Copyright
Alexander Mackenzie.

The history of the Highland clearances online

. (page 8 of 25)
Online LibraryAlexander MackenzieThe history of the Highland clearances → online text (page 8 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


introduced in 1806, the same year her grace was born ;
and the accusation against Mr. Sellar, dates in 1811, when
her grace was five or six years old. The Sutherland
arrangements were completed in 1819, and her grace was
not married to the duke till 1823, so that, had the arrange-
ment been the worst in the world, it is nothing to the
purpose so far as she is concerned.

As to whether the arrangement is a bad one, the facts
which have been stated speak for themselves. To my
view it is an almost sublime instance of the benevolent
employment of superior wealth and power in shortening
the struggles of advancing civilization, and elevating in
a few years a whole community to a point of education
and material prosperity, which, unassisted, they might
never have obtained.

REPLY TO MRS. BEECHER STOWE BY
DONALD MACLEOD.*

From the year 1812 to 1820, the whole interior of the
county of Sutherland whose inhabitants were advancing

* From enlarged edition of " Gloomy Memories," published in
Canada in 1857.



SUTHERLAND. 89

rapidly in the science of agriculture and education, who
by nature and exemplary training were the bravest,
the most moral and patriotic people that ever existed
even admitting a few of them did violate the excise laws,
the only sin which Mr. Loch and all the rest of their
avowed enemies could bring against them where a
body of men could be raised on the shortest possible
notice that kings and emperors might and would be proud
of ; and where the whole fertile valleys and straths
which gave them birth were in due season waving with
corn ; their mountains and hill-sides studded with sheep
and cattle ; where rejoicing, felicity, happiness, and true
piety prevailed ; where the martial notes of the bagpipes
sounded and reverberated from mountain to glen, from
glen to mountain. I say, marvellous ! in eight years
converted to a solitary wilderness, where the voice of man
praising God is not to be heard, nor the image of God upon
man to be seen ; where you can set a compass with twenty
miles of a radius upon it, and go round with it full
stretched, and not find one acre of land within the cir-
cumference which has come under the plough for the last
thirty years, except a few in the parishes of Lairg and
Tongue, all under mute brute animals. This is the
advancement of civilization, is it not, madam ?

Return now with me to the beginning of your elaborate
eulogy on the Duchess of Sutherland, and if you are open
to conviction, I think you should be convinced that I never
published nor circulated in the American, English, or
Scotch public prints any ridiculous, absurd stories about
her Grace of Sutherland. An abridgment of my lucubra-
tions is now in the hands of the public, and you may per-
use them. I stand by them as facts (stubborn chiels).
I can prove them to be so even in this country (Canada),
by a cloud of living witnesses, and my readers will find
that, instead of bringing absurd accusations against her
Grace, that I have endeavoured in some instances to
screen her and her predecessors from the public odium
their own policy and the doings of their servants merited.
Moreover, there is thirty years since I began to ex-
postulate with the House of Sutherland for their short-



90 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

sighted policy in dealing with their people as they were
doing, and it is twenty years since I began to expose them
publicly, with my real name, Donald MacLeod, attached
to each letter, sending a copy of the public paper where it
appeared, directed by post, to the Duke of Sutherland.
These exposing and remonstrating letters were published
in the Edinburgh papers, where the Duke and his pre-
decessors had their principal Scotch law agent, and you
may easily believe that I was closely watched, with the
view to find one false accusation in my letters, but they
were baffled. I am well aware that each letter I have
written on the subject would, if untrue, constitute a libel,
and I knew the editors, printers, and publishers of these
papers were as liable or responsible for libel as I was.
But the House of Sutherland could never venture to
raise an action of damages against either of us. In 1841,
when I published my first pamphlet, I paid $4 5oc., for
binding one of them, in a splendid style, which I sent
by mail to his Grace the present Duke of Sutherland,
with a complimentary note requesting him to peruse it,
and let me know if it contained anything offensive or
untrue. I never received a reply, nor did I expect it ;
yet I am satisfied that his Grace did peruse it. I posted a
copy of it to Mr. Loch, his chief commissioner * to Mr.
W. Mackenzie, his chief lawyer in Edinburgh ; to every
one of their underlings, to sheep farmers, and ministers
in the county of Sutherland, who abetted the depopu-
lators, and I challenged the whole of them, and other
literary scourges who aid and justified their unhallowed
doings, to gainsay one statement I have made. Can you
or any other believe that a poor sinner like Donald
MacLeod would be allowed for so many years to escape
with impunity, had he been circulating and publishing
calumnious, absurd falsehoods against such personages
as the House of Sutherland ? No, I tell you, if money
could secure my punishment, without establishing their
own shame and guilt, that it would be considered well-
spent long ere now, they would eat me in penny pies
if they could get me cooked for them.

I agree with you that the Duchess of Sutherland is a



SUTHERLAND. 91

beautiful, accomplished lady, who would shudder at the
idea of taking a faggot or a burning torch in her hand to
set fire to the cottages of her tenants, and so would her
predecessor, the first Duchess of Sutherland, her good
mother ; likewise would the late and present Dukes of
Sutherland, at least I am willing to believe that they
would. Yet it was done in their name, under their
authority, to their knowledge, and with their sanction.
The dukes and duchesses of Sutherland, and those of
their depopulating order, had not, nor have they any call
to defile their pure hands in milder work than to burn
people's houses ; no, no, they had, and have plenty of
willing tools at their beck to perform their dirty work.
Whatever amount of humanity and purity of heart the
late or the present Duke and Duchess may possess or be
ascribed to them, we know the class of men from whom
they selected their commissioners, factors, and under-
lings. I knew every one of the unrighteous servants who
ruled the Sutherland estate for the last fifty years, and
I am justified in saying that the most skilful phrenologist
and physiognomist that ever existed could not discern
one spark of humanity in the whole of them, from Mr.
Loch down to Donald Sgrios, or Damnable Donald,
the name by which the latter was known. The most
of those cruel executors of the atrocities I have been
describing are now dead, and to be feared but not
lamented. But it seems their chief was left to give you
all the information you required about British slavery
and oppression. I have read from speeches delivered
by Mr. Loch at public dinners among his own party,
" that he would never be satisfied until the Gaelic
language and the Gaelic people would be extirpated root
and branch from the Sutherland estate ; yes, from the
Highlands of Scotland." He published a book, where he
stated as a positive fact, " that when he got the manage-
ment of the Sutherland estate he found 408 families on
the estate who never heard the name of Jesus," whereas
I could make oath that there were not at that time, and
for ages prior to it, above two families within the limits
of the county who did not worship that Name and holy



92 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

Being every morning and evening. I know there are
hundreds in the Canadas who will bear me out in this
assertion. I was at the pulling down and burning of the
house of William Chisholm. I got my hands burnt taking
out the poor old woman from amidst the flames of her
once-comfortable though humble dwelling, and a more
horrifying and lamentable scene could scarcely be wit-
nessed. I may say the skeleton of a once tall, robust,
high-cheek-boned, respectable woman, who had seen
better days ; who could neither hear, see, nor speak ;
without a tooth in her mouth, her cheek skin meeting in
the centre, her eyes sunk out of sight in their sockets,
her mouth wide open, her nose standing upright among
smoke and flames, uttering piercing moans of distress
and agony, in articulations from which could be only
understood, " Oh, Dhia, Dhia, teine, teine Oh God,
God, fire, fire." When she came to the pure air, her
bosom heaved to a most extraordinary degree, accom-
panied by a deep hollow sound from her lungs, comparable
to the sound of thunder at a distance. When laid down
upon the bare, soft, moss floor of the roofless shed, I will
never forget the foam of perspiration which emitted and
covered the pallid death-looking countenance. This was
a scene, madam, worthy of an artist's pencil, and of a
conspicuous place on the stages of tragedy. Yet you
call this a specimen of the ridiculous stories which found
their way into respectable prints, because Mr. Loch,
the chief actor, told you that Sellar, the head executive,
brought an action against the sheriff and obtained a
verdict for heavy damages. What a subterfuge ; but
it will not answer the purpose, " the bed is too short to
stretch yourself, and the covering too narrow and short to
cover you." If you took the information and evidence
upon which you founded your Uncle Tom's Cabin from
such unreliable sources (as I said before), who can believe
the one-tenth of your novel ? I cannot. I have at my
hand here the grandchild of the slaughtered old woman,
who recollects well of the circumstance. I have not far
from me a respectable man, an elder in the Free Church,
who was examined as a witness at Sellar's trial, at the



SUTHERLAND. 93

Spring Assizes of Inverness, in 1816, which you will find
narrated in letters four and five of my work. Had you
the opportunity, madam, of seeing the scenes which I,
and hundreds more, have seen the wild ferocious appear-
ance of the infamous gang who constituted the burning
party, covered over face and hands with soot and ashes of
the burning houses, cemented by torch-grease and their
own sweat, kept continually drunk or half-drunk while at
work ; and to observe the hellish amusements some of
them would get up for themselves and for an additional
pleasure to their leaders ! The people's houses were
generally built upon declivities, and in many cases not
far from pretty steep precipices. They preserved their
meal in tight-made boxes, or chests, as they were called,
and when this fiendish party found any quantity of meal,
they would carry it between them to the brink, and dis-
patch it down the precipice amidst shrieks and yells.
It was considered grand sport to see the box breaking to
atoms and the meal mixed with the air. When they
would set fire to a house, they would watch any of the
domestic animals making their escape from the flames,
such as dogs, cats, hens, or any poultry ; these were caught
and thrown back to the flames grand sport for demons
in human form !

As to the vaunted letter which his " Grace received
from one of the most determined opposers of the mea-
sures, who travelled in the north of Scotland as editor of a
newspaper, regretting all that he had written on the sub-
ject, being convinced that he was misinformed," I may
tell you, madam, that this man did not travel to the
north or in the north of Scotland, as editor ; his name was
Thomas Mulock ; he came to Scotland a fanatic specu-
lator in literature in search of money, or a lucrative
situation, vainly thinking that he would be a dictator
to every editor in Scotland. He first attacked the
immortal Hugh Miller of the Witness, Edinburgh, but
in him he met more than his match. He then went to the
north, got hold of my first pamphlet, and by setting it up
in a literary style, and in better English than I, he made a
splendid and promising appearance in the northern



94 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

papers for some time ; but he found out that the money
expected was not coming in, and that the hotels, head
inns, and taverns would not keep him up any longer
without the prospect of being paid for the past or for the
future. I found out that he was hard up, and a few of the
Highlanders in Edinburgh and myself sent him from
twenty to thirty pounds sterling. When he saw that
that was all he was to get, he at once turned tail upon us,
and instead of expressing his gratitude, he abused us
unsparingly, and regretted that ever he wrote in behalf
of such a hungry, moneyless class. He smelled (like others
we suspect) where the gold was hoarded up for hypocrites
and flatterers, and that one apologising letter to his
Grace would be worth ten times as much as he could
expect from the Highlanders all his lifetime ; and I
doubt not it was, for his apology for the sin of mis-
information got wide circulation.

He then went to France and started an English paper in
Paris, and for the service he rendered Napoleon in crush-
ing republicanism during the besieging of Rome, etc., the
Emperor presented him with a gold pin, and in a few
days afterwards sent a gendarme to him with a brief
notice that his service was not any longer required, and a
warning to quit France in a few days, which he had to do.
What became of him after I know not, but very likely
he is dictating to young Loch, or some other Metternich.

No feelings of hostile vindictiveness, no desire to inflict
chastisement, no desire to make riches, influenced my
mind, pourtraying the scenes of havoc and misery which
n those past days darkened the annals of Sutherland. I
write in my own humble style, with higher aims, wishing
to prepare the way for demonstrating to the Dukes of
Sutherland, and all other Highland proprietors, great and
small, that the path of selfish aggrandisement and op-
pression leads by sure and inevitable results, yea to the
ruin and destruction of the blind and misguided op-
pressors themselves. I consider the Duke himself
victimised on a large scale by an incurably wrong system,
and by being enthralled by wicked counsellors and ser-
vants. I have no hesitation in saying, had his Grace and



SUTHERLAND. 95

his predecessors bestowed one-half of the encouragement
they had bestowed upon strangers on the aborigines a
hardy, healthy, abstemious people, who lived peaceably
in their primitive habitations, unaffected with the vices
of a subtle civilization, possessing little, but enjoying
much ; a race devoted to their hereditary chief, ready to
abide by his counsels ; a race profitable in peace, and
loyal, available in war ; I say, his Grace, the present
Duke of Sutherland, and his beautiful Duchess, would be
without compeers in the British dominions, their rents, at
least doubled ; would be as secure from invasion and
annoyance in Dunrobin Castle as Queen Victoria could, or
can be, in her Highland residence, at Balmoral, and far
safer than she is in her Bnglish home, Buckingham
Palace ; every man and son of Sutherland would be
ready, as in the days of yore, to shed the last drop of their
blood in defence of their chief, if required. Congratu-
lations, rejoicings, dancing to the martial notes of the
pipes, would meet them at tne entrance to every glen and
strath in Sutherlandshire, accompanied, surrounded, and
greeted, as they proceeded, by the most grateful,
devotedly attached, happy, and bravest peasantry that
ever existed ; yes, but alas ! where there is nothing now,
but desolation and the cries of famine and want, to meet
the noble pair the ruins of once comfortable dwellings
will be seen the landmarks of the furrows and ridges
which yielded food to thousands, the footprints of the
arch-enemy of human happiness, and ravager before,
after, and on each side, solitude, stillness, and the quiet
of the grave, disturbed only at intervals by the yells of a
shepherd, or fox-hunter, and the bark of a collie dog.
Surely we must admit that the Marquises and Dukes of
Sutherland have been duped and victimised to a most
extraordinary and incredible extent ; and we have Mr.
I/och's own words for it in his speech in the House of
Commons, June 2ist, 1845 : " I can state, as from facts,
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



9 6 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

sterling." Now think you of this immense wealth which
has been expended. I am not certain, but I think the
rental of the county would exceed 60,000 a year ; you
have then from 1811 to 1833, twenty-two years, leaving
them at the above figures, and the sum total will amount
to 1,320,000 expended upon the self-styled Sutherland
improvements ; add to this 60,000 sent down to pre-
serve the lives of the victims of those improvements
from death by famine, and the sum total will turn out
in the shape of 1,380,000. It surely cost the heads of
the house of Sutherland an immense sum of money to
convert the county into the state I have described it in a
former part of this work (and I challenge contradiction).

You should be surprised to hear and learn, madam,
for what purposes most of the money drained from the
Duke's coffers yearly are expended since he became the
Duke and proprietor of Sutherland, upholding the Loch
policy. There are no fewer than seventeen who are
known by the name of water bailiffs in the county, who
receive yearly salaries, what doing, think you ? Protecting
the operations of the Loch policy, watching day and night
the freshwater lakes, rivers, and creeks, teeming with the
finest salmon and trout fish in the world, guarding from
the famishing people, even during the years of famine and
dire distress, when many had to subsist upon weeds, sea-
ware, and shell-fish, yet guarded and preserved for the
amusement of English anglers * and what is still more
heartrending, to prevent the dying by hunger to pick up
any of the dead fish left by the sporting anglers rotting
on the lake, creek, and river sides, when the smallest of
them, or a morsel, would be considered by hundreds, I
may say thousands, of the needy natives, a treat j but
they durst not touch them, or if they did and were found
out to jail they were conducted, or removed summarily
from his Grace's domains ; (let me be understood, these
gentlemen had no use for the fish, killing them for amuse-
ment, only what they required for their own use, and com-
plimented to the factors ; they were not permitted to
cure them).

You will find, madam, that about three miles from



SUTHERLAND. 97

Dtmrobiii Castle there is a branch of the sea which extends
up the county about six miles, where shell-fish, called
mussels, abound. Here you will find two sturdy men,
called mussel bailiffs, supplied with rifles and ammunition,
and as many Newfoundland dogs as assistants, watching
the mussel scalps, or beds, to preserve them from the
people in the surrounding parishes of Dornoch, Rogart, and
Golspie, and keep them, to supply the fishermen, on the
opposite side of the Moray Firth, with bait, who come
there every year and take away thousands of tons of this
nutritive shell-fish, when many hundreds of the people
would be thankful for a diet per day of them, to pacify
the cravings of nature. You will find that the unfor-
tunate native fishermen, who pay a yearly rent to his
Grace for bait, are only permitted theirs from the refuse
left by the strangers of the other side of the Moray Firth,
and if they violate the iron rule laid down to them, they
are entirely at the mercy of the underlings. There has
been an instance of two of the fishermen's wives going
on a cold, snowy, frosty day to gather bait, but on ac-
count of the boisterous sea, could not reach the place
appointed by the factors \ one took what they required
from the forbidden ground, and was observed by some of
the bailiffs, in ambush, who pursued them like tigers.
One came up to her unobserved, took out his knife, and
cut the straps by which the basket or creel on her back
was suspended ; the weight on her back fell to the ground,
and she, poor woman, big in the family way, fell her whole
length forward in the snow and frost. Her companion
turned round to see what had happened, when she was
pushed back with such force that she fell ; he then tram-
pled their baskets and mussels to atoms, took them both
prisoners, ordered one of them to call his superior bailiff
to assist him, and kept the other for two hours standing,
wet as she was, among frost and snow, until the superior
came a distance of three miles. After a short con-
sultation upon the enormity of the crime, the two poor
women were led, like convicted criminals, to Golspie, to
appear before Lycurgus Gunn, and in that deplorable
condition were left standing before their own doors in

G



98 HIGHLAND CLEARANCES.

the snow, until Marshall Gunn found it convenient to
appear and pronounce judgment, verdict : You are
allowed to go into your houses this night ; this day week
you must leave this village for ever, and the whole of the
fishermen of the village are strictly prohibited from
taking bait from the Little Ferry until you leave ; my
bailiffs are requested to see this my decree strictly at-
tended to. Being the middle of winter and heavy snow,
they delayed a week longer : ultimately the villagers
had to expel the two families from among them, so that
they would get bait, having nothing to depend upon for
subsistence but the fishing, and fish they could not
without bait. This is a specimen of the injustice to and
subjugation of the Golspie fishermen, and of the people
at large ; likewise of the purposes for which the Duke's
money is expended in that quarter. If you go, then,
to the other side of the domain, you will find another
Kyle, or a branch of the sea, which abounds in cockles
and other shell-fish, fortunately for the poor people, not
forbidden by a Loch ukase. But in the years of distress,
when the people were principally living upon vegetables,
sea-weeds, and shell-fish, various diseases made their
appearance amongst them hitherto unknown. The
absence of meal of any kind being considered the primary
cause, some of the people thought they would be per-
mitted to exchange shell-fish for meal with their more
fortunate neighbours in Caithness, to whom such shell-
fish were a rarity, and so far the understanding went
between them, that the Caithness boats came up loaded
with meal, but the Loch embargo, through his underling
in Tongue, who was watching their movements, was at
once placed upon it ', the Caithness boats had to return
home with the meal, and the Duke's people might live or
die, as they best could. Now, madam, you have steeped
your brains, and ransacked the English language to find
refined terms for your panegyric on the Duke, Duchess,
and family of Sutherland. (I find no fault with you,
knowing you have been well paid for it.) But I would
briefly ask you (and others who devoted much of their
time and talents in the same strain), would it not be more



SUTHERLAND. 99

like a noble pair if they did merit such noble praise
as you have bestowed upon them if they had, especially
during years of famine and distress, freely opened up all
these bountiful resources which God in His eternal
wisdom and goodness prepared for His people, and which
should never be intercepted nor restricted by man or men.
You and others have composed hymns of praise, which it
is questionable if there is a tune in heaven to sing them to.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done
under the sun : and behold the tears of such as were oppressed,
and they had no comforter : and on the side of their oppressors
there was power ; but they had no comforter. Bcclesiastes iv. i.

The wretch that works and weeps without relief

Has one that notices his silent grief.

He, from whose hands all pow'r proceeds

Ranks its abuse among the foulest deeds,

Considers all injustice with a frown,

But marks the man that treads his fellow down.

Remember Heav'n has an avenging rod

To smite the poor is treason against God. Cowper.

But you shall find the Duke's money is expended for
most astonishing purposes ; not a little of it goes to hire
hypocrites, and renowned literary flatterers, to vindicate
the mal- administration of those to whom he entrusted
the management of his affairs, and make his Grace (who



Online LibraryAlexander MackenzieThe history of the Highland clearances → online text (page 8 of 25)