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The Crofter in History
By Lord Colin Campbell, son of George, 8th Duke of Argyll (1885)


Preface

THE Crofter Question, as it is now termed, is one on which an angry and embittered controversy has raged intermittently for more than a century. A recent agitation has given it prominence, and, for the first time, brought it within the sphere of practical politics. A Bill for its settlement has been presented to the House of Commons, and it remains for a new and reformed Parliament to decide whether the work which a ministerial crisis postponed shall be resumed.

The question at one time was one between political economists and writers whose "sentiment" was considered more forcible than their logic. For many years economic conditions conspired to demonstrate that the "economists" were right and the "sentimentalists" wrong; but the operation of Free Trade has been of late to diminish the advantage of the former. The imports from abroad have successively reduced the price of wool and the price of meat. This, combined with other causes, has produced — to use the language of the Royal Commissioners — "something like an economic crisis."

While the arguments derived from results are thus weakened, the arguments on the other side have been proportionately strengthened. To this turn of fortune the popular party have united the force which springs from the re-action in the public mind against centralization, and from the condition of the poorer classes in the great cities, which is represented as a grave social danger and disgrace. Legislation based on mistaken philanthropy, and legislation divorced from philanthropy, are equally dangerous. If the history of the past with reference to the occupiers of the soil has exposed the Legislature to the reproach arising from the latter, only the most careful enquiry and the most scrupulous attention to facts will save us, in the revulsion of feeling, from the opposite error. The writer of these pages aims only at a faithful representation of the facts. If he succeeds in that humble endeavour he will have the satisfaction of believing that he has done something to aid in a right settlement of a most difficult and complicated question.

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