Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/314

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1C 8 WILLIAM PATERSON.


able to explore a great part of that immense portion of it which flows between Boussa and Timbuctoo, and which Park must of necessity have navigated. Their united labours have, however, solved the grand problem which has engaged the attention of all civilized nations from the earliest ages to which history leads us back ; and there seems little cause for doubt, that, in a short time, the still broken links in the great chain of communication with the centre of Africa will be united.

PATERSON, WILLIAM, the original projector of the bank of England and of Scotland, and of the celebrated settlement of Darien, was born, it is supposed, in the year 1655, at Skipmyre, in the parish of Tinwald, Dumfries-shire. It is deeply to be regretted that no satisfactory memorials have been preserved of this remarkable man. Of his education nothing is known, but it is stated in one memoir that he was bred to the church. That Mr Paterson was either a churchman or a buccaneer at any period of his life appears a gratuitous assump- tion, unsupported by any direct evidence, and at variance with the known course of his after life. It is certain that he was in the West Indies, but it is much more likely that his pursuits there were commercial than either clerical or piratical. In whatever capacity he may have acquired his commercial and geographical knowledge, he returned to Europe with a scheme of trade which he was desirous of establishing under the protection and patronage of some European power. Paterson, himself a merchant, formed an intimate connection with other merchants of London, and with them concerted the plan of the bank of England, which he originated and planned. He was admitted one of the original directors, but jealousies arose, and he voluntarily withdrew, by sell- ing out his qualification of 2000 stock. Under these circumstances, having already, before the revolution of 1688, become acquainted in Holland with some of his countrymen, particularly with Fletcher of Saltoun, who had penetration enough to see and to appreciate the simple splendour of his project with regard to Darien, he accordingly came to Scotland along with Fletcher, who intro- duced him to the various members of the Scottish administration. The earl of Stair, in particular, gave the project of Mr Paterson the support of his power- ful eloquence.

The result of all this was, that an act was passed by the Scottish parliament on the 26th of June, 1695, "constituting John, lord Belhaven, WILLIAM PATER- SON, Esq., and others in Scotland and in London, a free incorporation, by the name of the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies, providing that of the fund or capital half should be allowed to Scotland." The company was invested with full powers to hold parliaments, and make laws, and admin- ister justice, &c., in any colonies they might plant in Asia, Africa, and Ame- rica. This act was drawn up under the eye of Mr Paterson, and was certainly highly favourable for his purposes. The isthmus of Darien, where there was a large tract of land bordering on both seas, the Indian and the Atlantic, was the spot he had fixed upon for the scene of his operations, and the advantages of which he thus graphically pointed out: " The time and expense of navigation to China, Japan, the Spice Islands, and the far greater part of the East Indies, will be lessened more than half, and the consumption of European commodities and manufactures will soon be more than doubled. Trade will increase trade, and money will beget money, and the trading world shall need no more want work for their hands, but will rather want hands for their work. Thus, this door of the seas, and key of the universe, with anything of a reasonable manage-