Company of Scotland
The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, also called the Scottish Darien Company, was an overseas trading company created by an act of the Parliament of Scotland in 1695. The Act granted the Company a monopoly of Scottish trade to India, Africa and the Americas, similar to English charter companies' monopolies, and also extraordinary sovereign rights and temporary exemptions from taxation.
Financial and political troubles plagued its early years. The governors were divided between those residing and meeting in Edinburgh and those in London, amongst whom were both Scots and Englishmen. They were also divided by business intentions; some intended to trade in India and on the African coast, as an effective competitor to the English East India Company, while others were drawn to William Paterson's Darien scheme, which ultimately prevailed.
In July 1698 the company launched its first expedition, led by Paterson, who hoped to establish a colony in Darien (on the Isthmus of Panama), which could then be used as a trading point between Europe and the Far East.
Though five ships and 1,200 Scottish colonists landed successfully in Darien, the settlement was poorly provisioned and eventually abandoned. A second, larger expedition (launched before the fate of the first was known) took up the deserted settlement, but was quickly besieged by the Spanish. More than a thousand succumbed to hunger and disease, and in April 1700, two ships carried the few survivors home.
Consequences of failure
All told, the venture, dubbed the Darien Scheme, drained Scotland of an estimated quarter of its liquid assets and played a key role in encouraging the country to the 1707 Act of Union which united the Kingdoms of Scotland and England. The new joint government, in a political bargain, agreed to cover the costs of winding up the Company of Scotland, in addition to compensate for servicing the English national debt and higher taxes for Scotland.
- Refer: Papers Relating to the Ships and Voyages of the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, 1696-1707 edited by George Pratt Insh, M.A., Scottish History Society, Edinburgh University Press, 1924.
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