scottish colony

The Native American at Culloden

Surely the strangest fact associated with the battle of Culloden, fought on April 16th 1746, was that there may well have been a Native American warrior present on the side of the British forces. 

One of the British brigadiers present at Culloden was also the Governor of Georgia. In 1745 he was in England recruiting for his colonial Rangers. When the Jacobite rebellion broke out these troops were quickly added to the hastily assembled Government forces. With them was what the newspapers described as an “Indian King” - one of the Governor’s Creek allies who had seemingly traveled across the Atlantic to help with recruitment. 

May 1st 1707  brought together Scotland and England under a united Parliament at Westminster.

In January a poorly attended Scottish Parliament voted to agree the Union of Scotland and England and on 16 January 1707 the Act of Union was signed. The Act came into effect on May 1st 1707; the Scottish Parliament was dissolved and England and Scotland became one country. 

From the Union of the Crowns in 1603, England and Scotland had one monarch but two Parliaments. While this worked most of the time, there were occasions when the two institutions parted company - such as when England Executed King Charles I (to the distress of many in Scotland) and became a republic, while at the same time Scotland’s governing body resolved to appoint King Charles II as their monarch. From the perspective of the leaders in London, such a situation had to be avoided in the future and the removal of the Scottish Parliament was seen as a way of achieving this.

Following the abdication of King James VII and the accession of William and Mary, the Scottish Parliament were in agreement and declared a few months later that James VII had forfeited the Scottish throne. But there were many in Scotland who still supported the deposed monarch. There were even uprisings in Scotland in support of James and the Jacobite cause was still bubbling away at the turn of the century.

There was still a large measure of religious intolerance in both England and Scotland and those in power were determined that there should never again be a Catholic monarch. But the deposed Stuart line (with their Catholic sympathies) really had a stronger claim on the throne and again there were more in Scotland who felt that this should count. When the English Parliament decided, without consultation with their Scottish counterparts, that the crown should go via the Electress of Hanover, the German granddaughter of King James VI and through her to her son (the future King George I), the Scots Parliament made plain their resentment.

There were a number of poor harvests in Scotland in the 1690s and Scotland’s economic position was then drastically worsened by the ill-fated Darien Scheme to create a Scottish colony in Panama. Scotland lost 25% of its liquid assets. The Act of Union undertook to pay 400,000 pounds in compensation to those who had incurred these losses. This was of course blatant bribery as the people who were to benefit from this compensation were amongst those who voted in favour of the Union.

Scotland relied on 50% of its exports going to England. In an act of blackmail in 1705, the English Parliament closed their market to Scottish cattle, coal and linen and declared that all Scots would be treated a aliens. It showed the vulnerability of Scotland to a trade war. In addition, Scotland was excluded from England’s colonial territories - indeed early moves towards a union of the parliaments stumbled in England as they were reluctant to allow open access. But the Act of Union in 1707 created the greatest free trade area in the world at that time.

Of course the ordinary people of Scotland were not happy with this, the church bells of St Giles in Edinburgh are said to have played the tune “Why am I so Sad on my Wedding Day” and there were riots in Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

Much has been written since then, I like Roberts Burns observation that we were “bought and sold for English Gold, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation.”

A character in Sir Walter Scott’s Heart of Midlothian said “ when we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament-men o’ our ain, we could aye peeble them wi’ stanes when they werena gude bairns - But naebody’s nails can reach the length o’ Lunnon.” 

The union was unpopular with many of the Highland clans. They wanted the return of the Stuarts to the throne in the hope that they would make Scotland a separate kingdom again. Uprisings in 1715 and of course the more famous ‘45 both ended in failure. 

To this day many of us believe this union should not have happened, a referendum in 2014 resulted in around a 55% voting to remain as part of the United Kingdom but the debate rumbles on. I believe that one day Scotland will be an Independent nation again, perhaps I wont live to see this, I do though think it inevitable. 

Ok so my original new years resoloution was to lose two stone and shag The Crush™ but in light of some recent goings on, I’ve made an amendment:

  1. Speak Gàidhlig and Scots probably poorly but most importantly unappolagetically.
  2. Learn more BSL (because thats also included in the 2015 Scottish Languages Act)
  3. Oppose colonialism and linguistic imperialism in all its forms.

A Grenadier Sergeant of the 2nd Battalion of a Loyalist regiment, the Royal Highland Emigrants (later the 84th Regiment of Foot) in 1777 during the American Revolution. It shows how the shoulder plaid could be let down to form a cloak or sleeping blanket. 

The Caribbean colony that brought down Scotland

By Allan Little, BBC News, Darien, Panama, 17 May 2014

As Scotland prepares for an independence referendum I decided to look back at the late 1690s when an independent Scotland launched an ambitious but ultimately doomed plan to create a colony in what is now Panama.

We landed near the border with Colombia, close to where the Isthmus of Panama is at its narrowest, on a little airstrip wedged between the blue sparkle of the Caribbean and the green intensity of an impenetrable forest, and boarded a little fibreglass boat with a single outboard motor.

We made our way west, parallel to the coast, bouncing roughly in the surging surf, until we came to the island that is still called Caledonia.

“In the time of our forefathers,” a village elder told us, “white people came here–Scottish and Spanish people. We liked the Scottish more than the Spanish, for the Spanish attacked us and drove us inland away from the coast and the Scots did not. But there were battles and many ships were sunk”.

The story of the ill-fated Scots colony at Darien survives in the oral history of the Kuna Indians, who are the only people who have ever settled successfully in this inhospitable place.

In 1698, a fleet of five ships sailed from Leith docks near Edinburgh carrying 1,200 settlers to found a colony in Panama.

It was a place where the poet John Keats would later locate “stout Cortez” gazing at the Pacific for the first time, “and all his men looked at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien”.

The Scots found a large sheltered harbour with a supply of fresh water. They went ashore and built a fort they called Fort St Andrew.

Three centuries on, we hacked our way through the forest and found a trench they had dug to provide the fort with a defensive moat.

It is a wide gash, filled with sea water, cut through solid coral rock by 17th Century hands–the first canal in Panama, possibly, built by Scotsmen under a punishing tropical sky. It is pretty much all that is left of the colony they named Caledonia, and the town they called New Edinburgh.

For even before they made landfall, the colonists had begun to die.

Tropical diseases–malaria, yellow fever, something they called the bloody flux–cut them down even faster on land.

Somewhere beneath the tangle we hacked through, there is a Scottish cemetery with hundreds of graves. No-one has ever found it.

The forest is too dense. Within nine months of setting sail from Leith, on a wave of national euphoria, most of the colonists were dead. A second fleet sailed in 1699, not knowing that the colony had already been attacked and burned to the ground by the Spanish, and abandoned by its few survivors.

The disaster helped end Scotland’s independence. For the colony had been funded by public subscription–an early example of a financial mania.

Public bodies, town corporations, members of parliament, landed gentry, and thousands of private citizens–sea captains and surgeons, apothecaries and ironmongers–sank their life savings into the scheme.

Between a quarter and a half of the available wealth of Scotland was spent, and lost.

And it was the role of England that was most bitterly resented.

Scotland, though an independent country, shared its head of state with England.

King William was monarch of both kingdoms. English merchants and the English parliament saw the Scottish venture as a threat to the trading monopolies they enjoyed.

King William issued a decree to all the English colonies from Canada to the Caribbean: there was to be no trade with the errant Scots and no assistance–not so much as a barrel of clean water was to be offered to them.

Few of the 3,000 Scots who went made it home. Those who did found an impoverished country which, within a decade, accepted union with England.

The Treaty of Union of 1707 included a clause in which the English government agreed to pay a sum of money to the Scots, to compensate the Darien investors for what they had lost.

The sum of money England paid to the Scots was known in the treaty as the Equivalent, or the Price of Scotland.

Darien still resonates, as Scotland prepares to vote on independence.

Pro-union Scots see in it a cautionary tale about the dangers of over-ambition. But when a nation is rethinking its future, as Scotland now is, it also looks again at its past.

Some now argue that the story reinforces the case for independence, for it proved that when Scotland and England place themselves under one government in London–as they were under King William–that government will, when the interests of the two countries conflict, inevitably favour the cause of the larger and more powerful partner.

The poet Robert Burns was scathing about the Scottish parliament that voted to accept union with England. “We’re bought and sold for English gold,” he wrote decades later, “such a parcel of rogues in a nation”.