ePub 版

man had some of the best blood of the country in his veins. On the other hand, as illustrating both the feeling of pride of blood and of veneration for the chiefs, which long subsisted, I may relate an anecdote which I have from a lady, still alive, about her uncle, whom she well remembers. The uncle's father had a pedigree, but in worldly circumstances he was but a small farmer, and had several sons. One of these sons was noted as an excellent piper, and the late Glengarry asked him to become his family piper. By this time even Glengarry had so far yielded to modern notions that, instead of having his piper to sit at table with him as a social equal, he had degraded him to the position of a menial, and expected him to stand behind his chair and wait on him at dinner. The young Highlander's pride rebelled at the idea of such social degradation, but he hesitated to offend his chief by a refusal, and he got out of the dilemma by going out to the wood to cut firewood, and, in the operation, deliberately chopping off two of his fingers, and thus incapacitating himself from acting as piper.

Such, then, was the state of society in which we find our ancestors at this time, and I will endeavour to indicate as rapidly as I can the influences which were now, or came afterwards, to operate in breaking it up.

The first of these influences, and the most powerful, was undoubtedly the desire of landlords to compensate by increased rents for the loss of feudal and patriarchal power, and to extract from their tenants means which would enable them to vie in comfort and luxury with their wealthier neighbours of the Lowlands, among whom many of them now began to exhibit a tendency to reside. The testimony of contemporary writers on this point is unanimous, but I shall choose a witness who can lie under no suspicion of any sympathy adverse to the landlords. General Macleod of Macleod, the grandson and successor of the Macleod of the Forty-five, has left a fragment of a memoir of his own life, and, speaking of the circumstances under which he assumed the management of his ancestral estates, he says :-“The laws which deprived the Highlanders of their arms and garb would certainly have destroyed the feudal military power of the chieftains, but the fond attachment of the people to their patriarchs would have yielded to no laws. They were themselves the destroyers of that

pleasing influence. Sucked into the vortex of the nation, and allured to the Capitals, they degenerated from patriarchs and chieftains to landlords, and they became as anxious for increase of rent as the new made lairds—the novi homines—the mercantile purchasers of the Lowlands. Many tenants, whose fathers for generations had enjoyed their little spots, were removed for higher bidders. Those who agreed at any price for their antient lares were forced to pay an increased rent, without being taught any new method to increase their produce. In the Hebrides, especially, this change was not gradual but sudden—and sudden and baleful in its effects.” And so it was. All over the Highlands there was, during a few years preceding and succeeding the year 1775, a general, and in many cases, a very considerable, if not exorbitant, raising of rents. To some extent this was, perhaps, justified by the very considerable rise in the price of cattle which took place about the same time, and on the eastern side of the country it was to some extent accompanied by the attempt to introduce improved methods of agriculture; but the necessities of the lairds could not wait for the gradual improvement of the means of the tenants, and the rise of rents was so great and so rapid that the tenants at least felt that it was greater than they could bear. They did not, however, at that time set up any claim to a right of possession concurrent with that of the landlords, and the three F.'s had not been discovered. The tenants of that time, if they found that the rent demanded was greater than they could pay, gave up their holdings, and either migrated to other estates, or emigrated to America. There is a belief-much fostered by some people at presentthat migration and emigration were unknown in the Highlands previous to the suppression of the last rebellion—but this is an entire mistake. Long previous to that time the right of Highland landlords and tacksmen to remove tenants and sub-tenants was well recognised and commonly exercised. No doubt, a tenant was seldom removed altogether from the land of the clan, because it was not the interest of the chief or of the clan, and could not be the desire of the clansmen, but instances of men belonging to one clan and holding land in the territory of another were frequent long before this. Numerous

instances could be given, but one, somewhat memorable, may suffice. When Dundee was in Lochaber, shortly before the Battle of Killiecrankie, a party of Camerons, who formed part of his army, went on an expedition into Glen-Urquhart, partly for the purpose of avenging some injury and partly to lift cattle for the support of the army. In Glen-Urquhart they came on a relation of Glengarry, who was living there among the Grants, but who expected not only that his name and lineage would protect himself, but also would enable him to protect his neighbours among whom he was living. The Camerons were quite willing to leave the Macdonell unmolested, if he separated himself from the Grants, but, as he would not do so, he was attacked along with the Grants, plundered and killed, and this incident nearly led to a fight between the Macdonells and the Camerons, and the breaking up of Dundee's army. It is evident, too, that long before this time a very considerable emigration had been going on, from the number of Highlanders who were in America, and engaged in the wars with the French, and in the War of Independence. But this emigration was gradual and unobserved. At the time we speak of, however, and in consequence of the raising of rents, there was a very great migration of families from one part of the country to another, and emigration to America became so general that it created a feeling of alarm not only in the landlords, who began to fear that their estates would be depopulated, but in the country at large. Whole families and districts left the country together, and as they went entirely at their own expense, we may assume that those who went were of the class who were able to take some means with them. General Macleod tells us that his first act of management on his estates was to assemble his clansmen, and remonstrate with them against yielding to this emigration fever, and he adds that, in consequence of his appeal and of such remissions of rent as he was able to make, there was very little emigration from his estates. Dr. Johnson tells us, however, that, in course of his tour in the Western Isles, he found that the great object of insular estate policy was to stop emigration. In Boswell's account of this tour, which, so far as the Islands were concerned, only lasted from the 2nd of September to the 22nd of October, mention is

made of three emigrant-vessels with which they came in contact. And Mr. Macdonald of Kingsburgh told the travellers that whereas the people who left Skye by the first emigrant vessels manifested most extraordinary symptoms of grief at leaving their native land, emigration had then become so common, and the people so accustomed to the idea of it, that they left with apparent indifference. When Dr. Johnson and Boswell paid them a visit, Flora Macdonald and her husband were preparing to emigrate, and, as is well known, they shortly after carried out their intention, The places of those who left were occupied by others, often by strangers, and thus a great severance of antient ties took place, and the tie of blood and kinship which bound the inhabitants of whole districts together were loosened. The new tacksmen had no interest in their sub-tenants, except as rent-payers, and they began to exact from them a higher rent than they themselves paid, and southern estate managers, who began to appear and to introduce improved methods of management, preached the doctrine that tacksmen themselves were mere middlemen and cumberers of the ground, and that the lairds should deal directly with all who held land on their estates, a doctrine which, when put in practice, reduced the tacksmen from the position of power and influence, which, as gentlemen of the Clan, and leaders of the people under the Chief, they had formerly held, to that of mere farmers of curtailed possessions.

(To be continued.)




In close alliance with William Ross's Love Songs are his


These, for most, embrace amorous sentiments and incidents, while beautiful pastoral sketches are introduced in his Love Songs. For instance, “Molladh na h-Oighe Gaidhealaich,” is partly a eulogy of the Highland maid and partly a rich painting of pastoral life and scenes. This “Praise of the Highland Maid " is a song for which the ladies of Gaeldom, one and all, owe William an everlasting debt of gratitude; for, according to him, all the rest of womankind must yield the palm to the Highland maid, in her native simplicity, beauty, and worth, modestly and neatly clad in her tartan array; and its inherent merits ensure that the song will descend to posterity, with the stamp of genius and of truth upon it. Some good judges consider this poem William's masterpiece. There is, however, one entirely pastoral poem in the collection, Oran an t-Shamhraidh" (Song to Summer), and in it William shows to great advantage as an observer and admirer of Nature. It abounds in imagery of the most delightful kind, and the language used is really classical in style. Each stanza seems perfect. Let us take one at random :

Nach cluinn thu bith-fhuaim, suthainn, seamh,

'S a bhruthainn sgiamhail, bhlàth-dhealtraich,
Is beannachdan a nuas o neamh

A dortadh fial gu làr aca :
Tha nadur ag caochladh tuair

Le caomh-chruth cuannda, pàirt-dhathach,
'S an cruinne iomlan mu 'n iath 'ghrian,

A’ tarruing fiamhan gràsail air ! From first to last there is not a weak line or a halting measure in the 80 lines; and the whole piece, brimful of peculiar pith and fragrance, is a fine display of rare talent and polished taste.

Let us now give a hurried glance at his

« 上一頁繼續 »