Page images






free. The rèason which the Commons expressed, as to the necessity of the paternal 62 mpulsion of the king to make Ireland understand her true interest, was, that the Irish were dependent on, and protected by England, in the enjoyment of all they have.”

The king of England was also king of Scotland. But he was king of the Scots, with a distinct Parliament, with a distinct Church, with a people not only indignant at the notion of submission to England, but thoroughly convinced that the day was not yet gone by for a contest for dominion, if the opportunity should arise. Fletcher of Saltoun, who held the necessity of subjecting the indigent and lawless population of Scotland to a condition of feudal slavery, yet believed that England had reached the culminating point of her prosperity; that there was a hardy race in Scotland whose energy would soon outstrip the luxurious nation that had become corrupted by riches. A federal union, between the degenerate race that had nearly run its course, and the vigorous breed that were pressing forward to a nobler goal, was all that the patriotic Scot could consent to perfect equality in their several nationalities, but no joint interests. Such were the doctrines that the pride of Scotland eagerly listened to, and which led her to dream of coming struggles with the haughty English for the commerce of the seas and the wealth of colonization. Yet Fletcher had been perfectly right, if he could have gone a step farther, and could bave contemplated the period when the “perfervidum ingenium Scotorum” should have entered with England into a career of sympathy instead of antipathy. When, having ceased to manifest her peculiar social tendencies by hanging a boy for blasphemy, as she hanged the victim of religious intolerance, Thomas Aikenhead, in 1696,-and by putting twenty-two witches upon trial for their lives, as the Scotch Privy Council commanded, at the same period—she had carried forward the enlightenment of her system of parochial school education into the development of her people, to form the most intelligent, the most industrious, and the most accumulating members of a British community. We had each a great deal to learn, and a great deal to endure, before that consummation of the united destinies of two countries, so formed for successful amalgamation out of their very differences, could be accomplished. There is nothing more instructive in the history of the human race than the complete union of England and Scotland into one Great Britain. The most remarkable occurrence of the period before the legislative union of the two countries is that conflict for separate interests, which saw the king of England, certainly wishing well to the prosperity of both the kingdoins that he had been called upon to govern, hesitating between the jealousies of the one kingdom and the rash assertion of an impossible independence in the other—which saw William embarrassed, even to the point of resigning his great scheme of policy to neutralize the dangerous ambition of France, by a national enthusiasm which utterly set at nought the dangers and difficulties which it involved for him as the sovereign of two disunited realms. Those who have regarded William as the callous enemy, or the cold friend, of Scotland, in the transactions which we associate with the name of Darien, have scarcely made allowance for the peculiar position of the head of this very divided empire. Those who lived in the time of the events which saw Scotland impoverished and humiliated by the resuits of an enterprise which was rashly undertaken, ignorantly conducted, and ending fatally, were led to the verge of a civil war, by obstinately looking only at one side of a very complicated question.

About six or eight years before the close of the seventeenth century a spirit of commercial activity seems to have sprung up in Scotland, and to have taken a direction somewhat remarkable in a country possessing very little superfluous capital. Yet this direction may be satisfactorily explained. The natural commerce of Scotland was labouring under great disadvantages. The ancient intercourse with France was cut off by the war with Louis XIV. The exchange of commodities with England was interrupted by prohibitions and heavy duties. The trade with the English colonies was absolutely forbidden. The most serious impediment to the commercial progress of Scotland was the Navigation Act of Charles 11.-distinctly opposed to the policy of Cromwell, by whose ordinance all goods passing from England to Scotland, from Scotland to England, or from Scotland to any of the English foreign dominions, were to be treated exactly the same as goods passing from port to port in England. The two countries were then regarded essentially as one kingdom in those matters of trade in which the prosperity of each country was involved. Scotland, in the time of William 111., could not advantageously trade with the East Indies, in consequence of the monopoly of the East India Company. Nevertheless, it was not legally cut off from that trade, as were English adventurers. It could not trade with the American Plantations, in consequence of the Navigation Act. It is not surprising, therefore, that a kingdom which was beginning to feel the benefits of peaceful industry-a kingdom containing a most energetic and industrious population-should desire to seek new fields of enterprise, under the jealousies which prevented



their fully participating in the commerce of its richer neighbour. This national desire was manifested in the Act of the Parliament of Scotland in 1693 “for encouraging foreign trade.” It declares that nothing has been found more effectual for the improvement and enlargement of trade “ than the erecting and encouraging of companies, whereby the same may be carried on by undertakings to the remotest parts, which it is not possible for single persons to undergo.” It accordingly provides that merchants may enter into societies for carrying on trade to any kingdoms or parts of the world, not being at war with our sovereign Lord and Lady. The East Indies were not excepted.* The general powers of this Statute seem to have excited little alarm amongst the jealous merchants and party legislators of England. They probably knew nothing of this attempt to legislate for rival interests. English statesmen were too much accustomed to look with contempt upon the poverty of Scotland to entertain much dread of her commercial competition. It is recorded that Sir Edward Seymour, in a debate in Parliament which touched upon a union with Scotland, applied a coarse proverbial saying about marrying a beggar.f

But at the end of 1695, the favour with which a Scottish commercial project had been received in England stirred up all the national jealousy of the House of Commons. A Scot, who was well known as the originator of the scheme of the Bank of England, had been in London, and under the authority of a Scottish Act of Parliament, passed in the previous June, had in a few day's outained subscriptions to the amount of three hundred thousand pounds, for constituting a Company “ for trading from Scotland to Africa and the Indies.” This success was secured by the energy of William Paterson, when the English government was in great financial difficulties. The supporters in London of the project for a Scottish trading company were apprehensive of a parliamentary opposition to the scheme. “ They think," wrote Paterson, on the gth of July, to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, " that we ought to keep private and close for some months, that no occasion may be given for the Parliament of England, directly or indirectly, to take notice of it in the ensuing Session, which might be of ill consequences, especially when a great many considerable persons are already alarmed at it.” I

A new Parliament met in November, and in December the Lords and Commons went up with an Address to the king, to rep

" Acts of Parliament of Scotland," 1693, vol. ix. p. 314. + See Burton's "History of Scotland," vol. i. p. 264.

Bannister's “ Life of Paterson,” p. 133.

resent that an Act which had lately received his royal assent in his kingdom of Scotland, "for erecting a Company trading to Africa and the Indies, was likely to bring many great prejudices and mischiefs to all his majesty's subjects who were concerned in the wealth or trade of this nation.” The answer of William was perhaps the only one that he could have given with any regard to prudence : “ He had been ill-served in Scotland, but he hoped some remedies might be found to prevent the inconveniences which might arise from this Act." * “ He had been ill-served in Scotland.” Dalrymple, the Master of Stair, had been his principal servant; and for his share in the affair of Glencoe the Scottish Parliament had requested the king to signify his disapprobation at this very period. He had promoted the scheme of the Company trading to Africa and the Indies. When sir Walter Scott affirms that Dalrymple was deprived of his office of Secretary of State to William, not for his share “ in the bloody deed of Glencoe," but for “attempting to serve his country in the most innocent and laudable manner, by extending her trade and national importance,” † he uses the privileges of the novelist. William had been “ill-served” in both these matters. The House of Commons went farther than the king They resolved that the directors of the Scottish Company, naming the lord Belhaven, William Paterson, and others, were guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour, upon the ground that under colour of a Scotch Act of Parliament these directors had levied money, and had done other corporate acts in England, which could not be legally done without the sanction of the English Parliament.

With every symptom of a national jealousy unworthy of a people that was becoming commercially great, it could scarcely be expected that in England the very sweeping powers of the “Company trading to Africa and the Indies " should not have excited considerable alarm. The ships of the favoured Company were to be free from all dues; the Company were to be privileged to fit out vessels of war; they were authorized to make settlements and build forts in any uninhabited places in Asia, Africa, or America; they might make alliances with sovereign powers ; all other Scotsmen were prohibited from trading within their range, without licence from them. But the English jealousy of commercial rivalry once roused, there could be no compromise which would make the speculation safe for the London capitalists. They forfeited their first instalments upon their shares. The angry mood of the English legislature had also roused the public spirit of Scotland; and

Parliamentary History, vol. v. col. 975. † “ Tales of a Grandfather."




by a general consent it was resolved that a great opportunity of asserting the national independence should not be lost. In six nionths from the opening of the subscription books, the sum of four hundred thousand pounds was subscribed. This subscription was not accomplished by a few large capitalists, such as those who had come forward in London. “ The subscription book is an interesting analysis, as it were, of the realised wealth of Scotland, at a time when it was more difficult to raise five pounds than it is now to raise a hundred.” There were a few large subscriptions from th, nobility and the higher mercantile classes; but the majority of the subscribers were professional men and shopkeepers. The list “affords little indication of that quiet and comfortable class, deposited in a long-enriched social system like the Britons of the present day, who are seeking a sure investment for disengaged capital.” * The available funds of Scotland were devoted to the romantic adventure of founding a great Scottish Colony, in some favoured spot of the new world which was yet shrouded in mysterious anticipations. Not Cortez,

" Silent upon a peak in Darien," + stared at the Pacific with more eagle eyes than those entrusted with Paterson's secret. The concealed destination of the Colony was the famous Isthmus of Panama. A Scottish merchant, named Douglas, shrewdly guessed Paterson's design, in September, 1696 ; and he exposed the perils and uncertainties of the enterprise. This acute reasoner held the amount proposed to be raised as insufficient for the project, and predicted that the Company would have to encounter the determined hostility of the Spaniards. “He”[Paterson] “ deceives the Company, and imposes upon them—and indeed the nation, which is generally concerned in it-in that he puts them upon attempting so hazardous and costly an undertaking with so little stock. Whereas it is reasonable to believe that, if they were able at last to accomplish it, after a long war with the Spaniards, and to make themselves masters of both seas, it may cost more millions than they have hundreds of thousands. I Nevertheless the national enthusiasm was at its height, filled with dreams of gold and rubies and copper-mines--of untaxed trade, and the mighty power of joint stocks. “ Trade's Release ” was the theme of an “excellent new ballad ” :

“Come, rouse up your hearts, come rouse up anon!
Think of the wisdom of old Solomon ;
And heartily join with our own Paterson,

To fetch home Indian treasures." $ * Burton, vol. i. p. 294. † Keats.

1 Bannister, p. 148 to p. 158 $ Ibid., p. 48.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »