‘Benevolent’ English helped thwart the Darien scheme

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RE THE letter from A Sked (23 March). In reference to the Darien scheme, the failed attempt by Scottish traders to establish a trading colony called Caledonia on the Isthmus of Panama, the author comments that England “opted not to take part in the expedition” and “had come to the rescue”. In reality the English administration actively opposed Scottish attempts to establish Darien as a gateway between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

England was at war with France and hence King William did not want to offend Spain, which claimed the territory as part of New Granada. In addition, the English government was also under pressure from the English East India Company, which was keen to maintain their monopoly over English foreign trade. It therefore forced English and Dutch investors to withdraw.

After the establishment of the colony King William had instructed the Dutch and English colonies in America not to supply the Scots’ settlement so as not to incur the wrath of the Spanish Empire.

The author’s idea that the English somehow benevolently came to the rescue of Scotland with loans to cover the debt, followed by the 1707 Treaty of Union, is again rather fanciful. In fact, it was Article 15 of the Treaty itself which granted £398,085 10s sterling, the Equivalent, to Scotland to offset future liability towards the English national debt. The company which was established to administer the Equivalent, and was to become the Royal Bank of Scotland, followed the Treaty not preceded it, as the author claims.

Alex Orr, Edinburgh

WHILE the UK government came to the rescue of the Bank of Scotland and The Royal Bank of Scotland following the credit crunch period, Mr A Sked is wrong in his statement that the Bank formed to administer the loans was the “Royal Bank of Scotland”. If he had done his research properly, he would have discovered it was in fact the Bank of Scotland – the Royal Bank of Scotland was not founded, in any event, until 1729, many years after the Darien disaster.

W Rodger, Aberdeen

A SKED of Fife was wrong with his comments regarding the Darien scheme.

Initially the directors were Scottish and English in equal numbers, with the risk investment capital shared – half from the English and Dutch, and the other half from Scotland. However, under pressure from the East India Company, and at the last minute, the English and Dutch withdrew their support for the scheme. King William also barred the Scots from receiving any assistance from his colonies.

Hostile Spaniards continually attacked the colonists while the English Navy stood aside. The sacrifice of these men and women led to the 1707 Act of Union, which begs the question: was the withdrawal of Dutch and English money and support a coincidence or the work of a nation determined to subdue its neighbour?

Frederick Stewart, Portlethen