Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/319

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


council as they see cause ; and being so constitute, may, with consent of the said council, make and enact such rules, ordinances, and constitutions, and im- pose such taxes as they think fit and needful for the good of the establishment, improvement, and support of the said colony ; providing alway, that they lay no further duties or impositions of trade than what is after stated." One of the councillors, writing at this time to the directors at home, says, " We found the inconvenience of calling a parliament, and of telling the inhabitants that they were freemen so soon. They had not the true notion of liberty. The thoughts of it made them insolent, and ruined command. You know that it's expressly in the 'Encouragements,' that they are to serve for three yars, and at the three years' end to have a division of land." It was the opinion of this director, that no parliament should have been called till at least the three years of servitude had ex- pired. Even then, from the characters of the settlers, who had not been selected with that care which an experiment of such vast consequence demanded, there might have existed causes for delaying the escape. Among the better class, there were too many young men of birth. These were inexperienced and wholly unfit for exercising authority, and equally ill adapted for submitting to it. Among the lower class were many who had been opposed to the Revolution, and who had resorted to the colony purely from dissatisfaction with the government at home. These, instead of submitting with patience to the privations and labour necessary in that state of society in which they were now placed, would gladly have laid aside the mattock and the axe, and have employed themselves in plundering in- cursions upon the Indians or the Spaniards. The subscribers to the scheme were so numerous, that the idle, the unprincipled, and profligate had found but too little difficulty in attaching themselves to the infant colony. Those who were nominated to the council, too, had been selected without judgment. "There was not," Paterson writes in a letter to Mr Shields, "one of the old council fitted for government, and things were gone too far before the new took place."

The colony was first established at the beginning of winter, the best season for Europeans first encountering the climate of Darien ; and the first letter from the council to the directors thus expresses the satisfaction of the colonists with their new destination : " As to the country, we find it very healthful ; for though we arrived here in the rainy season, from which we had little or no shelter for several weeks together, and many sick among us, yet we are so far recovered, and in so good a state of health, as could hardly anywhere be expected among such a number of men together. In fruitfulness this coun- try seems not to give place to any in the world ; for we have seen several of the fruits, as cocoa-nuts, barillas, sugar-canes, maize, oranges, &c., &c., all of them, in their kinds, the best anywhere to be found. Nay, there is hardly a foot of ground but may be cultivated ; for even upon the very tops and sides of the hills, there is commonly three or four feet deep of rich earth, without so much as a stone to be found therein. Here is good hunting and fowling, and excel- lent fishing in the bays and creeks of the coast ; so that, could we improve the season of the year just now begun, we should soon be able to subsist of our- selves; but building and fortifying will lose us a whole year's planting." This was, however, no more than all of them must have foreseen ; and they never doubted of obtaining more provisions than they could want, from the West India islands, or from the American colonies. Orders, however, as has already been noticed, were sent out after them to all the English governors, prohibiting

IT. p