MacGregor, Gregor (DNB00)

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MACGREGOR, Sir GREGOR (fl. 1817), calling himself his Highness Gregor, Cacique of Poyais, South American adventurer, was grandson of Gregor Macgregor. The latter enlisted in the Black Watch, then Semphill's highlanders, and was called in Gaelic by his comrades' Gregor the Beautiful.' When the regiment was first ordered to England in 1743, Gregor's grandfather and two others were sent on in advance to London, so that George II, who was on the point of starting for the continent, might see some soldiers of the regiment before leaving. One of the men died on the road, at Aberfeldy. Macgregor and the other were paraded before the king at St. James's, and exercised with the broadsword and Lochaber axe. Both afterwards rose to commissions ; Macgregor, who subsequently joined another regiment, finally sold out of the army, and became laird of Inverardine in Breadalbane (Stewart, Scottish Highlanders, i. 232 n.)

The grandson is said to have been at one time in the British army. According to his own account (Exposition Documentada, &c), he went out to Caraccas in 1811, to settle and aid in the struggle for South American independence. He married a South American lady, the Senora Josefa Lovera, who accompanied him in his subsequent adventures. He lost most of his property in the terrible earthquake at Caraccas in March 1812. Soon after he became colonel and adjutant-general to General Miranda, and subsequently commandant general of the cavalry and general of brigade in the Venezuelan army. In the renewed struggle for independence under Simon Bolivar, commencing in 1813, he repeatedlv distinguished himself, particularly by his skilful retreat from Ocumare to Barcelona, with a handful of men before an overwhelming force of royalists, in 1816; and subsequently in the battles of Onoto, Chaguarames, Quebrada-honde, Alacran, and especially in the memorable battle of Juncal. In 1817 he was promoted to the rank of general of division in the Venezuelan army, and received the special thanks of Bolivar and the insignia of the order of Liberatadores (ib.) Macgregor was subsequently engaged in sundry filibustering enterprises. In 1817 he took possession of Amelia Island, on the Florida coast, which belonged to Spain ; and in 1819, eluding the vigilance of the British authorities at Jamaica, he made a descent on Puerto Bello, which he captured, but was subsequently surprised and had to fly. In 1821 he appears to have quitted the service of Venezuela — by that time a part of the republic of Colombia — and settled among the Poyais Indians, a warlike tribe on the Mosquito shore, where he obtained a tract of fertile country and adopted the title of Cacique. He encouraged trade, established schools, projected a bank (the notes for which were engraved by William Home Lizars [q. v.] the engraver), established a small army, and on 13 April 1821 started for Europe, as he stated in a proclamation to his subjects, 'for the purpose of procuring religious and moral instructors, the implements of husbandry, and persons to guide and assist in the cultivation of the soil.' The proclamation also declared that no person but the honest and industrious should find an asylum in the Poyais territory. The latter is really one of the healthiest and most productive parts of Central America, but the attempt to introduce Scottish immigrants proved a most miserable failure (see Scots Mag. 1823, pp. 324-31), and a loan obtained by Macgregor from London houses was never paid, either interest or principal. Much and not undeserved obliquy fell on Macgregor, but he probably honestly believed in the feasibility of his schemes. Fifteen years later he published in London a 'Plan of Constitution for the Mosauito Territory' (1836). In a memorial to the Venezuelan government, dated from Caraccas in 1839, Macgregor refers to the misfortunes which have befallen him, and appealed for naturalisation in the republic, and restoration to his former military rank. The Venezuelan government granted his requests, and directed that, in view of the very eminent services rendered by him to the cause of South American independence during the wars of 1812-21, he be restored to the rank of general of division with his former seniority, and that a sum of money be granted to him. He is believed to have died at Caraccas a few years later.

[Strangway's Sketch of the Mosquito Shore (Edinburgh, 1 822), which has a portrait of Macgregor. Among many pamphlets in Brit. Mus. Libr. respecting Macgregor, the most interesting are a brief account of the Puerto Bello expedition, attributed to Sir John Besant, which compare with the bitterly written account in Memoirs of Colonel Francis Maceroni, vol. ii. ; A Letter in Defence of Macgregor, signed 'Verax;' and the Caraccas Memorial entitled Exposicion Documentada, &c, Caraccas, 1839, 8vo.]

H. M. C.