WILLIAM III.—FORTUNE’S GILDED SAILS
If you have more pennies than you know what to do
with, you put them into a savings bank, and, if you leave
them there long enough, other pennies are added to them.
These other pennies are called interest. But the man at
the bank, when he takes your pennies, does not lock them
up in a cash box and leave them there. If he did, you
would never get interest, any more than if you put your
pennies into a box at home. The interest does not grow
by magic. When you put your pennies into a bank, you
really lend them to the people who manage the bank.
They use them to buy and sell and so make more money,
and they are then able to give you interest, that is, they
pay you for having lent them your money.
Of course you cannot buy much with a few pennies,
but when hundreds and thousands of people all put their
money into the same bank, it comes to a large sum, and
with this large sum the bank managers are able to do
great things. In this way money is ‘ circulated,’ that is,
instead of lying in a box locked up, doing no good to any
one, it passes from one person to another, making every
one richer and more comfortable.
There are many things about banks and banking that
are very difficult for little people, and indeed for grown
up people too, to understand, and I am not going to try
FORTUNES GILDED SAILS 375
to explain them. They are so difficult, that up to the
time that I have been writing about, there were no proper
banks in Britain, where people could put their money
and be sure that it was quite safe. But at this time a
clever Scotsman called William Paterson went to London.
He was so clever, that he made the English people listen
to his ideas about banks, and very soon the Bank of
England was started.. And that bank which William
Paterson founded in 1694 A.D., is today the greatest and
richest bank in the British Empire. When it was founded,
people were very much afraid that their money might be
stolen, so the King was asked to send some soldiers to
guard the house which was used as offices. This the
King did, and to this day, in London every evening, you
may see soldiers march into the courtyard of the Bank of
England, to keep guard all night over the people‘s money.
But besides being a banker, William Paterson was a
merchant. He saw that the English made a great deal of
money by trading with other countries and by founding
colonies in far lands. He saw no reason why Scotland
should not do the same, and from being a poor country,
become a rich country like England.
When he was young, Paterson had travelled a great
deal. He had sailed far away over the sea, and had seen
many a strange land. Now he formed the plan of found
ing a Scottish colony on the narrow neck of land which
joins North and South America.
If you look on the map, you will see that the land, at
a place called Darien, is very narrow indeed. It seemed
to Paterson that this was a splendid place at which to
form a colony. On the one side was the Atlantic, on the
other the Pacific Ocean, and the narrow neck of land
between them might be made the centre of all the trade
of the world. To get to India, ships had to pass round
the stormy, dangerous Cape of Good Hope. But with a
Scottish colony at Darien, that would no longer be neces
sary. Ships would then sail across the Atlantic ; they
would unload at Darien ; in one day the cargoes could be
carried across the narrow neck of land to ships on the
other side. In this way time would be saved, danger
avoided, all the trade of the world would pass through
Darien, which would become the gate of the sea, and the
key of the universe.
It was a glorious idea, and looking far into the future,
Paterson seemed to see Scotland made great and splendid
by her merchants.
Scotland was still sore and angry with the memory
of Glencoe, and those who were at the head of affairs
welcomed any plan that would take people‘s thoughts
away from that dark deed. The Master of Stair, although
he could not understand why people hated him instead of
looking upon him as a hero, saw that he had made a
mistake, and he did his best to help Paterson.
The King, too, would gladly have had the people
forget Glencoe, so he gave them leave to form a company,
which was to be called the Company of Scotland trading
with Africa. This company was to be allowed to found
colonies and to build cities, harbours, and forts. If their
ships were taken or hurt by the ships of other lands, the
government promised them help and support, besides
All Scotland was full of excitement. Every one who
had saved a little money brought it to the Company,
hoping that their few savings would come back to them
like a golden harvest. English people too wanted to join,
and sent money. Everything went well. Then suddenly
some of the people in England became jealous. They got
a foolish idea into their heads, that if the Scots became
FORTUNES GILDED SAILS 377
wealthy, and did a great deal of trade in far countries, it
would hurt the English and make them poorer. They
wanted to keep all the trade and wealth to themselves,
and so they made up their minds to stop the Scottish
Company being formed.
This was very greedy and very unjust, but so strong
did the feeling become, that at last the English Parlia
ment asked the King to stop the Company of Scotland,
because it would spoil English trade. And the King,
instead of standing by the Scots, who were as much his
people as the English, said that he had been ill served in
Scotland, and hoped that some remedy might be found
for the evils which seemed likely to arise from this new
Company. When the English Parliament and the King
talked like this, the English people became frightened,
and would give no more money to the Scottish Company.
The people of Holland, King William’s other country,
also wanted to join the company, but when they saw that
it was likely to lead them into a quarrel with the English,
they too drew back.
In spite of all this opposition, the Scots resolved to go
on with the company, and the people were so enthusiastic
and eager about it, that although Scotland was a poor
country, all the money which was needed to start with
was soon gathered.
Every one was full of hope and excitement, and every
one thought that his fortune was made. It was known
that gold was to be found at Darien, and they had visions
of their ships coming home laden with the precious metal.
When enough money had been gathered, the company
bought five ships from the Dutch, and in them, twelve
hundred men and women set sail from Leith for the new
It was a bright, sunny day in July when they started
378 SCOTLAND’S STORY
All Edinburgh seemed to come to see them off. The
quay was crowded with people who had come to bid their
friends farewell, and to wish them good luck. There were
tears and laughter, prayers and blessings, as last good-byes
were said, last handshakes given. Then the five vessels
sailed out into the waters of the Forth, and never did
ships carry a burden of more happy hopeful hearts.
After many weeks upon the sea, the colonists at last
safely reached Darien in the beginning of November.
Darien was inhabited by Indians. They were a savage
people, but they received the new settlers kindly, and, in
return for some of the goods which the colonists had
brought with them, they gave them land upon which
The colonists at once began to build a town, which
they called New Edinburgh, and a fort, which was called
New St. Andrews. The country they called Caledonia,
which is an old name for Scotland.
For a time things seemed to go well. Every one
worked with a will. All day long the sound of axe and
hammer was heard, and the little town of wooden houses
grew rapidly. But while the colonists were busy build
ing, the weeks and months slipped past. The food which
they had brought with them was nearly all used up.
Anxiously they turned their eyes towards the sea, watch
ing for a ship bringing the food which had been promised
from Scotland. No sail appeared. Day by day the
portions served out to each man grew smaller and smaller.
The work went on slowly, for men who are always hungry
cannot do much. Still they hoped, and still they watched,
but no white sail glimmered on the calm blue sea.
You know that near the Equator the world is very
much hotter than in what is called the temperate zone,
where the British Isles are. Darien lies near the Equator.
FORTUNE’S GILDED SAILS 379
When the colonists arrived, it had been winter time, and
they found the climate very pleasant. Now summer had
come. The terrible tropical sun blazed down upon these
tired, hungry men. There was no coolness anywhere.
Inside the little houses it was dark and close, outside, a
burning torment At night, foul mists rose from the
marshes round, bringing deadly sickness with them.
Struck down by hunger and disease, hundreds died.
Every day, with sad hearts, the colonists laid some tired
comrade in his last resting-place.
But although Scotland was far off, there were English
colonies in America quite near. So now the Scottish
settlers sent to them, asking for food and help. But
the English colonists had been told that the Scottish
settlers had come to Darien without leave from the King,
and that therefore they must not be helped. This was
not true, but the English colonists believed it, and refused
their starving fellow-subjects the slightest aid. They let
The savage Indians were kinder, and brought fish and
wild animals which they had caught, to the hungry white
men. But all that they could bring was not enough.
Day by day more and more died, and at last, filled with
despair, the few who were left went on board one of their
ships and sailed away from the dreadful place.
Meanwhile, in Scotland there had been a very bad
harvest. It was so bad that there too many people were
starving, and there was no food to spare to send to
Darien. But the Scots, feeling sure that their settlers
would be able to get food from the English colonies, were
not greatly disturbed. At length the bad time passed,
and a fresh fleet, carrying new stores, and thirteen hun
dred men, set out for the golden land of Darien.
They had a bad passage, and one of the ships was
wrecked on the way. But at last they sighted land, and
all the difficulties and dangers were forgotten in the
thought of the glad meeting with their comrades.
But as they neared the shore their hearts sank. No
flag fluttered from the silent fort ; no gun answered
their salute. No smoke rose from the deserted town ;
all was silent and still. The new colonists landed.
Instead of shouts of welcome, they heard only the scream
of sea birds. Instead of a busy, prosperous town, they
found a ruined fort, shattered houses, grass grown streets.
It was a sad beginning, but the new colonists would
not despair. They began to rebuild the ruined town
and to cultivate the fields, which had even in so short a
time grown wild again.
Two months later, another ship arrived, bringing three
hundred soldiers. These came none too soon, for the
Spaniards, who had founded a colony near, seeing that
King William would give his people no help, threatened
to attack the Scots.
Already disease and death had begun to waste the
little colony a second time, and daily their numbers grew
smaller. The Spaniards then determined to crush them
altogether, and gathered an army of sixteen hundred men,
and eleven battleships.
With only two hundred men the Scottish captain,
whose name was Campbell, marched against them. He
surprised the Spaniards, defeated their whole army, and
put them to flight, killing many of them. Then, with his
gallant little army he marched back again to fort St.
Andrew, only to find it bombarded by the Spanish ships.
For six weeks the little fort held out. They had no
food left, the Spaniards had cut off their supply of water,
they had no more shot, even the pewter plates and dishes
having been melted down to make balls. All the officers,
FORTUNES GILDED SAILS 381
and many of the men, were killed, when at last Captain
The Spaniards were so filled with admiration for their
gallant foes, that they allowed them to march out with all
the honours of war.
One morning the gates were opened, and with banners
flying the sad little company marched down to the
harbour. There were so few of them that they could
only man one ship. They chose one called the Rising
Sun. With what glad hearts, with what high hopes,
they had set sail in that same ship. Now, with broken
hearts and crushed hopes they crept on board again. The
Rising Sun, which had seemed such a good name, now
seemed a mockery.
The men were so weak and ill that they could not
raise the anchor. They were so helpless that had the
Spaniards wished they could have killed them every one.
But instead, they helped them to raise the anchor and to
steer the ship out of harbour, and at last they sailed away.
Of all those who had gone out so full of hope, not more
than thirty broken, worn men ever reached home again.
So ended William Paterson‘s brilliant dream.
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