MADAM, – I would wish to address you as inoffensively as our present position before the public can admit of. Without any provocation on my part, you have assailed my character most shamefully, and I must tell you, that though a humble individual who has devoted much of his time and means in advocating the cause and righteous claims of the poor, remonstrating with, and exposing the ungodly dealings of the rich towards them, unaided as I am by classical education, or the smiles of fortune; yet I consider my reputation and character as a narrator of unvarnished facts, equally as sacred, and as dear to me, as you can consider your own as an accomplished novelist and sophistical adulator of the oppressors of the poor. Taking the advantage of your auspicious position in society; surrounded by the beauties of English aristocracy, golden diamond, ducal bracelets, glittering gold sovereigns, fame, favour and fortune, thinking the whole world was bound to believe whatever you would say or write – yes Madam, dreaming in these paradises of grandeur, wealth, dignity and luxury, you, in the greatness of your soul, thought to demolish me for ever, by making me out as a ridiculous fabricator of falsehood. Against whom? The fascinating, angelic, and spotless Duchess of Sutherland. I do acknowledge to you, and before the world, to be the legitimate parent and author of the accusations against the House of Sutherland, which found their way to the American public prints, of which you gave a specimen in your “Sunny Memories,” to convince the American people of how ridiculous, and excessively absurd they were. I know that it was reported, and circulated through the public press in England and Scotland, that I was dead; but even if dead, it would be very unlady-like of you to attack even a dead man’s character, at least until you made a searching enquiry into the veracity or falsehood of his statements. If you believed this report, they have deceived you, and as sure as I am a living Scotchman my motto is, nemo me impune lacessit [No one provokes me with impunity]. I do really sympathise with you, for I know it is a humiliating reflection for you, that for the sake of aristocratic adulation and admiration, which you could well spare, that you have exposed yourself to be publicly chastised by an old Highland Scotch broken down stone mason; yet you have done it and I am sorry for it, and to do you justice, to do my own character justice, but above all to do the public justice, I consider it my bounden duty to bring you to the test, that the public may judge aright who is the greatest fabricator of false stories – you or me – expecting the public judgment will be based upon the evidence we advance to confirm the veracity of our opposed statements, and the source from which we obtain our evidence. I deny the charge of fabricating falsehood against the Duchess of Sutherland, or against the House of Sutherland, nor against any other despotic depopulating house in the highlands of Scotland; neither had I need to exaggerate nor to colour the truth; indeed I have taken more pains to modify the truth than I should have done so that people could believe me. I challenge, yea, I court contradiction, or a combatant upon fair ground.
“No favour – honour bright.”
Then at it. In prefacing your ‘Sunny Memories’ you say – “This book will be found to be really what its name denotes, Sunny Memories.” I admit this to be an indisputable fact, for I believe you never basked in the sunshine of favour more luxuriously than you did while in England. You had no doubt a pecuniary object in view in going to England, and you have realized it to your heart’s desire. The ladies of England had also a particular object in view in inviting you there, and you satisfied them. Their fame as the greatest philanthropists under heaven – their superiority in accomplishments and gorgeous sublimity to any other nation on earth, are now established for ever, (as they and you think). Next you say – “The writer has been decided to issue these letters principally, however, by the persevering and deliberate attempt in certain quarters to misrepresent the circumstances which are here given. So long as these misrepresentations affected those who were predetermined to believe unfavourably, they were not regarded; but as they have had some influence in certain cases upon really excellent and honest people, it was desired that the truth be plainly told.” * * * Now Madam had you kept up the principle of telling the plain truth, you would have saved me the disagreeable task of correcting you, and of pointing out to yourself, and to the public, where you have failed to ascertain or tell the plain truth. Truth and Justice, Madam, are Heaven-begotten twin sisters, but if they had not, nor have not any other place of abode upon earth but the palaces of English dukes and duchesses, lords, primates, and bishops, and the mansions of money-mongers, manufacturer, commissioners and factors such people, by your own confession, with whom you associated, and corresponded wile in England, I say that long since the heavenly pair would perish homeless, houseless, friendless, unpitied, and persecuted among snow and frost on the streets of England, Ireland, and Scotland; but being immortal, they will ultimately prevail and triumph over falsehood, sophistry and injustice.
Your lavishing of praise and admiration of English feminine beauty and virtue, of mansions, scenery, institutions, aristocratic manners and arrangements, I will let you go with it by merely offering a short but an earnest prayer up to Heaven, that the Lord of Heaven and earth may preserve the American ladies from being smitten or infected by the fatal contagion with which your “Sunny Memories” are pregnant, and that they may not adopt the English system of grinding down the people upon whom they depend for protection in the time of need, and for supplying them with all the necessaries of life at all times, to starvation and beggary, to crime and punishment, and then separate themselves from them as unclean animals, in railway cars, in churches, in schools, in streets, theatres, and assemblies, considering their very breath to pollute the atmosphere, and exceedingly dangerous to their refined constitutions. This is my prayer, and for the sake of the American ladies and the American people, I hope I will be heard and answered. The Americans should have sad recollection of what their fathers told them of the English systems and manners among themselves against being beguiled to adopt any more of the English systems than what is consistent with humanity, nature and true godliness. None will deny, but English ladies in general are beautiful women (yet there are some, no but many, ugly exceptions,) and can assume affability to a most coaxing and deceptive extent when they have an object in view to gain; but any one less or more acquainted with their history, or with themselves personally, for any length of time, may discern with many of them souls so much choked up with pride and ambition, that all which can be admired about them is only skin deep, especially among the majority of your bosom favourites while in England.
It is likewise well known throughout the whole world that the British aristocracy, such as landocracy, priestocracy, moneyocracy, cottonocracy, and many other robbingocracies, do enjoy all the luxuries, grandeur, amusement, and pleasure, that seared consciences can enjoy, that art can produce, and that ill gotten wealth can purchase. But how many thousands, yea millions of as valuable human beings as they are, are toiling and languishing in misery and want all their life time, to keep up this unnecessary grandeur and dignity? Ah! Madam, this is an enquiry you should have made, if you are really what you say you are, – a sympathiser with suffering humanity, – before spending so much of your valuable time and talents, praising and admiring English grandeur and dignity. The majority of these dignitaries and nobles never did anything to benefit society; so that all you have seen about them must be the production of plunder, and the price of blood. Yes, I say, for one instance, you ought to ascertain how many slaves his grace the Duke of Sutherland, himself alone, would require to build, and to furnish, and keep up his establishment in London, viz. Stafford House, (of notoriety) which you have so elaborately described in letter 16 of your “Sunny Memories.” But as you have neglected to inform the American ladies how this magnificent establishment is supplied, I must inform them. You say in letter 17, “That the total population of the Sutherland estate is twenty-one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four.” Correct, or incorrect as this statement may be, I leave it to you; but if correct, his Grace’s people must have increased most wickedly since his Grace permitted them to marry, and since I left Scotland four years ago. Likewise, if correct, I can tell you Madam, without hesitation, that three-fourths of that immense population are living in poverty and incredible penury. I will risk my reputation, yes my life, that sixteen thousand of them do not consume, upon an average, half-a-pound of animal food of any description through the whole year, and that they have to live upon the scantiest and poorest allowances of all other food that human beings can exist upon. Yes, all that they can scrape and save is needed at Stafford House. Then I will allow that three thousand of them live a little better, but who are not to be envied; then take one thousand seven hundred who live comfortable, but not in affluence. Add to those a score or two of sheep farmers, who occupy three-fourths of Sutherlandshire, paying heavy rents, and live sumptuously, – in short all proceeds are sent up to supply the needs of Stafford House, and this is but one of its many streams of wealth. No wonder, Madam, that you have seen such wonderful splendour, and been so delightfully entertained at Stafford House – especially invited there to vindicate their character from the plebian order. There is still a balance of one thousand and forty-four of the population yet unaccounted for, – these are of the unproductives. They consist of factors, sub-factors, established (by law) ministers, school-masters, sheriffs, police, constables, fiscals, lawyers, pettifoggers, gamekeepers, foresters, shepherd’s ground officers, water and mussel bailiffs, and an host of blood-sucking subordinates, vermin, who pick up every cent that can be concealed or saved from Stafford House. It is well known and easily believed, where poverty prevails, there is strife, and where strife is, there is a field for plunder to suit these low vermin inquisitors. Now, Madam, I grant that the Duke of Sutherland and his predecessors were, and are, the most humane and liberal of all other Highland, Scotch, Irish, or English plundering depopulators. But if it was possible or practicable to try the experiment, that is, to bring nineteen thousand of the American slaves to Sutherlandshire, and give them all the indulgence, all the privileges, and comforts the aborigines of that county do enjoy, I would risk all that is sacred and dear to me, that they would rend the Heavens, praying to be restored to their old American slave owners, and former position. I consider thhis but a small tribute or compliment to the slave owners; yet I know that there is nothing bad but can be worse, for there are many more painful ways of killing a dog than to hang him. I would respectfully ask who are the greatest objects of commiseration and sympathy, – a brave, moral, intelligent and enterprising race of people, who were born free, who were nurtured in the school of freedom, and defenders of freedom in all the ages of time; against whom there was no priestly denunciations to be traced in sacred, ancient, moral, or modern history; and who were robbed and deprived of all the liberties and rights they were told and taught by their fathers to be their indisputable inheritance, and enthralled to the lowest degree of degradation, submission, and poverty. I say are they not much more to be pitied, than an unfortunate race, who at an early period of time became the victims of cruel priestcraft, taking the advantage of a curse, said to be pronounced by a drunken father, very likely in delirium tremens; or to the misrepresentation of that curse left on sacred record, which left that race denounced, consigned, and designated to be slaves and the servant of servants – consequently despised, left untold, untaught in the science of enterprise, progress, or civilisation and totally ignorant of the rights and privileges of human beings. Both cases are to be pitied and lamented, but I hold the latter case to be far more tolerable to endure than the former. The child who has been born blind is not so helpless, nor so much to be pitied when he comes to manhood, as the poor fellow who has been deprived of his sight after arriving at manhood; the former never knew what light or the use of it was, and will not pine and lament over the loss of it; besides, in most cases natural instincts will, to a certain extent, make up for the deficiency. Whereas, the latter poor fellow who knew what light is and the use of that inestimable gift of God, when he stumbles, or falls, or strikes his head against a post, it is not the personal injury he sustained, that is the principal cause of his bewailing and sufferings, no, but the loss of his sight, and that he had none to lead him past danger.
It is a melancholy, undeniable fact that Republic Americans do breed, sell, and buy slaves; that they chase them with blood hounds when they run away; that they flog them; that they shoot and hang them for disobedience; that they separate husbands and wives, parents and children. But will any one prove to me that the condition of the unfortunate people would be any better or more tolerable should the Americans, like Highland Scotch and English dukes, marquises, earls, and lairds, make and take as many slaves as they choose for nothing? Methinks it would be more consistent to admit, that buying and selling, and the higher the price of slaves are, is a sure guarantee that they will be taken care of, (leaving humanity out of sight.) If a man purchases a horse at a high price, he will take care of that animal; but if he knew that he could get as many horses as he chose for nothing, and that when one horse died or was lamed, that he had nothing to do but to go and take another, you could not expect that man to care much whether this horses were well fed or housed.
The American slave owners themselves are to be pitied, for they are the dupes or victims of false doctrine, or rather say, or the misinterpretation of sacred records. They believe to have divine right to sell and buy African slaves; to flog, hang and shoot them for disobedience; and to chase them with blood hounds and Methodist ministers, if they run away. But the English aristocracy maintains to still higher prerogatives, in direct opposition to sacred records, – they believe to have divine right to monopolise the whole creation of God in Britain for their own private use, to the exclusion of all the rest of His creatures. They have enacted laws to establish these rights, and they blush not to declare these laws sacred. And it is to be lamented that these laws and doctrines are generally believed. Let any one peruse their Parchment Rights of Property, and he will find that they include the surface of the earth, all the minerals, &c.; below the surface to the centre, all that is above it up to the heavens, rivers of waters, abys, and creeks, of mixed salt water and fresh water, for one and one-fourth leagues out to the sea, with all the fishes of every description which spawn or feed therein, and all fowls who lay and are raised on land, – a right to deprive the people of the least pretention of right to the creation of god but what they choose to give them, – a right to compel the people to defend their properties from invaders; to press and ballot as many of them as they choose; hand-cuff them if they are unwilling, and force them to swear by God to be true and faithful slaves, – a right to imprison them, to flog, to hang, and shoot them if refractory, or for the least disobedience. Yes, a right to force them away to foreign and unhealthy climes, to fight nations who never did them any injury, where they perish in thousands by disease, fatigue and starvation, like brute beasts; to hang, shoot, or flog them to death for even taking a morsel of food when dying for want of it: all for to gain more possessions and power for British aristocracy. Only read the history of the East and West Indies; of the Peninsula, Crimea, and China Wars.
Slavery is damnable, and the most disgusting word in the English or any other language; and it is to be hoped that the Americans will soon discern its deformity, pollution and iniquity, and wipe away that old English polluted stain from their character. But there is not the least shadow of hope that ever the British aristocracy will think shame, or give up their system of slavery; for it is the most profitable now under heaven, and the most admired, and adopted by all other nations of the earth; at least until the promised Millenium will arrive, whatever time that blessed era will take in coming – unless the people in their might will rise some morning early, and demand their rights and liberties with the united voice of thunder which will make the most hardened and stubborn of the aristocratic adamant hearts tremble and ache. British ocracy’s sympathy with American slaves is, in reality, a burlesque; for I do assure you, Madam, they care no more for the emancipation of the American slaves than they do for the emancipation of Greenland whales and seals from their captors. Self-interest and fame was their object in jumping at your “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” [fictional novel] and in their adulation of the authoress, and has been their object since ever I began to take notice of their sophistical movements, and long before it. Much to their praise (though it cost them twenty-one million pounds sterling) the British people abolished slavery in the West India British Colonies. But who were their bitter and inveterate opponents? – English Bishops, and aristocracy; but now they take all the praise to themselves. Their principal cause for denouncing American slavery is, if properly searched out, that their West Indian estates do not make such lucrative returns to them now as they used to do, and not their sympathy for the African race. However, it is an admitted fact, that it is characteristic of British aristocracy to be the most liberal sympathisers with foreign victims of oppression, injustice and barbarous, ungodly laws; but with me their motives are very questionable, they having reverse qualifications at home. But they know that their foreign sympathy, liberality, and abhorrence of foreign slavery will find a conspicuous place in the public press, magazines, school books, reports and tracts, and that their praise will reach the utmost corner of the earth – that their fame, as the most humane, the most benevolent and blessed, will be ballooned up to Heaven by bishops, priests, ministers, that (reverently speaking) God might approve of it. At home they are the most liberal contributors to Bible and Missionary Societies, especially to the publication and circulation of missionary reports, where the donors and donations are sure to be magnified and praised up to heaven; and the recipients represented as the most ignorant of the plan of salvation and of the Christian religion – denying not but they had the image of God on them, yet not (in intellect) much above the condition of the brute creation. These hired emissaries have contributed on a large scale, and assisted greatly the calumniators of the Highlands of Scotland. I know many of them going about preaching, praying, circulating Gaelic Bibles and religious tracts, at the same time surveying the country and collecting information of the districts more susceptible and profitable for sheep-farming, and publishing the most gross, unfounded and inconsistent falsehoods regarding the character and intelligence of the people, that could be coined by the arch-enemy of mankind – (you know who that is.) However, all this had the desired consummation or effect. The benevolence of aristocratic donors and liberal donations were praised in every sublime term that the English language could supply; and to magnify their liberal and benevolent dispositions still more, the demerits, undeservedness, the barbarianism and sloth of the recipients were described in the grossest Billingsgate language that could be collected.But follow those over-praised and admired aristocratic personages home to these palaces, which cost you, Madam, so much time and labour to describe to your American friends, (although you were supplied with catalogues and invoices of their interior, and a plan or map of their pleasure grounds), and ask them the few following questions:-
In the name of wonder how did you manage to get these splendid edifices built and furnished so gorgeously, when I know you yourselves never put a hand to any work?
The reply would be – We employ men to do it for us.
Still more surprised, you ask – How have you got the enormous sums of money required to pay them?
The truthful reply should be – Oh, we have large, extensive landed estates, and we can tax the people who occupy and labour them as we please.
Others would reply – We employ so many thousands of people, and we pay them as we please; for every shilling they work for, or get, we have three shillings, and were it not for the tricks you Yankees play on us at times, we might be a great deal richer than we are, even richer than the landlords.
But halt a little until you see a poor industrious tenant of one of these landed aristocracy, approaching the gate of this palace with a humble petition, shewing a most grievous complaint, for an outrage committed by one of his graces or lordship’s factors or underlings, and prevented to enter any farther by a bulldog at full chain length; if he got past the dog, met another bull in human shape, dressed in livery, from whom there was no escaping, and had to stand still until his grace or lordship thought it proper to take an airing walk for his health after breakfast or dinner, and after waiting for days in this humiliating position, ultimately told that nothing could be done for him, or ordered back to the tyrant underling against whom he complained for redress, and you may easily guess what kind of redress or reception the poor fellow would get. Shift then tot he palace of a church-ocracy, cotton-ocracy, or any other ocracy you please, and see a poor fellow in rags, exhausted in frame, with trembling limbs, leaning on his staff, coming up to the gate soliciting a crumb of bread or a morsel of broken meat from the table which he was supplying all his lifetime. There you will see the broken meat thrown away to feed useless dogs, and the poor fellow collared by a police constable, and next day sentenced to thirty days’ imprisonment in Bridewell, breaking stones or teasing oakum [pulling strands apart from tarred pieces of old ship’s rope], for his impudence; but two blacks will never make a white – if you, Madam, and I were sitting side by side for six months, I would bet you a dollar my side of the leaf would be the darkest – hence we must turn up the most ridiculous bright side of the question. Did you, Madam, enquire while in England, how this noble institution called the Poor Man’s Church, in England and Ireland, whose bishops, structure, and constitution you admired so much, and laboured so much in recommending to others, is maintained? I know you did not. That such questions were entirely out of your way. This is another of the costly and pernicious aristocratic institutions of the country, self styled the “Poor Man’s Church.” It is not difficult to make you understand how it is so called. Church revenues were at one period, yes for ages, divided into three parts, – the first part for the maintenance of the priesthood, the second for the maintenance and repair of the fabric of the Church, and the third for the relief and support of the poor. But the Clergy, aided by their patrons, the aristocracy, have contrived and enacted laws to saddle the maintenance of the fabric on the people, in the form of Church Rates, the maintenance of the poor on the people in the form of Poor Rates, while the Apostolic priesthood, descended from the poor fishermen of Galilee, swallowed up both their own and the poor people’s share. Not satisfied with this, the Church does not disdain to seize the poor man’s pots and pans, and even the bed that he rests his weary limbs on, to sell them by public auction to raise funds to wash the priest’s surplices, and to ring the bells. The twenty-five State Bishops of England divide among themselves incredible amounts of money. By a late Parliamentary return, it will be seen the sums they leave behind them at their death are enormous. From another Parliamentary return it is proved, as stated in the House of Commons by Captain Osborn, that eleven Irish State Bishops left behind them at their death, the sum of one million eight hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds sterling, accumulated within a period of from forty to fifty years. The Bishop of Cashel during a single life, saved £400,000 from the tributes levied on the poorest, worst fed, worst clad, of all the nations of the earth. How much charity and spirit of christianity dwelt in his palace, or occupied his bosom, may be guessed? How much piety and christian virtue must the prelates of Dublin, Tuam, Armagh, and Clogher have exercised to enable them to hoard up fortunes of from £250,000 to £600,000 a piece during their lives? This is a sample of the Bishops of the English Church in Ireland, for which the British nation are keeping up an army of 34,000 soldiers, besides an army of mounted police, to watch over its safety. Surely these are expected to be serious and strenuous sympathisers with American slaves. Now you must know Madam, that there was only £151,127 12s. 4d. of hard cash divided by the bishops among themselves; but this only represents but a small proportion of their actual gains; we have to add to this the rents and profits of 670,000 acres of the Irish land which, in 1845, amounted to £92,000; tithe composition, £531,781 14s. 7d.; minister money, £10,000; then what is termed Deans and Chapter, £22,624 5s. 5d., besides other perquisites, makes a total of £807,533 12s. 4d. What work is done for all this expenditure? According to report, out of 2364 parishes in Ireland, 155 have no churches, and not a single protestant inhabitant; 45 parishes, having under 50 protestants, including men, women and children, they are not on that account however, relieved from paying tithes to the English Church which are still compulsory exacted – of 300 dignities, and prebends 75 of them have no duties to perform, and 96 other sinecures. The Archdeacon of Meath has £731, and not one protestant to attend him or a soul to cure. I find seven benefices, with 62 protestants, without one church or a clergyman, who pays £2869 11s. of tithe. I find eight parishes with only 173 members of the State Church who pay £4860 of tithe composition. Need we be surprised that such a system as this should have issued in beggary and wretchedness and crime to the Irish people, and kept that nation hanging on the brink of rebellion since they became subject to the English Government. This is the church, which Babington Macaulay describes the “most ridiculous, and indefensible of all the institutions now existing in the civilised world” and by Mr. Roebuck as the “Greatest ecclesiastical enormity in Europe.” Space will not permit me to dwell on these cases, which could be multiplied almost without end. Indeed the rapacity of the clergy is almost proverbial. What do they care about duties, it is the money they want. They are in reality what Milton [1608-1674] styled them in his day, “non resident, and plurality gaping prelates, the gulphs and whirlpools of benefices, but the dry pits of all sound doctrine who engross many pluralities under a non-resident and slumbering dispatching of souls, who let hundreds of parishes famish in one diocese, while they, the prelates, are mute, and yet enjoy that wealth which would furnish all those dark places with able supply; and yet they eat, and yet they live at the rate of lords, and yet hoard up; consuming and purloining even that which by their foundation is allowed and left to the poor and to the reparation of the church.”
Life is More Expensive when You’re Poor.
The English people who believe in the Episcopalian creed and doctrine are entitled to support this apostolic institution named after them and they do it sweetly. It is a difficult thing to get exact estimates of the total revenue of this institution in England. Churchmen have always been exceedingly loath to give information on this subject. When the Government in 1835 had made enquiries on the subject, the ecclesiastical commission was called on to make a return of the income of the clergy to Parliament, they then gave in the net revenue of the church at only £3,436,851; but since then the tithe commutation act has come into operation, then it became the interest of the church to claim as much as possible, forgetting their previous return. What has been the consequences? The tithes commuted swelling up at once to six millions and a half sterling, and they found out that if the tithes yet uncommuted be rated at the same value as those commuted, the annual income of the clergy from tithes alone will at least amount to £8,000,000 a year. Besides the tithes, there are the charitable foundations of England, most of which they have got into their hands. These are the professorships, fellowships, tutorships, masterships, &c., in the universities, and the revenues of Oxford and Cambridge amounts to no less than £741,000. Then the surplice fees for the consecration of burial grounds, preacherships, lectureships, chaplainships, chapel of ease, easter dues, christening fees, marriage fees, burial fees, episcopal revenues from land and other sources, when added together, will form a total of not less than ten millions sterling per year. Then Madam, I will give you a brief sketch of how the British people are taxed for other aristocratic purposes; the process is simple indeed. They don’t ask the consent of those whom they tax – they take particular care to keep them out of their counsels as much as possible: they merely tax us and make us pay, having at all times at hand, and under their command a strong body of police, soldiers, and diabolical agencies of all sorts, and pay the people must. See how they manage to get it, – so much on sugar, so much on tea, coffee, tobacco, malt, hops, cocoa, soap, spirits, window light, &c. &c. “We are quarrelling about an income tax of seven-pence the pound sterling,” said Mr. Cobden, in his speech in the House of Commons, March 13th, 1852. What amount do the people pay on articles consumed by them? For every 20s. they expend on tea, they pay 10s. of duty; for every 20s. on sugar, they pay 6s.; on coffee, 8s.; on soap 5s.; on beer, 4s.; on tobacco, 16s.; on spirits, 14s.; on every 20s. they expend upon these articles, and other articles in proportion, you cannot but see that this amounts to an income tax, not 7d. the pound, but sometimes of 12s., 15s., or 16s. per pound; while men of thousands a year expend their money upon luxuries, with comparatively little tax.” It is really wonderful how the aristocratic classes have contrived to evade the payment of their due share of the taxation of the country. According to their own Parliamentary Report, the land tax of Great Britain amounts to £1,183,000, which is only one pound in every thirty-three pounds raised by taxation in Britain. The taxes are mainly extorted from the working classes, who are the least able to bear the imposition, while the rich both exempt themselves, and spend the taxes so raised in the most riotous, reckless, extravagance. The land tax, so far as I can trace, has not been increased since 1688, though other taxes during that period have [increased] nearly twenty fold. Yet from the beginning of George the Third’s [1738-1820] reign to 1834, the aristocracy had seized upon and enclosed not less than 6,840,540 acres of common land, but the taxes were not increased one cent. This is not all, they have enacted laws to exempt the landed and agricultural classes from taxes imposed on the rest of the community. The landlord laws enact that all shall pay the stamp duties but themselves. The assessed taxes have been removed down to the farm-house, and the shepherd’s dog. The laws authorise entail, by which real estates are preserved to a series of heirs, unattachable by the claims of creditors. They have specially exempted lands from the heavy probate and legacy duty, imposed on all other kinds of property descending by inheritance or Will. By these means alone, according to calculation, they saved themselves the enormous sum of £3,000,000 annually. I say, for instance, that a poor labouring man, by dint of hard industry and economy, has saved two hundred pounds, which he leaves to a relative at his death. The amount is taxed at the rate of one to ten per cent., according to the nearest of kin. But say that a lord, duke, or earl dies, and leaves an estate of from one to forty thousand pounds a year, not one penny is in this case paid in the shape of tax. They managed that the industrious, and all other classes but their own, should pay sweetly for public misrule. To help themselves still further, they have saddled eight hundred and forty-one of their order upon the nation, under the lucrative title of State Pensioners, whose pensions average £1,876, total, £1,638,371 per annum, not speaking of the thousands of lowergrades of pensioners. I shall conclude this portion of my address to you, by briefly informing you of the expenses of the aristocratic fighting establishment of Great Britain, during thirty years of peace, (both military and naval), – £549,083,112; average per annum, £16,150,000, including the expenses of putting down the Canadian Liberals, and of the Opium War in China. (See Lord John Russell’s speech in the House of Commons, on the 18th of July, 1848.) In short, Madam, if I was to enumerate what I know myself of the extravagant expenditure of the British Aristocratic Government, and of the monopolising systems of Great Britain, you would be astonished how the producers of all the wealth and splendour you have seen in England could exist at all. The Duke of Wellington alone cost the nation £2,762,563, since he entered the army, up to 1818. No wonder that the magnificent edifices, the sumptuous furnishings and embellishments, the beauties of art and nature within and without these edifices, and the amiable demeanour of the crafty ladies of England, have dazzled your eyes, so much so as to throw all republic grandeur, liberty, beauty, and arrangements, completely in the shade of insignificancy. But, Madam, had you made proper enquiry and research, you would have found that all these magnificent superstructures and splendour which rivetted your attention, and brought forth your admiration and superfluity of praise, were founded on American and West Indian slavery, and East Indian plunder, embellished and supplied by home plunder; then you have a fair specimen, rather an ocular demonstration of the sublime and ridiculous – somewhat like what you will find in Spain, Portugal and Italy. There you will find superb mansions, and churches which will surpass any you have seen in England, connected with an institution they call The Holy Inquisition. But in the rear and basement, you may find racks, gags, wheels, and other instruments of punishment; helpless, hopeless victims going through various ordeals of lingering death, and a charnel house to receive them. Let no one suppose that I include the English people in this black catalogue; no, I respect them, for they are the real victims of unnecessary dignity and grandeur.
McLeod Calls Her to Account.
In your perambulation in Scotland, you have seen only one church worthy of your notice, and that same one was faulty, and not one living literary, scientific, or theological gentleman met you, even in Edinburgh, (modern Athens) that was worth mentioning his name, but Doctor Guthrie, a Free Church minister, and Doctor Henderson, a homeopathic physician. Of all the letters you found waiting you in Edinburgh, there were only five of them worthy of your notice, viz: “A very kind and beautiful one from the Duchess of Sutherland, another from her brother the Earl of Carlisle, making an appointment for meeting you as soon as you arrived in London; another from the Rev. Mr. Kingsley and his lady. Letters from Mr. Binney, and Mr. Sherman – all containing invitations to visit them in London.” You say, in writing to your dear sister upon this subject, “As to all engagements, I am in a happy state of acquiescence, having resigned myself as a very tame lion into the hands of my keepers. Whenever the time comes for me to do anything, I will try to behave myself as well as I can, – which, as Dr. Young says, is all an angel can do in the same circumstances.” Oh, Madam, what presumptive comparisons. When God appoints and commissions men or angels to advocate the cause of the oppressed, and preach deliverance to the captive and slave. The oppressors of the people will not be (nor were not) their admired, bosom friends and only associates; they would not be embarrassed, nor would hearken to the flattering correspondence and invitation of Dukes, Duchesses, Earls, nor of such as those who accumulated immense wealth and grandeur by grinding down the faces of the poor and industrious; nor yet would they be coaxed from performing their mission faithfully, by presents of platefulls of glittering gold – long purses, containing unaccounted large amounts of the same precious metal, and boxes of jewelry and diamond bracelets – yes, and costly dresses, not knowing their number. We have an ocular demonstration of this in the behaviour and conduct of men (not speaking of angels), down from Moses to Luther, Calvin and John Knox – men who despised that which you admired – who did not hesitate to proclaim the messages they received from their master to the different Pharoahs they had to contend with in the world, and chose rather to associate with the captives – partake of their suffering and afflictions, than to share in the festivities, sumptuousness, and luxuries of the oppressors. None who will peruse your ‘Sunny Memories’ carefully, but must come to the conclusion, that if ever you received any injunctions from heaven regarding the American slaves, that you have merchandised them. Mr. Gough, the great teetotal advocate and abstainer, hearing of your success, soon followed you to Britain; but what would you think of him yourself, had he made the distillers and brewers of Britain his only bosom associates and co-operators in putting down the vices of intemperance in America or anywhere else..? I say what would you think of him should these gentlemen load him with many thousand sovereigns for praising their mansions, and extensive establishments for manufacturing crime and woe to an extent which would throw the American establishment of the same character into the shade of insignificance; would you yourself consider him worthy [of] the name of a teetotal advocate, or a sympathiser with the victims? I am sorry to say that my view of your movements and manoeuvers in Britain, is a fac simile; only this, that you have received many thousand sovereigns (yes, to an unknown amount), for the express purpose and conditions of emancipating American slaves . What have you done with these immense sums? – not a single dollar of it can be traced to where it was intended, and should be found.
I was present at the great meeting or soiree you had in the Music Hall, Edinburgh, (the seat of learning,) I know that you have been well received there, and almost every body thought you were worthy of it, (I among the rest); a great deal of merited eulogy, and a great deal of what I consider fulsome, blasphemous adulation, were poured out upon you that evening, but all seemed to go down well with you; you were held up by the orators of the evening to the immense assembly as the Angel of Freedom, the Angel of Light, &c. But among the flattering orators there were none worthy of your notice, (as I said before) but Doctor Guthrie! Why? Because he spoke highly of the Duchess of Sutherland. This pays the Doctor well, for when the Duchess comes to Edinburgh, she attends divine worship in the Doctor’s church, the only Free church she ever entered, and she graces the offering plate with two or three sovereigns; she will call upon the Doctor at his house and take him out for an afternoon’s drive in her carriage, and send her compliments to him when in Sutherland (her Highland deer stalking and game preserve estate) in cart loads and hurly loads of deer carcasses and fowl. Her daughters, viz: Duchess of Argyle, and Lady Blantyre, will follow the example of their mother, and the Proprietrix of Cromarty, who is married to her son, Marquis of Stafford, will not be behind any of them. I assure you the Doctor has fine times of it between them all, and bound to praise them well.
But the only portion of his speech on this great eventful, and never-to-be-forgotten occasion, which amused you most was, “In allusion to the retorts which had been made in Mrs. Tyler’s letter to the ladies of England, on the defects in the old country.” You introduced the Doctor to your readers of the ‘Sunny Memories’ as “a tall thin man, with a kind of quaintness in his mode of expressing himself, which sometimes gives an air of drollery to his speaking.” (True indeed, but a good man, and a man I admired much, though he befooled himself that night.) “I do not deny,” he said “but there are defects in our country, what I say of them is this, – that they are incidental very much to an old country like our own, as Dr. Simpson knows very well and so does every medical man, that when a man gets old he gets infirm, his blood vessels get ossified. What is true of an old country is true of old men, and old women too. I am very much disposed to say of this young nation of America, that their teasing with our defects, might just get the answer which a worthy member of the Church of Scotland gave to his son, who was so dissatisfied with the defects in the church, that he was determined to go over to a younger communion – “Ah Sandy, Sandy, man, when your lum reeks as lang as ours, it will maybe need sweeping too.” Now, I do not deny but we need a sweeping; every one knows that I have been singing out about sweeping for the last five years. Let me tell my good friends in Edinburgh and in the country, that the sooner you sweep the better, for the chimney may catch fire and reduce your noble fabric to ashes. He continued and said, “They tell us in that letter about the poor needle-woman that had to work sixteen hours a day, (but the doctor forgot to say for eight pence per day). Tis true,” exclaimed the doctor; “but does our law compel them to work sixteen hours a day; may they not go where they like and get better wages, and better work – can the slaves do that!” Then the doctor went on to detail about ragged children and his own sympathy towards them, and what he had done for them. Now, the doctor was invited to this meeting to speak of the incompatibility of American slavery with Christianity; but he knew better how to please his favourable Duchess than to speak consistently to his text – praising English ladies and justifying the Duchess of Sutherland from charges brought against her and others in the liberal public press of the nation, was his sole object in speaking at the meeting. I really felt sorry for the poor misguided “thin tall” doctor, yet I could not allow him to escape with impunity for his reckless, inconsistent and uncalled-for conduct that night. A few days afterwards, I addressed the following letter to him through the Edinburgh Guardian. You will observe there was some peculiar cause for inviting the doctor to this meeting, and that he was invited at the request of some great personage or another, or he would not be there. He was the only one of that reverend body who was invited, or took any part in the proceedings that night, for this cause: the meeting was got up by the Anti-Slavery Society, who raised such a hue and cry against the Free Church ministers for years before this, for taking money from the American slave-holders to build churches, and Dr. Guthrie was then the Free Church champion – defending their conduct, who, at every meeting, would pin up his opponents to the wall; however, the Anties managed to break down the good and friendly feeling between the Free Church body and the Americans, which I believe, if allowed to continue undisturbed, would have ten times more effect for the emancipation of the slaves, at least of ameliorating their condition, than all the agitation, excitement and novels which have been displayed upon the subject.
To the Editor of the Edinburgh Guardian.
SIR, – You are already aware that the higher a man’s position is in society, and in the estimation of the people, the more dangerous he is when he errs. It is a singular anomaly that the ecclesiastical orators of the platform in our day cannot praise one party enough without calumniating other parties. This I deplore, and gentlemen guilty of such practice should be ashamed of themselves, however much they may be applauded, and whatever amount of merriment they may create at the time; it is passing strange that the Rev. Dr. Guthrie could not praise Mrs. Beecher Stowe enough, a lady who understood so well that she could not serve God in a more acceptable way than to help those who could not help themselves, hence, who merited for herself the gratitude of every sympathiser with suffering humanity; nor yet could he praise God enough, “!for (as he saith) giving us in our day (in the person of that lady) one in whom the finest genius is associated with the purest and truest Piety,” without attacking the memory of Byron and of Burns, two shining men to whom the world are so much indebted, with a view to deteriorate their memory in the estimation of his hearers in the Music Hall on the 19th ultimo. Be ashamed, Doctor, for your hyperbolic assertions; both these valuable men are dead, but still speaking, and their memory is associated with truth, though not with whining hypocrisy, falsifying philosophy, and perverting truth, a trade which pays well in our day, – besides, you have not been long acquainted with Mrs. B. Stowe yet, and you should be more cautious and sparing of praise. In like manner, the Doctor could not praise and make manifest his love to the American people as the greatest and noblest on earth (ourselves excepted) for their pure faith, many Bibles, Family Altars, Free Press, Flags, and peaceable liberty, especially for their soil and air, which, he says, makes extraordinary changes on men, though he never was there, and is not sure what change they would make on him if he went, – I say, he could not do all this without putting his religious iron bull upon the neck of unfortunate people (whose position in life is not their crime, but their misfortune), with a view to sink them lower in the estimation of the world than even Highland and Irish tyrannical landlords and their tools placed them. “Take (said the humane Doctor) an Indolent Celt, let him go to America, he becomes active, – take a wild Irishman, he becomes civilised, – a blind bigoted Papist, his eyes are opened, and he turns his back on Rome. These are facts extraordinary; we pour with many good elements a singular amount of impurity across the Atlantic, but America does not cast it off, it merges, changes, and reforms it like the sea that receives many muddy rivers, but keeps its own bosom clean.” Now, Sir, the Doctor was requested to speak at this meeting to the incompatibility of American Slavery with Christianity, and I tell him that all this unfounded foulsome calumny which he poured out against Highland and Irish Celts, is as incompatible with Christianity as is falsehood with truth, and as American Slavery is with Christianity; and should it be true, it is uncalled for, and out of order, and that it would be more like a minister and expounder of the gospel of truth, if he had said, – take the poor oppressed trodden down Highland Celts who have been ejected from every portion of their fatherland, created by God susceptible to rear food for man, and who were cast upon sterile moors and barren by-corners, to whom every inducement or encouragement for activity and industry in their native land was sternly denied, – let them go to America, where such are cheerfully held out to them, and they will soon become active trustworthy members of society, respected, prosper like other men, and bely their lay and clerical calumniators. He should continue, and say, – take the poor Irish, who could not submit so tamely to oppression, who were often driven to madness by legalised plunderers, – let them go to America, where they are not subject to such ungodly exactions and persecution as in Ireland, and they will soon become as civil, as peaceable, as honest, as easily dealt with, and as industrious as other men (independent of the miraculous efficacy of the soil and air). But the Doctor says their eyes are opened, and they turn their back on Rome, – that is to say, on their father’s religion. I much doubt this applauded assertion. No, Doctor, but their eyes are open, and they turn their backs on the insatiable Erastian Church of England in Ireland, and see themselves out of the reach of her cruel Tithe and Tax Collectors, and far far away from her Rathcormac sabre and batten abettors, where they are not annoyed day and night by her licensed emissaries of discord, who have for centuries kept them and brother Protestants in each other’s throats about religion, and they now find themselves living among people worthy of the name, where every man may believe what he pleases, worship as he pleases; where, if he is a good citizen, none will dispute his right, where every man pays priest or parson, as he pays his tailor and shoemaker, where they can live in harmony among Protestants, Jews, Greeks, Mahometans, Shakers, Jumpers, Latter-Day Saints, &c., and where churches of all denominations are as free as the Doctor’s and mine are. This would be more like Doctor Guthrie, for it is the only cause which he or any one else can assign for the indolent Celt becoming active, and the wild Irishman becoming civilised, and not the mysterious efficacy of the American soil and air. – Where, Doctor, under heaven, will you find better soil and air than in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland. The doctor would have us to believe that he would fight for the American Slaves if he would see any of them set up for sale – (not so fast Doctor); – but, strange to tell, that he is aware that a Highland landlord, a very few years ago, employed constables, policemen and other minions, to apprehend a great number of Highlanders among the rocks and hills, where they fled for safety, to handcuff them, and force them on board an old rotten ship which he hired to carry them away from the land of their birth. and should be aware that the majority of this people perished, houseless, homeless, among snow and frost on the frozen soil, and among the biting air of North America. I never heard that the Doctor found fault with him for this, far less fight with him, although he had only to step over from his own house, with a good cudgel, to St Andrew’s Square, to meet him; but these were Highlanders, and had no claim on the Doctor’s sympathy or interposition; yet, there is no doubt the Doctor will fight, but the Atlantic must be between him and the adversary; he will fight none at home. The slave and pauper makers in Ireland and Scotland, yea, those who dispersed the brave sons of the mountains and valleys of Caledonia, and of Green Erin, to the four winds of heaven, the Doctor will stroke their honourable heads, and clap them gently, exclaiming, you are the blessed, graceful humane ones who are purging our nation from the impure Irish and Scottish Celts, may you be spared to see the consummation of your desire. Hearken to his sorrow for the pitiless storm of unmerited abuse which was poured on the head of a certain noble lady of the Stafford-House meeting, viz: Duchess of Sutherland, and he cries aloud, shame to them who did it. And who would confound the incidental defects of this country, which, he says, [is] becoming so old and infirm, that her blood-vessels are ossified with the deep-stained sins of America. Dear me, Doctor, I thought a little ago that the Americans were most pious; what has become of their pure faith, Bible, and Family Altars? Be that as it may, I am neither ashamed nor afraid to tell you, Doctor, in the face, that if the number could be computed and compared, that Highland and Irish landlords sent more human beings to a premature grave, and caused a greater amount of pining and grief than ever the slave lords of America did since America became a Republic, and that if it was not for America, they would triple the number. Now, hearken to the Doctor’s sympathy with the poor needle woman. He exultingly bawls out at this meeting, – but does our law compel them to work 16 hours a-day. True, Oh, Doctor! it does not but the law of nature does, for they would rather do it than starve, and there is no other alternative; but does that lessen their pain? The Doctor says – can they not go elsewhere and get better wages? – miscalled humanity – how far can penniless, helpless, and unprotected women go in search of work, or of better wages? and where would they go, Doctor? The Doctor says that liberty speaks no tongue but Saxon, and only found among Saxon people. What has become of the Tongues of Hungarian, Italian, and Polish patriots? Oh, Doctor, Doctor, you are away with it now, but with all your fawning and pandering in quest of Aristocratic adulation and honour, the Saxons themselves can scarcely believe you. At present I will leave you by merely advising you not to go to America, especially in an impaired state of health, for fear you may lose your notion of Rags and Soup-Kitchens among the slaves and slave lords of America, and on the Queen’s first visit to Edinburgh, decline to be created Bishop of the Ragged Schools of Scotland, for you really merit the honour. While I join with you in your quotation from the Poet, viz. –
We but ask our rocky strand,
Freedom’s true and brother band,
Freedom’s strong and honest hand;
Valleys by the slave untrod,
And the pilgrim’s mountain sod,
Blessed by our Fathers’ God.2
I pray that their numbers may be few, who will be so unfortunate as to come within the bounds of the Doctor’s sympathy.
Stealing Money from the Slaves’ Charity?
Doctor Guthrie did err in some expressions he made use of at that meeting, and he erred more so in going to the meeting at all, yet I love him and respect him as a Christian minister abd sympathiser with suffering humanity. You would have left him unmentioned as you left the other orators, were it not for his praise of Duchesses and English ladies, and his sarcasm and retorts upon Mrs. Tyler, and you only held his name up for his quaintness and drollery, fearing to offend the English ladies by letting them know that there was any talent in Scotland; but I tell you that it would take all the bishops in England to compose and deliver an address or speech any thing equal to the other more sublime portions of his speech that night. But I will leave the worthy Rev. Doctor; he caught grief enough from his own brethren in the church, and from other quarters, for being at the meeting, and it is a great pity he was there. And I ask you what has become of this money, and what have you done with it – not with this £1,000, but with the many thousands you have got in Scotland and England? Here is the express conditions upon which you got it, from the mouth of Mr. Ballantine, Secretary for the anti-Slavery Society, after detailing the progress of the penny offering at this meeting, he says:- “It was accordingly proposed to appeal to the readers of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Scotland to contribute one penny each to create a fund to be placed in the hands of Mrs. Stowe to be distributed by her for the benefit of the slave, and for the cause of emancipation. That appeal was made, and it has been promptly and cordially responded to. The result of that appeal is now before you – (cheers). I cannot state precisely what amount of money has been collected, as sums are still daily coming in, but up to this hour it presents itself in the form of 1000 sovereigns” – (loud cheering.) I have all their speeches here before me, and in case my readers may think that I am exaggerating the adulation of Mrs. Stowe in Edinburgh, you have a verse here, which, along with other seven verses of the composition, was sung before her by one of the speakers:-
Freedom’s angel now’s come,
Mercy’s sister now’s come:
Grim oppression drees his doom:
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s come.
Would you meet such a reception in Scotland now? No. You have let the veil of deception drop unawares. Now you will excuse me, Madam, for directing your attention to chapter 17 of your ‘Sunny Memories’, where you have attacked me individually, though clandestinely, in order to justify the House and Duchess of Sutherland from the charges brought against them in the American prints. You say – “My Dear C. – As to the ridiculous stories about the Duchess of Sutherland, which found their way into many of the American prints, one has only to be here moving in society to see how excessively absurd they are. In all these circles I have heard the great and noble of the land spoken of and canvassed, and if there had been the shadow of a foundation for any such accusation, I certainly should have heard it recognised in some manner. 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 during the time of the Corn Law reformation, and she has been known to take a wide and generous interest in all these subjects.” Heavens! by whom was she known to be so, Madam, – you have discovered mysteries that were never known before, none under heaven heard it before.
“Go! if your ancient but ignoble blood,
Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood –
Go! and pretend your family is young;
Nor own your fathers have been fools so long.
What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards;
Not all the blood of all the Howards.” – Pope.
Mrs. B S’s Attempts to Defend the Duke and Duchess.
You say, “Imagine, then, what people must think when they find in respectable American prints the absurd stories of her turning her tenants out into the snow, and ordering the cottages to be set on fire over theri 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 Sutherland’s father, in the year 1811, and which was a 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.” You go on then detailing the results of the union of England and Scotland, the situation of the Sutherland estate in the map of the Highlands. You say, “The general agent of the estate of Sutherland is Mr. Loch.” You are right, he was, and you provided a place for his whole speech before the House of Commons, on the second reading of the Scotch Poor Law Bill, June 12th, 1845, where he strenuously endeavoured to vindicate and exonerate himself and His Grace of Sutherland from the charges of cruelty and injustice to the people, brought against them in that House on that occasion by Mr. Crawford. No wonder that he exerted himself that day to silence his opponents, and to dupe the House. He was 21 years a member in the House for the Northern Boroughs, and this is the only speech of his which found its way to the public prints, or considered worthy of being borrowed or copied by any other print. (The honour of it was left for you alone Madam.) If I am not mistaken the very day this speech was delivered in the House of Commons, the case of a poor cripple[d] woman, from the parish of Farr, Sutherlandshire, was decided against His Grace, in the Court of Session, Edinburgh, and I had 71 more cases from his estate at the same time, in the hands of a solicitor, all pursuing his Grace for the support the law of the land provided for them, but denied them. Yet I find in your quotations from Mr. Loch’s speech, this – “Therefore the statements that 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 to see the state of the people, and he shall judge with his own eyes whether my representation be not correct * * * But I will not trouble the House * * * the statements I have made are accurate, and I am quite ready to prove them, any way that is necessary.” To follow this trumpeted up speech of Mr. Loch in your ‘Sunny Memories,’ would be lost time, and abuse of ink, paper, and type. Every Highlander over which he had any control, or had the least transaction with him, knew him to be the greatest deceiver, and the most avowed enemy of the Celtic race that ever existed; hence I will confine myself to a few remarks which will be corroborated by hundreds of living witnesses. “In the years 1812-13 and 1816-17, so great was their misery, that it was necessary to send down oatmeal for their supply, to the amount of £2,200, and that given to them.” (The phrase signifies gratis.) I know meal was sent these years to the amount of nearly one third of the stated amount; but I know for a certainty that the people had to pay this trumpeted-up charity at the rate of £2 8s. sterling per boll.3 I knew my own father to pay it with cattle, and on the least calculation he handed over to his Grace, or his factor, eight pounds of good Highland beef for every pound of coarse oatmeal he received three months prior; and so did every one, who paid for that meal in kind. His Grace’s liberality to kirk sessions, and the poor viz. “£450-a-year;” to say the least, this is monstrous exaggeration. He says, “before 1812 there were no bakers, and only two shops in the county, and two blacksmiths.” Now Madam, I can tell you, (and hundreds will back me) that before 1812 there were thousands of bakers in Sutherlandshire, and had plenty to bake, and that for time immemorial prior to that date, they never needed charity or supply of oatmeal from their chiefs or any one else. Prior to 1812, and as long as I can remember, there were 26 shops in the county, and 31 blacksmiths. There was scarcely a parish in the county but there were two blacksmiths employed. The Sutherland people never knew what want was, until they became subjected to Loch’s iron sway. You go on and say, “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 so industriously circulated in America: these were dreadful accounts of cruelties practised, in the process of inducing the tenants to change their places of residences.” 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 bedridden woman, of near one hundred years of age, none of the family being at home. I informed the party about to set fire to the house of the circumstance, and prevailed on them to stop till Mr. Sellar would come; on his arrival, I told him of the poor old woman being in a condition unfit for removal. He replied, ‘Damn her, 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 out of the flames and smoke, presenting a picture of horror which I shall never forget, but cannot attempt to describe: she died in five days.”
“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 me, wherein Mr. Sellar is accused of acts of cruelty toward 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 paper, I can now state that the Duke of Sutherland has received from one of the most determined opposers of the measure, 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 misinformed. 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 was a bad one, the Duchess of Sutherland had nothing to do with it, since it was first 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 arrangement 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 civilisation, and elevating in a few years a whole community to a point of education and material prosperity which, unassisted, they might never have obtained.”
Yes, Madam, a “sublime instance,” you say, “of the benevolent employment of superior wealth and power in shortening the struggles of advancing civilisation.” I say yes, indeed, the shortest process of civilisation we have recorded in the history of nations. (Oh marvellous!) From the year 1812 to 1820, the whole interior of the county of Sutherland, whose inhabitants were advancing 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 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; when rejoicing, felicity, happiness, and true piety prevailed; where the marshal 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 not 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 circumference, which came under the plough for the last thirty years, except a few parishes of Lairg and Tongue, – all under mute brute animals. This is the advancement of civilisation, 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 abridgement of my lucubrations are now in the hands of the public, and you may peruse them. I stand by them as facts, (stubborn cheils,4) I can prove them to be so, even in this country, by a cloud of living witnesses, and my readers will find that, instead of bringing excessive absurd accusations against he 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 expostulate with the house of Sutherland for their shortsighted 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 plain name, Donald McLeod, attached to each letter, and a copy of the public paper where it appeared, directed and sent by post to the Duke of Sutherland. These exposing and remonstrating letters were published in the Edinburgh papers where the Duke and his predecessors had their principal Scotch law agent, and you may easily believe that I was closely watched, so as to find one false accusation in my letters, but they were baffled. I am well aware that every one letter I have written on the subject would constitute a true libel, and I knew the editors, printers, and publishers of these papers were as liable or responsible for true 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 $4.50, for binding one of them in 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 perused it. I posted a copy of it to Mr. Loch, his chief commissioner; to Mr. W. Mackenzie, his chief lawyer, Edinburgh; and to every one of their underlings, and sheep farmers, and ministers in the county of Sutherland who abetted the depopulators, and I challenge the whole of them and other literary scourges who aided and justified their unhallowed doings, to gainsay one statement I have made. Can you, or any other believe, that a poor sinner like Donald McLeod 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 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 has 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 underlings. I know every one of these wicked 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 in other words, damnable Donald, the name by which he was known. The most part of those vile executors of the atrocities I have been describing are now dead, and to be feared but not lamented. But it seems the chief were 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 management of the Sutherland estate, that he found 408 families on the estate who never heard the name of Jesus,” – whereas I could make an 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 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 witnessed. I may say the skeleton of once a 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, tein‘!, tein‘! – oh God, God, fire, fire! When she came to the pure air her bosom heaved to a most extraordinary degree, accompanied by a deep hollow sound from the 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 your information and evidence upon which you founded your Uncle Tom’s cabin from such discreditable sources, (as I said before), who can believe the one-tenth of your novel? I cannot. I have at my hand here the grand-child of the murdered old woman, who recollects well of the circumstance. I have not far from me a respectable man, and elder in the Free Church, who was examined as a witness at Sellar’s trial, at the spring assizes of Inverness, 1816, which you will find narrated in letters four and five of my work. I think, Madam, had you the opportunity of seeing the scenes which I, and hundreds more, have seen, and see the appearance 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; when this fiendish party found any quantity of meal, they would carry it between them to the brink, and dispatch it down the precipice amidst shrieks and yells; this 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. I assure you the Dukes and Duchesses of Sutherland had no need to try their hand at burning houses while James Loch, William Young, Patrick Sellar, Francis Suther, John Horseburgh, Captain Kenneth McKay, and Angus Leslie were alive, nor while George Loch, George Gunn, and Robt. Horseburgh, &c., is alive. Mr. Seller (as I said before) was brought to trial for culpable homicide and fire-raising; and those dog, cat, and hen murderers who acted under him and took act and part with him were the exculpatory witnesses, who saved his neck from a sudden jerk, or himself from teasing oakum in the hulks for many years. As to this vaunted letter his “Grace received from one of the most determined opposers of the measures, who travelled in the north of Scotland as editor of a newspaper regretting all that he had written on the subject, 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 Mullock, he came to Scotland a fanatic speculator 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 did, he made a splendid and promising appearance in the northern papers for some time, but he found out that the money expected was not coming in, and he found 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 apologizing 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 but it was, for his apology for the sin of misinformation got wide circulation.
He then went to France and started an English paper in Paris, and for the service he rendered Napoleon in crushing rebublicanism during the besieging of Rome, &c., the Emperor presented him with a Gold Pin, and in a few days afterwards sent a Gendarme to Mullock 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, portraying the scenes of havoc and misery which in 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 oppression, leads by sure and inevitable results, yea to the ruin and destruction of the blind and misguided oppressors themselves. I consider the Duke himself victimised on a large scale by an incurable wrong system and by being enthralled by wicked counsellors, and servants. I have no hesitation in saying, had his Grace and his predecessors, bestowed one half of the encouragement they had bestowed upon strangers, upon 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, Balmoral, and far safer than she is in her English home, Buckingham Palace; every man and son of Sutherland would be ready, as in the days of yore, to shed the last drop of blood in defence of their patron, if required. Congratulations, rejoicings, dancing to the marshal notes of the pipes, would meet them at the 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 land marks 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 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 the Marquises and Dukes of the house of Sutherland have been duped, and victimized to a most extraordinary and incredible extent, and we have Mr. Loch’s own words for it in his speech in the House of Commons, June 21st, 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, 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 preserve 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), I say the expelling of the people from their Glens and Straths, and huddling them in motely groups on the sea-shores, and barren moors, and to keep them alive there, and to make them willing to be banished from the nation, when they thought proper, or when they could get a haul of the public money, to pay their passage to America or Australia,cost them a great deal. This fabulous incredible munificence of their Graces to the people, I will leave the explanation of what it was, how it was distributed, and the manner in which payment and refunding of the whole of it was exacted off the people, to my former description of it in this work; yet I am willing to admit that a very small portion, if any, of the refunding of the amount sent down, ever reach[ed] the Duke’s of the Marquis’s coffers, which is easily understood by not granting receipts for it. Whatever particle of good the present Duke might feel inclined to do, will be ever frustrated by the counteracting energy of a prominent evil principle; I knew the adopting and operations of the Loch policy towards the Sutherland peasantry, cost the present Duke and his father many thousands of pounds, and, I predict, will continue to cost them on a large scale while a Loch is at the head of their affairs, and principal adviser. Besides how may they endanger what is far more valuable than gold and silver; for those who are advised by men who never sought counsel or advice from God, all their lifetime, as their work will testify, do hazard much, and are trifling with omniscience.
You should be surprised to hear and learn, Madam, for what purposes the most of the money drained from the Duke’s coffers yearly are expended, since he became the Duke and proprietor of Sutherland, and 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 fresh water lakes, rivers, and creeks, teeming with the finest salmon and trout fish in the world, guarding them from the famishing people, even during the years of famine and dire distress, when many had to subsist upon weeds, sea ware, and shellfish, yet guarded and preserved for the amusement of English anglers; and what is still more heart-rending, 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, but durst not touch them, or if they did and found out, to jail they were conducted, or removed summarily from his Grace’s domains; (let me be understood, these gentlemen had no use of the fish, only killing them for amusement, only what they required for their own use, and complimented to the factors, they were not permitted to cure them).
You will find, Madam, that about three miles from Dunrobin Castle there is a branch of the sea which extends up the county about six miles, where shellfish called mussels, abounds; here you will find there are two sturdy men, called mussel bailiffs, supplied with rifles and ammunition and as many Newfoundland dogs as assistants, watching the mussel scalp, 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 shellfish, when many hundreds of people would be thankful for a diet per day of them, to pacify the cravings of nature. You will find the unfortunate native fisherman who pays a yearly rent to his Grace for bait, that they 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 fisherman’s wives going on a snowy, frosty day, to gather bait, but on account of the boisterous sea, could not reach the place appointed by the factors; and 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, [the] other turned round to see what happened, and he pushed her back with such force that she fell her whole length; he then trampled their baskets and mussels to atoms, and took them both prisoners, ordered one to go and 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 consultation 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 the snow, until Marshal Gunn found it convenient to appear to 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 attended 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 as 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 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 shellfish, which, fortunately for the poor people, are not forbidden by a Loch Ukase.5 But in the years of distress, when the people were principally living upon vegetables, sea weeds and shellfish, various diseases made their appearance among them, hitherto unknown. The absence of meal of any kind being considered the primary cause; some of the people thought they would be permitted to exchange shellfish for meal with their more fortunate neighbours in Caithness, to whom such shellfish 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, were at once place upon it, and the Caithness boats had to return home with the meal, and the duke’s people might die or live, as they best could. Now, Madam, you have3 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 talent in the same strain,) would it not be more like a noble pair, who, (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 – ECCLES. iv.1.
“The wretch that works and weeps without relief
Has one that notices his silent grief.
He, from whose hands alone 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 is by nature a simple-minded man) believe his servants are innocent of all the charges brought against them, and doing justice to himself and to his people, when they are doing the greatest injustice to both; so that instead of calling his servants to account at any time, and enquiring into the broad charges brought against them – as every wise landlord should do – it seems the greater the enormities of foul deeds they commit, and the louder their accusation may sound through the land, the farther they are received into his favour. The fact is, that James Loch was Duke of Sutherland, and not the “tall, slender man with rather a thin face, light brown hair, and mild blue eyes” who armed you up the extraordinary elegant staircase in Stafford House: and Geordy Loch, his son, succeeded his father, and the duke will have no more control over him than he had over the old fox. The Duke of Sutherland neither need foreign or home eulogisers, were it not for the unhallowed crew he has chosen to manage his affairs. Read the following humble appeal of his grace for a certificate of character. In the year 1848,
“Duke of Sutherland, and those entrusted with the management of his vast possessions, preferred a somewhat queer request to the Highland Distribution Committee, viz. for ‘the service of the Committee’s staff’ to report whether he, [his grace] had adequately fulfilled his self-imposed responsibilities.”
That the Duke should require a certificate of good behaviour towards his people is undoubtedly a little odd indeed, and at the expense of a public charity; but such was the case, and Captain Elliot, Inspector General of the Board, received orders “to attend to the duke’s wishes.” The result of the Captain’s mission to Sutherland was a high-flown report, extolling the ducal bounty towards his Sutherlanders, which utterly excluded the necessity of any aid from the Committee, although he knew well that hundreds of bolls of the charity meal were there at that time, but which was studiously kept out of view, that the duke might have the honour and praise of supporting his people. But what was my surprise to find in the next published proceedings of the Committee, a correspondence with Mr. Loch, M.P., the duke’s premier, who put the Committee in mind that his grace had formerly subscribed £1000 to the fund, and conjoined with this reminiscence, a supplication to the committee to grant his noble employer the sum of £3500 to help towards the relief of the poor people of Sutherland. Subsequently the duke’s petition was acceded to, with this preconcerted modification, namely, that the money was not to be expended for the relief of the poor Sutherlanders, but “on the formation of a road bisecting his grace’s territory in the most favourable direction,” (Mr. Loch’s own words.) The premier goes then to prove the vast utility of the road in question, (planned by himself, and to be executed by the Committee,) it being designed to stretch from Inchnadamp in Assynt, to the boundary of the county of Caithness. Now, Madam, I can tell you, and hundreds of my countrymen in Canada , and thousands of them at home can tell you, (as I have said before) that not one single native of Sutherland will ever reap any benefit of this road, every inch of it going through a solitary wilderness, and deer forests, where men are forbidden to travel, – exclusively for the benefit of his grace’s deer stalkers, game keepers, and shepherds.
It is evident from the above correspondence between the dishonourable Celtic hater and destroyer, Mr. Loch, and the audacious trust betraying, base, Edinburgh Committee, that there was pre-arrangement between the unprincipled parties to increase his grace’s riches, with £3500 of poor famishing people’s money. Yes, with a sum which would make 3400 destitute families sing for joy by the distribution of this amount among them. (Another report which was latterly published in the Edinburgh papers, states that his grace got £6000.) These are undeniable facts; but who can believe that it could be endured in christianised Scotland; that an owner of such large possessions should be so unscrupulously voted such a sum, out of the funds gathered from the benevolent in every quarter of the globe. Did Scotch private soldiers under the tropics subscribe out of their scanty pay, to enable the notorious Mr. Skene, and his committee, to take the free gift of £6000, or even £3500 of the relief distribution money to make a road from inchnadamp, in Assynt, to Caithness, exclusively for his own use, or to any other HIghland proprietor; yet according to the reports of the infamous committee, obscure as they were studiously kept, they show that after the ducal and lordly gifts were granted, the net balance at the credit of the Treasurer was £38,000, and the bulk of this balance in hand was dedicated to the relief of Highland distressed proprietors, leaving a discretionary power with themselves [the committee] to hand it over to those who they in their judgment considered most needful and deserving: (but the short of it is, to their own nearest relations and greatest favourites.) Of this sum we find in their own reports that Dundonnell, a Rosshire proprietor, got £1756: we have Mr. Skene’s (a distant relative of Dundonnell) own words for it as “bonus on account of the great outlay as an individual proprietor had made, and £1500 for road making.” Then pleasingly writes the accommodating Secretary, Skene, to the Highland road requiring proprietors, “The broad offer to contribute one third of the expenses in meal, although I doubt not if money would be preferred this would be no obstacle.” That roads were and are needed in the Highlands none will deny, and that able bodied men in want, and could not get employment should work at these roads none should oppose. But I strenuously contend that if men were required to render a full amount of labour, they were entitled to an equitable proportion of wages. It was monstrous to administer a fund unconditionally subscribed for the relief of the destitute, upon the principle that the poor creatures were to be fully worked, and in requittal, were to be only half fed. Never was there a more fatal failure, than in the mal-administration of that magnificent fund intended for the relief and welfare of the afflicted Highland population. Never were the malversation of Highland proprietors and underlings, more odiously discerned and exhibited to the world than in this case. Not being satisfied plundering the people by every system and plan that the Satanic council could devise, against which the people contended for at least this last seventy years, struggling against many adverse circumstances, casualties of the season, and tyrannical exactions, often in want, but not repining or complaining, until ultimately they became helpless, and as it were, fell into the slough of despondency, en masse; when their long endurance came to an end, despair took hold of their souls, and clamour for food was the result; appeal after appeal was made to the public in their behalf, which was responded to; yet when a christian world came in a glorious manner to their rescue from death by famine, we find a set of rapacious Highland proprietors coming forward and placing their unhalloweed hands upon the world’s gift, and as if they in audible terms or words swore by heaven, we shall not allow this. Neither they did, for by examining minutely the distribution of the fund you will find that they pocketed two-thirds of the whole: int he first place, they got three-fourths of the meal bought for the people, to improve their estates, and they exacted (agreeable to the Trevellyan test scheme) ten hours labour for every pound of adulterated meal. Now, taking able bodied men’s wages at the lowest figure, 1s. 6d. per day, you find the lairds gained 1s. 6d. per day of every man they employed, besides reaping the benefits of the improvements. Then the road-making gifts, which they let to the competition of needy and greedy unfeeling contractors, where men were not much better paid nor dealt with than they were with the lairds – just a bare subsistence. Ah! what a fortunate famine this was for the Highland proprietors, especially to those of extensive domains, and favourites of Mr. Skene and his committee I assure you they should pray for a return of it every seven years.
Now, Madam, I am about done with you at this time, but before closing I would ask you, can you believe that the proprietor of Stafford House, which you have so elaborately portrayed, whose elegance and sumptuousness threw all the grandeur which ever you have seen in America into insignificance, and which threw yourself into a nervous rapture of admiration, which you could not withstand, until the proprietrix mistress of the robe conveyed you to a private room, and eased you by whispering in your ear, “Dear me, Mrs. Stowe, be not concerned so much or so much embarrassed in your mind, at the sight of this select company and of the splendour of the house; I assure you, though beautiful, we are not angels, we are all mortal beings; and though the house is splendid it is not heaven, but earthly materials,” or some soothing words to that effect, that brought you back again to your senses. I say could, or can you believe that if there was the least spark of the grace of God in the soul of His Grace the Duke of Sutherland, and his Duchess, or yet of humanity and common honesty, would they lower and degrade their position in society, their name and titles among the nobles, so as to become the most conspicuous among these villainous Highland plunderers of the poor, and receive double the amount of any of the rest, of the booty? No, Madam, neither could I believe it myself, were it not that I knew the simple minded duke, in all his affairs is advised by the vilest of the vile, and the lowest of the low in principle.
These are stern facts, I must allow, but they are beyond contradiction, and should not be concealed, but merit universal reprobation and public censure. Public confidence has been shamefully abused, the poor have been cheated, degraded, and I may say demoralised; the funds intended and provided for the indigent poor have been squandered upon a needless useless staff of pampered officials, and HIghland proprietors. You may praise them, and admire them and their palaces as much as you please, but the denunciations of the sacred volume condemn the oppressors of the poor, their abettors and apologisers, to their faces, and you cannot silence them. Should such calamity overtake the Highlanders again, where will they look for commiseration or aid after this iniquitousabuse? I answer, let them trust in God, as Cromwell used to say, and keep their powder dry; I say let them take what they can get, and where they can get it. Let them not leave a bull, cow, or bullock; ram, sheep, or lamb; deer, or roe; clackcock, hen, or pheasant; moor-cock, hen, or snipe, &c., feeding and fattening upon the straths and glens which should be rearing corn and cattle for them and families: and take all the salmon and trout which is provided for them in the rivers and lakes upon which they can lay hands on, muscles and cockles to boot, (“Hunger,” say a Highland proverb, has “long arms,” and Bacon says “rebellion of the belly is worst,”) and then their spoilers and monopolizers of every provision God has provided for the Celtic race in the Highlands of Scotland, will soon come to their right senses. I see no other alternative, unless the nation will step in and demand retribution for past wrongs, and secure justice for the people in future? hundreds will confer upon me a derisive laugh, and bawl out Utopianism. But allow me to allude to an historical parallel. After the conquest, the Norman kings afforested a large portion of the soil of conquered England, in much the same way as the landlords are now doing in the Highlands of Scotland. To such an extent was this practice carried on, that an historian informs us, that in the reign of King John, “the greater part of the kingdom” was turned into forest, and that so multiform and oppressive were the forest laws, that it was impossible for any man who lived within the boundaries to escape falling a victim to them. To prepare land for these forests, the people were required to be driven, in many cases, as in the Highlands, at the point of the bayonet; and notwithstanding what Voltaire has said to the contrary, cultivated lands were laid waste, villages were destroyed, and the inhabitants extirpated. Distress ensued, and discontent followed as natural consequences. But observe, the Norman kings did all this in virtue of their feudal supremacy; and in point of law and right, were better entitled to do it than the Highland lairds are to imitate their example in the present day. Was it, however, to be tolerated? Were the people to groan for ever under his oppression? No. The English Barons gave a practical reply to these questions at Runnymede, which it is unnecessary to detail. King John did cry out utopian at first, but was compelled to disafforest the land, and restore it to its natural and appropriate use; and the records of that great day’s proceedings are universally esteemed as one of the brightest pages in English history. With this great example before their eyes, let the most conservative pause before they yield implicit faith in the doctrine that every one of them may do with his land as he pleases. The fundamental principle of land tenure are unchanged since the days of Magna Carta; and however much the tendency of modern ideas may have cast these principles into oblivion, they are still deeply graven in the constitution, and if necessity called, would be found as strong and operative in the present day as they were five centuries ago. If the barons could compel the sovereign to open his forests, surely the sovereign may more orderly compel the barons to open theirs, and restore them to their natural and appropriate use; and there is a power behind the throne which impels and governs all. These are deep questions that should be stirred in the country, in the midst of extremities and abuse of power. For it is impossible for any one to travel in the Highlands of Scotland, and cast his eyes about him without feeling inwardly that such a crisis is approaching, and indeed consider it should arrive long ago. Sufferings have been inflicted in the Highlands as severe as occasioned by the policy of the brutal Norman kings in England; deer have extended ranges, while men have been hunted within a narrower and still narrower circle. The strong has fainted in the race for life; the old have been left to die. One after another of their liberties have been cloven down. To kill a fish in the stream, or a wild beast in the hill is a transportable crime, even in the time of famine. Even to travel through the fenceless forest is a crime; paths which at one time linked hamlet to hamlet for ages have been shut and barred. These oppressions are daily on the increase, and if pushed much further, (I should say if not speedily and timely pushed back) it is obvious that the sufferings of the people will reach a pitch, when action will be the plainest duty, and the most sacred instinct. To prevent such forbidden calamity, permit me to address a few lines to Her Majesty.
Address to Queen Victoria.
Come Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Ireland; thou, the most beloved of all Sovereigns upon earth, in whose bosom and veins the blood of the Stuarts, the legitimate Sovereigns of Scotland is freely circulating; who hath endeared thyself to thy Celtic lieges in a peculiar manner, stretch forth thy Royal hand to preserve that noble race from extirpation, and becoming extinct, and to protect them from the violence, oppression, and spoilation to which they have been subjected for many years. Bear in mind, that this is the race in whom your forefathers confided, entrusted and depended so much at all times, especially when a foreign invader threatened and attempted to take possession of the Scotch throne; and never trusted to them in vain. And though they unfortunately divided, upon which of the Stuart family was to rule over them, and much valuable blood shed on that account; yet the impartial investigator into that affair will find the zeal, patriotism and loyalty of each party meriting equal praise and admiration, though the butchers, and literary scourges of the defeated party converted the praise and loyalty due to them, into calumny and abuse. But these gloomy days of strife and murder are over, and the defeated consider that they sustained no loss but that they gained much; and I assure you majesty that your name is now imprinted upon every Scotch Highlander’s heart in letter more valuable than gold, and that the remnant of them still left, are as willing and as ready to shed their blood for the honour and dignity, of your crown, and the safety of your person and family, as their fathers were for your grandsires. Then allow not this noble race to be extirpated, nor deteriorated in their soul, mind, chivalry, character, and persons; allow it not, your majesty, to be told in “Gath,” nor published in the streets of Askelon, that other nations have to feed and keep alive your Highland Scotch warriors, while you require their service in the battle field; while the nursery where these brave men, who carried many a laurel to the British crown fro foreign strans, are now converted to game preserves, hunting parks, and lairs for wild animals. Come then, like a God fearing, God loving and Christian queen; like a subject-loving and beloved Sovereign, and demand the restitution of their inalienable rights to your Highland lieges, and the restoration of the Highland straths and glens to their natural and appropriate use. Examine like “Ahasuerous,” the book of records of the chronicles, and find what service the Highlanders rendered you and your forefathers, and how they are requited. “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” and “how can you endure to see the destruction of your kindred?” people, and then like good Queen Esther, declare boldly and publicly that you shall not have a Hamanite, or a Hamanitess about your person, in your household, or in your council. I know many of them will raise a Rob Roy cry, when the real owner of the cattle he has taken away, came and got possession of them, (I am plundered of my just rights.) Highland proprietors hold the lands and other rights they plundered of the people, on the principle that Rob Roy maintained his right to the catt;e he stole from his distant neighbour in Badenoch. But the day is drawing nigh when these rank delusions in high quarters will be dispelled. It is a Satanic imposture, that the stewardship of God’s soil is freely convertible into a mischievous power of oppressing the poor. The proper use of property is to make property useful; where this is not done, it were better for land owners to have been born beggars, than to live in luxury while causing the wretched to want and weep. I know that if our Sovereign Lady was to make such a demand as this, that she would incur the ire and displeasure of the turf and sporting classes, (a consuming but not a producing body) the most destructive, vicious, cruel, disorderly, unvirtuous, revelling, and the mostuseless of all her Majesty’s subjects. On the other hand her Majesty would gain for herself the praise and admiration of all the most wise, prudent, liberal, humane, virtuous and most exemplary of the nation; the blessings of the people and of heaven would rest upon her, and remain with her, and Highland proprietors, their children, and children’s children would have cause to hold her name and memory in grateful recollection. Their estates would in a few years double their rents, and they and their heirs would be redeemed from insolvency, and secured from beggary. The poor law would become a dead letter. The poaching game law expenditure, along with many other unrighteous laws, which are hanging heavily upon the nation, would fall to disuse; the people would prosper,a nd nothing would be lost but hunting grounds for the younger brancheso f aristocracy and English snobs, and that same could easily be supplied by Her Majesty directing the attention of this cruel, cowardly class to the Hudson’s Bay and Nor’ West Territories, where they might have plenty of useful sport, destroying animals much of their own disposition, though not half so injurious. In concluding this long letter to you Madam [back to Mrs. BS], permit me to tell you my opinion of you on your landing in Britain, after taking notice of the parties who invited you, and with whom you have associated, and the parties you have shunned, as if unclean or unworthy of your society and countenance. I concluded at once your service for the emancipation of the American claves was for ever lost, and not only lost, but be the means to screw their chains tighter than ever they were before. Is there a class under heaven this day more unlikely to have any influence over the minds of republic Americans than English inhuman, ambitious, slave making aristocracy? I answer, no, no! Hence I was convinced that English gold was your main object. But had you come to Britain, and got up an Uncle Donald, Uncle Jack, and Uncle Geordy’s Cabin, where you would not need colouring, nor steep your brains to get up sublime falsehood, and impossible achievements of runaway slaves, where the naked unvarnished truths were more than could be believed. Then to return with these British cabins to the United States you would have a good chance to reap as rich a harvest of them in the States, as you have reaped of Uncle Tom in Britain, and establish your name and memory immortal and unsullied. Forming these opinions, I published the following letter in the “Northern Ensign” newspaper, Wick, and addressed a copy of it to you:-
Letter to the Northern Ensign.
SIR. – I my last, of the 18th ult. [ultimo mense (previous month)], upon the late member for the Northern Burghs, I stated that I was not half through, but that I would need to forbear. The Stafford House meeting has diverted my attention at present from following up the subject as I intended, so as to make the best use I can of this aristocratic movement in behalf of the African slaves while it was warm before the public. Many thanks to you and your Perth correspondent for your talented comments upon the hollow hypocrisy of this meeting and the injurious effects ti will have, if their (so called) Christian affectionate address, headed by the Duchess of Sutherland, her two daughters of Argyle and Blantyre, Duchess of Bedford, Lady Yrevellyan, Lady John Russell, and many more, be presented to their sisters, the ladies of America.
I believe your Perth correspondent has given us the true brief version or exact reply of the American ladies to this affectionate address – ‘Look at home.’ But I must go further and instruct the American ladies in what they should tell their English sisters to look at, at home. Not with a view to justify the American traffic in human beings – God forbid, but merely to tell them that they can meet this feminine, English, Christian, affectionate appeal, with the same argument that the Cannibal Queen met a French philosopher when he was remonstrating with her upon the hateful, horrifying, and forbidden practice of eating human flesh, and recommending her to discontinue and forbid the practice in her dominions. ‘Well,’ replied the Cannibal Queen, ‘Volaire, what is the difference between your people and us? You kill men, and allow them to rot; we kill men, and to crown our victory we eat them, and we find them as good for food as any other flesh; besides, our law demands of us to eat our enemies.’ Now, Sir,… the American ladies may justly reply and ask their English sisters, ‘What is the difference between you and us? We buy black African slaves; but when we buy them, we feed, clothe and house them. No doubt some of us whip them at times for disobedience or for our own caprice; but we heal their stripes, and take care of them, that they may do our work. But you, English sisters, you make white slaves paupers and beggars; and when you make them this, by depriving them of all means to live by their own industry, then you turn them adrift – you raze, plough-up, or burn down their habitations, and allow them to die (in hundreds,) the agonizing, lingering death of starvation on the road-sides, ditches, and open fields. Dear sisters, look at the history of Ireland for the last six or seven years, and you will see how many thousands you have allowed to die by hunger; and consider how many thousands more you would have allowed to die a similar death, had we not come to their rescue, and sent them food until we could remove them from your tender mercy and from your territories, to feed, clothe, andhouse them, and to find employment and fair remuneration for their labour among ourselves. Look for instance at an Irishman arraigned at the bar of justice for sheep- stealing, and his counsel offering to prove that before he stole the sheep, three of his children perished for want of food, and in the case of the last of them who died a sucking infant, the mother peeled the flesh off its legs and arms; she boiled it, and both she and her husband (the prisoner) ate it to save their own lives, and the mother died soon after. At this time you, our English Sisters, were riding upon chariots, rolling smoothly over your exensive, uncultivated, depopulated domains, upon the wheels of splendour, and cushions of the finest texture, and your husbands, sons, and daughters sharing of your festivities, luxuries, and unnecessary grandeur; expending more money and human food upon useless dogs and horses than would have saved thousands of tghe poor useful Irish (with the image of God upon them) from a premature agonizing death. We have read with horror of one of your husbands urging with might and main upon the government (who bestirred themselves at the time for fear the famine might cause disease among the Irish landlords,) to feed the people with curry powder; and you must recollect, when the curry podwer scheme of destroying the Irish could not be approved of, that Sir A. Trevellyan was sent over to Ireland with the test starving commission, and conducted the Irish destruction with more humanity, for he allowed one pound of meal as meat and wages for every starving Irishman who would work ten hours per day at making roads, draining, and improving the estates of Irish landlords. Ah! English sisters, though we could bring no more against you, the public will judge and decide that you should be the defenders, and not the pursuers, int his case; but since you began to expose us, we will expose you to the letter, for there is no case or cases brought out against us in ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ will all Harriet Beecher Stowe’s capabilities of colouring, that is equal to this. We tell you emphatically that our law would neither sanction or tolerate such inhuman cruelty – our religion forbids it; and that any man or number of men who would be guilty of such would be branded with infamy and chased from our states and from our societies as inhuman, irrational, irreligious, and immoral monsters, unworthy of christian society, or to have a voice in the civil or religious government of our country. But by taking a retrospective view of the history of your christianized nation, we find that inhumanity, oppression, cruelty, and extortion, are qualifications required to fit a legislator, commander, commissioner, or any other functionary to whom you may safely entrust the law making, the law administration, and the government of your people; but qualifications specially required to entitle them to dignified high sounding titles and distinction, as will be shown afterwards.’
‘ “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” has aroused the sympathy and compassion of the Duchess of Sutherland, Argyle, Bedford, and LAdies Blantyre and Trevellyan, and many thousands of the women of England, over the fate of Ham’s black children. But we would seriously advise the Duches of Sutherland and her host to pause until Uncle Donald McLeod’s Cabin comes out, and until he himself comes across the Atlantic with it among the thousands of those and their offsprings who have fled from their iron sway and slavery to our shores. He, poor man, has been expostulating with you for the last twenty years against your cruel, unnatural, irrational, unchristian, and inhuman treatment of the brave, athletic, Highland white sons of Japhet, but no English or Scottish Duchesses and Ladies took any notice of him, nor convened a meeting to sympathise with him or to remonstrate with HIghland despotic slave-making proprietors to discontinue their unrighteous depopulation of the country, and their ungodly draining away of the best blood from the nation. Hence we aver that these ladies would never convene a sympathising meeting for the benighted Africans, should their own African Chiefs, kings, and queens destroy them by the thousand; but because they seel them, and we buy them and take care of them, English feminine hearts sympathise with them. This is a fine opportunity for Donald McLeod. Let him now speak out, and make haste, and we promise him a quick and an extensive sale for his Cabin of unvarnished facts.’
The Duchess of Sutherland got very warm on the subject. After she read the sympathising remonstrating address (which need not be quoted here, being long ago before the public), she with great emphasis said, ‘I hope and believe that our efforts, under God’s blessing, will not be without some happy result; but whether it will succeed or fail, no one willd eny that we shall have made an attempt, which had for its beginning and end, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace and good will to men.” ‘ It seems that effrontery is become very lofty and high-voiced under the protection of hish-sounding English titles, when the Duchess of Sutherland could presume to mix such notorious hypocritical whinings as these with, ‘Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will to men,’ for no other cause or design than to whitewash fro some public odium already out, or to screen from some that is expected, come from what quarter it may. Surely this cannot be the Duchess of Sutherland who pays a visit every year to Dunrobin Castle, who has seen and heard so many supplicating appeals presented to her husband by the poor fishermen of Golspie, soliciting liberty to take mussels from the Little Ferry Sands to bait their nets – a liberty which they were deprived of by his factors, though paying yearly rent for it; yet returned by his Grace; with the brief deliverance, that he could do nothing for them. Can I believe that this is the same personage who can set out from Dunrobin Castle (her own Highland seat), and after travelling from it, then can ride in one direction over thirty miles, in another direction forty-four miles, in another direction (by taking the necessary circuitous route) sixty miles, and that over fertile glens, valleys, and straths, bursting with fatness, which gave birth to, and where were reared for ages, thousands of the bravest, the most moral, virtuous, and religious men that Europe could boast of; ready to a man, at a moment’s warning from their chiefs, to rise in defence of their king, queen, and country; animated with patriotism and love to their chief and irresistable in the battle contest for victory. But these valiant men had then a country, a home, and a chief, worth the fighting for. But I tell her that she can now ride over these extensive tracts in the interior of the country without seeing the image of God upon a man travelling these roads, with the exception of a wandering Highland shepherd, wrapped up in a grey plaid to the eyes, with a colly dog behind him as a drill serjeant to train his ewes and to mashall his tups. There may happen to travel o’er the dreary tract a geologist, a tourist, or a lonely carrier, but these are as rare as a pelican in the wilderness, or a camel’s convoy caravan in the deserts of Arabia. Add to this a few English sportsmen, with their stag-hounds, pointer dogs, and their servants, and put themselves and their bravery together, and a company of French soldiers would put ten thousand of them to a disorderly flight to save their own carcasses, leaving their ewes and tups to feed the invaders! The question may arise, where those people, who inhabited this country at one period have gone? In America and Australia the most of them will be found. The Suthrland family and the nation had no need of their services; hence they did not regard their patriotism or loyalty, and disregarded their past services. Sheep, bullock deer, and game, became more valuable than men. Yet a remnant of them, or in other words a skeleton of them is to be found along the sea-shore, huddled together in motley groups upon barren moors, among cliffs and precipices, in the most impoverished, degraded, subjugated, slavish, spiritless condition that human beings could exist in. If this is really the lady who has ‘Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will to men,’ in view, and who is so religiously denouncing the American statute which ‘denies the salve the sanctity of marriage, with all its joys, rights, and obligations – which separates, at the will of the master, the wife from the husband, the children from the parent,’ – I would advise her in God’s name to take a tour round the sea skirts of Sutherland, her own estatem beginning at Brora, then to Helmsdale, Portskerra, Strathy, Farr, Tongue, Durness, Eddrachillis, and Assynt, and learn the subjugated, degraded, impoverished, uneducated, condition of the spiritless people of that sea-beaten coast, about two hundred miles in length, and let her with similar zeal remonstrate with her husband, that their condition be bettered; for the cure of all their misery and want is lying unmolested in the fertile valleys above, and all under his control; and to advise his Grace, her husband, to be no longer guided by his Ahithophel, Mr. Loch, but to discontinue his depopulating schemes, which have separated many a wife from her husband, never to meet – which caused many a premature death, and that separated many sons and daughters, never to see them; and by all means to withdraw that mandate of Mr. Loch, which forbids marriage on the Sutherland estate, under the pains and penalties of being banished from the county; for it has been already the cause of a great amount of prostitution, and augmented illegitimate connections and issues fifty percent, above what such were a few years ago, before this unnatural, ungodly law was put in force. When the Duchess will do this, then, and not till then, will I believe that she is in earnest regarding the American slaves. Let her and the other ladies who attended Staffod House meeting be not like the believers and followers of Jupiter, who were supplied with two bags each, the one bag representing their own faults, the other their neighbours’ faults – the one representing their neighbours’ faults suspended before them, and the one representing their own faults suspended behind them, so that they could never see their own faults, but their neighbours’ were seen at all times. Ah! ladies, change your Jupiter bags, that you may discern your inconsistency and connection with those to whom you owe your position, your grandeur, your greatness, and all your enjoyments.
I am encroaching too much at this time, and will forbear, but will soon be at them again.
16 South Richmond Street,
Edinburgh, December 25, 1852.
To the Editor of the Northern Ensign.
SIR, – In dealing with those who convened and attended this meeting, I am not so uncharitable as to include the whole of them under the same denomination; for I am willing to believe that some of them are genuine sympathisers, with generous christian feeling towards their trodden-down, broken-hearted, oppressed fellow-creatures, whether black or white, or whatever nation they belong to, and who have been despoiled of the provision which God in his infinite love and unlimited goodness made, without distinction or respect of titles or personages of th human family, and who became the victims of cruel avarice and boundless ambition. But being unacquainted with them personally, I am not in a position to separate the genuine from the spurious, and muct leave them together until they separate themselves, or till come other onehigher favored than I am, do it.
No one living would rejoice more earnestly than I would, to see the American slaves, and all slaves liberated; but if they are only to be liberated equally with HIghland slaves, and subjected to similar oppression, degradation, and want, I pray to the good Lord to deliver them from such liberation. Being altogether free from personal spleen, and without any other motive in view but pure respect for my country, I request the genuine christian benevolent portion of our ladies, in the name of all that is sacred, if they have genuine desire for the liberation of the American Slaves, and do not want their chains rivetted tighter, and their slavery prolonged, not to subscribe their names, nor mingle with the Stafford House sohpistical mockery of God and men. For the Americans are a proud, discerning people, and when they will see the iniquity of slavery they will abolish it as effectually as they did under the command of immortal Washington abolish English tyranny and salvery among themselves; but they will be neither dogged, dictated to, nor bullied, to abolish it, especially by people who are a hundred-fold more guilty than themselves; whose hands are never but soiled in blood, and who, when they could not maintain or uphold slavery in their own dominions abroad, demanded and obtained for their compliance to abolish it, twenty millions out of the public money in compensation, then turned round upon the industrious producing classes, (who were taxed and peeled, to refund this money, who had fought for them – laid their land waste, supplanted a portion of the people with bulls, bullocks, cows, sheep, deer, and dogs, others with steel men, or machinery; banished the rest from the coast, with the exception of those they would require to make and attend their machinery, and as many as would allow themselves to be transmitted to animals called soldiers, to keep the rest of the people quiet, or kill them.
But the first question our ladies should ponder well and discuss seriously before they would subscribe this appeal to the American ladies in behalf of the slaves is: How are they prepared to stand the campaign of retaliation under such leaders? – For I predict they will be put to the blush, and that their affectionate address will soon find its way unceremoniously to a very disresepctful purpose. The Americans are not to be dogged or cajoled; amny of them have sad, sad recollections of the mandates which used to be “issued” from Stafford House, and from Dunrobin Castle, dictated and composed by James Loch, Esq., chief commissioner, approved of by his patron, and executed by their minions: whose names I might mention; gentlemen, upon the whole, with one or two exceptions, whose inhumanity and injustice throws the American slave-traders, slave-breeders and slave-owners, completely into the shade. – Yes, I say mandates, not announcing for their beginning and end “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good will to men;” no, woes me! no, but
Far worse than Egypt’s wasting plague,
Wrought dismal desolation;
Glens, straths, yea, parishes, at once
Were swept of population.
Mandates with every line of them announcing schemes for the destruction, dispersion, and utter ruin of the innocent religious, and patriotic brave aborigines; laying waste the land provided and appointed by God for their maintenance, to feed brute beasts (for whose rights to themselves in common with their chieftains, they and their forefathers so often fought and cemented with their blood), commanding to burn down the habitations they and their grand-sires occupied for time immemorial per the hundred year after year, leaving the people houseless and homeless – old ad young, weak and strong, sick and hale, without a sactuary; calumniated in their moral and religious character, by specially hired emissaries, without an eye to pity them that could render them any assistance. Mandates pregnant with confusion despair, dismay, weeping, wailings, anguish, and bitter lamentations; separation of the dearest and nearest, never to meet; breaking assunder the most sacred ties of associations, to describe which must remain incredible to those who have not seen it, beyond description; thank God with few precedents of parallels i the annuals of ancient or modern history – yea, in the darkest or most brutal times; – and mandates, indeed equal in sum and substance to the mandates issued by the Protestant pious King William, and his secretary Master of Stair, at the instigation of the Duke of Argyle and Breadalbane, and executed by the infamous Campbell of Glenlyon,Hamilton, Hill, Duncanson, and Lindsay, purporting the horrible massacre of the brave loyal McDonalds of Glencoe, which left an infamous stain upon King William’s memory, his government, and accomplices, that time will not wipe away. And I emphatically tell her Grace that the evolution of years or of ages will not efface the tragical depopulation of Sutherland, and that the waters of Jordan, and all the fuller’s earth and soap in Europe, will not cleanse from the guilt; and that the time is bygone when the blood of bullocks, and rams, sheep and deer, would atone or satisfy Divine justice for guilty deeds, where there was nothing wanting but the wielding operation of the unsheathed sword (and the same weapon was threatened and attempted) to make the scene upon a larger scale – a second Glencoe. Yet, I am perfectly satisfied, if the blood of such animals would atone, that abundance of it could be procured in Sutherland, adn if money and the influence of priests established by law could procure a scape-goat, that the second, third or fourth generation would have nothing to fear.
But how can I believe, who was an eye witness to these appalling scenes, without an ample proof, that absolution was diligently sought for from the only source where remission of sins can be obtained, and conversion manifested by visible genuine contrition, demonstrated by a restoration of the undoubted rights of the people of which they were despoiled – I say, how can I believe that the Duchess of Sutherland, her co-operators, and those who followed the house of Sutherland, or, more properly speaking, Mr. Loch’s extirpating example, have a genuine desire to bestow liberties and belssings upon the American slaves, which they so sternly and Malthusian-like deny to their own people, who are more unfortunate, and who have a hundred fold stronger claims upon their sympathy? Monstrous sophistry! The Stafford House meeting is nothing more or less than a revival of Sutherland’s deceptive dodges, with which I have been well acquainted for the last forty-five years at least, and of which I will give you a few specimens in my next. At present, for fear of encroaching too much on your liberality, I will conclude by merely telling you that at this moment I am informed that female agents are employed in Edinburgh to procure subscribers to the Stafford House BUBBLE in a clandestine way, not paying so much respect ito our Edinburgh ladies as to convene a meeting, and send even one of their female pages to preside, should they consider it below their own station to preside or address our Scottish Ladies. It is evident they could not be favoured by the Duchess of Sutherland, as in all likelihood by this time she is admitted Mistress of the Robes.
Meantime, yours, &c.,
Farewell, Mrs. H. B. Stowe, at present; expecting when your Delight upon Dunrobin Castle, or the Sublimity of Sutherlandshire (which you visited last year) comes to hand, that I will afford me an extensive scope for animadversion, if I will be spared to see it.
Prince De Ligne, in his amusing memoirs, gives an entertaining account of an imperial visit of Catharine II. to her ultra-Russian dominions in the Crimea. The Tartarian tracts of desolation were as dispeopled as Kildonan and Strathnaver are; but, in timely advance of the august cortege, workmen were employed to construct nice temporary cottages, in which picturesque peasants greeted their sovereign lady as she glided past; and when the monarch was fairly out of sight, the theatrical tenants were ejected, and the make-shift little mansions were tumbled to the ground! Prince Ptemkin was the author of this stupendous deception, and Prince De Ligne, who was in the secret, and travelling in the imperial carriage, could hardly refrain from chuckling as they passed through a succession of sham villages. I have been informed by a correspondent who is in the secrets of the Potemkins of Sutherland, that similar preparations were in contemplation, should Her Majesty consent to visit Dunrobin Castle: but the dodge was in reality practised upon you, madam, with success. A goodly number of cattages for the poor were in the process of building in the neighbourhood of Golspie and not far from the castle, when it was made known that you were to visit Dunrobin. All the carpenters, masons, slaters, painters, and plumbers that could be procured, and that could get room to work, were employed day and night – superintended during the day by her Grace. The furniture of the old castle, and a good deal of furniture borrowed from the sheep farmers and factors, to replenish or furnish these domiciles of the poor in a splendid style, which with the old castle mirrors, carpets, and hair-bottom chairs and sofas, made a very nice and agreeable appearance. These abodes were presented to you as a sample of Sutherlandshirte comforts, and I admit it wouls be the natural conclusion of your mind, if the poor paupers are so well provided for,and so comfortable, surely the condition of the peasantry must be enviable above any condition of people that ever came under my notice. But, says my correspondent, Mrs. Stowe could not be the length of Inverness of her way back, when every stick of this splendid replenishing was returned, and the poor cottages furnished after the order of the other poorhouses: he adds, “however, they are pretty comfortable, if the necessaries of life will correspond with the building, a question to be decided after this.” The Potemkins of Sutherland, exultingly churckling in a suppressed tone – we have dodged the Yankee-ess, have we not? but, poor old lady, she was much easier dodged than we expected. Ah! what glorious praise we may now expect, when her Delight, or Sublimity of Dunrobin Castle, and of our noble family, and of our humane factors and servants, comes out! Good bye, Madam, for the present time.
Scotland’s Poor Law.
This leads me again to the operations of the new and disgraceful Poor Law of Scotland, which is without precedent on the Statute book of any Christian civilized nation on earth. Indeed, when pondering over its details, crooks, chicanery and deception, I am tempted to question whether epidemic blindness and hardness of heart have not seized hold of the ruling and influential classes of society; and it seems as if Providence had determined to destroy the baneful system on which the population of the Highlands has so long grown poor and wretched, by destroying the potato crop; in order to arouse the nation from their culpable apathy, regarding the HIghland portion of His vineyard, where He was more beloved, more feared, and His statutes more strictly obeyed than any other portion of His creation, by giving this sharp warning of their danger, in tolerating a system pregnant with disastrous results, and cutting deep at the root of national ruin; you may easily perceive, if all Scotch and English proprietors would follow the example of the HIghland and Irish Nimrods, what the result would be. Their rights of property conveys the same power to every one of them, to do with their properties what they please, as they do to Highland lairds. In this age of utility we should expect to find the forest ground of Scotland rapidly decreasing, but the reverse is the case. The Highlands is an outer kingdom, that moves under different laws of progress from any other portion of Britain. here the Nimrods of England made a desperate rally. As they have seen their privileges falling off one after another by the blows of public opinion, and their parks and game preserves invaded and ruined by the rise of towns, factories, railways, and other democratic nuisances, teh sons of the mighty aristocratic ancestors have cast their eyes to the far North, and by universal reign in that quarter, resolved to make up for all that they have lost. Highland proprietors considered that a deer forest was both a necessary and profitable appendage of an estate. If it wanted that it wanted dignity. Hence (according to Mr. Robert Somers, editor of the North British Mail, Glasgow, a gentleman to whom the HIghlanders are much indebted) “Deer forests were introduced in much the same spirit as powdered wigs and four-wheeled carriages at the beginning and end of thelast century.” Now, it is a notorious fact that Highland glens and mountain ranges laid out in forests, is more profitable to a proprietor than when let as a sheep walk, (not speaking of agricultural purposes at all). Not so to the tacksman or to the country, but if it yields more rent to the owner, that one fact is sufficient to decide the disposal of it. The huntsman who wants a deer forest, limits his offers by no other calculation than the extent of his purse. He expects no pecuniary return; his object is simply to spend his money and to have sport, and if means will allow, and man be capacitated capacious enough, he will out bid every opponent. But had the Legislature taken care as they should, and have made the rapidly increased rents of the proprietors responsible for the employment and maintenance of the people, which the system of sheep walks, deer forests and game preserves, deprived of their usual means of livelihood, the HIghlanders might not have had occasion to regret the change so much; or if the Legislature did not see fit to retain and secure their clansmen in those rights of tenure which they and their ancestors had possessed for time immemorial, in the same way as the English copyholders were secured in the reign of Charles II, it ought to have vigorously enforced the Poor Law of James VI and supplemented it with a leaf or two from the 43rd of Queen Elizabeth,the true tenor of which was to provide sufficient food, clothing and lodgings, to those among the lieges who are proveably destitute, and who cannot obtain support without public aid. When this law was enforced (in Scotland as I said before) in 1845, the Poor Law Amendment Act was enacted, and the administration of this law entrusted or committed to two sets of men, rather say two Boards, viz., the Board of Supervision and parochial Board. The Board of Supervision consisted of two able men, (no mistake,) Sir John MacNeil and Mr. Smyth were the responsible parties. The Parochial Boards were composed principally of proprietors, factors, and sheep farmers, established-by-law ministers, doctors, parish schoolmasters, rich merchants, (if favourites of the powers that be) with a very thin mixture from any other denomination, who hold monthly or quarterly meetings, as they think proper, to deliberater and consider who is deserving relief and who is not. (God help the poor for the tender mercies of the wicked are at the best cruel.) When a poor person puts in a claim, the officer of the Board waits upon him to examine his case, and his report is submitted for judgment at the next meeting of the Board; in most cases the relief is refused, or if granted is so small that it is inadequate to sustain life; in most cases from nine pence to sixpence per week, and often below that sum, especially if there are more than one pauper in the same house. The only course open for the poor supplicant is to demand a schedule to make their cases known to the Board of Supervision, rather say Sir JOhn MacNeil. These schedules are a printed form with a great amount of interrogatories and large blanks left for answers, something like this-
What is your name?
What is your age?
Where were you born?
Have you any children?
About forty questions are asked which must be all answered in writing. The other side of this large sheet is left blank for the Inspector of the Poor to make his answers to the complaint. Yes, (but behold where the secret of iniquity and injustice are concealed which brand the concocters supporters and enactors of this new Poor Law of Scotland with infamy, and should consign the Law itself to everlasting destruction) when the poor pauper gets his or her side of the schedule made up with answers, then it is handed over to the Inspector, who, in general, is the Factor, Parish Schoolmaster or the Doctor of the District, (who of course must be a creature of the Proprietors and Factors) to make up his side of the schedule, he is at liberty to state the truth of the greatest falsehood imaginable, (one thing evident he must please the Factor or he will not occupy his situation long) he seals up the schedule in a Parochial Poor Board envelope, under the Board’s stamp, and hands it to the supplicant to pay it and post it to the Board of Supervision. This is all the liberty and recourse for obtaining justice the British-enacted Poor Law of Scotland left for their paupers, should the supplicant be as poor, moral, upright and honest as Job. The Inspector may represent him or her immoral, intemperate, lazy or thievish, having plenty to eat and drink; for the law enacts that no other evidence can be taken or produced to prove the supplicant’s claim; and should the BOard of Supervision think proper to reverse the decision of the Parochial Board, what can they do? they can only (by enacted law) recommend the claimant to get relief; they dare not state what amount he is entitled to get; all they can do if the Parochial Board continues obstinate and allow nothing, they can give the claimant a certificate to empoy a Solicitor to bring his case before the Supreme Court at Edinburgh, but this is seldom done. I was six years in Edinburgh during the operation of this law, and only one poor case was permitted to pass the Bar of the Board of Supervision all that time. That case was successsful in the Court of Session, but carried to the House of Lords, and how it was decided there I have not heard. The fact is that these Borads, the Law, and Highland Proprietors re going hand in hand to demoralize, pauperize and extirpate the race. You have a pointed illustration of this in the following brief account of their co-opertation for the consummation of their designs. In the year 1850, Ministers of the Free Church and other dissenting bodies in the Isle of Skye and other districts in the Highlands, forwarded many grievous complaints in behalf of the poor to the Board of Supervisors, showing the culpable carelessness and malversation6 and partiality of the Parochial Board, detailing many extreme cases of poverty and actual death by famine. The public press took up the case, and so urgent were the public requests, that Government ordered Sir John MacNeil and Mr. Smyth to repair to the scene of poverty and fields of famine and death, to make enquiry into the truth of these alarming reports. In a few days they landed among the valleys of famine, death and complaints. These Commissioners of justice and humanity summoned the Parochial Board and the reverend reporters of distress, before them, and enquired where extreme cases of poverty were to be found; being told, they then enjoined upon the parties to accompany them early next morning, at daylight, to examine these cases. So at daylight they started, and they were in the first instance directed to a poor widow’s abode. “Is this one of the worst cases you have to show?” Enquired Sir John; being answered in the affirmative, then says he, “Mr. Smyth we must see what is within;” in they go, the widow with her three fatherless children were in bed. “Holo,” cries Sir John, “have you any food in the house?” “Very little indeed sir,” was the reply. Sir John, by this time was searching and opening boxes, where nothing but rags and emptiness was to be found; at last he uncovered a pot where there was about three pounds of cold pottage; Smyth discovered a small bowl or basin of milk. Sir John bawls out with an authoritative tone, holding out the cold pottage in one hand and the basin of milk in the other, “Do you presume, gentlemen, to call this an extreme case of poverty, where so much meat was left after being satisfied at supper?” Some of the party ventured to mutter out, “that is all the poor woman has.” “Hush” says Sir John, “she was cunning enough to hide the rest.” Sir John’s dog made a bolt at the pottage an devoured the most of it; the party left; did not go far when the dog got sick. “That damn cold pottage has poisoned my valuable dog,” says Sir John; the servant was ordered back to the inn to physic the dog. The whole investigation of the day was conducted in a similar manner; only the dog was taken care of, and not allowed among the pots of the perishing people. Next day Sir John summoned the Parochial Board to appear before him, to get instructions for their future proceedings. The Board attended, and Sir John addressed them nearly as follows:-
GENTLEMEN OF THE BOARD – The Government who sent me out, will not compel you to give out more relief than you are giving, until extreme cases of famine are made out. Extreme cases means death by famine; such cases makes you culpable and responsible to the law of the land. Gentlemen, (understand me) who are almost to a man, Ministers of the Gospel, Missionaries, Priests, Sheepfarmers, Factors, Game Keepers, Foresters, Doctors, and Proprietors, to whom the Government look for truth; whose prerogative, by special Act of Parliament, is to report the cause of death in the Isle of Skye during these clamorous times (understand me), be very careful about making out your reports; how you can prove the death of any one to be caused by want of food without having first a post mortem examination of the body by more than one medical man. There are many other distempers and diseases that may linger about people, that may cut away life very quick when a person is in a weak state for want of nourishment, which cannot be attributed to famine. So, be aware of what you are about, for I assure you if you continue to report extreme cases and death by famine, you shall (gentlemen) find yourselves in a sad dilemma when you have to defend yourselves at the bar of a Justiciary Court for culpable homicide.
These instructions and definition of the Scotch new Poor Law Bill enactment were forwarded to every Parochial Board in Scotland, and had the desired effect. We never heard, nor never will hear of an extreme case of death by famine in the Highlands of Scotland. It could not be expected that such valuable men as constitutes the Parochial Boards in Scotland, would criminate themselves for the sake of making up a faithful report of the cause of deaths among the unfortunate despised Highlanders. Yet vengeance for all these evil doings, says God, is mine; I am forbearing but not an all-forbearing God.
“Hence then, and evil go with thee, along
Thy offspring the place of evil – hell
Thou and thy wicked crew; there mingle broils
Ere this avenging sword begin thy doom,
Or some more sudden vengeance wing’d from God
Precipitate thee with augmented pains. – Paradise Lost.
May we not exclaim in the language of immortal Burns, “Man’s inhumanity to man…” – and borrow a short paragraph from Shylock, but to change the names, which is quite applicable to the HIghland Board, proprietors and their accomplices: “Are we not Highlanders: have Highlanders no eyes; have Highlanders no hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions, and appetites, that should be fed with the same food with you; are Highlanders not hurt with the same weapon, and healed by the same means as you are, warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter as you are? If you prick us, do we not bleed and feel it? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison and starve us, do we not die? If you persecute us and wrong us, shall we not be revenged? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. The villany you have taught us we will execute, and it will go hard with us, or we will better the instructions when our turn of revenge will come.” To detail the preconcerted destructive schemes manifested in every chapter of this bill, (which, indeed, we may say, was conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity;) the malversation of its administration; the fatal effects of its operations, would require more room than I can spare: you will have to be content with the foregoing specimen; and I think it should convince you of the length that the machinations of evil doers in high places may go, to rob and punish their fellow creatures, and to make the credulous world believe that all they do is for the good of their victims. Look at a Board of Supervision sitting in secret at Edinburgh, a distance of about 400 miles from some of the most impoverished districts in Scotland, hearing the complaints of the poor only upon schedules, refusing them a right of reply to the allegations of hostile inspectors, and giving no reasons for its decisions, though involving questions of life or death to the poor. The sheriffs of counties were even debarred from giving them justice when deprived of adequate relief. All these precautions were taken lest the poor might have power to impose upon the parochial boards. A grosser misapprehension of the relative position and strength of the two parties could not possibly be acted upon. A Highland pauper is one of the most helpless of mortals: a Highland Poor Board, so far as its jurisdiction extends, is all-powerful, embracing in its ranks the whole wealth and influence of a parish. If the legislature had had any sincere intention of giving the poor a chance of justice against the prejudices of the boards, it would have thought of strengthening instead of weakening their position, but the blunder or the crime, whichever it may be, of 1845, ought now to be atoned for. Let the sheriffs be empowered to review the decisions of the parochial board in respect to the amount of relief; let the old right of appeal, free of let or hindrance, to the Court of Session be restored; let the Board of Supervision itself be made amenable in all its acts to that supreme tribunal to which all classes and bodies of Scotchmen are accustomed to bow in respectful deference; and, in short, let every possible facility be given to the poor of stating their complaints in the courts of justice of having their claims impartially investigated, and of obtaining decisions in accordance with the law, and not with the narrow and illiberal views of bodies which have a palpable interest in depriving the poor of an adequate maintenance. As for the objection that the expense of maintaining the poor would soon consume the entire rental of the Highlands, it has no foundation in fact. The total amount expended on the poor in the four counties of Sutherland, Ross, Inverness, and Argyle, though embracing six months of the severe and universal distress occasioned by the failure of the potato crop, was only £37,618 11s. 7¾d., being scarcely 6½ per cent. of the valued rent. this sum may be considerably increased, without exceeding the rate of assessment in many parts of the country in ordinary years. But even supposing that the expenditure on the poor should rise to a height extremely inconvenient to the proprietors, I do not perceive that this would be disatrous. The proprietors have the means of correcting this evil in their own hands. There is no country on earth where the duty of children to support their aged and disabled parents, and the ties of kindred generally, are more profoundly respected than in the Highlands. As long as a Highlandman has a bite and a sup he shares mit with an aged father or mother. It is only when reduced to poverty himself that he allows any of his near kindred to claim the benefit of the poor’s roll. the policy of the Highland lairds for many years has been to deprive the able-bodied of their holdings of land, to reduce them to the verge of destitution, and compel them, if possible to emigrate. The direct tendency of these measures has been to increase the number of the aged and infirm dependent upon parochial relief. The proprietors have only to reverse their policy, to keep the able-bodied at home, to lay open the soil to their industry, and to promote their industry, their comfort and independence, in order to reduce the burden of the aged and disabled poor. This is the safety-valve of a liberal and effectual Poor Law. While it would protect the poor from starvation and suffering, it would constrain the owners of property, by the bonds of self-interest, to consult the happiness of the people, to strive for their employment, and to introduce that new division nd management of the soil which lie at the foundation of permanent improvement. The same consideration which induced the proprietors would dispose the sheepfarmers to submit to the new order of things. Farewell to the Poor Law at present.
Bad and inadequate as the relief for the poor was, there were still more inconsistent and imbecile schemes tried, and propositions were made to relieve them: such as the Patriotic Society schemes, headed by the Duke of Sutherland, adn the most notorious portion of his co-depopulators in the Highlands, which brought me out in the following letter to the Northern Ensign, when the emigration of the Highlanders to the waste bogs of Ireland and Wales, and the Russian war opened a field for me. I am sorry that I cannot refrain from repetitions, as I had to contend with so many deceivers of my countrymen and of the public, almost single-handed, and had often to use the same arguments with them, so you must excuse me for repetitions. This Patriotic Society employed a sneaking scoundrel to bring their scheme of relief of the HIghlanders before the public, which, as may be seen at a glance, was a scheme to plunder the credulous public. After his first tour in the HIghlands. I had an opportunity to confront him, face to face, at this meeting, and I assure you it was not much in his favour I did meet him: he had good cause to understand that his knavery was dismantled before we parted.
To the Editor of the Northern Ensign.
SIR. – How proud I would be, and what pleasure it would afford me, if I could but give vent to my feelings of gratitude towards you, for your manly, timely and practical interposition in behalf of my ill-used, misrepresented and long-neglected countrymen, at a time when all other philathropists who have exerted themselves in their behalf as yet seem to content themselves with merely suggesting plans and remedies, which will take years before they can bring relief; and, alas, after thousands of the Highlanders will after the most agonizing sufferings, drop into a premature grave. Look, for instance, at Mr. Bond, Secretary for the Royal Patriotic Association, (under the patronage of the Duke of Sutherland, his commissioner, Mr. Loch, and others,) travelling in the Highlands, with about half a cwt. of cottage models on his back, going from one duke’s palace to another, from one marquis to another, from one factor to another, from one grade of proprietors and other underlings to another, including ministers, schoolmasters, sheriffs, and fiscals, collecting information about Highland destitution, and the cause of it, and consulting them upon the best scheme to remedy the evil. Yes, consulting men whose predecessors and themselves have been steeping and racking their brains for the last half century, contriving how to destroy and extirpate the Highland peasantry from the land of their fathers, and reduce them to their present deplorable condition – men, I emphatically say, that instead of being consulted, should be arraigned at the bar of public justice, dealt with as traitors, and their property confiscated, for they of verity destroyed and trod under foot the best portion of the national bulwork. But this assuming Mr. Bond comes before the public so ostentatiously, just as if men could believe his information, or be assured that the plans he and the oppressors of the people had devised could save their victims from perishing or bettering their condition in future.
During Mr. Bond’s perambulations in the Highlands, he had to travel over extensive tracts of fine lands and fertile glens, bursting with fatness and teeming with everything that is necessary to make the people comfortable and independent of charity, but locked up from them, and lying a solitary waste, or under brute beasts, where no sweeter strains are heard than the screeches of the night owl, or the barking of the collie dogs, and the image of God upon man dare not approach the spot. This Mr. Bond did see, though often gliding smoothly over these tracts, shut up snugly (with his models) in the laird’s coach, or in the Commissioner’s dog cart. But the comes Mr. Bond upon the portion of the Highlands allotted to the people, viz., the creeks, precipices, bogs, barren moors and bye-corners, places found both dangerous and unprofitable to rear sheep and bullocks, in most cases dangerous for deer and goats to approach, and never designed by the God of Nature for cultivation or the abode of human beings. Here he found them in clusters and motley groups, where they were huddled together after being expelled from their fertile valleys, and without leases or encouragement to improve, should it be possible to do so. If I am not mistaken, (for I don’t hear well,) Mr. Bond found the people without food, money or clothing; they were dirty, starving looking creatures; they were living in turf hovels, (houses he could not call them.) The lords of the soil complained that the wretches would neither pay rent nor go away; that all their means were nearly eaten up with poor rates; and that they were alarmed out of measure, as the case and cries of the poor wretches had already reached the ears of Government, and that an able-bodied poor law was likely to be the result. Besides, Dr. Begg, of Edinburgh, had bestirred the Free Church ministers and other influential bodies in behalf of these miserable-looking wretches, and the public are becoming very indignant at being called upon year after year for subscriptions to keep them alive, even though it is the desire of the Highland landlords that they were all dead or banished. Oh! exclaimed Mr. Bond, I see what will remedy the whole evil. These dirty, unshapely, and uncomfortable turf hovels must be changed to cleanly stone-built cottages, of which this is a model, and if our Association can procure money from the Government, or from the public, and that you, gentlemen, will grant sites, we will undertake the building. This suggestion met at once the approbriation of Highland Dukes, Lords and Commons, cunning enough to know as well as I do, (however utopian the suggestion was) that if the public, through the high-sounding names connected with this society, could be gulled to join it and subscribe to its funds, and Government to grant a large sum of the public money, and the Royal Patriotic Society to build houses with it, I say they knew it was a scheme which would at least take a hundred years in its operation, and then vanish like a burst bottle of smoke. But the houses would be found useful to the proprietors, for the dwellings of shepherds and dogs, or, as some churches in the Highlands just now, for sheltering sheep during stormy nights, or for wool stores, and manses for the abodes of gamekeepers, fox-hunters and foresters. Let the public and Government be guarded against such futile sophistry and preconcerted machinations, and let me tell them that it is not neat cottages that the Highlanders now need to redeem them from their miserably pauperised condition, or to better their condition in future, and elevate their position in society. It is the land the Highlanders would require, yes, the land now under beasts; and unless they get that, it is in vain to suggest or devise remedies; they will ultimately perish unless they become State paupers. But if they get the land which God designed for cultivation, they will soon cease to be objects of commiseration, and they will pay rents and become independent of charity. Then let them build such houses as will suit themselves, whether of mud, turf, or stones. Many a brave Highlander was reared in a turf house, whose intrepidity and valor gained many victories and immortal fame and praise to the nation which had callously, cruelly, and carelessly allowed a few despotic minions to reduce the progeny of the heroes of Bannockburn, Sheriffmuir, Killiecrankie, Prestonpans, Fontenoy, Egypt, Corunna, Salamanca, Vittoria, and Waterloo, to their present deplorably destitute condition, a by-word and an eye-sore to the nation, which often had cause to be proud of them in many a battlefield, and would be proud of them still more if they had but half fair play.
Contrast the present race of Highlands with those of forty-five, who, when only a few clans of them joined together, shook this empire to its very centre, and were within a very little of placing the crown of England upon the head of one who (with all his faults,) would not see nor hear of a Highlander dying for want of food while there would be a bullock, deer, ram, sheep, or lamb living in the land, not speaking of allowing thousands of acres of fertile land in his dominions to lie waste to feed such animals – and after you compare them, (without any reference to the cause in which our predecessors were engaged,) ask what is the cause, and who were, and are to be blamed for such fearful deterioration of everything that was recommendable or characteristic of our forefathers? Mr. Bond and his patrons will reply, the Highlanders are exceedingly lazy – yes, lazy, they will not make bricks without straw. I am encroaching too much on your liberality; perhaps I will recur to the subject again. Hoping the Government and the nation will respond to the voice of heaven, that the Highlanders will be saved from dying for want of food, and this nation from a stain on their profession of Christianity that ages will not wipe off.
I am, &c.,
16, S. Richmond St.,
Edinburgh February 4, 1851.
The emigration of the Highlanders to the wastes of Ireland, and to send them Gaelic Bibles and Psalm Books to supply the spiritual famine then discovered among the dying people, brought me out in the following:-
To the Editor of the Northern Ensign.
Sir, – Though I confess my inability to ascertain the exact amount of money expended to meet the spiritual and temporal destination of the Highland population, by preaching and teaching the Protestant Christian religion, and promoting British civilization in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, yet I am confident that any one who could ascertain the amount, would be ready to conclude that the Highlanders should be the most religious, the most enlightened, the most civilized, and the most comfortable people under the canopy of heaven. In my opinion, the amount cannot be less, or not more, than three millions sterling. To prevent such conclusions, I am resolved in my old simple style to prove to you and your readers, that it had been well for the Highlanders if they had never seen a farthing of the immense sum, and that the progress of civilization and religion were left to Heaven and their own exertions. This will be easier credited, when we candidly and impartially compare the present state of religion, comfort and civilization in the Highlands, with that which existed about fifty years ago, or before one farthing of these enormous sums was expended to improve either. Besides, I am at no loss to prove to your satisfaction, that the principal contributors to those societies who squandered the money, were the chief plunderers of the people; hence,that it was neither for the glory of God nor the elevation of the Highlanders that the money was contributed and expended. Bestowing charity in all ages has had the most effectual tendency to make beggars. Only think of men in power depriving their subjects of their corn fields and of every means of their subsistence, then to cloak their unrighteous doings would subscribe liberally that the poor would receive Gælic Bibles and Psalm Books in lieu of their plunder.
I am now advanced in years, and have a pretty correct recollection of passing events and of the movements of society for the last fifty years. At that period, and down to the period at which the calamities accompanying the clearing system overtook us, and before we came under the Loch iron rod of oppression, and drank of that bitter cup of many withering ingredients which accompanied that ever cursed and condemned by God system, I say that we lived what might be termed a happy life, when compared with the present. Some years our corn crops would fail, but we had cattle which we could sell,and purchase food with the price of them; we had sheep and goats which we could take and eat; we had salmon and trout for the taking; we had abundance of milk, butter and cheese; and none of us ever died by famine. To the stranger every door was open; to the lame, needy, and poor every hand was stretched with relief; to the sick and afflicted every breast was full of sympathy. Sabbath desecration, profane swearing, drunkenness, disobedience to parents, immorality of every description, in short, every violation of the laws of God and rules of society, was considered as a heinous crime, and not allowed to pass with impunity. I may add, without fear of refutation, that there was not exceeding four families in the county of Sutherland but who worshipped God morning and evening in their respective families. Weekly, monthly, and yearly prayer meetings were held in every district. The pulpits of our respective parish churches were occupied by ministers worthy of their vocation, who were making themselves well acquainted with their flocks by visiting them often, besides having Men known for their piety and exemplary virtues, (chosen by the people), appointed to examine, instruct, admonish, and reprove, when required. There was no need for fiscal, constables, thief-catchers, or policemen to keep us quiet and protect property; til of late years these hateful names were not known in the Gaelic language. Now, this is a brief sketch of the state of religion and civilization in the beginning of this century. Query, what is it now? Yet, though these are stubborn facts which challenge refutation, I am aware, while I confine my observations to Highland character and Highlanders among these secluded glens, romantic mountains, and cascades, for many years their religion and moral virtues have become an easy prey to every vile calumniator, theologian and historian, down from McCulloch and Loch of Sutherland, to the Scotsman and your own contemporary at the Bridgend; so that I am unprotected from the literary scourges of Highland happiness, civilization, and religion. Hence I must extend my remarks to a period when the Sutherland Highlanders were embodied, and came before the world in such a position that their character could neither be concealed nor vilified with impunity, and we will hear what competent impartial judges said of them, among other Highland regiments. General Stewart of Garth, in his ‘Sketches of the Highlands,’ says: In the words of a general officer by whom the 93d Sutherlanders were once reviewed,
‘They exhibit a perfect pattern of military discipline and moral rectitude. In the case of such men disgraceful punishment would be as unnecessary as it would be pernicious. Indeed,’ says the general ‘so remote was the idea of such a measure in regard to them, that when punishments were to be inflicted on others, and the troop in garrison assembled to witness their execution, the presence of the Sutherland Highlanders was dispensed with, the effects of terror as a check to crime being in their case uncalled for, as examples of that nature were not necessary for such honourable soldiers. When the Sutherland Highlanders were stationed at the Cape of Good Hope, anxious to enjoy the advantage of religious instruction agreeably to the tenets of their national church, and there being no religious service in the garrison except the customary one of reading prayers to the soldiers on parade, the Sutherland men,’ says the general, ‘formed themselves into a congregation, appointed elders of their own number, engaged and paid a stipend (collected among themselves) to a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, and had divine service performed agreeable to the ritual of the Established Church every Sabbath, and prayer meetings through the week.’
This reverend gentleman, Mr. Thom, in a letter which appeared in the Christian Herald of October 1814, writes thus:
‘When the 93rd Highlanders left Cape Town last month, there were among them 156 members of the church, including three elders and three deacons, all of whom, so far as men can know the heart from the life, were pious men. The regiment was certainly a pattern of morality, and good behaviour to all other corps. They read their Bibles and observed the Sabbath. They saved their money to do good. 7,000 rix dollars, a sum equal to £1,200 sterling, the non-commissioned officers and privates saved for books, societies, and for the spread of the Gospel, a sum unparalleled in any other corps in the world, given the short space of eighteen months. Their example had a general good effect on both the colonists and the heathen. If ever apostolic days were revived in modern times on earth, I certainly believe some of those to have been granted to us in Africa.’
Another letter of a similar kind, addressed to the Committee of the Edinburgh Gaelic School Society (fouth annual report), says:
‘The 93d Highlanders arrived in England, when they immediately received orders to proceed to North America; but, before they re-embarked, the sum collected for your society was made up and remitted to your treasurer, amounting to seventy-eight pounds sterling. In addition to this,’ says the noble minded immortal General, ‘such of them as had parents and friends in Sutherland did not forget their destitute condition, occasioned by the operation of the (fire and faggot) “mis-improved state of the country.” During the short period the regiment was quartered at Plymouth, upwards of £500 was lodged in one banking-house, to be remitted to Sutherland, exclusive of many sums sent through the Post-office and by officers; some of the sums exceeding £20 from an individual soldier. Men like these do credit to the peasantry of a country. It must appear strange, and somewhat inconsistent,’ continues the general, ‘when, the same men who are so loud in their profession of an eager desire to promote and preserve the religious and moral virtues of the people, should so frequently take the lead in removing them from where they imbibed principles which have attracted the notice of Europe, and of measures which lead to a deterioration, placing families on patches of potato ground as in Ireland, a system pregnant with degradation, poverty, and disaffection.’ It is only when parent and head of families in the Highlands are moral, happy, and contented, that they can instil sound principles into their children, who in their intercourse with the world may become what the men of Sutherland have already been, “an honourable example worthy the imitation of all.” ‘
I cannot help being grieved at my unavoidable abbreviation of these heart-warming extracts, which should ornament every mantle-piece and library in the Highlands of Scotland; but I could refer to other authors of similar weight; among the last, (though not the least), Mr. Hugh Miller of the Witness, in his ‘Sutherland as it was, and is: or, How a country can be ruined;’ a work which should silence and put to shame every vile, malignant, calumniator of Highland religion and moral virtue in bygone years, who in their sophistical profession of a desire to promote the temporal and spiritual welfare of the people, had their own sordid cupidity and aggrandisement in view in all their unworthy lucubrations, (as I will endeavour to show at a future period.) Come then, ye perfidious declaimers and denouncers; you literary scourges of Highland happiness, under whatever garb, whether political economist or theology mongers, answer for yourselves – What good have you achieved, after expending such enormous sums of money? Is it possible that the world will believe you, or put confidence in you any longer? Before I am done with you, come, you professing preachers of the everlasting gospel of peace and of good will to men, stand alongside and on the same platform with the Highland Destitution Relief Board, exhibited before God and the world, and accused of misapplying and squandering away an enormous amount of money, and of having in your league, and combination with political economists – treacherous professing civilizers and improvers of the Highlands and Highland population, – produced the most truly deplorable results that ever were recorded in the history of any nation, the utter ruin and destruction of as brave, moral, religious, loyal, and patriotic a race of men as ever existed. Spiritual and temporal destitution in the Highlands has been a profitable field for you these many years back. Many a scheme have you tried (hitherto successful) to extract money from the pockets of the credulous benevolent public, who unfortunately believed your fabulous accusation and misrepresentation of the Highlanders, and who confided in your honesty; and although you, yourselves, may see; the public, yea, and he that runneth may see, that the Lord (not without a cause) has discountenanced you, still you continue your appeals to the public, that your traffic may continue likewise; appeals from respectable quarters have lately been made for Gaelic teachers, Gaelic bibles, and psalm books, and tracts, for the poor Highlanders, who are dying for want of food; depend upon it that there is a squad of students out of employment, and a great deal of these books unsold somewhere, that must be turned to money. We have now an association forming in Edinburgh, got up by men from whom better things should be expected, who have for their object to export these dying, penniless Highlanders to Ireland, to mix location with the poor Irish – who have gone through many a fiery ordeal for the last sixty years – that the wastes of Ireland may be reclaimed from nature, and cultivated by Highlanders; just as if there was no waste land in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to reclaim and cultivate; or, as if there was something devilish or unnatural in the Highland soil, and detrimental to the progress of its inhabitants. Perhaps they have in view to have the Highlanders trained in the school and discipline of that great and useful lady (to the fiscal department) Molly McGuire, to partake of her uncouth freaks. Very likely the next speculative experiment will be the exportation of Highlanders to Wales,to learn the humoursome freaks of Rebekah, since all the ingenuity of evildoers, evil teachers, the effects of famine, oppression, and false accusation, have been baffled to make them murder, rob, steal, or destroy property, while on the (stubborn and unproductive of crime) Highland soil.
You, benevolent public, pause, for a little while, till I have time to explain myself better, and draw the curtain of the stage of devices, chicanery, and deception, and be no longer the abettors and accomplices of Highland depopulators – the legitimate parents of Highland calamities.
Britain will some day bewail the loss of her Highland sons. Highland bravery, loyalty, patriotism and Highland virtue. May God hasten the day, that I may live to see it.
Meantime, yours, &c.,
[NOTE. – Molly McGuire was Chief Judge of what was termed the Lynch Law of Ireland. When an evictor or man used intrigues to supplant any of Molly’s Society, he was at once summoned to her bar, to be judged by Molly, yet the man did not know where to attend, being a secret court; yet the case would go on and Molly would employ a counsel to defend the accused, where I am told every facility was afforded him and rewarded provided he could exonerate the accused; otherwise there was nothing for him. I f the accused was found innocent he got notice to that effect, that he had nothing to fear; but if found guilty he was next day warned to leave the country or prepare for eternity, that upon a certain day and hour he was to be dispatched by order of Molly McGuire, which orders were in general punctually executed. Again, when farmers raised the price of butcher’s meat so high that her disciples could not buy it, Molly (in order to keep the meat market down at a reasonable price) would order so many of her subjects to proceed to the town or district where such high prices were wrung from the poor people to (what they termed) houghing all the fat cattle and sheep in the district, so as to compel them to sell cheap. Yet we have writers of no small reputation maintaining that “however diabolical Molly McGuire’s laws, rules, and operations were, still there was more humanity and justice discerned than in the new Poor Law of Scotland.” Rebekah was the leader of the Toll breakers in Wales, South of England, some few years ago, but solely on account of being English, Rebekah and her children claimed redress for their grievances, and the offensive Tolls were removed.]
SIR, – If in my last I have succeeded in making out a claim upon the sympathy and interposition of the nation, in behalf of my unfortunate countrymen, where is the Christiian heart so void of sympathy as not to throb heavily, or the eye so void of pity as not to shed a bitter tear over the lamentable fate of this peaceable, inoffensive, and once brave people! Or where is the Christian heart that is not full of indignation, or the eye that will not look with abhorrence, upon the criminal men who are the legitimate parents and sole cause of all the sufferings and premature agonizing death to which the Highland population are doomed! Napoleon Bonaparte, at one period of his horrible career in Turkey, ordered four hundred Musselmen whom he had taken prisoners, to be shot, because he could not provide them with food, and to let them go free he would not, and he saw that they would die by famine – hence mercy dictated that they would be formed into a solid square, and 2,000 French muskets loaded with ball cartridges levelled at them, which was done, and this disarmed mournful square mass of human beings were quickly put out of pain. All the Christian nations of Europe were horrified, and every breast was full of indignation at the perpetrator of this horrible tragedy, anf France wept bitterly for the manner in which the tender mercies of their wicked Emperor were exhibited. Ah! but guilty Christian, your Protestant law-making Britain, tremble when you look towards the great day of retribution. Under the protection of your law, Colonel Gordon has consigned 1,500 men, women, and innocent children, to a death a hundred fold more agonizing and horrifying. With the sanction of your law he (Colonel Gordon) and his predecessors, in imitation of His Grace the Duke of Sutherland and his predecessors, removed the people from the land created by God, suitable for cultivation, and for the use of man, and put it under brute animals; and threw the people upon bye-corners, precipices, and barren moors, there exacting exorbitant rack-rents, until the people were made penniless, so that they could neither leave the place nor better their condition in it. The potato-blight blasted their last hopes of retaining life upon the unproductive patches – hence they became clamourous for food. Their distress was made known through the public press; public meetings were held, and it was managed by some known knaves to saddle the God of providence with the whole misery – a job in which many of God’s professing and well-paid servants took a very active part. The generous public responded; immense sums of money were placed in the hands of Government agents and other individuals, to save the people from death by famine on the British soil. Colonel Gordon and his worthy allies were silent contributors, though terrified. The gallant gentleman solicited Government through the Home Secretary to purchase the Island of Barra for a penal colony, but it would not suit; yet our humane Government sympathised with the Colonel and his coadjutors, and consulted the honourable and brave McNeil, the chief pauper gauger of Scotland, upon the most effective and speediest scheme to relieve the gallant Colonel and colleagues from this clamour and eyesore, as well as to save their pockets from able-bodied poor rates. The result was, that a liberal grant from the public money, which had been granted a twelvemonth before for the purpose of improving and cultivating the Highlands, was made to Highland proprietors to assist them to drain the nation of its best blood, and to banish the Highlanders across the Atlantic, there to die by famine among strangers in the frozen regions of Canada, far from British sympathy, and far from the resting-place of their brave ancestors; though the idea of mingling with kindred dust to the Highlanders is a consolation at death, more than any other race of people I have known or read of under heaven. Oh! Christian people, Christian people, Christian fathers and mothers, who are living at ease, and never experienced such treatment and concomitant sufferings; you Christian rulers, Christian electors, and representatives, permit not Christianity to blush and hide her face with shame before heathenism and idolatry any longer. I speak with reverence when I say, permit not Mahomet Ali to deride our Saviour with the conduct of his followers – allow not demons to exclaim in the face of Heaven, What can you expect of us when Christians, thy chosen people, are guilty of such deeds of inhumanity to their own species? I appeal to your feelings, to your respect for Christianity and the cause of Christ in the world, that christianity may be redeemed from the derision of infidels, Mahommedans, idolaters, and demons – that our beloved Queen and constiutional laws may not be any longer a laughing stock and derision to the despots of the Continent, who can justly say: You interfere with us in our dealings with our people; but look at your cruel conduct toward your own. Ye hypocrites, first cast out the beam of your own eye, before you meddle with the mote in ours. Come, then, for the sake of neglected humanity and prostrated Christianity, and look at this helpless unfortunate people – place yourselves for a moment in their hopeless position at their embarkation, decoyed, in the name of the British Government, by false promises of assistance, to procure homes and comforts in Canada, which were denied to them at home – decoyed, I say, to an unwilling and partial consent, and those who resisted or recoiled from this conditional consent, and who fled to the caves and mountains to hide themselves from the brigands, look at them, chased and caught by policemen, constables, and other underlings of Colonel Gordon, handcuffed, it is said, and huddled together with the rest on an emigrant vessel. Hear the sobbing, sighing, and throbbings of their guileless, warm Highland hearts, taking their last look, and bidding a final adieu to their romantic mountains and valleys, the fertile straths, dales, and glens, which their forefathers for time immemorial inhabited, and where they are now lying in undisturbed and everlasting repose, in spots endeared and sacred to the memory of their unfortunate offspring, who must now bis a mournful farewell to their early associations, which were as dear and as sacred to them as their very existence, and which had hitherto made them patient in sufferings. But follow them on their six weeks’ dreary passage, rolling upon the mountainous billows of the Atlantic, il fed, ill clad, among sickness, diseaseand excrements. Then come ashore with them, where death is in store for them – hear the captain giving orders to discharge the cargo of live-stock – see the confusion, hear the noise, the bitter weeping and bustle – hear mothers and children asking fathers and husbands, where are we going? hear the reply, cha ‘n ‘eil fhios againn – we know not – see them in groups in search of the Government agent, who they were told was to give them money – look at their despairing countenances when they came to learn that no agent in Canada was authorised to give them a penny – hear them praying the Captain to bring them back that they might die among their native hills, that their ashes might mingle with those of their forefathers – hear this request refused, and the poor helpless wanderers bidding adieu to the captain and crew, who showed them all the kindness they could, and to the vessel to which they formed something like an attachment during the voyage – look at them scantly clothed, destitute of food, without implements of husbandry, consigned to their fate, carrying their children on their backs, begging as they crawl along in a strange land, unqualified to beg or buy their food for want of English, until the slow-moving and mournful company reach Toronto and Hamilton in Upper Canada, where, according to all accounts, they spread themselves over their respective burying-places, where famine and frost-bitten death was waiting them. Mothers in Christian Britain, look, I say, at these Highland mothers who conceived and gave birth, and who are equally as fond of their offspring as you can be; look at them by this time, wrapping their frozen remains in rags and committing them to a frozen hole – fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, participants of similar sufferings and death, and the living who are seeking for death (yet death fleeing from them for a time) performing a similar painful duty. This is a painful picture; the English language fails to supply me with words to describe it: I wish the spectrum would depart from me to those who could describe it and tell the result. But how can Colonel Gordon, the Duke of Sutherland, James Loch, Lord Macdonald, and others of the unhallowed league and abettors, after looking at this sight, remain in Christian communion, ruling elders in Christian churches, and partake of the emblems of Christ’s broken body and shed blood? But the great question is, can we as a nation be guiltless, and allow do many of our fellow creatures to be treated in such a manner, and not exert ourselves to put a stop to it and punish the perpetrators? Is ambition which attempted to dethrone God, become omnipotent, or so powerful when incarnated in the shape of Highland dukes, lords, esquires, colonels, and knights, that we must needs submit to its revolting deeds? Are parchment rights of property so sacred that thousands of human beings must be sacrificed year after year, till there is no end of them, to preserve them inviolated? Are sheep walks, deer forests, hunting parks, and game preserves, so beneficial to the nation that the Highlands must be converted into a hunting desert, and the aborigines banished and murdered? I know that thousands will answer in the negative; yet they will fold their arms in criminal apathy until the extirpation and destruction of my race will be completed. Fearful is the catalogue of those who have already become the victims of the cursed clearing system in the Highlands, by famine, fire, drowning, banishment, vice, and crime. What is to be done, and how to proceed, will be the subject of my next – expecting the co-operation of the advocates and sympathisers of suffering humanity.
I am, meantime, yours, &c.,
16, South Richmond St., Edinburgh.
To the Editor of the Northern Ensign.
SIR, – There is assuredly no lawful day to which I look forward with such intense interest as Friday, being the day (if favourable) on which the Ensign crosses the tempestuous Pentland First. It is generally the bearer of something new, and very often brings tidings of importance to me from the once happy home of my youth, a home which nothing but death can ever sever from my remembrance.
The Ensign is not only the bearer of something new, something cheering, something teeming with acts of Christian charity and benevolence, but, I am sorry to say, it also brings intelligence mournful, deplorable and inhuman. Who has perused its columns for the last year, and does not feel within his breast the deepest sympathy for the sick and the dying, the helpless and the destitute, the hoary locks and the furrowed cheek, yea, the aged, the friendless, and the infirm, with one foot in the grave and the other upon its brink, driven by cold-hearted lordlings to seek for shelter and beg a morsel of bread in foreign wilds? Certainly few, indeed! How awful is the idea to the cherisher of his native plains, which are still as dear to him as life, to be driven far, far away from the land of his forefathers, the sepulchres, of those whose dust, although now covered with the green sward, and it may be trodden upon by some coveteous man’s favourite quadrapeds, is deposited there as a momento of a glorious resurrection to the departed in Christ, and a coming judgment to the oppressors of the widow and the fatherless! the pages of the Ensign inform us in rending language, piercing to the inmost core, that –
‘Man’s inhumanity to man,
Makes countless thousands mourn.’
Is it possible that man, a being of a few years existence, and perhaps only days, every moment a dependant upon God for the air he breathes, the food he eats, and the raiment he puts on, can, with the impartial sword of death unsheathed to strike him down as a tyrant and a cumberer of the ground, spend so many sleepless nights devising schemes, the result of which sinks him as low as were he the companion of the lion, the tiger, or the hyena? Can he, as a being possessed of an immortal soul, primitively formed in the moral image of God, and destined for eternity, look around him upon the cottages of his less temporally favoured and humbler fellow mortals, from whence, at morning, night, and noon-day, have arisen to the throne of God on high the sacred song and pious prayer, and yet deliberately scatter before the four winds of heaven from off his bit of idolised soil those beings whose actions in the sight of heaven are more acceptable than his? Yes; such hearts as are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked can do these and more:
‘Unmindful, though a weeping wife
And helpless offspring mourn!’
Strange as it is, that such a being as man, exposed to numberless calamities, coming naked into the world, and who at last must return to the ground from whence he was taken, to become the companion and food of worms, can, during a few and uncertain years, be guilty of glaring harassings and inhuman treatment to his fellow men, as if his present little brief authority, his few perishing pence, and the gay clothing which so pompously adorns his polluted clay, were to be his companions through eternity. Strange, indeed, thus to act, with a coming judgment and an endless eternity before him, either to spend a glorious immortality inthe beatific mansions of the eternal, or wretchedness and woe with the devil and his angels. Are pride and oppression the highways to the latter? So says the Word of God. Thus, ostentatious and puny tyrants, grieve no more the Holy Spirit of your Judge. Death, that matchless marksman, is hovering over you, from whose icy grasp, the potency of your wealth, with all its self-destroying allurements, will not be able to rescue you. The bar of God is before you, and there assuredly you must stand and receive a sentence conformable to your actions done here below; and then eternity will receive you into its everlasting embrace, and as the tree falleth so shall it lie. Why, then my fellow worm, with these awful realities before you, do you oppress and grind the face of the poor? Remember Lazarus and the rich man. With you, as well as the beggar who begs at your door a morsel of bread, from which you too often spurn him as abject, mean, and vile, a few square yards of your depopulated domains will only be your share in the ‘narrow house’, over which, in a few years hence, sheep and cattle may graze.
I am, Sir, yours &c.,
The following is from the pen of a man of affluence, and an independent, patriotic, Scotch Lowlander, who has travelled inthe Highlands for to obtain personal knowledge of what was going on there, and whose sympathy for the oppressed Highlanders often graced the pages of the Scotch public press:-
To the Editor of the Scottish Herald.
SIR, – An unaccountable apathy has come over the press this some time past regarding Highland affairs. Twelve months ago the nation was made to ring with indignant exclamations at the oppressions and privations under which our Cletic countrymen have been long groaning; but now there is as little said on the subject, as if the people on whose behalf so much complain of. This, however, is not the case. The grievances of the Gael still remain unredressed. They still continue to live, steeped in the same poverty and degradation which have been their lot since they wereburned out of their ancient habitations in the valleys, and planted like sea fowls on the outskirts of their country. While a Highlander is left to shiver out a miserable existence on that dismal, sea-begirt locality which he has been compelled to exchange for his once comfortable inland farm – while one glen remains unoccupied, capable of affording adequate shelter and nourishment to him, the public ought not to be satisfied, and the press betrays its trust by remaining silent.
I have been led into these remarks in consequence of accidentally perusing an admirable work on the state of the Highlands, published in 1785 by Mr. John Knox, a man celebrated for his patriotism and enlightened philanthropy. About the period Mr. Knox wrote his book, the depopulating projects of the Highland lairds were in full operation, and this warmhearted individual resolved, if possible, to avert the ruin he saw impending over his country. He accordingly travelled alone through the glens and mountains of the north on horseback, with the view of convincing the chieftains of the cruelty and error of their conduct towards their unoffending clansmen, and devising schemes for the immediate relief and permanent elevation of those unhappy sons of toil; and since Mr. Knox’s day no author that I am aware of has written so powerfully on the distress of the Highlanders [‘A Tour through the Highlands of Scotland and the Hebride Isles’ (1786)], or displayed so minute and accurate a knowledge of the remedies best adapted for their condition. True, Mr. Knox was no flatterer of the great, no visionary dreamer. He did not, as is the modern custom, go to the Highlands to calumniate the natives, to represent them as drones and cumberers of the ground, in order to minister to the designs of a few rapacious capitalists and hard-hearted landowners; no, he went there to console the inhabitants under the hardships they were suffering – to proclaim to the world their patient industry, and the many noble virtues by which they were distinguished. But he was sensible his work was only half done when he accomplished these things. A practical benefactor, he examined into the fishing and agricultural capabilities of the country, and having, after incredible labour, satisfied himself that the Highlands teemed with resources, sufficient to sustain ten times the umber of human beings that were starving in those regions, he points out how the resources he had discovered might be called forth, and the aboriginal tribes thereby kept at home, and made useful citizens, instead of being banished like felons into far distant climes. O that Scotchmen of the present day would imbibe a little of Mr. Knox’s wisdom and fervour in this cause, and look with the same compassionate eye that he did towards the neglected hills of Caledonia: but, alas! I fear everything like a disinterested, manly public spirit is dead among us, and the age is vanished when the Highlanders would have disdained to ask any other aid save that of their own good swords to right their own wrongs. But did Mr. Knox content himself with using soft words while witnessing those terrible exhibitions of havoc, oppression, and expulsion which were then prevalent in the Highlands? Very far from it; being convinced that the chieftains were for their own mean and selfish ends madly bent on destroying a community that might be the glory and stay of their country inthe hour of peril, his indignation rose in proportion to the magnitude of crime those infatuated men were committing, and he speaks of their doings in the following emphatic terms:-
“I shall not waste paper on arguments which with some minds pass as tinkling sounds. Since neither the precepts of Christianity nor philosophy can make any impression – since humanity and avarice never can assimilate – we must change our ground, and trace the subject to its origin. The earth which we inhabit was given for the general support and benefit of all mankind, by a Being who is incapable of partiality or destinction; and though in the arrangements of society the earth is divided into very unequal proportions, and these confined to a few individuals, whilst the great body of the people are totally cut off, this distribution doth not give the possessors a shadow of right to deprive mankind of the fruits of their labour. The earth is the property of Him by whom it was called into existence; and, strictly speaking, no person hath an exclusive right to any part of it who cannot show a charter or deed handed down from the original and only Proprietor of all nature; if otherwise, they hold their possessions upon usage only. Grants of land were made by princes to their champions, friends and favourites; and these have been handed down from father to son, or by them transferred to new possessors; but where are the original charters from the Author of nature to those monarchs? In vain may we search the archives of nations from one extreme of the globe to the other. If so, and who can controvert it? the man who toils at the plough from five o’clock in the morning to sunset, and who sows the seed, hath undoubtedly a right to the produce thereof, preferably to the lounger who lies in bed till ten, and spends the remainder of the day in idleness, extravagance, and frivolous or vicious pursuits. The tenure of the former is held from God, founded on the eternal law of justice; the claim of the latter is from man, held in virtue of the revolutions and casual events of nations.
“He therefore who denies his fellow-creatures the just earnings oftheir labour counteracts the benevolent intentions of the Deity – deprives his king and country of an industrious and useful body of the community, whom he drives from starvation at home to slavery abroad – ought to be considered as an avowed enemy of society, particularly the man who can take the cow from the aged widow, and afterwards the bed, the kettle, and the chair – thus turning out the decrepid at fourscore to wander from door to door, till infirmities and grief close the scene of tribulation.
“Since human laws do not reach such persons, while petty rogues are cut off in dozens, their names ought to be published in every newspaper within these kingdoms, and themselves excluded from any place of honour or profit, civil or military.”
Now, Sir, let it be observed, these are not the sentiments of a person who had revolutionary or party purposes to serve, but the deliberate opinions of a philosophic, humane, generous, and independent spirit; who could take an enlarged view of the matter he had in hand, and sincerely feel for the distresses, and show that he had a thorough perception of the inalienable rights of his fellow-creatures. But I fatigue you, and I would just add in conclusion, let your readers ponder well the quotation I have just given them from Mr. Knox’s publication, and ask themselves the question, whether it is not as capable of being applied to landowners, both in the Highlands and Lowlands, in the 19th, as it was in the 18th century. I could instance facts to prove this; but, as I understand Mr. Donald McLeod is to give you a few sketches of some pictures of wretchedness he saw in Sutherland lately, I forbear inthe meanwhile, and shall simply refer you to him for practical illustrations of the truth of the general statements contained in this epistle.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Edinburgh, 24th July, 1844.
I know many will consider that I am unwarrantably attacking the character of Ministers of the Gospel; and may say what could they do as they had no control over the proprietors. Thank God that the Gospel or religion is not to be measured by the conduct of its preachers, and that they are not all alike. Read the following from the pen of a reverend gentleman, whom I believe to be a faithful Minister of Christ, upon the subject I have handled a little ago, and I think when you will read the evidence of so many witnesses upon oath, you will admit at once that I have not exaggerated Colonel Gordon’s strictured, and none, I hope, who will read the conduct and co-operation of this infamous hireling, Henry Beatson, Minister of Barra, with Colonel Gordon in the evictions in that island, cannot but admit that such vicious dogs should be exposed, and classed in this world, among their companions through eternity, viz., oppressors of the poor, with the Devil and his angels: read 10th chapter, Gospel of St. John.
1 Titles have been added to break up the passage and give an idea of following content.
2 John Greenleaf Whittier (1844)
3 1 bol = 4 firlots; 1 firlot = 4 pecks; 1 peck = approx. 12 lbs; so 1 bol = approx. 192 lbs
4 ‘But facts are chiels that winna ding,
An downa be disputed.’ – Robert Burns, ‘A Dream’ (1786).
[But facts are things that won’t change,
And cannot be disputed.]
5 Ukase – (in tsarist Russia) a decree with the force of law.
6 Malversation – corrupt behaviour in a position of trust, especially in public office.
He keeps calling Mrs Beecher Stowe’s ‘Sunny Memories’ ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ as his way of comparing it to complete fiction. The sarcasm drips from his letters in such a way it had me laughing.