Page images
PDF
EPUB

Of their gardens I can judge only from their tables. I did not observe that the common greens were wanting, and suppose, that by choosing an advantageous exposition, they can raise all the more hardy esculent plants. Of vegetable fragrance or beauty they are not yet studious. Few vows are made to Flora in the Hebrides.

They gather a little hay, but the grass is mown late; and is so often almost dry, and again very wet, before it is housed, that it becomes a collection of withered stalks without taste or fragrance; it must be eaten by cattle that have nothing else, but by most English farmers would be thrown away.

ney.

In the islands I have not heard that any subterraneous treasures have been discovered, though where there are mountains, there are commonly minerals. One of the rocks in Col has a black vein, imagined to consist of the ore of lead; but it was never yet opened or essayed. In Sky a black mass was accidentally picked up, and brought into the house of the owner of the land, who found himself strongly inclined to think it a coal, but unhappily it did not burn in the chimCommon ores would be here of no great value; for what requires to be separated by fire, must, if it were found, be carried away in its mineral state, here being no fuel for the smeltinghouse or forge. Perhaps by diligent search in this world of stone, some valuable species of marble might be discovered. But neither philosophical curiosity, nor commercial industry, have yet fixed their abode here, where the importunity of immediate want, supplied but for the day, and craving on the morrow, has left little room for excursive knowledge, or the pleasing fancies of distant profit.

The cattle of Sky are not so small as is commonly believed. Since they have sent their beeves in great numbers to southern marts, they have probably taken more care of their breed. At stated times the annual growth of cattle is driven to a fair, by a general drover, and with the money which he returns to the farmer, the rents are paid.

Of their black cattle some are without horns, called by the Scots, humble cows, as we call a bee an humble bee, that wants a sting. Whether this difference be specific, or accidental, though we inquired with great diligence, we could not be informed. We are not very sure that the bull is ever without horns, though we have been told that such bulls there are. What is produced by putting a horned and unhorned male and female together, no man has ever tried that thought the result worthy of observation.

Their horses are, like their cows, of a moderate size. I had no difficulty to mount myself commodiously by the favour of the gentlemen. I heard of very little cows in Barra, and very little horses in Rum, where perhaps no care is taken to prevent that diminution of size, which must always happen, where the greater and the less copulate promiscuously, and the young animal is restrained from growth by penury of sustenance.

The price regularly expected, is from two to three pounds a head; there was once one sold for five pounds. They go from the islands very lean, and are not offered to the butcher till they have been long fatted in English pastures.

The goat is the general inhabitant of the earth, complying with every difference of climate and of soil. The goats of the Hebrides are like others: nor did I hear any thing of their sheep to be particulary remarked.

In the penury of these malignant regions, nothing is left that can be converted to food. The goats and the sheep are milked like the cows. A single meal of a goat is a quart, and of a sheep a pint. Such at least was the account which I could extract from those of whom I am not sure that they ever had inquired.

They have lately found a manufacture considerably lucrative. Their rocks abound with kelp, a sea-plant, of which the ashes are melted into glass. They burn kelp in great quantities, and then send it away in ships, which come regularly to purchase it. This new source of riches has raised the rents of many maritime farms; but the tenants pay, like all other tenants, the additional rent with great unwillingness; because they consider the profits of the kelp as the mere product of personal labour, to which the landlord contributes nothing. However, as any man may be said to give what he gives the power of gaining, he has certainly as much right to profit from the price of kelp as of any thing else found or raised upon his ground.

Man is by the use of firearms made so much This new trade has excited a long and eager an overmatch for other animals, that in all counlitigation between Macdonald and Macleod, for tries, where they are in use, the wild part of the a ledge of rocks, which, till the value of kelp creation sensibly diminishes. There will prowas known, neither of them desired the reputa-bably not be long either stags or roebucks in the tion of possessing. islands. All the beasts of chase would have been lost long ago in countries well inhabited, had they not been preserved by laws for the pleasure of the rich,

There are in Sky neither rats nor mice, but the weasel is so frequent, that he is heard in houses rattling behind chests or beds, as rats in England. They probably owe to his predominance that they have no other vermin; for since the great rat took possession of this part of the world, scarce a ship can touch at any port, but some of his race are left behind. They have within these few years begun to infest the isle of Col, where being left by some trading vessel,

The milk of goats is much thinner than that of cows, and that of sheep is much thicker. Sheep's milk is never caten before it is boiled; as it is thick, it must be very liberal of curd, and the people of St. Kilda form it into small cheeses.

The stags of the mountains are less than those of our parks or forests, perhaps not bigger than our fallow deer. Their flesh has no rankness, nor is inferior in flavour to our common venison. The roebuck I neither saw nor tasted. These are not countries for a regular chase. The deer are not driven with horns and hounds. A sportsman, with his gun in his hand, watches the animal, and when he has wounded him, traces him by the blood.

They have a race of brinded greyhounds, larger and stronger than those with which we course hares, and those are the only dogs used by them for the chase.

presided at her table with the full exercise of all her powers; and the other has attained her eighty-fourth, without any diminution of her vivacity, and with little reason to accuse time of depredations on her beauty.

The inhabitants of Sky, and of the other islands, which I have seen, are commonly of the middle stature, with fewer among them very tall or very short, than are seen in England; or In the islands, as in most other places, the inperhaps, as their numbers are small, the chances habitants are of different rank, and one does of any deviation from the common measure are not encroach here upon another. Where there necessarily few. The tallest men that I saw are is no commerce nor manufacture, he that is among those of higher rank. In regions of bar-born poor can scarcely become rich; and if renness and scarcity, the human race is hindered none are able to buy estates, he that is born to in its growth by the same causes as other ani- land cannot annihilate his family by selling it. mals. This was once the state of these countries. Perhaps there is no example, till within a century and half, of any family whose estate was alienated otherwise than by violence or forfeiture. Since money has been brought among them, they have found, like others, the art of spending more than they receive; and I saw with grief the chief of a very ancient clan, whose island was condemned by law to be sold for the satisfaction of his creditors.

they have increased for want of weasels to oppose them.

The ladies have as much beauty here as in other places, but bloom and softness are not to be expected among the lower classes, whose faces are exposed to the rudeness of the climate, and whose features are sometimes contracted by want, and sometimes hardened by the blasts. Supreme beauty is seldom found in cottages or workshops, even where no real hardships are suffered. To expand the human face to its full perfection, it seems necessary that the mind should co-operate by placidness of content, or consciousness of superiority.

The name of the highest dignity is Laird, of which there are in the extensive isle of Sky only three, Macdonald, Macleod, and Mackinnon. The laird is the original owner of the land, whose natural power must be very great, where no man lives but by agriculture; and where the produce of the land is not conveyed through the labyrinths of traffic, but passes directly from the hand that gathers it, to the mouth that eats it. The laird has all those in his power that live upon his farms. Kings can, for the most part, only exalt or degrade. The laird at pleasure can feed or starve, can give bread, or withhold it. This inherent power was yet strengthened by the kindness of consanguinity, and the reverence of patriarchal authority. The laird was the father of the clan, and his tenants comre-monly bore his name. And to these principles of original command was added, for many ages, an exclusive right of legal jurisdiction.

Their strength is proportionate to their size, but they are accustomed to run upon rough ground, and therefore can with great agility skip over the bog, or clamber the mountain. For a campaign in the wastes of America, soldiers better qualified could not have been found. Having little work to do, they are not willing, nor perhaps able, to endure a long continuance of manual labour, and are therefore considered as habitually idle."

Having never been supplied with those accommodations which life extensively diversified with trades affords, they supply their wants by very insufficient shifts, and endure many inconveníences, which a little attention would easily lieve. I have seen a horse carrying home the harvest on a crate. Under his tail was a stick for a crupper, held at the two ends by twists of straw. Hemp will grow in their islands, and therefore ropes may be had. If they wanted hemp, they might make better cordage of rushes, or perhaps of nettles, than of straw.

Their method of life neither secures them perpetual health, nor exposes them to any particular diseases. There are physicians in the islands, who, I believe, all practise chirurgery, and all compound their own medicines.

It is generally supposed, that life is longer in places where there are few opportunities of luxury; but I found no instance here of extraordinary longevity. A cottager grows old over his oaten cakes, like a citizen at a turtle feast. He is indeed seldom incommoded by corpulence. Poverty preserves him from sinking under the burden of himself, but he escapes no other injury of time. Instances of long life are often related, which those who hear them are more willing to credit than examine. To be told that any man has attained a hundred years, gives hope and comfort to him who stands trembling on the brink of his own climacteric.

Length of life is distributed impartially to very different modes of life in very different climates; and the mountains have no greater examples of age and health than the low lands, where I was introduced to two ladies of high quality, one of whom, in her ninety-fourth year,

This multifarious and extensive obligation operated with force scarcely credible. Every duty, moral or political, was absorbed in affection and adherence to the chief. Not many years have passed since the clans knew no law but the laird's will. He told them to whom they should be friends or enemies, what king they should obey, and what religion they should profess.

When the Scots first rose in arms against the succession of the House of Hanover, Lovat, the chief of the Frasers, was in exile for a rape. The Frasers were very numerous, and very zealous against the government. A pardon was sent to Lovat. He came to the English camp, and the clan immediately deserted to him.

Next in dignity to the laird is the Tacksman; a large taker or leaseholder of land, of which he keeps part as a domain in his own hand, and lets part to undertenants. The tacksman is necessarily a man capable of securing to the laird the whole rent, and is commonly a collateral relation. These tacks, or subordinate possessions, were long considered as hereditary, and the occupant was distinguished by the name of the place at which he resided. He held a middle station, by which the highest and the lowest orders were connected. He paid rent and reverence to the laird, and received them from the tenants. This tenure still subsists,

with its original operation, but not with the the manners, to the advantages and the wants primitive stability. Since the islanders, no longer of the people, whose life they would model, and content to live, have learned the desire of grow-whose evils they would remedy.

ing rich, an ancient dependent is in danger of giving way to a higher bidder, at the expense of domestic dignity and hereditary power. The stranger, whose money buys him preference, considers himself as paying for all that he has, and is indifferent about the laird's honour or safety. The commodiousness of money is indeed great; but there are some advantages which money cannot buy, and which therefore no wise man will, by the love of money, be tempted to forego.

I have found in the hither parts of Scotland, men, not defective in judgment or general experience, who consider the tacksman as a useless burden of the ground, as a drone who lives upon the product of an estate, without the right of property, or the merit of labour, and who impoverishes at once the landlord and the tenant. The land, say they, is let to the tacksman at sixpence an acre, and by him to the tenant at ten

Let the owner be the immediate landto all the tenants; if he sets the ground at eightpence, he will increase his revenue by a fourth part, and the tenant's burden will be diminished by a fifth.

Those who pursue this train of reasoning, seem not sufficiently to inquire whither it will lead them, nor to know that it will equally show the propriety of suppressing all wholesale trade, of shutting up the shops of every man who sells what he does not make, and of extruding all whose agency and profit intervene between the manufacturer and the consumer. They may, by stretching their understandings a little wider, comprehend, that all those who, by undertaking large quantities of manufacture, and affording employment to many labourers, make themselves considered as benefactors to the public, have only been robbing their workmen with one hand, and their customers with the other. If Crowley had sold only what he could make, and if his smiths had wrought their own iron with their own hammers, he would have lived on less, and they would have sold their work for more. The salaries of superintendents and clerks would have been partly saved, and partly shared, and nails been sometimes cheaper by a farthing in a hundred. But then if the smith could not have found an immediate purchaser, he must have deserted his anvil; if there had by accident at any time been more sellers than buyers, the workmen must have reduced their profit to nothing, by underselling one another; and as no great stock could have been in any hand, no sudden demand of large quantities could have been answered, and the builder must have stood still till the nailer could supply him.

According to these schemes, universal plenty is to begin and end in universal misery. Hope and emulation will be utterly extinguished; and as all must obey the call of immediate necessity, nothing that requires extensive views, or pro'vides for distant consequences, will ever be performed.

To the southern inhabitants of Scotland, the state of the mountains and the islands is equally unknown with that of Borneo or Sumatra; of both they have only heard a little, and guess the rest. They are strangers to the language and

Nothing is less difficult than to procure one convenience by the forfeiture of another. A soldier may expedite his march by throwing away his arms. To banish the tacksman is easy, to make a country plentiful by diminishing the people, is an expeditious mode of husbandry; but that abundance, which there is nobody to enjoy, contributes little to human happiness.

As the mind must govern the hands, so in every society the man of intelligence must direct the man of labour. If the tacksman be taken away, the Hebrides must in their present state be given up to grossness and ignorance; the tenant, for want of instruction, will be unskilful, and for want of admonition, will be negligent. The laird, in these wide estates, which often consist of islands remote from one another, cannot extend his personal influence to all his tenants; and the steward having no dignity annexed to his character, can have little authority, among men to reverence to and who regard the tacksman as their hereditary superior; nor can the steward have equal zeal for the prosperity of an estate profitable only to the laird, with the tacksman, who has the laird's income involved in his own.

The only gentlemen in the islands are the lairds, the tacksmen, and the ministers, who frequently improve their livings by becoming farmers. If the tacksmen be banished, who will be left to impart knowledge, or impress civility? The laird must always be at a distance from the greater part of his lands; and if he resides at all upon them, must drag his days in solitude, hav ing no longer either a friend or a companion; he will therefore depart to some more comfortable residence, and leave the tenants to the wisdom and mercy of a factor.

Of tenants there are different orders, as they have greater or less stock. Land is sometimes leased to a small fellowship, who live in a cluster of huts, called a Tenant's Town, and are bound jointly and separately for the payment of their rent. These, I believe, employ in the care of their cattle, and the labour of tillage, a kind of tenants yet lower; who having a hut, with grass for a certain number of cows and sheep, pay their rent by a stipulated quantity of labour.

The condition of domestic servants or the price of occasional labour, I do not know with certainty. I was told that the maids have sheep, and are allowed to spin for their own clothing; perhaps they have no pecuniary wages, or none but in very wealthy families. The state of life which has hitherto been purely pastoral, begins now to be a little variegated with commerce; but novelties enter by degrees, and till one mode has fully prevailed over the other, no settled notion can be formed.

Such is the system of insular subordination, which having little variety, cannot afford much delight in the view, nor long detain the mind in contemplation. The inhabitants were for a long time perhaps not unhappy; but their content was a muddy mixture of pride and ignorance, an indifference for pleasures which they did not know, a blind veneration for their chiefs, and a strong conviction of their own importance.

Their pride has been crushed by the heavy

hand of a vindictive conqueror, whose severities have been followed by laws, which, though they cannot be called cruel, have produced much discontent, because they operate upon the surface of life, and make every eye bear witness to subjection. To be compelled to a new dress, has always been found painful.

of the islands, and riot without control in cruelty and waste. It was observed by one of the chiefs of Sky, that fifty armed men might, without resistance, ravage the country. Laws that place the subjects in such a state, contravene the first principles of the compact of authority; they exact obedience, and yield no protection.

Their chiefs being now deprived of their juris- It affords a generous and manly pleasure to diction, have already lost much of their influence; conceive a little nation gathering its fruits and and as they gradually degenerate from patriar-tending its herds with fearless confidence, though chal rulers to rapacious landlords, they will di- it lies open on every side to invasion, where, in vest themselves of the little that remains. contempt of walls and trenches, every man sleeps securely with his sword beside him: where all on the first approach of hostility, came together at the call to battle, as at a summons to a festal show; and committing their cattle to the care of those whom age or nature has disabled, engaged the enemy with that competition for hazard and for glory, which operate in men that fight under the eye of those whose dislike or kindness they have always considered as the greatest evil or the greatest good.

This was, in the beginning of the present century, the state of the Highlands. Every man was a soldier, who partook of national confidence, and interested himself in national honour. To lose this spirit, is to lose what no small advantage will compensate.

It may likewise deserve to be inquired, whether a great nation ought to be totally commercial? The last law, by which the Highlanders are whether amidst the uncertainty of human affairs, deprived of their arms, has operated with efficacy too much attention to one mode of happiness beyond expectation. Of former statutes made may not endanger others? whether the pride of with the same design, the execution had been riches must not sometimes have recourse to the feeble, and the effect inconsiderable. Conceal-protection of courage? and whether, if it be nement was undoubtedly practised, and perhaps cessary to preserve in some part of the empire often with connivance. There was tenderness the military spirit, it can subsist more commoor partiality on one side, and obstinacy on the diously in any place than in remote and unprofiother. But the law, which followed the victory table provinces, where it can commonly do little of Culloden, found the whole nation dejected and harm, and whence it may be called forth at any intimidated; informations were given without sudden exigence? danger and without fear, and the arms were collected with such rigour, that every house was despoiled of its defence.

To disarm part of the Highlands, could give no reasonable occasion of complaint. Every government must be allowed the power of taking away the weapon that is lifted against it. But the loyal clans murmured with some appearance of justice, that, after having defended the king, they were forbidden for the future to defend themselves; and that the sword should be forfeited, which had been legally employed. Their case is undoubtedly hard, but in political regulations, good cannot be complete, it can only be predominant.

It must however be confessed, that a man who places honour only in successful violence, is a very troublesome and pernicious animal in time of peace; and that the martial character cannot prevail in a whole people, but by the diminution of all other virtues. He that is accustomed to resolve all right into conquest, will have very little tenderness or equity. All the friendship in such a life can be only a confederacy of invasion, or alliance of defence. The strong must flourish by force, and the weak subsist by stratagem.

Till the Highlanders lost their ferocity with their arms, they suffered from each other all that malignity could dictate, or precipitance could act. Every provocation was revenged with blood, and no man that ventured into a numerous company, by whatever occasion brought together, was sure of returning without a wound. If they are now exposed to foreign hostilities, they may talk of the danger, but can seldom feel it. If they are no longer martial, they are no longer quarrelsome. Misery is caused, for the most part, not by a heavy crush of disaster, but by the corrosion of less visible evils, which canker enjoyment, and undermine security. The visit of an invader is necessarily rare, but do mestic animosities allow no cessation.

The abolition of the local jurisdictions, which had for so many ages been exercised by the chiefs, has likewise its evils and its good. The feudal constitution naturally diffused itself into

That dignity which they derived from an opinion of their military importance, the law, which disarmed them, has abated. An old gentleman, delighting himself with the recollection of better days, related, that forty years ago, a chieftain walked out attended by ten or twelve followers with their arms rattling. That animating rabble has now ceased. The chief has lost his formidable retinue; and the Highlander walks his heath unarmed and defenceless, with the peaceful submission of a French peasant, or English cottager.

Their ignorance grows every day less, but their knowledge is yet of little other use than to show them their wants. They are now in the period of education, and feel the uneasiness of discipline, without yet perceiving the benefit of instruction.

Whether by disarming a people thus broken into several tribes, and thus remote from the seat of power, more good than evil has been produced, may deserve inquiry. The supreme power in every community has the right of debarring every individual, and every subordinate society, from self-defence, only because the supreme power is able to defend them; and therefore where the governor cannot act, he must trust the subject to act for himself. These islands might be wasted with fire and sword before their sovereign would know their distress. A gang of robbers, such as has been lately found confederating themselves in the Highlands, might lay a wide region under contribution. The crew of a petty privateer might land on the largest and most wealthy

long ramifications of subordinate authority.-| to obtain the consent of others to our gratifica To this general temper of the government was tion. Power, simply considered, whatever it added the peculiar form of the country, broken confers on one, must take from another. Wealth by mountains into many subdivisions scarcely enables its owner to give to others, by taking accessible but to the natives, and guarded by only from himself. Power pleases the violent passes, or perplexed with intricacies, through and proud: wealth delights the placid and the which national justice could not find its way. timorous. Youth therefore flies at power, and age grovels after riches.

The power of deciding controversies, and of punishing offences, as some such power there The chiefs, divested of their prerogatives, nemust always be, was intrusted to the lairds of cessarily turn their thoughts to the improvethe country, to those whom the people consi- ment of their revenues, and expect more rent, dered as their natural judges. It cannot be as they have less homage. The tenant, who is supposed that a rugged proprietor of the rocks, far from perceiving that his condition is made unprincipled and unenlightened, was a nice re- better in the same proportion as that of his landsolver of entangled claims, or very exact in pro-lord is made worse, does not immediately see portioning punishment to offences. But the why his industry is to be taxed more heavily more he indulged his own will, the more he held than before. He refuses to pay the demand, his vassals in dependence. Prudence and inno- and is ejected; the ground is then let to a strancence, without the favour of the chief, conferred ger, who perhaps brings a larger stock, but who no security; and crimes involved no danger, taking the land at its full price, treats with the when the judge was resolute to acquit. laird upon equal terms, and considers him not as a chief, but as a trafficker in land. Thus the estate perhaps is improved, but the clan is broken.

When the chiefs were men of knowledge and virtue, the convenience of a domestic judicature was great. No long journeys were necessary, nor artificial delays could be practised; the character, the alliances, and interests of the litigants were known to the court, and all false pretences were easily detected. The sentence, when it was past, could not be evaded; the power of the laird superseded formalities, and justice could not be defeated by interest or stratagem.

I doubt not but that since the regular judges have made their circuits through the whole country, right has been every where more wisely and more equally distributed; the complaint is, that litigation is grown troublesome, and that the magistrates are too few, and therefore often too remote for general convenience.

It seems to be the general opinion, that the rents have been raised with too much eagerness, Some regard must be paid to prejudice. Those who have hitherto paid but little, will not suddenly be persuaded to pay much, though they can afford it. As ground is gradually improved, and the value of money decreases, the rent may be raised without any diminution of the farmer's profits; yet it is necessary in these countries, where the ejection of a tenant is a greater evil than in more populous places, to consider not merely what the land will produce, but with what ability the inhabitant can cultivate it. A certain stock can allow but a certain payment; for if the land be doubled, and the stock remains the same, the tenant becomes no richer. The proprietors of the Highlands might perhaps often increase their income, by subdividing the farms, and allotting to every occupier only so many acres as he can profitably employ, but that they want people.

Many of the smaller islands have no legal officer within them. I once asked, if a crime should be committed, by what authority the offender could be seized? and was told, that the laird would exert his right; a right which he must now usurp, but which surely necessity must vindicate, and which is therefore yet exercised in lower degrees, by some of the proprietors, when legal processes cannot be obtained.

In all greater questions, however, there is now happily an end to all fear or hope from malice or from favour. The roads are secure in those places, through which, forty years ago, no traveller could pass without a convoy. All trials of right by the sword are forgotten, and the mean are in as little danger from the powerful as in other places. No scheme of policy has, in any country, yet brought the rich and poor on equal terms into courts of judicature. Perhaps experience, improving on experience, may in time effect it.

Those who have long enjoyed dignity and power, ought not to lose it without some equivalent. There was paid to the chiefs by the public, in exchange for their privileges, perhaps a sum greater than most of them had ever possessed, which excited a thirst for riches, of which it showed them the use. When the power of birth and station ceases, no hope remains but from the prevalence of money. Power and wealth supply the place of each other. Power confers the ability of gratifying our desire without the consent of others. Wealth enables us

There seems now, whatever be the cause, to be through a great part of the Highlands a general discontent. That adherence which was lately professed by every man to the chief of his name, has now little prevalence; and he that cannot live as he desires at home, listens to the tale of fortunate islands, and happy regions, where every man may have land of his own, and eat the product of his labour without a superior.

Those who have obtained grants of American lands, have, as is well known, invited settlers from all quarters of the globe; and among other places, where oppression might produce a wish for new habitations, their emissaries would not fail to try their persuasions in the isles of Scotland, where at the time when the clans were newly disunited from their chiefs, and exasperated by unprecedented exactions, it is no wonder that they prevailed.

Whether the mischiefs of emigration were immediately perceived, may be justly questioned. They who went first, were probably such as could best be spared; but the accounts sent by the earliest adventurers, whether true or false, inclined many to follow them; and whole neighbourhoods formed parties for removal; so that departure from their native country is no longer

« EelmineJätka »