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A History of William Paterson and the Darien Company
Chapter VII. The expeditions to Darien: Second expedition


Unfortunate as had been the first attempt to colonise Darien, the second proved even more disastrous still.

Intelligence of the great calamity that had befallen the first expedition had not yet (August 1699) reached Scotland. The Directors and stockholders of the Company were still in the fond belief that all was going on well, and the public generally were on the qui vive for further good news from the Colony. Doggerel poets were singing the praises of the venture. A broadsheet, entitled "A Poem upon the Undertaking of the Royal Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies," was sold by James Wardlaw, at his shop in the Parliament Close, Edinburgh. One stanza thus eulogised Paterson :

"Admire the steady soul o| Paterson
It is no common genius can persuade
A Nation bred in War, to think of Trade."

While another verse referred to the institution of the "open door "—

"This Company designs a Colony
To which all mankind freely may resort,
And find quick justice in an Open Port."

A patriotic "Lady of Honour," whose name is not given, also composed a song specially in connection with the departure of the second expedition. It was entitled " The Golden Island, or the Darien Song, in commendation of all concerned in that noble Enterprise of the Valiant Scots." This ditty was sold at John Reid's printing-house in Bell's Wynd, Edinburgh. In addition to a florid description of the springs, rivulets, flowers, and singing-birds of Darien, the honourable lady gave a generous forecast of the dividends that might be looked for by the stockholders on their investment—

"All men that has put in some Stock To us where we are gone, They may expect our Saviour's words, A hundred reap for one ; For to encourage every one That ventures on the Main."

Meanwhile the Company were not idle in Edinburgh. Acting on the recommendation contained in the Council's letter of 28th December 1698, the Directors resolved to despatch the second expedition from the Clyde, in place of from Leith Roads, so as to avoid " the danger, as well as the tediousness, of the passage North-About."

Accordingly, a fleet of four ships of force was fitted out, consisting of—

The Rising Sun (Commodore) . Captain James Gibson, commander (60 guns).
The Hope . . . Captain James Miller, commander.
The Duke of Hamilton . Captain Walter Duncan, do.
The Hope of Bo'ness . Captain Richard Dalling, do.

The first two ships were owned by the Company, the other two being chartered; and they carried about 1300 men, together with a large supply of arms, ammunition, provisions, liquors, and other necessaries. Four councillors were appointed to the expedition—viz., James Byres, Captain James Gibson, Captain William Veitch, and Major John Lindsay, whose powers were to cease on reaching Caledonia and so coming within the jurisdiction of the old Council.

Although ready to sail on the 18th of August 1699, the ships were detained in the Clyde by contrary winds for over a month, this unfortunate delay entailing a corresponding encroachment on their stock of provisions. On the eve of sailing, some flying rumours of the abandonment of the settlement reached Edinburgh. On the 22nd of September, immediately on hearing these reports, the Directors despatched an express to the fleet with instructions to further delay their departure, even "though the wind should prove fair," until the arrival of Mr Daniel Mackay, one of the councillors attached to the first expedition, who was at this time visiting Scotland on the Company's business, and with whom they proposed to send fresh instructions based on his recent experiences in Darien. But the council on board the Rising Sun, being suspicious that this message meant their recall, instantly resolved to depart. The express reached them at 10 o'clock on Saturday night, and they set sail at 9 o'clock next morning without hoisting their "Blue Peter," or waiting for some provisions which they had ordered, or for the men whom they had sent to bring the provisions off. The Rev. Francis Borland, one of the ministers on board the fleet, in his Diary, says: "September 24th, 1699, the Lord's Day, we set sail, being four ships in company, from Rothesay, in the Isle of Bute, and steered along through St George's Channel." Three months afterwards, the council sent home the lame excuse for their sudden departure that the countermanding orders proceeded from three Directors only, whereas their original sailing orders were given by the whole Court.

The ships had a favourable passage as regards wind and weather, but much sickness prevailed among the men, about 160 dying on the voyage. On 9th November the fleet stood before the island of Montserrat, where Councillor Byres landed in quest of water, some fresh provisions, and the latest news; but the governor of the island refused to give any supplies, stating that he was acting in conformity with orders which he had received from the Court of England. While in the island, Byres heard rumours about the desertion of the Colony, and when writing to the Directors next day regarding these rumours, he said: "We shall see ere we believe, and either knit on the old thrum or begin a new web; and I'm persuaded all on board will do their utmost endeavour to maintain the honour of the Nation and interest of the Company." These expressions of loyal service gave great satisfaction to the Directors at home. On 30th November the four ships arrived safely in Caledonia harbour, and the sinister rumours in circulation at Montserrat were unfortunately confirmed. The settlement was found to be deserted, the huts burned, the fort demolished, and the ground that had been cleared all overgrown with shrubs and weeds. A general outcry was now made in the ships to be taken back to Scotland without landing. Two small sloops with provisions were lying in the harbour at the time of their arrival. The one was under Captain Thomas Drummond, one of the councillors of the first Colony, who had come from New York, in company with some survivors of the first expedition, with a supply of provisions and working implements to assist in resettling the place. His sloop had been lying in the harbour for eight days. The other was under Mr Fulton from New England. From these gentlemen the newcomers learned what had become of the first Colony, whither they had gone, and how they had fared in Darien.

Shortly after arrival a meeting of councillors and land and sea officers was held to determine whether or not they should settle in the place. When they came to a vote, it was carried in the affirmative. Councillors Byres and Lindsay were averse to settling, and discouraged it from the first; Gibson was indifferent; Yeitch alone resolutely advocating that a landing be made, in which he was strongly backed by Captain Drummond. When Captain Drummond went on board theRising Sun on its arrival in the harbour, he found Byres "in a strange consternation by reason of the former Colony's being gone," and maintaining that "they were not come to settle a Colony, but to have reinforced one." Byres used all his efforts to hinder a successful settlement. At the same time, this masterful man took upon himself the command of the Colony, and swayed the majority of the Council, from whose deliberations Captain Drummond was excluded by a mere quibble. Although the fleet had provisions for six months, Byres gave it out that they had a supply for six weeks only. Further, at his instigation the Council resolved that all the men beyond 500 should be sent to Jamaica, to be "disposed of" there. This announcement caused much alarm and grumbling among the settlers. They were not informed who were to be sent away, and it was bruited among them that they were to be sold as slaves to the planters in Jamaica. This had the effect of paralysing their efforts, " every one saying, what reason had they to work or build huts for others, they not knowing whether they were to stay or go." In fact, Byres so managed it that little real work was clone until the Spaniards appeared at sea. Nine of the settlers ran away with an eight-oared boat belonging to the Rising Sun. "Nine Villains," as Byres and his fellow-councillors called them; "none of them are yet returned, albeit it be 14 days since they deserted." A plot was also discovered to make prisoners of the councillors and seize the two largest ships. This led to a council of war being held on board theRising Sun, which resulted in one of the settlers, Alexander Campbell, being sentenced to death, the execution being carried out on 20th December within Fort St Andrew.

Information reached the settlement at this time that the Spaniards were busy preparing to attack the Colony. At this juncture Captain Drummond gave in a written proposal to the Council offering to relieve them of 150 men, with whom he would attack Portobello, and thus forestall the Spanish movement. His letter is as follows:—

"Aboard the Anna of Caledonia, 15th December 1699.

"To the Right Honourable the Council op Caledonia.

"Whereas I am sensible that one half of the men that is come from Scotland is to be sent to Jamaica, I therefore desire that you would allow one hundred and fifty that would be willing to take their fate with me, you allowing them three weeks' provision, which was condescended on to carry them off; likewise allowing arms and ammunition; and they shall not be burdensome to the Colony, till it is in a condition to maintain them. The reason of my pressing this now is, that I'm invited by several captains of the Indians that will raise their men, and undertake that which may be advantageous not only to the party, but for the relief of what prisoners the Spaniards have of ours; and if you will grant my desire, you would condescend on it speedily, and give orders for the reviewing of what was brought in the sloop ; and in so doing you will oblige. —E.H., Your most humble servant,

"Thomas Drummond."

Drummond's proposal was rejected by Byres and the other councillors as chimerical. In the 'Darien Papers,' p. 233, it is stated "that Mr Byres particularly said, ' They were not come to take towns,'" and " that at last it became a byword, that whoever seemed to be against Mr Byres' measures, was by him said to be one of those who were for the taking of towns." Byres, who was jealous of Drummond, ill-used the sailors of his sloop, so that they were obliged to shift among the natives, with whom they continued until they were brought off by an English ship sometime after the fort had been surrendered to the Spaniards. He even went the length of placing Drummond under arrest, and keeping him close prisoner for six weeks on board the Duke of Hamilton. This was until the arrival of Captain Campbell of Finab, Drummond's comrade and fellow-officer in the Earl of Argyle's regiment in Flanders, who demanded his release.

Notwithstanding that Byres discouraged the planting, the Council, in their letter of 3rd February 1700, reported that they had erected a number of huts and two storehouses, and hoped in a few days to have the fort tolerably repaired. At this time intelligence was brought to Byres that the Spaniards were marching on the settlement; but he professed to scout the idea, and boasted that he would undertake to fight all the Spaniards who might come forward.

The Council's dispatches to headquarters were also most discouraging, complaining of spoiled provisions, bad beef and flour, and that their cargo did not contain 50 of vendible goods. They also wrote, "We cannot conceive for what end so much thin gray paper and so many little blue bonnets were sent here, being entirely useless, and not worth their room in a ship."

In a second report submitted by Paterson to the Directors after his return to Scotland, wherein he gives a full description of the soil and climate of Darien, he specially refers to the abundance of gold, and gives specific details of the various gold mines in the Isthmus. But on this subject Byres and his fellow-councillors write on 23rd December 1699: "That which was called Gold dust is indeed very thick here, particularly at our watering place, in and about the water, but it proves really nothing at all but slimy stuff, verifying the proverb, ' 'Tis not all Gold that glisters.'" The value of this report may be judged from a written statement by Captain Drummond to the Directors, in which he affirms that during the whole time that Byres was located at Caledonia " he had not been a pistol-shot from the shoreside, so that he could not be capable to give any account of the situation and soil of the place."

Alarming reports were now being brought in daily by the friendly Indians from all quarters that the Spaniards were coming across the hills with a large force, and that several Spanish warships were on the way from Portobello to attack the settlement. Byres reiterated his disbelief in these reports, but nevertheless, on February 7th, he found it convenient to get out of the way by taking passage to Jamaica, ostensibly for the purpose of arranging for supplies and for the reception of the men in excess of 500 who were to be transported from the settlement against their wishes; and although he made a feint of returning to Darien, he never did so.

The Rev. Alexander Shields, one of the Presbyterian ministers attached to the Colony, writing at this time (21st February), says :—

"Our sickness did so increase (above 220 at the same time in fevers and fluxes), and our pitiful rotten provisions were found to be so far exhausted, that we were upon the very point of leaving and losing this Colony. Orders were actually given to provide wood and water with all expedition to carry us all off, which drove me almost to the brink of despair, and to thinking of a resolution to stay behind with anybody that would venture, among the Indians. But in our greatest darkness, light appeared."

The temporary gleam of sunshine referred to by Mr Shields had reference to the unexpected arrival, on the 11th of February, of Captain Alexander Campbell of Finab in a sloop from Barbadoes. This brave and tried soldier had been appointed by the Directors as a councillor and commander of the Colony, and he brought fresh dispatches and a much wanted supply of provisions. His coming was timeous and welcome to the colonists in their great straits, and his presence raised their drooping spirits. By his advice they recalled the body of settlers who had embarked for Jamaica, and whose ships were still lying in the harbour, their repeated attempts to get out of the Bay having been frustrated by contrary winds.

On the 13th of February, two days after Captain Campbell's arrival, the Indians brought intelligence that a party of Spaniards were encamped within three days' journey of the settlement. On learning this, Captain Campbell advised an immediate attack on the enemy in their camp, and he cheerfully offered himself as leader. His advice was taken, and a party of 200 men allowed him. He was supported by Lieutenant Robert Turnbull, who led the van with over 40 Indians and 3 of their captains or chiefs. Turnbull was a loyal officer of the Company, who had been one of the first Colony, and understood something of the Indian language. After a toilsome march for three days, through woods and over high hills, they came upon the Spanish camp, entrenched behind a strong barricade, at a place called Toubocanti. Several rounds having been fired by the colonists, Campbell gave the order to attack, and with a huzza led the way, sword in hand. His hatchet-men swiftly cut down the palisade and in the strenuous assault which followed, the Indian levies specially signalised themselves. The Spaniards fled in confusion, leaving their dead and wounded; but night intervening, the pursuit was not continued any distance. The colonists had nine men killed and about fourteen wounded: among the latter were Captain Campbell and Lieutenant Turnbull, who were both wounded in the shoulder, and Pedro, one of the Indian captains — the last - mentioned severely. Included in the booty which they brought away was the equipage and coat of the Spanish commander, Don Michael de Cordonnez, which bore in embroidery a Golden Fleece, being his badge of honour as a Knight of the Order of St James.1In other three days they recrossed the mountains, and brought to their comrades the news of their success; but brilliant as had been their triumph, it was short-lived. At this time several ships had been descried off the coast, and the Council sent out two sloops and the longboat of the Rising Sun to reconnoitre and ascertain what vessels they were. Theyproved to be Spanish warships, who, on sighting them, immediately gave chase; but the sloops being good sailers, and having a favouring breeze, got safely back to the harbour. The longboat fell astern, and was forced to run ashore into Carret Bay, where it was ultimately lost. On the 23rd February, a few days afterCampbell's victorious return, eight Spanish warships, and on the 25th three more, came to anchor within Golden Island, over against the mouth of the harbour, so as to blockade it. All hands, seamen and landsmen, were now put to work to repair and strengthen the batteries of the fort, as far as they were able. TheSpanish ships, which were under the command of Don Juan Pimienta, Governor of Carthagena, did not venture into the harbour, but men were landed from them to the eastward of the settlement, out of reach of the guns of the fort. These were shortly afterwards reinforced by other troops that came overland fromPanama and Sancta Maria, accompanied by numbers of Indians, Negroes, and Mulattoes.

Pimienta, who also came on shore, gradually drew his men towards the neck of land leading to the Peninsula of New Edinburgh, on which Fort St Andrew had been built. To add to the calamities of the besieged at this time, by the accidental explosion of some gunpowder a fire broke out among their huts, burning several rows of them to the ground. This involved great loss of personal effects to many of the men, while numbers of the sick people had to be hastily rescued from the huts to save them from the flames.

On 17th March, after frequent skirmishes— several being killed and wounded on both sides —the colonists were compelled to retire upon their fort, thus leaving the neck of land free and open for the Spaniards to pass over.

On 18th March, so desperate was the position of the colonists, that at a meeting of the Council, land and sea officers, held in the fort, it was unanimously resolved to empower Captain Veitch, accompanied by Mr Main, the interpreter, and a drummer, to proceed to the Spanish camp to treat with the general about articles of capitulation. But the Spanish terms were so hard—being nothing less than a complete surrender of all the Colony's ships, ammunition, and goods—that the treaty broke up without effect. On the 24th the Spaniards were within a mile of the fort, ancl creeping still nearer, they mounted a battery against it at a spot where the fort was weakest. At the same time they maintained direct communication with their fleet by boats from the shore. The enemy now got so near the fort as to cut off the water-supply, a rivulet half a mile distant, necessitating the colonists to use the water within the fort, which was a brackish puddle and most pernicious to health. The provisions also were now not only scarce, but bad and unwholesome,—"the bread was mouldy and corrupt with worms, and the flesh most unsavoury and ill-seented." Even the surgeons' drugs were about exhausted, and the fort was like a hospital of sick and dying men. Mr Borland says :—

"At this time when we were so hemned in by the Spaniards both by sea and land, we were also plagued with a sore, contagious, raging and wasting sickness, which was now become epidemical; and those of us who were not affixed to our beds, were become exceeding weak and feeble, so that at this juncture they could hardly make out 300 able men fit for service. This did exceedingly dispirit and discourage our men, the surviving daily beholding what numbers were swept away by violent and sudden deaths. Sometimes we would bury 16 men in a day; and men walking up and down in tolerable case to-day, would sometimes be surprised with the stroke of death to-morrow, hence there was a general consternation of spirit among us."

On and 29th March the Spaniards took possession of a wood within musket-shot, and fired on the fort on both of those days from under cover of the trees.

On the 30th of March, to the surprise of the colonists, the Spanish general made an overture to treat with them, and on the 31st the leading colonists came to an agreement with him to deliver up the fort on being allowed to embark on their ships "with colours flying and drums beating, together with their arms and ammunition, and with all their goods." The garrison were loud in their demands for a capitulation, and all the councillors and officers agreed to [it except Captain Campbell of Finab, who strongly dissented, being against any treating with the Spaniards otherwise than by the sword.1 The articles were signed on behalf of the Spaniards by Don Pimienta, and on behalf of the Colony by the two remaining councillors, Captain Gibson and Captain Veitch—Byres having left the Colony for Jamaica on 7th February, and Major Lindsay having died a few days prior to the capitulation. The three ministers in the Colony were specially solicitous that the Spaniards should not ill-treat the friendly Indians after the withdrawal of the colonists, and provision for this was attempted to be made in article vii. of the capitulation, which read: "That the Indians who have been friendly to us and conversed with us, since we came hither, shall not be molested on that account." But the Spanish general refused to accede to this. He stated that the Indians were the subjects of the King of Spain, and he knew best how to treat his subjects, but if the Indians kept out of his way he would not search after them. Mr Shields presented a petition and made a personal appeal on their behalf, which much provoked Don Pimienta, who sharply said, " Cura tua negotici" (Attend to your own business); to which Shields replied, "Curabo " (I will attend to it).

On the evening of Thursday, the 11th of April 1700, the surviving colonists weighed anchor and abandoned their unhappy settlement after a stay of four months and eleven days. Theirs had been a frowning Providence, and they gladly left the scene of their sorrows, little anticipating that even a worse fate, if that were possible, awaited very many of them.

The ships had some difficulty in getting out of the harbour, the Rising Sun especially. There was little wind, and the men — both landsmen and seamen—were feeble in health; but by towing and warping, with the help of the Spaniards, the ships were got safely to Golden Island, where they anchored next day in view of the Spanish fleet.

The voyage to Jamaica was but a repetition of all the horrors of the " middle passage" which a few months previously had attended the ships of the first expedition. Mr Borland states that the men were crowded together, particularly those on board the Rising Sun, "like so many hogs in a sty or sheep in a fold, so that their breath and noisome smell infected and poisoned one another," and that their food consisted of "a little spoiled oatmeal and water." Sometimes there were buried at sea, from on board the Rising Sun, eight or nine in a morning. Similar mortality took place on board the other ships. With the second expedition there sailed about ..... 1300 men Of whom there died on the voyage to Darien . . . 160 Ran away with the boat of the Rising Sun ... 9 Killed in Campbell of Finab's engagement ... 9 Died in Darien, about . . 300 Died in the " middle passage " . 250 Died in Jamaica . . . 100 Drowned in the wreck of the Rising Sun - 940

The remainder (say) . . 360 men were mostly dispersed in Jamaica and the other English settlements in America, and very few returned to Scotland.

Of the four ships forming the second fleet, none returned to Scotland. The Rising Sun, Captain James Gibson, was dashed to pieces in a hurricane off the harbour bar at Charleston, Carolina, and all on board—112 souls—perished. The same hurricane destroyed the Duke of Hamilton, but those on board were saved. The Hope was cast away on the rocks of Colorados, Cuba, also without loss of life. The fourth ship, the Hope of Bo'ness, while on the way to Jamaica, became so leaky that Captain Dalling had to run her into Carthagena, the nearest port, where he sold her to the Spaniards for a nominal sum.

Thus terminated the unfortunate attempt to colonise Darien, costing Scotland nearly 2000 lives and over 200,000 sterling in hard cash without any tangible return.

On his return to Scotland after the first abandonment of the Colony, Paterson could look back with a clear conscience on the singleness of aim and purity of motive which governed his conduct in connection with the ill-fated Darien scheme. Its failure implied no slur on his character. In a letter, dated Edinburgh, 6th February 1700, addressed to his tried friend Captain Thomas Drummond, at Darien, he says :—

"In all my troubles it is 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 suffered 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 freedom of spirit I do now; and I must needs say that my concern of spirit is such, that I could not only join with those who have done me prejudices, although it had been willingly, but even with the greatest enemies I am capable of having, to save my country and secure the Company."

When he penned these lines, Paterson still indulged the hope of returning to the Colony, but this intention was frustrated by the second abandonment in April 1700.

Notwithstanding the final collapse of the scheme, Paterson did not give up his advocacy of the great commercial advantages which he


FACSIMILE OF THE SIGNATURE AND POSTSCRIPT TO A LETTER in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh.

believed would accrue from the establishment of a settlement in the Isthmus of Darien. He accordingly planned his scheme anew, but on broader lines, in which England was to have a preponderating interest. This amended scheme, which he personally submitted to King William, was received with much favour by his Majesty; but that Prince's unexpected death in 1702 put a stop to further proceedings in the affair.


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