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orderly, and peaceable manner.

If, upon one occasion, in the earlier years of these ar-
rangements, a momentary feeling of a contrary nature was
exhibited, it arose entirely from the misconduct of persons
whose duty it was to have recommended and enforced
obedience to the laws, in place of infusing into the minds
of the people, feelings of a contrary description. As soon,
however, as the interference of these persons was with-
drawn, the poor people returned to their usual state of
quietness and repose. All the statements, giving a
different account of their conduct, are absolutely false,



SUTHERLAND. 77

and a libel upon their good conduct and peaceable char-
acter.

These arrangements commenced in 1807, and have been
carried on from that period, as the different tacks ex-
pired, and afforded an opportunity of doing so. Bad
years, and the failure of crops continuing to produce the
same miserable effects they had constantly occasioned
to that portion of the population, which still continued
to reside among the mountains. This calamity fell with
great severity upon them in the seasons of 1812-13 and
1816-17.

During the latter period they suffered the extremes
of want and of human misery, notwithstanding every aid
that could be given to them, through the bounty of their
landlords. Their wretchedness was so great, that after
pawning everything they were possessed of, to the fisher-
men on the coast, such as had no cattle were reduced to
come down from the hills in hundreds, for the purpose of
gathering cockles on the shore. Those who lived in the
more remote situations of the country were obliged to
subsist upon broth made of nettles, thickened with a little
oatmeal. Those who had cattle had recourse to the still
more wretched expedient of bleeding them, and mixing
the blood with oatmeal, which they afterwards cut into
slices and fried. Those who had a little money came
down and slept all night upon the beach, in order to
watch the boat returning from the fishing, that they might
be in time to obtain a part of what had been caught.

In order to alleviate this misery, every exertion was
made by Lord Stafford. To those who had cattle he
advanced money to the amount of above three thousand
pounds.

To supply those who had no cattle, he sent meal into
the country to the amount of nearly nine thousand
pounds. Besides which, Lady Stafford distributed money
to each parish on the estate : in order that no pains nor
consideration might be wanting, it was arranged that the
gentleman who is at the head of his Lordship's affairs,
the writer of this statement, should go to Dunrobin to
settle with the local management and the clergymen,



78 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

what was the best and most effectual way of distributing
his Lordship's relief. Similar means were taken by Lord
Reay, to alleviate the distresses of his people. While
such was the distress of those who still remained among
the hills, it was hardly felt by those who had been settled
upon the coast. Their new occupation, as fishermen,
rendered them not only independent of that which pro-
duced the misery of their neighbours, but enabled them
at the same time, in some degree, to become contributors
towards their support, both by the fish they were able to
sell to them, and also by the regular payment of their
rents. While it need hardly be stated, that these
wretched sufferers not only required to be relieved, but
failed entirely in the payment of what they owed the land-
lord.

MRS. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE ON THE
SUTHERLAND CLEARANCES.*

As to those ridiculous stories about the Duchess of
Sutherland, which have found their way into many of the
prints in America, one has only to be here, moving in
society, to see how excessively absurd they are.

All my way through Scotland, and through England,
I was associating, from day to day, with people of every
religious denomination, and every rank of life. I have
been with dissenters and with churchmen ; with the
national Presbyterian church and the free Presbyterian ;
with Quakers and Baptists.

In all these circles I have heard the great and noble
of the land freely spoken of and canvassed, and if there
had been the least shadow of a foundation for any such
accusations, I certainly should have heard it recognized
in some manner. If in no other, such warm friends as
I have heard speak would have alluded to the subject
in the way of defence ; but I have actually never heard
any allusion of any sort, as if there was anything to be
explained or accounted for.

* " Sunny Memories," 1/etter xvii.



SUTHERLAND. 79

As I have before intimated, the Howard family, to
which the duchess belongs, is one which has always been
on the side of popular rights and popular reform. Lord
Carlisle, her brother, has been a leader of the people,
particularly during the time of the corn-law reformation,
and she has been known to take a wide and generous
interest in all these subjects. Everywhere that I have
moved through Scotland and England I have heard her
kindness of heart, her affability of manner, and her
attention to the feelings of others spoken of as marked
characteristics.

Imagine, then, what people must think when they find
in respectable American prints the absurd story of her
turning her tenants out into the snow, and ordering the
cottages to be set on fire over their heads because they
would not go out.

But, if you ask how such an absurd story could ever
have been made up, whether there is the least foundation
to make it on, I answer that it is the exaggerated report
of a movement made by the present Duke of Suther-
land's father, in the year 1811, and which was part of a
great movement that passed through the Highlands of
Scotland, when the advancing progress of civilisation
began to make it necessary to change the estates from
military to agricultural establishments.

Soon after the union of the crowns of England and
Scotland, the border chiefs found it profitable to adopt
upon their estates that system of agriculture to which
their hills were adapted, rather than to continue the
maintenence of military retainers. Instead of keeping
garrisons, with small armies, in a district, they decided
to keep only so many as could profitably cultivate the
land. The effect of this, of course, was like disbanding
an army. It threw many people out of employ, and forced
them to seek for a home elsewhere. Like many other
movements which, in their final results, are beneficial
to society, this was at first vehemently resisted, and had
to be carried into effect in some cases by force. As I
have said, it began first in the southern counties of
Scotland, soon after the union of the English and Scottish



80 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

crowns, and gradually crept northward one county
after another yielding to the change. To a certain
extent, as it progressed northward, the demand for
labour in the great towns absorbed the surplus popu-
lation ; but when it came in to the extreme Highlands,
this refuge was wanting. Emigration to America now
became the resource ; and the surplus population were
induced to this by means such as the Colonization Society
now recommends and approves for promoting emigration
to Liberia.

The first farm that was so formed on the Sutherland
estate was in 1806. The great change was made in
1811-12, and completed in 1819-20.

The Sutherland estates are in the most northern portion
of Scotland. The distance of this district from the more
advanced parts of the kingdom, the total want of roads,
the unfrequent communication by sea, and the want of
towns, made it necessary to adopt a different course in
regard to the location of the Sutherland population
from that which circumstances had provided in other
parts of Scotland, where they had been removed from the
bleak and uncultivable mountains. They had lots given
them near the sea, or in more fertile spots, where, by
labour and industry, they might maintain themselves.
They had two years allowed them for preparing for the
change, without payment of rent. Timber for their
houses was given, and many other facilities for assisting
their change.

The general agent of the Sutherland estate is Mr. Loch.
In a speech of this gentleman in the House of Commons
on the second reading of the Scotch Poor-Law Bill, June
12, 1845, he states the following fact with regard to the
management of the Sutherland estate during this period,
from 1811 to 1833, which certainly can speak for itself :
" I can state as from fact that, from 1811 to 1833, not one
sixpence of rent has been received from that county, but,
on the contrary, there has been sent there, for the benefit
and improvement of the people, a sum exceeding sixty
thousand pounds."

Mr. Loch goes on in the same speech to say : " There



SUTHERLAND. 81

is no set of people more industrious than the people of
Sutherland. Thirty years since they were engaged in
illegal distillation to a very great extent ; at the present
moment there is not, I believe, an illegal still in the
county. Their morals have improved as those habits
have been abandoned ; and they have added many
hundreds, I believe thousands, of acres to the land in
cultivation since they were placed upon the shore.

" Previous to the change to which I have referred, they
exported very few cattle, and hardly anything else.
They were also, every now and then, exposed to all the
difficulties of extreme famine. In the years 1812-13,
and 1816-17, so great was the misery that it was necessary
to send down oatmeal for their supply to the amount of
nine thousand pounds, and that was given to the people.
But, since, industrious habits were introduced, and they
were settled within reach of fishing, no such calamity
has overtaken them. Their condition was then so low
that they were obliged to bleed their cattle during the
winter, and mix the blood with the remnant of meal they
had, in order to save from them starvation.

" Since then the country has improved so much that
the fish, in particular, which they exported, in 1815,
from one village alone, Helmsdale (which, previous to
1811, did not exist), amounted to five thousand three
hundred and eighteen barrels of herring, and in 1844
thirty-seven thousand five hundred and ninety-four
barrels, giving employment to about three thousand
nine hundred people. This extends over the whole
of the county, in which fifty-six thousand barrels were
cured.

11 Do not let me be supposed to say that there are not
cases requiring attention : it must be so in a large popu-
lation ; but there can be no means taken by a landlord,
or by those under him, that are not bestowed upon that
tenantry.

" It has been said that the contribution by the heritor
(the duke) to one kirk session for the poor was but six
pounds. Now, in the eight parishes which are called
Sutherland proper, the amount of the contribution of

F



82 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

the Duke of Sutherland to the kirk session is forty-two
pounds a-year. That is a very small sum, but that sum
merely is so given because the landlord thinks that he
can distribute his charity in a more beneficial manner
to the people ; and the amount of charity which he gives
and which, I may say, is settled on them, for it is given
regularly is above four hundred and fifty pounds a-
year.

" Therefore the statements that have been made, so
far from being correct, are in every way an exaggeration
of what is the fact. No portion of the kingdom has
advanced in prosperity so much ; and if the honourable
member (Mr. S. Crawford) will go down there, I will give
him every facility for seeing the state of the people,
and he shall judge with his own eyes whether my repre-
sentation be not correct. I could go through a great
many other particulars, but I will not trouble the House
now with them. The statements I have made are accur-
ate, and I am quite ready to prove them in any way that
is necessary."

The same Mr. Loch has published a pamphlet, in which
he has traced out the effects of the system pursued on the
Sutherland estate, in many very important particulars.
It appears from this that previously to 1811 the people
were generally sub-tenants to middlemen, who exacted
high rents, and also various perquisites, such as the de-
livery of poultry and eggs, giving so many days' labour
in harvest time, cutting and carrying peat and stones for
building.

Since 1811 the people have become immediate tenants,
at a greatly diminished rate of rent, and released from all
these exactions. For instance, in two parishes, in 1812,
the rents were one thousand five hundred and ninety-
three pounds, and in 1823 they were only nine hundred
and seventy-two pounds. In another parish the re-
duction of rents has amounted, on an average, to thirty-
six per cent. Previous to 1811 the houses were turf
huts of the poorest description, in many instances the
cattle being kept under the same roof with the family.
Since 1811 a large proportion of their houses have been



SUTHERLAND. 83

rebuilt in a superior manner the landlord having paid
them for their old timber where it could not be moved,
and having also contributed the new timber, with lime.

Before 1811 all the rents of the estates were used for the
personal profit of the landlord ; but since that time, both
by the present duke and his father, all the rents have been
expended on improvements in the county, besides sixty
thousand pounds more which have been remitted from
England for the purpose. This money has been spent on
churches, school-houses, harbours, public inns, roads, and
bridges.

In 1811 there was not a carriage-road in the county,
and only two bridges. Since that time four hundred and
thirty miles of road have been constructed on the estate,
at the expense of the proprietor and tenants. There is
not a turnpike-gate in the county, and yet the roads are
kept perfect.

Before 1811 the mail was conveyed entirely by a foot
runner, and there was but one post-office in the county ;
and there was no direct post across the county, but letters
to the north and west were forwarded once a month. A
mail-coach has since been established, to which the late
Duke of Sutherland contributed more than two thousand
six hundred pounds ; and since 1834 mail-gigs have been
established to convey letters to the north and west coast,
towards which the Duke of Sutherland contributes three
hundred pounds a year. There are sixteen post-offices
and sub-offices in the county. Before 1811 there was
no inn in the county fit for the reception of strangers.
Since that time there have been fourteen inns either built
or enlarged by the duke.

Before 1811 there was scarcely a cart on the estate *
all the carriage was done on the backs of ponies. The
cultivation of the interior was generally executed with a
rude kind of spade, and there was not a gig in the county.
In 1845 there were one thousand one hundred and thirty
carts owned on the estate, and seven hundred and eight
ploughs, also forty-one gigs.

Before 1812 there was no baker, and only two shops.
In 1845 there were eight bakers and forty-six grocers'



84 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

shops, in nearly all of which shoe- blacking was sold to
some extent, an unmistakable evidence of advancing
civilization.

In 1808 the cultivation of the coast-side of Sutherland
was so defective that it was necessary often, in a fall of
snow, to cut down the young Scotch firs to feed the cattle
on ; and in 1808 hay had to be imported. Now the coast
side of Sutherland exhibits an extensive district of land
cultivated according to the best principles of modern
agriculture ; several thousand acres have been added to
the arable land by these improvements.

Before 1811 there were no woodlands of any extent on
the estate, and timber had to be obtained from a distance.
Since that time many thousand acres of woodland have
been planted, the thinnings of which, being sold to the
people at a moderate rate, have greatly increased their
comfort and improved their domestic arrangements.

Before 1811 there were only two blacksmiths in the
county. In 1845 there were forty-two blacksmiths and
sixty-three carpenters. Before 1829 the exports of the
county consisted of black cattle of an inferior description,
pickled salmon, and some ponies ; but these were pre-
carious sources of profit, as many died in winter for want
of food ; for example, in the spring of 1807, two hundred
cows, five hundred cattle, and more than two hundred
ponies died in the parish of Kildonan alone. Since that
time the measures pursued by the Duke of Sutherland,
in introducing improved breeds of cattle, pigs, and modes
of agriculture, have produced results in exports which
tell their own story. About forty thousand sheep and
one hundred and eighty thousand fleece of wool are ex-
ported annually J also fifty thousand barrels of herring.

The whole fishing village of Helmsdale has been built
since that time. It now contains from thirteen to fifteen
curing yards covered with slate, and several streets with
houses similarly built. The herring fishery, which has
been mentioned as so productive, has been established
since the change, and affords employment to three
thousand nine hundred people.

Since 1811, also, a savings-bank has been established



SUTHERLAND. 85

in every parish, of which the Duke of Sutherland is
patron and treasurer, and the savings have been very
considerable.

The education of the children of the people has been a
subject of deep interest to the Duke of Sutherland. Be-
sides the parochial schools (which answer, I suppose, to
our district schools), of which the greater number have
been rebuilt or repaired at an expense exceeding what is
legally required for such purposes, the Duke of Suther-
land contributes to the support of several schools for
young females, at which sewing and other branches of
education are taught ' and in 1844 he agreed to establish
twelve General Assembly schools, in such parts of the
county as were without the sphere of the parochial
schools, and to build schools and schoolmasters' houses,
which will, upon an average, cost two hundred pounds
each ; and to contribute annually two hundred pounds
in aid of salaries to the teachers, besides a garden and
cow's grass * and in 1845 he made an arrangement with
the education committee of the Free Church, whereby no
child, of whatever persuasion, will be beyond the reach
of moral and religious education.

There are five medical gentlemen on the estate, three of
whom receive allowances from the Duke of Sutherland for
attendance on the poor in the districts in which they
reside.

An agricultural association, or farmers' club, has been
formed under the patronage of the Duke of Sutherland, of
which the other proprietors in the county, and the larger
tenantry, are members, which is in a very active and
flourishing state. They have recently invited Professor
Johnston to visit Sutherland and give lectures on agri-
cultural chemistry.

The total population of the Sutherland estate is twenty-
one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four. To have
the charge and care of so large an estate, of course, must
require very systematic arrangements ; but a talent
for system seems to be rather the forte of the English.

The estate is first divided into three districts, and each
district is under the superintendence of a factor, who



86 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

communicates with the duke through a general agent.
Besides this, when the duke is on the estate, which is
during a portion of every year, he receives on Monday
whoever of his tenants wishes to see him. Their com-
plaints or wishes are presented in writing ; he takes them
into consideration, and gives written replies.

Besides the three factors there is a ground officer, or
sub-factor, in every parish, and an agriculturist in the
Dunrobin district, who gives particular attention to
instructing the people in the best methods of farming.
The factors, the ground officers, and the agriculturists,
all work to one common end. They teach the advantages
of draining ; of ploughing deep, and forming their
ridges in straight lines ; of constructing tanks for saving
liquid manure. The young farmers also pick up a great
deal of knowledge when working as ploughmen or
labourers on the more immediate grounds of the estate.

The head agent, Mr. Loch, has been kind enough to put
into my hands a general report of the condition of the
estate, which he drew up for the inspection of the duke,
May 12, 1853, and in which he goes minutely over the
condition of every part of the estate.

One anecdote of the former Duke of Sutherland will
show the spirit which has influenced the family in their
management of the estate. In 1817, when there was
much suffering on account of bad seasons, the Duke of
Sutherland sent down his chief agent to look into the
condition of the people, who desired the ministers of
the parishes to send in their lists of poor. To his surprise
it was found that there were located on the estate a num-
ber of people who had settled there without leave. They
amounted to hour hundred and eight families, or two
thousand persons ; and though they had no legal title
to remain where they were, no hesitation was shown in
supplying them with food in the same manner with those
who were tenants, on the sole condition that on the first
opportunity they should take cottages on the sea-shore,
and become industrious people. It was the constant
object of the duke to keep the rents of his poorer tenants
at a nominal amount .



SUTHERLAND. *7

What led me more particularly to inquire into these
facts was, that I received by mail, while in London, an
account containing some of these stories, which had been
industriously circulated in America. There were dread-
ful accounts of cruelties practised in the process of induc-
ing the tenants to change their places of residence. The
following is a specimen of these stories :

" I was present at the pulling down and burning of the
house of William Chisholm, Badinloskin, in which was
lying his wife's mother, an old, bed-ridden woman of
near one hundred years of age, none of the family being
present. I informed the persons about to set fire to the
house of this circumstance, and prevailed on them to
wait till Mr. Sellar came. On his arrival I told him of
the poor old woman, being a condition unfit for removal.
He replied, ' The old witch ! she has lived too long ;
let her burn/ Fire was immediately set to the house,
and the blankets in which she was carried were in flames
before she could be got out. She was placed in a little
shed, and it was with great difficulty they were prevented
from firing that also. The old woman's daughter arrived
while the house was on fire, and assisted the neighbours
in removing her mother out of the flames and smoke,
presenting a picture of horror which I shall never forget but
cannot attempt to describe. She died within five days/'
paper, I can now state that the Duke of Sutherland has

With regard to this story, Mr. Loch, the agent, says :
" I must notice the only thing like a fact stated in the
newspaper extract which you sent to me, wherein Mr.
Sellar is accused of acts of cruelty towards some of the
people. This Mr. Sellar tested, by bringing an action
against the then Sheriff-substitute of the county. He
obtained a verdict for heavy damages. The Sheriff, by
whom the slander was propagated, left the county.
Both are since dead."

Having, through Lord Shaftesbury's kindness, received
the benefit of Mr. Loch's corrections to this statement, I
am permitted to make a little further extract from his
reply. He says :

" In addition to what I was able to say in my former



88 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

received from one of the most determined opposers of the
measures, who travelled to the north of Scotland as editor
of a newspaper, a letter regretting all he had written on
the subject, being convinced that he was entirely misin-
formed. As you take so much interest in the subject, I
will conclude by saying that nothing could exceed the
prosperity of the county during the past year ; their
stock, sheep, and other things sold at high prices ; their
crops of grain and turnips were never so good, and the
potatoes were free from all disease : rents have been
paid better than was ever known. * * * As an
instance of the improved habits of the farmers, no house
is now built for them that they do not require a hot bath
and water-closets."

From this long epitome you can gather the following
results. First, if the system were a bad one, the Duchess
of Sutherland had nothing to do with it, since it was first



Online LibraryAlexander MackenzieThe history of the Highland clearances → online text (page 7 of 25)