In 1622 Sir William Alexander received a charter from James VI of Scotland to found a Scottish colony in the North American lands lying between New England, where English settlement was in its infancy, and the long established English fishing stations on the island of Newfoundland.15 Later, in 1628, James’s son Charles I granted Alexander a second charter giving him (in theory) a claim to all the lands between English and French territories in North America.16 Alexander was one of the many Scottish courtiers who followed James to London when he became king of England in 1603. In the pamphlet promoting his projected colony, Alexander wrote that Scots would never participate in overseas plantations unless, just as there was a New England, a New France and a New Spain, ‘they might likewise have a New Scotland’.17 John Reid has remarked wisely upon ‘the fundamental emptiness of European pretensions to ownership of lands that were already occupied by native people’, but it is clear that Alexander conceived of his colonial ambitions as offering a possible solution to some of James VI’s fundamental concerns about his oldest kingdom. Scotland exported many of its young men as soldiers for the wars of Europe, a growth industry during the wars of religion that prostrated early modern Europe. Unlike England (but like Ireland), Scotland had a surplus population that could be channelled into American colonization. Unlike Ireland (but like England), most of that population was Protestant. Alexander’s An Encouragement to Colonies addressed this. Why should Scots ‘betake themselves to the warres against the Russians, Turks, or Swedens, as the Polonians were pleased to employ them’? He also pointed out that ‘the Lowe Countries have spent many of our men, but have enriched few,’ while ‘the necessities of Ireland are neere supplied, and that great current which did transport so many of our people is worne drie’.18 Alexander was not correct about the future of Scottish emigration patterns in the seventeenth century. Many more Scots were about to die in the Thirty Years War in Europe and many more Scots would emigrate into Ireland than ever would travel further westward before 1700.
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