James Mackinnon.

The union of England and Scotland; a study of international history online

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able councillors, without a head and entirely wanting in
the spirit of cohesion, proved to be so many units of division
and confusion. Faction and cabal rendered abortive the
efforts of Paterson, who had become a member of council,
to induce unanimity and make the best of adverse circum-
stances. The rules and ordinances promulgated for the
government of the settlement by a parliament, convened
for the purpose, were unexceptionable. The precepts of the
Scriptures were accepted as the standard of moral obligation,



DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1702). 37

and mingled with regulations visiting with severe penalties
all attempts at insubordination, treason, murder, violation,
ill-treatment of natives, etc. But the councillors displayed
a lamentable inability to apply the scriptural injunctions
to themselves. Their contentions, resentments, and cabals
made the work of government impossible. Each took his turn
of the presidency for a week at a time, only to cavil at, or
undo the work of his predecessor. Paterson's constructive
genius was sorely exercised by an administration, which
did nothing but foment anarchy. The deadly vapours ex-
haled by the luxuriant swamps, adjoining the camp, brought
sickness and death. Each day of May and June added its
quota to the sick and the dead. Discontent begat the
spirit of mutiny, which found expression in a plot to sail
away with one of the ships. Provisions ran short. A
sloop despatched to Jamaica and New York for supplies
returned, after vainly beating about for a month against
adverse winds. A second attempt was made, but in the
meantime came the disastrous news that proclamations had
been issued by the governors of all the English colonies,
debarring his majesty's subjects from sending supplies to,
or holding any manner of communication with the un-
fortunate Scots.*

This was the death-blow to the hopes of the colonists,
whose ranks were being thinned by the relentless scourge
of fever and privation. The only alternatives seemed to
be death, or desertion. Paterson exhausted the force of
argument to keep his colleagues, some of whom had

* The proclamation issued by Sir William Beeston, governor of Jamaica,
enjoined his majesty's subjects not "to presume, on any pretence whatever,
to hold any correspondence with the said Scots, nor to give them any assist-
ance of arms, ammunition, provisions, or any other necessaries whatsoever,
either by themselves or any other for them, or by any of their vessels, or of
the English nation, as they will answer the contempt of his majesty's com-
mand to the contrary at their utmost peril " (Daricn Papers, p. 303). Beeston
was especially obnoxious to the Scots on the additional ground of having,
according to common report, congratulated the governor of Carthagena on
the failure of the expedition.



383594



38 DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1/02).

already abandoned the settlement, from adopting the latter.
He argued in vain. Disabled by fever and outvoted by
the majority of the council, he was reluctantly compelled
to acquiesce in an expedient, which only himself and Cap-
tain Drummond opposed. Only the energy of the latter
saved the guns of the fortress from being left behind in
the general haste to escape from the lugubrious scene of
pestilence, starvation and death. Protesting and entreat-
ing, Paterson was carried on board the Unicorn ; and on
the i Qth June the remnant of the colonists set sail for
whatever port might afford them shelter. It was a voyage
of horrors. Stormy weather separated the vessels, and all
but disabled the Unicorn. The Caledonia narrowly
escaped capture in the Bay of Mattances, where she an-
chored in expectation of assistance. The guns of a Spanish
battery thundered forth the wrath of the Spaniards against
the hapless Scots, and drove them adrift on their voyage of
death. She and her companions had to run the gauntlet
of the Barlivento fleet, and escaped as by a miracle.
The St. Andrew, with busy death reaping his daily har-
vest of victims, reached the shelter of Jamaican waters,
only to discover that relief was denied his fellow-subjects
of Scotland by the governor of an English colony. The
Unicorn and the Caledonia at length reached New York in
the beginning of August, with more than half their living
freight already consigned to the bottom of the Atlantic, as
the results of fever and dysentery. Paterson was still
alive when the Unicorn arrived at Sandy Hook, but his
mind broke down for the time under the fearful strain of
the previous six months. From New York he took pas-
sage to Scotland in the Caledonia, while Captain Drum-
mond returned with a cargo of provisions to attempt a
resettlement, with the aid of a second fleet, which, he
learned, was on its way to Darien.

Paterson reached Edinburgh in the end of November,
somewhat recovered in mind, though still shattered in
body. He wrote an account of the settlement and aban-



DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1702). 39

donment of the colony, which was, at the same time, an
apology for his own conduct. He still professed to believe
in the vast possibilities of Darien, and in the ultimate salu-
brity of its climate. He used his influence in encouraging
the directors in the prosecution of the undertaking, but
strove to moderate the fierce criticism to which the Govern-
ment was subjected. For this service Queensberry grate-
fully and compassionately presented him with ;ioo. In
all his dealings, his integrity and unselfishness drew forth
the admiration of even his enemies.* We may, therefore,
allow him the credit of honesty in penning the noble words
in which he vindicated his elevation of purpose. " In all
my troubles," wrote he to his friend Drummond, on the
6th February, 1700, "it's no small satisfaction to have
lived to give the company and the world unquestionable
proof that I have not had any sinister nor selfish designs
in promoting this work, and that unfeigned integrity has
been at the bottom of this. How and what I have suf-
fered in the prosecution thereof, God only knows ; and God
Almighty lay it no further to their charge who have been
the cause. I have always prayed for this ; but must needs
confess, could never, since my unkind usage, find the
freedome of spirit I doe now ; and I must needs say that
my concerne of spirit is such, that I could not only joyne
with those who have done me prejudises, although it had
been willingly, but even the greatest enemys I am capable
of having, to save my country and secure the company." f

At the time that the shadow of disaster was beginning
to darken over the infant colony, all Scotland was rejoicing
at the news of its auspicious settlement. Bonfires, illumina-
tions, ringing of bells and public thanksgivings, testified to
the national elation. The directors, somewhat tardily, in
view of the necessities of the case, commissioned a second
squadron of two vessels in May, 1699, to carry provisions
and 300 additional men to the land of promise. They had

* See Carstares Papers, p. 584. f Darien Papers, p. 259.



40 DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1702).

received hints of incipient friction in the council, and wrote
to beware of men " of a chattering, mutinous, and pernicious
temper".* The news of Pinkerton's capture, and the hostility
of the Spaniards, which arrived some weeks later, some-
what depressed their spirits, but they were confident that
the English Government would speedily discover its interest
to protect the settlement. In August, a third squadron of
four vessels, carrying thirteen hundred men and a large
assortment of military stores, was got ready on the Clyde.
Its departure was delayed for over a month by contrary
winds ; and during these weeks of inaction disquieting
rumours were whispered about of the disastrous fate of
their predecessors. These were discredited by the opti-
mistic directors as the malicious stories of dastardly English
critics. The fleet had hardly sailed when letters from New
York transformed their optimism into depressing credence.
The expedition had failed, failed tragically, and the horrors
of the failure were almost past belief. Dismay at the
melancholy tidings was mingled with anger at the pusil-
lanimity of the deserters. The directors, oblivious of their
own remissness, wrote a furious letter to the ex-councillors
at New York, inveighing against their shameful and dis-
honourable abandonment, and ordering them to return and
not incur the odium of being betrayers of their country.
They despatched Captain Campbell of Fonab, in a fast
vessel, to enjoin the commanders of the second squadron to
retake possession, or, if advisable, to wait for the arrival of
the third. What mortal could do to retrieve the disaster
was attempted. More ships were commissioned and letters
of credit sent to New York for the purchase of stores.
With undaunted courage they strove to open new fields of
enterprise, and despatched a vessel to trade on the Gold
Coast of Africa, in the hope of filling their already sorely
diminished coffers.

The disaster proved irretrievable, however. Adversity

* Daricn Papers, pp. 165-67.



DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1702). 41

pursued the company's fleets with relentless consistency.
One of the vessels of the second squadron was burned to
the water's edge, after arrival in the harbour of New Cale-
donia, through the carelessness of a steward in dropping a
lighted candle near a cask of brandy. The captain of the
other ship, taking her crew and contingent of settlers on
board, sailed away to Jamaica. The third squadron found, on
its arrival, on the 2Oth November, 1699, in the melancholy
spectacle of the ruined huts and dismantled fort of their
predecessors, the dismal confirmation of the sinister rumour,
which they had heard at Montserrat. Worse still, quarrels
broke out between the new councillors and Captain
Drummond, who had arrived in the sloop from New York.
Intrigue and self-will hampered the efforts of Drummond to
rehabilitate the settlement. The councillors refused to trust
his assurances of credit at New York ; and instead of despatch-
ingvessels thither for supplies, resolved, as the result of mutual
bitter recriminations, to send all the emigrants above five
hundred to Jamaica. Drummond was thrown into prison
by Councillor Byres, who assumed the leadership. Byres
played the tyrant with unsparing violence. One man was
hanged on a charge of conspiring to seize the treasure and
sail away with the ships. Yet, nothing of importance was
done towards resettlement. The reports sent home betray
the fact that the new settlers had lost heart from the
beginning, and were only too eager to seize the first pretext
for abandoning the enterprise. The soil was admitted to
be marvellously fertile ; but the rumours of gold mines
were, according to Byres, fallacious. Not a particle of gold
or silver was discovered among the natives, except a few
nose jewels. The place might, with great expenditure of
energy and money, be made a centre of commerce, but
without negro labour failure was inevitable.* Byres, it
appeared, was guilty of hindering the supply of provisions,
in order to necessitate the realisation of his plan of dis-

* Daricn Papers, pp. 209-217.



42 DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1/02).

persing the members of the expedition among the neigh-
bouring islands. Against the advice of Drummond, he
sent away a Spanish pilot who had guided the third
squadron to Caledonia, and who straightway sold his know-
ledge of the Scottish settlement to the admiral of a Spanish
fleet, and even conducted it thither. The Spanish Govern-
ment had resolved to crush all further efforts to dispute its
claims to the isthmus. The news of their extensive pre-
parations by sea and land found the council absorbed in the
pastime of abusing each other, rather than in the task of
preparing an adequate resistance. Byres continued to insist
on sending away more than one-half of the colonists, on
the pretext of want of provisions, and thus added treachery
to the company to his arbitrary and inhuman treatment of
the settlers. He justified his severity to the home authori-
ties with the plea that " there never was so great a collec-
tion of rascals among so few men ". After his departure in
the beginning of February, 1700, something like unanimity
and energy prevailed in the operations directed by the
council to meet the pressing danger. Captain Campbell of
Fonab, who had seen service in Flanders, was despatched
into the interior with two hundred and sixty men to inter-
cept the Spanish force, intended to attack the settlement
by land. After a toilsome march of three days over a
mountainous country, covered with forest and rank
vegetation, Campbell swept down on the Pacific side of the
isthmus, stormed the strong position of the enemy on the
top of a steep hill, and routed them with considerable loss.
All the camp baggage, with the papers and decorations of
the commander, Don Michael de Gordoniez, rewarded the
pluck of the victors. The casualties on the Scottish
side were limited to nine killed and fourteen wounded,
Campbell himself being among the latter. This success
had the effect of staying the advance of fifteen hundred
Spaniards, who were hastening to reinforce the vanguard.
The tidings of this brilliant exploit threw a gleam of sun-
shine into the disconsolate camp at New Edinburgh. The



DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1702). 43

joy was shortlived. On the 23rd February, a few days
after Campbell's triumphant return, eight Spanish vessels
anchored off Golden Island. They were joined by three
more on the 25th. The Scots kept the guns in readiness
for the attack, and managed to send home an express, in
which they declared their determination to give a good
account of themselves. A few weeks of anxious watching,
however, sufficed to exhaust their courage, and at the end
of March their leaders resolved to capitulate, on being
allowed to leave these inhospitable waters with their ships
and baggage. *

Thus ended this unfortunate enterprise, which had com-
bined the elements both of farce and tragedy, and which
left the heritage of fierce animosity to exacerbate the
relations of England and Scotland during the next de-
cade of mutual strife and recrimination. For this sorry
and tragic ending, the Scots were themselves largely to
blame. The opposition of England, the hostility of Spain
were no doubt contributory causes ; but they might have
been foreseen and provided against. This absence of
foresight invited ruin on a project which seemed to English
sympathisers, like Defoe, at best fanciful and impractic-
able. To avoid regions where the influence, or the neigh-
bourhood, of either Spanish or English dominion, was
likely to create rivalry, might have appeared the first law of
prudence. Instead of avoiding friction with both, the com-
pany directly challenged it by pitching on a spot claimed
by Spain, and lying in proximity to Jamaica and other
English plantations, which feared the effect on their trade
of the operations of this presumptuous rival. The colony
was undoubtedly within the sphere of Spanish influence,
though not a single Spaniard occupied any part of the
territory, in which the Scots unfurled their flag. The
colonists might with some reason plead that they had the
best of all titles a series of treaties with the natives, who

* Daricn Papers, pp. 252-53.



44 DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1702).

disowned the yoke of the Spaniards, and seemed eager to
court that of the new comers. They might, and did argue
that it was open to them to reject the papal grant of these
territories to Spain, and to question the right of the Pope
to regard America as a fief of the Roman Catholic Church.
But it was also open to the Spaniards to reply that they
had taken bona fide possession of the isthmus, and that they
were not disposed to recognise treaties with chiefs, whom-
they regarded as the subjects of the king of Spain. If
they insisted on regarding the Scots as buccaneers, war was
inevitable, and the folly of expecting to maintain, single-
handed, a contest with Spain in these waters, proved itself
by the disasters culminating in the capitulation to a
Spanish fleet. Moreover, the attempt to cope with the
opposition of Spain landed the Scots in the impossible
plight of thwarting their own sovereign. William, both
as a partisan, whose sympathy was all on the side of the
English Parliament, and as a politician, with the balance
of power to maintain, could not give the support necessary
to make a Scoto-Spanish war successful. He had felt
it his duty, from both considerations, to oppose the
project from the outset. Unfortunately, the Scottish
scheme started into European prominence at a time when
England was suffering from a fit of bad trade, and when
European diplomacy was anxiously engaged in discussing
a great dynastic question. Charles of Spain, sinking into
dotage and infantile superstition, had no heirs, and must
ere long die. The question of the succession revolved
round the crucial point whether the Spanish throne was to
be occupied by a scion of the House of Bourbon, or the
House of Habsburg. The aggrandisement of France
made the question to William, whose main striving was to
curb the ambition of Louis XIV., one of the first import-
ance. He was busy negotiating the two partition treaties,
which provided for the disintegration of the Spanish
monarchy, with as little gain as possible to France. Any
complication that threatened to interfere with the peace-



DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1/02). 45

ful prosecution of this policy was certain to arouse his
intense dislike. The attempted settlement at Darien, at
such a juncture, seemed to a man engaged in courting
Spain and curbing France, the most regrettable and the
most fatal of undertakings. When the Spanish envoy to
the Court of St. James energetically protested against the
Scottish settlement, William's foreign policy demanded
that he should hasten to give all the satisfaction possible.
While his action in interfering to prevent the floating of
the company in England, Holland, and Germany, was a
piece of partisanship, and merits strong censure ; his action
in refusing to recognise the title of the Scots to Caledonia,
in preference to that Spain, and in directing the governors
of English colonies to oppose it, is perfectly consistent
with the demands of foreign policy. A single false step
on his part might provoke an European war, a prospect,
he might reasonably assume, of more importance to both
kingdoms, and to England in particular, than the fate of a
few hundred Scottish settlers, with a suspicious resemblance
to privateers.

With the news of disaster thickening around them, the
Scots, incapable of rightly allocating censure, or confessing
their own shortcomings,* poured forth the cup of their fury
against the king. The Commission of Assembly decreed
a fast for the sins of the nation. Though the nation put
on sackcloth, its heart was full of fiercest passion. " When
the news of the total abandoning of Darien was brought
over," says Burnet, " it cannot be well expressed into how
bad a temper this cast the body of that people. . . . The
nation was raised into a sort of fury upon it ... and
the ferment in men's spirits was raised so high that few

*' In the eye of public opinion, the failure of the colony was largely due
to the action of the English governors in refusing to support it. " Le sieur
Maclaine, un des chefs des Eccossois a Darien, m'a assure en Hollande que le
mauvais air de ce pays, ni les forces des Espagnols, n'avaient pas cause la
ruine de cette entreprise, et que si la Jamaique et les autres isles Anglaises
n'avaient point refuse de leur fournir des vivres, ils se seroient maintenus a
Darien." Hooke Correspondence, I., pp. 1-20.



46 DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1/02).

thought it would have been long curbed without breaking
forth into great extremities." * The council-general of
the company despatched lord Basil Hamilton with a
strongly worded address to the king, in favour of the Scot-
tish prisoners, under sentence of death at Seville.f William
refused to see him, and the envoy returned to tell a tale
of contemptuous treatment, which made the national
wrath blaze ever fiercer. A second address, more influen-
tially and numerously signed, was carried up to London
by Tweeddale, as the expression of the national demand
for a Session of Parliament. Two years had elapsed since
the last Session, and enough had happened, in the interval,
to render the state of the country the subject of anxious
legislation. William, though a Parliamentary king, had no
love of Parliaments, and received the marquess and his
colleagues very coldly. " My lord," was his reply, " I
suppose that you know that I have ordered the sitting of
Parliament to be on the I5th May, and it cannot possibly
meet sooner, and therefore I think you might have spared
the trouble. "J There was more fierce denunciation in
Patrick Steel's tavern in the High Street of Edinburgh,
where the patriots met to unbosom their grievances, and
even to talk over plans of revolution. They will have an
end of a union that seems to be incompatible with the
interest of Scotland. If the king must needs favour Eng-
land, in a case in which the interests of the respective
countries are antagonistic, let him, cry the coffee-house
debaters, cease to be king of Scotland.

The necessity of obtaining supply which had been

* History of my own Times, pp. 662-63.

\-Darien Papers, p. 280. Cf. Athole MSS., Hist. Ms. Com., 12th
Report, p. 59. Lord Basil writes to Tullibardine from London (4th Jan.,
1700): "It's not to be expressed the melancholy condition I'm in; I'm
touched to the very soul, and ashamed to be seen. We shall appear to be
despicable to the world ; it seems God Almighty sees it not time yet to
deliver us from our misery, but to tryst us with affliction on the back of
affliction."

\ Darien Papers, p. 284.



DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1702). 47

granted in 1698, for two years only, at length forced the
king to comply. The duke of Queensberry, the com-
missioner, with the earl of Marchmont, the chancellor, Sir
James Stewart, the lord advocate, Secretary Seafield, and
other officials and supporters of the Government, were
sorely exercised between the desire to mediate on behalf of
an unpopular king, and the task of moderating the demands
of the people. There were anxious conclaves prior to the
meeting of Parliament in May, 1700. Promises of place
and pension were plentifully proffered in order to secure
adherents. The opening of the Session, however, found the
Government unequal to the task of filching supply from the
fierce orators, who assembled to give full rein to their
passion. The chancellor read a letter professing concern
at the losses and misfortunes of the company, and recom-
mending the Parliament to encourage manufactures as the
surest means of developing foreign trade. Queensberry
noted the scowls that crossed many a brow at this shuffling
with outraged convictions. He took fright at a motion, on
the strength of a number of petitions from shires and
burghs, to resolve that the colony of Caledonia was a legal
and rightful settlement, and abruptly intervened to inform
the House that he must consult his majesty, excusing the
brevity of his speech by the plea of a severe cold, and ad-
journing the Session for a month. *

The cry of despotic tactics not unreasonably greeted
this manoeuvre, and intensified the unpopularity of the
Government. The Edinburgh mob took the opportunity of
expressing its resentment in a drastic fashion, on the
arrival, some weeks later, of the news of Campbell's victory
over the Spaniards. It decreed the illumination of the city
in celebration of the auspicious event. It intimated to the
representatives of the Government that the refusal to
participate would be visited with mob vengeance. " I was
told, this day," wrote the lord advocate to Carstares, on

* Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, X., pp. 190-95.



48 DARIEN AND THE UNION (1695-1702).

the morning of the 2Oth June, "that if I had not my
windows full of candles this night, there should not be a
glass left in them."* The mob was as good as its word.
Volley after volley of stones crashed against the windows
of ministers and others who had not taken the precaution
to mollify the populace. According to one estimate, as
much as ^5000 worth of glass was smashed. The houses
of lords Carmichael and Seafield were the objects of
specially violent demonstrations. That of the lord
advocate was invaded, and a warrant extorted for the re-



Online LibraryJames MackinnonThe union of England and Scotland; a study of international history → online text (page 5 of 51)