‘Willing Hands for India.’, pp.183-186.

Over this title Punch of last week gives a very exciting illustration. A towering cart load of ingathered grain, with a crowing cock on its summit, forms the background; while in front a recruiting officer and a party are cheered by the excited harvesters coming forward with reaping hooks in their hands, to volunteer for India, the banner borne by the officer representing the British lion in the act of springing on the Bengal tiger. The recruits, not yet returned from the harvest field, are all enthusiasm, and are eagerly rushing to enrol themselves among the avengers of the butcheries that have been perpetrated in our Indian empire.


‘Willing Hands for India’, Punch, or the London Charivari magazine, vol. xxxiii, August 29, 1857.

The newspapers of the south report that the recruiting in certain districts has been most successful, and that already many thousand young men of promise have entered the line. It is remarkable, however, particularly so, that all references to the district from which the main strength of our regular army was formerly obtained is most studiously avoided. May we ask the authorities what success the recruiting officer has now met with in the Highlands of Scotland? Time was, in former exigencies, when all eyes were turned in that direction and not in vain. Time was, when, in only five days, the county of Sutherland alone contributed one thousand young men; and when, in fourteen days, no fewer than eleven times that number were enrolled as recruits from the various Highland districts. Time was when the immortal Chatham boasted that ‘he had found upon the mountains of Caledonia a gallant though oppressed race of heroes, who had triumphantly carried the British banner into every quarter of the globe.’ Time was when Punch would, in such an illustration as that of last week, have included in its representation some half-dozen kilted Celts, shoulder to shoulder, issuing from the mountain homes, and panting to be let loose on the Indian bloodhounds.

Why not now? Answer the question, my Lord Duke of Sutherland. Tell her Majesty, my Lord, why the bagpipes of the recruiting party are silent in Sutherland, and why ‘no willing hands for India’ are found in your Grace’s vast Highland domain. Tell her how it happens that the patriotic enthusiasm which at the close of the last century was shown in the almost magical enrolment of thousands of brawny Sutherlanders, who gained world-wide renown at Corunna, at Fuentes d’Onor, at Vittoria, at Waterloo, and elsewhere, is now unknown in Sutherland, and how the enrollment of one man in that large county is a seven year’s wonder. If your Grace is silent the answer is not wanting, nor is her Majesty ignorant of it.

And yet the cursed system which has disheartened and well nigh destroyed that ‘race of heroes,’ is pertinaciously persevered in by the very men who, of all others, should be the first to come forward and denounce it. ‘Willing hands for India,’ say Punch. ‘No,’ says high bred lords and coroneted peers; gives us game preserves, deer forests, and sheep walks. Perish your bold peasantry! and life to the pleasures of the forest and the mountain heath.’ And thus it is that landlord after landlord is yearly weeding out the aborigines, and converting Scotland into one ponderous deer forest. Not a year passes without seeing hundreds of unoffending men, women, and children, from Cape Wrath to Mull of Galloway, remorselessly unhoused, and their little crofts added to the vast waste. And now that Britain for the second time in four years has again to invoke the patriotism of her sons, and to call for aid in the eventful crisis in India, the blast of the recruiter’s bugle evokes only the bleat of sheep, or the pitiful bray of the timid deer, in the greater part of those wide regions which formerly contributed their tens of thousands of men to fight their country’s battles. Oh, had Chatham been alive now, what a feeling would have been awakened in his manly breast as he surveyed the wreck which the Loch policy has occasioned; and with what crushing eloquence would he have invoked the curse of heaven on that system. Meanwhile, Britain misses her Highland heroes, and the imperilled troops in India, with the unoffending women and children, must wait the tardy arrival of ‘willing hands’ to assist them, while, had the Highlanders of Scotland been as they once were, in one week more men would have been raised for India than would have sufficed to have effectually crushed the Indian revolt, had spread itself from the foot of the Himalaya mountains to the most distant district of our Indian empire.

Let Highland evictors, from Dukes to the meanest squires, beware. Popular patience has a limit; and it seems to me that the time is rapidly nearing when, if Parliament remains longer silent, the people of the country will arouse themselves, and, by one united expression of their will, drive back to its native den the foul and disastrous policy which has depeopled the Scottish Highlands.

Brave John Mackie keep on your armour, you have now another English Duke, no doubt a sporting one, to watch, who will finish the desolation of the Langwell Estate, which the scourge, Donald Horn, commenced some years ago. You never had a higher dignitary before in Caithness than a Lord. Now that you are to be honoured and blessed by a Duke, a sporting Grace, I predict that in a few years Caithness which has been hitherto an exception among all other Highland Counties; may be ranked in the same category with Sutherlandshire – (Ichabod, glory departed, desolation) – for his Grace of Portland’s retinue will consist of other Graces, and Lords who must be supplied with sporting ground for themselves, while there is an estate in Caithness which money can purchase or to lease, Caithness lairds cannot resist the temptation of their long purses. We have proof positive of this in the parishes of Reay, Thurso, and Halkirk what devastation was made there, to gratify that insatiable monster in human shape, John Paterson of rotten, and infamous memory, to the everlasting disgrace of the Gordons and Sinclairs who indulged that man, what will they not do when they have to gratify English graces and lords? But it is not what they have done, or what they will do, should be the question with us, but what we have done and what are we to do? Wh have a very important duty to perform, and the sins of omission and the sins of commission are equally as heinous, and as culpable in the sight of Heaven. Much has the British nation to account for, for these sins of omission. With folded arms, and callous indifference they have seen county after county in the Highlands of Scotland depopulated, the people ruined, oppressed and dispersed; they have tolerated, indeed countenanced, a systematic policy, which anyone might see with half an eye, would end in the alienation of the people, the enfeeblement and ultimately in the disgrace of the nation. In the year 1747, the very next year after the Cumberland massacre of the Highlanders upon Culloden field, and his nine months ravages and murder in that country. According to Gartmor’s manuscript, the Highlands could raise 52,800 able-bodied young men from the age of 18 to 36 years. It is evident that many years prior to this date agricultural improvements were not much studied in either Scotland or England, more especially in the Highlands, on account of continued internal war and broils, about throning and dethroning legitimate and illegitimate sovereigns; but if the Highlands of Scotland could then raise 52,000 men, I ask, under proper and wise management, how many soldiers should the Highlands raise in the year 1857? At the lowest estimate we cannot say less than 67,000, only allowing the population to increase one-third during a period of one hundred and ten years. What would such an invincible celtic army be worth to the British nation to-day? who laughed and sneered at their calamities and dispersion some years ago, and who would practically say, they may go to h—l if they choose, but we and our sons must have deer stalking ground. I ask, what would such an irresistible body of men be worth to Britain to-day? Would they not be worth more than all the deer, grouse, game, bulls, bullocks, rams, sheep, and lambs, all the sporting gents, foresters, shepherds, dogs, and aristocratic scions in Britain, and all the German legions that Germany can produce to boot. Tell them John Mackie, and proclaim it in their ears through your widely circulated and well read Ensign, that on former emergencies of less importance than the present, there was no difficulty in raising regiments in the highlands – take them to their own records, and they will find that 6,000 were raised or embodied in one year, 8,000 in another four years, and twenty times that number willing and ready if required; 2,000 of these were from Sutherlandshire, where there is not one willing man to be found now, and I question if a score, or even two, willing to be soldiers are to be found throughout the whole highlands. The patriotism so characteristic of highlanders is completely destroyed, and that for years past. But Britain will find out that if she is to maintain her former envied position among the nations of the earth that it will be by her own sons, and not by aliens or confederating with foreigners, upon whose constancy very little reliance can be placed. Woe to kings, and rulers who forsake, oppress, and disperse their own people, and have to look up to strangers and aliens for succour in time of need. Britain has dealt treacherously with her own people. The mountains of Caledonia, from which at all times her principle succour did come to her in time of need are desolated. Britain is now in need, and in vain looks to these mountains for the invincible host, for they are not there, and it is to be feared that she may look in vain to (the mountains) God, to whom her sires looked for succour, and who often accompanied her armies, and host, while they were councelled by Him, fighting the battles of civil and religious liberty at home and abroad, and dealing justly with his people. But who can say but it is upon the scorching plains of India and through the instrumentality of Mahomedans, Pagans and other idolators, where her eyes are to be opened, and convinced of her past shortsighted folly and sinful policy, although hitherto blind to see her folly, and deaf to the dictates of humanity, and sound reasoning, to the instruction and commands of God, his prophets and apostles, to the remonstrances of philosophers, and all who had her real interest at heart; and although it is generally believed that it is similar British tyranny, shortsighted, cruel policy, and mal-administration, which depopulated the Highlands of Scotland, ruined Ireland, and beggared two-fifths of the nation is the cause of the outbreak in India, and the horrifying massacres, and inhuman deeds perpetrated by these uncivilised deluded savages; yet it behoves every son of Britain wherever he is to be found, to join in the demonstration, demanding the abolition of her game laws, and every other law known and proven to afford these accursed vermin of the aristocratic tribe an opportunity of oppressing the industrious people, and detrimental to the progress and prosperity of the nation, and endangering her dignity, her safety; yea her very existence. Utopianism, utopianism, many will cry out; but it is not more utopian to demand the abolition of the game laws, which costs the nation more than half a million sterling yearly for banishing and imprisoning poachers, and which have been the cause of many a bloody, murderous affray, preserving animals, and birds which consumes more than three million sterling worth of human food every year, besides the many thousand acres of land lying waste to afford them room for amusement and solitude, than it was to demand the abolition of the Corn Laws and Slave Laws. Many excellent men of high standing in Society are devoting their time demonstrating the necessity and legality of abolishing, not only the Game Laws, but the Laws of Entail and Primogeniture, the Hypothec, &c. Will you not follow their example?