Letter: 20th November 1739
(f. 25) My Lord
As his Majesty has thought fit to declare War against Spain, in vindication of the Rights of his Subjects and the honour of his Crown, it is Certainly the duty of Every Englishman, who hath any Regard for his Country, to give all the assistance in his power or ability, in Support of such just and necessary measures.
With this view, and upon no other motive or Consideration, I presume to address, and lay my thoughts before your Lordship, which if approved of and happily Executed, will greatly annoy and distress the Spaniards and at all times hereafter be an Effectual Curb on that haughty & Insolent Nation.
What I have the honour to propose to your Lordship is the Settlement of Darien, which may be Effected without any great difficulty or Experience by the Crown, or by a Company, those with Submission the form is the most likely of Succeeding, because Companys are too Subject to Errors and miscarriages through the avarice and sinister designs of the (ff. 26) managers or their agents.
But, before, I proceed it is necessary to premise that Darian is an Isthmus on the main Continent of America and in the possession of the aborigines, who never were Conquered or Entered into any Treaty or commerce with the Spaniards as I have heard of; they are not very numerous and are described by severall authors to be a mild friendly people, and to have a Singular affection and esteem for the English nation, which they have manifested on Severall occasions in aiding and assisting our Privateers against the Spaniards, particularly Sir. Henry Morgan in his Expedition against Panama; Captain Sharp and other. and in the reign of the late Queen Ann, Don Pedro their King with near 200 men joined a body of English Privateers, under the command of Captain Rash, marched over land took and plundered the Town and mines of Cana which are about 16 Leagues SW of Caledonia, or the Settlement the Scotch were making on that Isthmus; and would have succeeded therein had they been assisted and Supported by the English nation. How far the Grant or Charter to their Caledonia Company Subsists, or whither they have any just Claim or pretention to that Country, is apoint necessary to be Considered on this Occasion to prevent Disputes and Controversys amongst our Selves.
Darien is Situated between Cartagena and Porto Bello [asterisk] about 600 Leagues distance from Each Place [asterisk] and is mostly Comprehended between the Lattitudes of 8 and 10 degrees N, but its breadth is much about one degree; and is bounded E on the great River of Darien, Wonthe River of Chagre and Cheapo, N and S on the Ocean. in Crossing this neck of land into the S Seas, our Privateers were usually from 12 to 16 days, because they went thro unfrequented ways, over Rivers and Mountains, to prevent discovery; but Captain Dampier Says it may be done in three days, and that the Indians frequently do it in a day and half. being thus Situates how Easy will it be when a Settlement is made there to obstruct and Restrain the Trade of Panama, Carthagena, and Porto Bello; and at any time to make a descent into the S Seas. it will be in our power to prevent great part of the Riches of Peru, and Lima, from being Exported to Old Spain or to make them our own; to Cut of all Communication between those places, and prevent their being Supplied with necessarys for their Support, which will reduce them to the greatest Extremity. and in time of Peace it will Open a new and securer Channel of Trade than any wee have ever had, not only with the Spaniards but the Darien (ff. 27) Indians (and a much more numerous nation Situated on the East side of Darien River and the South part of the Continent who have plenty of Gold amongst them) which will occasion a much greater Consumption of our Woolen and other manufactures. and wee have great Reason to believe they have Gold Mines, not only from their Vicinity to Cana and Santa Maria, but the plenty of Gold among the Indians which they know not the Vallue of and therefore take no pains in Searching for it.
Wee shall likewise have the advantage by such a Settlement of being Supplied with drugs, and many other usefull Commoditys, wee are not furnished with by the Spaniards; the Soil being the same with the other parts of the Continent, productive of the same plants, and capable of raising the same manufactures through to prevent giving any umbrage or discouragement to our other Colonies in S. America, they should be Restrained from Raising Sugar, Tobacco, Ginger, and Coffee; in other Respects I conceive they will be usefull and Serviceable to them and particularly in Jamaica, for being so nearly Situated that the passage from one to the other is Commonly made in 3 or 4 days, a beneficial Correspondance may be carried on between them, and in Cases of danger or necessity assistant to Each other.
That such an undertaking may be Successfully Performed at this Juncture cannot be doubted, Considering the favourable disposition of those Indians (who ere and I am of Opinion are still our friends though wee have neglected Cultivating a Correspondance with them) and that wee are able to maintain the possession against the greatest Efforts of the Spaniards are able to make, Even though the French were to assist them; for as wee are Superior to them by Sea whatever land forces they are in a Condition to Raise, it will be our own faults if Ever they Transport them thither.
But as this tract of land is Still in the Possession of the Aborigines who never were Conquered by, nor Submitted to the Spaniards, as I observed before, it will be necessary to have their Consent and Approbation, which I am persuaded may be Easily obtained, not only for the Reasons I have given, but that the Scotch met with no difficulty in it. this will be acting agreable to the Law of Nations, the Principles of Christianity, and the Constant Maxims of the Brittish Nations, whose possessions are founded on Reason and Justice, and not Chimericall Grants, Butchery of Millions of Innocent People, and other unjustifiable means.
In order to Effect this with great Submission, I beg leave to propose than an Instruction be immediately Sent to the Governour of Jamaica, and the Commander in Chief of his Majestys Ships on that Station, to depute two or three Sober discreet (ff. 28) Persons with proper Powers and Authority to treat with the Natives, for a Certain Proportion of land necessary for a Settlement, and to Erect a Fortification; and to Establish a good Correspondance and friendship with them. to facilitate the matter, it will be proper to Send some few presents of Cloaths and baubles, to their principall men and women, and to give a better Countenance to the undertaking that one of his Majestys Sloops be sent on the Occasion, and the Commander directed to give all the Assistance in his power.
In the mean time proper measures may be taken for putting this design in Execution, which cannot fail of Success, at least it will Strike a terrour in the Spaniards and bring them to reason; and the possession of that Country which may justly be Esteemed one of the most Valluable Spotts of Ground in the World, beside the advantages I have mentioned, will give us an Opportunity of Sharing the mines which are lodged in its Bowells, or Entirely dispossess the Enemy of those at Santa Maria Cana and other Neighbouring place; and likewise of a free passage by land from the atlantick to the South Sea which would be of great Consequence to our East India Trade.
And, as the Spaniards are Accustomed to Tyrannize not only over their Slaves and the Indians, but Even the Creoles or Spaniards born in America, imposing hardships and keeping them in the greatest Subjection, wee may possibly find them under the present circumstances less averse to the English, and more inclined to favour them than is generally immagined; Especially if Encouragement is given them by a declaration, that they shall be intitled to all the libertys and privileges of Brittish Subjects; and that they shall freely Exercise and Enjoy their Religion. Such a declaration on this or the like Occasion I am Persuaded will be attended with very good Consequences.
If the Setling a Colony at Georgie (which Experience has Convinced us to be a little more of Consequence than a Barrier to our other Colonys) hath given such Umbrage and uneasiness to the Spaniards, how much more reason will they have to be alarmed at our having a door open into the S Seas, which with the other advantages will enable us to prescribe laws to the Kingdom of Peru and great part of Lima; and Jamaica is so situated as to Distress their Trade to Mexico and the Island of Cuba; for ships bound to those places must necessarily pass in Sight of the S.W End or the N. side.
Nor need we desist Executing this project, with the Consent of the Natives, Should the Crown of Spain be inclined to do us justice, Since the Spaniards have not any just or Equitable claim to those lands; for the same reasons, neither the Dutch or French can take any umbrage at it, and (f. 29) therefore wee cannot apprehend their giving us any Opposition and should wee neglect or omit Embracing this opportunity possibly some of those Powers will attempt it and Entirely put it out of our Power at any time hereafter.
If any thing like what I have the honour to lay before your Lordship be approved and attended with desired Success, I shall have all the advantage, I propose to my Self the Satisfaction of having been an usefull Instrument to my King and Country.
I am with the greatest deference of Regard
and most humble Servant(?)