Continued: THE DARIEN DISASTER (1) Overview During the 1600s, England, Spain and other European countries prospered as a result of their successful establishment of colonies throughout the world. In contrast, the 1600s were economically hard times for Scotland. By the early 1690s, the people of Scotland were determined to create a colony of their own, in Panama at a location they called Darien (on a finger of land which some now call Punta Escores). They believed the colony would become a source of wealth and pride, and an unrealistic expectation of assured success gripped the country. In June, 1693, the Parliament of Scotland passed "An Act For Encouraging Foreign Trade", which authorized the establishment of companies to trade with any country not at war with the crown. The Company Of Scotland Trading To Africa And The West Indies, which was formed following passage of the Act, was the legal vehicle through which the Scots intended to colonize Darien. The result was a disaster. The colony was never firmly established, and the financial investments were lost. Most of the people who left on the voyages never returned alive, and the few who did were viewed with shame and disgrace. (2) Scotland And England Scotland and England existed as separate kingdoms during the 1600s, but not as equals. During the 1690s the two countries were under the rule of King William, but Scotland felt herself to be the subordinate nation. As originally envisioned by the Scots, the colonization of Darien would be a 50 - 50 joint venture between Scotland and England. This was naive and reflected a misunderstanding by the Scots, both of the feelings of the English about the Scots and of the reaction by the English to any competition from the Scots in colonizing the world. The original capitalization of the Company was to be L600,000, with L300,000 to come from the English. The English Subscription Book was opened in London on November 22, 1693, and the entire L300,000 was subscribed to that morning. None of the money was ever collected by the Company. King William, declaring that "I have been ill-served in Scotland", later approved a resolution declaring that the Directors of the Company were guilty of "High Crimes And Misdemeanors". Still later, King William signed a proclamation ordering all of his subjects to provide no assistance to the Scots' effort to colonize Darien, and the English continued to do all they could to make sure that the colony would not succeed. The Company ceased to exist in 1707 as a result of Article Fifteen of the Treaty of Union, by which one Parliament of Great Britain replaced those of Scotland and England. England agreed to give Scotland nearly L400,000 for the liquidation of its public debts, for the improvement of its monetary standard, and for the repayment of the capital stock of the Company with interest at five percent. A special committee of the commissioners found that the sum due to the Company shareholders was L232,884 5s 0 2/3d. (3) James Balfour (1652-1703) James Balfour (b. 1652) was a merchant who owned soap-works, glass-works, a shipbuilding yard and an alum factory in Leith. And along with several others (one of whom was Sir Alexander Hope of Kerse, the grandson of Sir Thomas Hope (1580-1646)), he acquired the monopoly of the manufacture of gunpowder for Scotland. James Balfour and Robert Blackwood were the two persons principally responsible for obtaining passage of the Act by the Scottish Parliament in 1693. For two weeks following the first reading of the Act on June 14, Balfour and Blackwood tirelessly entertained the secretary and members of Parliament's Committee of Trade. By June 25, all amendments to the Act had finally been agreed, and the following day the Parliament passed the bill without debate. Balfour was one of the 20 persons (10 English, 10 Scots) named in the Act as promoters and patentees, with powers to join with others, to form a Council-General and a Court of Directors, to issue stock, to determine the rules, ordinances and constitution of the Company. He was one of the early subscribers of stock in the Company. The maximum amount of stock one could hold in the Darien Company was L 3,000, but none of the sixteen Leith shareholders approached that amount; the highest was the share of James Balfour, who subscribed L 2,000. Although Balfour did not go on either of the voyages to Darien, he lost everything in the unsuccessful Panama venture. Ruined and disappointed, Balfour seems to have lain down in frustration, and he died in 1703. After the Scottish government distributed the repayment of capital stock to Company shareholders, Balfour's son, also named James Balfour (1680/81-1737), used his father's share of the repayment to buy a large house and surrounding estate in Pilrig in 1718. This home, which has been referred to as "Pilrig House", was the home of successive generations of Balfours for 223 years. (4) References (A) THE DARIEN DISASTER, by John Prebble; Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Ltd., 5 Glen Street, Edinburgh, 1978. (B) DARIEN EXPEDITION, www.kinnaird.net/darien.htm. (C) THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LEITH, by James Scott Marshall: John Donald Publishers Ltd., 138 St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5AA, 1986. (D) THE STORY OF LEITH - XXVIII, www.electricscotland.com/history/leith/28.htm, and THE STORY OF LEITH - XXIX, www.electricscotland.com/history/leith/29.htm. (E) http://www.southfarm.plus.com/pl_tree/ps29/ps29_390.htm (F) The Scottish Glass Industry 1610-1750: "to Serve the Whole Nation With Glass", by Jill Turnbull, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (2001), where the following is reported at pages 152-154: On 21 October 1699 James Balfour assigned to his son, also James, all his various business interests, including: "....the property of the glassworks in Leith....". THE BALFOUR FAMILY. It would be appropriate, at this point, to record something of the Balfours, who were of considerable importance in the mercantile circles of Scotland at the end of the 17th century. James Balfour senior is best known as one of the two men....as being 'the founders of the Company of Scotland'....Balfour and Blackwood were very active in promoting the company, each of them subscribing L500 (sterling) in 1695 and are named by Irish as having lent considerable sums to the company while the expedition equipment was being prepared in 1698. James Balfour is described as a man 'who knew intimately the small scale on which struggling Scottish industries were being conducted'. He had reason to be conversant with Scottish industry, since he was closely involved with several, besides the glassworks. Among the interests transferred to his son James in 1699 were a half share of a 'manufactorie and soap work at Leith'.....He also had share in an alum works and an interest in processing tobacco; he owned a shipyard, and appears to have lent money, to judge by the number of debtors listed. James Balfour had been made burgess and guild brother of Edinburgh in 1685.....Balfour senior died in 1702 or 1703, in his mid-fifties. James Balfour younger (1681-1737) continued to develop the family business interests. By 1706 he was treasurer of the Gun Powder Company, which had been established at Canonmills in 1696, having four shares, while 18 of the 21 directors owned only one share each, and he became a director of the Bank of Scotland in 1726. He bought the (Pilrig) estate in 1718, using compensation for the losses sustained by shareholders in the Darien disaster, paid by the government..... James Balfour's 'portfolio' of shares was also more integrated than may at first appear. Potash was required in the manufacture of soap and alum, as well as glass, while soaper's ashes, the residue from soap production, was used in making bottle glass. ******************************************************* For information about the Balfour family and Pilrig House, see: (1) THE BALFOURS OF PILRIG, A History For The Family, by Barbara Balfour-Melville; T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh, 1907. See Chapter VIII, "The Darien Company". (2) http://www.pilrighouseapartment.co.uk/assets/files/TheBalfoursLairdsofPilrig.doc (3) Seekers of Truth: The Scottish Founders of Modern Public Accountancy, by T. A. Lee (ISBN-13: 978-0762312986); see pages 67-68. ******************************************************* The following information appears as a paragraph in an article titled "THE BALFOURS OF PILRIG AND MELVILLES OF STRATHKINNESS", by E. W. M. BALFOUR-MELVILLE, Litt.D. (The Scottish Genealogist, Vol. VIII, No. 1; February, 1961): "More important was their son, also James. A merchant, living in Milnes Court. He became a burgess and guild brother in right of his wife, Helen, daughter of Robert Smith of Southfield, who had been one of the assize that acquitted McLeod of Assynt, and grand-daughter of Sir John Smith, Provost of Edinburgh, 1643-46, and one of the mission sent to bring Charles II to Scotland in 1650. James was active in the manufacturing of gunpowder and of alum, as well as being concerned in glassworks and soap manufacture at Leith. With Robert Blackwood, he was a founder of the Darien Company, subscribing over L2000 and distributing the fees and bribes needed for passing the Act through Parliament. When the English trades objected to the Company, he was examined before the House of Lords and threatened with impeachment by the House of Commons. The failure of the Darien colony left him a ruined man when he died in 1703". ********************************************************** In an Email dated 02/10/2004, Anthony Chapman (a great-great-great-grandson of James Balfour and Mary Anderson) reported that James Balfour married Helen Smith in Cramond, a few miles NW of Edinburgh, on 23 Jan. 1679. **********************************************************
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