The History of England from the Accession of James II, Vol. 5
Thomas Babington Macaulay

Part 4 out of 5

were named successor to the Spanish throne. He, therefore, must
be respected and courted. But William could at that moment do
little to hurt or to help. He could hardly be said to have an
army. He could take no step which would require an outlay of
money without the sanction of the House of Commons; and it seemed
to be the chief study of the House of Commons to cross him and to
humble him. The history of the late session was known to the
Spaniards principally by inaccurate reports brought by Irish
friars. And, had those reports been accurate, the real nature of
a Parliamentary struggle between the Court party and the Country
party could have been but very imperfectly understood by the
magnates of a realm in which there had not, during several
generations, been any constitutional opposition to the royal
pleasure. At one time it was generally believed at Madrid, not by
the mere rabble, but by Grandees who had the envied privilege of
going in coaches and four through the streets of the capital,
that William had been deposed, that he had retired to Holland,
that the Parliament had resolved that there should be no more
kings, that a commonwealth had been proclaimed, and that a Doge
was about to be appointed and, though this rumour turned out to
be false, it was but too true that the English government was,
just at that conjuncture, in no condition to resent slights.
Accordingly, the Marquess of Canales, who represented the
Catholic King at Westminster, received instructions to
remonstrate in strong language, and was not afraid to go beyond
those instructions. He delivered to the Secretary of State a note
abusive and impertinent beyond all example and all endurance. His
master, he wrote, had learnt with amazement that King William,
Holland and other powers,--for the ambassador, prudent even in
his blustering, did not choose to name the King of France,--were
engaged in framing a treaty, not only for settling the succession
to the Spanish crown, but for the detestable purpose of dividing
the Spanish monarchy. The whole scheme was vehemently condemned
as contrary to the law of nature and to the law of God. The
ambassador appealed from the King of England to the Parliament,
to the nobility, and to the whole nation, and concluded by giving
notice that he should lay the whole case before the two Houses
when next they met.

The style of this paper shows how strong an impression had been
made on foreign nations by the unfortunate events of the late
session. The King, it was plain, was no longer considered as the
head of the government. He was charged with having committed a
wrong; but he was not asked to make reparation. He was treated as
a subordinate officer who had been guilty of an offence against
public law, and was threatened with the displeasure of the
Commons, who, as the real rulers of the state, were bound to keep
their servants in order. The Lords justices read this outrageous
note with indignation, and sent it with all speed to Loo. Thence
they received, with equal speed, directions to send Canales out
of the country. Our ambassador was at the same time recalled from
Madrid; and all diplomatic intercourse between England and Spain
was suspended.

It is probable that Canales would have expressed himself in a
less unbecoming manner, had there not already existed a most
unfortunate quarrel between Spain and William, a quarrel in which
William was perfectly blameless, but in which the unanimous
feeling of the English Parliament and of the English nation was
on the side of Spain.

It is necessary to go back some years for the purpose of tracing
the origin and progress of this quarrel. Few portions of our
history are more interesting or instructive; but few have been
more obscured and distorted by passion and prejudice. The story
is an exciting one; and it has generally been told by writers
whose judgment had been perverted by strong national partiality.
Their invectives and lamentations have still to be temperately
examined; and it may well be doubted whether, even now, after the
lapse of more than a century and a half, feelings hardly
compatible with temperate examination will not be stirred up in
many minds by the name of Darien. In truth that name is
associated with calamities so cruel that the recollection of them
may not unnaturally disturb the equipoise even of a fair and
sedate mind.

The man who brought these calamities on his country was not a
mere visionary or a mere swindler. He was that William Paterson
whose name is honourably associated with the auspicious
commencement of a new era in English commerce and in English
finance. His plan of a national bank, having been examined and
approved by the most eminent statesmen who sate in the Parliament
house at Westminster and by the most eminent merchants who walked
the Exchange of London, had been carried into execution with
signal success. He thought, and perhaps thought with reason, that
his services had been ill requited. He was, indeed, one of the
original Directors of the great corporation which owed its
existence to him; but he was not reelected. It may easily be
believed that his colleagues, citizens of ample fortune and of
long experience in the practical part of trade, aldermen, wardens
of companies, heads of firms well known in every Burse
throughout the civilised world, were not well pleased to see
among them in Grocers' Hall a foreign adventurer whose whole
capital consisted in an inventive brain and a persuasive tongue.
Some of them were probably weak enough to dislike him for being a
Scot; some were probably mean enough to be jealous of his parts
and knowledge; and even persons who were not unfavourably
disposed to him might have discovered, before they had known him
long, that, with all his cleverness, he was deficient in common
sense; that his mind was full of schemes which, at the first
glance, had a specious aspect, but which, on closer examination,
appeared to be impracticable or pernicious; and that the benefit
which the public had derived from one happy project formed by him
would be very dearly purchased if it were taken for granted that
all his other projects must be equally happy. Disgusted by what
he considered as the ingratitude of the English, he repaired to
the Continent, in the hope that he might be able to interest the
traders of the Hanse Towns and the princes of the German Empire
in his plans. From the Continent he returned unsuccessful to
London; and then at length the thought that he might be more
justly appreciated by his countrymen than by strangers seems to
have risen in his mind. Just at this time he fell in with
Fletcher of Saltoun, who happened to be in England. These
eccentric men soon became intimate. Each of them had his
monomania; and the two monomaniac suited each other perfectly.
Fletcher's whole soul was possessed by a sore, jealous,
punctilious patriotism. His heart was ulcerated by the thought of
the poverty, the feebleness, the political insignificance of
Scotland, and of the indignities which she had suffered at the
hand of her powerful and opulent neighbour. When he talked of her
wrongs his dark meagre face took its sternest expression; his
habitual frown grew blacker, and his eyes flashed more than their
wonted fire. Paterson, on the other hand, firmly believed himself
to have discovered the means of making any state which would
follow his counsel great and prosperous in a time which, when
compared with the life of an individual, could hardly be called
long, and which, in the life of a nation, was but as a moment.
There is not the least reason to believe that he was dishonest.
Indeed he would have found more difficulty in deceiving others
had he not begun by deceiving himself. His faith to his own
schemes was strong even to martyrdom; and the eloquence with
which he illustrated and defended them had all the charm of
sincerity and of enthusiasm. Very seldom has any blunder
committed by fools, or any villany devised by impostors, brought
on any society miseries so great as the dreams of these two
friends, both of them men of integrity and both of them men of
parts, were destined to bring on Scotland.

In 1695 the pair went down together to their native country. The
Parliament of that country was then about to meet under the
presidency of Tweeddale, an old acquaintance and country
neighbour of Fletcher. On Tweeddale the first attack was made. He
was a shrewd, cautious, old politician. Yet it should seem that
he was not able to hold out against the skill and energy of the
assailants. Perhaps, however, he was not altogether a dupe. The
public mind was at that moment violently agitated. Men of all
parties were clamouring for an inquiry into the slaughter of
Glencoe. There was reason to fear that the session which was
about to commence would be stormy. In such circumstances the Lord
High Commissioner might think that it would be prudent to appease
the anger of the Estates by offering an almost irresistible bait
to their cupidity. If such was the policy of Tweeddale, it was,
for the moment, eminently successful. The Parliament, which met
burning with indignation, was soothed into good humour. The blood
of the murdered Macdonalds continued to cry for vengeance in
vain. The schemes of Paterson, brought forward under the
patronage of the ministers of the Crown, were sanctioned by the
unanimous voice of the Legislature.

The great projector was the idol of the whole nation. Men spoke
to him with more profound respect than to the Lord High
Commissioner. His antechamber was crowded with solicitors
desirous to catch some drops of that golden shower of which he
was supposed to be the dispenser. To be seen walking with him in
the High Street, to be honoured by him with a private interview
of a quarter of an hour, were enviable distinctions. He, after
the fashion of all the false prophets who have deluded themselves
and others, drew new faith in his own lie from the credulity of
his disciples. His countenance, his voice, his gestures,
indicated boundless self-importance. When he appeared in public
he looked,--such is the language of one who probably had often
seen him,--like Atlas conscious that a world was on his
shoulders. But the airs which he gave himself only heightened the
respect and admiration which he inspired. His demeanour was
regarded as a model. Scotch men who wished to be thought wise
looked as like Paterson as they could.

His plan, though as yet disclosed to the public only by glimpses,
was applauded by all classes, factions and sects, lords,
merchants, advocates, divines, Whigs and Jacobites, Cameronians
and Episcopalians. In truth, of all the ten thousand bubbles of
which history has preserved the memory, none was ever more
skilfully puffed into existence; none ever soared higher, or
glittered more brilliantly; and none ever burst with a more
lamentable explosion. There was, however, a certain mixture of
truth in the magnificent day dream which produced such fatal

Scotland was, indeed, not blessed with a mild climate or a
fertile soil. But the richest spots that had ever existed on the
face of the earth had been spots quite as little favoured by
nature. It was on a bare rock, surrounded by deep sea, that the
streets of Tyre were piled up to a dizzy height. On that sterile
crag were woven the robes of Persian satraps and Sicilian
tyrants; there were fashioned silver bowls and chargers for the
banquets of kings; and there Pomeranian amber was set in Lydian
gold to adorn the necks of queens. In the warehouses were
collected the fine linen of Egypt and the odorous gums of Arabia;
the ivory of India, and the tin of Britain. In the port lay
fleets of great ships which had weathered the storms of the
Euxine and the Atlantic. Powerful and wealthy colonies in distant
parts of the world looked up with filial reverence to the little
island; and despots, who trampled on the laws and outraged the
feelings of all the nations between the Hydaspes and the Aegean,
condescended to court the population of that busy hive. At a
later period, on a dreary bank formed by the soil which the
Alpine streams swept down to the Adriatic, rose the palaces of
Venice. Within a space which would not have been thought large
enough for one of the parks of a rude northern baron were
collected riches far exceeding those of a northern kingdom. In
almost every one of the prorate dwellings which fringed the Great
Canal were to be seen plate, mirrors, jewellery, tapestry,
paintings, carving, such as might move the envy of the master of
Holyrood. In the arsenal were munitions of war sufficient to
maintain a contest against the whole power of the Ottoman Empire.
And, before the grandeur of Venice had declined, another
commonwealth, still less favoured, if possible, by nature, had
rapidly risen to a power and opulence which the whole civilised
world contemplated with envy and admiration. On a desolate marsh
overhung by fogs and exhaling diseases, a marsh where there was
neither wood nor stone, neither firm earth nor drinkable water, a
marsh from which the ocean on one side and the Rhine on the
other were with difficulty kept out by art, was to be found the
most prosperous community in Europe. The wealth which was
collected within five miles of the Stadthouse of Amsterdam would
purchase the fee simple of Scotland. And why should this be? Was
there any reason to believe that nature had bestowed on the
Phoenician, on the Venetian, or on the Hollander, a larger
measure of activity, of ingenuity, of forethought, of self
command, than on the citizen of Edinburgh or Glasgow? The truth
was that, in all those qualities which conduce to success in
life, and especially in commercial life, the Scot had never been
surpassed; perhaps he had never been equalled. All that was
necessary was that his energy should take a proper direction, and
a proper direction Paterson undertook to give.

His esoteric project was the original project of Christopher
Columbus, extended and modified. Columbus had hoped to establish
a communication between our quarter of the world and India across
the great western ocean. But he was stopped by an unexpected
obstacle. The American continent, stretching far north and far
south into cold and inhospitable regions, presented what seemed
an insurmountable barrier to his progress; and, in the same year
in which he first set foot on that continent, Gama reached
Malabar by doubling the Cape of Good Hope. The consequence was
that during two hundred years the trade of Europe with the
remoter parts of Asia had been carried on by rounding the immense
peninsula of Africa. Paterson now revived the project of
Columbus, and persuaded himself and others that it was possible
to carry that project into effect in such a manner as to make his
country the greatest emporium that had ever existed on our globe.

For this purpose it was necessary to occupy in America some spot
which might be a resting place between Scotland and India. It was
true that almost every habitable part of America had already been
seized by some European power. Paterson, however, imagined that
one province, the most important of all, had been overlooked by
the short-sighted cupidity of vulgar politicians and vulgar
traders. The isthmus which joined the two great continents of the
New World remained, according to him, unappropriated. Great
Spanish viceroyalties, he said, lay on the east and on the west;
but the mountains and forests of Darien were abandoned to rude
tribes which followed their own usages and obeyed their own
princes. He had been in that part of the world, in what character
was not quite clear. Some said that he had gone thither to
convert the Indians, and some that he had gone thither to rob the
Spaniards. But, missionary or pirate, he had visited Darien, and
had brought away none but delightful recollections. The havens,
he averred, were capacious and secure; the sea swarmed with
turtle; the country was so mountainous that, within nine degrees
of the equator, the climate was temperate; and yet the
inequalities of the ground offered no impediment to the
conveyance of goods. Nothing would be easier than to construct
roads along which a string of mules or a wheeled carriage might
in the course of a single day pass from sea to sea. The soil was,
to the depth of several feet, a rich black mould, on which a
profusion of valuable herbs and fruits grew spontaneously, and on
which all the choicest productions of tropical regions might
easily be raised by human industry and art; and yet the exuberant
fertility of the earth had not tainted the purity of the air.
Considered merely as a place of residence, the isthmus was a
paradise. A colony placed there could not fail to prosper, even
if it had no wealth except what was derived from agriculture. But
agriculture was a secondary object in the colonization of Darien.
Let but that precious neck of land be occupied by an intelligent,
an enterprising, a thrifty race; and, in a few years, the whole
trade between India and Europe must be drawn to that point. The
tedious and perilous passage round Africa would soon be
abandoned. The merchant would no longer expose his cargoes to the
mountainous billows and capricious gales of the Antarctic seas.
The greater part of the voyage from Europe to Darien, and the
whole voyage from Darien to the richest kingdoms of Asia, would
be a rapid yet easy gliding before the trade winds over blue and
sparkling waters. The voyage back across the Pacific would, in
the latitude of Japan, be almost equally speedy and pleasant.
Time, labour, money, would be saved. The returns would come in
more quickly. Fewer hands would be required to navigate the
ships. The loss of a vessel would be a rare event. The trade
would increase fast. In a short time it would double; and it
would all pass through Darien. Whoever possessed that door of the
sea, that key of the universe,--such were the bold figures which
Paterson loved to employ,--would give law to both hemispheres;
and would, by peaceful arts, without shedding one drop of blood,
establish an empire as splendid as that of Cyrus or Alexander. Of
the kingdoms of Europe, Scotland was, as yet, the poorest and the
least considered. If she would but occupy Darien, if she would
but become one great free port, one great warehouse for the
wealth which the soil of Darien might produce, and for the still
greater wealth which would be poured into Darien from Canton and
Siam, from Ceylon and the Moluccas, from the mouths of the Ganges
and the Gulf of Cambay, she would at once take her place in the
first rank among nations. No rival would be able to contend with
her either in the West Indian or in the East Indian trade. The
beggarly country, as it had been insolently called by the
inhabitants of warmer and more fruitful regions, would be the
great mart for the choicest luxuries, sugar, rum, coffee,
chocolate, tobacco, the tea and porcelain of China, the muslin of
Dacca, the shawls of Cashmere, the diamonds of Golconda, the
pearls of Karrack, the delicious birds' nests of Nicobar,
cinnamon and pepper, ivory and sandal wood. From Scotland would
come all the finest jewels and brocade worn by duchesses at the
balls of St. James's and Versailles. From Scotland would come all
the saltpetre which would furnish the means of war to the fleets
and armies of contending potentates. And on all the vast riches
which would be constantly passing through the little kingdom a
toll would be paid which would remain behind. There would be a
prosperity such as might seem fabulous, a prosperity of which
every Scotchman, from the peer to the cadie, would partake. Soon,
all along the now desolate shores of the Forth and Clyde, villas
and pleasure grounds would be as thick as along the edges of the
Dutch canals. Edinburgh would vie with London and Paris; and the
baillie of Glasgow or Dundee would have as stately and well
furnished a mansion, and as fine a gallery of pictures, as any
burgomaster of Amsterdam.

This magnificent plan was at first but partially disclosed to the
public. A colony was to be planted; a vast trade was to be opened
between both the Indies and Scotland; but the name of Darien was
as yet pronounced only in whispers by Paterson and by his most
confidential friends. He had however shown enough to excite
boundless hopes and desires. How well he succeeded in inspiring
others with his own feelings is sufficiently proved by the
memorable Act to which the Lord High Commissioner gave the Royal
sanction on the 26th of June 1695. By this Act some persons who
were named, and such other persons as should join with them, were
formed into a corporation, which was to be named the Company of
Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies. The amount of the
capital to be employed was not fixed by law; but it was provided
that one half of the stock at least must be held by Scotchmen
resident in Scotland, and that no stock which had been originally
held by a Scotchman resident in Scotland should ever be
transferred to any but a Scotchman resident in Scotland. An
entire monopoly of the trade with Asia, Africa and America, for a
term of thirty-one years, was granted to the Company. All goods
imported by the Company were during twenty-one years to be duty
free, with the exception of foreign sugar and tobacco. Sugar and
tobacco grown on the Company's own plantations were exempted from
all taxation. Every member and every servant of the Company was
to be privileged against impressment and arrest. If any of these
privileged persons was impressed or arrested, the Company was
authorised to release him, and to demand the assistance both of
the civil and of the military power. The Company was authorised
to take possession of unoccupied territories in any part of Asia,
Africa or America, and there to plant colonies, to build towns
and forts, to impose taxes, and to provide magazines, arms and
ammunition, to raise troops, to wage war, to conclude treaties;
and the King was made to promise that, if any foreign state
should injure the Company, he would interpose, and would, at the
public charge, obtain reparation. Lastly it was provided that, in
order to give greater security and solemnity to this most
exorbitant grant, the whole substance of the Act should be set
forth in Letters Patent to which the Chancellor was directed to
put the Great Seal without delay.

The letters were drawn; the Great Seal was affixed; the
subscription books were opened; the shares were fixed at a
hundred pounds sterling each; and from the Pentland Firth to the
Solway Firth every man who had a hundred pounds was impatient to
put down his name. About two hundred and twenty thousand pounds
were actually paid up. This may not, at first sight, appear a
large sum to those who remember the bubbles of 1825 and of 1845,
and would assuredly not have sufficed to defray the charge of
three months of war with Spain. Yet the effort was marvellous
when it may be affirmed with confidence that the Scotch people
voluntarily contributed for the colonisation of Darien a larger
proportion of their substance than any other people ever, in the
same space of time, voluntarily contributed to any commercial
undertaking. A great part of Scotland was then as poor and rude
as Iceland now is. There were five or six shires which did not
altogether contain so many guineas and crowns as were tossed
about every day by the shovels of a single goldsmith in Lombard
Street. Even the nobles had very little ready money. They
generally took a large part of their rents in kind, and were thus
able, on their own domains, to live plentifully and hospitably.
But there were many esquires in Kent and Somersetshire who
received from their tenants a greater quantity of gold and silver
than a Duke of Cordon or a Marquess of Atholl drew from extensive
provinces. The pecuniary remuneration of the clergy was such as
would have moved the pity of the most needy curate who thought it
a privilege to drink his ale and smoke his pipe in the kitchen of
an English manor house. Even in the fertile Merse there were
parishes of which the minister received only from four to eight
pounds sterling in cash. The official income of the Lord
President of the Court of Session was only five hundred a year;
that of the Lord Justice Clerk only four hundred a year. The land
tax of the whole kingdom was fixed some years later by the Treaty
of Union at little more than half the land tax of the single
county of Norfolk. Four hundred thousand pounds probably bore as
great a ratio to the wealth of Scotland then as forty millions
would bear now.

The list of the members of the Darien Company deserves to be
examined. The number of shareholders was about fourteen hundred.
The largest quantity of stock registered in one name was three
thousand pounds. The heads of three noble houses took three
thousand pounds each, the Duke of Hamilton, the Duke of
Queensbury and Lord Belhaven, a man of ability, spirit and
patriotism, who had entered into the design with enthusiasm not
inferior to that of Fletcher. Argyle held fifteen hundred pounds.
John Dalrymple, but too well known as the Master of Stair, had
just succeeded to his father's title and estate, and was now
Viscount Stair. He put down his name for a thousand pounds. The
number of Scotch peers who subscribed was between thirty and
forty. The City of Edinburgh, in its corporate capacity, took
three thousand pounds, the City of Glasgow three thousand, the
City of Perth two thousand. But the great majority of the
subscribers contributed only one hundred or two hundred pounds
each. A very few divines who were settled in the capital or in
other large towns were able to purchase shares. It is melancholy
to see in the roll the name of more than one professional man
whose paternal anxiety led him to lay out probably all his hardly
earned savings in purchasing a hundred pound share for each of
his children. If, indeed, Paterson's predictions had been
verified, such a share would, according to the notions of that
age and country, have been a handsome portion for the daughter of
a writer or a surgeon.

That the Scotch are a people eminently intelligent, wary,
resolute and self possessed, is obvious to the most superficial
observation. That they are a people peculiarly liable to
dangerous fits of passion and delusions of the imagination is
less generally acknowledged, but is not less true. The whole
kingdom seemed to have gone mad. Paterson had acquired an
influence resembling rather that of the founder of a new
religion, that of a Mahomet, that of a Joseph Smith, than that of
a commercial projector. Blind faith in a religion, fanatical zeal
for a religion, are too common to astonish us. But such faith and
zeal seem strangely out of place in the transactions of the money
market. It is true that we are judging after the event. But
before the event materials sufficient for the forming of a sound
judgment were within the reach of all who cared to use them. It
seems incredible that men of sense, who had only a vague and
general notion of Paterson's scheme, should have staked every
thing on the success of that scheme. It seems more incredible
still that men to whom the details of that scheme had been
confided should not have looked into any of the common books of
history or geography in which an account of Darien might have
been found, and should not have asked themselves the simple
question, whether Spain was likely to endure a Scotch colony in
the midst of her Transatlantic dominions. It was notorious that
she claimed the sovereignty of the isthmus on specious, nay, on
solid, grounds. A Spaniard had been the first discoverer of the
coast of Darien. A Spaniard had built a town and established a
government on that coast. A Spaniard had, with great labour and
peril, crossed the mountainous neck of land, had seen rolling
beneath him the vast Pacific, never before revealed to European
eyes, had descended, sword in hand, into the waves up to his
girdle, and had there solemnly taken possession of sea and shore
in the name of the Crown of Castile. It was true that the region
which Paterson described as a paradise had been found by the
first Castilian settlers to be a land of misery and death. The
poisonous air, exhaled from rank jungle and stagnant water, had
compelled them to remove to the neighbouring haven of Panama; and
the Red Indians had been contemptuously permitted to live after
their own fashion on the pestilential soil. But that soil was
still considered, and might well be considered, by Spain as her
own. In many countries there were tracts of morass, of mountain,
of forest, in which governments did not think it worth while to
be at the expense of maintaining order, and in which rude tribes
enjoyed by connivance a kind of independence. It was not
necessary for the members of the Company of Scotland trading to
Africa and the Indies to look very far for an example. In some
highland districts, not more than a hundred miles from Edinburgh,
dwelt clans which had always regarded the authority of King,
Parliament, Privy Council and Court of Session, quite as little
as the aboriginal population of Darien regarded the authority of
the Spanish Viceroys and Audiences. Yet it would surely have been
thought an outrageous violation of public law in the King of
Spain to take possession of Appin and Lochaber. And would it be a
less outrageous violation of public law in the Scots to seize on
a province in the very centre of his possessions, on the plea
that this province was in the same state in which Appin and
Lochaber had been during centuries?

So grossly unjust was Paterson's scheme; and yet it was less
unjust than impolitic. Torpid as Spain had become, there was
still one point on which she was exquisitely sensitive. The
slightest encroachment of any other European power even on the
outskirts of her American dominions sufficed to disturb her
repose and to brace her paralysed nerves. To imagine that she
would tamely suffer adventurers from one of the most
insignificant kingdoms of the Old World to form a settlement in
the midst of her empire, within a day's sail of Portobello on one
side and of Carthagena on the other, was ludicrously absurd. She
would have been just as likely to let them take possession of the
Escurial. It was, therefore, evident that, before the new Company
could even begin its commercial operations, there must be a war
with Spain and a complete triumph over Spain. What means had the
Company of waging such a war, and what chance of achieving such a
triumph? The ordinary revenue of Scotland in time of peace was
between sixty and seventy thousand a year. The extraordinary
supplies granted to the Crown during the war with France had
amounted perhaps to as much more. Spain, it is true, was no
longer the Spain of Pavia and Lepanto. But, even in her decay,
she possessed in Europe resources which exceeded thirty fold
those of Scotland; and in America, where the struggle must take
place, the disproportion was still greater. The Spanish fleets
and arsenals were doubtless in wretched condition. But there were
Spanish fleets; there were Spanish arsenals. The galleons, which
sailed every year from Seville to the neighbourhood of Darien and
from the neighbourhood of Darien back to Seville, were in
tolerable condition, and formed, by themselves, a considerable
armament. Scotland had not a single ship of the line, nor a
single dockyard where such a ship could be built. A marine
sufficient to overpower that of Spain must be, not merely
equipped and manned, but created. An armed force sufficient to
defend the isthmus against the whole power of the viceroyalties
of Mexico and Peru must be sent over five thousand miles of
ocean. What was the charge of such an expedition likely to be?
Oliver had, in the preceding generation, wrested a West Indian
island from Spain; but, in order to do this, Oliver, a man who
thoroughly understood the administration of war, who wasted
nothing, and who was excellently served, had been forced to
spend, in a single year, on his navy alone, twenty times the
ordinary revenue of Scotland; and, since his days, war had been
constantly becoming more and more costly.

It was plain that Scotland could not alone support the charge of
a contest with the enemy whom Paterson was bent on provoking. And
what assistance was she likely to have from abroad? Undoubtedly
the vast colonial empire and the narrow colonial policy of Spain
were regarded with an evil eye by more than one great maritime
power. But there was no great maritime power which would not far
rather have seen the isthmus between the Atlantic and the Pacific
in the hands of Spain than in the hands of the Darien Company.
Lewis could not but dread whatever tended to aggrandise a state
governed by William. To Holland the East India trade was as the
apple of her eye. She had been the chief gainer by the
discoveries of Gama; and it might be expected that she would do
all that could be done by craft, and, if need were, by violence,
rather than suffer any rival to be to her what she had been to
Venice. England remained; and Paterson was sanguine enough to
flatter himself that England might be induced to lend her
powerful aid to the Company. He and Lord Belhaven repaired to
London, opened an office in Clement's Lane, formed a Board of
Directors auxiliary to the Central Board at Edinburgh, and
invited the capitalists of the Royal Exchange to subscribe for
the stock which had not been reserved for Scotchmen resident in
Scotland. A few moneyed men were allured by the bait; but the
clamour of the City was loud and menacing; and from the City a
feeling of indignation spread fast through the country. In this
feeling there was undoubtedly a large mixture of evil. National
antipathy operated on some minds, religious antipathy on others.
But it is impossible to deny that the anger which Paterson's
schemes excited throughout the south of the island was, in the
main, just and reasonable. Though it was not yet generally known
in what precise spot his colony was to be planted, there could be
little doubt that he intended to occupy some part of America; and
there could be as little doubt that such occupation would be
resisted. There would be a maritime war; and such a war Scotland
had no means of carrying on. The state of her finances was such
that she must be quite unable to fit out even a single squadron
of moderate size. Before the conflict had lasted three months,
she would have neither money nor credit left. These things were
obvious to every coffeehouse politician; and it was impossible to
believe that they had escaped the notice of men so able and well
informed as some who sate in the Privy Council and Parliament at
Edinburgh. In one way only could the conduct of these schemers be
explained. They meant to make a dupe and a tool of the Southron.
The two British kingdoms were so closely connected, physically
and politically, that it was scarcely possible for one of them to
be at peace with a power with which the other was at war. If the
Scotch drew King William into a quarrel, England must, from
regard to her own dignity which was bound up with his, support
him in it. She was to be tricked into a bloody and expensive
contest in the event of which she had no interest; nay, into a
contest in which victory would be a greater calamity to her than
defeat. She was to lavish her wealth and the lives of her seamen,
in order that a set of cunning foreigners might enjoy a monopoly
by which she would be the chief sufferer. She was to conquer and
defend provinces for this Scotch Corporation; and her reward was
to be that her merchants were to be undersold, her customers
decoyed away, her exchequer beggared. There would be an end to
the disputes between the old East India Company and the new East
India Company; for both Companies would be ruined alike. The two
great springs of revenue would be dried up together. What would
be the receipt of the Customs, what of the Excise, when vast
magazines of sugar, rum, tobacco, coffee, chocolate, tea, spices,
silks, muslins, all duty free, should be formed along the
estuaries of the Forth and of the Clyde, and along the border
from the mouth of the Esk to the mouth of the Tweed? What army,
what fleet, would be sufficient to protect the interests of the
government and of the fair trader when the whole kingdom of
Scotland should be turned into one great smuggling establishment?
Paterson's plan was simply this, that England should first spend
millions in defence of the trade of his Company, and should then
be plundered of twice as many millions by means of that very

The cry of the city and of the nation was soon echoed by the
legislature. When the Parliament met for the first time after the
general election of 1695, Rochester called the attention of the
Lords to the constitution and designs of the Company. Several
witnesses were summoned to the bar, and gave evidence which
produced a powerful effect on the House. "If these Scots are to
have their way," said one peer, "I shall go and settle in
Scotland, and not stay here to be made a beggar." The Lords
resolved to represent strongly to the King the injustice of
requiring England to exert her power in support of an enterprise
which, if successful, must be fatal to her commerce and to her
finances. A representation was drawn up and communicated to the
Commons. The Commons eagerly concurred, and complimented the
Peers on the promptitude with which their Lordships had, on this
occasion, stood forth to protect the public interests. The two
Houses went up together to Kensington with the address. William
had been under the walls of Namur when the Act for incorporating
the Company had been touched with his sceptre at Edinburgh, and
had known nothing about that Act till his attention had been
called to it by the clamour of his English subjects. He now said,
in plain terms, that he had been ill served in Scotland, but that
he would try to find a remedy for the evil which bad been brought
to his notice. The Lord High Commissioner Tweeddale and Secretary
Johnstone were immediately dismissed. But the Act which had been
passed by their management still continued to be law in Scotland,
nor was it in their master's power to undo what they had done.

The Commons were not content with addressing the throne. They
instituted an inquiry into the proceedings of the Scotch Company
in London. Belhaven made his escape to his own country, and was
there beyond the reach of the Serjeant-at-Arms. But Paterson and
some of his confederates were severely examined. It soon appeared
that the Board which was sitting in Clement's Lane had done
things which were certainly imprudent and perhaps illegal. The
Act of Incorporation empowered the detectors to take and to
administer to their servants an oath of fidelity. But that Act
was on the south of the Tweed a nullity. Nevertheless the
directors had, in the heart of the City of London, taken and
administered this oath, and had thus, by implication, asserted
that the powers conferred on them by the legislature of Scotland
accompanied them to England. It was resolved that they had been
guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour, and that they should be
impeached. A committee was appointed to frame articles of
impeachment; but the task proved a difficult one; and the
prosecution was suffered to drop, not however till the few
English capitalists who had at first been friendly to Paterson's
project had been terrified into renouncing all connection with

Now, surely, if not before, Paterson ought to have seen that his
project could end in nothing but shame to himself and ruin to his
worshippers. From the first it had been clear that England alone
could protect his Company against the enmity of Spain; and it was
now clear that Spain would be a less formidable enemy than
England. It was impossible that his plan could excite greater
indignation in the Council of the Indies at Madrid, or in the
House of Trade at Seville, than it had excited in London.
Unhappily he was given over to a strong delusion, and the blind
multitude eagerly followed their blind leader. Indeed his dupes
were maddened by that which should have sobered them. The
proceedings of the Parliament which sate at Westminster,
proceedings just and reasonable in substance, but in manner
doubtless harsh and insolent, had roused the angry passions of a
nation, feeble indeed in numbers and in material resources, but
eminently high spirited. The proverbial pride of the Scotch was
too much for their proverbial shrewdness. The votes of the
English Lords and Commons were treated with marked contempt. The
populace of Edinburgh burned Rochester in effigy. Money was
poured faster than ever into the treasury of the Company. A
stately house, in Milne Square, then the most modern and
fashionable part of Edinburgh, was purchased and fitted up at
once as an office and a warehouse. Ships adapted both for war and
for trade were required; but the means of building such ships did
not exist in Scotland; and no firm in the south of the island was
disposed to enter into a contract which might not improbably be
considered by the House of Commons as an impeachable offence. It
was necessary to have recourse to the dockyards of Amsterdam and
Hamburg. At an expense of fifty thousand pounds a few vessels
were procured, the largest of which would hardly have ranked as
sixtieth in the English navy; and with this force, a force not
sufficient to keep the pirates of Sallee in check, the Company
threw down the gauntlet to all the maritime powers in the world.

It was not till the summer of 1698 that all was ready for the
expedition which was to change the face of the globe. The number
of seamen and colonists who embarked at Leith was twelve hundred.
Of the colonists many were younger sons of honourable families,
or officers who had been disbanded since the peace. It was
impossible to find room for all who were desirous of emigrating.
It is said that some persons who had vainly applied for a passage
hid themselves in dark corners about the ships, and, when
discovered, refused to depart, clung to the rigging, and were at
last taken on shore by main force. This infatuation is the more
extraordinary because few of the adventurers knew to what place
they were going. All that was quite certain was that a colony was
to be planted somewhere, and to be named Caledonia. The general
opinion was that the fleet would steer for some part of the coast
of America. But this opinion was not universal. At the Dutch
Embassy in Saint James's Square there was an uneasy suspicion
that the new Caledonia would be founded among those Eastern spice
islands with which Amsterdam had long carried on a lucrative

The supreme direction of the expedition was entrusted to a
Council of Seven. Two Presbyterian chaplains and a preceptor were
on board. A cargo had been laid in which was afterwards the
subject of much mirth to the enemies of the Company, slippers
innumerable, four thousand periwigs of all kinds from plain bobs
to those magnificent structures which, in that age, towered high
above the foreheads and descended to the elbows of men of
fashion, bales of Scotch woollen stuffs which nobody within the
tropics could wear, and many hundreds of English bibles which
neither Spaniard nor Indian could read. Paterson, flushed with
pride and hope, not only accompanied the expedition, but took
with him his wife, a comely dame, whose heart he had won in
London, where she had presided over one of the great coffeehouses
in the neighbourhood of the Royal Exchange. At length on the
twenty-fifth of July the ships, followed by many tearful eyes,
and commended to heaven in many vain prayers, sailed out of the
estuary of the Forth.

The voyage was much longer than a voyage to the Antipodes now is;
and the adventurers suffered much. The rations were scanty; there
were bitter complaints both of the bread and of the meat; and,
when the little fleet, after passing round the Orkneys and
Ireland, touched at Madeira, those gentlemen who had fine clothes
among their baggage were glad to exchange embroidered coats and
laced waistcoats for provisions and wine. From Madeira the
adventurers ran across the Atlantic, landed on an uninhabited
islet lying between Porto Rico and St. Thomas, took possession of
this desolate spot in the name of the Company, set up a tent, and
hoisted the white cross of St. Andrew. Soon, however, they were
warned off by an officer who was sent from St. Thomas to inform
them that they were trespassing on the territory of the King of
Denmark. They proceeded on their voyage, having obtained the
services of an old buccaneer who knew the coast of Central
America well. Under his pilotage they anchored on the first of
November close to the Isthmus of Darien. One of the greatest
princes of the country soon came on board. The courtiers who
attended him, ten or twelve in number, were stark naked; but he
was distinguished by a red coat, a pair of cotton drawers, and an
old hat. He had a Spanish name, spoke Spanish, and affected the
grave deportment of a Spanish don. The Scotch propitiated
Andreas, as he was called, by a present of a new hat blazing with
gold lace, and assured him that, if he would trade with them,
they would treat him better than the Castilians had done.

A few hours later the chiefs of the expedition went on shore,
took formal possession of the country, and named it Caledonia.
They were pleased with the aspect of a small peninsula about
three miles in length and a quarter of a mile in breadth, and
determined to fix here the city of New Edinburgh, destined, as
they hoped, to be the great emporium of both Indies. The
peninsula terminated in a low promontory of about thirty acres,
which might easily be turned into an island by digging a trench.
The trench was dug; and on the ground thus separated from the
main land a fort was constructed; fifty guns were placed on the
ramparts; and within the enclosures houses were speedily built
and thatched with palm leaves.

Negotiations were opened with the chieftains, as they were
called, who governed the neighbouring tribes. Among these savage
rulers were found as insatiable a cupidity, as watchful a
jealousy, and as punctilious a pride, as among the potentates
whose disputes had seemed likely to make the Congress of Ryswick
eternal. One prince hated the Spaniards because a fine rifle had
been taken away from him by the Governor of Portobello on the
plea that such a weapon was too good for a red man. Another loved
the Spaniards because they had given him a stick tipped with
silver. On the whole, the new comers succeeded in making friends
of the aboriginal race. One mighty monarch, the Lewis the Great
of the isthmus, who wore with pride a cap of white reeds lined
with red silk and adorned with an ostrich feather, seemed well
inclined to the strangers, received them hospitably in a palace
built of canes and covered with palmetto royal, and regaled them
with calabashes of a sort of ale brewed from Indian corn and
potatoes. Another chief set his mark to a treaty of peace and
alliance with the colony. A third consented to become a vassal of
the Company, received with great delight a commission embellished
with gold thread and flowered riband, and swallowed to the health
of his new masters not a few bumpers of their own brandy.

Meanwhile the internal government of the colony was organised
according to a plan devised by the directors at Edinburgh. The
settlers were divided into bands of fifty or sixty; each band
chose a representative; and thus was formed an assembly which
took the magnificent name of Parliament. This Parliament speedily
framed a curious code. The first article provided that the
precepts, instructions, examples, commands and prohibitions
expressed and contained in the Holy Scriptures should have the
full force and effect of laws in New Caledonia, an enactment
which proves that those who drew it up either did not know what
the Holy Scriptures contained or did not know what a law meant.
There is another provision which shows not less clearly how far
these legislators were from understanding the first principles of
legislation. "Benefits received and good services done shall
always be generously and thankfully compensated, whether a prior
bargain hath been made or not; and, if it shall happen to be
otherwise, and the Benefactor obliged justly to complain of the
ingratitude, the Ungrateful shall in such case be obliged to give
threefold satisfaction at the least." An article much more
creditable to the little Parliament, and much needed in a
community which was likely to be constantly at war, prohibits, on
pain of death, the violation of female captives.

By this time all the Antilles and all the shores of the Gulf of
Mexico were in a ferment. The new colony was the object of
universal hatred. The Spaniards began to fit out armaments. The
chiefs of the French dependencies in the West Indies eagerly
offered assistance to the Spaniards. The governors of the English
settlements put forth proclamations interdicting all
communication with this nest of buccaneers. Just at this time,
the Dolphin, a vessel of fourteen guns, which was the property of
the Scotch Company, was driven on shore by stress of weather
under the walls of Carthagena. The ship and cargo were
confiscated, the crew imprisoned and put in irons. Some of the
sailors were treated as slaves, and compelled to sweep the
streets and to work on the fortifications. Others, and among them
the captain, were sent to Seville to be tried for piracy. Soon an
envoy with a flag of truce arrived at Carthagena, and, in the
name of the Council of Caledonia, demanded the release of the
prisoners. He delivered to the authorities a letter threatening
them with the vengeance of the King of Great Britain, and a copy
of the Act of Parliament by which the Company had been created.
The Castilian governor, who probably knew that William, as
Sovereign of England, would not, and, as Sovereign of Scotland,
could not, protect the squatters who had occupied Darien, flung
away both letter and Act of Parliament with a gesture of
contempt, called for a guard, and was with difficulty dissuaded
from throwing the messenger into a dungeon. The Council of
Caledonia, in great indignation, issued letters of mark and
reprisal against Spanish vessels. What every man of common sense
must have foreseen had taken place. The Scottish flag had been
but a few months planted on the walls of New Edinburgh; and
already a war, which Scotland, without the help of England, was
utterly unable to sustain, had begun.

By this time it was known in Europe that the mysterious voyage of
the adventurers from the Forth had ended at Darien. The
ambassador of the Catholic King repaired to Kensington, and
complained bitterly to William of this outrageous violation of
the law of nations. Preparations were made in the Spanish ports
for an expedition against the intruders; and in no Spanish port
were there more fervent wishes for the success of that expedition
than in the cities of London and Bristol. In Scotland, on the
other hand, the exultation was boundless. In the parish churches
all over the kingdom the ministers gave public thanks to God for
having vouchsafed thus far to protect and bless the infant
colony. At some places a day was set apart for religious
exercises on this account. In every borough bells were rung;
bonfires were lighted; and candles were placed in the windows at
night. During some months all the reports which arrived from the
other side of the Atlantic were such as to excite hope and joy in
the north of the island, and alarm and envy in the south. The
colonists, it was asserted, had found rich gold mines, mines in
which the precious metal was far more abundant and in a far purer
state than on the coast of Guinea. Provisions were plentiful. The
rainy season had not proved unhealthy. The settlement was well
fortified. Sixty guns were mounted on the ramparts. An immense
crop of Indian corn was expected. The aboriginal tribes were
friendly. Emigrants from various quarters were coming in. The
population of Caledonia had already increased from twelve hundred
to ten thousand. The riches of the country,--these are the words
of a newspaper of that time,--were great beyond imagination. The
mania in Scotland rose to the highest point. Munitions of war and
implements of agriculture were provided in large quantities.
Multitudes were impatient to emigrate to the land of promise.

In August 1699 four ships, with thirteen hundred men on board,
were despatched by the Company to Caledonia. The spiritual care
of these emigrants was entrusted to divines of the Church of
Scotland. One of these was that Alexander Shields whose Hind Let
Loose proves that in his zeal for the Covenant he had forgotten
the Gospel. To another, John Borland, we owe the best account of
the voyage which is now extant. The General Assembly had charged
the chaplains to divide the colonists into congregations, to
appoint ruling elders, to constitute a presbytery, and to labour
for the propagation of divine truth among the Pagan inhabitants
of Darien. The second expedition sailed as the first had sailed,
amidst the acclamations and blessings of all Scotland. During the
earlier part of September the whole nation was dreaming a
delightful dream of prosperity and glory; and triumphing,
somewhat maliciously, in the vexation of the English. But, before
the close of that month, it began to be rumoured about Lombard
Street and Cheapside that letters had arrived from Jamaica with
strange news. The colony from which so much had been hoped and
dreaded was no more. It had disappeared from the face of the
earth. The report spread to Edinburgh, but was received there
with scornful incredulity. It was an impudent lie devised by some
Englishmen who could not bear to see that, in spite of the votes
of the English Parliament, in spite of the proclamations of the
governors of the English colonies, Caledonia was waxing great and
opulent. Nay, the inventor of the fable was named. It was
declared to be quite certain that Secretary Vernon was the man.
On the fourth of October was put forth a vehement contradiction
of the story.

On the fifth the whole truth was known. Letters were received
from New York announcing that a few miserable men, the remains of
the colony which was to have been the garden, the warehouse, the
mart, of the whole world, their bones peeping through their skin,
and hunger and fever written in their faces, had arrived in the

The grief, the dismay and the rage of those who had a few hours
before fancied themselves masters of all the wealth of both
Indies may easily be imagined. The Directors, in their fury, lost
all self command, and, in their official letters, railed at the
betrayers of Scotland, the white-livered deserters. The truth is
that those who used these hard words were far more deserving of
blame than the wretches whom they had sent to destruction, and
whom they now reviled for not staying to be utterly destroyed.
Nothing had happened but what might easily have been foreseen.
The Company had, in childish reliance on the word of an
enthusiastic projector, and in defiance of facts known to every
educated man in Europe, taken it for granted that emigrants born
and bred within ten degrees of the Arctic Circle would enjoy
excellent health within ten degrees of the Equator. Nay,
statesmen and scholars had been deluded into the belief that a
country which, as they might have read in books so common as
those of Hakluyt and Purchas, was noted even among tropical
countries for its insalubrity, and had been abandoned by the
Spaniards solely on account of its insalubrity, was a Montpelier.
Nor had any of Paterson's dupes considered how colonists from
Fife or Lothian, who had never in their lives known what it was
to feel the heat of a distressing midsummer day, could endure the
labour of breaking clods and carrying burdens under the fierce
blaze of a vertical sun. It ought to have been remembered that
such colonists would have to do for themselves what English,
French, Dutch, and Spanish colonists employed Negroes or Indians
to do for them. It was seldom indeed that a white freeman in
Barbadoes or Martinique, in Guiana or at Panama, was employed in
severe bodily labour. But the Scotch who settled at Darien must
at first be without slaves, and must therefore dig the trench
round their town, build their houses, cultivate their fields, hew
wood, and draw water, with their own hands. Such toil in such an
atmosphere was too much for them. The provisions which they had
brought out had been of no good quality, and had not been
improved by lapse of time or by change of climate. The yams and
plantains did not suit stomachs accustomed to good oatmeal. The
flesh of wild animals and the green fat of the turtle, a luxury
then unknown in Europe, went but a small way; and supplies were
not to be expected from any foreign settlement. During the cool
months, however, which immediately followed the occupation of the
isthmus there were few deaths. But, before the equinox, disease
began to make fearful havoc in the little community. The
mortality gradually rose to ten or twelve a day. Both the
clergymen who had accompanied the expedition died. Paterson
buried his wife in that soil which, as he had assured his too
credulous countrymen, exhaled health and vigour. He was himself
stretched on his pallet by an intermittent fever. Still he would
not admit that the climate of his promised land was bad. There
could not be a purer air. This was merely the seasoning which
people who passed from one country to another must expect. In
November all would be well again. But the rate at which the
emigrants died was such that none of them seemed likely to live
till November. Those who were not laid on their beds were yellow,
lean, feeble, hardly able to move the sick and to bury the dead,
and quite unable to repel the expected attack of the Spaniards.
The cry of the whole community was that death was all around
them, and that they must, while they still had strength to weigh
an anchor or spread a sail, fly to some less fatal region. The
men and provisions were equally distributed among three ships,
the Caledonia, the Unicorn, and the Saint Andrew. Paterson,
though still too ill to sit in the Council, begged hard that he
might be left behind with twenty or thirty companions to keep up
a show of possession, and to await the next arrivals from
Scotland. So small a number of people, he said, might easily
subsist by catching fish and turtles. But his offer was
disregarded; he was carried, utterly helpless, on board of the
Saint Andrew; and the vessel stood out to sea.

The voyage was horrible. Scarcely any Guinea slave ship has ever
had such a middle passage. Of two hundred and fifty persons who
were on board of the Saint Andrew, one hundred and fifty fed the
sharks of the Atlantic before Sandy Hook was in sight. The
Unicorn lost almost all its officers, and about a hundred and
forty men. The Caledonia, the healthiest ship of the three, threw
overboard a hundred corpses. The squalid survivors, as if they
were not sufficiently miserable, raged fiercely against one
another. Charges of incapacity, cruelty, brutal insolence, were
hurled backward and forward. The rigid Presbyterians attributed
the calamities of the colony to the wickedness of Jacobites,
Prelatists, Sabbath-breakers, Atheists, who hated in others that
image of God which was wanting in themselves. The accused
malignants, on the other hand, complained bitterly of the
impertinence of meddling fanatics and hypocrites. Paterson was
cruelly reviled, and was unable to defend himself. He had been
completely prostrated by bodily and mental suffering. He looked
like a skeleton. His heart was broken. His inventive faculties
and his plausible eloquence were no more; and he seemed to have
sunk into second childhood.

Meanwhile the second expedition had been on the seas. It reached
Darien about four months after the first settlers had fled. The
new comers had fully expected to find a flourishing young town,
secure fortifications, cultivated fields, and a cordial welcome.
They found a wilderness. The castle of New Edinburgh was in
ruins. The huts had been burned. The site marked out for the
proud capital which was to have been the Tyre, the Venice, the
Amsterdam of the eighteenth century was overgrown with jungle,
and inhabited only by the sloth and the baboon. The hearts of the
adventurers sank within them. For their fleet had been fitted
out, not to plant a colony, but to recruit a colony already
planted and supposed to be prospering. They were therefore worse
provided with every necessary of life than their predecessors had
been. Some feeble attempts, however, were made to restore what
had perished. A new fort was constructed on the old ground; and
within the ramparts was built a hamlet, consisting of eighty or
ninety cabins, generally of twelve feet by ten. But the work went
on languidly. The alacrity which is the effect of hope, the
strength which is the effect of union, were alike wanting to the
little community. From the councillors down to the humblest
settlers all was despondency and discontent. The stock of
provisions was scanty. The stewards embezzled great part of it.
The rations were small; and soon there was a cry that they were
unfairly distributed. Factions were formed. Plots were laid. One
ringleader of the malecontents was hanged. The Scotch were
generally, as they still are, a religious people; and it might
therefore have been expected that the influence of the divines to
whom the spiritual charge of the colony had been confided would
have been employed with advantage for the preserving of order and
the calming of evil passions. Unfortunately those divines seem to
have been at war with almost all the rest of the society. They
described their companions as the most profligate of mankind, and
declared that it was impossible to constitute a presbytery
according to the directions of the General Assembly; for that
persons fit to be ruling elders of a Christian Church were not to
be found among the twelve or thirteen hundred emigrants. Where
the blame lay it is now impossible to decide. All that can with
confidence be said is that either the clergymen must have been
most unreasonably and most uncharitably austere, or the laymen
must have been most unfavourable specimens of the nation and
class to which they belonged.

It may be added that the provision by the General Assembly for
the spiritual wants of the colony was as defective as the
provision made for temporal wants by the directors of the
Company. Nearly one third of the emigrants who sailed with the
second expedition were Highlanders, who did not understand a word
of English; and not one of the four chaplains could speak a word
of Gaelic. It was only through interpreters that a pastor could
communicate with a large portion of the Christian flock of which
he had charge. Even by the help of interpreters he could not
impart religious instruction to those heathen tribes which the
Church of Scotland had solemnly recommended to his care. In fact,
the colonists left behind them no mark that baptized men had set
foot on Darien, except a few Anglo-Saxon curses, which, having
been uttered more frequently and with greater energy than any
other words in our language, had caught the ear and been retained
in the memory of the native population of the isthmus.

The months which immediately followed the arrival of the new
comers were the coolest and most salubrious of the year. But,
even in those months, the pestilential influence of a tropical
sun, shining on swamps rank with impenetrable thickets of black
mangroves, began to be felt. The mortality was great; and it was
but too clear that, before the summer was far advanced, the
second colony would, like the first, have to choose between death
and flight. But the agony of the inevitable dissolution was
shortened by violence. A fleet of eleven vessels under the flag
of Castile anchored off New Edinburgh. At the same time an
irregular army of Spaniards, Creoles, negroes, mulattoes and
Indians marched across the isthmus from Panama; and the fort was
blockaded at once by sea and land.

A drummer soon came with a message from the besiegers, but a
message which was utterly unintelligible to the besieged. Even
after all that we have seen of the perverse imbecility of the
directors of the Company, it must be thought strange that they
should have sent a colony to a remote part of the world, where it
was certain that there must be constant intercourse, peaceable or
hostile, with Spaniards, and yet should not have taken care that
there should be in the whole colony a single person who knew a
little Spanish.

With some difficulty a negotiation was carried on in such French
and such Latin as the two parties could furnish. Before the end
of March a treaty was signed by which the Scotch bound themselves
to evacuate Darien in fourteen days; and on the eleventh of April
they departed, a much less numerous body than when they arrived.
In little more than four months, although the healthiest months
of the year, three hundred men out of thirteen hundred had been
swept away by disease. Of the survivors very few lived to see
their native country again. Two of the ships perished at sea.
Many of the adventurers, who had left their homes flushed with
hopes of speedy opulence, were glad to hire themselves out to the
planters of Jamaica, and laid their bones in that land of exile.
Shields died there, worn out and heart broken. Borland was the
only minister who came back. In his curious and interesting
narrative, he expresses his feelings, after the fashion of the
school in which he had been bred, by grotesque allusions to the
Old Testament, and by a profusion of Hebrew words. On his first
arrival, he tells us, he found New Edinburgh a Ziklag. He had
subsequently been compelled to dwell in the tents of Kedar. Once,
indeed, during his sojourn, he had fallen in with a Beer-lahai-
roi, and had set up his Ebenezer; but in general Darien was to
him a Magor Missabib, a Kibroth-hattaavah. The sad story is
introduced with the words in which a great man of old, delivered
over to the malice of the Evil Power, was informed of the death
of his children and of the ruin of his fortunes: "I alone am
escaped to tell thee."


Trial of Spencer Cowper--Duels--Discontent of the Nation--Captain
Kidd--Meeting of Parliament--Attacks on Burnet--Renewed Attack on
Somers--Question of the Irish Forfeitures: Dispute between the
Houses--Somers again attacked--Prorogation of Parliament--Death
of James the Second--The Pretender recognised as King--Return of
the King--General Election--Death of William

THE passions which had agitated the Parliament during the late
session continued to ferment in the minds of men during the
recess, and, having no longer a vent in the senate, broke forth
in every part of the empire, destroyed the peace of towns,
brought into peril the honour and the lives of innocent men, and
impelled magistrates to leave the bench of justice and attack one
another sword in hand. Private calamities, private brawls, which
had nothing to do with the disputes between court and country,
were turned by the political animosities of that unhappy summer
into grave political events.

One mournful tale, which called forth the strongest feelings of
the contending factions, is still remembered as a curious part of
the history of our jurisprudence, and especially of the history
of our medical jurisprudence. No Whig member of the lower House,
with the single exception of Montague, filled a larger space in
the public eye than William Cowper. In the art of conciliating an
audience, Cowper was preeminent. His graceful and engaging
eloquence cast a spell on juries; and the Commons, even in those
stormy moments when no other defender of the administration could
obtain a hearing, would always listen to him. He represented
Hertford, a borough in which his family had considerable
influence; but there was a strong Tory minority among the
electors, and he had not won his seat without a hard fight, which
had left behind it many bitter recollections. His younger brother
Spencer, a man of parts and learning, was fast rising into
practice as a barrister on the Home Circuit.

At Hertford resided an opulent Quaker family named Stout. A
pretty young woman of this family had lately sunk into a
melancholy of a kind not very unusual in girls of strong
sensibility and lively imagination who are subject to the
restraints of austere religious societies. Her dress, her looks,
her gestures, indicated the disturbance of her mind. She
sometimes hinted her dislike of the sect to which she belonged.
She complained that a canting waterman who was one of the
brotherhood had held forth against her at a meeting. She
threatened to go beyond sea, to throw herself out of window, to
drown herself. To two or three of her associates she owned that
she was in love; and on one occasion she plainly said that the
man whom she loved was one whom she never could marry. In fact,
the object of her fondness was Spencer Cowper, who was already
married. She at length wrote to him in language which she never
would have used if her intellect had not been disordered. He,
like an honest man, took no advantage of her unhappy state of
mind, and did his best to avoid her. His prudence mortified her
to such a degree that on one occasion she went into fits. It was
necessary, however, that he should see her, when he came to
Hertford at the spring assizes of 1699. For he had been entrusted
with some money which was due to her on mortgage. He called on
her for this purpose late one evening, and delivered a bag of
gold to her. She pressed him to be the guest of her family; but
he excused himself and retired. The next morning she was found
dead among the stakes of a mill dam on the stream called the
Priory River. That she had destroyed herself there could be no
reasonable doubt. The coroner's inquest found that she had
drowned herself while in a state of mental derangement. But her
family was unwilling to admit that she had shortened her own
life, and looked about for somebody who might be accused of
murdering her. The last person who could be proved to have been
in her company was Spencer Cowper. It chanced that two attorneys
and a scrivener, who had come down from town to the Hertford
assizes, had been overheard, on that unhappy night, talking over
their wine about the charms and flirtations of the handsome
Quaker girl, in the light way in which such subjects are
sometimes discussed even at the circuit tables and mess tables of
our more refined generation. Some wild words, susceptible of a
double meaning, were used about the way in which she had jilted
one lover, and the way in which another lover would punish her
for her coquetry. On no better grounds than these her relations
imagined that Spencer Cowper had, with the assistance of these
three retainers of the law, strangled her, and thrown her corpse
into the water. There was absolutely no evidence of the crime.
There was no evidence that any one of the accused had any motive
to commit such a crime; there was no evidence that Spencer Cowper
had any connection with the persons who were said to be his
accomplices. One of those persons, indeed, he had never seen. But
no story is too absurd to be imposed on minds blinded by
religious and political fanaticism. The Quakers and the Tories
joined to raise a formidable clamour. The Quakers had, in those
days, no scruples about capital punishments. They would, indeed,
as Spencer Cowper said bitterly, but too truly, rather send four
innocent men to the gallows than let it be believed that one who
had their light within her had committed suicide. The Tories
exulted in the prospect of winning two seats from the Whigs. The
whole kingdom was divided between Stouts and Cowpers. At the
summer assizes Hertford was crowded with anxious faces from
London and from parts of England more distant than London. The
prosecution was conducted with a malignity and unfairness which
to us seem almost incredible; and, unfortunately, the dullest and
most ignorant judge of the twelve was on the bench. Cowper
defended himself and those who were said to be his accomplices
with admirable ability and self possession. His brother, much
more distressed than himself, sate near him through the long
agony of that day. The case against the prisoners rested chiefly
on the vulgar error that a human body, found, as this poor girl's
body had been found, floating in water, must have been thrown
into the water while still alive. To prove this doctrine the
counsel for the Crown called medical practitioners, of whom
nothing is now known except that some of them had been active
against the Whigs at Hertford elections. To confirm the evidence
of these gentlemen two or three sailors were put into the witness
box. On the other side appeared an array of men of science whose
names are still remembered. Among them was William Cowper, not a
kinsman of the defendant, but the most celebrated anatomist that
England had then produced. He was, indeed, the founder of a
dynasty illustrious in the history of science; for he was the
teacher of William Cheselden, and William Cheselden was the
teacher of John Hunter. On the same side appeared Samuel Garth,
who, among the physicians of the capital, had no rival except
Radcliffe, and Hans Sloane, the founder of the magnificent museum
which is one of the glories of our country. The attempt of the
prosecutors to make the superstitions of the forecastle evidence
for the purpose of taking away the lives of men was treated by
these philosophers with just disdain. The stupid judge asked
Garth what he could say in answer to the testimony of the seamen.
"My Lord," replied Garth, "I say that they are mistaken. I will
find seamen in abundance to swear that they have known whistling
raise the wind."

The jury found the prisoners Not guilty; and the report carried
back to London by persons who had been present at the trial was
that everybody applauded the verdict, and that even the Stouts
seemed to be convinced of their error. It is certain, however,
that the malevolence of the defeated party soon revived in all
its energy. The lives of the four men who had just been absolved
were again attacked by means of the most absurd and odious
proceeding known to our old law, the appeal of murder. This
attack too failed. Every artifice of chicane was at length
exhausted; and nothing was left to the disappointed sect and the
disappointed faction except to calumniate those whom it had been
found impossible to murder. In a succession of libels Spencer
Cowper was held up to the execration of the public. But the
public did him justice. He rose to high eminence in his
profession; he at length took his seat, with general applause, on
the judicial bench, and there distinguished himself by the
humanity which he never failed to show to unhappy men who stood,
as he had once stood, at the bar. Many who seldom trouble
themselves about pedigrees may be interested by learning that he
was the grandfather of that excellent man and excellent poet
William Cowper, whose writings have long been peculiarly loved
and prized by the members of the religious community which, under
a strong delusion, sought to slay his innocent progenitor.19

Though Spencer Cowper had escaped with life and honour, the
Tories had carried their point. They had secured against the next
election the support of the Quakers of Hertford; and the
consequence was that the borough was lost to the family and to
the party which had lately predominated there.

In the very week in which the great trial took place at Hertford,
a feud arising out of the late election for Buckinghamshire very
nearly produced fatal effects. Wharton, the chief of the
Buckinghamshire Whigs, had with difficulty succeeded in bringing
in his brother as one of the knights of the shire. Graham
Viscount Cheyney, of the kingdom of Scotland, had been returned
at the head of the poll by the Tories. The two noblemen met at
the quarter sessions. In England Cheyney was before the Union
merely an Esquire. Wharton was undoubtedly entitled to take place
of him, and had repeatedly taken place of him without any
dispute. But angry passions now ran so high that a decent pretext
for indulging them was hardly thought necessary. Cheyney fastened
a quarrel on Wharton. They drew. Wharton, whose cool good
humoured courage and skill in fence were the envy of all the
swordsmen of that age, closed with his quarrelsome neighbour,
disarmed him, and gave him his life.

A more tragical duel had just taken place at Westminster. Conway
Seymour, the eldest son of Sir Edward Seymour, had lately come of
age. He was in possession of an independent fortune of seven
thousand pounds a year, which he lavished in costly fopperies.
The town had nicknamed him Beau Seymour. He was displaying his
curls and his embroidery in Saint James's Park on a midsummer
evening, after indulging too freely in wine, when a young officer
of the Blues named Kirke, who was as tipsy as himself, passed
near him. "There goes Beau Seymour," said Kirke. Seymour flew
into a rage. Angry words were exchanged between the foolish boys.
They immediately went beyond the precincts of the Court, drew,
and exchanged some pushes. Seymour was wounded in the neck. The
wound was not very serious; but, when his cure was only half
completed, he revelled in fruit, ice and Burgundy till he threw
himself into a violent fever. Though a coxcomb and a voluptuary,
he seems to have had some fine qualities. On the last day of his
life he saw Kirke. Kirke implored forgiveness; and the dying man
declared that he forgave as he hoped to be forgiven. There can be
no doubt that a person who kills another in a duel is, according
to law, guilty of murder. But the law had never been strictly
enforced against gentlemen in such cases; and in this case there
was no peculiar atrocity, no deep seated malice, no suspicion of
foul play. Sir Edward, however, vehemently declared that he would
have life for life. Much indulgence is due to the resentment of
an affectionate father maddened by the loss of a son. But there
is but too much reason to believe that the implacability of
Seymour was the implacability, not of an affectionate father, but
of a factious and malignant agitator. He tried to make what is,
in the jargon of our time, called political capital out of the
desolation of his house and the blood of his first born. A brawl
between two dissolute youths, a brawl distinguished by nothing
but its unhappy result from the hundred brawls which took place
every month in theatres and taverns, he magnified into an attack
on the liberties of the nation, an attempt to introduce a
military tyranny. The question was whether a soldier was to be
permitted to insult English gentlemen, and, if they murmured, to
cut their throats? It was moved in the Court of King's Bench that
Kirke should either be brought to immediate trial or admitted to
bail. Shower, as counsel for Seymour, opposed the motion. But
Seymour was not content to leave the case in Shower's hands. In
defiance of all decency, he went to Westminster Hall, demanded a
hearing, and pronounced a harangue against standing armies.
"Here," he said, "is a man who lives on money taken out of our
pockets. The plea set up for taxing us in order to support him is
that his sword protects us, and enables us to live in peace and
security. And is he to be suffered to use that sword to destroy
us?" Kirke was tried and found guilty of manslaughter. In his
case, as in the case of Spencer Cowper, an attempt was made to
obtain a writ of appeal. The attempt failed; and Seymour was
disappointed of his revenge; but he was not left without
consolation. If he had lost a son, he had found, what he seems to
have prized quite as much, a fertile theme for invective.

The King, on his return from the Continent, found his subjects in
no bland humour. All Scotland, exasperated by the fate of the
first expedition to Darien, and anxiously waiting for news of the
second, called loudly for a Parliament. Several of the Scottish
peers carried to Kensington an address which was subscribed by
thirty-six of their body, and which earnestly pressed William to
convoke the Estates at Edinburgh, and to redress the wrongs which
had been done to the colony of New Caledonia. A petition to the
same effect was widely circulated among the commonalty of his
Northern kingdom, and received, if report could be trusted, not
less than thirty thousand signatures. Discontent was far from
being as violent in England as in Scotland. Yet in England there
was discontent enough to make even a resolute prince uneasy. The
time drew near at which the Houses must reassemble; and how were
the Commons to be managed? Montague, enraged, mortified, and
intimidated by the baiting of the last session, was fully
determined not again to appear in the character of chief minister
of finance. The secure and luxurious retreat which he had, some
months ago, prepared for himself was awaiting him. He took the
Auditorship, and resigned his other places. Smith became
Chancellor of the Exchequer. A new commission of Treasury issued;
and the first name was that of Tankerville. He had entered on his
career, more than twenty years before, with the fairest hopes,
young, noble, nobly allied, of distinguished abilities, of
graceful manners. There was no more brilliant man of fashion in
the theatre and in the ring. There was no more popular tribune in
Guildhall. Such was the commencement of a life so miserable that
all the indignation excited by great faults is overpowered by
pity. A guilty passion, amounting to a madness, left on the moral
character of the unhappy man a stain at which even libertines
looked grave. He tried to make the errors of his private life
forgotten by splendid and perilous services to a public cause;
and, having endured in that cause penury and exile, the gloom of
a dungeon, the prospect of a scaffold, the ruin of a noble
estate, he was so unfortunate as to be regarded by the party for
which he had sacrificed every thing as a coward, if not a
traitor. Yet, even against such accumulated disasters and
disgraces, his vigorous and aspiring mind bore up. His parts and
eloquence gained for him the ear of the House of Lords; and at
length, though not till his constitution was so broken that he
was fitter for flannel and cushions than for a laborious office
at Whitehall, he was put at the head of one of the most important
departments of the administration. It might have been expected
that this appointment would call forth clamours from widely
different quarters; that the Tories would be offended by the
elevation of a rebel; that the Whigs would set up a cry against
the captain to whose treachery or faintheartedness they had been
in the habit of imputing the rout of Sedgemoor; and that the
whole of that great body of Englishmen which cannot be said to be
steadily Whig or Tory, but which is zealous for decency and the
domestic virtues, would see with indignation a signal mark of
royal favour bestowed on one who had been convicted of debauching
a noble damsel, the sister of his own wife. But so capricious is
public feeling that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to
find, in any of the letters, essays, dialogues, and poems which
bear the date of 1699 or of 1700, a single allusion to the vices
or misfortunes of the new First Lord of the Treasury. It is
probable that his infirm health and his isolated position were
his protection. The chiefs of the opposition did not fear him
enough to hate him. The Whig junto was still their terror and
their abhorrence. They continued to assail Montague and Orford,
though with somewhat less ferocity than while Montague had the
direction of the finances, and Orford of the marine. But the
utmost spite of all the leading malecontents were concentrated on
one object, the great magistrate who still held the highest civil
post in the realm, and who was evidently determined to hold it in
defiance of them. It was not so easy to get rid of him as it had
been to drive his colleagues from office. His abilities the most
intolerant Tories were forced grudgingly to acknowledge. His
integrity might be questioned in nameless libels and in
coffeehouse tattle, but was certain to come forth bright and pure
from the most severe Parliamentary investigation. Nor was he
guilty of those faults of temper and of manner to which, more
than to any grave delinquency, the unpopularity of his associates
is to be ascribed. He had as little of the insolence and
perverseness of Orford as of the petulance and vaingloriousness
of Montague. One of the most severe trials to which the head and
heart of man can be put is great and rapid elevation. To that
trial both Montague and Somers were put. It was too much for
Montague. But Somers was found equal to it. He was the son of a
country attorney. At thirty-seven he had been sitting in a stuff
gown on a back bench in the Court of King's Bench. At forty-two
he was the first lay dignitary of the realm, and took precedence
of the Archbishop of York, and of the Duke of Norfolk. He had
risen from a lower point than Montague, had risen as fast as
Montague, had risen as high as Montague, and yet had not excited
envy such as dogged Montague through a long career. Garreteers,
who were never weary of calling the cousin of the Earls of
Manchester and Sandwich an upstart, could not, without an
unwonted sense of shame, apply those words to the Chancellor,
who, without one drop of patrician blood in his veins, had taken
his place at the head of the patrician order with the quiet
dignity of a man ennobled by nature. His serenity, his modesty,
his selfcommand, proof even against the most sudden surprises of
passion, his selfrespect, which forced the proudest grandees of
the kingdom to respect him, his urbanity, which won the hearts of
the youngest lawyers of the Chancery Bar, gained for him many
private friends and admirers among the most respectable members
of the opposition. But such men as Howe and Seymour hated him
implacably; they hated his commanding genius much; they hated the
mild majesty of his virtue still more. They sought occasion
against him everywhere; and they at length flattered themselves
that they had found it.

Some years before, while the war was still raging, there had been
loud complaints in the city that even privateers of St. Malo's
and Dunkirk caused less molestation to trade than another class
of marauders. The English navy was fully employed in the Channel,
in the Atlantic, and in the Mediterranean. The Indian Ocean,
meanwhile, swarmed with pirates of whose rapacity and cruelty
frightful stories were told. Many of these men, it was said, came
from our North American colonies, and carried back to those
colonies the spoils gained by crime. Adventurers who durst not
show themselves in the Thames found a ready market for their
illgotten spices and stuffs at New York. Even the Puritans of New
England, who in sanctimonious austerity surpassed even their
brethren of Scotland, were accused of conniving at the wickedness
which enabled them to enjoy abundantly and cheaply the produce of
Indian looms and Chinese tea plantations.

In 1695 Richard Coote, Earl of Bellamont, an Irish peer who sate
in the English House of Commons, was appointed Governor of New
York and Massachusets. He was a man of eminently fair character,
upright, courageous and independent. Though a decided Whig, he
had distinguished himself by bringing before the Parliament at
Westminster some tyrannical acts done by Whigs at Dublin, and
particularly the execution, if it is not rather to be called the
murder, of Gafney. Before Bellamont sailed for America, William
spoke strongly to him about the freebooting which was the
disgrace of the colonies. "I send you, my Lord, to New York," he
said, "because an honest and intrepid man is wanted to put these
abuses down, and because I believe you to be such a man."
Bellamont exerted himself to justify the high opinion which the
King had formed of him. It was soon known at New York that the
Governor who had just arrived from England was bent on the
suppression of piracy; and some colonists in whom he placed great
confidence suggested to him what they may perhaps have thought
the best mode of attaining that object. There was then in the
settlement a veteran mariner named William Kidd. He had passed
most of his life on the waves, had distinguished himself by his
seamanship, had had opportunities of showing his valour in action
with the French, and had retired on a competence. No man knew the
Eastern seas better. He was perfectly acquainted with all the
haunts of the pirates who prowled between the Cape of Good Hope
and the Straits of Malacca; and he would undertake, if he were
entrusted with a single ship of thirty or forty guns, to clear
the Indian Ocean of the whole race. The brigantines of the rovers
were numerous, no doubt; but none of them was large; one man of
war, which in the royal navy would hardly rank as a fourth rate,
would easily deal with them all in succession; and the lawful
spoils of the enemies of mankind would much more than defray the
charges of the expedition. Bellamont was charmed with this plan,
and recommended it to the King. The King referred it to the
Admiralty. The Admiralty raised difficulties, such as are
perpetually raised by public boards when any deviation, whether
for the better or for the worse, from the established course of
proceeding is proposed. It then occurred to Bellamont that his
favourite scheme might be carried into effect without any cost to
the state. A few public spirited men might easily fit out a
privateer which would soon make the Arabian Gulph and the Bay of
Bengal secure highways for trade. He wrote to his friends in
England imploring, remonstrating, complaining of their lamentable
want of public spirit. Six thousand pounds would be enough. That
sum would be repaid, and repaid with large interest, from the
sale of prizes; and an inestimable benefit would be conferred on
the kingdom and on the world. His urgency succeeded. Shrewsbury
and Romney contributed. Orford, though, as first Lord of the
Admiralty, he had been unwilling to send Kidd to the Indian ocean
with a king's ship, consented to subscribe a thousand pounds.
Somers subscribed another thousand. A ship called the Adventure
Galley was equipped in the port of London; and Kidd took the
command. He carried with him, besides the ordinary letters of
marque, a commission under the Great Seal empowering him to seize
pirates, and to take them to some place where they might be dealt
with according to law. Whatever right the King might have to the
goods found in the possession of these malefactors he granted, by
letters patent, to the persons who had been at the expense of
fitting out the expedition, reserving to himself only one tenth
part of the gains of the adventure, which was to be paid into the
treasury. With the claim of merchants to have back the property
of which they had been robbed His Majesty of course did not
interfere. He granted away, and could grant away, no rights but
his own.

The press for sailors to man the royal navy was at that time so
hot that Kidd could not obtain his full complement of hands in
the Thames. He crossed the Atlantic, visited New York, and there
found volunteers in abundance. At length, in February 1697, he
sailed from the Hudson with a crew of more than a hundred and
fifty men, and in July reached the coast of Madagascar.

It is possible that Kidd may at first have meant to act in
accordance with his instructions. But, on the subject of piracy,
he held the notions which were then common in the North American
colonies; and most of his crew were of the same mind. He found
himself in a sea which was constantly traversed by rich and
defenceless merchant ships; and he had to determine whether he
would plunder those ships or protect them. The gain which might
be made by plundering them was immense, and might be snatched
without the dangers of a battle or the delays of a trial. The
rewards of protecting the lawful trade were likely to be
comparatively small. Such as they were, they would be got only by
first fighting with desperate ruffians who would rather be killed
than taken, and by then instituting a proceeding and obtaining a
judgment in a Court of Admiralty. The risk of being called to a
severe reckoning might not unnaturally seem small to one who had
seen many old buccaneers living in comfort and credit at New York
and Boston. Kidd soon threw off the character of a privateer, and
became a pirate. He established friendly communications, and
exchanged arms and ammunition, with the most notorious of those
rovers whom his commission authorised him to destroy, and made
war on those peaceful traders whom he was sent to defend. He
began by robbing Mussulmans, and speedily proceeded from
Mussulmans to Armenians, and from Armenians to Portuguese. The
Adventure Galley took such quantities of cotton and silk, sugar
and coffee, cinnamon and pepper, that the very foremast men
received from a hundred to two hundred pounds each, and that the
captain's share of the spoil would have enabled him to live at
home as an opulent gentleman. With the rapacity Kidd had the
cruelty of his odious calling. He burned houses; he massacred
peasantry. His prisoners were tied up and beaten with naked
cutlasses in order to extort information about their concealed
hoards. One of his crew, whom he had called a dog, was provoked
into exclaiming, in an agony of remorse, "Yes, I am a dog; but it
is you that have made me so." Kidd, in a fury, struck the man

News then travelled very slowly from the eastern seas to England.
But, in August 1698, it was known in London that the Adventure
Galley from which so much had been hoped was the terror of the
merchants of Surat, and of the villagers of the coast of Malabar.
It was thought probable that Kidd would carry his booty to some
colony. Orders were therefore sent from Whitehall to the
governors of the transmarine possessions of the Crown, directing
them to be on the watch for him. He meanwhile, having burned his
ship and dismissed most of his men, who easily found berths in
the sloops of other pirates, returned to New York with the means,
as he flattered himself, of making his peace and of living in
splendour. He had fabricated a long romance to which Bellamont,
naturally unwilling to believe that he had been duped and had
been the means of duping others, was at first disposed to listen
with favour. But the truth soon came out. The governor did his
duty firmly; and Kidd was placed in close confinement till orders
arrived from the Admiralty that he should be sent to England.

To an intelligent and candid judge of human actions it will not
appear that any of the persons at whose expense the Adventure
Galley was fitted out deserved serious blame. The worst that
could be imputed even to Bellamont, who had drawn in all the
rest, was that he had been led into a fault by his ardent zeal
for the public service, and by the generosity of a nature as
little prone to suspect as to devise villanies. His friends in
England might surely be pardoned for giving credit to his
recommendation. It is highly probable that the motive which
induced some of them to aid his design was genuine public spirit.
But, if we suppose them to have had a view to gain, it was to
legitimate gain. Their conduct was the very opposite of corrupt.
Not only had they taken no money. They had disbursed money
largely, and had disbursed it with the certainty that they should
never be reimbursed unless the outlay proved beneficial to the
public. That they meant well they proved by staking thousands on
the success of their plan; and, if they erred in judgment, the
loss of those thousands was surely a sufficient punishment for
such an error. On this subject there would probably have been no
difference of opinion had not Somers been one of the
contributors. About the other patrons of Kidd the chiefs of the
opposition cared little. Bellamont was far removed from the
political scene. Romney could not, and Shrewsbury would not,
play a first part. Orford had resigned his employments. But
Somers still held the Great Seal, still presided in the House of
Lords, still had constant access to the closet. The retreat of
his friends had left him the sole and undisputed head of that
party which had, in the late Parliament, been a majority, and
which was, in the present Parliament, outnumbered indeed,
disorganised and disheartened, but still numerous and
respectable. His placid courage rose higher and higher to meet
the dangers which threatened him. He provided for himself no
refuge. He made no move towards flight; and, without uttering one
boastful word, gave his enemies to understand, by the mild
firmness of his demeanour, that he dared them to do their worst.

In their eagerness to displace and destroy him they overreached
themselves. Had they been content to accuse him of lending his
countenance, with a rashness unbecoming his high place, to an
illconcerted scheme, that large part of mankind which judges of a
plan simply by the event would probably have thought the
accusation well founded. But the malice which they bore to him
was not to be so satisfied. They affected to believe that he had
from the first been aware of Kidd's character and designs. The
Great Seal had been employed to sanction a piratical expedition.
The head of the law had laid down a thousand pounds in the hope
of receiving tens of thousands when his accomplices should
return, laden with the spoils of ruined merchants. It was
fortunate for the Chancellor that the calumnies of which he was
the object were too atrocious to be mischievous.

And now the time had come at which the hoarded illhumour of six
months was at liberty to explode. On the sixteenth of November
the Houses met. The King, in his speech, assured them in gracious
and affectionate language that he was determined to do his best
to merit their love by constant care to preserve their liberty
and their religion, by a pure administration of justice, by
countenancing virtue, by discouraging vice, by shrinking from no
difficulty or danger when the welfare of the nation was at stake.
"These," he said, "are my resolutions; and I am persuaded that
you are come together with purposes on your part suitable to
these on mine. Since then our aims are only for the general good,
let us act with confidence in one another, which will not fail,
by God's blessing, to make me a happy king, and you a great and
flourishing people."

It might have been thought that no words less likely to give
offence had ever been uttered from the English throne. But even
in those words the malevolence of faction sought and found matter
for a quarrel. The gentle exhortation, "Let us act with
confidence in one another," must mean that such confidence did
not now exist, that the King distrusted the Parliament, or that
the Parliament had shown an unwarrantable distrust of the King.
Such an exhortation was nothing less than a reproach; and such a
reproach was a bad return for the gold and the blood which
England had lavished in order to make and to keep him a great
sovereign. There was a sharp debate, in which Seymour took part.
With characteristic indelicacy and want of feeling he harangued
the Commons as he had harangued the Court of King's Bench, about
his son's death, and about the necessity of curbing the insolence
of military men. There were loud complaints that the events of
the preceding session had been misrepresented to the public, that
emissaries of the Court, in every part of the kingdom, declaimed
against the absurd jealousies or still more absurd parsimony
which had refused to His Majesty the means of keeping up such an
army as might secure the country against invasion. Even justices
of the peace, it was said, even deputy-lieutenants, had used King
James and King Lewis as bugbears, for the purpose of stirring up
the people against honest and thrifty representatives. Angry
resolutions were passed, declaring it to be the opinion of the
House that the best way to establish entire confidence between
the King and the Estates of the Realm would be to put a brand on
those evil advisers who had dared to breathe in the royal ear
calumnies against a faithful Parliament. An address founded on
these resolutions was voted; many thought that a violent rupture
was inevitable. But William returned an answer so prudent and
gentle that malice itself could not prolong the dispute. By this
time, indeed, a new dispute had begun. The address had scarcely
been moved when the House called for copies of the papers
relating to Kidd's expedition. Somers, conscious of innocence,
knew that it was wise as well as right to be perfectly ingenuous,
and resolved that there should be no concealment. His friends
stood manfully by him, and his enemies struck at him with such
blind fury that their blows injured only themselves. Howe raved
like a maniac. "What is to become of the country, plundered by
land, plundered by sea? Our rulers have laid hold on our lands,
our woods, our mines, our money. And all this is not enough. We
cannot send a cargo to the farthest ends of the earth, but they
must send a gang of thieves after it." Harley and Seymour tried
to carry a vote of censure without giving the House time to read
the papers. But the general feeling was strongly for a short
delay. At length, on the sixth of December, the subject was
considered in a committee of the whole House. Shower undertook to
prove that the letters patent to which Somers had put the Great
Seal were illegal. Cowper replied to him with immense applause,
and seems to have completely refuted him. Some of the Tory
orators had employed what was then a favourite claptrap. Very
great men, no doubt, were concerned in this business. But were
the Commons of England to stand in awe of great men? Would not
they have the spirit to censure corruption and oppression in the
highest places? Cowper answered finely that assuredly the House
ought not to be deterred from the discharge of any duty by the
fear of great men, but that fear was not the only base and evil
passion of which great men were the objects, and that the
flatterer who courted their favour was not a worse citizen than
the envious calumniator who took pleasure in bringing whatever
was eminent down to his own level. At length, after a debate
which lasted from midday till nine at night, and in which all the
leading members took part, the committee divided on the question
that the letters patent were dishonourable to the King,
inconsistent with the law of nations, contrary to the statutes of
the realm, and destructive of property and trade. The
Chancellor's enemies had felt confident of victory, and had made
the resolution so strong in order that it might be impossible for
him to retain the Great Seal. They soon found that it would have
been wise to propose a gentler censure. Great numbers of their
adherents, convinced by Cowper's arguments, or unwilling to put a
cruel stigma on a man of whose genius and accomplishments the
nation was proud, stole away before the door was closed. To the
general astonishment there were only one hundred and thirty-three
Ayes to one hundred and eighty-nine Noes. That the City of London
did not consider Somers as the destroyer, and his enemies as the
protectors, of trade, was proved on the following morning by the
most unequivocal of signs. As soon as the news of his triumph
reached the Royal Exchange, the price of stocks went up.

Some weeks elapsed before the Tories ventured again to attack
him. In the meantime they amused themselves by trying to worry
another person whom they hated even more bitterly. When, in a
financial debate, the arrangements of the household of the Duke
of Gloucester were incidentally mentioned, one or two members
took the opportunity of throwing reflections on Burnet. Burnet's
very name sufficed to raise among the High Churchmen a storm of
mingled merriment and anger. The Speaker in vain reminded the
orators that they were wandering from the question. The majority
was determined to have some fun with the Right Reverend Whig, and
encouraged them to proceed. Nothing appears to have been said on
the other side. The chiefs of the opposition inferred from the
laughing and cheering of the Bishop's enemies, and from the
silence of his friends, that there would be no difficulty in
driving from Court, with contumely, the prelate whom of all
prelates they most detested, as the personification of the
latitudinarian spirit, a Jack Presbyter in lawn sleeves. They,
therefore, after the lapse of a few hours, moved quite
unexpectedly an address requesting the King to remove the Bishop
of Salisbury from the place of preceptor to the young heir
apparent. But it soon appeared that many who could not help
smiling at Burnet's weaknesses did justice to his abilities and
virtues. The debate was hot. The unlucky Pastoral Letter was of
course not forgotten. It was asked whether a man who had
proclaimed that England was a conquered country, a man whose
servile pages the English Commons had ordered to be burned by the
hangman, could be a fit instructor for an English Prince. Some
reviled the Bishop for being a Socinian, which he was not, and
some for being a Scotchman, which he was. His defenders fought
his battle gallantly. "Grant," they said, "that it is possible to
find, amidst an immense mass of eloquent and learned matter
published in defence of the Protestant religion and of the
English Constitution, a paragraph which, though well intended,
was not well considered, is that error of an unguarded minute to
outweigh the services of more than twenty years? If one House of
Commons, by a very small majority, censured a little tract of
which his Lordship was the author, let it be remembered that
another House of Commons unanimously voted thanks to him for a
work of very different magnitude and importance, the History of
the Reformation. And, as to what is said about his birthplace, is
there not already ill humour enough in Scotland? Has not the
failure of that unhappy expedition to Darien raised a
sufficiently bitter feeling against us throughout that kingdom?
Every wise and honest man is desirous to soothe the angry
passions of our neighbours. And shall we, just at this moment,
exasperate those passions by proclaiming that to be born on the
north of the Tweed is a disqualification for all honourable
trust?" The ministerial members would gladly have permitted the
motion to be withdrawn. But the opposition, elated with hope,
insisted on dividing, and were confounded by finding that, with
all the advantage of a surprise, they were only one hundred and
thirty-three to one hundred and seventy-three. Their defeat would
probably have been less complete, had not all those members who
were especially attached to the Princess of Denmark voted in the
majority or absented themselves. Marlborough used all his
influence against the motion; and he had strong reasons for doing
so. He was by no means well pleased to see the Commons engaged in
discussing the characters and past lives of the persons who were
placed about the Duke of Gloucester. If the High Churchmen, by
reviving old stories, succeeded in carrying a vote against the
Preceptor, it was by no means unlikely that some malicious Whig
might retaliate on the Governor. The Governor must have been
conscious that he was not invulnerable; nor could he absolutely
rely on the support of the whole body of Tories; for it was
believed that their favourite leader, Rochester, thought himself
the fittest person to superintend the education of his grand

From Burnet the opposition went back to Somers. Some Crown
property near Reigate had been granted to Somers by the King. In
this transaction there was nothing that deserved blame. The Great
Seal ought always to be held by a lawyer of the highest
distinction; nor can such a lawyer discharge his duties in a
perfectly efficient manner unless, with the Great Seal, he
accepts a peerage. But he may not have accumulated a fortune such
as will alone suffice to support a peerage; his peerage is
permanent; and his tenure of the Great Seal is precarious. In a
few weeks he may be dismissed from office, and may find that he
has lost a lucrative profession, that he has got nothing but a
costly dignity, that he has been transformed from a prosperous
barrister into a mendicant lord. Such a risk no wise man will
run. If, therefore, the state is to be well served in the highest
civil post, it is absolutely necessary that a provision should be
made for retired Chancellors. The Sovereign is now empowered by
Act of Parliament to make such a provision out of the public
revenue. In old times such a provision was ordinarily made out of
the hereditary domain of the Crown. What had been bestowed on
Somers appears to have amounted, after all deductions, to a net
income of about sixteen hundred a year, a sum which will hardly
shock us who have seen at one time five retired Chancellors
enjoying pensions of five thousand a year each. For the crime,
however, of accepting this grant the leaders of the opposition
hoped that they should be able to punish Somers with disgrace and
ruin. One difficulty stood in the way. All that he had received
was but a pittance when compared with the wealth with which some
of his persecutors had been loaded by the last two kings of the
House of Stuart. It was not easy to pass any censure on him which
should not imply a still more severe censure on two generations
of Granvilles, on two generations of Hydes, and on two
generations of Finches. At last some ingenious Tory thought of a
device by which it might be possible to strike the enemy without
wounding friends. The grants of Charles and James had been made in
time of peace; and William's grant to Somers had been made in
time of war. Malice eagerly caught at this childish distinction.
It was moved that any minister who had been concerned in passing
a grant for his own benefit while the nation was under the heavy
taxes of the late war had violated his trust; as if the
expenditure which is necessary to secure to the country a good
administration of justice ought to be suspended by war; or as if
it were not criminal in a government to squander the resources of
the state in time of peace. The motion was made by James Brydges,
eldest son of the Lord Chandos, the James Brydges who afterwards
became Duke of Chandos, who raised a gigantic fortune out of war
taxes, to squander it in comfortless and tasteless ostentation,
and who is still remembered as the Timon of Pope's keen and
brilliant satire. It was remarked as extraordinary that Brydges
brought forward and defended his motion merely as the assertion
of an abstract truth, and avoided all mention of the Chancellor.
It seemed still more extraordinary that Howe, whose whole
eloquence consisted in cutting personalities, named nobody on
this occasion, and contented himself with declaiming in general
terms against corruption and profusion. It was plain that the
enemies of Somers were at once urged forward by hatred and kept
back by fear. They knew that they could not carry a resolution
directly condemning him. They, therefore, cunningly brought
forward a mere speculative proposition which many members might
be willing to affirm without scrutinising it severely. But, as
soon as the major premise had been admitted, the minor would be
without difficulty established; and it would be impossible to
avoid coming to the conclusion that Somers had violated his
trust. Such tactics, however, have very seldom succeeded in
English parliaments; for a little good sense and a little
straightforwardness are quite sufficient to confound them. A
sturdy Whig member, Sir Rowland Gwyn, disconcerted the whole
scheme of operations. "Why this reserve?" he said, "Everybody
knows your meaning. Everybody sees that you have not the courage
to name the great man whom you are trying to destroy." "That is
false," cried Brydges; and a stormy altercation followed. It soon
appeared that innocence would again triumph. The two parties
seemed to have exchanged characters for one day. The friends of
the government, who in the Parliament were generally humble and
timorous, took a high tone, and spoke as it becomes men to speak
who are defending persecuted genius and virtue. The malecontents,
generally so insolent and turbulent, seemed to be completely
cowed. They abased themselves so low as to protest, what no human
being could believe, that they had no intention of attacking the
Chancellor, and had framed their resolution without any view to
him. Howe, from whose lips scarcely any thing ever dropped but
gall and poison, went so far as to say: "My Lord Somers is a man
of eminent merit, of merit so eminent that, if he had made a
slip, we might well overlook it." At a late hour the question was
put; and the motion was rejected by a majority of fifty in a
house of four hundred and nineteen members. It was long since
there had been so large an attendance at a division.

The ignominious failure of the attacks on Somers and Burnet
seemed to prove that the assembly was coming round to a better
temper. But the temper of a House of Commons left without the
guidance of a ministry is never to be trusted. "Nobody can tell
today," said an experienced politician of that time, "what the
majority may take it into their heads to do tomorrow." Already a
storm was gathering in which the Constitution itself was in
danger of perishing, and from which none of the three branches of
the legislature escaped without serious damage.

The question of the Irish forfeitures had been raised; and about
that question the minds of men, both within and without the walls
of Parliament, were in a strangely excitable state. Candid and
intelligent men, whatever veneration they may feel for the memory
of William, must find it impossible to deny that, in his
eagerness to enrich and aggrandise his personal friends, he too
often forgot what was due to his own reputation and to the public
interest. It is true that in giving away the old domains of the
Crown he did only what he had a right to do, and what all his
predecessors had done; nor could the most factious opposition
insist on resuming his grants of those domains without resuming
at the same time the grants of his uncles. But between those
domains and the estates recently forfeited in Ireland there was a
distinction, which would not indeed have been recognised by the
judges, but which to a popular assembly might well seem to be of
grave importance. In the year 1690 a Bill had been brought in for
applying the Irish forfeitures to the public service. That Bill
passed the Commons, and would probably, with large amendments,
have passed the Lords, had not the King, who was under the
necessity of attending the Congress at the Hague, put an end to
the session. In bidding the Houses farewell on that occasion, he
assured them that he should not dispose of the property about
which they had been deliberating, till they should have had
another opportunity of settling that matter. He had, as he
thought, strictly kept his word; for he had not disposed of this
property till the Houses had repeatedly met and separated without
presenting to him any bill on the subject. They had had the
opportunity which he had assured them that they should have. They
had had more than one such opportunity. The pledge which he had
given had therefore been amply redeemed; and he did not conceive
that he was bound to abstain longer from exercising his undoubted
prerogative. But, though it could hardly be denied that he had
literally fulfilled his promise, the general opinion was that
such a promise ought to have been more than literally fulfilled.
If his Parliament, overwhelmed with business which could not be
postponed without danger to his throne and to his person, had
been forced to defer, year after year, the consideration of so
large and complex a question as that of the Irish forfeitures, it
ill became him to take advantage of such a laches with the
eagerness of a shrewd attorney. Many persons, therefore, who were
sincerely attached to his government, and who on principle
disapproved of resumptions, thought the case of these forfeitures
an exception to the general rule.

The Commons had at the close of the last session tacked to the
Land Tax Bill a clause impowering seven Commissioners, who were
designated by name, to take account of the Irish forfeitures; and
the Lords and the King, afraid of losing the Land Tax Bill, had
reluctantly consented to this clause. During the recess, the
commissioners had visited Ireland. They had since returned to
England. Their report was soon laid before both Houses. By the
Tories, and by their allies the republicans, it was eagerly
hailed. It had, indeed, been framed for the express purpose of
flattering and of inflaming them. Three of the commissioners had
strongly objected to some passages as indecorous, and even
calumnious; but the other four had overruled every objection. Of
the four the chief was Trenchard. He was by calling a
pamphleteer, and seems not to have been aware that the sharpness
of style and of temper which may be tolerated in a pamphlet is
inexcusable in a state paper. He was certain that he should be
protected and rewarded by the party to which he owed his
appointment, and was delighted to have it in his power to
publish, with perfect security and with a semblance of official
authority, bitter reflections on King and ministry, Dutch
favourites, French refugees, and Irish Papists. The consequence
was that only four names were subscribed to the report. The three
dissentients presented a separate memorial. As to the main facts,
however, there was little or no dispute. It appeared that more
than a million of Irish acres, or about seventeen hundred
thousand English acres, an area equal to that of Middlesex,
Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire
together, had been forfeited during the late troubles. But of the
value of this large territory very different estimates were
formed. The commissioners acknowledged that they could obtain no
certain information. In the absence of such information they
conjectured the annual rent to be about two hundred thousand
pounds, and the fee simple to be worth thirteen years' purchase,
that is to say, about two millions six hundred thousand pounds.
They seem not to have been aware that much of the land had been
let very low on perpetual leases, and that much was burdened with
mortgages. A contemporary writer, who was evidently well
acquainted with Ireland, asserted that the authors of the report
had valued the forfeited property in Carlow at six times the real
market price, and that the two million six hundred thousand
pounds, of which they talked, would be found to shrink to about
half a million, which, as the exchanges then stood between Dublin
and London, would have dwindled to four hundred thousand pounds
by the time that it reached the English Exchequer. It was
subsequently proved, beyond all dispute, that this estimate was
very much nearer the truth than that which had been formed by
Trenchard and Trenchard's colleagues.

Of the seventeen hundred thousand acres which had been forfeited,
above a fourth part had been restored to the ancient proprietors
in conformity with the civil articles of the treaty of Limerick.
About one seventh of the remaining three fourths had been given
back to unhappy families, which, though they could not plead the
letter of the treaty, had been thought fit objects of clemency.
The rest had been bestowed, partly on persons whose seances
merited all and more than all that they obtained, but chiefly on
the King's personal friends. Romney had obtained a considerable
share of the royal bounty. But of all the grants the largest was
to Woodstock, the eldest son of Portland; the next was to


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