|Fig.1: William III of England was |
only known as William II in
Scotland, just to low-ball him a
Anyway, Scotland saw this as the perfect opportunity to stake a claim in the New World, get rich, and join the exclusive colonial club. But King William shot it down, partly to protect England's trading rights, and also because the Darien was claimed by Spain, who were England's besties in their current (and four millionth) war against France. Undeterred, the Scottish decided to come up with the money on their own; nobles ponied up their own funds to pay for the undertaking, even forgoing their children's bagpipe lessons to afford the trip. It is estimated that one-fifth of Scotland's entire capital was invested in the Darien scheme, which would really suck badly if it failed. I mean, it would completely shatter their economy if this went dead in the water. Could you imagine that? Boy, I sure hope this turns out okay, or else the Scottish are in a world of trouble! But there's no way that would ever happen, right? Right?!
The initial expedition of 1,200 men set off from Edinburgh in July 1698, led by former army officer Thomas Drummond. It wasn't too hard to find sailors and settlers for the trip, since unemployment was high in Scotland at this time, and they were lured by promises of a lifetime supply of that wonderful British treat: wine gummies. They touched down on the coast of the Gulf of Darien in November, but almost immediately they began to realize they made a horrible mistake. Drinking water was scarce, the soil did not support any agriculture, mosquitoes outnumbered every single other thing in the region, and the native tribes were very hostile and kept referring to their kilts as "dresses." Even as the year went on and their settlement of New Edinburgh was up for business, no one wanted to come trade with them since many believed they were encroaching on Spanish territory, and they didn't want to make the guys with all the boats and guns and awesome mustaches mad. Nonetheless, the Scottish wanted to make it seem like everything was going fine while sending letters to the folks back home, much like we exaggerate our love-lives with our exes today (as far as mine knows, I'm "very good friends" with Scarlett Johansson).
|Fig.2: A map constructed in 1699, with "New Edinburg" labeled on |
the east coast; mosquitoes completely devoured the missing "h."
|Fig.3: Captain Thomas Drummond in his |
So the Darien Scheme was a complete and utter disaster for Scotland. Since so much money was invested in the project, from both public and private funds, the nation's economy became as mashed up as neeps and tatties. Scotland desperately needed financial help from their southern neighbor in order to keep their way of life afloat, even though they believed it was England's stubbornness and misplaced loyalties that caused the plan to fail in the first place (yeah, because the English totally defertilized the soil and possessed Aqua Man-like powers over mosquitoes). England's plan was something they've been advocating since King Edward I (otherwise known as Longshanks...hehe) invaded several hundred times in the 13th century: the union of Great Britain between the two nations. Despite all Scottish reservations, their empty wallets had taken over, and the Act of Union was passed in both Parliaments in 1707. The Kingdom of Great Britain was born, and Scotland was finally to take part in several colonies around the world...granted, with a lot of help from those colonial-happy English. The Darien Scheme still lives on as a nightmare to the Scottish today, and the word "Panama" has achieved a permanent "Pee Wee's Playhouse" Secret Word status, causing people to scream real loud whenever the word is spoken (or sang). Go ahead and try it on your next trip to the highlands!