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The Highlanders of Scotland
Part I - Chapter VI


General History of the Highlands, from the Accession of Malcolm Kenmore to the Termination of the History of the Highlanders as a Peculiar and Distinct People, in the Abolition of Heritable Jurisdictions and the Introduction of Sheep Farming.

THE Norwegian kingdom of Scotland, which had lasted for thirty years, terminated with the death of Thorfinn in the year 1064; and notwithstanding its great extent and duration, and the important effects which it must have produced upon the population of the country, that kingdom has been most unaccountably passed over in silence by every native historian. The truth of its existence at the same time does not depend upon the authority of the Sagas alone, although that authority would in itself be sufficient to establish with certainty the occurrence of any event at this period; for the ancient Saxon historians, in narrating the events of Siward’s campaign against Macbeth, expressly mention that he had to contend against an immense force of Scots and Northmen, and that in the battle which ensued, many of the Angles and of the Danes fell, distinctly shewing, that at this time the Danes must have possessed a considerable part of the country, and that Siward’s expedition was directed against them as well as against the Scots. The extensive possessions of Thorfinn did not upon his death descent to his sons, but, with the exception of their original kingdom in the Orkneys, reverted to the native chiefs, who by hereditary right were entitled to rule over them. “Then many domains which the earl had conquered fell off, and their inhabitants sought the protection of those native chiefs who were territorially born [The word odalborinn, here translated territorially born, has a much stronger signification, which cannot properly br expressed in English; it is ‘natus ad haeredium avitum, sc. recta linea a primo occupante.’] to rule over them,” are the emphatic words of the Orkneyinga Saga; and there can be no question that that Saga alludes to the earldoms which Thorfinn had conquered in Scotland. This, therefore, is a passage of great importance for the history of the Highlands, for it proves clearly that when Thorfinn’s death caused the dismemberment of his kingdom, the great districts of Scotland reverted to the descendants of the Gaelic chiefs who had formerly possessed them, and had a hereditary right to their acquisition, and, consequently, that the Norwegian conquest produced no permanent effect whatever upon the race originally in possession of these territories, or upon the chiefs of the Gaelic tribes in the north of Scotland.

      Yet although the Norwegian kingdom did not produce any effect upon the succession of the native chiefs, it is nevertheless possible that a very great change may have taken place on the population of the different districts over which the native chiefs were again enabled to resume their wonted sway; and in estimating the probably extent of such a change, it will be necessary to keep in view that the effects of a Norwegian conquest were frequently very different, according to the nature of the conquered country. In some districts the ancient inhabitants were almost entirely driven out, the country became gradually colonized by Norwegians, and a Norwegian Iarl generally placed over it; while in others, where such a proceeding was more difficult, owing to the impervious nature of the country, the Norwegians usually contented themselves with plundering the district and exacting a tribute from its lord, leaving the ancient inhabitants otherwise in full possession of their territory.

      It is plain that in the eastern and more level districts of Scotland, a Norwegian conquest of not less than thirty years’ duration could produce no other effect than that of an extensive, and probably a permanent change in the population; and there can be little doubt that when, upon the death of Thorfinn, the districts occupied by him reverted to the descendants of the ancient possessors, the population must have been principally Norwegian, and that the Norse language had spread over that part of the country. In the more mountainous and Highland districts, however, we are warranted in concluding that the effect must have been very different, and that the possession of the country by the Norwegians for thirty years could have exercised as little permanent influence on the population itself, as we are assured by the Saga it did upon the race of their chiefs.

      Previously to this conquest the northern Gaelic race possessed the whole of the north of Scotland, from the western to the eastern sea, and the general change produced by the conquest must have been, that the Gael were for the first time confined within those limits which they have never since exceeded, and that the eastern districts became inhabited by that Gothic race, who have also ever since possessed them.

      The population of the south of Scotland remained in the meantime partly Anglic and partly Gaelic, the former people possessing the whole of the country south of the Firth of Forth, while the latter occupied the remaining districts. Upon the death of Thorfinn the northern districts of the country fell once more under the rule of the native chiefs, and they appear to have refused to acknowledge Malcolm Kenmore’s right, and to have chosen for themselves a king of their own, Donald M’Malcolm, who in all probability was a son or descendant of Malcolm M’Maolbride, the Maormor of Moray, who had formerly been king of Scotland. During a period of twenty-one years, Malcolm appears to have been engaged in constant attempts to reduce the northern districts under his dominion, and to have gradually extended his kingdom, until he at length succeeded in suppressing all opposition to his government. In 1070 we find him founding the Culdee establishment of Mortlach, in consequence of a victory obtained over his opponents. In 1077 the Saxon Chronicle informs us that Maolsnechtan, the Maormor of Moray, and son of that Lulach whom the northern faction had placed on the throne after the death of Macbeth, sustained a complete overthrow from Malcolm, and escaped with difficulty with the loss of his army and treasures; and finally, in 1085, we find recorded the violent deaths of Donald M’Malcolm, king of Alban, and Maolsnechtan M’Lulach, Maormor of Moray. After this date we do not trace the appearance of any further opposition to his power, and he had probably now effectually reduced the whole of Scotland under his dominion. During the remainder of Malcolm’s reign he continued in possession of the whole of Scotland, with the exception probably of Caithness, and he does not appear to have been disturbed on his throne by any further opposition on the part of the northern chiefs. Although Malcolm had been placed on the throne by the assistance of an English army, there can be no question that his kingdom was in its constitution a purely Celtic one, and that with the exception of the Anglic inhabitants of Lothian and Norwegian population of the north Lowlands, his subjects were purely Celtic. On his death, however, which took place in the year 1093, the Celtic and the Saxon laws of succession came into direct opposition to each other; for according to the Celtic law, his brother Donald was entitled to the succession, while the Saxons, who had been mainly instrumental in placing Malcolm on the throne, would yield obedience to no sovereign but his sons, who, according to the principles of succession recognised by them, were alone entitled to inherit. In addition to this subject of division, the Gaelic portion of the population were irritated, because of the great influx of Saxons that had been introduced among them, and felt alarmed at the idea of being governed by a family who were in all respects, except that of birth, Saxons. They accordingly proclaimed Donald Bane their king, and their power was still sufficiently great to enable them to succeed in placing him on the throne. Their success, however was principally owing to the powerful assistance of Magnus Barefoot, king of Norway, who was at that time in possession of the Western Isles. These islands he had reduced under his power in the last year of Malcolm Kenmore’s reign, and as that prince was at that time preparing for his English expedition, he found it impossible to defend these remote parts of his kingdom, and was easily induced to consent to their occupation by the king of Norway. On his death, in 1093, Magnus had still remained with his fleet among the islands, and probably agreed to support Donald’s claim to the throne, on condition of his confirming his brother’s grant. Donald having passed his previous life among the Gael, possessed all their dislike to the encroachments of foreigners, and in the spirit of that sentiment, his very first act was to expel all the English who had settled in the Lowlands under the protection of Malcolm. But he was not long permitted to enjoy the crown, for Duncan, the eldest son of his brother Malcolm, having applied to the king of England for assistance, received from him the aid of a numerous army of English and Normans, with which he advanced into Scotland, and succeeded in expelling Donald Bane. Notwithstanding the success which attended him in this enterprise, Duncan found it impossible, even with the assistance of his English auxiliaries, to preserve his hold in the Gaelic part of Scotland, and was in consequence obliged to enter into an agreement with the native chiefs, by which he purchased their support by the expulsion of the English who had accompanied him to Scotland, The Scots, however, had no sooner obtained the dismissal of the foreigners than they took advantage of it to attach and slay Duncan, and replace Donald Bane on the throne. From this it is plain that the whole of the Gaelic population were in the interest of Donald, whom they conceived to be their legitimate king. But the English king being determined not to spare any effort to place the family of Malcolm on the Scottish throne, again renewed the contest two years afterwards, by despatching Edgar Aetheling with a large army, composed of Saxons and Normans, to effect that purpose. The Gaelic inhabitants of Scotland were unable to resist the invasion of so powerful an army, and Edgar having overcome Donald in battle, made him captive and placed his namesake, the son of Malcolm Kenmore, on the throne.

      Edgar, who was now the eldest surviving son of Malcolm Kenmore, was in a very different situation from either his father or his brother for he was through his mother the undoubted heir of the old Saxon monarchy, and possessed a natural claim on the allegiance of the Anglic inhabitants of the country which had not belonged to the previous kings of Scotland. It was accordingly by the assistance of the Saxons alone that he was placed on the throne The whole Gaelic population of the country appears to have been opposed to his claim. The hereditary possessions of the family which were in the Highlands were even enjoyed by the descendants of Donald Bane and Duncan, Malcolm Kenmore’s eldest son, and during the reigns of Edgar and of his brother and successor, Alexander I., the laws, institutions, and forms of government were purely Saxon, while it is only on the accession of David I., who had previously possessed extensive baronies in England that the Norman or feudal institutions were for the first time introduced into the country.

      On the accession of Edgar those districts which had formed part of Thorfinn’s kingdom appear to have remained in the possession of the native chiefs, who had regained them on the fall of that kingdom; but the rest of the country, consisting of the territories on the north of the Firths of Forth and Clyde, which the Scot had wrested from the southern Picts, and which had fallen to royal house founded by Duncan, in addition to the whole of the country south of the Firths, became the absolute property of the king; and here we find the Saxon population and Saxon institutions principally established. In imitation of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom, this part of the country was divided into earldoms, which were bestowed upon members of the royal family; Saxon thanes were introduced over the whole country; sheriffs and sheriffdoms everywhere established; and thus, during the reigns of Edgar and Alexander I., the whole of Scotland, with the exception of what had formed the kingdom of Thorfinn, exhibited the exact counterpart of Saxon England, with it earls, thanes, and sheriffs, while the rest of the country remained in the possession of the Gaelic Maormors, who yielded so far to Saxon influence as to assume the Saxon title of earl.

      Such was the termination of the Gaelic kingdom of Scotland; from this period the Gael ceased to be the dominant people in the country, and then commenced that long enduring struggle between the opposing races, for independence on the one part, and supremacy on the other, which continued more or less to agitate the country, until finally terminated on the disastrous field of Culloden in 1746.

      It appears, therefore, to have been during the reign of Edgar that the population of Scotland assumed that appearance which it has ever since exhibited. The Norwegian kingdom of Thorfinn had, as we have seen, excluded the Gael from the eastern and more level part of the country north of the Tay, and had colonised these districts with a Norwegian race. The Saxon conquest under Edgar, for such it was in its effects, now confined them altogether to the mountainous districts of the country, and peopled the remainder of the Lowlands with Saxons and Normans. The two Teutonic races who were now placed contiguous to each other, and together occupied the whole of the Lowlands, gradually amalgamated and formed that Gothic race which no occupies that portion of the country, while the Gael were confined within those limits to which they have ever since been restricted.

      During the whole of Edgar’s reign, the Highlanders do not appear to have made any attempt to disturb him in the possession of the crown; but in the beginning of that of his successor, Alexander I., the district of Moray had so far recovered from the blow which Malcolm Kenmore’s conquest of the north had inflicted upon it, as to enable them to offer considerable opposition to the government.

      In this the Highlanders appear to have been instigated by Ladman, a son of Donald Bane, who probably desired to revenge his father’s death, and attempted to seize the person of the king, by a sudden and unexpected attack upon him while at his palace of Invergourie.

      Alexander, however, succeeded in escaping from their clutches, and with equal promptitude and boldness he summoned as many of his vassals as were within reach, attacked the Highlanders, unprepared for this prompt retaliation, and pursued them across the Spey into Moray, where he laid waste and devastated the country.

                        “Fra that day hys legys all
                                Oysid hym Alsandyr the Fers to call.”

      And so effectually did he succeed in crushing the inhabitants of Moray, that they were compelled to put to death Ladman, the son of Donald Bane, who had instigated them to the attempt in which they were unsuccessful. [Annals of Ulster, under 1116. Winton and Fordun.] During the remainder of the reign of Alexander, and the whole of that of David I., the Highlanders acquiesced in their occupation of the throne, being now, even according to the Celtic law, the legitimate heirs of Malcolm Kenmore; but on the death of David I., the two laws of succession were again opposed to each other, for, according to the feudal law, Malcolm, David’s grandson, was the true heir of the throne, while the Highlanders recognised in that character William, termed the Boy of Egremont, the son of William Fitz Duncan, and grandson of Duncan, who was Malcolm Kenmore’s eldest son. The Boy of Egremont was supported in his claim by no less than seven earls, of whom the principal were the earls of Stratherne, Ross, and Orkney; and on the return of Malcolm IV. from France, where he had followed the king of England, they attacked him in the citadel of Perth.

      Notwithstanding the powerful support which the Boy of Egremont had, this attempt was doomed to be as unsuccessful as all the others made by his family. Malcolm appears to have acted with a promptitude worthy of his predecessor, Alexander the Fierce, and

                        “Rycht manlyly
                                Soone skalyd all that cumpany
                                And tuk and slue.”
 

      The claim of the descendants of William Fitz Duncan upon the throne was now taken up by Donald Bane, who asserted himself to be his son, and as usual he obtained the support of the northern chiefs. For seven years he held out the earldoms of Moray and Ross against William the Lion, plundering the rest of the country far and wide; and it was only in consequence of his being accidentally met by the royal troops, when accompanied by few of his followers, and slain,  that the king succeeded in suppressing the insurrection. The attempt was resumed twenty-four years afterwards by his son Guthred, who kept possession of the north of Scotland for some time, and baffled every attempt on the part of the king to take him, until he was treacherously betrayed into the hands of the Earl of Buchan, and beheaded. Another attempt was made on the death of William the Lion and accession of his son Alexander II., by Donald, a brother of Guthred, in conjunction with a claimant to the earldom of Moray, but this insurrection was speedily suppressed by the Earl of Ross, a new and powerful ally of the government; and the same fate attended the last effort made by this family to obtain possession of the throne, which they conceived to be their right, six years afterwards. Gilldiescop M’Scolane, a descendant of William Fitz Duncan, who at first obtained a temporary success, was betrayed and put to death with his sons. He appears to have been the last of his race, and thus terminated these singular attempts to place a rival family on the throne of Scotland, which lasted during a period of upwards of one hundred years, and which exhibits so extraordinary a proof of the tenacity and perseverance with which the Highlanders maintained their peculiar laws of succession and the claims of a hereditary title to the throne. [The account of these insurrections is taken from Winton, Fordun, and the Chronicle of Melrose.]

      During the whole of this period the Highlanders, of whom the inhabitants of the district of Moray were the principal, did not cease to assert the claim of the lineal descent of Malcolm Kenmore to the throne of Scotland; and in all their insurrections they were supported by the greater part of the northern chiefs, as well as by the Norwegian Earl of Orkney, whose power, however, as well as his territories, had sustained considerable diminution. It was, nevertheless, in vain for them to contend against the increasing power of the Saxon kings of the family of Malcolm, and the great force which, by the assistance of the Norman and Saxon barons, they were enabled to bring into the field against them. Accordingly, each insurrection was successively subdued with increasing loss to the inhabitants of Moray, until at length, in the year 1261, upon the ill success of the attempt to place William of Egremont on the throne, Malcolm IV., after a violent struggle, finally succeeded in subjecting the country; he completely crushed the family which had been hitherto known as possessors of the title of earls of Moray, and bestowed that dignity upon the earls of Mar.

      In the meantime the earls of Ross had been gradually establishing themselves in that power and influence which had formerly been possessed by the chiefs of Moray, and the defeat of the last attempt of the inhabitants of that district to place the descendant of their ancient earls in possession of his inheritance, as well as one of the rival race of Mac Williams, upon the throne by Ferehard, Earl of Ross, in the year 1215, completely established their power. At this time the Western Isles were in possession of the Norwegians; the line of the ancient earls of Atholl had shortly before become extinct, and consequently there was not any one to dispute the supremacy which the earls of Ross now assumed in the north of Scotland. But a considerable change took place in the Highlands, upon the cession of the Isles by the Norwegians to the king of Scotland in the year 1266, as that event was the means of bringing one of the most powerful clans in the Highlands under subjection to the king; besides the earldom of Ross, the only other territory in which the descendants of the ancient Maormors remained in full and undisturbed possession of the power and dignity which their ancestors held, was the district of Dala or Argyll, the male line of the ancient Maormors or earls having universally failed in all the other Highland districts. Their several dignities and power had passed into the hands of Norman barons, and their dependent tribes had separated into a number of small and independent clans, who, besides having to oppose the tyranny and encroachments of these barons, were at constant feud with each other, either for the nominal title of chief, or for some other cause. Such a state of matters was peculiarly favourable for the introduction of Saxon laws and of Saxon domination into the country, and as a natural consequence, the resistance to these novelties, which in other circumstances would have been general among the Gael, now fell entirely upon the Gael, now fell entirely upon the single great chief who still possessed any considerable power in the Highlands, and who was thus driven into constant opposition to the government. The cession of the Isles thus brought the powerful clan of the Macdonalds into the field, and their having so lately enjoyed a state of regal independence, with but a nominal submission to the king of Norway, disposed them the less to yield a ready obedience to the Scottish monarch. Had the Macdonalds been a united clan, they would have had little difficulty in compelling the earls of Ross to submit to their authority, and with them to have presented a powerful opposition to the government, but the Highland law of succession had produced it usual effect over their extensive territories, and the clan being divided into several rival branches, they were able to do little more than merely to hold their ground against the earls of Ross. And as the jealousy and hereditary enmity between the two great tribes of Ross and Argyll was too great to allow them to unite together in any object, the government consequently experienced but little difficulty in effecting its object of overawing the Highland clans, and compelling the adoption of the feudal law.

      The extinction of some of the branches of the Macdonalds, and the forfeiture and utter extermination of one of its principal branches in the wars of Bruce and Baliol, at length threw the whole power and force of that great tribe into the hands of the lords of the Isles, who accordingly began now to present an alarming aspect to the government. The earldom of Ross, too, had at this time shared the fate of the other Highland earldoms, and had become extinct, while the honours and territories fell into the possession of a Norman baron; so that it was only by the exercise of the greatest foresight and prudence on the part of government that the enmity between the Gael and Saxons was prevented from breaking out into open hostilities, until at length a circumstance occurred to bring down upon the country the storm of Gaelic fury which had so long been dreaded. That event was brought about from the male line of the earls of Ross having once more failed, and the lord of the Isles, who had married the heiress of the title, immediately claimed the earldom as an appanage to his former power. It was at once perceived by Government, that however undeniable this claim might be, to admit it would be to concentrate the whole power which the Gael still possessed collectively in the person of one chief, and that by means of that union he would become so formidable an opponent, as to render the result of any struggle which might occur between the two races, a matter of considerable doubt. The government therefore resolved to oppose the claim of the lord of the Isles by every means in its power, and as a pretext for doing so, a fictitious claim to the title was raised in the person of the son of the governor himself. The lord of the Isles flew into arms in order to vindicate his right, and that struggle was commenced between the government and these powerful lords, which in all probability would have been successful on the part of the Gael, had it not been for the energy and military talent of King James I., and which was not brought to a conclusion till the forfeiture of the last lord of the Isles in 1493.

      From the extinction of this powerful dynasty may be dated the fall of the Highland clans, who now rapidly declined both in their political power and internal condition. By the forfeiture of the last lord of the Isles, and his subsequent death without lawful issue, the sole remaining family of the great Highland chiefs became extinct, and the country, which had hitherto been in the possession of these few great chiefs, was now occupied by a number of small clans, of which the more considerable had become disunited among themselves; feuds arose among them everywhere, chiefly on the subject of the now nominal dignity of chief and the whole of the Highlands became a scene of disorder internal warfare, and bloodshed.

      The strict, vigorous, and, considering the state of the people, the beneficial government of the great chiefs was gone, while the power of the royal government had not yet extended far beyond the Highland line, as the boundary between the Highland and Lowland portions of Scotland was denominated, and the system of clanship, which in its perfect state was the only one at all compatible with the peculiar condition of the Highlanders, and the mode of life which the nature of their country necessarily obliged them to follow, was, when broken in upon and amalgamated with feudal principles, singularly ill adapted to improve their condition. What the dissension among the Highland clans, and the extinction of their great families had commenced, was by the artful and designing policy of the Argyll family completed. By good fortune originally, and subsequently by well-judged policy, the family of Campbell had gradually arisen from the condition of petty chiefs in Argyllshire to that of powerful barons. Their only opponents in that quarter had been the lords of the Isles; the extinction of that family now afforded them a favourable opportunity of extending their power which was not neglected, and a succession of talented and crafty statesmen, secretly and steadily pursuing the same policy, soon enabled them to attain their object. The general line of policy pursued by these earls was, by devising means to incite the different clans in their neighbourhood to rebellion, and acts of aggression, and when these proceedings had attracted the attention of government towards them, the Earl of Argyll made offer of his services to reduce the turbulent clans to obedience, upon certain terms. should government, however, upon any occasion, despatch another person for that purpose, the expedition was certain to have an unsuccessful issue, and the council of state found itself under the necessity of accepting of Argyll’s offer; so that the affair generally terminated in the unwary clans finding themselves betrayed by the very person who had instigated them to acts of rebellion, and that additional power consequently devolved upon the Argyll family.

      Although the Highland clans were now reduced to such a state of anarchy and disorder, they were still powerful enough, when united, to shake the stability of the government. The frequent attempts which they made to replace the descendants of the lords of the Isles on the Highland throne of their ancestors will be mentioned in another place. But in no instance did the system of clanship manifest its extraordinary influence in such strength as in the rapid but brilliant campaigns of Montrose, when the Scottish army marched into England to assist the parliament in their struggle, and Montrose endeavoured, by raising the Highland clans, to make a diversion in favour of the king in the north of Scotland. He was, upon that occasion, promptly and cheerfully joined by the Highlanders, who entertained a hereditary respect for the descendant of so many kings, and whose principles also led them to support the hereditary succession to the crown. No person was better acquainted with Highland warfare, or more able to make an advantageous use of the peculiar qualities of that race, than the Marquis of Montrose; and accordingly, with a force which at first did not exceed 1500 men, he gained five successive victories over the troops sent against him by the Scottish parliament, and finally,, by the last victory at Kilsyth, found himself in possession of the country. There is little doubt that Montrose could now have placed his royal master on the throne, had it not been for the inveterate adherence of the Highlanders to their ancient practice, which, as usual, rendered any permanent advantage which they might have been able to derive from their victory altogether nugatory; for, unaccustomed to a regular campaign having an ultimate object in view, or, in fact, to any other species of warfare than that of their own predatory incursions, of which the object was plunder alone, they were in the habit of returning to their homes after every battle, to secure the spoil they had obtained; and thus Montrose’s army gradually melted away, until he found himself with even fewer men than when he commenced the campaign, and obliged to forego all the advantages he might have derived from his brilliant progress. Nevertheless, he unfortunately determined to advance with the small force which remained to him, and without the assistance of the clans, by whose aid he had been able to do so much, and the defeat which he sustained at Philliphaugh at once neutralized the effects of his previous success. Nor was he again able to redeem the ground he had lost, although he succeeded in making his escape to the Highlands! On the death of Charles I., his son, Charles II., who was determined to make a last effort in Scotland before concluding a treaty with the Presbyterian party, induced Montrose to attempt again to rouse the Highland clans, and the unfortunate issue of this adventure is well known: Montrose was defeated at Invercharron in Ross-shire, and soon thereafter, by the treachery of Macleod of Ascent, delivered up to the Covenanters, who speedily revenged the many terrors he had caused them, by his death of the scaffold.

      After this the Highlands were completely subdued by Cromwell, who compelled the principal clans to submit to his authority, and to secure their obedience he built several fortresses and garrisoned them with English troops. Subsequently, however, they were called forth from their mountain districts, and from the prosecution of their internal feuds, to assist the Earl of Lauderdale in carrying through his oppressive proceedings against the gentry of the western counties of Scotland, where they were long after remembered under the denomination of the Highland host.

      The revolution which placed the Prince of Orange on the throne of Great Britain, again called the Highlanders forth to attempt the restoration of that family for whom they had already effect so much, and they once more found themselves in arms under a leader as fully able to guide their energies as Montrose had been. Bearing the same name, and with a character as enterprising as his illustrious predecessor, Dundee was soon at the head of 3000 Highlanders, and if his career of victory had not been arrested at the outset by his death after the battled of Killiecranky, he would probably have effected his object. His death left no one of sufficient energy to follow out the enterprise, and the fruits of their victory were accordingly lost. the Highland chiefs had now so frequently taken up arms in behalf of the Stuart family, that they began to feel themselves in a manner identified with the cause, and from this period they appear to have kept up a close correspondence with the exiled court in France. Their sons were frequently sent to be educated in that country, and thus their devotion to the cause of hereditary right was strengthened by personal attachment to the individuals of the family which had been driven from the throne; more especially as the proceedings of the government towards the clans were little calculated to conciliate their attachment. At one time they were persecuted with unexampled severity, and at others their honour insulted by attempts to buy them off from their adherence to the exiled family. They spurned these offers with disdain, while the severities but irritated them the more, and the massacre of Glencoe has left a stain on the memory of King William which will not soon be forgotten.

      The period now approached when they were once more to raise the Highland standard in favour of the Stuarts, and the unconciliating manners and the mistaken policy of George I. hastened the event, which for some time previous, had been in contemplation. The Highlanders to the amount of nearly 15,000 men, assembled in the year 1715, at the instigation of the Earl of Mar. Under such leaders as either Montrose or Dundee there could not be a moment’s doubt as to the immediate result of a demonstration so powerful as this; but what either of these great leaders could with half the numbers have effected, the military incapacity and indecision of their self-constituted commander prevented them from achieving. In this ill-fated attempt we see how unavoidably the mismanagement and obstinacy of one individual may disarm the otherwise resistless energy of such a band, and prevent its success, even where no appearance of opposition existed adequate to resist its progress. A brave, and in this instance misguided people, became exposed to the vengeance of a vindictive government, too seriously alarmed to be much disposed to exercise forbearance towards them. Prompt measures accordingly were immediately taken, effectually to subdue the Highlanders. An Act was passed to strip them of their arms; an officer of skill and experience was sent to examine the state of the country, and in consequence of his report, means were taken to open up the Highland districts, and render them more accessible to English troops, by means of military roads carried through all the principal districts. The estates of those engaged in the insurrection were forfeited; independent companies of Highlanders, favourable to the established government, were raised to secure the peace of the country, and garrisons of English soldiers were stationed in the different Highland forts. But before any permanent effect could result from these measures, another opportunity had presented itself for the warlike and loyal spirit of the clans again to burst forth into open insurrection; and on this occasion they certainly had not to complain of having to range themselves under the banner of an unenterprising leader. It seemed, indeed, as if the Highland clans, which were now rapidly approaching the termination of their independence, and that royal family whose unhappy fate had so repeatedly called forth their devoted exertions in its favour, were not to fall without exhibiting together one more splendid effort, the brilliancy of which, and the near approach which they made to success, should create universal astonishment.

      It was in the month of July, 1745, that the son of James, styling himself Third of England, Prince Charles Edward, made his unexpected appearance on the west coast of Scotland, raised the standard of revolt in Glenfinan, and was, in the course of a few days, joined by some 1500 clansmen. With this insignificant force he boldly set forward to assert his right to the British crown, his strength daily and rapidly increasing until it augmented to about 5000 men. But the ardour of his disposition, and that of his devoted followers, compensated for the want of numerical force, and he urged his headlong progress with a degree of success of which history affords few examples; after defeating a greatly superior force of regular troops at Prestonpans, he penetrated with his small army into the very heart of a strong and populous country, nor suspended his progress until within ninety miles of the metropolis of England. Circumstances had rendered some space for deliberation now necessary, and, considering the very inadequate character of their resources, to enable them for any length of time to maintain their ground in the midst of an enemy’s country, the only chance of success seemed to be, in resolving at all hazards to push on to London, and under the walls of the metropolis to dispute the pretensions of the reigning monarch to the throne. But, unhappily for their cause, the confidence of the Scottish levies had rapidly declined in proportion as they found themselves removed to a distance from their native hills; conflicting opinions began to prevail, the prudence of timely retreat was urged upon the Prince, and his reluctant assent to that disheartening measure finally attained. It is not my object here to detail the events of this romantic enterprise; suffice it to say, that even in the discouragement of retreat, the gallantry and characteristic hardihood of the clansmen were conspicuous; they defeated the King’s troops at Falkirk, but every hope of ultimate success was finally extinguished on the disastrous field of Culloden.

      The government were now too painfully aware of the formidable character of the Highlanders in arms, wild and undisciplined as they were, and of the constancy of their loyal attachment to the exiled house of Stuart, not to adopt the most severe measures to crush their spirit, and the universal alarm which their progress had created throughout the kingdom, was too great to be forgotten, when the opportunity of revenge at length presented itself. Every atrocity which it is possible to conceive an army, smarting under a sense of previous discomfiture and disgrace, capable of inflicting, was for some time committed on the unfortunate Highlanders; their peaceful glens were visited with the scourge of a licentious soldiery let loose upon the helpless inhabitants, and every means was taken to break up the peculiar organization and consequent power of the Highland clans. The disarming Act which had been passed after the insurrection of the year 1715 was now carried into rigid execution; and with a view to destroy as much as possible any distinctive usages and peculiarities of this primeval race, and thus to efface their nationality, an Act was passed proscribing the use of their ancient garb. The indignity inflicted by this act was perhaps more keenly felt by the Highlanders, attached in no ordinary degree to their ancient customs, than any of the other measures resorted to by the English government, but at the same time it must be admitted that it effected the object contemplated in its formation, and that more was accomplished by this measure in destroying the nationality and breaking up the spirit of the clansmen, than by any of the other acts. The system of clanship was also assailed by an act passed in the year 1748, by which heritable jurisdictions were abolished throughout Scotland, and thus the sanction of law was removed from any claim which Highland chiefs or barons might in future be disposed to make upon the obedience or services of their followers.

      The general effect of these enactments was altogether to change the character of the Highlanders as a nation; their long-cherished ideas of clanship gradually gave way under the absence and ruin of so many of their chiefs, while, with the loss of their peculiar dress, and the habitual use of arms, they also lost their feelings of independence. But what was left unaccomplished by the operation of these penal acts, was finally completed by the skill and policy of the Earl of Chatham, who, by levying regiments in the Highlands for the service of the government in Canada, rendered the hardihood, fidelity, and martial spirit, so eminently characteristic of the Gael, subservient to the interest of government, to which, when in opposition, it had been so formidable, at the same time that “the absence of the most inflammable part of a superabundant population, greatly diminished the risk of fresh disturbances.

      This terminated the existence of the Scottish Highlanders as a peculiar, and in some degree, an independent nation; and it is remarkable to find their fall brought about by their exertions in the cause of those Princes whose ancestors had striven so long and so hard to crush that very spirit to which they were beholden for the last support. But if these acts of the government thus destroyed the organization of the Highland clans, and brought the country into a state of peace from one of almost constant strife and bloodshed, it was left for the Highland chiefs themselves, by an act as unjustifiable in respect to humanity as it was inexpedient as an act of policy, to give the last blow to the rapid decline of the Highland population, and to affect their individual comfort and welfare, as by the former measures the government had affected their independence and national spirit. An idea was unhappily adopted by Highland proprietors, that a much larger rent might be obtained for their possessions now in the occupancy generally of small farmers, and the herds of black cattle which they reared, were they converted into grazes for sheep; a plan, for the accomplishment of which it became necessary to throw a number of the small farms into one, and thus to divide the districts into single sheep farms of great extent, which, of course, required for that purpose to be cleared of the population now become superfluous. This formed the climax to the process of deterioration which had been gradually reducing the condition of the poor Highlanders, in proportion as their chiefs advanced in the modern constitution of society. For the Highland tacksman, who was originally co-proprietor of his land with the chiefs, became by a series of changes, first vassal, then hereditary tenant, and lastly, tenant at will, while the law of the country now declared the chiefs to be absolute proprietors of the lands occupied by their clan. When, accordingly, the first prospect of this advantage opened to them, the chiefs had no hesitation in violating the relation which subsisted between the Highland proprietor and his tacksman, and in proceeding to depopulate the country for the sake of their increased rents. The change produced by this system was very great, and to adopt the words of General Stewart, in his work on the state of the Highlands, “It has reduced to a state of nature lands that had long been subjected to the plough, and which had afforded the means of support to a moral, happy, and contented population; it has converted whole glens and districts, once the abode of a brave, vigorous, and independent race of men, into scenes of desolation; it has torn up families which seemed rooted, like alpine plants in the soil of their elevated regions, and which from their habits and principles appeared to be its original possessors, as well as its natural occupiers, and forced them thence, penniless and unskillful, to seek a refuge in manufacturing towns, or in a state of helpless despair, to betake themselves to the wilds of a far distant land. The spirit of speculation has invaded those mountains which no foreign enemy could penetrate, and expelled a brave people whom no intruder could subdue.”

      Experience has not justified the policy of this change; and the Highland proprietors now find themselves in a worse position that they would have been if the old system had been suffered to continue; while the country remains a most disheartening spectacle of desolation and distress, exhibiting the wreck of that singular and interesting people who have inhabited the same rugged territory from the earliest dawn of history, but whose peculiarity of manners and simplicity of character are now rapidly disappearing.


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