Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

A History of William Paterson and the Darien Company
Chapter IX. William Paterson's indemnity and his last will

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 quarter.

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 relinquishing

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 starve.

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 perish.

"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 that charity.

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 great calculator."


"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 1719.

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 English,

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 and inclination."

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 possess.

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.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus