Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/316

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WILLIAM PATERSON.


of the superior advantages granted t the Scottish East India company, and the duties imposed upon the Indian trade in England, a great part of the stock and shipping of this nation would be carried thither, by which means Scotland would be rendered a free port, and Europe from thence supplied with the pro- ducts of the East much cheaper than through them, and thus a great article in the balance of foreign commerce would be lost to England, to the prejudice of the national navigation and the royal revenue." The address went on to state, "that when the Scots should have established themselves in plantations in America, the western branch of traffic would also be lost. The privileges granted their company would render their country the general storehouse for tobacco, sugar, cotton, hides, and timber; the low rates at which they would be enabled to carry on their manufactures, would render it impossible for the Eng- lish to compete with them, while, in addition, his majesty stood engaged to protect, by the naval strength of England, a company whose success was incom- patible with its existence." This address his majesty received graciously, ob- serving " that he had been ill-served in Scotland, but he hoped some remedy might yet be found to prevent the inconvenience that might arise from the act." To satisfy his English parliament that he was in earnest, William dismissed his Scottish ministers, and among the rest the earl of Stair.

The English parliament, with a spirit worthy of the darkest ages, and the most barbarous nations, proceeded to declare lord Belhaven, William Paterson, and twenty-two other members of the company guilty of a high misdemeanour. Those of their own people who had become partners in the company were com- pelled to withdraw their subscriptions. Upwards of two hundred thousand pounds sterling were afterwards subscribed to the scheme by the merchants of Hol- land and Hamburg, and the English resident at the latter city, Sir Paul Rycault, was instructed to present a remonstrance, on the part of the king, to the magis- trates, complaining of the countenance they had given to the commissioners of the Darien company. The answer of the city was worthy of itself in its best days. " They considered it strange that the king of England should dictate to them, a free people, how, or with whom they were to engage in the arrangements of commerce, and still more so, that they should be beamed for offering to connect themselves in this way with a body of his own subjects incorporated under a special act of parliament." From this interference, however, the Hamburgers, aware that the company was to be thwarted in all its proceedings by the supe- rior power of England, lost confidence in the scheme, and finally withdrew their subscriptions. The Dutch, too, equally jealous of commercial rivalry with the English, and influenced perhaps by the same motives with the Hamburgers, withdrew their subscriptions also, and the company was left to the unassisted resources of their own poor and depressed country. Nothing could exceed the eagerness with which all classes of the Scottish people hastened to enrol themselves in the magnificent copartnery now forming. Every burgh, every city, and almost every family of any consequence became shareholders. Four hundred thousand pounds were subscribed ; an astonishing sum when it is known that at that time the circulating capital of the kingdom did not exceed eight hundred thousand pounds sterling. To this enthusiasm a variety of causes contributed." The scheme of Paterson was politically good. It was drawn up with great ability, and promised important results in a moral and religious, as well as in a com- mercial point of view. Many of the subscribers, indeed, were influenced solely by religious motives, as they considered the setting up of a church, regularly