When the lost capital of the Darien Company was
repaid to the proprietors out of the Equivalent Fund, there was,
unfortunately, none of the money for Paterson, as he was not a stockholder ;
and by an oversight in stating the Equivalent, his claims and demands on the
Company for services and personal losses were, in his absence, left out and
omitted. Thus, by a strange irony of fate, while he had been instrumental in
having the losses of others made good, his own claims had been overlooked.
True, one of the very last resolutions of the
Scottish Parliament was to recommend him to Queen Anne for his services in
connection with the Union arrangements, but no personal benefit accrued to
him from the recommendation.
In the "preamble" to the London subscription
book of the Company, dated 6th November 1695, there was an obligation by the
English subscribers to pay to Paterson a commission of 2 per cent (£12,000)
on the total subscription money of £600,000, and 3 per cent of the annual
profits for twenty - one years or an additional £12,000.
These payments were to be made in consideration
that "William Paterson, and others concerned with him, have been at pains
and expense in making several discoveries of trade and improvements in and
to both Indies, and likewise in procuring needful powers and privileges for
a Company of commerce from several foreign Princes and States, which he and
they have contrived, suited, and designed for this Company."
But on 29th November, after the London list was
closed, at a meeting of the English Directors in the city, at which three of
the Scotch Directors were present, Paterson of his own accord took the
opportunity of intimating that he freely and fully resigned all his claim,
although it was quite a legal one, to the commission promised in the
preamble of subscription, and would, in lieu thereof, trust to the honesty
of the Directors for his remuneration. In making this generous renunciation,
he explained that the 2 per cent and the 3 per cent were meant as returns
for the expense of " near £10,000 which he and others had been at, besides
his ten years' pains and travel, six whereof were wholly spent in promoting
the design of the Company." The minute goes on to say, "It was agreed,
nemine contradicente, that Mr Paterson have the thanks of this Court for his
generous declaration and surrender."
As already mentioned, owing to the hostility of
the English Government the London subscribers eventually cancelled their
subscriptions and withdrew from the Company. This action on their part
consequently left Paterson without any hope of compensation from that
In the following spring (1696) Paterson visited
Scotland for the purpose of assisting the Scottish Directors in the
flotation of the Company there, and by the 1st of August the whole capital
of £400,000 was subscribed.
On the 6th of October, after having had several
business meetings with Paterson in Edinburgh, the Court of Directors voted
him the sum of £7500, as an honorarium for the great expense he had been at
for several years in making valuable discoveries of trade, &c., and for
showing his affection for his native country and the Company by
England and his profitable business there, to
his own damage and loss. They further promised him a share of the profits of
the Company, " proportionate to the success thereof." But, alas ! these
resolutions, which required the approval of the Council - General of the
Company, were never confirmed, and Paterson never received payment from the
Company of any of the money thus voted to him.
The disasters at Darien left him bankrupt both
in purse and in health. In August 1700, in a letter to the Rev. William
Carstares, the Duke of Queensberry says: "Paterson knows nothing yet of my
having obtained anything for him; and I am a little embarrassed how to give
him what I am allowed for him, lest his party in that Company should
conceive any unjust jealousy of him, or he himself think that I intend as a
bribe that which is really an act of charity."
In the first Parliament of Great Britain (March
1708) the House of Commons passed a resolution in Paterson's favour in
regard to his Darien claims, and proposed "that such a recompense be given
to him as might be suitable to his services, expenses, losses, and public
cares." But notwithstanding this pronouncement, he did not obtain common
justice during Queen Anne's reign, and her Government virtually left him to
On 4th April 1709, when Paterson was in great
straits, he addressed a memorial to Queen Anne, which he forwarded through
Lord Treasurer Godolphin, accompanying it with the following letter:—
"My Lord,—The dependence I have had upon the
public for a settlement in its service, or for some way or other to have a
recompense for what I have done for near seven years of Her Majesty's reign,
besides former losses, hath at last so reduced me and my family, that
without a speedy provision and support from Her Majesty, I must unavoidably
"It was the daily hope of some suitable
provision from the Government which first enabled me to support myself, by
borrowing at an expense triple to what might have sufficed in a retired life
without public business or prospects.
"The expectation of my claim on the Equivalent
has kept me up for the last two years; but since that is still postponed,
and as it now stands, I can have no relief till next Session of Parliament,
and then instead of ready money I can expect only debentures on the growing
Equivalent; I am thereby reduced to extreme distress.
"The enclosed Petition to Her Majesty contains
the sum of my case, which necessity obliges me now to represent; and I most
humbly entreat your Lordship, of whose goodness I have had such particular
instances, to intercede with Her Majesty now, at last, to take some
immediate care of me, and so establish me for the future that I may be
preserved, and be made further useful during the rest of my life. Humbly
hoping for your Lordship's speedy and effectual care of me in this
distress.—I am, Your most faithful obedient Servant,
" William Paterson."
The memorial to the queen, which accompanied
this letter, narrated that it was he (Paterson) who first proposed and
formed the scheme for relieving the public credit by establishing the Bank
of England in 1694, for which he had no recompense; that the large share he
had afterwards in the proceedings, misfortunes, and losses of the Darien
Company, as well as his concern in the true interest of Great Britain,
induced him to propose a complete Union, by which these losses might be
repaired and future misunderstandings removed; that, in 1705, he formed a
scheme for the Union which was favourably entertained, and he spared nothing
to forward it, whereupon the Parliament of Scotland recommended him to the
queen; and that his long troubles rendered him unable to extricate himself
from difficulties without her Majesty's special care and protection. So he
prayed the royal countenance to his claims, and in the meantime for his
services he asked a provision for himself and his family so as to subsist,
and that he might devote the remainder of his life to the State.
In response to this painful appeal, Paterson
appears to have been allowed some small gratuities. His name stands in the
Queen's Bounty Lists of 1712 and 1713for two or three sums
of £50 to £100. During all this reign, year after year, he pressed his
claims for an indemnity upon Parliament, succeeding in the Commons, but as
often defeated in the House of Lords through the opposition of "a violent
party." Tradition affirms that at this time he supported himself by teaching
mathematics and navigation.
At length, in 1713, a numerous committee of the
House of Commons reported in favour of his claims, awarding him the
substantial sum of £18,241, 10s. 10fd., and a Bill was passed in the House
in his favour, which, however, was thrown out by the Lords.
But in 1715, in the first year of the reign of
George I., another Bill, intituled "An Act for relieving William Paterson,
Esquire, out of the Equivalent Money for what is due to him," was passed
into law without opposition, and the long-deferred indemnity was duly paid
to him, and his hard trials came to an end.
The indemnity was made up as follows :—
Amount due to Mr Paterson, as voted by the
Directors of the Darien
Company on 6th October 1690 . £7,500 0 0
Interest on that sum from 6th October
1696 to 25th March 1713 . . 6,175 15 0 Expenses
incurred by Mr Paterson from 6th October 1696 to 1st May 1707, the date of
the dissolution of the Company by the Union 5,250 0 0
£18,925 15 0
Less—Sums already paid to Mr Paterson, with
interest. . . 684 4 Leaving amount of indemnity payable
to Mr Paterson .... £18,241 10 lOj
It is somewhat strange that even in the present
day there appears to be doubt as to the ultimate treatment of Paterson by
the Government ; and, indeed, in some quarters the belief is still
entertained that he never received payment of the indemnity awarded to him.
In this connection there is included in the Appendix (D.) a detailed and
interesting official letter on the subject, addressed to 'The Scotsman' a
few years ago, by the late Mr James Simpson Fleming, F.R.S.E., Cashier
(General Manager) of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the banking corporation
which was the lineal successor to the "Equivalent Company." The letter is
conclusive, and removes all dubiety on the point.
One of the immediate effects of the
pecuniary-relief now afforded to Paterson was to stimulate him to further
labours on behalf of the State. In 1715 he circulated the draft of his plan
for the redemption of the National Debt among the members of both Houses of
Parliament. This, his last important financial treatise, he published in
1717, two years before his death, as a continuation and conclusion to his
previous work, 'The Wednesday's Club Dialogues' of 1706.
As already mentioned, he had to support himself
for some years by borrowing money at excessive rates of interest on the
strength of his claims on the Equivalent; but now he was happily enabled to
discharge his obligations. Not only so, but he was placed in a position to
gratify his benevolent inclinations. Mr Bannister states that, while his
name occurs in the books of the Royal Scottish Corporation in Crane Court
for small sums during the years of his distress, he appears in them, after
he had received his Darien indemnity, as one of the most liberal givers to
Paterson made his will on the 1st of July 1718,
in which he had the satisfaction of bequeathing a sum of about £7000 to his
relatives, and a special legacy of £1000 to his old friend and executor, Mr
Paul Daranda, merchant, London. As the
Parliamentary grant of 1715 was £18,000, this
points to the sum of £10,000 as having been absorbed in payment of his
debts. Mr Bannister states that Paterson died in January 1719, and that in
an obituary notice in the 'Register' of 1718-19 he is referred to as "the
COPY OF THE WILL OF WILLIAM PATERSON.
"I, William Paterson, of the city of
Westminster, Esquire, being in good health of body and mind, for which I
most humbly thank and praise Almighty God, the ever blessed Maker and
Preserver of all, do make this my last will and testament. After my debts
paid, I give to Elizabeth, my daughter-in-law, only child to my first wife,
Mrs Elizabeth Turner, relict to the late Mr Thomas Bridge, minister of the
gospel in Boston, in New England, fifteen hundred pounds. 2nd, I give to my
eldest daughter-in-law, Anne, by my second wife, Mrs Hannah Kemp, married to
Mr Samuel South, six hundred pounds. 3rd, I give to my second
daughter-in-law, Mary, married to Mr Mark Holman, six hundred pounds. 4th, I
give to my two other daughters-in-law, Hannah and Elizabeth Kemp, eight
hundred pounds each. 5th, I give to Jane Kemp, relict of the late Mr James
Kemp, my son-in-law, three hundred pounds. 6th, I give to William Mounsey,
eldest son of my late sister Janet, two hundred pounds. 7th, I give to the
two daughters of my said late sister Janet, Elizabeth and Janet, two hundred
pounds each. 8th, I give to John Mounsey, younger son of my said late sister
Janet, four hundred pounds. 9th, I give to my only sister Elizabeth, married
to John Paterson, younger of Kin-harvey, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright,
eight hundred pounds. 10th, I give the surplus of my estate, if, after
payment of my debts, any such shall be, to be equally divided among the said
persons, legatees, in proportion to every person's sum hereby bequeathed;
all which sums above given, amounting to six thousand and four hundred
pounds, I appoint to be paid by my executor here immediately afternamed. I
do hereby appoint my good friend, Mr Paul Daranda, of London, merchant, to
whom I and my family are under very great obligations, sole executor of this
my last will; and I do allow him, as my sole executor, one thousand pounds
for his care therein, over his expenses with relation hereto. Lastly, I
revoke all other wills by me heretofore made. In witness whereof, I have
hereto subscribed my name and put my seal, at Westminster, this first day of
July 1718, in the sixtieth year and third month of my age. William Paterson.
Witnesses— Ed. Bagshawe, Hen. Dollan, John Butler."
On the 3rd July 1718, the testator certified the
making of his will "at the Ship Tavern, without Temple Bar, about four in
the afternoon." The will was proved in Doctors' Commons on 22nd January
Paterson's career is dramatic enough to form a
story of thrilling interest.
In estimating his life-work, it is unfair to
give the Darien failure, which was no fault of his, too prominent a place,
to the exclusion of his many other eminent labours.
As we have seen, he originated the Bank of
England, and gave substantial help to the Government Commissioners in
Scotland when they were carrying on the Union negotiations. He had a
profound knowledge of finance, and for years, and until his death, was a
trusted counsellor of the Ministers of his day. He stood out as a vigorous
opponent of inconvertible paper currency, when that financial delusion was
popular under the lead of the notorious John Law; and this opposition
prevented its adoption so far as Scotland was concerned. His scheme for the
redemption of the National Debt, which formed the basis of " Walpole's
Sinking Fund" of 1717, was pronounced by 'The Economist' of 23rd October
1858 to be "faultless."
On many other questions he was far ahead of his
time, and quite abreast of public opinion of our own day. He was one of the
first to propose the formation of public libraries; and, in 1703, he offered
his own valuable collection of books and pamphlets on economic subjects, in
French, German, and Dutch, to form the nucleus
of a public library for the study of trade and finance.
He advocated free trade when others called for
protection and monopolies. In his day intolerance in religion was the rule,
but he was a lover of religious liberty in its widest sense, and this formed
part of the constitution of the Darien Colony. Writing to Lord Provost
Chiesly on 9th July 1695, some months before the Company was floated, he
says: " Above all, it is needful for us to make no distinction of parties in
this great and noble undertaking; but that of whatever nation or religion a
man be, he ought to be looked upon, if one of us, to be of the same interest
He also held enlightened views on outstanding
social questions : he advocated universal education, the useful employment
of offenders, and freedom from imprisonment for honest debtors.
In all his labours for the general weal, his
aims were entirely unselfish and pure. He wrote anonymously, deeming his
reward to be sufficient if his writings proved useful to his fellow-men.
There is thus singular fitness in the motto, Sic vos non vobis, " Thus you
(toil) not for yourselves," inscribed under the only portrait of him that we
He was a deeply religious man, and knew his
Bible "by heart," making apt quotations from it in most of his publications.
When the deaths occurred of Mr Thomas James and Mr Adam Scot, the two
Presbyterian ministers who accompanied the first expedition to Darien, he
personally took the earliest opportunity to have their places filled.
Writing from Darien on 18th February 1699 to a friend at Boston, New
England, he says : " We have been exceeding unhappy in losing two ministers,
who came with us from Scotland, and if New England could supply us in that,
it would be a great and lasting obligation." Further, it would appear in his
inception of the Darien scheme that, along with trade, he had conceived the
idea of propagating the Gospel among the pagan natives in the " regions
beyond." In the letter to Lord Provost Chiesly just quoted, he concludes
with these words : " So hoping that Almighty God, who at this time seems to
have fitted so many able instruments both of our nation and others, and
given us such an opportunity as others have not, will perfect the begun
work, and make some use of Scotland also to visit those dark places of the
earth whose transactions are full of cruelty."
But perhaps the crowning feature of Paterson's
character was the lofty spirit which animated his whole conduct. In his long
years of distress, and when his services were requited with obloquy and his
motives misconstrued, he could not be induced, even in controversy, to show
any vindictive feeling or give an angry retort, and thus his noble heart
never disgraced itself.
He was held in high esteem by those who knew him
best. Notwithstanding that the people of his native Dumfriesshire lost
heavily by the Darien scheme, and were bitterly opposed to the Union, he was
returned to the first united Parliament in 1707 along with William Johnston.
But, upon petition, the House decided that it was a double election, and he
was unseated. It may also be mentioned to his honour that, in 1710, Moll
dedicated his folio map of the West Indies to him, other maps of the same
series being inscribed to Prince George of Denmark, the Duke of Marlborough,
Lord Somers, and other great men.
In the light of this record of the life-work of
a Scotsman who flourished two centuries ago, is it too much to express the
hope that Paterson's memory will be kept fresh and green " as long as rivers
run, and gold is found in Darien " ?
IRON LID OF TREASURE-CHEST .OF^DARIEN COMPANY, with complicated lock of 15
spring-bolts, in the Scottish National Museum of Aniiquities.