Part 2
Part 3
Part 1


The Scots in
the New World


Part one 

"No people so few in number has left its mark as deeply in the history of the world as the Scots have done. No people has a greater right to be proud of their blood."


James Anthony Froude 

Text :  Françoise Rochet 

Illustration : Gratianne Garcia 


The Scots, especially the Highlanders, emigrated throughout the centuries.

They went to the manufacturing cities of England, to the British colonies of the Caribbean and North America and to the French colonies in North America, Africa, Australia

They established churches, shops, trades, craft shops and schools all over the world.  

They made attempts as a free nation in order to own their own colonies.  

After 1746, the continuous flow of Scottish immigrants was fed by exiles and Jacobite sympathizers.  


The human causes of this emigration were numerous: the taste for adventure, the search for new wealth, famines, lack of income, the failure of the Jacobite uprisings, poor harvests, land confiscations... encouraged departures, both involuntary and voluntary.  

The return of Highlander soldiers who had served in America during the Seven Years' War was a stimulus for the Scots to leave for the colonies. After 1763, not only individuals, but entire families and parishes emigrated. Many prosperous settlers sent funds back to the old country to allow other clan members to join them.  


The first were sent on a mission by the Kingdom of Scotland tempted by the acquisition of a colony in the New World. There were several vain attempts that did not resist the supremacy of powerful England. The Scottish colonization of the Americas consisted of a number of Scottish settlements in North America and a colony at Darién in Panama. 

So the Scots made their roots in America.  


Some found themselves forced and forced to do so, after Culloden, we know.   


Here is the story of those whose Voltaire said "We turn to Scotland to find all our ideas about civilization




Nova Scotia (1621)  

The first Scots who would have set foot in the New World were a man named Haki and a woman named Hekja, slaves belonging to the Viking Leif Eiriksson.


Between myth and reality, tradition tells that a certain Henry Sinclair, first Earl of Orkney, a Scottish nobleman, would have explored North America in the fifteenth century.


But the first settlements we have records of are in Canada, Nova Scotia in 1621.

When, Scotland had not yet participated in the great adJames VI left Scotland to become James I of Englandventure of the discovery of overseas where England had played a prominent role since Elizabeth I.


In 1661 he granted a charter to the poet and statesman William Alexander to colonize a territory south of the mouth of the St Lawrence not yet occupied by Europeans and given the name Nova Scotia.  

In Canada he clashed with both the French and the Indians and soon returned to England. But he published a document, "An Encouragement to the Colonies" (1625), which was a great success.


The name Nova Scotia remained on the peninsula where he had attempted his adventure, with Scottish place names such as Clyde, Tweed, Solway, Forth, Glasgow, which remain to this day.

Legally, the colony's charter established that Nova Scotia (defined as all lands between Newfoundland and New England) was now part of Scotland.

In 1625, James VI drew up a charter for the establishment of a colony on the small neighbouring island of Cape Breton. But this land will not be occupied by the Scots. The king died in 1625. His son Charles I continued the Canadian project.


In 1627 war broke out between France and England.


In 1632, under Charles I of England, the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye was signed, which gave Nova Scotia to the French.

The Scots were therefore forced to abandon their small colony.

Often considered English Canadians, the Scots kept their identity.


For more than 200 years, Scottish immigration has never ceased and has enriched this nation with all its know-how. These adventurers of the New World were simple peasants, modest craftsmen...


They became explorers, industrialists, educators, politicians, artists.

The Scots have contributed to the evolution of Canada in many areas. They are the third largest group in Canada and among the first Europeans to settle there.

In the 2016 Canadian Census, 4,799,005 Canadians reported Scottish descent, or 14% of the population.

East New Jersey (1683)  


The Province of East Jersey and the Province of West Jersey, between 1674 and 1702 were two separate political entities. They were merged in 1702. Today, it is the U.S. state of New Jersey.  

The Dutch had taken possession of new Jersey territory in the 1630s. They had settled on the west coast of the Hudson River, across from the tip of Manhattan Island. These settlements were an integral part of the colony of New Netherland, which also included New Amsterdam, which would become New York.

During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, on August 27, 1664, New Amsterdam surrendered to English forces. Indeed, against the English, the Dutch West India Company did not resist. Its purpose is trade, not colonization.

Between 1664 and 1674, most of the settlers who seized the former Dutch colony came from New England, Long Island, and the West Indies. South of the Raritan River, the Monmouth parcel was developed mainly by Quakers from Long Island.

In 1673, Charles II of England gave the Dutch colony to his brother (the future James II).


He distributed the land to two nobles, Sir George de Carteret and Lord John Berkeley de Stratton. 


In 1675, East Jersey was divided into four counties for administrative purposes: Bergen County, Essex County, Middlesex County, and Monmouth County.

On 23 November 1683, Charles II'Angleterre granted a charter for the colony of NewJersey to 24 owners, including 12 Scots.


The colony was then divided between an English settlement in West Jersey and a Scottish settlement in East Jersey. The leader of the Scots was Robert Barclay, a friend of William Penn. Like him, he is a Quaker. He was the first governor of East Jersey.

But he essentially wanted to privilege Scottish influence in this colony while promoting the arrival of his co-religionists who were rejected from the New England colonies.

The "Colony of East Jersey" was established by an organized group of prominent Scottish families from the Lowlands. In 1684, the population was estimated at 3,500 people in about 700 families (African slaves were not included).

These Scottish families, mostly from Aberdeen and Montrose, had emigrated voluntarily to East Jersey in the 1680s, half of them as indentured labourers. These families had arrived mainly as part of an economic enterprise and were not fleeing persecution or poverty. They had Scottish names: Barclay, Hampton, Craig, Gordon, Stout, Fraser...

Another wave, forced, arrived in 1685, with the arrival of the Covenanters, members of the Presbyterian religious movement opposed to the Anglican monarchy.

Presbyterianism became the dominant religion in the 1730s.

All the governors of East Jersey, until 1697, were of Scottish origin, and the Scots retained a very great influence on politics and trade even after 1702, when the two Jerseys merged to form a single royal colony.


In 1682, Barclay and the other Scottish landowners began to develop Perth Amboy as the capital of the province. In 1687, James II allowed ships to be cleared at Perth Amboy, giving scots a gateway into the territory.

Among the owners many of them never made the trip to the colony. They left the management of their property to supervisors or other family members. Younger sons often received shares in the colony in order to gain a high position in Scotland because of inheritance laws that favoured the elders.

These younger sons, supervisors and indentured servants ended up straining. They founded families, improved their living conditions. They acquired property and became permanent residents. At the time of the Revolution, they will be the bourgeoisie, a new living force of the young nation.

Most of this phase of immigration took place between about 1683 and 1700. After this time, there were fewer arrivals to the settlement, and the families who lived there began to spread west of Perth Amboy.


In 1702, the owners lost direct control of the colony of East Jersey, which then officially merged with the English colony of West Jersey to become the royal colony of New Jersey.

However, scots and English generally considered each other to be culturally distinct from each other, so each city tended to have a well-defined Scottish or English character. Scotland's direct participation in the original colony ended in the 1760s.


By that time, most of the original owner families had sold their properties or had simply returned to Scotland. In addition, with the outbreak of the War of Independence, all those who were loyalists were forced to fight with the English or flee.

Monument in honour of the Old Scots Graveyard,  

Monmouth Co., New Jersey  


As for the patriotic Scots, consisting of one or two generations born in the colony of New Jersey, they were ready to become the first citizens of the new United States of America. 


We must now talk about the influence of the Scottish Enlightenment on the evolution of the ideas that led to the War of Independence and the creation of the United States of America. In this respect, the Scots of New Jersey have played a leading role and overall, Americans owe a historical and cultural debt to Scottish thinkers. The Scottish Enlightenment was born in the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen who wanted to improve the world with new ideas, discoveries and inventions.

These philosophers sought to understand the natural world and the human mind.

Their three main areas of concern were moral philosophy, history and economics.

The Scottish Enlightenment of Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, David Hume influenced the Founding Fathers when drafting the Declaration of Independence.


They found philosophical principles and new ways of thinking about the structure of government, economic development, the relationship with religion, the promotion of reason, the absence of oppression, and natural rights.

The Scots, cultured and educated, played a central role in the development of education in the British colonies. The Virginians hired mainly Scottish tutors and most of the teachers and principals of the schools in the colonies south of New York were of this origin.


These Scots quickly established universities, schools that played a fundamental role in the education of future American leaders. For example, Thomas Jefferson, John Rutledge, James Madison and Benjamin Rush were educated under Scottish influence.

In 1746, a few Harvard and Yale alumni founded the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University. While the colony's early universities, such as Harvard, had the mission of training ministers, Princeton's charter was unique. Created on October 22, 1746, it specified that "any person of any religious denomination whatsoever may register and attend classes. The goal is the education of young people in the languages learned and in the liberal arts and sciences."

It was in this context that a Scotsman closely influenced American education, religion and politics in the revolutionary era: the Reverend John Witherspoon. 



In 1768, this eminent Scottish pedagogue, born in 1723 in Gifford (East Lothian) Scotland, Witherspoon trained at the University of Edinburgh, the main university of Scotland, became the sixth president of the College (1768-1794). He would later be one of the first signatories of the Declaration of Independence. He transformed the college into a modern, forward-looking academic institution that would influence the young leaders of the revolutionary generation.

He made fundamental changes to the moral philosophy curriculum and strengthened science and mathematics. He expanded and intensified the teaching of English grammar and composition.

During his tenure, the College expanded its educational collections.

Many books added to the library provided access to a wide range of contemporary literature, including authors who had been publicly challenged.


"Teaching devices" for science education (the "natural philosophy") were acquired including the famous Rittenhouse Orrery, a planetarium designed to represent the movements of the planets around the sun.

Princeton — the only Presbyterian institution in the colonies — was deeply committed to rebellion. Several of his students played a leading role.

It has produced three Supreme Court justices, many judges, senior officials, members of Congress, senators.

Its graduates included twelve governors, and by the time the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America met in 1789, 52 of the 188 delegates had studied under Witherspoon.


The philosophy of government of most of these men was due in large part to the influence of this Scotsman.


"Those who therefore disregard religion and sobriety in the people they send to a state legislature are guilty of the greatest absurdity and will soon pay dearly for their folly."

"The people in general should take into account the moral character of those to whom they give authority in the legislative, executive or judicial powers"

Stuarts Town (1684)   

In 1684, two Scottish nobles, Sir John Cochran of Ochiltree and Sir George Campbell of Cessnock, bought two counties in Carolina.


In order to populate this new area, they found volunteers among the Scottish Covenanters, persecuted Presbyterians who wanted political autonomy and freedom of worship.


Although loyal to the king, they refused the grip of Anglicanism

After obtaining guarantees of their freedom of conscience and a guarantee of autonomous management over their colony, which stretched from Charles Town (now Charleston) to Spanish lands, the new settlers embarked in March 1684.


148 Scottish settlers arrived on the site of former French and Spanish settlements, renamed Stuarts Town.  

Once settled, conflicts began, both with the Native Americans allied with the Spanish and with the English who were trying to claim their authority over the Scots, as well as over the rights to trade with the Native Americans.


The site was promising, but Stuarts Town lay on the disputed border between rival Spanish and English claims. It was also occupied by several quarrelsome Indian nations.

The settlers negotiated an alliance with a local nation, the Yamassee, and thus inherited the ongoing conflict of the Yamasses with the Timucuans, who were under Spanish protection. The peace lasted a few months, but in March 1685, several Scots accompanied a Yamassee raid against the Timucuans at Santa Catalina. The incursion gained little more than a few slaves, but generated considerable Spanish anger.


In August 1686, the Spanish, tired of Scottish raids, sent three ships to attack Stuarts Town with 150 men and Native American allies. Weakened by the disease, the Scots had only 25 men in a position to defend the city that fell. The Spanish allowed the settlers to escape, but looted the city before burning it.

Stuart's Town - the first Covenanting settlement - was not rebuilt.

The colony of Charleston, became in the following century an important commercial city and a major center of the black trade in the 1730s.



Sullivan's Island, now an autonomous municipality located at the entrance to charleston Harbor, was a gateway through which 40% of slaves brought to North America passed.

Darién Project (1695) 

The Darién project is the most economically and politically disastrous Scottish colonial attempt. In the 1690s, in competition with the other European powers, Scotland embarked on a large-scale colonial project in Darién, Panama.


The failure of this venture led to the Union of England and Scotland in 1707.


The idea of giving the Scots an opportunity for economic expansion overseas through a trading company was born in 1695, with a spirit of national autonomy and hope in conquering the New World. The Scottish intention was also to compete with England and the East India Company, a merchant company that held a monopoly on the English colonial market.

In this project, there was the dream of seeing the realization of national unity through an international project.


The coat of arms of the Company of Scotland depicts two men of colour wearing loincloths and displays Scottish ambition with a motto in Latin


Via panditur orbis

Vis unita fortior :


"Where the world expands, unity is strength."  


The initiator of the project was William Patterson, a Scottish merchant based in London, who had made his fortune in America and was one of the founders of the Bank of England in 1694 and the Bank of Scotland in 1695.

In 1695, the Scottish Parliament voted to establish the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies. Its mission was the exploration and exploitation of overseas countries.

But on the condition that the capital is reunited!

There began the difficulties.

Scotland was too poor to provide all the capital alone, first set at £350,000 and then raised to £600,000.

In 1696, the directors organized a fundraiser to finance the project, both in Scotland and England.

Immediately, William III, under pressure from the East India Company, opposed it.

However, more than half of the capital came from England, despite the protests of the English companies.

The subscription campaign in Scotland was a huge success: it took no more than five months to reach a record £400,000, while Scotland was severely affected by wars and famines. The enthusiasm is economic and political for small landowners and the Lairds: the attraction of owning land, the potential economic benefits for Scotland and the desire to assert themselves on an equal footing with other European nations on the international scene, especially compared to England.

A certain Lionel Wafer, doctor-navigator-explorer-adventurer-geographer had visited Central America and made the Scots dangle the riches that the Isthmus of Darién, between the Atlantic and the Pacific, south of the Isthmus of Panama, could offer.


Located at the crossroads of maritime routes, it would control communications with Spanish Peru, the West Indies and Venezuela.


It was "the key to the universe." The golden island, the Golden Island. 

If this was true on the maps, in reality, the territory belonged to the Spaniards.  

But Wafer claimed that the Darién was not yet colonized by the Spaniards and that the territory was therefore, "terra nullius" that is to say free for the first arrival.  

This legal argument clashed with Spanish claims that claimed sovereignty over these territories, justified by a century of presence throughout Central America.  



Conflict was therefore inevitable.  

The adventure turned into a disaster.

The settlers underestimated the importance of this Spanish presence. Five ships with 1200 settlers on board left the port of Leith in July 1698 and anchored at Darién, renamed New Caledonia, in November of the same year. The appalling living conditions there – shortage of food, inadequate fishing equipment, malaria epidemic – pushed the settlers to flee to Jamaica and Scotland in July 1699.

News of the colony's abandonment did not arrive in time in Scotland and a second expedition reached the colony in November 1699.


It was more successful: a small Spanish commando was defeated at a place called Tubacanti.

In March 1700, a new Spanish army sent as reinforcements annihilated the Scottish colony weakened by the lack of food and the last survivors were taken to Seville to be tried in accordance with the laws of war and the Inquisition.

The many calls for help to William III had gone unanswered.

The Scots definitively abandoned Darién in February 1700.


Scotland, which had invested huge sums of money in the project, found itself in a very difficult economic situation. Immediately, the indignation was at its height against the Spaniards but especially against the English. The king was accused of deliberately sabotaging Caledonia's plan and ruining Scottish hopes. It was an anti-English outburst that worsened.


On March 8, 1702, William of Orange died as a result of a fall from a horse.


Anne Stuart, the second daughter of James VII II and a Protestant, was immediately recognized as queen in both London and Edinburgh. Anne did not know Scotland, but she belonged to the old national dynasty and she was not unpopular. It was said that she kept discreet contacts with her brother the "Catholic Pretender" in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.


There was still a big issue to be settled, namely the succession of the new queen.

If the Pretender Stuart had agreed to convert to Protestantism as many advised him, he would probably have been the heir to the crown but he refused to do so. The English Parliament therefore passed, on 6 May 1702, the Act of Settlement which ensured the crown to Sophie of Hanover, granddaughter of James VI-I by her mother, the closest Protestant relative of the Stuarts.

There was a risk that, on the death of Queen Anne, the two kingdoms would regain their independence under two different sovereigns. This is one of the reasons that brought to the fore the hypothesis of an indissoluble union of the two countries, especially since Scotland was ruined.


The danger of rupture seemed pressing enough that on both sides of the border it was decided that union, so often evoked and so often refused, was the only effective solution, otherwise Scotland risked turning massively to the Pretender Stuart.

In 1706, the time seemed ripe to actively resume negotiations for the Union.

Scotland had lost its dream of a colonial empire. It had itself become an English colony.


The settlement of Darién was Scotland's last colonial enterprise as an independent nation.

Darién in Georgia (1736)  


The name of this city comes from the Darién project in Panama.


New Inverness or Darién was founded in January 1736 by 177 Scottish Highland Catholics (men, women and children) who were fleeing the conflict between Jacobites and Hanoverians that had been raging since 1715.


These valiant Scottish warriors, recruited as settler-soldiers by Oglethorpe, were mainly from the vicinity of Inverness and consisted of Jacobite support clans, the majority of whom spoke only Gaelic.

Their threefold role was:

* establish a new colony;

* serve as a buffer, protect Georgia from the Spanish, French and their Indian allies;

* rapidly establish military forts.

By the time of the visit to Oglethorpe in February, the settlers had already built a battery of four pieces of cannons, built a guard post, a warehouse, a chapel and several individual huts.

Darién was also laid out in accordance with the now famous Oglethorpe Plan.


They raised livestock, farmed and felled trees to survive.

In 1739, 18 members of the colony signed the first petition against the introduction of slavery in Georgia in response to the people of Savannah who demanded the lifting of the prohibition on slavery.


The Highlanders' petition had some success for some time; slavery was not introduced until ten years later, in 1749 when the colony was transformed into large plantations in the image of Virginia.


Here ends our discovery of the Kingdom of Scotland's attempts to own a small piece of land in the New World. In the next chapter, we will see in detail who were these Scots who tried the adventure of the New World and their impact on American society over time.


"We are gathered here to welcome our old friends and meet new ones, in the hope that they will join us in building a new life in a new world. » 


Jamie Fraser 

T 5 CH 5  



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