Back in the 1690s there were only two countries
on the island of Great Britain: The Kingdom
of Scotland and the Kingdom of England.
England and the other great european powers
were doing rather well for themselves by expanding
their empires through the cunning use of flags.
Scotland had no empire but wanted to join
in the game, and thus needed to establish
a colony of her very own.
But where to build it?
"Panama!" declared Scotland.
She imagined the colony's strategic location
would make trade with the far east safer and
faster by eliminating the long journey around
the hazardous Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn
where both wind and wave delight in smashing
ships against rock and ice.
"Who will lend me money to make this great
idea a reality?" asked Scotland.
No one, was the answer.
Instead of helping, the european empires started
trade wars with Scotland to limit the power
of their future rival.
So, poor Scotland had to fund the project
herself. She gathered up all the money she
could, literally put it all in a big box and,
capital thusly raised, sent off a colonial
400,000 pounds, 8,000 kilometers and 111 days
later, 2,500 Scotsmen landed on the shores
of Panama, named it 'New Caledonia' and immediately
discovered a few small problems with their
First, the mountains on the western side of
Panama were a wee bit larger than expected,
making overland trade pretty much impossible.
Even if they had thought of building a canal,
the technology to do so was still 200 years
Second, The woolen goods brought to trade
with the locals was useless in the endless
heat and humidity.
Third, the Spanish Conquistadors had already
planted flags on the sandy beaches and weren't
too happy to see the scots arrive.
And fourth, without adequate supplies, disease
such as the perennial tropical favorite, Dysentery,
Two years and 2,000 dead scots later, they
abandoned the project.
Now, this wasn't the first failed attempt
at Scottish empire -- early colonies had been
tried and abandoned in Nova Scotia, New Jersey
and Carolina, but the Panama debacle was particularly
devastating to Scotland because she was over-invested.
Remember that money-in-a-box? Turns out it
was a fifth of the wealth of the whole country.
Scotland's sudden impoverishment proved a
golden opportunity for The Kingdom of England
who was growing increasingly worried that
her neighbor to the North would ally with
England offered Scotland a deal that would
reimburse Scotland for her losses if she voted
for union. In 1707 Scotland agreed and the
Kingdom of Great Britain was born.
While the surrender of independence was unpopular
in Scotland, her economy improved with access
to once English (now British) trade routes
and she played a formative role in what would
soon be the largest empire in human history.
That being said, still more than 300 years
later, Scotland has never fully given up her
national identity and thoughts of independence.