Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PATERSON, William, Scottish colonist, born probably in Skipmyre, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, in the spring of 1665; died in Westminster, England, 22 January, 1719. He was originally intended for the ministry of the Scottish church, and, to escape persecution under Charles II., he visited this country, where he acquired much information from the buccaneers in regard to the Spanish main. It has been questioned whether he was not personally concerned with the marauders, but the accusation has not been proved. He was a merchant in London in 1692, and about this time made proposals to found a bank of England, publishing a tract entitled "A Brief Account of the Intended Bank of England," and he was one of the first directors of the institution. He had conceived the idea of founding a colony at Darien during his first visit to this country, and, after several unsuccessful attempts toward the adoption of his scheme by the English and by continental countries, he procured its sanction from the Scottish parliament in 1695. In a short time the subscription for stock amounted to £400,000 in Scotland, £300,000 in England, and £200,000 in Holland, but the subscriptions of the latter countries were almost wholly withdrawn in consequence of the severe measures that were passed by the English parliament at the instance of trading corporations. The Scotch, however, favored the enterprise with increased zeal, and on 26 July, 1698, 1.200 men in five ships sailed from Leith for Panama, arriving after a voyage of three months. They then founded a colony at Acta (now Port Escoces), about thirty miles northwest of the Gulf of Darien, and gave the town the name of New Edinburgh, and the country that of New Caledonia. They bought lands of the natives, sent messages of amity to the nearest Spanish governors, and published a declaration of freedom of trade and religion to all people. They had brought with them only a small supply of provisions, trusting to obtain them from the English colonists. But the Dutch and English East India companies had united in procuring orders from the king forbidding any one to render the colonists any assistance. Their numbers were now rapidly reduced by disease. Paterson lingered for eight months, but did not abandon the settlement till almost all had died or gone home. Meanwhile 1,300 men had been sent from Scotland to their relief, but these did not arrive until the departure of the last of the colonists. Paterson returned to Scotland and devised a new plan for the colony, but the death of William III., with whom he had influence, destroyed his prospects of reviving the project. He was an able ad-rotate of the union of England and Scotland, and when the treaty to that effect was passed it was recommended that indemnity be given him on account; of his losses in the Darien expedition, and for his "carrying on other matters of a public nature much to his country's service," but the money was not paid until the reign of George I. He was a member of parliament for Dumfriesshire in 1708, an early advocate for free-trade, and in all matters of finance his ideas were in advance of his time. Macaulay says of him: "He seems to have been gifted by nature with fertile invention, great powers of persuasion, and to have acquired somewhere in the course of his vagrant life a perfect knowledge of accounts." His writings have been collected, with a biographical introduction (London, 1858). See also his life by Samuel Bannister (Edinburgh, 1858).
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