Darien Scheme (1690's)
This is probably the best known of all Scotland's colonial endeavours, and the most disastrous. The Darien scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called "Caledonia" on the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darién in the late 1690s.
In 1696, 2,500 Scottish settlers, in two expeditions, set out to found a Scottish trading colony at Darién (now know as Colombia) on the isthmus of Panama. These settlers were made up of ex-soldiers, ministers of religion, merchants, sailors and the younger sons of the gentry, to receive 50 to 150 acres (0.61 km2) each. The government of the colony was run by a committee, the chairman of which changed every two weeks.
These problems included a lack of provisions due to famine in Scotland, the Scots' lack of colonising experience, diseases such as malaria, poor weather and the proximity of the Spanish, who claimed the land the Scots had settled on. Also, for a trading colony established to trade with passing ships in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, they carried a poor choice of trade goods, including wigs, shoes, bibles, woolen clothing and clay pipes.
The colony received no assistance from the crown or English colonies in the West Indies or Jamaica, despite having been promised, in the 1695 act, the assistance of William II. Thus, the Scots faced assaults by the Spanish on their own. In 1699, they dealt with this by recruiting a Jamaican captain to raid Spanish shipping as a privateer, but this achieved little. Soon thereafter, the Spanish mounted an expedition of 500 men to wipe out the Scots. This was effective, as most settlers had already succumbed to disease or starvation.