The Darien Scheme – Scotland Betrayed by a Monarch Who Had Their Trust
On Friday 7 January 1701 The Scottish Chancellor sent a Scottish parliament address to King William, in London concerning events in Caledonia.
The duplicity of the King and his support of England against Scotland were not common knowledge in Scotland but there was warning of his devious character at the time his English ministers intervened in Hamburg seeking to compromise Scottish plans to establish a marketing treaty assuring the success of the Darien Scheme.
William played a major role in ensuring the collapse of the Darien Scheme, critically important to the economy of Scotland, by ordering his English and Dutch subjects not to give any assistance to the Scottish colonists.
The address asked William to also order that there be no further hostile acts against Scottish settlers in Caledonia or elsewhere and that financial reparations be made to Scotland for the losses incurred due to the illegal attacks upon Scots by English, Dutch and Spanish settlers, in the new world acting upon instructions from their political masters.
William did not order an end to hostilities against the settlers in Caledonia preferring to keep the Spanish onside in his on-going confrontations with the French.
He fell from his horse and broke his neck in 1702.
He was succeeded by his sister-in-law Anne, on 8 March 1702, who was immediately popular in England.
In her first speech to the English Parliament, on 11 March, she distanced herself from her late Dutch brother-in-law and said, “As I know my heart to be entirely English, I can very sincerely assure you there is not anything you can expect or desire from me which I shall not be ready to do for the happiness and prosperity of England.” (1)
She subsequently took on the role of Queen of Britain & Ireland in 1707.
Anne, plagued by ill health throughout her life grew increasingly lame and obese from her thirties.
Despite seventeen pregnancies by her husband, Prince George of Denmark, she died in 1714 without surviving issue and was the last monarch of the House of Stuart.
Scotland and the lean years 1690-1710
A series of bad harvests resulted in the death of around a third of the population of Scotland between 1690 and 1710.
In the same period Scots merchants were excluded from England’s rich overseas trade and poverty was rife.
The Darien Scheme provided opportunity to greatly improve trade with the expanding new world and its failure, brought about by the strangulation of supply and other support by the hostile acts of the English, Dutch and Spanish navies and more established settlements, resulted in a major loss of wealth by Scots
Acts of Union 1707
While Ireland was subordinate to the English Crown and Wales formed part of the kingdom of England, Scotland remained an independent sovereign state with its own parliament and laws.
The Act of Settlement 1701, passed by the English Parliament, applied in the kingdoms of England and Ireland but not Scotland, where many wished to preserve the Stuart dynasty and its right of inheritance to the throne.
Anne had declared it “very necessary” to conclude a union of England and Scotland in her first speech to the English Parliament, and a joint Anglo-Scots commission met at her former residence the Cockpit to discuss terms in October 1702.
The negotiations broke up in early February 1703 having failed to reach an agreement.
The Estates of Scotland responded to the Act of Settlement by passing the Act of Security, which gave the Estates the power, if the Queen had no further children, to choose the next Scottish monarch from among the Protestant descendants of the royal line of Scotland.
The individual chosen by the Estates would not be the same person who came to the English throne, unless England granted full freedom of trade to Scottish merchants.
At first, Anne withheld royal assent to the act, but granted it the following year when the Estates threatened to withhold supply of finance and soldiers, endangering Scottish support for England’s wars.
The English Parliament responded with the Alien Act 1705, which threatened to impose economic sanctions and declare Scottish subjects aliens in England, unless Scotland either repealed the Act of Security or moved to unite with the parliament of England.
The Estates chose the latter option; the English Parliament agreed to repeal the Alien Act, and new commissioners were appointed by Queen Anne in early 1706 to negotiate the terms of a union.
In subsequent discussions Scotland’s landowners and influential citizens, many of whom would have been Darien shareholders, supported the Union of Parliaments, which provided a payment of £398,000 (a sum known as ‘the Equivalent’) as compensation for the Darien losses and provided much needed aid to the Scottish economy.
The articles of union approved by the commissioners were presented to Anne on 23 July 1706, and ratified by the Scottish and English Parliaments on 16 January and 6 March 1707 respectively.
Under the Acts of Union, England and Scotland were united into a single kingdom called Great Britain, with one parliament, on 1 May 1707.
In reality Scotland had become a colony of England
The formal joining of the two kingdoms was far from universally popular, and there were was an enduring belief that Scotland’s sovereignty was sold off in the Act of the Union.
Robert Burns would later famously write about the Parliamentarians who signed the Act: “I’ll mak this declaration; “We’re bought and sold for English gold- “Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!”
The irony is that the financial settlement of £398,000 known as “The Equivalent” was never fully paid by England.
The first of many betrayals of Scotland by the Westminster parliament over the next 300+ years.
5 August 1698: Early Warning of Westminster Treachery – Letter to King William 11
An address to your majesty by the parliament on behalf of the Company Trading to Africa and the Indies brought to the attention of the committee for security, to whom consideration of the companies petition was remitted, read, and, after debate and some amendments, again read, voted and approved, nemine contradicente, of which the address follows:
Address to the king on behalf of the African Company
We, your majesty’s most loyal and faithful subjects, the noblemen, barons and burgesses convened in parliament, do humbly represent to your majesty that, having considered a representation made to us by the counsel general of the company trading to Africa and the Indies, making mention of several obstructions they have met with in the prosecution of their trade, particularly by means of a memorandum presented on your behalf to the senate of Hamburg by your majesty’s English diplomats with the intent of lessening the authority of the rights and privileges granted to the said company by an act of the parliament of Scotland
We do therefore, in all humble duty, lay before your majesty the whole of Scotland’s concern in this matter. And we do most earnestly entreat, and most assuredly expect, that your majesty will, in your royal wisdom take such measures as to vindicate the undoubted rights and privileges of the said company and support the credit and interest thereof.
And, as we are in duty bound to return your majesty our most hearty thanks for the gracious assurances your majesty has been pleased to give us of all due encouragement for promoting the trade of the kingdom of Scotland, so we are hereby encouraged at present humbly to recommend to more special marks of your royal favour the concerns of the said company as that branch of our trade in which we and the nation we represent have a more peculiar interest.
17 January 1701 – The Address – May it Please His Majesty, King William 11
We your majesty’s most faithful and dutiful subjects, the noblemen, barons and burgesses of the Scottish parliament, do in all humility represent that we are of sound mind, and do and shall ever most heartily acknowledge, that God raised your majesty to be our great deliverer, by whom our religion, liberties, rights and laws were rescued and restored into the happy estate and condition within which we now enjoy them.
Not least amongst the blessings was that your majesty desired the Kingdom to introduce measures for raising and improving the trade of the nation, and you were pleased in the year 1693 to give the royal assent to an act of parliament authorizing societies and companies in general, and then by act of parliament in the year 1695, to elect and establish “The Company of Scotland, Trading to Africa and the Indies,” And, with the powers, privileges, liberties and immunities contained in the said act, by virtue and warrant whereof letters patent were also granted for the same effect under the great seal of this your ancient kingdom.
But though the act and patent contained nothing save what is agreeable to the law of nations and to the use and custom every where in like cases, yet no sooner were they expedited and the founders began to act than, to the great surprise of the said company and of this whole kingdom, the kingdom of England take offence and acting against the company place upon it great and grievous hardships.
First there was the address, made in December 1695 by both houses of the parliament in England wherein they complained to your majesty of our said act of parliament for granting to the said company the privileges and immunities therein mentioned, as likely to bring many prejudices and mischiefs to all your English subjects concerned in the trade or wealth of that nation
And at the same time the House of Commons ordered an inquiry to be made to establish who were the advisers and promoters of our said act of parliament and acting on the information so gathered did move and make several prosecutions, even against the subjects of this kingdom who did not so much as reside in England, and only were acting by virtue and warrant of our said act of parliament and your majesty’s patent, whereby our said company was also disappointed and frustrated at the loss of the subscriptions of our own country men and others in England to the value of about £300,000.
And further, the House of Lords, by another address to your majesty, upon the twelfth of February 1698, persisted with the opposition made against our company and their colony of Caledonia in Darien in the continent of America, on the grounds of it being prejudicial to their nation and detrimental to its trade.
They went on to use the aforementioned statement to justify certain proclamations emitted in the year 1699 by the governors of the English plantations against our said company and their colony as agreeable to the above mentioned address of both houses of parliament, alleging that the same did proceed upon the unanimous sense of that kingdom in relation to any settlement we might make in the West Indies, and gave forth their resolution that the settlement of our colony at Darien was inconsistent with the good of the plantation trade of England.
All which being laid before us by our said company, and having fully considered the same, we have unanimously concluded and passed the resolve that the votes and proceedings of the parliament of England and their address presented to your majesty in December 1695 in relation to our act of parliament establishing our Indian and African Company, and the address of the house of lords presented to your majesty in February last, were an unwarranted meddling in the affairs of Scotland and an invasion upon the sovereignty and independence of our king and parliament.
Secondly, when our company sent their deputies to the German City of Hamburg, about the month of April 1697, to establish a treaty with that city and its inhabitants establishing free commerce to join with them according to the warrant contained in our act of parliament and your majesty’s patent, these deputies were immediately upon their arrival opposed by Sir Paul Rycault, an Englishman resident in that city, and a Mr Cresset, your majesty’s English envoy at the court of Lunenburg.
Both then made several addresses to the senate of that city in prejudice of our company, and at length gave to the senate a memorial in your majesty’s name as king of Great Britain, (1) stating that they represented your majesty, and the said (deputies endeavoured to open to England a commerce and trade with the City of Hamburg by making some convention or treaty with them and had commanded the City fathers to notify the Luneburg Senate that, if they should enter into any convention with Scottish men, your subjects, who had neither credential letters, nor were otherwise authorized by your majesty, you would regard such proceedings as an affront to your royal authority and would not fail to resent it.
And then, noting that the City of Hamburg, without regard to their remonstrations did offer to make conventions or treaties with the Scottish deputation, proceeding upon the supposition that they were vested with sufficient powers, they repeated their complaint beseeching the said Luneburg Senate, in your majesty’s name, to remedy the matter since the City of Hamburg were intent on proceeding to enter into a contract with said Scotsmen were not instructed with due credentials and also expressly invading their rights and privileges.
Your majesty was graciously pleased to signify to the company, once and again by your secretaries, that you had given orders to these ministers not to make use of your majesties’ name and authority to obstruct the company in the prosecution of their trade with the inhabitants of that city, which, nevertheless, the said English ministers altogether misrepresented.
Which being also complained of to us by the company and duly considered by us, we have unanimously concluded and passed another resolve that the memorial presented in your majesty’s name as king of Great Britain to the senate of Hamburg, upon the seventh of April 1697, by Sir Paul Rycault, then resident in that city, and Mr Cresset, your majesties’ envoy extraordinary at the Court of Lunenburg, were most unwarrantable, containing manifest falsehoods and contrary to the law of nations,(1) injurious to your majesty and an open encroachment upon the sovereignty and independence of this crown and kingdom, the occasions of great losses and disappointments to the said company and of most dangerous consequence to the trade of Scotland now and in the future.
Thirdly, your majesty’s favour of forming the company, having been very acceptable to the whole of Scotland and having the financial support of many subscribers of all degrees and from all parts, and having procured a greater advance of money for a venture then was ever made before, the council and directors of the company thought good to make some settlement for a plantation. And, having considered that by the for-said act of parliament they were limited in their planting of colony’s either to places not inhabited or to other places with consent of the natives and inhabitants, and not possessed by any European prince or state.
And having investigated available information understood that that part of Darien in America, where they thereafter fixed, was no European possession, they set forth well equipped with ships, men and provisions, which, arriving upon that coast in November 1698, the founders of the colony did not only find the place uninhabited, but also treated and agreed with the chief men of the natives near to the place, whom they found in an independent and absolute freedom, and, being very kindly and friendly by them admitted, our colony took possession and settled upon the most complete right of a place, void and unoccupied and with the consent of all the neighbouring natives that could have any pretence to it, and thus the company hoped they had made a good settlement and happily prevented others having designs for the same place in such manner as might tend to the advantage of all your majesty’s dominions.
But when they believed that their matters were thus in a hopeful and prosperous condition, they were exceedingly surprised to hear that proclamations had been published by the governors of the English plantations placing an embargo on the company as enemies, debarring them from all supplies, and that these proclamations had been executed against Darien with the utmost rigour, forbidding our men wood, water and anchorage, and all sorts of provisions, even for money, contrary to the very rules of common humanity: and, within some weeks after, the company was informed that their colony had deserted Darien to the great loss and regret of the whole of Scotland.
And though the Company sent out a very considerable second mission to repossess Darien, the same rigorous execution was still continued against them. Which proclamations proceeding, as we believe, and that from the very style and variations that may be observed in them, from the error of the governor’s mistaking, as it is like from some cautions given them for prevention and not from direct orders, we are persuaded were not emitted by your majesty’s warrant, beside that they were executed with an unheard of rigour.
And therefore, upon a further complaint from our company in this matter, we have most unanimously concluded and past a third resolve in these terms: that the proclamations in the English plantations in April, May, June and September 1699 against our Indian and African Company and colony in Caledonia were and are injurious and prejudicial to the rights and liberties of the company, and that the execution of these proclamations against the settlers sent out by the said company was inhumane, barbarous and contrary to the law of nations and a great occasion of the loss and ruin of our said colony and settlement of Caledonia.
And we taking to our further consideration the proceedings of our company in making the said settlement and how they punctiliously observed the condition of the for said act of parliament and patent in making their plantations in no European possession, with the greatest caution both to fix in a place void and uninhabited and also with consent of all the neighbouring natives that could have the least shadow of pretence thereto, and that yet on the other hand the said planters have been treated by the Spaniards, first at Carthagena and then in the very seat of our colony and like ways in old Spain, with all insolences and hostilities, not only as enemies but as pirates.
We thought it our duty, for vindicating and securing our said company and colony from all imputation or charge that has been or may be brought against them, to pass and conclude with the same unanimity a fourth resolve: that our Indian and African Company’s colony of Caledonia in Darien in the continent of America was and is legal and rightful, and that the settlement was made conform to the act of parliament and letters patent establishing the said company, and that the company, in making and prosecuting the said settlement, acted warrantable by virtue of the said act of parliament and patent.
We, having thus found the for said invasions to be manifest encroachments upon the undoubted independence and sovereignty of this your majesty’s ancient crown and kingdom and unanimously passed the above mentioned resolves and votes for asserting the rights and privileges of our said company, and also for asserting our company’s right to their colony of Caledonia, we have further thought good to lay the same before your majesty by this our solemn address.
And, therefore, do with all humble duty and earnestness beseech your majesty to take this whole matter to your royal consideration and to prevent all encroachments for the future that may be made, either by your English ministers abroad or any other to the prejudice of this kingdom and our said company, or any project of trade that we may lawfully design, and to assure our said company of your majesty’s royal protection in all their just rights and privileges, and to grant them your countenance and concurrence for reparation of their losses, especially those great losses and damages that they and their colony have suffered by the injuries and violences of the Spaniards.
And further, we represent to your majesty that the press ganging of our citizens by the English for their sea service is contrary to the natural right and freedom of the subjects of this kingdom, ought to be absolutely discharged.
All which we represent to your majesty with the greater confidence, as being most assured that none of your kingdoms and subjects are or can be more dutifully and zealously affected to your majesty’s royal person and government than we and the good subjects of this your ancient kingdom are, and shall ever continue to testify by laying out our selves for your majesty’s service to the utmost of our power.
Signed in presence by warrant and in name of the estates of parliament by, may it please your majesty, your majesty’s most humble, most obedient and most faithful subject and servant, Patrick, Earl of Marchmont, Lord High Chancellor to the Parliament of Scotland, 17 January 1701
(1) Queen Anne revealed her hand when she was crowned Queen of England by clearly stating” As I know my heart to be entirely English, I can very sincerely assure you there is not anything you can expect or desire from me which I shall not be ready to do for the happiness and prosperity of England.” she had no thought for the Scots.
(2). King William was never crowned King of Great Britain yet his 2 representatives insist on addressing him as this in 1697, (10 years before the Treaty of Union was signed) reveals the duplicity of William and his cronies in Westminster. He sold out Scotland then fell of his horse and died before he could reap the benefits of his deceit