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tale to tell, vast masses of the population having been
forcibly expelled. The upper portions of Athole have also
suffered, while many of the valleys along the Spey and its
tributaries are without an inhabitant, if we except a few
shepherds. Sutherland, with all its atrocities, affords
but a fraction of the atrocities that have been perpetrated
in following out the ejectment system of the Highlands.
In truth, of the habitable portion of the whole country
but a small part is now really inhabited. We are unwill-
ing to weary our readers by carrying them along the west
coast from the Linnhe Loch, northwards ; but if they
inquire, they will find that the same system has been,
in the case of most of the estates, relentlessly pursued.

" These are facts of which, we believe, the British public
know little, but they are facts on which the changes
should be rung until they have listened to them and
seriously considered them. May it not be that part of the
guilt is theirs, who might, yet did not, step forward to
stop such cruel and unwise proceedings ?

" Let us leave the past, however " he continues, " and
consider the present. And it is a melancholy reflection


that the year 1849 h as added its long list to the roll of
Highland ejectments. While the law is banishing its
tens for terms of seven or fourteen years, as the penalty
of deep-dyed crimes, irresponsible and infatuated power
is banishing its thousands for life for no crime whatever.
This year brings forward, as leader in the work of ex-
patriation, the Duke of Argyll. Is it possible that his
vast possessions are over-densely peopled ? " Credat
Jud&us appelles." And the Highland Destitution
Committee co-operate. We had understood that the
large sums of money at their disposal had been given them
for the purpose of relieving, and not of banishing, the
destitute. Next we have Mr. Baillie of Glenelg, pro-
fessedly at their own request, sending five hundred souls
off to America. Their native glen must have been made
not a little uncomfortable for these poor people, ere they
could have petitioned for so sore a favour. Then we have
Colonel Gordon expelling upwards of eighteen hundred
souls from South Uist ; Lord Macdonald follows with a
sentence of banishment against six or seven hundred
of the people of North Uist, with a threat, as we learn,
that three thousand are to be driven from Skye next
season ; and Mr. Lillingston of Lochalsh, Maclean of
Ardgour, and Lochiel, bring up the rear of the black
catalogue, a large body of people having left the estates
of the two latter, who, after a heart-rending scene of
parting with their native land, are now on the wide sea
on their way to Australia. Thus, within the last three
or four months' considerably upwards of three thousand
of the most moral and loyal of our people people who,
even in the most trying circumstances, never required a
soldier, seldom a policeman, among them, to maintain the
peace are driven forcibly away to seek subsistence on a
foreign soil."

Writing in 1850, on more " Recent Highland
Evictions," the same author says :

" The moral responsibility for these transactions
lies in a measure with the nation, and not merely
with the individuals immediately concerned in
them. Some years ago the fearful scenes that


attended the slave trade were depicted in colours
that finally roused the national conscience, and the
nation gave its loud, indignant, and effective testimony
against them. The tearing of human beings, with hearts
as warm, and affections as strong as dwell in the bosom
of the white man, from their beloved homes and families
the packing them into the holds of over-crowded vessels,
in the burning heat of the tropics the stifling atmosphere,
the clanking chain, the pestilence, the bodies of the dead
corrupting in the midst of the living presented a picture
which deeply moved the national mind ; and there was
felt to be guilt, deep-dyed guilt, and the nation relieved
itself by abolishing the traffic. And is the nation free of
guilt in this kind of white-slave traffic that is now going
on this tearing of men whether they will or not, from
their country and kindred this crowding them into
often foul and unwholesome vessels with the accompany-
ing deaths of hundreds whose eyes never rest on the land
to which they are driven. Men may say that they have
rights in the one case that they have not in the other.
Then we say that they are rights into whose nature and
fruits we would do well to enquire, lest it be found that
the rude and lawless barbarism of Africa, and the high
and boasted civilisation of Britain, land us in the same
final results. . . . It is to British legislation that the
people of the Highlands owe the relative position in which
they stand to their chiefs. There was a time when they
were strangers to the feudal system which prevailed in the
rest of the kingdom. Every man among them sat as
free as his chief. But by degrees the power of the latter,
assisted by Saxon legislation, encroached upon the liberty
of the former. Highland chiefs became feudal lords the
people were robbed to increase their power- and now we
are reaping the fruits of this in recent evictions."

At a meeting of the Inverness, Ross, and Nairn Club, in
Edinburgh, in 1877, the venerable Doctor referred to the
same sad subject amid applause and expressions of regret.
We extract the following from a report of the meeting
which appeared at the time in the Inverness Courier :

" The current that ran against their language seemed to


be rising against the people themselves. The cry seemed
to be, Do away with the people : this is the shorthand
way of doing away with the language. He reminded
them of the saying of a queen, that she would turn Scot-
land into a hunting field, and of the reply of a Duke of
Argyll it is time for me to make my hounds ready,
and said he did not know whether there was now an Argyll
who would make the same reply. But there were other
folks less folks than queens who had gone pretty deep
in the direction indicated by this queen. He would not
say it was not a desirable thing to see Highlanders
scattered over the earth they were greatly indebted to
them in their cities and the colonies ; but he wished to
preserve their Highland homes, from which the colonies
and large cities derived their very best blood. Drive off
the Highlander and destroy his home, and you destroy
that which had produced some of the best and noblest
men who filled important positions throughout the em-
pire. In the interests of great cities, as a citizen of
Edinburgh, he desired to keep the Highlanders in their
own country, and to make them as comfortable as
possible. He only wished that some of the Highland pro-
prietors could see their way to offer sections of the land
for improvement by the people, who were quite as able
to improve the land in their own country as to improve
the great forests of Canada. He himself would rather
to-morrow begin to cultivate an acre in any habitable
part of the Highlands of Scotland than to begin to culti-
vate land such as that on which he had seen thousands
of them working in the forests of Canada. What had all
this to do with Celtic Literature? Dr. Maclachlan
replied that the whole interest which Celtic Literature had
to him was connected with the Celtic people, and if they
destroyed the Celtic people, his entire interest in their
literature perished. They had been told the other day
that this was sentiment, and that there were cases in
which sentiment was not desirable. He agreed with this
so far * but he believed that when sentiment was driven
out of a Highlander the best part of him was driven out,
for it ever had a strong place among mountain people.


He himself had a warm patriotic feeling, and he grieved
whenever he saw a ruined house in any of their mountain
glens. And ruined homes and ruined villages he, alas !
had seen villages on fire the hills red with burning
homes. He never wished to see this sorry sight again.
It was a sad, a lamentable sight, for he was convinced
the country had not a nobler class of people than the
Highland people, or a set of people better worth preserv-


Mr. Robert Brown, Sheriff-Substitute of the Western
District of Inverness-shire, in 1806, wrote a pamphlet of
120 pages, now very scarce, entitled, " Strictures and
Remarks on the Earl of Selkirk's ' Observations on the
Present State of the Highlands of Scotland/ ' ' Sheriff
Brown was a man of keen observation, and his work
is a powerful argument against the forced depopulation
of the country. Summing up the number who left from
1 80 1 to 1803, he says :

" In the year 1801, a Mr. George Dennon, from Pictou,
carried out two cargoes of emigrants from Fort William
to Pictou, consisting of about seven hundred souls. A
vessel sailed the same season from Isle Martin with about
one hundred passengers, it is believed, for the same
place. l\o more vessels sailed that year ; but in 1802,
eleven large ships sailed with emigrants to America.
Of these, four were from Fort William, one from Knoy-
dart, one from Isle Martin, one from Uist, one from
Greenock. Five of these were bound for Canada, four
for Pictou, and one for Cape Breton. The only remaining
vessel, which took a cargo of people in Skye, sailed for
Wilmington, in the United States. In the year 1803.
exclusive of Lord Selkirk's transport, fleven cargoes
of emigrants went from the North Highlands. Of these,
four were from the Moray Firth, two from Ullapool,
three from Stornoway, and two from Fort William.
The whole of these cargoes were bound for the British
settlements, and most of them were discharged at Pictou."


Soon after, several other vessels sailed from the North
West Highlands with emigrants, the whole of whom were
for the British Colonies. In addition to these, Lord
Selkirk took out 250 from South Uist in 1802, and in 1803
he sent out to Prince Edward Island about 800 souls, in
three different vessels, most of whom were from the Island
of Skye, and the remainder from Ross-shire, !North Argyll,
the interior of the County of Inverness, and the Island of
Uist. In 1804, 1805, and 1806, several cargoes of High-
landers left Mull, Skye, and other Western Islands, for
Prince Edward Island and other Isorth American
Colonies. Altogether, not less than 10,000 souls left the
West Highlands and Isles during the first six years of the
present century, a fact which will now appear incredible.


Sir Walter Scott writes : " In too many instances
the Highlands have been drained, not of their super-
fluity of population, but of the whole mass of the
inhabitants, dispossessed by an unrelenting avarice,
which will be one day found to have been as short-
sighted as it is unjust and selfish. Meantime, the
Highlands may become the fairy ground for romance
and poetry, or the subject of experiment for the
professors of speculation, political and economical. But
if the hour of need should come and it may not, perhaps,
be far distant the pibroch may sound through the
deserted region, but the summons will remain unan-


M. Michelet, the great Continental historian, writes :
" The Scottish Highlanders will ere long disappear
from the face of the earth ; the mountains are
daily depopulating ; the great estates have ruined
the land of the Gael, as they did ancient Italy.
The Highlander will ere long exist only in the
romances of Walter Scott. The tartan and the clay-
more excite surprise in the streets of Edinburgh ; the


Highlanders disappear they emigrate their national
airs will ere long be lost, as the music of the Bolian harp
when the winds are hushed."


In his work on the Nationalisation of Land, Mr. Alfred
Russel Wallace, in the chapter on " Landlordism in
Scotland," says to the English people :

" The facts stated in this chapter will possess,
I feel sure, for many Englishmen, an almost
startling novelty ; the tale of oppression and cruelty
they reveal reads like one of those hideous stories
peculiar to the dark ages, rather than a simple
record of events happening upon our own land and
within the memory of the present generation. For a
parallel to this monstrous power of the landowner, under
which life and property are entirely at his mercy, we must
go back to mediaeval, or to the days when serfdom not
having been abolished, the Russian noble was armed with
despotic authority ; while the more pitiful results of this
landlord tyranny, the wide devastation of cultivated
lands, the heartless burning of houses, the reckless crea-
tion of pauperism and misery, out of well-being and
contentment, could only be expected under the rule of
Turkish Sultans or greedy and cruel Pashas. Yet these
cruel deeds have been perpetrated in one of the most
beautiful portions of our native land. They are not the
work of uncultured barbarians or of fanatic Moslems, but
of so-called civilised and Christian men ; and worst
feature of all they are not due to any high-handed exer-
cise of power beyond the law, but are strictly legal, are
in many cases the acts of members of the Legislature
itself, and, notwithstanding that they have been
repeatedly made known for at least sixty years past, no
steps have been taken, or are even proposed to be taken,
by the Legislature to prevent them for the future !
Surely it is time that the people of England should declare
that such things shall no longer exist that the rich shall
no longer have such legal power to oppress the poor that


the land shall be free for all who are willing to pay a fair
value for its use and, as this is not possible under
landlordism, that landlordism shall be abolished. . . .

" The general results of thf system of modern landlord-
ism in Scotland are not less painful than the hardship and
misery brought upon individual sufferers. The earlier
improvers, who drove the peasants from their sheltered
valleys to the expose d sea-coast, in order to make room
for sheep and sheep farmers, pleaded erroneously the
public benefit as the justification of their conduct. They
maintained that more food and clothing would be pro-
duced by the new system, and that the people themselves
would have the advantage of the produce of the sea as
well as that of the land for their support. The result,
however, proved them to be mistaken, for henceforth
the cry of Highland destitution began to be heard, cul-
minating at intervals into actual famines, like that of
1836-37, when 70,000 were distributed to keep the
Highlanders from death by starvation. . . . just as
in Ireland, there was abundance of land capable of culti-
vation, but the people were driven to the coast and to the
towns to make way for sheep, and cattle, and lowland
farmers ; and when the barren and inhospitable tracts
allotted to them became overcrowded, they were told to
emigrate. As the Rev. J. Macleod says : " By the
clearances one part is depopulation and the other over-
populated ; the people are gathered into villages where
there is no steady employment for them, where idleness
has its baneful influence and lands them in penury and

"The actual effect of this system of eviction and emigra-
tion of banishing the native of the soil and giving it to
the stranger is shown in the steady increase of poverty
indicated by the amount spent for the relief of the poor
having increased from less than 300,000 in 1846 to more
than 900,000 now ; while in the same period the popu-
lation has only increased from 2,770,000 to 3,627,000, so
that pauperism has grown about nine times faster than
population ! . . . . The fact that a whole popula-
tion could be driven from their homes like cattle at the


will of a landlord, and that the Government which taxed
them, and for whom they freely shed their blood on the
battle-field, neither would nor could protect them from
cruel interference with their personal liberty, is surely the
most convincing and most absolute demonstration of the
incompatibility of landlordism with the elementary
rights of a free people.

" As if, however, to prove this still more clearly, and to
show how absolutely incompatible with the well-being
of the community is modern landlordism, the great lords
of the soil in Scotland have for the last twenty years or
more been systematically laying waste enormous areas
of land for purposes of sport, just as the Norman Con-
queror laid waste the area of the New Forest for similar
purposes. At the present time, more than two million
acres of Scottish soil are devoted to the preservation of
deer alone an area larger than the entire Counties of
Kent and Surrey combined. Glen Tilt Forest includes
100,000 acres * the Black Mount is sixty miles in circum-
ference ; and Ben Alder Forest is fifteen miles long by
seven broad. On many of these forests there is the finest
pasture in Scotland, while the valleys would support a
considerable population of small farmers, yet all this land
is devoted to the sport of the wealthy, farms being de-
stroyed, houses pulled down, and men, sheep, and cattle
all banished to create a wilderness for the deer-stalkers !
At the same time the whole people of England are shut
out from many of the grandest and most interesting scenes
of their native land, gamekeepers and watchers forbidding
the tourist or naturalist to trespass on some of the wildest
Scotch mountains.

" Now, when we remember that the right to a property
in these unenclosed mountains was most unjustly given to
the representatives of the Highland chiefs little more
than a century ago, and that they and their successors
have grossly abused their power ever since, it is surely
time to assert those fundamental maxims of jurisprudence
which state that " No man can have a vested right in the
misfortunes and woes of his country," and that " the
Sovereign ought not to allow either communities or pri-



vate individuals to acquire large tracts of land in order
to leave it uncultivated." If the oft-repeated maxim
that " property has its duties as well as its rights " is not
altogether a mockery, then we maintain that in this case
the total neglect of all the duties devolving on the owners
of these vast tracts of land affords ample reason why the
State should take possession of them for the public bene-
fit. A landlord government will, of course, never do this
till the people declare unmistakably that it must be done.
To such a government the rights of property are sacred,
while those of their fellow-citizens are of comparatively
little moment ; but we feel sure that when the people fully
know and understand the doings of the landlords of Scot-
land, the reckless destruction of homesteads, and the
silent sufferings of the brave Highlanders, they will make
their will known, and, when they do so, that will must
soon be embodied into law."

After quoting the opinion of the Rev. Dr. John
Kennedy of Dingwall, given at length on other pages,
Mr. Wallace next quotes from an article in the West-
minster Review, in 1868. " The Gaels," this writer says,
" rooted from the dawn of history on the slopes of the
northern mountains, have been thinned out and thrown
away like young turnips too thickly planted. Noble
gentlemen and noble ladies have shown a flintiness of
heart and a meanness of detail in carrying out their
clearings, upon which it is revolting to dwell ] and after
all, are the evils of over-population cured ? Does not the
disease still spring up under the very torture of the knife ?
Are not the crofts slowly and silently taken at every
opportunity out of the hands of the peasantry ? When a
Highlander has to leave his hut there is now no resting-
place for him save the cellars or attics of the closes of
Glasgow, or some other large centre of employment j it
has been noticed that the poor Gael is even more liable
than the Irishman to sink under the debasement in which
he is then immersed." The same writer holds : " No
error could be grosser than that of reviewing the chiefs as
unlimited proprietors not only of the land, but of the
whole territory of the mountain, lake, river, and sea-shore,


held and won during hundreds of years by the broad
swords of the clansmen. Could any Maclean admit,
even in a dream, that his chief could clear Mull of all the
Macleans and replace them with Campbells ; or the
Mackintosh people his lands with Macdonalds, and drive
away his own race, any more than Louis Napoleon could
evict all the population of France and supply their place
with English and German colonists ? " Yet this very
power and right the English Government, in its aristo-
cratic selfishness, bestowed upon the chiefs, when, after
the great rebellion of 1745, it took away their privileges
of war and criminal jurisdiction, and endeavoured to
assimilate them to the nobles and great landowners of
England. The rights of the clansmen were left entirely
out of consideration.*


The following remarks by the celebrated French
economist, M. de Lavaleye, will prove interesting. There
is no greater living authority on land tenure than this
writer, and being a foreigner, his opinions are not open
as the opinions of our own countrymen may be to the
suspicion of political bias or partisanship on a question
which is of universal interest all over the world. Re-
ferring to land tenure in this country, he says :

" The dispossession of the old proprietors, transformed
by time into new tenants, was effected on a larger scale by
the " clearing of estates." When a lord of the manor, for
his own profit, wanted to turn the small holdings into
large farms, or into pasturage, the small cultivators were
of no use. The proprietors adopted a simple means of
getting rid of them \ and, by destroying their dwellings,
forced them into exile. The classical land of this system
is Ireland, or more particularly the Highlands of Scotland.

* Land Nationalisation, its Necessities and Aims ; bevng a Com-
parison of the System of Landlord and Tenant with that of Occupy-
ing Ownership, in their influence on the well-being of the People, by
Alfred Russel Wallace, author of " The Malay Archipelago,"
" Island Lrife," &c. London : Triibner & Co., 1882.


"It is now clearly established that in Scotland, just as in
Ireland, the soil was once the property of the clan or sept.
The chiefs of the clan had certain rights over the com-
munal domain * but they were even further from being
proprietors than was Louis XIV. from being proprietor
of the territory of France. By successive encroachments,
however, they transformed their authority of suzerain
into a right of private ownership, without even recognis-
ing in their old co-proprietors a right of hereditary posses-
sion. In a similar way the Zemindars and Talugdars
in India were, by the Act of the British Government,
transformed into absolute proprietors. Until modern
days the chiefs of the clan were interested in retaining a
large number of vassals, as their power, and often their
security, were only guaranteed by their arms. But
when the order was established, and the chiefs or lords,
as they now were began to reside in the towns, and re-
quired large revenues rather than numerous retainers,
they endeavoured to introduce large farms and pasturage.

" We may follow the first phases of this revolution, which
commences after the last rising under the Pretender, in
the works of James Anderson, and James Stuart. The
latter tells us that in his time in the last third of the
1 8th century the Highlands of Scotland still presented
a miniature picture of the Europe of four hundred years
ago. The rent (so he misnames the tribute paid to
the chief of the clan) of these lands is very little in com-
parison with their extent, but if it is regarded relatively
to the number of mouths which the farm supports, it
will be seen that land in the Scotch Highlands supports
perhaps twice as many persons as land of the same value
in a fertile province. When, in the last thirty years of
the 1 8th century, they began to expel the Gaels, they at
the same time forbade them to emigrate to a foreign
country, so as to compel them by these means to congre-
gate in Glasgow and other manufacturing towns.

In his observations on Smith's Wealth of Nations, pub-

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Online LibraryAlexander MackenzieThe history of the Highland clearances → online text (page 22 of 25)