Gregor MacGregor
Gregor MacGregor was a Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 soldier, adventurer, land speculator, and colonizer who fought in the South American struggle for independence. Upon his return to England in 1820, he claimed to be cacique
Cacique is a title derived from the Taíno word for the pre-Columbian chiefs or leaders of tribes in the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles...

of Poyais (also known as Principality of Poyais, Territory of Poyais, Republic of Poyais). Poyais was a fictional Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

n country that MacGregor had invented which, with his help, drew investors and eventually colonists.

Early life

MacGregor was born in the family house of Glengyle in Stirlingshire, Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

 1786. His parents were Daniel MacGregor, a sea captain with the East India Company, and Ann Austin, a doctor's daughter. Little is known of MacGregor's early life but apparently he had at least one sister.

In 1803, at the age of 16, he joined the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 and served in an infantry regiment, the 57th Foot. By 1804 he had risen to the rank of lieutenant, an unusually rapid progression in the ranks. He married Maria Bowater, an admiral's daughter, in June 1805, and Maria MacGregor then set up house in London while MacGregor spent much of his time in Gibraltar, where the 57th Foot was in training.

Not until July 1809 was MacGregor's regiment sent to Portugal, as reinforcements for the Duke of Wellington's second peninsular campaign to drive the French out of Spain. Accounts of MacGregor's service in this campaign vary, but it is known that for a time he was seconded to the Portuguese army with the rank of major, and that he sold out of the British Army in May 1810, possibly because of disagreements with his superior officers. MacGregor and his wife then went to Edinburgh, where he assumed the title of "Colonel", but by 1811 they were in London and MacGregor was styling himself Sir Gregor MacGregor, Bart., while claiming falsely to have succeeded to the chieftainship of the clan MacGregor.

Venezuela and New Granada

In December 1811, Maria MacGregor died. By this time, MacGregor had heard about the independence movements in South America and the Captaincy General of Venezuela
Captaincy General of Venezuela
The Captaincy General of Venezuela was an administrative district of colonial Spain, created in 1777 to provide more autonomy for the provinces of Venezuela, previously under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Granada and the Audiencia of Santo Domingo...

 in particular. He sold his small Scottish estate and sailed for South America, arriving in Caracas
Caracas , officially Santiago de León de Caracas, is the capital and largest city of Venezuela; natives or residents are known as Caraquenians in English . It is located in the northern part of the country, following the contours of the narrow Caracas Valley on the Venezuelan coastal mountain range...

 in the spring of 1812. He talked General Francisco de Miranda
Francisco de Miranda
Sebastián Francisco de Miranda Ravelo y Rodríguez de Espinoza , commonly known as Francisco de Miranda , was a Venezuelan revolutionary...

, the Commander in Chief of the new Venezuelan Republic's army, into appointing him a colonel in the army, and almost immediately he was involved in a series of skirmishes that resulted in his promotion to brigadier-general. A month or so later, when General Miranda was captured and handed over to the royalist forces by Simon Bolívar
Simón Bolívar
Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Yeiter, commonly known as Simón Bolívar was a Venezuelan military and political leader...

, MacGregor fled to Curaçao
Curaçao is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea, off the Venezuelan coast. The Country of Curaçao , which includes the main island plus the small, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao , is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 on a British brig with his new wife.

During his brief stay in Caracas, MacGregor had met Josefa Antonia Andrea Aristeguieta y Lovera, the daughter of a prominent local family and a cousin of Simon Bolívar. They were married on June 10, 1812. They eventually had three children, Gregorio (b. ca. 1817), Constantino, (b. ca. 1819) and Josefa Anna Gregoria (b. ca. 1821), and their marriage endured twenty-six years, until Josefa's death in 1838.

From Curaçao, MacGregor decided to go to New Granada
United Provinces of New Granada
The United Provinces of New Granada was a country in South America from 1811 to 1816, a period known in Colombian history as the Patria Boba. It was formed from areas of the New Kingdom of Granada. The government was a federation with a parliamentary system, consisting of a weak executive and...

 (present-day Colombia) and join the liberation forces of General Antonio Nariño
Antonio Nariño
Antonio de la Santísima Concepción Nariño y Álvarez was an ideological Colombian precursor and one of the early political and military leaders of the independence movement in the New Granada - Early political activity :Nariño was born to an aristocratic family...

. For Josefa's safety, he first took her to the British island of Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

 and then sailed for Cartagena on the northern coast of New Granada. From there he made his way south to Tunja, where General Nariño put him in command of the military district of Socorro, near the Venezuelan border. During the year or so he spent here, he earned what became a lifelong reputation as an unreliable braggart. One local official wrote of him: "I am sick and tired of this bluffer, or Quixote, or the devil knows what. This man can hardly serve us in New Granada without heaping ten thousand embarassments upon us."

In 1814, the Spanish royalist forces routed General Nariño's army and MacGregor took refuge in Cartagena, where he played a role in organizing the city's defenses. In August 1815, the Spanish troops attacked the city and began a siege that lasted until December, when disease and starvation forced the city to surrender. On the night of December 5th, MacGregor helped to organize a mass escape aboard gunboats that blasted their way through the Spanish blockade and sailed for Jamaica.

In Jamaica, MacGregor was treated as a hero, but by the spring of 1816 he had moved on with Josefa to the neighboring island of Santa Domingo, where Simon Bolívar was raising a new army. In April, MacGregor sailed with Bolívar as a brigadier-general to Venezuela, landing on the island of Margarita before crossing to Carupano on the mainland. Both Bolívar and MacGregor ran into trouble after their forces split up, and MacGregor's troops were eventually forced to retreat towards the town of Barcelona, fighting all the way. This difficult, month-long campaign earned MacGregor deserved acclaim and is probably the high point of his military adventures, which were otherwise marred by varying amounts of error, incompetency, and exaggeration on his part.

Green Cross of Florida

In 1817, Simón Bolívar
Simón Bolívar
Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Yeiter, commonly known as Simón Bolívar was a Venezuelan military and political leader...

, who was fighting for the independence of Venezuela, considered that the only way to regain control of his country was to invade the islands of Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 and Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

, which were under Spanish control. With this in mind he ordered the invasion of Florida to MacGregor, who led an army of 150 Venezuelans, including 55 musketeers, to capture Fort San Carlos
Original Town of Fernandina Historic Site
The Original Town of Fernandina Historic Site, also known as “Old Town”, is a historic site in Fernandina Beach, Florida, which is located on Amelia Island. It is roughly bounded by Towngate Street, Bosque Bello Cemetery, Nassau, Marine, and Ladies Streets. On January 29, 1990, it was added to the...

 on Amelia Island from the Spanish and create the Republic of Florida. Surprising the Spanish, MacGregor's men overran the island on 29 June. MacGregor raised a flag with a green cross on it known as the "Green Cross of Florida". He left a few months later to fight the Spanish.

Cacique of Poyais

Gregor MacGregor went from Latin America to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, in 1820 and announced that he had been created cacique (highest authority or prince
Prince is a general term for a ruler, monarch or member of a monarch's or former monarch's family, and is a hereditary title in the nobility of some European states. The feminine equivalent is a princess...

) of the Principality
A principality is a monarchical feudatory or sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title of prince or princess, or by a monarch with another title within the generic use of the term prince....

 of Poyais
, an independent nation on the Bay of Honduras. He claimed that native chieftan King George Frederic Augustus I
George Frederic Augustus I
George Frederic Augustus I served as king of the Miskito, an indigenous people from Honduras from 1801-1824.-Succession and regency:He was quite young when his father and predecessor George II Frederic was murdered, according to the later visitor George Henderson, "attributed very openly to the...

 of the Mosquito Shore and Nation had given him the territory of Poyais, 12,500 mile² (32,400 km²) of fertile land with untapped resources, a small number of settlers of British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 origin, and cooperative natives eager to please. He had created the beginnings of a country with civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

, army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 and democratic government. Now he needed settlers and investment and had come back to the United Kingdom to give people the opportunity.

At the time, British merchant
A merchant is a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit.Merchants can be one of two types:# A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant...

s were all too eager to enter the South American market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

 that Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 had denied to them. The region had already become more promising in the wake of wars of South American independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

, when the new governments of Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 had issued bonds
Bond (finance)
In finance, a bond is a debt security, in which the authorized issuer owes the holders a debt and, depending on the terms of the bond, is obliged to pay interest to use and/or to repay the principal at a later date, termed maturity...

 in London Royal Exchange
Royal Exchange
Royal Exchange may refer to:*Royal Exchange, Belfast a major mixed-use regeneration scheme in the North East Quarter of Belfast City Centre*Royal Exchange, Manchester, a 19th century classical building, home of the Royal Exchange Theatre...

 to raise money.

London high society welcomed the colourful figure of MacGregor, and he and his Spanish American
Criollo people
The Criollo class ranked below that of the Iberian Peninsulares, the high-born permanent residence colonists born in Spain. But Criollos were higher status/rank than all other castes—people of mixed descent, Amerindians, and enslaved Africans...

 wife Josefa Andrea Lovera received many invitations. The Lord Mayor of London Christopher Magnay even organized an official reception in London Guildhall
Guildhall, London
The Guildhall is a building in the City of London, off Gresham and Basinghall streets, in the wards of Bassishaw and Cheap. It has been used as a town hall for several hundred years, and is still the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City of London and its Corporation...

. MacGregor claimed descent of clan
Scottish clan
Scottish clans , give a sense of identity and shared descent to people in Scotland and to their relations throughout the world, with a formal structure of Clan Chiefs recognised by the court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms which acts as an authority concerning matters of heraldry and Coat of Arms...

 MacGregor and that Rob Roy MacGregor
Robert Roy MacGregor
Robert Roy MacGregor , usually known simply as Rob Roy or alternately Red MacGregor, was a famous Scottish folk hero and outlaw of the early 18th century, who is sometimes known as the Scottish Robin Hood. Rob Roy is anglicised from the Scottish Gaelic Raibeart Ruadh, or Red Robert...

 had been his direct ancestor. He enhanced his allure by telling about his exploits in the Peninsular War
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

 and later in the service of Francisco de Miranda
Francisco de Miranda
Sebastián Francisco de Miranda Ravelo y Rodríguez de Espinoza , commonly known as Francisco de Miranda , was a Venezuelan revolutionary...

, Simón Bolívar
Simón Bolívar
Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Yeiter, commonly known as Simón Bolívar was a Venezuelan military and political leader...

 and South American independence – tales which were rather embellished .

MacGregor was also introduced to Major William John Richardson and by the winter of 1821 he had made Richardson legate
A legation was the term used in diplomacy to denote a diplomatic representative office lower than an embassy. Where an embassy was headed by an Ambassador, a legation was headed by a Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary....

 of Poyais. He had also moved to Oak Hall in Richardson's estate in Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

, England, as befit his station as a prince. An office for the Legation of the Territory of Poyais was opened at Dowgate Hill in the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

. MacGregor enhanced his popularity with elaborate banquets in Oak Hall and invited dignitaries like foreign ambassadors, government ministers and senior military officers.

MacGregor also claimed that one of his ancestors was a rare survivor of the Darien Scheme
Darién scheme
The Darién scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called "New Caledonia" on the Isthmus of Panama in the late 1690s...

, a failed Scottish attempt of colonization
Colonization occurs whenever any one or more species populate an area. The term, which is derived from the Latin colere, "to inhabit, cultivate, frequent, practice, tend, guard, respect", originally related to humans. However, 19th century biogeographers dominated the term to describe the...

 in Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 in 1690s. In order to compensate for this, he said, he had decided to draw most of the settlers from Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. For this purpose, he established offices in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 and Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...


In Edinburgh, MacGregor began to sell land rights for 3 shillings and 3 pence per acre (£0.16/acre or £40.15/km²). The average worker's weekly wage at the time was about £1, which meant that the price was very generous. The price steadily rose to 4 shillings (£0.20). Many people willing to have a new start in the new land signed on with their families. On 23 October 1822 MacGregor raised a loan with the total of £200,000 on behalf of the Poyais government. It was in the form of 2,000 bearer bond
Bearer bond
A bearer bond is a debt security issued by a business entity, such as a corporation, or by a government. It differs from the more common types of investment securities in that it is unregistered – no records are kept of the owner, or the transactions involving ownership. Whoever physically...

s worth £100 each.

Also in 1822 MacGregor published a 350-page guidebook entitled Sketch of the Mosquito Shore, including the Territory of Poyais, descriptive of the country, supposedly written by one Captain Thomas Strangeways. It described the Poyais with glowing terms and mainly concentrated on how much profit one could get from the country's ample resources. Poyais was said to be a very anglophilic
An Anglophile is a person who is fond of English culture or, more broadly, British culture. Its antonym is Anglophobe.-Definition:The word comes from Latin Anglus "English" via French, and is ultimately derived from Old English Englisc "English" + Ancient Greek φίλος - philos, "friend"...

 region with already existing infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

, untapped gold and silver mines and large amounts of fertile soil ready to be settled. The region was even free of tropical diseases. The book also claimed that British settlers had founded the capital of Poyais, St Joseph, in the 1730s.

Eager settlers

The Legation of Poyais chartered a ship called Honduras Packet, whose crew MacGregor already knew, and five London merchants received contracts to provision the ship with food and ammunition. Its cargo also included a chest full of "Poyais Dollars", Poyaisian currency MacGregor had printed in Scotland. Many of the settlers had changed their pounds to Poyais dollars.

On 10 September 1822 the Honduras Packet departed from the Port of London
Port of London
The Port of London lies along the banks of the River Thames from London, England to the North Sea. Once the largest port in the world, it is currently the United Kingdom's second largest port, after Grimsby & Immingham...

 with 70 would-be-settlers aboard. They included doctor
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

s, lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

s and a banker who had been promised appropriate positions in the Poyais civil service. Some had also purchased officer commissions in the Poyaisian army.

On 22 January 1823 another ship, the Kennersley Castle, left Leith
-South Leith v. North Leith:Up until the late 16th century Leith , comprised two separate towns on either side of the river....

 Harbour in Scotland for Poyais with 200 would-be-settlers. The ship also carried enough provisions for a year. It arrived in the appropriate place 20 March and spent two days looking for a port. Eventually the newcomers found the settlers who had sailed on the Honduras Packet.

What the settlers had found was an untouched jungle
A Jungle is an area of land in the tropics overgrown with dense vegetation.The word jungle originates from the Sanskrit word jangala which referred to uncultivated land. Although the Sanskrit word refers to "dry land", it has been suggested that an Anglo-Indian interpretation led to its...

, some natives and a couple of American hermit
A hermit is a person who lives, to some degree, in seclusion from society.In Christianity, the term was originally applied to a Christian who lives the eremitic life out of a religious conviction, namely the Desert Theology of the Old Testament .In the...

s who had made their homes there. "St Joseph" consisted of only a couple of ruins of a previous attempt at settlement abandoned in the previous century. There was no settlement of any kind. The Honduras Packet had been swept away by a storm.

When some of the labourers began to build rudimentary shelter for themselves, the officers and civil servants decided to try to find a way out. Lieutenant-Colonel Hector Hall, would-be-governor of Poyais, had left to look for the Honduras Packet or another ship to take them back to Britain.

The would-be-settlers began to argue with each other and some of them, who had expected better accommodation, refused to do anything. The Kennersley Castle sailed away. Tropical diseases also began to take their toll. One settler, having used his life savings to gain passage, committed suicide.

In April, the Mexican Eagle, an official ship from British Honduras
Belize is a constitutional monarchy and the northernmost country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Even though Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official...

 with the chief magistrate on board, accidentally found the settlers. Chief magistrate Bennet listened to their story and told them that there was no such place as Poyais. He agreed to take them to British Honduras. A couple of days later Colonel Hall returned with King George Frederic and announced that the King had effectively revoked the land grant because MacGregor had assumed sovereignty. The Mexican Eagle took sixty settlers to British Honduras. The other settlers were rescued later.

Many settlers were weakened on their short sea voyage and many of them later died in hospitals in British Honduras; 180 of the 240 would-be settlers had perished during the ordeal.

Edward Codd, Superintendent for Belize, sent a warning to London where naval vessels were sent to call back five ships of would-be-settlers that had departed after the Kennersley Castle. Those survivors who did not decide to settle on the British Honduras or move elsewhere in the Americas sailed on the Ocean on 1 August 1823 to London. More people died during that journey, and fewer than 50 came back alive to Britain.

72 days later the Ocean docked in London. The next day, city papers published the whole story.

However, regardless of the experiences of the survivors, some of them refused to believe that MacGregor would have been the main culprit. One of them, James Hastie, who had lost two of his children to tropical diseases, wrote and published a book Narrative of a Voyage in the Ship Kennersley Castle from Leith Roads to Poyais. He blamed Sir Gregor's advisers and publicists for spreading the false information. A group of survivors signed a declaration of their belief that had Sir Gregor gone with them, things would have turned out differently. Major Richardson sued the papers for libel and defended MacGregor against the charges of fraud.

MacGregor himself, however, had already left for Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, in October.

Poyaisian scheme in France

MacGregor had already contacted the trading organization "Compagnie de la Nouvelle Neustrie" and commissioned it to further the affairs of Poyais in France.

In March 1825 MacGregor summoned from London Gustavus Butler Hippisley, an acquaintance from the army, on the pretext of discussing his appointment as a representative of Poyais in Colombia. Hippisley was to write about the Poyais affair in France in Acts of Oppression Committed under the Administration of m. de Villele, Prime minister of Charles X, in the years 1825-6.

MacGregor claimed to Hippisley that he needed the help of the French government to obtain a formal renunciation of any (in reality nonexistent) claims Spain might have to Poyais and that he had met with French Prime Minister Jean-Baptiste de Villèle. MacGregor and la Nouvelle Noustrie already had plans to send French emigrants to Poyais. Hippisley wrote back to London, castigating the journalists who had called MacGregor a "penniless adventurer".

In August, MacGregor published a new constitution of Poyais; he had changed it into a republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 with himself as the head of state. On 18 August 1825 he issued a £300.000 loan with 2.5% interest through the London bank of Thomas Jenkins & Company. The bond was probably never issued. At the same time, la Nouvelle Noustrie recruited settlers with the requirement that they buy FFr100 worth of the company shares.

When French officials noticed that a number of people had obtained passport
A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....

s in order to voyage to a country they had never heard of, they seized the la Nouvelle Neustrie vessel in Le Havre
Le Havre
Le Havre is a city in the Seine-Maritime department of the Haute-Normandie region in France. It is situated in north-western France, on the right bank of the mouth of the river Seine on the English Channel. Le Havre is the most populous commune in the Haute-Normandie region, although the total...

. Some of the would-be-emigrants realized that something was not right and demanded investigation of the affairs of the la Nouvelle Neustrie and Sir Gregor. Hippisley was arrested but MacGregor was nowhere to be found.

Hippisley and MacGregor's secretary Thomas Irving were held in custody in La Force prison
La Force Prison
La Force Prison was a French prison located in the Rue du Roi de Sicile, what is now the 4th arrondissement of Paris.Originally the private residence of the Duke of la Force, the structure was converted into a prison in 1780....

 when the police investigation was going on. Lehuby, one of the directors of La Nouvelle Noustrie fled to Belgium. MacGregor went into hiding until he was brought into the prison 7 December, two months after the first arrests. He proceeded to comfort his associates and in January 1826 made a proclamation to Central American states – it was written in French and primarily meant to affect French opinion. The accused were later moved to Bicetre
Bicêtre Hospital
The Bicêtre Hospital is located in Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, which is a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, France. It lies 4.5 km from the center of Paris. The Bicêtre Hospital was originally planned as a military hospital, with construction begun in 1634. With the help of Vincent de Paul, it was...


The trial began on 6 April 1826. MacGregor, Hippisley, Irving and Lehuby (in absentia) were accused of fraud by means of the Poyais emigration program. Their lawyer, Merilhou, put the blame on Lehuby and the prosecutor was ready to withdraw the charges if the men were deported from France. Initially the court agreed but judges changed their minds when Belgium agreed to extradite Lehuby. Lawyer Merilhou was later summoned as a witness for the prosecution.

The new trial began on 10 July 1826, and lasted for four days. Merilhou's replacement, Berville, eloquently put the blame on anybody else but MacGregor. MacGregor was acquitted and Hippisley and Irving were released. Lehuby was convicted for 13 months for making false promises.

Lesser Poyais schemes

In 1826 MacGregor returned to London, where the furor over his affairs had died down. Shortly after his arrival he was arrested and taken to Tothill Fields Bridewell
Tothill Fields Bridewell
Tothill Fields Bridewell was a prison located in the Westminster area of central London between 1618 and 1884. It was named 'Bridewell' after the Bridewell Palace, which during the 16th century had become one of the City of London's most important prisons...

 prison in Westminster
Westminster is an area of central London, within the City of Westminster, England. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, southwest of the City of London and southwest of Charing Cross...

 on charges now unknown. He was released in less than a week.

MacGregor proceeded with the modified schemes. This time he claimed that (again, nonexistent) natives had elected him as the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and became just "Cacigue of the Republic of Poyais" and opened a new office at 23 Threadneedle Street in the City, without any diplomatic trappings and in much a smaller scale than before. He issued a loan worth £800.000 as 20-year bonds with Thomas Jenkins & Company as brokers. The scheme was announced in the summer 1827.

However, investors were now more careful and somebody circulated a handbill that warned against investing in "Poyais humbug". MacGregor had to pass the most of the unsold certificates to a consortium of speculators for an undisclosed sum. He made only a little money.

Further Poyais schemes were equally successful. In 1828 MacGregor tried to sell land from Poyais at the price of 5 shillings per acre. In 1830 Robert Charles Frederic
Robert Charles Frederic
Robert Charles Frederic was the King of the Miskito, 1824-1842.-Succession:In his youth he was educated in Jamaica along with George Frederick, his brother. He became king following the murder of his brother and predecessor, George Frederick by his wife, and was subsequently crowned in Belize on...

, brother and successor of King George Frederic, began to offer for sale the same territories to lumber
Lumber or timber is wood in any of its stages from felling through readiness for use as structural material for construction, or wood pulp for paper production....

 companies. These certificates competed with those of MacGregor. When older investors demanded their interest, he could only pay with more certificates to the value of the interest payments he owed. Others began to use the same trick too – two men named Upton opened a rival "Poyaisian office" and offered land debenture
A debenture is a document that either creates a debt or acknowledges it. In corporate finance, the term is used for a medium- to long-term debt instrument used by large companies to borrow money. In some countries the term is used interchangeably with bond, loan stock or note...

s for sale.

In 1831 MacGregor promoted a "Poyaisian New Three per cent Consolidated Stock" as "the President of the Poyaisian Republic". In 1834 he was living in Scotland and had to issue a new series of land certificates as payment for unredeemed securities. In 1836 he wrote a new constitution for the Poyaisian Republic. The last record of any Poyais scheme is in 1837, when he tried to sell some land certificates.

In 1839 Gregor MacGregor moved to Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

where he had requested and received the Venezuelan citizenship, and a pension as a general who had fought for independence. He died in Caracas on 4 December 1845.

Online references

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