Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies (Darien Company), MS 63

Scope and Content

Manuscripts relating to The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies (known as the Darien Company), [1696]-1707, including a volume containing a paper by William Paterson entitled 'Memorandum for the Bank Company', possibly in reply to John Holland's A short discourse on the present temper of the nation with respect to the Indian and African Company and of the Bank of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1696), arguing that the Fund of Credit proposed by the Darien Company would not infringe upon the monopoly granted to the Bank of Scotland, [1696]; petitions by William Paterson to the Directors of the Darien Company requesting remuneration for money spent during a visit to Holland and Hamburg on Company business, [1697] and 1707, a claim which was not settled until a Parliamentary bill, supported by the King, was passed in 1715 (a previous ruling in his favour by the House of Commons, 1713, was thrown out by the Lords); a Memoire, signed by John Erskine, John Haldane and William Paterson on behalf of the Darien Company, and presented to the Senate of Hamburg, requesting that they be allowed to see the memorial written by Sir Paul Rycout, the English Resident, and Mr Cresset, the English Envoy, stating the opposition of the King of England to the presence of the Darien Company representatives in Hamburg, 1697; copy of the 'Act for preventing frauds and regulating abuses in the plantation trade', 1698, which provides that no goods are to be imported of exported from colonies except in ships built in England, Ireland, or the colonies; a list of 'Goods Proper to bee sent to the Collony of Caledonia', giving an enumerated list of 56 items ranging from arms and ammunition to looking-glasses, 1698; 'Report from the Committee of the Court of Directors of the African and Indian Company of Scotland appointed for giving the sailing orders to the council or government of the Company's intended colony or settlement in the Indies', giving their reasons for choosing the Darien site, and answering 15 objections made against the scheme, 1698; tables headed 'A scheme of victualling, shewing each man's allowance of every species of provisions...where the complement of men is 1000', giving the types of food to be eaten on certain days, and dividing the men up into messes of 5, 1698; extract from the records of the Directors of the Darien Company of a resolution to appoint ministers to go to Caledonia, 12 Jun 1699; a report of the proceedings appointing Archibald Stobo, Alexander Dalgleish and James Stewart as ministers to the Scots colony of Caledonia, 12 Jul 1699; a copy of 'Caledonia: the declaration of the Council constituted by the Indian and African Company of Scotland for the governments and directions of their colonies and settlements in the Indies', [28 Dec, 1699], formally establishing the settlement of Caledonia, declaring the colony open to all, and granting freedom of government, trade and religion; a memorandum from the Spanish Ambassador to James Vernon, Secretary of State, concerning Spanish protests at the Scottish settlement in Darien, 3 May 1699; and an anonymous proposal to the Darien Company for the establishment of a trade route to Madagascar, [1699].

Administrative / Biographical History

The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies was created by an Act of the Scottish Parliament in Jun 1695. Under this act the Company was granted exclusive privilege of trade between Scotland and America, and perpetual monopoly of trade with Asia and Africa. It was authorised to arm and equip its ships as it saw fit, and was allowed to plant colonies in localities in Asia, Africa and America with no prior European settlement. In addition, the Company was exempt from all customs and duties for 21 years, with any damages incurred to be made good at public expense. By Jan 1696, the English side of the venture had collapsed, and the Company became a purely Scottish concern. Attempts to open a subscription book in Hamburg were defeated by Sir Paul Rycaut, the English Resident.

One of the leading figures in the creation of the Company of Scotland was William Paterson, a prosperous merchant with dreams of establishing a trading centre on the Isthmus of Darien, Panama. A secret plan evolved to establish a colony at Darien, despite the fact that it was a province of Spain, and the English crown would be sure to object to a move which could lead to war. The Company undertook two expeditions to Darien, shipping a total of 2,800 people and eleven ships there between Jul 1698 and Aug 1699. Due to a combination of factors, namely internal rivalries due to an unworkable system of government, land unsuitable for cultivation, insufficient supplies, English proclamations against the colony which prevented it trading, and Spanish military attacks, the colony was twice deserted by the Scots, for the second and final time on 12 Apr 1700. Most of the colonists died at Darien or on the return journey, with only the Caledonia returning to Scotland with a crew of fewer than 300.

The Company of Scotland limped on for a time, attempting to rebuild itself through trade with Africa, but several voyages ended in failure and the loss of ships. It was finally dissolved in May 1707 by Article Fifteen of the Treaty of Union of the two Kingdoms of Scotland and England.


Single item.

Access Information

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access to archive collections may be restricted under the Freedom of Information Act. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Part of the Goldsmith's Library of Economic Literature, initially collected by Herbert Somerton Foxwell and presented by the Goldsmith's Company to the University of London in 1903.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Manuscript folio. Bound in half-morocco.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Sarah Smith as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Separated Material

The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, holds accounts and papers, 1694-1709 (Ref: Adv MSS 8311-8393; Ch 238-42), and a letter book, 1696-1697 (Ref: MS 1914); the Royal Bank of Scotland Archives contain directors minutes, instruction books, acts, orders and resolutions of the general council, 1696-1707 (Ref: D); the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, hold minutes of the nominees appointed by Parliamentary Act for establishing the company, 1696 (Ref: GD 103/2/4/41).

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Related Material

University of London MS 69 is a copy of a treatise on the colony of Caledonia, and AL 97 is a letter from Jean Pellerin urging the English to support the Scots colony at Darien, which would facilitate trade with Latin America and undermine the strength of Spain and France, [Amsterdam, 1699]. There are numerous works relating to the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies in the Goldsmith's Library of Economic Literature.


The Darien Papers: being a selection of original letters and official documents relating to the establishment of a Colony at Darien by the Company of Scotland trading to Africa and the Indies, 1695-1700 [Edited by John Hill Burton.] (Edinburgh, 1849); James Samuel Barbour A History of William Paterson and the Darien Company (W. Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh & London, 1907); Francis Russell Hart The Disaster of Darien. The story of the Scots settlement and the causes of its failure, 1699-1701 (Constable & Co, London; Cambridge, Mass, [1930.]); George Pratt Insh The Darien Scheme (Staples Press, London, 1947); John C.B. Scott A Bibliography of Printed Documents and Books relating to the Scottish Company, commonly called the Darien Company (1906).