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Celtic Hist. Newsletter: Darien Scheme  hist-@historicgames.com
 Mar 01, 2009 09:21 PST 

The Celtic History Newsletter

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The Darien scheme

The Darien Scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Scotland to
establish a colony on the Isthmus of Panama in the 1690s. William
Paterson was born in Tinwald in Dumfriesshire in 1658. He made his
first fortune through international trade, traveling extensively
throughout the America's and West Indies and helped to found the Bank
of England.

Returning Scotland, Paterson devised a scheme to create a new trade
link between east and west which could command the trade of the two
great oceans of the world, the Pacific and Atlantic. In 1693, Paterson
helped to set up the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the
Indies in Edinburgh to establish a trading colony on the Isthmus of
Darien (part of modern Panama). As the Panama Canal does today, it was
hoped that overland transport of goods between two ports on the east
and west coasts of the isthmus to avoid the long journey around either
the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. Unfortunately for the colonists,
Paterson had never actually set eyes on the land in question.

In 1698 five ships gathered in the Firth of Forth off of Scotland and
were loaded with tools, supplies, weapons and 1200 settlers. In
November of that year they reach Darien and founded their colony of
New Caledonia. The built Fort St. Andrew and began erecting huts that
were to be the beginning of New Edinburgh. Their crops of yams and
maize did poorly however and the local native had little interest in
trading for the trinkets the colonists offered. What was worse, since
they had settled in the middle of Spanish claimed lands, and King
William instructed the English colonies in America not to supply the
Scots' settlement to avoid the incurring the further wrath of the

In August of 1699 a second expedition with another 1,300 colonists set
sail. Little did they know that with the onset of the summer heat, and
inadequate provisions, deaths due to disease among the first batch of
settlers began to increase to the point that ten colonists per day
were dying. By July, after only eight months, the 300 remaining
colonists had abandoned their settlement. When the second group of
ships arrived in November they found the jungle had already started to
devour the site of New Edinburgh, but they decided to rebuild and some
200 refugees of the original settlement returned from English
settlements where they had found safe harbor.

By now, the Spanish were determined that they would prevent any other
British outposts might be built in territories they claimed, and in a
preemptive strike the Scots of New Caledonia successfully attacked a
nearby Spanish fort. But the success was short-lived, for after a
month-long blockade of Fort St. Andrew, they had been decimated by
disease, and the colony was abandoned for the last time in April 1700,
and only a few hundred of the 2,500 colonists survived.

The effect on the Scottish economy was catastrophic. It is said that
one quarter of Scotland's liquid assets had been invested and lost in
the scheme. Scholars have argued that the Darien Scheme so crippled
the country's economy that it contributed to the dissolution of the
Scottish Parliament and helped lead to the 1707 Act of Union with

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