GENTLEMEN AND FELLOW COUNTRYMEN:-
It is true that we are the genuine descendants of a race of whom we have much cause to be proud, and boast of – for we may turn up the pages of antiquity and ransack moderns and ancient history in vain, to find out a race of people, among whom bravery and patriotism existed equal to the Celtic race, or among whom Civilization, Science, Literature, Morality, Benevolence, and Humanity, made such progress as among the Celtic, who occupied the Highlands of Scotland. But alas, alas! It is true, that all that they were – all that they have done for ungrateful Britain, went for nothing when their enemies got the upper hand of them. It is now a lamentable truth, that the Highlands of Scotland (Tìr mo gràidh. Tìr nam beann, nan gleann ‘s nan gaisgeach) which the Roman army in their victorious days failed to conquer – which the brutal Edwards, and Cromwell, and many other formidable invaders failed to subdue – are now converted to a howling solitary wilderness, from which joy and rejoicing are fled for ever. Where the martial notes of the bag-pipes, echoed by mountains and glens, ceased to be heard – and where no sweeter strains to cheer the stranger who may happen to travel there, are heard, than the yell of shepherds and foxhunters the bleating of sheep, the barking of collie dogs, and the screeches of the owl and eagle.
It is true my friends, that I have devoted all my spare time and means, for the last thirty-four years, expostulating, remonstrating with, and exposing the desolators of my country, and extirpators of my race, from the land of their birth, and advocating the cause of the suffering people, during these trying, murdering, and desolating times – considering that I could not serve God in a more acceptable way, than to help those who could not help themselves. Thousands of my countrymen in this country, and elsewhere, will bear me witness in what I have suffered at the hands of the scions of Highland aristocracy, for performing what I considered my incumbent duty.
Not knowing my position in life, especially my pecuniary circumstances, many of my countrymen in the Canadas, say – Why not come out DONALD McLEOD with your long promised Highland Cabin, that the cruel conduct, and ungodly oppression of Highland oppressors, may be immortalized in the Canadas.
Your importunities are most agreeable to me, for I bear in my mind an undying desire to gratify you, and I hope in the course of some time, that I will accomplish it.
The only excuse I can plead for the delay, is my circumscribed circumstances. I have been peeled and plucked so often, that there was scarcely a feather in my wings when I left Scotland, and they are but slowly progressing as yet – but there is hope of their restoration. To solicit aid was hitherto foreign to my mind, but now I am old and have learnt, (nach sluagh duine na ònar) that one man is not a people.
The time is now come when I consider I have to perform my part to gratify you. The conflicting opinions and ideas regarding the rights of property, more especially property in land, and what constitutes property in land, is a great barrier in my way: all who read and believe sacred history, I think will agree with me, that the whole creation of God was at one time public property. How is the most part of God’s creation now taken out of His hands, and converted to individual private property? Since history took notice of the movement of nations, I can trace only three fundamental, feasible laws, which constitute right of property in land, viz:- the laws of discovery, of conquest, and of purchase. For instance, when a seafaring captain discovers a continent, or an island, he takes possession of it in the name of his Sovereign and Government. On his return he is rewarded. Government transports, with soldiers, surveyors, pioneers, &c., are dispatched to ascertain the mineral wealth and various resources of the land, and all expenses for discovery, and of the expedition are paid out of the public treasury, hence the discovered land becomes national property. Emigration will follow, commissioners are appointed by government, (and paid out of the public purse) to sell the land. The land is sold, but under certain stipulations, and these conditions must be observed, or the purchase right is forfeited. Though you purchased the land legally, and pay for it punctually, still government has a perfect right, (at least it should have) to compel the obstinate and vicious to cultivate, or use the land for the greatest good or benefit of the lieges; wise governments do in all cases retain for themselves the power that no right of property in land shall be a barrier to public good and prosperity; railways and canals can be driven through your land, quarries and gravel pits can be opened in your corn-fields, whether you will or not, so that in my opinion land cannot be, nor should it be, private property that a man can do what he pleases with it.
There are many vicious, inhumane, and unconstitutional men in this world, and to be found among land owners in greater ratio than any other classes I know or read about. Now supposing that one or any number of them took it into their heads to convert their estates into hunting parks, lays, and preserves of wild and destructive animals, which could neither be enclosed nor prevented from depredatory inroads upon other people’s property – purposely to afford themselves, their rich friends, and favourite companions amusement, or to let their domains upon rent to sportsmen [hunters], should not government interfere. But to find these men boldly entering both Houses of Parliament with a bill demanding an Act of Parliament to protect them in their wicked and unconstitutional scheme, and to punish by banishment or long imprisonment, any one who would even trespass upon the preserves or lays of these animals to annoy them. Nut this is not all, but an act whereby they could seize upon property of their poorer co-proprietors and neighbours, burn down their habitations, banish themselves from the land, and add their property to their own extensive game preserves. You surely would consider this effrontery without a parallel in the annals of plunderers; and I am sure you will agree with me that the imbecility, yea, insanity of the Legislature or Government who would enact such laws and grant such liberties, are beyond the comprehension of rational beings; likewise that the shortsightedness, culpable carelessness, and cowardice of a nation boasting of their civilization, intelligence, and christianity, who would tolerate such unwise and ungodly proceedings are beyond description. But you say Donald are you raving, where did such enormities take place? I tell you in Scotland; yes in beloved and never to be forgotten Scotland, in Caledonia Tìr nam beann, nan gleann ‘s nan Gaisgeach, – “the land of the mountains, the cataracts, and heroes” still worse than this took place, and I will make it as clear as noonday to you in my narrative, – yes, after the union of England and Scotland, far more insane and unconstitutional laws were enacted, and to the everlasting disgrace of the British Parliament and nation are still allowed a stain upon the statute book, and in full operation, to rob the poor to make the rich richer – to gratify a few avaricious minions who, constitutionally speaking, forfeited their rights of property, (with very few exceptions) their rights and privileges of communion with christians, and who should long ere now be arraigned before the highest tribunal of the nation, and dealt with as conspirators and traitors. Men who have neither bravery, ancestry, virtue, or honour to boast of; men who cannot claim the rights of discovery, of conquest, of defending, nor of purchase to the land they now hold as their private property, and considering their rights to these lands sacred.
Very few Historians, however unprincipled and partial, ever attempted to deprive the Celtic race of their right of discovery to Scotland, and we have ample proof in history of how the Celts defended Scotland from every invader from the first invasion of the Romans down to the ignoble union or alliance with England; so that Scotland stands alone among the nations of the known world unconquered. No doubt the Lowlands of Scotland have been invaded and conquered more than once; but when these powerful invaders came to exchange blows with the (unmixed in blood) Celtic Caledonians, they met with more than their match, were repelled, had to retrace their steps, and often not many of them left to retrace their steps. If this is admitted, (and who can deny it) I maintain that the lineal descendants of the discoverers and defenders of Scotland, are the real proprietors of the land, and that every one of that lineage from John O’Groat to Maiden Kirk, has as good a right to a portion of the land as the Dukes of Roxburgh, Buccleuch, Hamilton, Athol, Argyle, Gordon, or Sutherland, who (along with other nine or ten Earls, Marquises and Lords) hold more than the two-thirds of Scotland, as their private property, exclusively for themselves and their families’ aggrandizement, luxury and amusement, and three-fourths of their domains devoted to rear brute animals. How the legitimate heirs of children of the soil were dispossessed and expelled, and how aliens and cruel bastards got possession of the Scottish soil, is to be explained. To trace the history of the Celtic race down from the Garden of Eden to Cape-wrath, in Sutherlandshire would be the work of supererogation, hence I must confine myself to the time since history took hold of their movements and system of Government; and however complicated, conflicting, and partial historians are upon the genealogy, customs and government of this race, it is evident that braver men never existed, and no other race on record who excelled them in literature, science, and civilization.
I would in particular solicit the attention of my readers to what they should all know – the chain of Scottish historians, whose works are still extant, though suppressed and locked up from those who should be edified by them – works sufficient to convince the most obdurate, that learning and civilization always followed our race from the earliest ages, not only in Scotland but in other nations where they made a distinguished figure.
“I am tired,” says Julius Leichton, “of hearing the Roman authors quoted, when the commencement of our civilization is spoken of, while nothing is said of the Celts, or of our obligation to them. It was not the Latins, it was the Gauls who were our first instructors. Aristotle declared that philosophy was derived by the Greeks from the Gauls, and not imparted to them. The Gauls were truly of sharp wit and apt to learn. So much did the Briton Celts excel in profound learning, that the youths of the continent came hitherto to study by a course of no less than twenty year’s probation.” (See Tacitus’s life of Agricola.) Read the same Roman historian’s admiration and description of the Caledonian Celts under the command of Corbred the Second, surnamed Galgacus and twenty-second King of Scotland, when they confronted the Roman army under the command of Agricola, at the foot of the Grampian hills, where a most sanguinary battle was fought; and though the Romans by stratagem gained a partial victory, and when Agricola proposed to pursue them, “No,” said Tacitus (his son-in-law) “be content that you have so many of the Roman soldiers to lead off the field that if you pursue the defeated Caledonians one league further, you shall not have one Roman soldier to guard your person going home. These are the most formidable, and bravest enemy that ever Rome had to confront, every one of them will die before they yield, they are true patriots, Agricola, make all haste to your strongholds or you are done.” So the Romans had to retrace their steps, and the Caledonians pursued them until the Romans were ultimately driven into the sea. Columba burned many of these Celtic records, yet many survived his ravages. St. Patrick burned one hundred and eighty-nine of those works at Tara, Ireland, all written in the Gaelic language, with a little mixture of Latin. Edward the First, of England, destroyed many of them, and after the ignoble union with England, what portion of them were preserved extant from these ravages, are now suppressed so as to deprive Scotland of their Celtic record and of the history of their grandfathers. I find thirty-seven of these records suppressed, and locked up in libraries where only a few favourites are admitted, and those say very little about them, except what they say to mutilate and violate them. To enumerate all the works in the Gaelic, Latin, and English language, now suppressed, would require more room or space than I can spare in this small narrative. Among these works, we find the ancient annals of Scotland; the Pictish Chronicle of high antiquity; the register of St. Andrew, beginning with 827, when that university was founded by the primitive Celtic christians of Scotland; the works of Nenius in the seventh century; the annals of Dunbarton, beginning with the Columbian period; the Chronicle of Melrose, partly written in Gaelic, and partly in Latin; the Obituary and Chartularly of Glasgow; the History of Scotland by Vermandus, Arch-Deacon of St. Andrew, in 1079, Hector Boethius, first principal of Aberdeen College, his history cut deep and is on that account abhorred by the English, (on the savage charge given by Edward the First to his no less savage son, to boil him after he was dead, and to carry his bones with him to frighten the Scots) – Boethius remarks that after he was boiled, “few would sup the broth.” The black book of Paisley, the last part of which is a continuation of Scots’ Chronicon [John Fordun’s ‘Scotichronicon’, completed by Walter Bower]. Also Lord Elibank’s Treatise on the Scottish League with France in the reign of Charlemange; and the vast collection of Scottish Annals collected by Sir James Balfour, still preserved, particularly his registers of Scone and Cambuskeneth, now locked up in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, besides his history of Fergus the First to Charles the First; together with the Monastic Chronicles, under the appropriate title of Scottish Annals.
But all these and as many more are suppressed, and locked up, but still extant; besides this we have about one hundred manuscript volumes in the Gaelic language, collected and in the possession of the Highland Society, Edinburgh, some of which were transcribed in the fifth century, and is allowed by competent judges, to be the oldest document written in any living language; the document itself is sufficient to prove its author. He was named Fithil, rector of the High School of Iona. The volume consists of two poems, inculcating the only true guide to well-doing here, and eternal happiness hereafter, viz.: that spotless morality which is alone founded on the word of God; there is also a critical dissertation on a singular poem, Tain Bo, or the cattle spoil, an event which happened only five years after the Ascension. All of these Gaelic volumes consists of treatises on Botany, Anatomy, Astronomy, Astrology, Theology, Economy, Science, Literature, and Politics; all in the Gaelic language, but all (as I said before) suppressed or lying useless, locked up in universities’ and societies’ libraries. It is a very natural enquiry:- Why are these works suppressed or locked up? or by whom, and what is the cause for it? – They are suppressed by the British Government, and the cause is obvious but ignoble in the extreme.
Previous to the miscalled union of Scotland and England it is evident that England could never conquer Scotland until the Caledonians were subdued; they often made bloody attempts, but were as often defeated; but England had recourse to intrigues, her favourite weapons, and after securing her alliance with Scotland, she found it a very easy task to conquer. What her arms, and her bloody and murderous kings and generals could never achieve, her treacherous intrigues and money did for her. She got Scot to fight against Scot, Caledonian against Caledonian. She then laughed in her sleeve, and exulted like the lion in the fable when he saw two bulls in the same park with him quarrelling and fighting; knowing they would soon become his prey, for she (stretched upon a couch of down) had her soul satisfaction to see the two damned stupid Scottish bulls fighting between death and life until they ultimately conquered and subdued one another in 1746, upon the murderous and unfortunate field of Culloden, when the English insatiable Lion seized upon them both, and Scotland, who, before this, was the pride and protectoress and faithful ally of all the reformed christian nations of the world, and the terror of England; and all other cruel ambitious nations, her name became now Ichabod, her glory departed, she forfeited her proud position among nations, and ceased forever to be numbered among them or recognized as a nation. England seized her Government, her laws, and in short her all. The duped, affected, and the disaffected, shared alike. No doubt the Duke of Cumberland, the most obnoxious, cowardly monster, that ever disgraced humanity, commissioned his followers to acts of murder, plunder, and violence. Thank God, unprecedented in the histories of nations (excepting England) plunder which some of them do enjoy to this day, Argyle among the noblest of them. In that unfortunate year the Black Act was enacted, which deprived the Caledonians of their national garb, of their arms, and forbade them to wear either under the pains and penalties of heavy fines, long imprisonment, and banishment.* This nefarious act was in force, and strictly watched for thirty-two years, which is equal to a generation. Our poets, the reprovers of evil cowardly deeds, and the recorders of the deeds of valiant men, were silenced, and many of them made a narrow escape from the gallows, for their pensive memoirs of the fallen at Culloden, on the day when Scotland was prostrated, at the foot of her avowed enemy, a day pregnant with degradation, slavery, and the desolation and misery I have to record; all the Gaelic manuscript and history that could be discovered, by hook or by crook, was seized, destroyed, or locked up, among which was the national records, from Fergus the First, to William the First, and none who understood the language were admitted to see them; and after the elapse of thirty-two years of this Reign of Terror very few were found to peruse or understand the language.
There were various motives for these outrageous proceedings, against the Caledonians in particular, and they answered their various designs to the aristocrats heart’s desire. England knew that the most effectual way to subdue the Celts, was to crush their loyalty to their legitimate sovereign, to crush their kindred feeling, habits and customs, and extirpate the patriarchal system of government from among them; but there was another primary cause, viz.: the Celtic history of Scotland recorded the feudal brutality of English invaders in Scotland, which is indeed too horrifying to speak of, hence would need to be suppressed, that England’s barbarity might be obliterated, and that Scotland and Ireland might be saddled with all her sins. Moreover that Scotland might be left defenceless from the attacks of England’s hired historians, to defame her in her government and her chivalry, in her patriotism, her customs, her science, and literature, and to make everything that was great and good, English. It is a notorious fact that so far as the ingenuity of these hired emissaries could go, they were faithful to their employers; and that these noted calumniators of Scotland were chosen from among her own treacherous sons, beginning with Robertson, under the dictation and command of Horace Walpole, the notorious Dupe of Catterton, down to infamous Babington Macaulay. Limits will not permit me to detail the injustice done to Caledonians by these hired literary scourges, yet with all that they have done, there is still extant of the history of our noble race, enough to make these mutilators blush, and more than enough to make their spurious sarcasm and unfounded calumny stink in Scottish and in the world’s nostrils. Five hundred years before the Christian Era, the Celts took possession of Scotland, and down from that period they governed themselves under the Patriarchal system, until the last remnant of it was destroyed upon the unfortunate muir of Culloden; they had their kings and chieftains, who were entrusted with their government, not by hereditary rights, but as they were found competent to discharge their duties. They obeyed and ardently loved and respected their kings and chieftains while they behaved themselves, but no further; never allowed them to interfere with the rights of the land and further than to parcel it out to their followers impartially, and the people parcelled out to them what they considered sufficient to keep them comfortable and respectable. The chieftains or captains were amenable to the king in all their proceedings; when a dispute arose between the people and their chief, that could not be settled otherwise, it was submitted to the king as their umpire; his decision was final.
When the king required men to defend the nation, each chief had to appear with so many trained men, and in proportion to the number entrusted to them; and in proportion as they distinguished themselves on the battle field, they were honoured and rewarded by the king. According to our Celtic Annals, the founder of the noble family of Sutherland (after which now an Englishman takes his name, and who will make a conspicuous figure in my narrative) flourished in the year seventy-six, and fought under Galgacus, the hero of the Grampians, (see Nicholl’s Scottish Peerage) and we find another of that noble family of Thanes, Barons, and Earls, who kept their history unsullied from any acts of cruelty or injustice for more than nineteen hundred years, and their memory dear to those under them for ages. I say we find him joining Robert Bruce upon the memorable field of Bannockburn, leading a powerful and resolute body of his retainers to the field of slaughter; upon this great occasion they distinguished themselves so well that the king complimented their noble leader upon the field of battle, and shortly afterwards presented him with a charter of lands in Morayshire, Caithness and Sutherland Shires; but upon the express conditions that he would attend to the military discipline of those brave men, and that he and his offspring, attached to the crown of Scotland; many similar distinctions were made and charters granted by Robert Bruce after the battle of Bannockburn, but all on the same conditions. Many of the Scotch Kings and Queens who succeeded Bruce were still more strict upon the chief or captains; they were restricted to only a few acres of pleasure ground, and no piece of land susceptible of cultivation was to remain uncultivated, or unoccupied, and the mountains and forests were free to all. Kings, queens, and captains, knew that men, faithful adherents, who had an interest in the soil, were their safeguard and protectors in the hour of need and of danger, and they valued their services. This is the fundamental Patriarchal laws of property in land in Scotland. How were these laws reversed, and that now, a very few men claim every inch of land in Scotland, as their private property, and their rights to these sacred? Have they purchased their lands from the rightful owners? No. Have they got it from heaven? No; but by taking the advantage of the revolts, and revolutions which followed the dethroning of the legitimate Sovereigns, and the treacherous union with England, they managed to plunder the people of it. After the union a new sacred perishable parchment right of property was consecrated, and not a vestige of right or of protection was left for the people in so much of the necessaries of life as was considered sufficient to sustain life, and so far was this same vestige neglected, that it was for one hundred and twenty years lying under dust, unmolested, in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, and the poor throughout Scotland perishing and dying in want, and might sleep there yet, was it not for the God fearing man, Mr Charles Spence, Solicitor, Supreme Court, at the entreaties of many, made a search, and found it and took an active part in putting it in force. I myself went to Sutherlandshire and supplied Mr. Spence with seventy-two cases of the Ducal Estate, besides what I supplied from the neighbouring Counties and Estates; we took action in some of them and were successful, the Court of Session was crowded with poor cases, there the hue and cry got up, Highland landlords will be ruined and lowland landlords will not escape. Sir Duncan MacNeil was then Lord Advocate for Scotland. He was solicited to prepare a poor law bill to parliament to save Highland landlords from ruin and bankruptcy. Sir Duncan went to work, prepared an admirable bill, or rather a compilation of complications, of crook and straights, hollows and bolds, short and long, mockery and realties, sense and nonsense, heaped up in a voluminous volume, he hurried the bill through both Houses of Parliament, and behold the result; the poor were deprived of the only vestige of right they had, and poverty made a crime, no man however charitably disposed can interfere in their behalf now; but Sir Duncan like a wise philosopher secured a luxurious situation for his brother Sir John, who sits at the head of the Board of Supervision in Edinburgh, gauging the stomachs of the Scottish poor to know to a nicety how much food they require to sustain life. The operation of this bill is a disgrace to christianity, as you will see when I come to shew it up in its proper place. But sinful and unjust as this bungling bill is, yet Highland landlords found a loop-hole to get rid of it untouched. They had a long established law by which they could expel the poor of the soil, to foreign lands or to large towns where they had to be sustained by the people who had no right to do it, and who had no hand in impoverishing them and besides they have an arbitrary power, (which none durst contend) to tax the rest of their retainers, who in most cases are not much better off than the paupers, they are taxed for their maintenance; but they dare not whisper a complaint or off they go; in this way the Highland minions got off Scot free. But their unhallowed schemes are constituted in their edicts forbidding marriage on their estates. I have before me a letter from a friend stating that there are in the parish of Clyne, Sutherlandshire, a parish of small size, seventy-five bachelors, the oldest of them seventy-five years; and the youngest of them thirty-five years of age, only two marriages, and three baptisms registered; in another parish one baptism no marriage, and so on. It is not very likely that they would tell Mrs. B. Stowe, or that she enquired about this edict, in order to give it a place in her sunny memories, but she must have it. More of this afterwards. In 1846, the result of expelling the people from their fertile valleys and straths, and huddling them (those who could not make their escape to foreign lands or elsewhere) together in motley groups upon patches of barren moors, precipices, and by corners upon the sea shore, exposed to all the casualties of the seasons; places with few exceptions never designed by God for cultivation, nor for the abode of man, without the least encouragement for improvement, all tenants at will ready to be turned away for the least offence, or when a grazier or huntsman envied their places.
This is a cursed scheme which was adopted by every Highland landlord, from Cape-wrath to the Mull of Kintyre, with one or two honourable exceptions, (it would be more applicable if I called these Highland Scourges). I say in the year 1846-’47, when the miserable unnourishing potato crop which was reared upon these patches failed, then the cry of famine in the Highlands got up like the voice of thunder, sounded and resounded, to the outmost skirts of Europe, India, and America; public meetings were called to see what could be devised and done to save the people. The first meeting was held in the Music Hall, Edinburgh, the Lord Provost Black, presided; the Rev. Norman McLeod, junior, moved the first resolution, which ran nearly thus:- “As it pleased God in his mysterious providence to visit the Highlands and Islands of Scotland with Famine on account of their sin, that it behoved Christians of all denominations who were blessed with the means to come forward liberally that the Highlanders might be saved.” The resolution was seconded and supported when his Lordship rose to put it to the meeting, I got up and announced that I had a few words to say before it was put to the meeting, being in my moleskin working dress every eye was fixed up on me, the same as if I was a wolf that had sprang up; however I got a hearing and said that I was a Highlander, and knew the cause of distress and famine in the Highlands, and that I had devoted all my spare time for many years back proclaiming it publicly in their ears, and the ears of the nation, predicting that ultimately it would arrive at this fearful crisis, and now I cannot sit quiet in this great assembly of learned men, and hear the sins and heavy guilt of Highland proprietors saddled upon my GOD, and that by his well paid servant. Will the Rev. mover of this resolution tell me what cause he supposes the Lord has against the poor Highlanders for so long a time (for they were not in a much better state for the last twenty-six years than they are now), that he should send a famine among them to destroy them; or do the leaders of this movement consider themselves more humane and merciful than God, or that puny man or men can contend with him in doing what He in His mysterious providence, purposed to do; methinks, that if God was to visit sinners with famine or any other calamity for their sins, that He would begin in London and with Highland proprietors, and not with the poor people who were more sinned against than sinners. Highland landlords are the legitimate parents, and the guilty authors of this and of former distress and famine in the Highlands of Scotland, and should be made responsible for it and for future calamities which they are storing up for the unfortunate victims of their boundless avarice. I did not come to this meeting, my Lord Provost, with a view to obstruct the proceedings, for I rejoice to see such steps taken to save the people, not from the famine God sent among them to destroy them, but from the famine entailed upon them by their wicked unworthy landlords. But if God is not exonerated from the charge brought against Him, publicly here this day, and entirely separated from an ungodly association of Highland aristocrats, who were bent for years upon the destruction of Highlanders, and upon the extermination of the race from the soil, I will be under the necessity of proposing a counter resolution.” HIs Lordship pledged himself that the committee would take it into consideration. I did not press my motion and the meeting proceeded. The appeal went forth, and was responded to in a manner creditable to the nation, the colonies and the United States of America. In less time than could be expected, the unprecedented sum of £300,000 was subscribed, and the legitimate parents of this distress were not behind with their subscriptions. Lord Macdonald subscribed, among the first, one thousand pounds sterling, Duke of Sutherland, two thousand pounds, other Dukes, Lords, Earls, and notorious Colonel Gordon, followed the example so far. The sole management of this enormous sum of money was placed in the hands of Government for distribution; Lord Trevelyan, the Hero of the Test Starving Commission in Ireland, was appointed as commissioner for the distribution of this munificent gift of nations for the relief of Highlanders. He got a brig of war rigged out for his service, commanded by one Captain Elliot, an Englishman, an accomplished tool in the hands of tyrants and calumniators. The Highlanders were represented as dirty, lazy, untameable beings, who would do nothing to help themselves while they would be kept alive upon charity. Hence was decreed that every male and female considered by the local Boards of Relief able to work, were not to be relieved without working for it; and to test their real need of relief, and their willingness to work, they were allowed one pound of meal as meat and wages for ten hours’ labour, with the addition of one-half a pound of meal to each of their families, or children who could not work, and often the meal was so much adulterated that it was dangerous for even swine to eat it. Yes, reader, pregnant women whose husbands were not at home, and aged widows, were seen at this work, and treated in like manner.
It was then suggested by some known knave, that Highland proprietors would get so much money for improving their estates, as they knew best who was worthy of relief and willing to work; and these sums to be in proportion to their subscriptions; then you may easily guess who got the lion’s share of it. From their own reports we find, that Lord Macdonald got £3,000 in return for his £1,000 subscription, what he has done with it is not known, and never will, (and I durst not say that he pouched it). His Grace of Sutherland got £6,000 in return for his £2,000 subscription, (good return) but his Grace built a splendid hunting booth, in a secluded Glen, in the north-west portion of his domains, and he made a road to this booth from Lairg, through a solitary wilderness, a distance of at least thirty miles, entirely for the accommodation of his gamekeepers, huntsmen, sportsmen; any other travellers were seen only as rare as a pelican in the deserts of Arabia. But very few of the Sutherlanders reaped any benefit from these works, as on former occasions strangers were preferred. We could not expect to see this in Mrs. H. B. Stowe’s Sunny Memories. Neither need we expect to see in her future Memories of the House of Sutherland, that during these distressing times a large quantity of meal was deposited in some of his Grace’s stores and entrusted to some of his factors for distribution, and that that meal was concealed or unrighteously kept from the people for a whole twelvemonth, and used for feeding dogs, swine, poultry, and cattle, until it became so rotten that it was found dangerous to the health of these animals, then men were employed to hurl it out to middens and to the sea in rotten blue lumps; great quantities of it were disposed of in this way, while the poor were chiefly feeding upon shell fish and sea weeds. This is a grave charge against his Grace and his wicked servants, who were, at all hazards, determined to destroy the people; I have seen them living in Canada, and not far from me, who were employed for days at this work. Whether his Grace or his head commissioner, James Loch, dictated, or at least supplied Mrs. H. B. Stowe with all the information she required to make up chapter seventeen of her Sunny Memories, (a lady whom I will use the liberty to address afterwards, but to whom I am not, at present, afraid to tell her if she founded the information in Uncle Tom’s Cabin upon no better evidence than she had on this occasion, that very little credence can be placed in it). I say whether these personages, along with Lord Trevelyan and his Quarter Deck Inspector were collectively or separately connected with this diabolical outrage upon justice and humanity, is better known to themselves; but one thing is evident, the crime was committed by their underlings, and let reproach remain, among them as an immortal stain upon their character. Black and deformed as their deeds were, they were not without their precedents in the history of distributions in Sutherlandshire, which you will see as we proceed. To be brief, I believe that if a correct history of the distribution of this munificent gift of nations, the squandering away of the money and its misapplications could be obtained, it would be the most disgraceful which ever has been recorded, and that it would be the astonishment of mankind, how could men professing christianity and of good standing in society, be hardened so much as to commit such villainy, or how could they ever afterwards have the effrontery to shew their face in society. At the closing up of the affair the public requested the trustees and officials to render an account of their stewardship. Accountants were employed for months examining their books. It was found out that six or seven thousand pounds sterling were wanted that could not be accounted for at all, and their accounts and disbursements so much confounded and confused that scrutiny was given up, and the infamous affair hushed up, and the wholesale plunderers allowed to escape with the booty, unblushingly to mix with society. This is all the satisfaction the liberal contributors got, or ever will, excepting Highland Dukes, Lords, &c., no doubt satisfactory to them, for they got for certainty the benefit of one hundred and thirty thousand pounds of it; take along with this, Captain Elliot with his crew of marines and sailors, him receiving his £1 10s per day, and his subordinates receiving equal sums, according to their rank, and a host of agents and officials on full pay, you may easily believe that a very small portion of this extraordinary public bounty ever reached the stomachs of the poor for whom it was intended. Indeed it is a question with me if the poor realised any benefit at all from it, except those who had been transported to Canada and other colonies with it. I know for a certainty that after the funds were exhausted, that the people were in a worse state than they were before, and that the misapplication of these funds sealed the public bowels of compassion against them in the future. For many years I was expostulating with the late and present Dukes of Sutherland in my own humble way, for their policy towards their people. In 1841 I published so many of my letters in the form of a pamphlet, which is here reprinted – some may think that I have some particular private spleen against the House of Sutherland, when I lay so heavily at them. To disabuse the mind of such, permit me to say (honestly) that I have no such private spleen to gratify, and that I have no more animosity towards the House of Sutherland than I have towards all other Highland depopulators. That I was persecuted and suffered much at the hands of the underlings of the House of Sutherland I do not deny nor conceal. But it is the ten-times cursed system which desolated Caledonia, beggared and pauperised the people, which broke down and scattered to the four winds of heaven the best portion of the materials of our national bulwarks, which robbed the people of their righteous rights, and left them the victims of their avaricious spoilers and defamers. This is the system to which I will be an avowed enemy and antagonist which I breathe the breath of life. You have now my former productions before you.
* See some of the Acts from 1715 to 1782.