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British in Iberia

British history and stories in Spain and Portugal.

Prince Gregor MacGregor, the 19th Century Promoter.
24 February 2010 @ 13:14

“Gregor MacGregor, descendant of the ancient Kings of Scotland, follower of both orthodox and roman catholic faith is in possession of the country of Poyais (Mosquito Province in the northern region of America) due to a voluntary concession made by the local people.  He requests that His Majesty King Fernando VII of Spain and of the Indies acknowledges him as Prince of said region and Gregor MacGregor in turns pledges to acknowledge His Majesty as sovereign protector of the region.   In return for said protection he agrees to pay an annual tax, conditions of which will be stipulated by common agreement with an envoy of MacGregor who will address His Majesty with full authoritative power and who will be recognized by the French Government.”

In recognizing the King of Spain as protector of the territory of Poyais, Gregor MacGregor establishes the origin of sovereignty of the entire continent of America, since this country had never been part of any province which had previously belonged to His Majesty.

The case of Gregor MacGregor benefits the Royalist movement throughout America, giving encouragement to the Royalist leaders, attracting undecided voters and asserting themselves in the face of insurgents. 

When Poyais manages to enjoy peace and security and its Government is fully recognized, its population will doubtless rise, thanks to the rich resources provided by the fertile land for both agriculture and industry.

The country of Poyais as it stands at present has the sea as its border in the north, in the south it borders with the river San Juan and the lake of Nicaragua.  To the east it borders the sea and to the west, the river Aguarra, near Trujillo.

If His Majesty were to relinquish entirely the city and district of Trujillo, currently in dispute, tax would be increased.

If His Majesty were to add to this the province of Honduras, the tax could be increased to …….

It is clear that His Majesty the King of Spain has a significant interest in increasing the amount of land owned by the Prince of Poyais (Paris, 4th December, 1824. DeBray Valfresne).”

In our day-to-day life, it’s clear to us that when it comes to investing, it makes no difference at all if what we are investing in is, in fact, real or not.  We invest in shares, bonds, mutual funds and in other similar ways.  We are not frivolous in this area of the economy and we often cannot even work out exactly what these finances are.
If they really are something more than just an abstract concept, we don’t even know if the money we are earning really exists.  They are merely numbers which change on the computer screen.   At other times we invest in things equally tangible and real as others are conceptual.   We know that these things can exist and we are certain that we are surrounded by these very kinds of objects and goods.   However, this does not mean that the exact item in which we have invested really exists and if it does exist, nothing guarantees us that it is exactly as we have been told.  Even if it is, we probably don’t even care because the small details of what we are actually investing in are not important.  What matters is that we give money to someone and in exchange he gives us more money back.  All the rest is unimportant.

With his impressive imagination and the knowledge of how to make the most of other’s ambition, mixed in with some naivety, Gregor MacGregor, His Royal Highness Gregorio, arrived in London in 1821 with the intention of selling land, nobility titles and military commissions to British subjects in order to promote emigration to his “kingdom” and to stimulate movement, in his direction, within the uncontrolled finance sector of the time.   As political leader of Poyais, he raised a loan of 600,000 pounds with interest at 6% through the office of Sir John Perry, ex Mayor of London.  The issue was a success and the price of bonds rose.  In early 1823 around 200 colonists travelled to Poyais and instead of discovering the opulent, glamorous city offered by its leader, they found a pile of shacks surrounded by swamps and vicious natives,  as well as suffering, heat, hunger and fever.  Some of the settlers drowned trying to reach neighboring Belize.  Following these events, MacGregor fled to France with his earnings from the bonds.   As hope always springs eternal in the finance markets and in major investments, half a century later the land concessions and the debt certificates of Poyais could still be found in the bulging wallets of the businessmen who always swarm around the stock market, together with the bonds and shares of failed businesses.  Even today, the Poyais loan continues to be the only working capital loan to a fictitious country released onto the London stock exchange.

Poyais even had its own embassy in London and positions were held by well-known people who had never once even set foot in the country but who had full faith in its existence and status as a developing country, even after discovering the true story.

This “show” set up by MacGregor had a great script, great actors and was sold at a time that was ripe with ambition and speculation.   In addition, the scriptwriter, who was also the director, had the best producers of the time who were the governmental authorities of various countries.   He even managed to produce an “Official Guide to Poyais” written by Captain Thomas Strangeways who was none other than MacGregor himself in which he gave a detailed description of the history, geography, culture, natural resources and the economic plans of the country.  This was made available in his offices as a source of information for interested parties, just like the misleading promotional publicity of failed real estate promotions of the current day in which they stress the vast potential of the development and describe amazing leisure and social facilities.  These luxuries are the equivalent of those offered in the 19th century in Poyais, of mines and untapped deposits of gold and silver, extensive stretches of fertile soil ready to be developed.

Written by Jesús Castro

Translated by Rachael Harrison

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