Gregor MacGregor, cacique in loans

The Mosquito Coast is not a welcoming place, but that is not Gregor MacGregor’s problem. When he went there in 1820 to meet the local sovereign, he had no trouble selling him his plan for a British colony and exchanging a territory of 30,000 square kilometers for rum and precious stones. A very beautiful, exotic and wooded place, but on which it is impossible to cultivate anything. Uninhabitable, therefore. This does not prevent MacGregor from proclaiming himself “cacique du Poyais” and from taking the sea to London to promote it. To invent a country is already good. Selling it is even better!

Nothing predestined young Gregor for his career as an international con artist. He was born in Scotland in 1786 within a clan whose origins date back to the IXe century, and after a few years in the British army, embarked for Venezuela in 1811. He spent ten years at the heart of the South American independence struggles: he served under the orders of Simon Bolivar “himself”. But Gregor is not reliable: he squanders the funds, sells the boats, refuses to pay his troops… Wanted on all the Caribbean islands, he returns to London, the title of cacique du Poyais in his suitcases.

An elaborate advertising campaign

He then launched an elaborate publicity campaign, gave interviews and signed a book extolling the merits of the new nation. It issues 200,000 pounds of Poyais bonds at a rate of 6%. His arguments persuade 250 colonists – mainly Scottish – to take the plunge. After two months of travel, they reach a virgin coast and are persuaded to have gone to the wrong destination. They will be picked up by a merchant ship, but two-thirds of them will not survive the voyage. Tracked down by his duped investors, MacGregor took refuge in Paris where he continued to sell bonds and recruit settlers. But his reputation precedes him, and he ends up fleeing to Venezuela, where he is killed in unknown circumstances in 1845.

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