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Friday, 19 September 2014

What If: The Darien Scheme had succeeded?

The original flag of Britain but what if Scotland and England never joined?
As of writing Scotland has just narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in one of the most tensest referendums in recent history. For just over 300 years there has been a union between England and Scotland after 1707 when the Acts of Union combined the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England. However one event caused Scotland, (well its leaders anyway), to join with England so what if that one event went differently? That event was the Darien Scheme and this is one scenario about if the Darien Scheme went differently.

The Darien Scheme- By the end of the 17th century many European nations had gotten into the game of colonialism with the English on the East coast of the modern day United States and Newfoundland, the French in the mouth of the Mississippi and Quebec, the Spanish in Central America and the Portuguese in Brazil although all of them, (substituting the Portuguese for the Dutch), had colonies in the Caribbean. Naturally the trade of coffee, tobacco, sugar and unfortunately slaves made these nations extremely wealthy. A Scottish businessman, who also founded the Bank of England, called William Paterson wanted his home nation of Scotland to benefit from this as Scotland was extremely poor compared to its Southern neighbor such as having virtually no navy, few roads and a weak army so a nice colony would bring trade to Scotland and make Scotland less dependent on England who shared the same monarch since 1603. Paterson chose the Isthmus of Panama, then called Darien, to form New Edinburgh.
A map of the proposed colony in Darien

An alternate Darien Scheme- When the Scottish first settled the area in 1698 the colony failed for three reasons: dysentery and yellow fever wiped out a quarter of the first 1200 settlers, the supply ship for the colonists shipwrecked and the Spanish were already there who the English King William III did not want to upset so told the English and Dutch not to trade with the colony. In this alternate scenario the ship does not sink on course and with how small New Edinburgh was the Spanish leave them be; especially as they would know the long lasting rivalry the Scottish and English had. The small colony of 1200 would not have been much threat to Spain who controlled the almost all of Central America. With little chance of the colony upsetting Spain William III allows the Dutch and English colonies to trade with New Edinburgh but with the ship also giving extra supplies the colony survives. Although many would die of disease it would not be so drastic and the colonists that came after in 1699 in our timeline would not be met with a dysentery ridden colony. The Natives in our timeline even traded with the Scottish colonists so it is easy to see that they would do the same. Although the Spanish would be worried with the growth of the colony they most likely would wait to make sure they had French support, especially as the King Charles II was wary with no heir.
A flag of the Scottish Trading Company
The real life Scottish Trading Company failed to drum up a lot of revenue but with a moderately thriving New Edinburgh in a prime area for Caribbean trading Scotland itself would become like England with its infrastructure like roads improving, a strong navy being built and the Scottish pound challenging the English one. You may be thinking what has this got to do with an English-Scottish Union? Well 50-75% of the Scottish economy went into the Darien Scheme and when in our time the scheme collapsed from Spanish opposition and disease the Scottish economy collapsed so a union with richer England would have alleviated that debt but England also was in debt so wanted a union, even passing the xenophobic Alien Acts to put pressure on Scotland. The reason for this debt will be explained.
The Alternate Spanish War of Succession
 Alternate Spanish War of Succession- By 1707 the English had been fighting the War of Spanish Succession for six years and it had drained the economy so a union with Scotland helped the economy. In this alternate timeline with a vibrant economy the Scottish have less reason to join with England and the Alien Acts only aggravate the Scottish. Although I very doubt they would have stayed neutral. They most likely side with England, Portugal, the Dutch Republic and their allies to expand their colony of New Edinburgh. There was little fighting in the West Indies in regards to naval war, largely privateer battles, and the only invasion of islands took place by the British invading French possessions. The Scottish would battle with the navy but they would use a standing army to invade Spanish Panama and Central America would turn out like our War of Spanish Succession in North America. That is largely colonists using natives as soldiers but with the Natives already shown to like the Scottish in Panama and that the Natives in other areas like Honduras and Mexico would be hostile to the Spanish already the Scottish would have a huge advantage. By 1714 the War would end with the Scottish annexing Panama and possibly southern Costa Rica.

After the War- After the War Scottish independence was definite with the only thing hindering it having a shared monarch with England. Before 1700 the English were worried about the Scottish getting a Catholic monarch but with the Protestant majority the Scottish Parliament would emphasise this so the English would most likely lift the Alien Acts to avoid the Scottish abandoning the shared monarchy. Although for years the situation between Scotland and England would be a rivalry that may have a few spats over trade in the Caribbean and the situation over Ireland. Scotland would most likely aid England in the Napoleonic Wars due to the shared monarchy and although they most likely would remain neutral in the American War of Independence. Maybe around 1848 England and Scotland partition Ireland to avoid arguement with Ulster under Scottish rule. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries Scottish-English relations would improve and they would work together over Irish independence creating a united Ireland. Scotland would become more of a Commonwealth nation and join in the World Wars. Possibly on this day, (as of writing), Scotland would have a referendum whether to still have a joint monarchy with England.

Thanks for reading and please leave comments, your own views and suggestions for future scenarios.

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