The Freehold Movement and Highland Clearances., pp.186-188.

A stirring meeting, fully reported in the Daily Express of Monday, was held in Queen Street Hall, Edinburgh, on Saturday, when powerful speeches were made by Messrs Beal (from London), Taylor (from Birmingham), Dr. Begg, Mr Duncan McLaren, Mr Dove, and others. The meeting was most enthusiastic, and gave every indication of energy and decision.

Mr Beal, in the course of his speech, said, – In England, they had looked with stern indignation at some acts which had taken place in the northern parts of Scotland, in regard to those great clearings of which they had heard so much. (Applause.) Such things might be prevented if the influence of the tenantry and of the mass of the people, who were now deprived of the suffrage, were brought to bear on the system of Parliamentary representation by means of a freehold movement. The counties would not then send as their representatives some twenty or thirty men who lacked the intelligence and the progressive spirit of the age. (Hear, hear.) The landlord influence would then be destroyed, and the people’s poet would then be no longer able to say as at present-

I have driven out peasants, I have banished them forth,
There is hardly a Celt on the hills of the north.

If their own members opposed them, instead of assisting them in the movement, they could yet look confidently to the support of a large body of the English statesmen.

Mr. Dove, with his usual manly independence, spoke out nobly, as follows:- He looked upon this movement as the first thing which he had seen in his day that was calculated to break up that aristocratic influence that had long preyed upon this country of Scotland. (Applause.) When they saw men hounded out of the Highlands as they had been – (cheers and hisses) – let them ask themselves what possible measure could save that Highland population except a freehold movement, which should root them into the soil of Scotland. (Cheers.) That population had been driven out of their country, and now they had only the sea and the seashore left to them; but he (Mr. Dove) told them, as he told Scotland, that this movement was the best movement which they had seen in their day, and the most calculated to benefit the whole population of the Highlands of Scotland. (Loud applause.) This very day he was a Scottish Rights’ man, and would always be so. (Laughter and cheers.) And that very day, finding that they could do very little for that Highland population in any other way, he had been engaged with his friend Mr. George Wink, the Secretary of the Scottish Rights’ Association, in endeavouring to found a fishery, and to furnish to these people their boats, lines, nets, and everything which could keep them at home. (Cheers.) Now, he did not know that he should have used the word himself; but they had been told of their subserviency to the landlords; and Mr. Duncan McLaren had used the words bad lawyers. He did not mean to say that he would have used the word, but in his opinion they were all bad lawyers. (Mr. McLaren – I meant that they were giving bad law, and not that they were bad men.) Mr. Dove said he knew perfectly well Mr. McLaren’s meaning – that they were giving a wrong explanation of what the law of England was, and that they were either ignorant or maliciously misleading the people of Scotland. But his (Mr. Dove’s meaning was very different; for he told them that they were bad lawyers, because they had cleared out that Highland population in many cases illegally – (hisses and cheers) – and he told them that two or three years ago down at Knoidart, they took the sick people out of their houses, pulled those houses down, and left the inmates exposed to the winds of heaven. (A voice – ‘They had no right to the land,’ and cries of ‘Order’) – and he told them that they pulled down the barns there in which the people could have been sheltered.) Now, it was quite true that the law unfortunately gave them the power to pull down the houses, but not the barns, which would have in some measure sheltered the poor people. But, nevertheless, they had done so, and the people had remained unsheltered; and he, (Mr. Dove) said that, if as Scotchmen they permitted such things to go on, they were not worthy of the name. (Applause.) He hoped he had expressed his meaning pretty plainly, which was, that he was a Scottish Rights’ man, and as such he could look any Englishman in the face.

We hope to give this great movement due attention at an early date. Good speed to it.

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