one of the main proponents of the catastrophic Darien scheme. Later he became an advocate of Union with England.

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