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Re: Sinclairs of Argyll


>You point out something important to any historian in our
>association, which is the accuracy and sources of
>information. Pertaining to the Darian expedition, I have

At a used bookstore several years ago, I came across a copy
of a book that is relevant to the Darien expeditions:

The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies,
by George Pratt Insh, D.Litt., F.E.I.S.
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932.
333pp. plus index, front matter, and maps.

>From the Preface:
``This volume records the leading activities of the Company
of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies from the tentative
beginnings of 1693 to the formal dissolution of 1707.''

The purpose of this Company was overseas trade and colonization
for Scotland.  Before the Union of Scotland and England of 1707,
Scots overseas were treated in English colonies and trading posts
as foreigners, even though they had the same monarch since 1603.
Thus Scotland wanted its own equivalent of the East India Company
and its own colonies.  (Even though there were certain advantages
in foreign status; the first Virginia tobacco lords were Glasgow

Competing directly with the English efforts being impossible for
economic and political reasons, the Scottish company needed to
go elsewhere, and especially Scottish settlements needed to be
elsewhere.  There were Scottish settlements in North America,
and Scots in English colonies such New York, New England, and
the Carolinas.  But for a new settlement they chose Darien on
the isthmus of Panama.  You know, the place where Cortez first
saw the Pacific.

Why Darien?  Well, it was out of the geographic domains of the
various English efforts.  It was in the domains claimed by the
Spanish.  But the Spanish had never actually settled there,
and the Spanish were at the time more or less enemies of the
British crown.  Also, the location of the isthmus gave good
opportunties for both trade and the occasional seizure of
a Spanish treasure galleon.

The first settlers landed in October 1698, named their town and fort
New Edinburgh, and ran into numerous problems, including disease
(there was a good reason the Spanish never settled that malarial
location), poor organization, armed Spanish opposition, proclamations
against them by the English governors of Jamaica and New York, failure
to have established factors in those other two places to facilitate supplies,
and the eventual active opposition of William I, their king they had counted
on to back them.  It seems he was more worried about antagonizing the
Spanish than about a few colonists.

It's a fascinating story, involving multiple expeditions, and indirectly
involving everybody from John Locke to Peter the Great of Russia.
The settlers built forts and made alliances with the local Indians.
The Scots also fought a major battle against the Spanish at Toubacanti
on the isthmus in Panama.

The Company and the attempts to settle Darien were very big deals in
their time, similar to a country the size of Scotland funding its own
space program in our day.  People all over Scotland (and foreigners)
invested money in them; often everything they had.  The eventual failure
of both was a blow to Scotland.  The end of it all was caused by the
Union of 1707.

Or was it the end?  Some of the refugees stayed in Jamaica or New York
afterwards.  And the name lives on in numerous places, such as Darien
Lakes in western New York.  My grandfather was born in Darien, Georgia,
which was founded in 1736 as the southernmost bastion of the British
colonies against the Spanish and named after the older Darien.

There are no Sinclairs mentioned in the above book.

There were plenty of Sinclairs in Darien, Georgia, but they (my ancestors)
immigrated directly from Thurso a century later.

I've never heard of any connection of Sinclairs with New Edinburgh
in Darien on the isthmus of Panama.  But probably some were, somehow,
since it was a major event in Scottish history.

>Yes I understand that there is a canal. However, the Port
>of  Crinan still exists to this day, and may be found on the
>west coast of Argyll. The Add Ruel flows into it.  Why
>Crinan was one of the points of departure I can not say with
>certainty, but my information is that it was nicknames the
>"Port of Tears", due to the significant number and nature of
>the voyages. I should point out that Greenock was also a
>significant port for Glascow, and is located to the west of
>the Port of Glascow. Dunoon is located directly across the
>bay. Campelton (one "l") on the east coast of the Kintyre
>Penninsula, was a further port of departure for migration
>from Argyll as well. There may well be others ports as well,
>but these are the ones we know of. I have also had it
>pointed out to me that there was a significant depletion of
>the population of Argyll from the end of the 1600's all
>through the 1700's due to the numerous migrations from the

The Darien expeditions left from Leith near Edinburgh and from the
Clyde near Glasgow; there were also outfitting stops in places
like Amsterdam (which is how Peter the Great gets mentioned).
Some of the refugees returned directly to the Mull of Kintyre.
Campbells were deeply involved in the expeditions, which may
help explain why Sinclairs weren't prominent in them.

The Darien expeditions were not major migrations, although
it was expected that they would be if they were successful.
Later emigrants went elsewhere.

John Sinclair Quarterman <jsq@mids.org>
President, Matrix Information and Directory Services (MIDS)
mids@mids.org, http://www.mids.org, +1-512-451-7602, fax: +1-512-452-0127
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