The British Commonwealth of nations
A petition to the heads of the Commonwealth nations seeking their support for a request from Scots to the Head of the Commonwealth, her majesty Queen Elizabeth to repeal the 1707 Treaty of Union which was imposed on Scots against their will by acts of betrayal by King William and aggression by England. In support of the petition should be noted that before the Union Scotland was a prosperous outward-looking nation with excellent trading relations with many other countries. A record of events between 1694 and 1707 has been added to the petition to aid the understanding of the request.
July 1694: The Bank of England
In the 17th century, early banking business was carried out by people known as the goldsmiths who owned and lent gold and silver to wealthy people at interest rates as high as 30%.
1672: Charles II borrowed vast amounts of money from the goldsmiths enabling his extravagant lifestyle and decided that as king he need not pay it back and wrote a letter stating: “Gentlemen, I’m an honest man but unfortunately I am unable to pay my debts back on this occasion. Sorry, will see what I can do.” As a result, goldsmith businesses collapsed and confidence in the sector dissolved.
1693: England was at war yet again with France and William III who urgently needed to raise funds to finance it went to the remaining goldsmiths to see if any of them would fund him. Their refusal forced him to find new ways of raising finance.
William Paterson, an influential merchant of Scottish descent suggested that the public would be able to lend money to the government trading their cash for shares in a newly formed joint-stock company owned by the public and the government. His proposal accepted a new company was formally established by Royal Charter on 27 July 1694 and given the name “The Governor and the Company of the Bank of England”. People duly invested in it by purchasing “bank stock” and the government paid them 8% interest which was a very good deal for the government.
The charter handed over to an anonymous committee the previously Royal prerogative of minting money and enabled international banksters to secure their loans on the taxes of the country rather than on the monarch’s personal undertaking committing the people of England to the everlasting support of a newly created “National debt”.
The measure forced Westminster politicians into groups in support of ensuing arguments over what was to be done with the new financial power so as to ensure that their cronies and their policies would predominate. This was the start of the bankers highly dubious practise of fractional reserve banking whereby gold became the basis of loans. £100 of gold would be legal security for a £1k loan. At 5% interest, £100 in gold could earn £50 interest annually with little inconvenience to the lender other than maintaining a ledger. The owner of £100 worth of land would still need to toil endlessly gaining nothing. The confrontational Party system of political divide and rule was the result.
20 Jun 1695: Establishment of the Scottish East India Company and Darien
King William allowed an Act for the Establishment of a Scottish East India Company to be passed. Before that since the Union of the Crowns, all Scottish efforts to found trading companies had been wrecked on English jealousy. There had always been and to this new East India Company, there was, a rival, a pre-existing English company.
The Scottish East India Company’s aim was to sell Scottish goods in many places worldwide and to facilitate the intent plans included the establishment of a trading colony on the isthmus of Panama. The great scheme was the idea of William Paterson, a far-travelled and financially-speculative son of a Scottish farmer who was the “projector,” or one of the projectors, of the Bank of England in 1694. Paterson accepted English investors into the Scheme and they responded by taking up half of the available shares as the “Act of Patent” permitted them to do.
October 1695: In London, the opening of the books of the new company caused panic and a fall of twenty points in the shares of the English East India Company. The English subscribers of half the paid-up capital were terrorised and forced to sell out and investments in the company in Hamburg were cancelled through English pressure. Scots took up the freed shares ensuring the venture was fully subscribed. But even at this late stage, the Darien part of the scheme was a closely guarded secret. There was only a vague reference to a settlement somewhere in Africa or the Indies.
King William returned to England from Holland and found English capitalists and the English Parliament in fury since the “Act of Patent” he had awarded to the new company committed him to interpose his authority if the ships of the company were detained by foreign powers and it also gave the traders leave to take “reparation” by force from any assailants. William reportedly said that he “had been ill-served by some of my Ministers.” and that he knew nothing about any settlement in or near to the Panama Isthmus which was within the Spanish sphere of influence.
July 1697: The secret plans for Darien became public knowledge and the English Council of Trade petitioned Parliament to scupper the plans of the Scottish East India Company by seizing Golden Island and an established port on the mainland.
July 1698: The Council of the intended Scots colony was elected, bought three ships and two tenders, and despatched 1200 settlers. On October 30, in the Gulf of Darien, they found natives who spoke Spanish and learned that the nearest gold mines were in Spanish hands and that the chiefs were carrying Spanish insignia of office. By February 1699 the Scots and Spaniards were exchanging shots and a Scottish ship, cruising in search of supplies, was seized by the Spanish at Carthagena. Spain complained to William when the Scots seized a Spanish merchant ship in retaliation. The Scots were held in irons in Seville until 1700. Responding to the Spanish complaints, in compliance with orders from the English Government, to all the colonies, the English Governor of Jamaica forbade his people from providing supplies to Scots who were blockaded by a Spanish flotilla at Darien.
August 1698: Early Warning of Westminster Treachery
Address to King William by the Scottish parliament on behalf of the Company Trading to Africa and the Indies: We, your majesty’s most loyal and faithful subjects 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, make mention of several obstructions they have met within 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.
12 May 1699: A new expedition left Leith and on arrival at Darien found some Scots still alive and defending the port. Two ships remained at Darien and were further reinforced in February 1700, when a ship arrived with provisions and found the Spaniards assailing the settlement. The new arrivals cleared the Spaniards out of Darien in fifteen minutes and established control. A few weeks after Spain launched another attack and heavily outnumbered after an honourable resistance the settlers at Darien capitulated and departed Darien on 30 March 1700.
17 January 1701: May it please the King
Scotland was full of discontent and passions raged against King William whose agent in Hamburg had prevented foreigners from investing in the Scots company. English colonists had been forbidden by Westminster from aiding the Scottish settlers. Two hundred thousand pounds, several ships, and many lives had been lost. The news of the surrender of the colonists increased the indignation. The king refused (November 1700) to gratify the Estates by regarding the Darien colony as a legal enterprise since to do so might incur war with Spain and the anger of his English subjects. And yet the colony had been legally founded in accordance with the terms of the Act of Patent. The Scottish Estates voted that Darien was a lawful colony, and (1701) in an address to the Crown demanded compensation for the nation’s financial losses. King William replied with expressions of sympathy and hopes that the two kingdoms would consider a scheme of Union and a Bill for Union brought forward by English Lords was rejected by the English Commons.
The Address: “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 an 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 everywhere 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 countrymen 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 resolution 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 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 the king of Great Britain, (1) stating that they represented your majesty, and the said (deputies endeavoured to open to England 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 resolution that the memorial presented in your majesty’s name as the 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, has 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 the 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 independent and absolute freedom, and, being very kind 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 designed 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, besides 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 take to our further consideration the proceedings of our company in making the said settlement and how they punctiliously observed the condition of the for the 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 the 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 the 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 acts of violence 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 is 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″
1701: The English Parliament, introduced the “Act of Settlement”, passing royal succession to the House of Hanover securing Protestant only succession to the throne, and strengthening the guarantees ensuring a parliamentary system of government.
1702: William III fell from his horse and broke his neck.
1702: His wife’s sister Anne, became queen and the last monarch of the House of Stuart. She had 17 children by her husband, Prince George of Denmark, none of which survived her. She was immediately popular in England stating in her first speech to the English Parliament: “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.”
1704: England intended to transfer royal succession to the “House of Hanover” but Scotland insisted on the successor to Queen Anne being of direct Scottish descent as contained in the Laws of Scotland, right of succession. The outcome of discussions was a predictable stalemate. The Scottish Parliament passed the “Act of Security” threatening, in the absence of an agreement to withdraw financial and military support to England, which was fighting yet another war with Spain.
1705: The Alien Act, 1705 was passed by the parliament of England, in response to the Scottish parliament Act of Security, 1704 which in turn had been enacted in response to the English Act of Settlement, 1701. The 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. It contained a provision that it would be suspended but only 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.
1706: The vast majority of Scots considered the Alien Act and its proposals to be blackmail and worked hard to retain their independence opening up new markets, running English blockades on Scotland’s ports, reducing dependence on trade with England. But Scottish nobles landed gentry and traders, who had borne much of the financial losses attributed to the, (Darien Project) were of a different mindset and led by the Duke of Queensberry, (the most senior noble in Scotland) they established a secret dialogue with Westminster politicians providing assurance an, “Act of Union” would be agreed, subject to a suitable financial settlement. A £400,000 sweetener was passed in secret to the Duke of Queensberry for distribution to the appropriate Scottish gentry.
1706: Despite the assurances of the Duke of Queensberry that Scotland would be delivered as promised the majority of Scots were still opposed to any agreement with England and a hastily-convened meeting of senior politicians in London decided that urgent measures would need to be taken, persuading the leader of factions opposed to the Union, (Duke of Hamilton) to switch sides. The ploy was successful, The Duke, together with enough of his close friends transferred their allegiance.
1706: The English public voiced doubt that the proposed Union would bring benefits and their concerns were raised in Westminster. To reassure England, Robert Harley, spymaster in the Westminster Government, contracted William Defoe to write a thrice-weekly review, (for the widest possible distribution in England) aimed at persuading English opinion to support the proposed Union. The thrust of Defoe’s assertions claimed that it would end the threat from Scotland forever and gain for Westminster an “inexhaustible treasury of fighting men” and a valuable new market further increasing the power of England.
1706 In the autumn, “Spymaster Harley” ordered Defoe to Edinburgh with the mission (as a secret agent) to do everything possible to help secure acquiescence in the Treaty of Union. His first reports included vivid descriptions of violent demonstrations against the Union. Sometime after, John Clerk of Penicuik, a leading Unionist, wrote, “He was a spy among us, but not known as such, otherwise the Mob of Edinburgh would have pulled him to pieces.”
Defoe, a Presbyterian, had been accepted as an adviser to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and committees of the Parliament of Scotland. Harley wrote that he was, “privy to all their folly” but, “perfectly unsuspected as with corresponding with anybody in England”. He was then able to heavily influence proposals that were put to the Scottish Parliament. In manipulating Scottish opinion he used opposite arguments, to those he used in England, for example, unusually ignoring the English doctrine of the Sovereignty of Parliament, telling Scot’s that they could have complete confidence in the guarantees in the Treaty. He secretly wrote many pamphlets praising the Union which were circulated throughout Scotland.
1707: The “Act of Union” was signed off and Defoe, was financially rewarded by spymaster Harley”. But the Scottish public was infuriated by the betrayal of the Nobles and high heid yins in Parliament. The Presbyterian minister of the Trongate church in Glasgow urged his congregation, “to up and anent for the City of God”. English government troops put down rioters in Glasgow. Copies of the Treaty were destroyed at almost every Mercat cross in Scotland and Martial Law was imposed together with a dusk to dawn curfew which remained in force for months.
1723: Defoe returned to Scotland many year’s after and on viewing the abject poverty of the people admitted that the increase of trade and population in Scotland which he had predicted as a consequence of the Union, was “not the case, but rather the contrary”.