The Darien Scheme
Scotland's attempt at becoming a colony

By James “Ski” Schiaffino Post 1814

    While Scots have a reputation for being excellent engineers, thrifty businessmen and brave warriors, they come up short, however, as colonizers; The Darien Scheme is a perfect example of this. It was the last calamitous attempt by Scotland to establish a trading colony in The New World. Scotland had already attempted establishing colonies in North America with varying degrees of success, mostly a lack thereof. Starting with Nova Scotia in 1621, East New Jersey 1863 and 1684 Stuarts Town North Carolina.

Nova Scotia
    From 1629-1632, James VI of Scotland issued a land grant to Sir William Alexander for Nova Scotia. Between 1622 and 1628, Sir William launched four attempts to send colonists to Nova Scotia. They all failed for various reasons. In 1629 it was ceded to the French after the Anglo-French war through the Treaty of Suz.

New Jersey
    In 1683, King Charles II granted a charter for the colony of New Jersey to 24 proprietors, 12 of whom were Scots. Scots immediately began arriving in East Jersey in late 1683 at what today is Perth Amboy. They rapidly spread south into present day Monmouth County. The remaining proprietors established West New Jersey in 1664. In 1702 East Jersey and West Jersey were merged to become a single Royal Colony under English control.

Stuarts Town
    In 1680, Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree and Sir George Campbell of Cessnock negotiated with the Royal Colony of Georgia to purchase two southern counties for Scottish settlement. These were intended, to provide a haven for Covenanters, and as a buffer against Spanish encroachment.

    In 1684, 148 Scots settlers arrived to build a settlement at Port Royal, the site of former French and Spanish settlements. This was renamed by the Scots as Stuarts Town. The Scots quickly became embattled not only with the Spanish but the English and local Indian tribes. In 1686, the Spanish sent three ships with 150 Spanish troops and Indian allies to attack Stuarts Town. Due to a recent sickness, the Scots had only 25 effective fighting men able to mount a defense and the town was wiped out.

New Caledonia

    Still intent on becoming a world trading nation the Kingdom decided to look farther south. In the late 1690’s the Kingdom of Scotland once again attempted to establish a colony. This time they called it “Caledonia” and settled on the Isthmus of Panama at the Gulf of Darién. They set about raising an expedition.

    In 1695, an act was passed in the Scottish Parliament establishing The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies and was given royal assent by the Scottish representative of King William II of Scotland (and III of England) authorizing it to arm and equip ships and to establish colonies in uninhabited or unclaimed areas of America, Asia or Africa. The CSTAI was to be a trading colony to establish trade with passing ships in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This was viewed by other trading companies especially in Amsterdam, Hamburg and England as unwanted competition. This opposition was the primary reason that The Scottish Company had to rely solely on Scottish money to finance the expeditions. Still, the company raised £400,000 which was about one-quarter to one-third of the liquid wealth of Scotland.

    From the start, the expedition was plagued by poor planning. Scotland had just been through a difficult time with the civil wars and was now dealing with a famine. So, the potential colonists found it difficult to acquire sufficient provisions. Also, they planners were not familiar with the area and their plans did not include basic necessities needed for tropical living. They also failed to secure the essential items necessary for trade with passing ships. Much of their merchandise consisted of wigs, shoes, bibles, woolen clothing and clay pipes instead of the basic fundamentals long distance trading ships would need such as fresh supplies of food and water, tar (for patching hulls) and other naval stores.

    In 1698, 2,500 Scottish settlers, in two expeditions, set out to establish a Scottish trading colony at Darién on the isthmus of Panama. It was located on what today is called Puerto Escoces. The first expedition consisted of 1,200 colonists on five ships (Saint Andrew, Caledonia, Unicorn, Dolphin and Endeavour). The 1,200 were made up of ex-soldiers, ministers of religion, merchants, sailors and the younger sons of the gentry. They were promised 50 to 150 acres of land each. The expedition set out from Leith, Scotland in July. It landed October 30,1698 in Anachucuna, a sandy bay in the north of Darien near Golden Island. It forged a “treaty of alliance and friendship” with an Indian lead





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Last Modified: 03/28/2020 – 1802 hours PST");