To trace the scenes of desolation, and the extreme poverty occasioned by the clearing system, in the West Highlands, is more than can be expected in this work. This was done by abler men than me, viz., MR. ROBERT SUMMERS, Editor of the Glasgow Daily Mail, and MR. DONALD ROSS, Writer, Glasgow, gentlemen to whom the Highlanders are much indebted for their disinterested advocacy in behalf of the poor, and their disclosure of the cruelty and ungodly conduct of proprietors. But before leaving Perthshire, permit me to make some few remarks upon his Grace of Atholl. The Duke of Atholl, can, with propriety, claim the origin of Highland clearances. Whatever merit the family of Sutherland and Stafford may take to themselves, for the fire and faggot expulsion of the people from the Glens of Sutherland, they cannot claim the merit of originality. The present Duke of Atholl’s Grandfather cleared Glen Tilt, in 1784. This beautiful valley was occupied in the same way as other Highland valleys; each family possessing a piece of arable land, while the hill-pasture was held in common. The people held a right and full liberty to fish in the Tilt, and excellent salmon river, and the pleasure and profits of the chase, in common with their chief; but the then Duke acquired a great taste for deer. The people were for time immemorial accustomed to take their cattle in the summer seasons to a higher glen, which is watered by the River Tarfe; but the Duke appointed this Glen Tarfe for a deer forest, and built a high dyke at the head of Glen Tilt. The people submitted to this encroachment on their rights. The deer increased, and did not pay much regard to the march, people complained, and His Grace rejoiced: and to gratify the roving propensities of these light-footed animals, he added another splice of some of some thousand acres of the people’s land to the grazing grounds of his favourite deer. Gradually the deer forest extended, and the marks of cultivation were effaced, till the last of the brave Glen Tilt men, who fought and often confronted and defeated the enemies of Scotland and her Kings upon many a bloody battle field, were routed off and bade a final farewell to the beautiful Glen Tilt, which they and their forefathers for ages considered their own healthy sweet home. An event occurred at this period, according to history, which afforded a pretext to the (villain) Duke for this heartless extirpation of the aborigines of Glen Tilt. Highland Chieftains were exhibiting their patriotism by raising regiments to serve in the American was; and the Duke of Atholl could not be indifferent in such a cause. Great efforts were made to enlist the Glen Tilt people, who are still remembered in the district as a strong athletic race. Perpetual possession of their lands, at the then existing rents, was promised them, if they would only raise a contingent force equal to a man from each family. Some consented, but the majority, with a praiseworthy resolution not to be dragged at the tail of a Chief into a war of which they knew neither the beginning nor the end, refused. The Duke flew into a rage; and press-gangs were sent up the Glen to carry off the young men by force. One of these companies seized a cripple tailor, who lived at the foot of Beney-gloe, and afraid lest he might carry intelligence of their approach up the Glen, they bound him hand and foot, and left him lying on the cold hill-side, where he contracted disease, from which he never recovered. By impressment and violence the regiment was at length raised; and when peace was proclaimed, instead of restoring the soldiers to their friends and their homes, the Duke, as if he had been a trafficker in slaves, was only prevented from selling them to the East India Company by the rising mutiny of the regiment! He afterwards pretended great offence at the Glen Tilt people, for their obstinacy in refusing to enlist, and – it may now be added – to be sold; and their conduct in this affair, was given out as the reason why he cleared them from the glen – an excuse which, in the present day, may increase our admiration of the people, but can never palliate the heartlessness of his conduct. His ireful policy, however has taken full effect. The romantic Glen Tilt, with its fertile holmes and verdant steeps, is little better than a desert. The very deer rarely visit it, and the wasted grass is burned like heather at the beginning of the year, to make room for the new verdure. On the spot where I found the grass most luxuriant, I traced the seats of thirty cottages, and have no hesitation in saying, that under the skill, the industrious habits, and the agricultural facilities of the present day, the land once occupied by the tenants of Glen Tilt, is capable of maintaining a thousand people, and leave a large proportion of sheep and cattle for exportation besides. In the meantime, it serves no better purpose than the occasional playground of a Duke.
“Proud Nimrod first the bloody chase began,
A mighty hunter – and his prey was man.
Our haughty Norman boasts the barbarous name,
And makes him trembling slaves the royal game.
The fields are ravished from industrious swains,
From men their cities, and from gods their fanes.
In vain kind seasons swell the teeming grain,
Soft showers distill’d, and suns grow warm in vain;
The swain, with tears, his frustrate labours yields,
And, famish’d dies amidst the ripening fields.
What wonder then a beast or subject slain,
Were equal crimes in a despotic reign?
Both, doomed alike, for sportive tyrants bled;
But, while the subject starved, the beast was fed.” – Pope.
The parish of Atholl was at one period a gigantic parish; it is traversed from end to end by the Great Northern Road, from Perth through the Grampian Hills to Inverness, formerly a favorite resort for tourists annually – the natural attraction of the place being so widely known for its romantic scenery. The famous Pass of Killiecrankie, ushers you from the south to the Plains of Atholl, a beautiful level strip of land stretching along the north bank of the River Garry, about three-fourths of the whole plain. The whole industry of this once populous parish, is compressed into the remainder one-fourth. This busy little plain is the terminus of half a dozen of other great glens, which shoot amongst the Grampians. The renowned Glen Tilt stretches easterly, Glen Bruan northward, and Glen Garry westward. These Glens are intersected by smaller valleys, presenting varieties of aspects, from the most fertile carses to the bleak moorland. But man durst not be seen there. The image of God is forbidden to travel there, unless it is stamped upon the Duke, his foeresters, and game-keepers, that His Grace’s deer may not be annoyed. In 1800, the population of this parish was given in at 2,998; in 1841, the population was given in at 2,304, shewing a decrease of 694. But those better acquainted in the parish, say that the population does not exceed 1,800. For all these highland depopulators manage to keep up a false population to screen them from the infamy they so well merited.
“Wealth increases, and men decay.”
Long since these valliant men of Atholl have been expelled from the Grampian Nursery. Still new forests for deer are springing up from east to west; from the neighbourhood of Aberdeen to the crags of Oban, you have one continuous line of forests. In other parts of the highlands they can scarcely be numbered .Such as the Forst of Loch Archaig, Glen Morison, Glen Strathfarar, Dirubh Moor, (Sutherlandshire); and many more unpronounceable names, which would only weary the reader. In short, whether the old Forests of King Fergus and Ceanmore were revived, or new regions are brought within the mystic circle for the first time, the same devastation precedes the completion of the enterprise; houses, roads, enclosures, cattle, men, every work of time and progress, the valuable creation of labour, and changes of centuries, are all extirpated by the word of a mortal insignificant worm of the earth, in order that deer, blackcock, and other sporting animals, more valuable than men, may enjoy the pleasing solitude; and that aristocratic sportmen may monopolise the pleasure and benefits of the chase. Yes my highland Scotch readers, but Britain is now in need of men to fight her battles, to subdue her rebellious subjects or slaves in India, to invade and conquer China, to keep at bay Russia, Persia, and many other formidable enemies. Cringing and making alliance with perjured Napoleon and France, who cannot but remember, and will remember, Waterloo, and who would rejoice to see her glory departed, and her humbled in the dust. Look at her squandering her money away, hiring German paltroons to fight her battles. Pawning her revenues with Jews, to raise money to pay them, while her own nursery of the brave, irresistable in the battle field, who always fought for glory and honour, not for her shilling per day; who at all times, and especially in need, increased her army and navy with men by the thousands worthy of the name – not with hired foreign cowards, who in most cases, do more harm than good – but with men who were never known to turn their back to an enemy, but when prudence and good discipline required it. Yes I say this nursery is converted into a howling desert, to afford amusement and sporting ground for a number of these aristocratic locusts, who were, and will continue to be, the desolating curse of every land and nation they are allowed to breed in. This Royal Caledonian Forest they destroyed by fire; the oaks and cedars of the Lebanon have been hewn down and up-rooted. They are (to my joy) taking firm root and spreading fast in foreign climes. But the question is, has Britain or their mother, and claim upon their sympathy or assistance wherever they (her children) are to be found. Let me not say no, though she deserved it – I say yes. However cruel she dealt with us, she is still our mother; and bad and short-sighted as she acted, she is still, I hope, open to conviction; and this is the time to convince her of her folly, when she is under the unerring chastising Rod of God, when her sins have found her out. And every true Scotchmen should exert himself, wherever he is, to persuade her of her past folly, and help on her convictio0n and conversion. She has hearkened to sound reasoning in many instances this some years back; and it is to be hoped her Rulers will do so yet; and that the Highlands of Scotland will be re-peopled, and flourish as in the days of yore. The people have only to demand it in earnest, and it will be done; whereas ino ther nations the people’s demands are answered by the cannon. Let no Scotchman, Highland or Lowlander, wish to see their mother trampled down by Mahomedans, Pagans, Idolators, and Despots, who erased liberty and freedom from their vocabularies, and even the very word is not found in their nations.
But I am sorry that through evil agency and mal-administration of Highland proprietors, sympathy for Britain in her late and present trouble disappeared in the Highlands of Scotland; a proof of it is to be seen in the following letter which I received shortly after leaving Scotland:
My correspondent says: “MacLeod, your predictions are making their appearance at last, great demand are here for men to go to Russia, but they are not to be found. It seems that the Secretary of War has corresponded with all our Highland Proprietors, to raise as many men as they could for the Crimean War, and ordered so many officers of rank to the Highlands to assist the proprietors in doing so – but it has been a complete failure as yet. The nobles advertised by placards, meetings of the people; these proclamations were attended to, but when they came to understand what they were about, in most cases the recruiting proprietors and staff were saluted with the ominous cry of Maa! maa! boo! boo! imitating sheep and bullocks, and, send your deer, your roes, your rams, dogs, shepherds, and gamekeepers, to fight the Russians, they never done us any harm. The success of his Grace the Duke of Sutherland was deplorable, I believe you would have pitied the poor old man had you seen him.
In my last letter I told you that his head commissioner, Mr. Loch, and military officer, was in Sutherland for the last six weeks, and failed in getting one man to enlist; on getting this doleful tidings the Duke himself left for Lonfon for Sutherland, he arrived at Dunrobin about ten days ago, and after presenting himself upon the streets of Golspie and Brora, he called a meeting of the male inhabitants of the parishes of Clyne, Rogart, and Golspie; the meeting was well attended, upwards of 400 were punctual at the hour, his Grace in his carriage with his military staff and factors appeared shortly after, the people gave them a hearty cheer; his Grace took the chair. Three or four clerks took their seats at the table, and loosened down bulky packages of bank notes, and spread out platefuls of glittering gold. The Duke addressed the people very serious, and entered upon the necessity of going to war with Russia, and the danger of allowing the Czar to have more power than what he holds already, of his cruel despotic reign in Russia, &c., likewise praising the Queen and her government, rulers and nobles of Great Britain, who stood so much in need of men to put and keep down the Tyrant Russia, and foil him in his wicked schemes to take possession of Turkey. In concluding his address, which was often cheered, he told the young able-bodied men that his clerks were ready to take down the names of all those willing to enlist, and every one who would enlist in the 93rd Highlanders that the clerk would give him, there and then, £6 sterling, those who would rather enter any other corps would get £3, all from his own private purse, independent of the government bounty; after advancing many silly flattering decoyments, he sat down to see the result, but there was o movement among the people; after sitting for a long time looking at the clerks, and them at him, at last his anxious looks at the people assumed a somewhat indignant appearance, when he suddenly rose up and asked what was the cause of their non-attention to the proposals he made, but no reply; it was the silence of the grave – still standing, his Grace suddenly asked the cause; but no reply; at last an old man leaning upon his staff, was observed moving towards the Duke, and when he approached near enough, he addressed his Grace something like as follows: ‘I am sorry for the response your Grace’s proposals are meeting here to-day, so near the spot where your maternal mother, by giving forty-eight hours notice, marshalled fifteen hundred men, to pick out of them the nine hundred she required, but there is a cause for it, and a grievous cause, and as your Grace demands to know it I must tell you, as I see none else are inclined in this assembly to do it. Your Grace’s mother and predecessors applied to our fathers for men upon former occasions, and our fathers responded to their call, they have made liberal promises which neither them nor you performed; we are, we think, a little wiser than our fathers, and we estimate your promises of to-day at the value of theirs, besides you should bear in mind that your predecessors and yourself expelled us in a most cruel and unjust manner from the land which our fathers held in lien from your family for their sons, brothers, cousins, and relations, which was handed over to your parents to keep up their dignity, and to kill the Americans, Turks, French, and the Irish; and these lands are devoted now to rear dumb brute animals, which you and your parents consider of far more value than men. I do assure your Grace that it is the prevailing opiinon in this country, that should the Czar of Russia take possession of Dunrobin Castle and of Stafford House next term, that we could not expect worse treatment at his hands than we have experienced at the hands of your family for the last fifty years. Your parents, yourself, and your commissioners, have desolated the glens and straths of Sutherland, where you should find hundreds, yea, thousands of men to meet you and respond cheerfully to your call, had your parents and yourself kept faith with them. How could your Grace expect to find men where they are not, and the few of them which are to be found among the rubbish or ruins of the country, have more sense than to be decoyed by chaff to the field of slaughter; but one comfort you have, though you cannot find men to fight you can supply those who will fight with plenty of mutton, beef, and venison.‘ The Duke rose up, put on his hat and left the field.”
Whether my correspondent added to the old man’s reply to his Grace or not, I cannot say, one thing evident, it was the very reply his Grace deserved.
I know for a certainty this to be the prevailing opinion throughout the whole Highlands of Scotland, and who should wonder at it? How many thousands of them who served out their 21, 22, 25, and 26 years, fighting for the British aristocracy, and on their return, wounded, maimed, or worn out, to their own country, promising themselves to spend the remainder of their days in peace, and enjoying the blessings and comfort their fathers enjoyed among their healthy Highland delightful hills, but found to their grief their parents were expelled from the country to make room for sheep, deer, and game, the glens where they were born desolate, and the abodes which sheltered them at birth and where they were reared to manhood, burnt to the ground; and instead of meeting the cheer, shaking-hands, hospitality and affections of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and relations, met with a desolated glen, bleating of sheep, barking of dogs, and if they should happen to rest their worn-out frame upon the green sod which has grown upon their father’s hearth, and a game-keeper, a factor, or water bailiff to come round, he would very unceremoniously tell them to absent themselves as smart as they could, and not annoy the deer. No race we have on record has suffered so much at the hands of those who should be their patrons, and proved to be so tenacious of patriotism as the Celtic race, but I assure you it has found its level now, and will disappear altogether soon, and as soon as patriotism will disappear in any nation, so sure that nation’s glory is tarnished, victories uncertain, and her greatness diminished, and decaying consumptive death will be the result. If ever the old adage, which says, “Those whom the Gods determine to destroy, they first deprive them of reason,” was verified, it was, and is, in the case of British aristocracy, and Highland proprietors in particular. I am not so void of feeling as to blame the Duke of Sutherland, his parents or any other Highland absentee proprietor for all the evil done in the land, but the evil was done in their name and under the authority they have invested in wicked cruel servants. For instance, the only silly man who enlisted from among the great assembly his Grace addressed, was a married man with three of a family and his wife; it was generally believed that his bread was baked for life, but no sooner was he away to Fort George to join his regiment than his place of abode was pulled down, and his wife and family turned out, and only permitted to live in a hut, from which an old female pauper was carried a few days before to the church-yard; there the young family was sheltered, and their names registered upon the poor roll for support; his Grace could not be guilty of such low rascality as this, yet he was told of it, but took no cognizance of those who did it in his name. It is likewise said that this man got a furlough of two weeks, to see his wife and family before going abroad, and that the factor heard he was coming and ordered the ground officer of the parish of Rogart, of the name of McLeod, to watch the soldier, and not allow him to see nor speak to his wife, but in his, the officer’s presence. This was cruelty to prevent the poor fellow who was three months absent from his wife, and could not be allowed to kiss, or have one night’s pleasure with her before he would embark for the Crimea, but in presence of an officer. None could think his Grace to be so devoid of natural feelings, yet it was done in his name. The factor alleged as an excuse for it, that he did not want the parish of Rogart to be burdened with any more children to keep up. Economy! Economy!! We have then in the same parish an old bachelor of the name of John Macdonald, who had three idiot sisters, whom he upheld independent of any source of relief, but a favourite of George, the notorious factor, envied this poor bachelor’s farm, and he was summoned to remove at next term. The poor fellow petitioned his Grace, and Loch, but to no purpose, he was doomed to walk away, on the term day as the factor told him, “to America, Glasgow, or to the devil if he choosed.” Seeing he had no other alternative, two days before the day of his removal he yoked his cart, and got neighbours to help him to haul the three idiots into it, and drove away with them to Dunrobin Castle; when he came up to factor Gunn’s door he capsized them out upon the green, and wheeled about and went away home, the three idiots finding themselves upon the top of one another so sudden, they raised an inhuman-like yell, and fixed into one another to fight, and scratched, yelled, and screeched so terrific that Mr. Gunn, his lady, his daughters, and all the clerks and servants, were soon about them, but they hearkened to no reason, for they had none themselves, but continued their fighting and inharmonious music; messenger after messenger was sent after John, but of no use; at last the great Gunn himself followed and overtook him, asked him how did he come to leave his sisters in such a state? He replied, “I kept them while I had a piece of land to support them, you have taken that land from me, then take them along with the land, and make of them what you can, I must look out for myself, but I cannot carry them to the labour market.” Gunn was in a fix, and had to give John assurance that he would not be removed if he would take his sisters, so John took them home, and has not been molested as yet.
I have here beside me a respectable girl of the name of Ann Murray, whose father was removed during the time of the wholesale faggot removal but got a lot of a barren moor to cultivate; however barren like it was, he was raising a family of industrious young sons, and by dint of hard labour and perseverance, they made it a comfortable home, but the young sons one by one left the country, (and four of them are within two miles of where I sit), the result was, that Ann was the only one who remained with the parents. The mother who had an attack of palsy, was left entirely under Ann’s care after the family left; and she took it so much to heart that her daughter’s attention was required day and night, until death put an end to her afflictions, after twelve years’ suffering. Shortly after the mother’s death, the father took ill, and was confined to bed for nine months; and Ann’s labour re-commenced until his decease. Though Ann Murray could be numbered among the most dutiful of daughters yet her incessant labour for a period of more than thirteen years, made visible inroads upon her tender constitution; yet by the liberal assistance of her brothers, who did not lose sight of her and their parent, (though upon a foreign strand) Ann Murray kept the farm in the best of order, no doubt expecting that she would be allowed to keep it after her parent’s decease; but this was not in store for her, the very day after her father’s funeral, the officer came to her, and told her that she was to be removed in a few weeks, that the farm was let to another, and that Factor Gunn wished to see her. She was at that time afflicted with jaundice, and told the officer that she could not undertake the journey, which was only ten miles. Next day the officer was at her again, more urgent than before, and made use of extraordinary threats; so she had to go. When she appeared before this Bashaw, he swore like a trooper, and damned her soul, why she disobeyed his first summons; she excused herself trembling, that she was unwell; another volley of oaths and threats met her response, and told her to remove herself from the estate next week, for her conduct; and with a threat5, which well becomes a Highland tyrant, not to take away nor sell a single article of furniture, implements of husbandry, cattle, or crop; nothing was allowed but her own body clothes: that every thing was to be handed over to her brother, who was to have the farm. Seeing there was neither mercy nor justice for her, she told him the crop, house, and every other thing belonging to the farm, belonged to her and brothers in America, and that the brother to whom he (the factor) intended to hand over the farm and effects, never helped her father or mother while in trouble; and that she was determined that he should not enjoy what she laboured for, and what her other brother’s money paid for. She went and got the advice of a man of business, advertised a sale, and sold off in the face of threats of interdict, and came to Canada, where she was warmly received by brothers, sisters, and friends, now in Woodstock, and can tell her tale better than I can. No one could think nor believe that his Grace would even countenance such doings as these; but it was done in his name.
I have here within ten miles of me, Mr. William Ross, once Taxman of Achtomeleeny, Sutherlandshire, who occupied the most convenient farm to the principal deer-stalking hills in the county. Often have the English and Irish lords, connected in marriage with the Sutherlands, dined and took their lunch at William Ross’ table, and at his expense; and more than once passed the night under his roof. Mr. Ross being so well acquainted among the mountains and haunts of the deer, was often engaged as a guide and instructor to these noblemen, on their deer-stalking and fishing excursions, and became a real favourite with the Sutherland family, which enabled him, to erect superior buildings to the common rule, and improve his farm in a superior style; so that his mountain-side farm was nothing short of a Highland paradise. But unfortunately for William, his nearest neighbour, one Major Gilchrist, a sheep farmer, (Ahab) coveted Mr. Ross’s vineyard, and tried many underhand schemes to secure the place for himself, but in vain. Ross would hearken to none of his proposals. But Ahab was a chief friend of Factor Gunn; and William Ross got notice of removal. Ross prepared a Memorial to the first and late Duchess of Sutherland, and placed it in her own hand. Her Grace read it, and instantly went in to the Factor’s office, and told him that William Ross was not to be removed from Achtomeleeny while he lived; and wrote the same on the petition, and handed it back to Ross, with a graceful smile, saying, “you are now out of the reach of Factors; now, William, go home in peace.” William bowed, and departed cheerfully; but the Factor and General Officer followed close behind him, and while Ross was reading Her Grace’s deliverance the officer, David Ross, came and snapped the paper out of his hand and ran to Factor Gunn with it; Ross followed, but Gunn put it in his pocket saying, “William, you would need to give it to me afterwards at any rate, and I will keep it till I read it, and then return it to you,” and with a tiger-like smile on his face said, “I believe you came speed to-day, and I am glad of it;” but William never got it in his hand again. However, he was not molested during Her Grace’s life. Next year she paid a visit to Dunrobin, when factor Wm. Gunn advised Ross to apply to her for a reduction of rent, (under the mask of favouring him.) He did so, and it was granted cheerfully. Her Grace left Dunrobin this year never to return; in the beginning of the next Spring she was carried back to Dunrobin a corpse, and a few days after she was interred in Dornoch, William Ross was served with a Summons of Removal from Achtomeleeny, and he had nothing to shew. He petitioned the present Duke and his Commissioner, Mr. Loch, and related the whole circumstance to them, but to no avail, only he was told that factor Gunn was ordered to give him some other lot of land, which he did; and having no other resource William accepted of it to his loss; for between loss of cattle, building and repairing houses, he was minus of one hundred and fifty pounds sterling of his means and substance, from the time he was removed from Achtomeleeny till he removed himself to Canada. Besides he had a written agreement or promise for melioration or valuation for all the farm improvements and house building at Achtomeleeny, which was valued by the family surveyor at “250. William was always promised to get it, until they came to learn that he was leaving for America, then they would not give a cent of it. William Ross left them with it to join his family in Canada; but he can in his old age sit at as comfortable a table, and sleep on as comfortable a bed, with greater ease of mind and a clearer conscience, among his own dutiful and affectionate children, than the tyrant Factor ever did or ever will among his. I know as well as any one can tell me that this is but one or two cases out of the thousand I could enumerate, where the liberality and benevolence of His Grace, and of his parents, were abused, and that to their patron’s loss. You see in the above case, that William was advised to plead for a reduction of rent, so that the Factor’s favourite, Ahab Gilchrist, would have the benefit of Naboth Ross’ improvement, and the reduction he got on his rent, which would not be obtained otherwise. The long and the short of it is, that the unhallowed crew of factors and officials, from the highest to the lowest grade of them employed by the family of Sutherland for the last 54 years, were so well qualified in rascality that they in their combination, could rob both proprietor and people. They got the corrupt portion of the public press on their side, to applaud their wicked doings and robbing schemes, as the only mode of improvement and civilization in the Highlands of Scotland. They have got what is still more to be lamented, all the established ministers, with few exceptions, on their side; and in them they found faithful auxiliaries in crushing the people. Any of them could hold a whole congregation by the hair of their heads over hell-fire, if they offered to resist the powers that be, until they submitted. If a single individual resisted, he was denounced from the pulpit, and considered afterwards a dangerous man in the community; and he might depart as quick as he could. Any man, or men, may violate the laws of God, and violate the laws of heaven as often as he chooses; he is never heeded, and has nothing to fear, but if he offends the Duke’s Factor, the lowest of his minions, or violates the least of their laws and regulations it is an unpardonable sin. The present Duke’s mother, was no doubt a liberal lady of many good parts and seemed to be much attached to the natives, but unfortunately for them, she employed for her factors a vile, unprincipled crew, who were their avowed enemies; she would hearken to the complaints of the people, and would write to the ministers of the Gospel to ascertain the correctness of complaints, and the factor was justified, however gross the outrage was that he committed – the minister dined with the factor and could not refuse to favour him. The present Duke is simple, if not a silly, narrow minded gentleman, who concerns himself very little, about even his own pecuniary affairs; he entrusts his whole affairs to this set of vile, cunning knaves, called factors, and the people are enslaved so much that it is now considered the most foolish thing a man can do to petition his Grace, whatever is done to him, for it will go hard with the factor, or he will punish and make an example of him to deter others.
To detail what I knew myself personally, and what I have learnt from others of their petty roguery and robbery, it would, as i said before, fill a volume. For another instance:- When a marriage in the family of Sutherland takes place, or the birth of an heir, a feast is ordered for the Sutherland people, consisting of whiskey, porter, ale, and plenty of eatables. The day of feasting and rejoicing is appointed, and heralded throughout the country, and the people are enjoined in marshal terms to assemble – barrels of raw unadulterated whiskey are forwarded to each parish, and some raw adulterated sugar, and that is all. Bonfires are to be prepared upon the tops of the highest mountains. The poorest of the poor are warned by family officers to carry the materials consisting of peats and tar barrels, upon their backs; the scene is lamentable to see groups of these wretched, half-clad and ill-shod, climbing up these mountains with their loads; however, the work must be done, there is no denial, and the evening of rejoicing arrived, and the people are assembled at their different Clachans; the barrels of whiskey are taken out to the field, and are poured into large tubs, and a good amount of abominable-looking sugar is mixed with it, and a sturdy favourite is employed to stir it about with a flail handle, or some long cudgel – all sorts of drinking implements are produced, such as tumblers, bowls, ladles, and tin jugs. Bagpipers are set up with great glee. In the absence of the factor, the animal called the ground officer, and in some instances the Parish Minister will open the jolification, and show an example to the people how to deal with this coarse beverage; after the first round the respectable portion of the people will depart, or retire to an inn, where they could enjoy themselves; but the drouthies, and ignorant youthful, will keep the field of revelling until tearing of clothes and faces come to be the rule; fists and cudgels supplant jugs and ladles, and this will continue until king Bacchus enters the field and hushes the most heroic brawlers, and the most ferocious combatants to sound snoring on the field of rejoicing, where many of them enters into contracts with death, from which they never could extricate themselves. With the co-operation and assistance of factors, ministers, and editors, a most flourishing account is sent to the world, and to the absentee family in London, who knows nothing about how the affair was conducted. The world will say how happy must the people be who live under such good and noble liberal minded patrons, and the patrons themselves are so highly pleased with the report, that however extraordinary the bill that comes to them on the rent day, in place of money, for roast beef and mutton, bread and cheese, London porter, and Edinburgh ale, which was never bought nor tasted by the people, I say they consider their commissioners used great economy; no cognizance are taken, the bill is accepted and discharged, the people are deceived and the proprietors robbed, and the factors divide the spoil, which is not a trifle; no wonder that the Duke of Sutherland receives so little rent from his Sutherland Estates. Were it not for the many channels of wealth pouring in upon him he would be bankrupt long ago; but all these robberies of his Grace will no doubt be among the items which makes up the £60,000 sent down to save the people from dying by famine, as Loch says; but I will leave the Duke and his factors to settle their own accounts; one thing is evident, his factors and commissioners have disgraced him, and left a stain of immortal dye upon him and the family of Sutherland, that time and revolution of years will not wipe away.
Let me now conclude by taking a few extracts from other authors who wrote faithfully and without any hostile feeling towards his Grace, or his family, nor any other Highland proprietor who followed the Atholl and Sutherland clearing example. The first of these extracts is from the pen of that noble minded Scotchman, General Stuart, of Garth, who wrote largely upon the clearing system:-
“It is painful to dwell on this subject” [the present state of Sutherland]; “but as information communicated by men of honour, judgment, and perfect veracity, descriptive of what they daily witness, affords the best means of forming a correct judgement, and as these gentlemen, from their situations in life, have no immediate interest in the determination of the question, beyond what is dictated by humanity and a love of truth, their authority may be considered as undoubted.” – General Stewart of Garth.
“It is by a cruel abuse of legal forms, -it is by an unjust usurpation, – that the tacksman and the tenant of Sutherland are considered as having no right to the land which they have occupied for so many ages. * * A Count or Earl has no more right to expel from their homes the inhabitants of his country, than a King to expel from his country the inhabitants of his kingdom.” – Sismondi.