Darien Scheme

(Darien Farce; Darien Expedition)
1698 - 1700

Scotland felt it was losing out to England, which was establishing colonies in the Americas bringing trade and wealth. Therefore, Scotland funded its own colonial expedition, which was despatched to Darien in Central America. The intention was to make a fortune by transferring goods from the Atlantic to the Pacific across the narrow isthmus of Panama. The first of three fleets of ships sailed from Leith harbour on 12th July 1698 and landed at Darien on 30th October. However, the location with its hot climate and tropical diseases proved devastating for the health of the colonists and many died of fever within months of arrival. The Spanish, who had previously controlled the area, attacked and no merchant ships appeared to provide the expected trade. Thus the colonists who survived disease were soon starving and the expedition quickly proved a disaster. The colony was finally abandoned in 1700, but more than 2500 were dead, many Scots lost fortunes and the expedition effectively bankrupted the Scottish treasury. The Darien Farce, as it became known, gave rise to the dire economic situation which became a major impetus for the Treaty of Union with England seven years later.

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