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The Highlanders of Scotland
Author's Preface


"HEUBEUX le peuple dont l’histoire ennuie," say the French, and if this be a just criterion of national prosperity, it must be confessed that the Highlanders of Scotland have no mean claim to be considered as one of the happiest people in Europe. Just as this remark may be with regard to Highland history, it would not be easy to assign a reason for it, still less to account for the general neglect which the history of that people has experienced, in an age when the early annals of almost every nation have been examined, and their true origin and history determined, with a talent and success to which no other period can show a parallel.

The cause of this somewhat remarkable fact may, perhaps, be traced to the influence of that extraordinary prejudice against the Celtic race in general, and against the Scottish and Irish branches of that race in particular, which certainly biased the better judgment of our best historians, who appear to have regarded the Highlands with somewhat of the spirit of those who said of old, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth." But it is mainly to be attributed to the neglect, by the indiscreet supporters of Highland fables, of that strictly critical accuracy, in point of evidence and of reasoning, so indispensable to the value of historical research the want of which infallibly leads to the loose style of argument and vague assumption so remarkably characteristic of that class of writers, and tends unfortunately to draw down upon the subject itself no small share of that ridicule to which the authors were more justly liable. The prevailing error which appears to me to have misled almost all who have as yet written upon the subject, has been the gratuitous assumption, not only by those whose writings are directed against the claims of the Highlanders, but also by their numerous defenders, that the present Highlanders are the descendants of the ancient Scotti, who, in company with the Picti, so often ravaged the Roman provinces in Britain. Nor have either party deemed it necessary to bring either argument or authority in support of their assumption. The Scots, as will be shewn in the sequel, were unquestionably a colony issuing from Ireland in the sixth century; and thus, while the one party triumphantly asserts the Irish origin of the Highlanders, their defenders have hitherto directed their efforts to the fruitless attempt of proving that the Scots were the original inhabitants of the country.

The attention of the Author was directed to this subject by an advertisement of, the Highland Society of London, making offer of a premium for the best History of the Highland Clans; his Essay proved the successful one, and the Highland Society deemed his Work worthy of the attention of the public, and requested that it might be published. Since that period the Author has been enabled to make many important additions to the original Essay, and has considerably altered its plan and arrangement. In collecting the materials of the present Work, the Author has to acknowledge the very liberal assistance which he has received from many of his literary friends in Scotland and he feels that it would be improper to allow this opportunity to escape without acknowledging the very great obligations which he has been laid under by Donald Gregory, Esq., Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, for the valuable and important communications which he has at all times so liberally made to the Author; and also by Mr. T. G. Repp, for the able assistance which he has rendered to the Author in the earlier part of his enquiry.

In presenting this Work to the public it will be necessary to say a few words regarding the system of history developed in it. A glance at the Table of Contents will shew that that system is entirely new that it is diametrically opposed to all the generally received opinions on the subject, and that it is in itself of a nature so startling, as to require a very rigid and attentive examination before it can be received. The Author had, from a very early period, been convinced that the present system was erroneous, and that there was in it some fundamental error, which prevented the elucidation of the truth. Accordingly, after a long and attentive examination of the early authorities in Scottish history, together with a thorough investigation of two new and most valuable sources— viz., the Icelandic Sagas in their original language and the Irish Annals—-he came to the conclusion, that that fundamental error was the supposed descent of the Highlanders from the Dalriadic Scots, and that the Scottish conquest in the ninth century did not include the Highlands. Proceeding upon this basis, the system of history developed in the following pages naturally emerged; and in it will be found the first attempt to trace the Highlanders, and to prove their descent, step by step, from the Caledonians—an attempt which the incontrovertible Irish origin of the Dalriadic Scots has hitherto rendered altogether unsuccessful. The Author is aware that to many this system may appear wild and visionary, but he feels confident that a perusal of the chain of reasoning contained in the first few chapters, will be sufficient to satisfy any unprejudiced enquirer that the true origin of the Highlanders is therein ascertained, and that their descent from the Caledonians rests upon historic authority of no ordinary strength. The same remarks which apply generally to the origin of the Highlanders, are true also with regard to the Highland clans: the descent of each of these has been traced and proved from the most authentic documents, while the absurdity of the Irish origins of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as the Scandinavian dreams of later historians, have been shewn.

With these remarks, the Author leaves his Work to the judgment of the public, and he may conclude with the words of a celebrated foreign historian, "There can be no greater enjoyment to the inquisitive mind than to find light where he has hitherto found nothing but darkness. More than once I have experienced this agreeable sensation in the progress of the present investigation, and I may venture with the more confidence to deliver this Work from my hands to the reader, because happily I can safely assert, that much which formerly appeared to him only in doubtful and obscure gloom, will now he seen in the full and clear light of day."


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