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Journal of a Lady of Quality
Appendices: - I. The Highland Emigration


IT is a curious coincidence that among the many experiences of her journey, Miss Schaw should have come into contact with a phase of that highland emigration which is a conspicuous feature of Scottish- American history just before the Revolutionary War. Between 1763 and 1776 there left Scotland many thousands of her people—the total number is not known—who had lived in towns, valleys, and islands of North Britain, from the southwest to the uttermost north, including the Hebrides, the Orknevs, and the Shetland Islands. They represented nearly all grades of the population—tacksrnen, farmers and other tenants, and laborers, and covered mans' gradations of wealth, from the substantial and prosperous chief tenants to the very poor, unable to maintain themselves and their families. These people, migrating at different times and under different conditions, seem all to have been attracted by the fertile and cheap lands of the New World and by the opportunities these lands offered of making a living. They went to nearly all the colonies, but chiefly to Nova Scotia, New York, and the Carolinas.

The causes of this movement have never been adequately explained, although there is a great mass of evidence, printed and in manuscript, upon which a thorough study might be based. In general it was due to the breaking up of the clan organization and the transition from tribal to civil power and authority, constituting a veritable revolution in Scottish highland life in the eighteenth century. Three results followed: an increase of anarchy and crime; a substitution of money payments for payments in kind in rents and other transactions; and an increasing pressure of population upon the food supply. The landed proprietors or their chief tenants, the tacksmen, began to absorb small farms into large ones, evict tenants or raise rents, and harry the lesser folk with exactions and heavy oppressions, whereas the latter, bred to a farming and stock-raising life, were unable to find new forms of livelihood. The old linen manufacture was in decay, while the redundancy of population rendered stock and cattle raising and the time-honored methods of agriculture a precarious and insufilcient means of subsistence. By witness of all whose testimony has been recorded, the chief cause of the movement was the rise of rents, and the difficulties of subsistence due to the enhanced cost of provisions and other necessaries of life. The situation was in many ways not unlike that which accompanied the enclosure movement in England in the sixteenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

The emigrants complained of all of these conditions as making it impossible for them to remain in Scotland. "It is a grief to our spirits," said one, "to leave our native land and venture upon such a dangerous voyage; but there is no help for it. We are not able to stand the high rents and must do something for bread or see our families reduced to beggary." But just who were responsible for the situation is not so easy to determine. A recent writer has called attention to the fact that one cause of the emigration was the "tacksman system." The tacksmen were chief tenants, often men of wealth and social standing, who held their lands of the proprietors or lords of the soil on long leases and were accustomed to "subset" these lands to undertenants. Both classes suffered, for while some of the tacks- men were among the oppressors, others, confronted with the prospect of heightened rents and lowered social position, themselves joined the movement and came to America, bringing with them not only much wealth, but also many of their lesser tenants, who followed them partly from motives of clan loyalty and partly in the hope of bettering their condition (Miss Adam, in The Scottish Historical Review, July, 1919).

Among those who were driven from Scotland because of the increase of lawlessness and crime was James Hogg, who came to North Carolina in 1774. He agreed that "others complain, with too much justice, of arbitrary and oppressive services, of racked rents and cruel taskmasters," but declared that in his case he and his family were compelled to leave because of "the barbarity of the country," meaning thereby the theft and pilfering of his crops and stock by the people of the neighborhood, the burning of his house and other buildings, and the threats which were made against his own life. "A list of the murders, robberies, and thefts," he wrote, "committed with impunity there during my residence in Caithness, would surprise a Mohawk or a Cherokee. The loss of so many people and the numbers they may in time draw after them will probably be missed by the landholders, but let them learn to treat their fellow creatures with more humanity. Instead of looking on myself as an enemy to my country in being accessory to the carrying off so many people, I rejoice in being an instrument in the hand of Providence to punish oppression which is by far too general, and I am glad to understand that already some of those haughty landlords now find it necessary to Court and caress those same poor people, whom they lately despised and treated as slaves or beasts of burden" (Scots Magazine, 36, pp. 345-346).

Miss Schaw's fear that the emigration of so many able-bodied men would have a bad effect on recruiting was realized during the American War, when the obtaining of soldiers from Scotland, always a fertile field for the recruiting sergeant, became exceedingly and increasingly difficult.


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