By: Pierre Mortier
Date: 1700 (published) Amsterdam
Original Size: 24 x 34 inches (61 x 86.5 cm)
This is a Vintage Map print of Panama focusing on the failed Scottish colony of New Edinburg by Pierre Mortier. The map was published out of Amsterdam circa 1700.
This large scale map centered on Panama and the Gulf of Darien also includes portions of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and present day Columbia. Lovely old coloring distinguishes borders between various regions and geographical features such as mountains and important settlements. An insert in the lower right shows the thriving Spanish colony of Cartagena and its environs. A second, larger insert shows the Isthmus of Darien and the Scottish colony of New Edinburg, which is where the importance of this map lies.
In the late 1700s Scotland was in a rather financially weak position. Their main export of shipbuilding was declining and their need for supplies and other imports from their much more powerful neighbor England was growing as was the expense of such imports. There was an overall growing sense of the country weakening year after year. In 1695 the Bank of Scotland was established; the Act for the Settling of Schools established a parish-based system of public education throughout Scotland; and the Company of Scotland was chartered with capital to be raised by public subscription to trade with "Africa and the Indies".
Due to pressure from the English East India Company who was not interested in losing their monopoly over English foreign trade, all of the English and Dutch investors in the Company of Scotland withdrew from the cause. Scottish-born trader and financier William Paterson had long been promoting a plan for a colony on the Isthmus of Panama to be used as a gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific. The same principal would later be used in building the canal. The Scots' original aim of emulating the East India Company by breaking into the lucrative trading areas of the Indies and Africa was forgotten and the highly ambitious Darien scheme was adopted by the company.
The first expedition set sail in July of 1698 and consisted of 1200 people aboard 5 ships; the Saint Andrew, Caledonia, Unicorn, Dolphin, and Endeavour. After a rather harrowing voyage to which some men would regard as the worst part of the entire Darien experience, the fleet made landfall off the coast of Darien on 2 November. The settlers christened their new home "Caledonia".
Close to the fort they began erecting the huts of the main settlement, New Edinburgh, and clearing land to plant yams and maize. Letters sent home by the expedition created a misleading impression that everything was going according to plan. This seems to have been by agreement, as certain optimistic phrases kept recurring. However, it meant the Scottish public would be completely unprepared for the coming disaster.
Agriculture proved difficult and the local Indians, though hostile to Spain, were unwilling to trade for the combs and other trinkets offered by the colonists. Most serious was the almost total failure to sell any goods to the few passing traders who put in to the bay. With the onset of summer the following year, the stifling atmosphere, along with other causes, led to a large number of deaths. Eventually, the mortality rate rose to ten settlers a day.
Local Indians brought gifts of fruit and plantains, but these were appropriated by the leaders and sailors who mostly remained on board ships. The only luck the settlers had was in giant turtle hunting, but fewer and fewer men were fit enough for such strenuous work. The situation was exacerbated by the lack of food mainly due to a high rate of spoilage caused by improper stowing. At the same time, King William instructed the Dutch and English colonies in America not to supply the Scots' settlement so as not to incur the wrath of the Spanish Empire.
The only reward the council had to give was alcohol, and drunkenness became common, even though it sped the deaths of men already weakened by dysentery, fever and the rotting, worm-infested food. After just eight months, the colony was abandoned in July 1699, except for six men who were too weak to move. The deaths continued on the ships, and those who survived the journey and returned home found themselves regarded as a disgrace to the country and were even disowned by their families.
Only 300 of the 1200 settlers survived, and only one ship managed to return to Scotland. A desperate ship from the colony had called at the Jamaican city of Port Royal, but it was refused assistance on the orders of the English government, which feared antagonizing the Spanish.
Word of the first expedition did not reach Scotland in time to prevent a second voyage of more than 1000 people. The second expedition arrived on 30 November 1699 and found two sloops there, one with Thomas Drummond from the original expedition. Some men were sent ashore to rebuild the huts, which caused others to complain that they had come to join a settlement, not build one.
Morale was low and little progress was made. Drummond insisted there could be no discussion, and the fort must be rebuilt as a Spanish attack would surely come soon.
Drummond clashed with the merchant James Byres, who maintained that the Counselors of the first expedition had now lost that status and had Drummond arrested. Initially bellicose, Byres began to send away all those he suspected of being offensively minded – or of being allegiant to Drummond. He outraged a kirk minister by claiming it would be unlawful to resist the Spanish by force of arms, as all war was unchristian. Byres then deserted the colony in a sloop.
The colonists sank into apathy until the arrival of Alexander Campbell of Fonab, sent by the company to organize a defense. He provided the resolute leadership which had been lacking and took the initiative by driving the Spanish from their stockade at Toubacanti in January 1700. However, Fonab was wounded in the daring frontal attack and then became incapacitated with a fever.
The Spanish force, who were also suffering serious losses from fever, closed in on Fort St Andrew and besieged it for a month. Disease was still the main cause of death at this time. The Spanish commander called for the Scots to surrender and avoid a final assault, warning that if they did not, no quarter would be given.
After negotiations, the Scots were allowed to leave with their guns, and the colony was abandoned for the last time. Only a handful of those from the second expedition returned to Scotland. Of the total 2500 settlers that set off, just a few hundred survived.