The Darien scheme was one of the most spectacular imperial misadventures of early modern history. The Darien scheme has all the hallmarks of an authentic Scottish 'El Dorado' moment. There were widespread symptoms of a genuinely El Dorado excitation across Scotland. The social psychology of El Doradoism entailed a heightened collective enthusiasm for a distant enterprise, and the implicit negotiation of risk in a colonial setting. Colonisation, especially in the seventeenth century, was always a speculative enterprise, associated with high risks and heavy persuasion, often also with exaggeration and deception. In 1684 Robert Barclay had sought emigrants for the colony of New East Jersey in a deliberate effort to recruit Scots. The emigrants were also to be accompanied by ministers who were 'enjoined to instruct the native inhabitants in the gospels'.
Intercontinental mobility and migrant expectations in the nineteenth century
The history of Australian immigration has a number of distinctive features which bear upon the question of returning home, much of it to do with the tyranny said to have been exercised by its distance from the homelands in the British Isles. This chapter concentrates on the nineteenth-century segment of the Australian story, the time when the return movement became significant. Assisted migrants to Australia, generally speaking, expected to emigrate for good: they had neither the funds, nor the anticipation of future income, to indulge the expectation of returning to the original homeland. Some emigrants were absurdly triumphant about their new life in the colonies, scorning the idea of return. Rising colonial incomes and the improvement in transport facilities between Australia and Britain were elements in the increasing mobility.
Thomas Robert Malthus was an equivocal advocate of emigration. Malthus was a keen observer of the course of emigration from the British Isles at the end of the eighteenth century. The Malthusian world was a pre-industrial world in which population growth seemed always most likely to outstrip and swamp any achievable economic growth. There were numerous categories of migration out of Britain, often associated with different dynamics, moving with different velocities and under widely different pressures. Malthus was adamant about the self-defeating consequences of emigration and drew on cases from the West Highlands of Scotland, most notably the island of Jura. The process of emigration was accompanied by the relative decline of agricultural employment in the region. Malthus's outline of the social psychology of the migration was applicable especially in the case of the Isle of Skye.