Gregor MacGregor, Cazique of Poyais

Subsequent to publication in 1999 of the monograph, Gregor MacGregor, Cazique of Poyais, two hitherto unknown types of Poyais land security have been discovered, thanks to Mr. Stephen A. Clements of Hyattsville MD. Mr. Clements is a descendent of a London stock broker, John Robson (1780-1845 who apparently commenced trading as a stock broker in 1795, at the age of 15), and the documents have been found in family archives.

Earliest Land Grant

A newly-found Land Grant is five years earlier than any other known, and is entirely different, being on vellum, with handwritten denomination, a handwritten account of the grant from the King of the Mosquito Nation, a different coat of arms and a wax seal. It was issued in London, possibly at the “Poyaisian Legation” on Dowgate Hill.

Serial No. 1038, dated November 3, 1823, the grant is partially printed and partially hand-written. It is for a principal amount of 640 acres (one square mile) for a consideration of 1,280 dollars (probably United States dollars but without precision as to the currency). This amount was paid by “a Native of Great Britain” in pounds sterling, with an exchange rate of 4/6 per dollar cited. This would be 4 shillings 6 pence per dollar, which would convert to the £288 mentioned in the title block of the Grant.

Would you buy a used Land Grant from these characters? Stephen A Clements (left) displays the 1823 Poyais Land Grant to the author

The document is signed and sealed “William John Richardson per pro Gregor P” (Prince), pursuant to a Power of Attorney dated June 4, 1823, and likewise signed a second time on the left-hand margin in acknowledgement of the receipt of £288. Rich- ardson is described as His Poyaisian Highness’s Envoy at London. Both signings were witnessed by Alex(ander) Arnott (Agent), Gregor Geddes and Robert Middleton.

The grant was issued at about the time the £200,000 (actually £300,000) issue of Poyais bonds of £100 each, was taking place (October, 1823, also signed by Richardson). Indeed, there has been added to the end of the hand-written portion of the grant, in another hand, a statement “& in accordance with the general Bond for the Poyais Loan”. Who could question the bona fides of a well- structured bond issue, when care had even been taken to add a protective clause by hand to the Land Grant being issued in November? In fact, however, the bond issue was already in default in November, 1823, with Gregor MacGregor and family soon hustling off to Boulogne, France!

Land Grant, dated November 3 1823, the earliest Poyais land grant known, and the only one on vellum (Gr.23.2)

In another strange turn of events, readers of the monograph might recall there had been an abortive instalment scrip offering for £100 6% Poyais Bonds in 1822, the proceeds of which it was alleged had been misappropriated by the Contractor thereof, Mr. John Lowe. You may also recall that MacGregor’s Lt. Governor, Hector Hall, withdrew from the Poyais project on arriving on the Poyais coast in May 1823, evacuating such settlers as were still alive. John Lowe, however, reappeared, according to a Letter to the Editor of the London Times (dated November 8, 1823, issue of November 11) in which it was quoted, from a letter dated July 20 from John Lowe in Nassau, New Providence, (received November 5) that he is leaving the following day for Black River as Governor (appointed by whom?); that he was embarking ‘a large emigration’; that he never was nor is now, an agent of Sir Gregor M’Gregor (sic)! But, for whom would he be working?

The certificate declares that the holder of the 1823 Land Grant is entitled to participate in the profits arising from the New Grant, with a yearly interest payment. It is a certificate for a financial interest, “stock” not land. The new certificates were issued on the basis of one- for-three: £1,000 of new Stock for £3,000 of MacGregor’s 3% bonds or 3,000 acres of his Land Certificates. The 640 acres in the 1823 Grant were thus valued at £213 6 shillings 8 pence (written on the document). A fee of 1% of this sum, in four payments of 10 shillings 8 pence, totalling £2 2 shillings 8 pence, was payable to the Poyaisian Office. How the “value” was arrived at, is not known. The document is also stamped “ BONUS DELIVERED. 1840. LAND & SHARES” but what this bonus was, by whom paid, and how it was calculated, is not known. It is possible that Gregor MacGregor, through this 1837 document, was trying to save the value of certain Land Grants and Bonds, but his actual arrangements and relationship, if any, with King Robert Charles Frederick and the Poyaisian Office in Pancras Lane are not known.

The saga of General Sir Gregor MacGregor is amazing, and, though large sums of money passed hands, in the end his nephew James MacGregor, 12th Chief of the House of Glengyle, had to provide the money to permit him to journey back to Venezuela in 1839. So, our “hero” or “villain” (call him what you will!) spent his ill-gotten gains just to keep his dream from becoming unravelled. But his capabilities remained intact, because he was able to charm the Venezuelan Government into providing him with back pay and a pension.

But, to return to the 1823 Land Grant. The conditions of sale of the later Land Certificates and Land Grants (1827-1830, 1828, 1834) were in effect perpetual, and required payment of one cent of a dollar per acre per annum, after taking possession. The 1823 Land Grant terms were, however, quite different. A Feu Duty, or Perpetual Annual Lease Rent, was due on such portion of this Grant which the holder desired to retain for himself, on the expiration of five years (the afore-mentioned one cent per acre). That portion on which the Feu Duty was not paid would revert to Gregor MacGregor. The first annual payment under this 1823 Grant was due on December 24, 1828. At any future time, should Feu Duty for two consecutive years remain unpaid into the third year, then the rights under the Grant that apply to such land shall become null and void, and revert to Gregor MacGregor.

The authors monograph Gregor MacGregor, Cazique of Poyais, published by IBSS in 1999, is available at £5.50 or $10.50 post paid from Richard T Gregg, P O Box 430, Hackensack, NJ 07602, USA, or the Editor of Scripophily. A Supplement to his monograph, containing illustrations and a transcription of the newly-discovered Land Grant, and the 1837 certificate, and a number of additions and corrections to the monograph principally concerning Gregor MacGregors descendants, is available at no charge, on application to either of the above sources.

Curiously, the descriptive boundaries of the initial Land Grant from King George Frederick II to Gregor MacGregor are completely hand-written on the reverse of the 1823 Land Grant. It is odd that such a document, partly printed on its face, should not have had the vital information on territorial boundaries so essential to such a Grant, also printed.

“New” stock certificate

Attached to the 1823 Land Grant was an 1837 document with the original 1823 Land Grant Serial Number, 1038, identified thereon. This document legalises and admits the 1823 Grant (called in the 1837 document: “Poyaisian Security, issued by Sir Gregor Mac Gregor”) into the “New Grant of the Poyaisian Territory made by His Present Majesty, Robert Charles Frederick, King of the Mosquito Nation”. (He was the son of King George Frederick Augustus II, who signed MacGregor’s original Grant.) This certificate was issued by the same Poyaisian Office, located at 13 Pancras Lane, London, that sold Poyais Land Debentures in 1829, 1838 and 1839, using the same boundary description as Gregor MacGregor had established in 1820.

Richard T Gregg



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