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Chapter I - Celtic Feudalism


THE full and fast river of our time has many curious eddies in its course, and none are more curious than those which carry the looks and the longings of men back to primitive conditions of society. Such longings are, moreover, always accompanied by the most strange assumptions as to what primitive conditions really were. The causes of this tendency are clear enough. The Battle of Life is sore on many, and it is only natural that they should envy a time when, as they imagine, there was no such battle, or when victory was equally easy to all the combatants. Yet nothing can be more certain than there never has been such a time since the gates of Eden closed. Of the condition of Man in the days which were really primeval we are absolutely ignorant. But as we see him in the light of the very earliest traditions, we see him, as he is now, a Being bound to labour with hand and brain, and a Being fitted for both these kinds of labour, with great varieties of faculty in each, and with deep- seated inequalities of power. In the very earliest narratives and traditions of the Jews we see men already divided into tillers of the ground and into keepers of herds and flocks. Both of these established avocations pre-suppose a long course of effort, and of all the needs under which effort is evoked. Moreover, when individual Personalities are dimly seen, we see them divided, as they are divided now, not only according to inequalities of mental aptitude, but according to inequalities, cutting deeper still, between the good and the bad, between the virtuous and the vicious. Moral qualities, even more than intellectual gifts, have in all ages been the great secret of individual success. From the first the sacrifices of some men have been rejected, because of "sin lying at the door." And when real History begins it is always the figures of Great Men that first appear upon the stage. They are the centre of every group. They are the reason and the cause of every movement. The personal qualities which had secured to Abraham his great pastoral wealth in Ur of the Chaldees, were, we may be sure, the same qualities on account of which the exclusive possession of a whole country was promised to him and to his children. That was the earliest Land Charter of which we have any knowledge. But it was a Charter which could not be, and was not fulfilled, except by battle. Without the sword of Joshua, neither the faith of Abraham nor the lawgiving of Moses would have placed the chosen People in possession of the Promised Land.

And so it has been ever since. In all the early movements of Mankind the great qualities of individual men have been the cause of every success, the foundation of all authority, and the indispensable condition of all secure enjoyment. With the single exception of the glimpse presented to us of the condition of Palestine between the arrival of the great Patriarch at Mamre, and the migration of his children into Egypt, we have no knowledge of any ancient people who were able to occupy a land so comparatively empty that they could live in it without fighting. The beautiful story of the parting of Abraham and of Lot 1 is the earliest account we have of a dispute about the possession of land, and contains within itself almost the whole philosophy of the dispersion of Mankind. But it was a case of dispersion under conditions which were not and could not be lasting—conditions, namely, under which vast tracts of country were as yet unappropriated. Even then, strange to say, we are told that there were many native Tribes already established in the land, and that famines were occasionally sore among them. It can only have been an occupation on sufferance that was then enjoyed by the Hebrew brethren when they had as yet nothing of their own—"no, not so much as to set their foot on." This is clearly expressed in the speech of Abimelech to the Patriarch: "Behold, my land is before thee, dwell where it pleaseth thee." The assertion of an exclusive right of possession is here distinct, as well as the right of granting a permissive occupation to the Hebrews.

But this was not "possessing the land," as they hoped to possess it, and as the promise was that they should possess it. Exclusive ownership was the promise, and with that exclusive ownership in the hands of strangers there could be no security for the chosen People. God, indeed, had made that land of Canaan in the same sense in which He has made "all the corners of the earth." But He had not made it for all men, but for that particular family of men whom He made strong to take it, and who continued to hold it—until by unfaith they lost it, and its sceptre departed from them. No other conquering Tribe, indeed, has ever been charged with the same mission, or has brought the same gifts to men. But it may be said with truth that, generally speaking, every conquering Tribe has had some mission, and has added something above its fellows, and above its enemies, to the progress of the world. And although we know little—curiously little—of those great migrations westward from Central Asia, which, during several centuries. covered the ground of Europe with fresh and ever fresher deposits of human character, this at least we do know, that they were always movements of fighting men, continually reducing to bondage those whom they overcame, and themselves passing under service to the Leaders whom inborn inequalities of mind had raised to positions of command.

The famous and powerful sketch which has been left by Tacitus of the German Tribes, as they were known by him, does indeed present a picture of social equality, in which personal pre-eminence found only a personal and temporary recognition. And, no doubt, so long as they remained in their own woods and marshes, fighting with none but inferior races, living only on cattle and on the chase, neither having nor desiring a settled life with peaceful and agricultural pursuits, the Polity described by Tacitus might be strong enough. But we know what followed. Even in his description we see that the hereditary principle had begun to work. Mere youths were admitted to the dignity of Chiefs if their fathers had been illustrious.' Nothing more was needed. A root which is deeply rooted in human nature had begun to sprout. During the dim centuries when the Barbarian nations were gathering behind the forests of Germany and the marshes of the Danube, coming, as Tacitus ignorantly supposed that no migratory nations could come—not, by sea, but overland from distant centres of origin and overflow—during those dim centuries the Germans and all the swarms above them to the North, and behind them to the East, were closing their ranks, and consolidating their strength under that one great Polity which by its inherent strength survived every other—the Polity of military subordination, and of Power regulated and transmitted through hereditary succession.

There is no greater mistake than to suppose that this Polity, which culminated in the code of law and usages since grouped under the name of the Feudal System, was founded on any unnatural usurpation, or that the authority which came to be vested under it in Chiefs and Kings, was anything more than an embodiment of the facts of Nature, and an expression of the insuper- able necessities of the case. Under such conditions of fierce competition, determined always by the arbitrament of arms—conditions of perpetual and chronic war—it was not possible that success could be attained, or civilisation could be established, except by resting upon those through whom, and by whom, Power could be wielded best. Thus, for example, the feudal principle that every holder of land must hold it under tenure from some Superior in whom the dominion lay—this principle did not grow out of any theory, but was the simple recognition of the facts of life. It had come to be true as one of the necessities of the age, long before it was formally recognised as one of the doctrines of the law. There is no value in land except when it can be held in peace. But in times when there was a universal scramble for the possession of it by rival Tribes, it never could be held in peace except under the protection of those who were strong enough to defend it. And no man could have this strength except by leaning on the existing organisation of society,. and on the personal authority of those who were at its head. Nor is there any truth in the idea which has been sedulously spread that those among northern races—the Celts—who were the last to accept the Feudal System in its final form, were races who lost by that acceptance any individual freedom or any social equality which they had enjoyed before. The truth is all the other way. Amongst the Celtic Tribes the same general causes had not only established the same dependence of the body of the people on the authority of Kings and Chiefs, but had made this dependence much more arbitrary and oppressive than amongst the Saxon and other Teutonic Tribes, or under the perfected forms of Feudalism.

The usages which spring up in a rude condition of society are subject to development, like other things, in two very different directions. When the conditions are favourable to the establishment of a settled government and of an advancing civilisation, these usages become more and more subject to reason and to judicial definition ; whatever elements there were in them of mere despotism and injustice are dropped out or softened down; and finally, all the elements which remain become built up into a well-ordered system of Government and of Law. When, on the contrary, the conditions of society are not favourable—among Tribes which are never destined to grow into great Nations—such usages become subject to a development very different indeed. It is the development of corruption. The grosser elements assert themselves more and more they become not only stereotyped, but enlarged and strengthened. What began in mere violence becomes still more violent, what was always undefined becomes more and more purely arbitrary. What was due originally to natural power and to just authority becomes yielded up to the purest tyranny—until the whole system may grow into one of chronic rapine fatal to any progress in wealth, or in government, or in law.

Of all these processes there never has been a more conspicuous example than in the customs and usages of that branch of the Celtic race which, pushing farthest west, possessed itself of Ireland. There—in that remotest region of Europe—it became secluded from the movements and the life of the continental world. It may be true that in the Brehon Laws we have traces and relics of a time when Celtic usages and ideas were the same as those of all their Aryan brethren—and which in the hands of one great nation led on to the glorious history of the Twelve Tables.' But all the germs of good had been well-nigh wholly killed, and the absence of any central authority had allowed every weed to grow. The elaborate, learned, and conscientious Work of Mr. Skene, gives us probably as much as we shall ever know of the earliest organisation of society—if organisation it can be called—among the Scoto-Irish Celts. It began with all the elements of inequality which we find at the foundations of every society. In the first place, it began with the conquest of some so-called aboriginal race which was reduced to bondage. In the second place, it began in the leadership of Chiefs, who from the first seem to have enjoyed greater ascendency than among the Teutonic Tribes. In the third place, among the men who were nominally equal in respect to freedom, there was a very early development of those differences in wealth which spring directly from the ineradicable distinctions of personal gifts. We are accustomed to think of the word "capital" as denoting a form or condition of wealth which belongs to later stages of human society. But this is a complete mistake. Both the word and the thing come down to us from archaic times. When flocks and herds were almost the only embodiments of wealth, all the power which riches can ever give was vested in the man who by strength or skill had become possessed of more sheep and oxen than his neighbours. When tillage hardly existed, and when land had all its value from the cattle it would feed, no man could possess land except by having stock to eat its grass. These were the "capital "—the Heads or Capita—which alone constituted wealth, and he who had none of these could only hire them from the stronger and the abler men who had them. Then, as money was hardly known, the hire must consist mainly in services of some kind in addition to some share of produce. This, therefore, was another door, besides Tribal allegiance or military subordination, through which the ranks of Bondsmen were recruited, and the authority of Chiefs became more and more firmly established. It is not a little remarkable that the earliest title in Celtic society which practically corresponds to the modern idea of "landlord" was a word signifying "cattle- lord." This was the Bo-aire—the Cow-lord. It was by paying service to him that poorer men could alone secure the enjoyment of that which was then the prime necessity of life.

Iona

Nor was this direct form of hire the only form in which the weaker members of a Tribe came to owe and to render service to its Chiefs. When wars of conquest ceased, intertribal wars began. These were continual and fierce. The earliest records of Irish Celtic society show it to have been a society torn by continual contests in which every victory was followed by plunder and devastation. The one great necessity, therefore, of even the beginnings of peaceful and agricultural life was the necessity of protection. And this protection could only be secured from those who wielded the authority of arms. To get this protection service would be rendered as its price. And besides the services rendered always, even in the intervals of peace, special and extraordinary services would be will ingly rendered in times of actual danger, or under any circumstances demanding the special action of the Chiefs. Thus on a multitude of occasions, and under a great variety of circumstances, customs and usages would establish a corresponding variety of dues and of services from the ordinary members of the Tribe towards those who ruled it and defended it. No less than seven different causes have been enumerated on account of which free men willingly came under terms of servitude to Chiefs. And then when servitude had once been accepted, it became permanent. Bondage was even more hereditary than freedom. Then, again, as the earliest Tribal organisation broke up into the later organisation of Septs or Clans, every step of the change involved some increase to the natural and necessary pre-eminence of those who led. Their power of inviting and accepting the adoption and amalgamation of "broken men" from other Tribes—men who necessarily became direct dependants on themselves—was a power which, in being necessary to the growth and to the strength of the Clan as a whole, was at the same time specially conducive to the concentration of that power in the hands of its Chief.

During more than 600 years from the time when Tacitus described the German Tribes, these changes were working themselves out among the Celts in the profound obscurity of Ireland. The first distinct glimpse we have of them is in the strange way in which they affected even the organisation of the early Christian Church, which to a very large extent was shaped in Ireland after the habits and ideas of the Celtic Tribes and Septs. Its great Monastic Institutions were essentially Tribal. The Abbots were rulers in virtue of their birth, after the manner of succession which prevailed among their Chiefs and Kings. But Christianity supplied rules and imposed restraints to which there was nothing comparable outside the Church. There is a horrible but picturesque story of the end of the Seventh Century, which illustrates both how this influence was used, and the utter barbarism of the people which called for its interference. The celebrated Monastery of Iona was, as is well known, a colony of the Scoto-Irish Church, founded by Columba in the Sixth Century. One of his successors was Adamnan, who was Abbot of Iona about one hundred years later, and died in 704. The mother of this Abbot, living in Ireland, is said to have been greatly shocked by seeing a battle in which women were engaged on both sides, and especially by the sight of one woman transfixing her opponent, also a woman, through the breast with a reaping-hook. Urged by his mother, Adamnan undertook a journey to Ireland in order that he might obtain from an Assembly of Chiefs and Abbots an abolition of such practices. This he succeeded in doing. But it appears that the existence of fighting women had arisen from the native Celtic usages of a Tribal Feudalism. Even if this story be legendary in some of its details, it is at least a genuine Irish legend. The Celtic Book of Lecan fortifies its tale by this emphatic parenthesis—"for men and women went equally to battle at that time." The Tribal obligation of "Hosting" included women. It seems to have been regularly exacted among the Scoto-Irish Celts, and the reform which the Christian Abbot succeeded in obtaining was simply the exemption of women from a custom which must have had most savage and demoralising effects. The name given in Irish annals to this reform marks its extraneous origin— which was no other than that one abounding fountain from which so much has flowed that we value most—the high instincts of the Latin Church seeking their expression in the noble forms of Roman Law. Thus the new exemption of women was called the "Lex Innocentium."

But the Irish Church was at this time too Tribal in its own constitution to enable it to be an effective leader in further secular reforms, and so the old Irish Celtic customs respecting land, in contact with no higher civilisation, became more and more arbitrary and oppressive, and culminated in a system of tenure, of dues and of exactions, which was the most barbarous in the world. They were indeed utterly incompatible with any progress in the arts of peace. And all this was of purely native and purely Celtic growth. There is no clearer misrepresentation of history than to pre- tend that the miseries of the Irish people in respect to the tenure of their land were due to the English conquest, or to the introduction at that time of foreign laws overriding the native liberties and customs of the country. They were due, on the contrary, to the refusal of the English invaders to impart to the people they conquered the benefit of the higher and better laws which had been built up in England under legal modifications and interpretations of the Feudal System. It was the great shame of England and the great curse of Ireland that for many centuries the benefits of English law were rigidly confined to a few districts of the country; that beyond those districts the native laws were considered good enough for the people, and that even the English settlers were often eager to adopt the barbarous customs which liberated them from the restraints of law, and left them free to turn the arbitrary character of native usages to their own account. "Hibernicis ipsis Hiberniores" was the boast of some of the Anglo-Norman settlers; and if this meant, as in some cases it did, that they conceived a warm sympathy and affection for the Irish people, it was a worthy boast. But if it meant, as in fact it did really mean in a great majority of cases, that strangers who had known and enjoyed in their own country a higher code of laws, nevertheless gave up these laws when they landed in Ireland, and adopted, and even aggravated, all that was rude and uncivilised in native customs—then it hid, under a plausible phrase, one of the greatest evils which afflicted Ireland, and one of the greatest derelictions of duty with which the English settlers can be charged.

This is all the more curious, since we have the most certain historical evidence that long before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland the native Feudalism of the Celts had at least begun the same course of legal development which became the strength of England and of Scotland. There are extant some four or five genuine old Celtic Charters of land, written in the Irish language, connected with the property of the famous Monastic establishment of Kells in county Meath. These documents are of the highest interest and importance, because of the evidence they afford, from a purely native source, touching a subject on which English testimony might be suspected of prejudice. One of them is specially remarkable on account of the fact that in conveying an exemption from the arbitrary dues and customs which were everywhere levied by the Chiefs, under the Celtic Feudalism, it supplies us with at least a partial enumeration of these exactions. It sets forth that in atonement for a great crime a certain Chief grants to the Monks of Cill Delga "the territory and lands" of that name, with this privilege or exemption, that "no King or Chieftain should have rent, tribute, coigny, or any other claim upon it as before." This Charter was given about A.D. 1050 —or sixteen years before William the Conqueror invaded England, and more than 120 years before Henry ii. invaded Ireland. It indicates very clearly that the worst oppressions of Feudalism had been long established among the Celts. Incidentally these old Celtic Charters prove that land had become commonly possessed by individuals, and was bought and sold for definite sums in gold. One of these purchases must have been extensive, for it is described as including "meadows and bogs." The price was 30 ounces of gold, a considerable sum in those days; and lest any doubt should be cast on the validity of the tenure, it is further specified that the man who sold it had held it as "his own lawful land. It would almost seem that the Anglo-Norman invasion had thrown things back in Ireland by the mere force of antagonism and opposition between the races. Certain it is that the exemption of lands by Charter from arbitrary, feudal exactions, which Ecclesiastics took care to secure even from the native Celtic Kings and Chiefs, was not enjoyed by the bulk of the people.

The truth is, that nothing was or could be enjoyed by the bulk of the people under the desperate corruption of their native Chiefs. As regards the condition of the poorer classes no change could possibly be a change for the worse to them. They were equally the victims of most oppressive usages in times of peace, and of the most barbarous ferocity in time of war. It must always be remembered that the first foreign invasion came at the express invitation of one of the Irish Celtic Chiefs—Dermot, King of Leinster—and that this invitation was addressed to Welshmen, another branch of the same Celtic stock. It must be remembered, too, that in the contests which followed, this same Dermot exhibited an almost incredible barbarity towards those of his own countrymen to whom he had been opposed. It is not a Protestant but a Catholic historian who gives us the most terrible account of the conduct of this native Irish Chief. We are told that when the men of Ossory had been borne to the ground by a charge of the English cavalry, "the fallen were immediately despatched by the natives under the banner of Dermot. A trophy of two hundred heads was erected at the feet of that Savage, who testified his joy by clapping his hands, leaping in the air, and pouring out thanksgiving to the Almighty. As he turned over the heap he discovered the head of a former enemy. His hatred was rekindled at the sight, and seizing it by the ears in a paroxysm of fury, he tore off the nose with his teeth."

In the most interesting and instructive Historical Tracts of Sir John Davies, who was Attorney- General and Speaker of the Irish House of Commons in the reign of James i., we find conclusive evidence of the barbarous and oppressive nature of the old Celtic customs, and of the desire of the people to escape from them. Whenever they had the knowledge requisite to enable them to understand the difference, "they were humble suitors to have the benefit and protection of the English Laws." The most valuable clause in an Irish Charter from the Crown was always that which promised to the holder that he should be "ab omni servitute Hibernicâ liber et quietus." It was through the use of purely native and old Celtic customs that the great Anglo-Irish Chiefs exercised their greatest oppression. "The English lords," says Davies, "finding the Irish exactions to be more profitable than the English rents and services, and loving the Irish tyranny, which was tied to no rules of law or honour, better than a just and lawful superiority, did reject and cast off the English law and government, received the Irish laws and customs, took Irish surnames, etc. etc." 2 Nor does Davies speak without a definite meaning in all this denunciation of the old Celtic customs. He had too vivid a picture before him of the results of these customs to be deceived by words which have a popular sound, and by usages which look as if they had a popular origin and effect. He saw around him the inevitable effects of so-called Tribal rights in the Ownership of the soil. He knew that the individual appropriation of land was the first step from barbarism to civilisation, from widespread waste to cultivation and adequate production. He, therefore, specially denounces those usages which made the improvement of land difficult or impossible —usages which were not unsuitable to a primitive and semi-barbarous condition, but were also specially suited to keep men down to that level and to prevent them from ever emerging from it. He had before him their ruinous effects

"Again," he says, "in England, and all well-ordered commonwealths, men have certain estates in their lands and possessions, and their inheritances descend from father to son, which doth give them encouragement to plant and build and to improve their lands, and to make them better for their posterities. But by the Irish custom of Tanistry, the chieftains of every country, and the chief of every Sept, had no longer estate than for life in their chiefries, the inheritance whereof did rest in no man. And these chiefries, though they had some portions of land allotted unto them, did consist chiefly in 'cuttings' and 'cosheries,' and other Irish exactions whereby they did spoil and impoverish the people at their pleasure. And when their chieftains were dead, their sons or next heirs did not succeed them, but their Tanistres, who were elective, and purchased their election by strong hand; and by the Irish custom of gavelkind, the inferior tenantries were partable amongst all the males of the Sept, both bastards and legitimate, and after partition made, if any one of the Sept had died, his portion was not divided amongst his sons, but the chief of the Sept made a new partition of all the lands belonging to that Sept, and gave every one his part according to his antiquity.

"These two Irish customs made all their possessions uncertain, being shuffled and changed, and removed so often from one to another, by new elections and partitions, which uncertainty of estates hath been the true cause of such desolation and barbarism in this land as the like was never seen in any country that professed the name of Christ; for, though the Irish be a nation of great antiquity, and wanted neither wit nor valour, and though they had received the Christian faith above 1200 years since; and were lovers of music, poetry, and all kind of learning; and possessed a land abounding with all things necessary for the civil life of man; yet (which is strange to be related) they never did build any houses of brick or stone, some few religious houses excepted, before the reign of King Henry ii., though they were lords of this island for many hundred years before and since the conquest attempted by the English: albeit, when they saw us build castles upon their borders, they have only, in imitation of us, erected some few piles for the captains of the country: yet, I dare boldly say, that never any particular person, either before or since, did build any stone or brick house for his private habitation, but such as have lately obtained estates, according to the course of the law of England. Neither did any of them in all this time plant any gardens or orchards, inclose or improve their lands, live together in settled villages or towns : nor make any provision for posterity: which being against all common sense and reason must be needs imputed to those unreasonable customs which made their estates so uncertain and transitory in their possession.

"For who would plant, or improve, or build upon that land which a stranger whom he knew not should possess after his death? for that (as Solomon noteth) is one of the strangest vanities under the sun. And this is the true reason why Ulster and all the Irish counties are found so waste and desolate at this day, and so would they continue to the world's end if those customs were not abolished by the law of England."

But the most destructive custom of all was that which passed under the name of "Coin and Livery." it consisted in what we should now call military requisitions—but with this aggravation, that as feuds and fighting were chronic and perpetual, the Chiefs were perpetually quartering themselves and their retainers upon their tenants. This celebrated phrase "coin and livery" bulks largely in the enumeration of old Irish grievances, as if it had been invented by the English invaders. But it was, on the contrary, a genuine old Irish custom. It was known under the name of "Bonacht "—the Chiefs never giving to their armed retainers any other pay than this right of living at free quarters upon the unhappy tenants. Nor was this all:—among the Celts of Ireland it may be said with truth that Peace had its exactions not less devastating than those of War. When "coin and livery" were not available, other genuine native customs gave to the Chieftains the most ample compensation. First there was "Coshering," which were visitations and progresses made by the Lord and his followers among his tenants, eating them out of house and home. Next, there were "Sessings of the Kerne," or support for his horses, dogs, and attendants. Lastly, there were "Tallages" or "Spendings,"— exactions not capable of definition—in all which modes the Celtic Chiefs were absolute Tyrants, and the tenants were slaves and villeins.

One other curious illustration may be given of the real relation between ancient Celtic customs and the more civilised Feudalism of the AngloNormans. We have seen that more than 120 years before the English invasion of Ireland the Celtic Kings and Chiefs had begun to give formal grants of land to the Monastic Bodies, binding on themselves and their successors. The earliest specimens extant are written in the Celtic tongue, and are drawn upon the same model as the Latin Charters of a corresponding date in England. But it is perhaps still more remarkable that there are also extant two regular Charters in the Latin language granted by native Irish Kings just before the English invasion. As usual, they are grants of land to Churchmen for ecclesiastical foundations. One of them indicates very clearly the conditions of society, and the nature of Celtic customs against which it was the object of those early Instruments to promise immunity and protection. It is from lawless violence and rapine—from fire, from plunder and from theft—that Dermod, King of the Leinstermen, engages to secure the Abbot of Ossory and his successors in the quiet possession of the lands and granges of the new Monastery of Duisk. The other of the two Latin Charters given at the same period by another Irish King to another Monastery is only remarkable in this respect, that we have in it the full adoption of the regular feudal description and catalogue of the things possessed by virtue of Ownership in land. To this I shall advert more particularly again—mentioning it here only in connection with the great subject of the passage and transition from semi-barbarous customs, and Unwritten usages, into legally defined covenants and obligations. This transition is shown with striking clearness by the very first Charters granted by the Anglo-Norman invaders under Henry ii. only one year later than the last-mentioned Charter of an Irish King. One of these was granted by Earl Fitz Giselbert, the famous Strongbow. In the first place, this new Charter was given to a layman. This at once breaks the absolute monopoly of the Church in those "Freedoms" and immunities which piety or superstition had hitherto confined to ecclesiastics. In the second place, we see here the great step made of a strict specification and limitation upon the services which the grantee (or vassal) of the land could be called upon to render, and an absolute guarantee given against the oppressive exactions of Celtic customs. Five Knights' service was the amount required under this Charter, and for this amount the holder of the lands so granted was specially declared to be free from "all the evil customs" of the Irish.

If now we turn from the Celts of Ireland to the Celts of Scotland, the Picts and Scots, we find evidences, as abundant as a much more obscure history can afford, of a social condition which began in substantially the same system. We ought to know more about it than we do. We have one authentic work of the end of the Seventh Century, written by a man who could have told us much, if he had had it in his mind to do so. This is the same Abbot Adamnan, whose interference on behalf of women in Ireland has been before mentioned, and who is the author of the Life of Columba. For a good deal more than a hundred years he and his predecessors had been in constant and familiar communication with the Pictish Celts. If any abuses had prevailed among them so gross as those which had arisen in Ireland, we may, perhaps, assume that he would have made some allusion to them. But the literature of that age and race, though undoubtedly authentic, is extremely meagre. The truth is that the high but very special civilisation of the early Scoto-Irish Celts is one of the most singular in the history of the world. It shines across the ages with a pure and brilliant light. But it shines only from, and upon, the Altar. It spent itself wholly in the great work of spreading Christianity among the Heathen. This indeed is glory enough for any Church. But it did not indicate in the races among whom it arose, nor did it impart to them, any aptitude for political institutions. Beyond the sphere of its spiritual operations it has left no memorials of itself, except some fine work in gold and jewels lavished upon crosiers, upon the covering of Psalters, upon missals, upon shrines, and upon other insignia of the Church. It gave rise also to a peculiar style of ornament for parchment pages, for crosses, and for tombstones, which lasted for many centuries, and which was undoubtedly founded on the primitive idea of the many articles which in early ages had been made of wattles. But with all its religious devotion, and all its efflorescence in Art, the Clergy, who were its apostles and prophets, seem to have taken little heed of the social condition or of the secular affairs of the people among whom they laboured. There are few things in all literature more curious or more provoking than the contrast between the minute information which Adamnan gives to us respecting many details of Columba's life, and the absolute silence of the biographer on everything we most desire to know respecting the Pictish people in the west and north of Scotland during the Sixth and Seventh Centuries. It is like the contrast between the narrow field of a powerful microscopic lens and the surfaces which are close beside it, but on which nothing is distinguishable. On the one hand we seem almost to hear Columba's voice, and to see his gestures. On the other hand, we hardly see or hear anything of those to whom he spoke the Word, and to whom he sang the Psalms, and over whom he signed the sign of the Cross.

But although we are told little at this particular time, yet from events which followed at no distant date, and from the general course of history, we know pretty nearly how matters really stood.

All the races which occupied Europe before the Roman conquests, had this in common—that they had not then emerged from the rude Tribal organisation through which, probably, the whole human race has passed. During long centuries the Roman people itself had travelled far from the condition of being one only of the Tribes of Latium. Yet this they had been once,—and nothing more. From their own little settlement on the Tiber they had seen and hated the rival walls of Alba Longa. But now this small Tribe had grown into an Empire which stretched from the Euphrates to the Clyde. Great in Arms, great in Arts, but greatest of all in Law, the Romans had left little trace in their stately jurisprudence of the remote and archaic time when it was tolerated that men should look for the security of their possessions to any other protection than that of an Imperial power enforcing and sustaining an Imperial code. In all these respects the invasion of the Northern Tribes was indeed what the Romans called it, an invasion of Barbarians. Among them there was no central authority, no Common Law built upon scientific reasoning and accurate definitions of the rights and duties of mankind. There was nothing but customs and traditions in a state of perpetual flux, and therefore always at the mercy of those who led and ruled.

The Celts were in all these customs the least developed and the least advanced. The Chiefs seem always to have had, from the earliest times, a much more arbitrary power than among the Teutonic Tribes, as described by Tacitus; and, as in the earliest authentic accounts we have of the Highlands, the Tribal stage had long passed into the stage of Clanship, we find fully developed all those powers of adoption, of leadership, and of hereditary authority which constituted practically unlimited rule.

We must beware, therefore, of a mistake which is so common as to be almost universal—and that is the mistake of confounding the Tribe with the Clan. They were wholly distinct in their nature and widely separated in point of time. The Tribal stage among the Picts and Scots is, properly speaking, prehistoric. We know of it only from the very superficial information, and the passing allusions of a few Greek and Roman writers. Rome, as is well known, came into sharp military conflict with the Celtic Tribes, and the few facts which her historians mention do much to raise and very little to satisfy our curiosity. That a people so far civilised as to use the beautiful leaf-shaped swords of bronze, which are still often found as sharp and as well moulded as the day they were cast—and who could meet the Roman Legions with armed chariots—should in other respects have been so barbarous as they are described, is indeed not a little perplexing. The holding of land in common is mentioned by Latin authors along with the same practice in respect to wives.' If this be correct the Picts and Scots must have differed widely from the Teutonic Tribes. But the truth is, that no great reliance can be placed on these accounts. The most careful and laborious diggers in the mine of Celtic legend and tradition are obliged to confess that all the details connected with the Tribal stage of Celtic society are beyond the reach of history. What we do know with certainty is that during some dark centuries, which are destitute of contemporary records, the Tribal system had been developed into the very different organisation of the Clan; and that the customs and usages of the Clan in respect to the tenure of land were the customs and usages of Feudalism in the rudest; and most violent form.

We know this from the long survival within the Celtic area in Scotland of customary exactions the same in origin and the same in character with those which, as we have seen, were the ruin of Ireland. We know it by the fact that after the union of the Picts and Scots under one Crown in the middle of the Ninth Century, it is specially recorded of a certain King Girig, who reigned from 878 to 889, that he relieved the lands held by the newly constituted Scottish Church from the servitudes under which they were held "according to the law and customs of the Picts."' We know it, too, by the fact that these exactions were only gradually extinguished on other lands by that one great remedy which, as Sir J. Davies complained, was so grudgingly given to, or so unfortunately withheld from, Ireland, namely, the substitution of the higher and purified Feudalism of the Anglo-Norman Law. It will, perhaps, surprise many to be brought face to face with the historical evidence that Celtic Scotland had the narrowest escape from the same development of corruption which proved so fatal to the prosperity of Celtic Ireland. But that evidence is abundant and conclusive. All those Irish exactions with barbarous titles which are familiar in the dreary history of Irish grievances, appear in counterpart in the customs of the ScotoCelts. The names by which they are designated have a close family resemblance. The occupants of land under the Chiefs were subject to at least four great burdens, which were called respectively Cain, Conveth, Feacht, and Sluaged. The two first were not necessarily oppressive, for the one great reason that they were at least by way of being fixed and definite portions of the produce. But the two last were in their nature purely arbitrary, answering to the opprobrious "Coin and Livery" of the Irish. They put it in the power of the Chief himself and all his avowed followers to live upon the tenants at his pleasure.

It is very significant that our knowledge of these old Celtic exactions under the Clan system in Scotland is derived from those Latin Charters of Anglo- Saxon origin, which are often popularly represented as having suppressed the ancient liberties of the Celts, but which in reality, so far from imposing new exactions, were the great instruments whereby old exactions came gradually to be abolished or reformed. The Clergy, as usual, continued to seek and to obtain the limitation and regulation of arbitrary exactions, and it is from the grants given to them that we learn how heavily and how universally they were levied in the Highlands upon all lands which were not held "feudally"—that is to say, not under the new Latin and Anglo-Norman type of Charter. In the two great ancient Provinces of Argyll and Moray we have examples of such special exemptions given in the 13th century. The Celtic exactions of "Sluaged" and "Feacht," and others, which seem to have been nameless, are specified in Latin by such words as these: "ab exercitu et expeditione, et operatione et auxilio, et ab omnibus consuetudinibus, et omni servicio et exactione "—words which by their very variety and sweep indicate clearly the number and the unfixed character and extent of the "exactions" to which the people were exposed under the native Feudalism of the Celts.' in respect to some of these exactions we have specific information of the quantities of produce which continued to be, or came to be levied under them. One of these was called "Conveth," which answers to the Irish "Coigny," and represented that most ancient of "Tribal rights," namely, "the original right which the leaders in the Tribe had to be supported by their followers." Locally, in the Western Highlands, this particular exaction acquired the name of "Cuddiche," and it seems to have often mounted up to quantities of produce far greater than any regular rent. Three hundred years and more after we first hear of them from the exempting Feudal Charters of the 13th century, we find them prevailing in Argyllshire and in the Western Isles, and we find them amounting to such. heavy payments as 18 score of chalders of grain, 58 score of cows, 32 score of sheep, and a great quantity of fish, poultry, and cloth plaiding,—all by way of feasting their master when he pleased to visit the country. In Uist each "merk-land" paid 20 boils of grain; and in Mull each merk-land paid 13 boils of grain and meal, 20 stones of cheese, 4 stones of butter, 4 oxen, 8 sheep, 2 merks of silver, and 2 dozen of poultry, all as "Cuddiche" whenever their master comes to them. And this was close to the end of the 16th century—in 1595.

The Monks of Iona do not seem to have been much impressed by the advantages of these relics of the Old Celtic Tribal system, and like other wise men they took refuge in the more lenient, and less lawless Feudalism represented by the Latin Charters. And so in 1580 their successors secured from the Chief near whom they lived, M'Lean of Dowart, a grant of their lands under the promise of being protected from these genuine old Celtic liberties the true character of which is very frankly described. The Chief was to "suffer no manner of person or persons to oppress the said lands of Iona and Ross, or tenants thereof, or trouble or molest them in any sort with either 'stenting' or conyow, gerig service or any manner of exaction." In Athol some of these old Celtic exactions were levied so late as 1719-20. These instances, and numberless others which might be given from similar records, show, as Mr. Skene observes, "that these Celtic burdens on land prevailed over the whole country north of the Firths (of Clyde and Forth) on all lands which had not become the subject of feudal grants." The one essential feature which distinguished them from Rent properly so called, or from the legal forms of Feu-duty, was the uncertainty of their amount, and the consequent liability to unlimited extension at the hands of those who were practically possessed of supreme power.

But in Scotland all the later developments of time were in the direction of modification, of amelioration, of wise and temperate legislation, in direct proportion as the Provinces became united under one Crown, and subject to one Parliament. In this civilising process, beyond all question, the introduction and establishment of the Feudal System, as developed among the Teutonic races, played a most important part. Historians speak of the silence, of the comparative rapidity, and of the completeness of this great legal conquest—as if it were a profound mystery. But, in truth, there is no mystery at all. The Feudal System spread because it was the best possible embodiment and expression of ideas which had been long familiar, and of facts which had long come to be of universal prevalence. The ruinous customs and usages which we have seen established among the Celts were feudal in their root, in their origin, and in their essence. But they represented Feudalism in its most barbarous form—unrestrained by any sense of justice or of law. Cognate ideas,— analogous rights and duties,—were embodied in the Anglo-Norman Feudal System; but they were moulded and governed by more civilised conceptions of an orderly and settled jurisprudence. All ranks and conditions of men found their personal interest in accepting that system—because it gave legal definition to customs which had previously been undefined, and held out to a growing civilisation that which is its first condition, and which has always an irresistible attraction to the minds of men—a logical and reasonable system of defined rights and duties, under which all classes knew what they might and what they might not do. This was the real strength of the Feudal System, and this strength it drew from the silent but in superable influence of that great agent of civilisation—the Roman Law. Even in Ireland, as we have seen, the power of that Law had begun to work through the ubiquitous agency of the Latin Church. In Scotland the perfected combination of Imperial Law with Teutonic Custom was greatly helped by the actual spread of a kindred population over large portions of the country—by the marriage of a Saxon Princess to Malcolm Canmore, a contemporary of the Conqueror—and by the subsequent close alliances of the Celtic Chiefs with the Norman and Anglo-Saxon aristocracy.

These were indeed adventitious advantages, and causes of diffusion, which were of inestimable value; but nothing marks more strikingly the natural adaptation and fittingness of the Feudal System into pre-existing and purely native conditions, than the fact that the old Celtic titles, derived originally from the language of Tribes and Clans, became universally translated, without any sense of break or change, into the titles which were known and established over the rest of feudal Europe. The Celtic "Mormaers" took their natural place as Saxon "Earls" holding under the King; whilst under the Earls again the Celtic "Toisechs" took their corresponding place as Chiefs of Clans. Thus, in the organisation of the Celtic parts of Scotland, "we find," as Mr. Skene has said, "a gradation of persons possessing territorial rights within them, consisting of the Ardri, or supreme King, the Mormaer, and the Toisech, and the latter of these as not only possessing rights in connection with the land, but also standing in a relation to the Tribe or Clan which occupied them, as leader." All this was essentially allied to the Feudal System, and so when that System in its higher form came into contact with the vaguer, less definite, but fundamentally analogous customs which had arisen out of the necessities of life among the Celtic as well as among the Teutonic Tribes, it naturally absorbed these customs into itself, and gave to them a legal and well-regulated definition.

Among the Celtic population, indeed, in exact proportion as the remoteness of the country withheld them longer from the benefits of this System, we find their own more ancient usages tending not to greater freedom among the mass of the people, but to more absolute and arbitrary power in the hands of those who were their Chiefs and rulers. Accordingly, the civilisation of Scotland began in the Lowlands, where the Feudal System was earliest established, and along the whole eastern districts which were outside the Highland barrier. Just in proportion as they were outside that barrier of rough hills and mountains, they were inside the advancing line of mixed races, and of laws becoming more just and settled—through all those processes of natural selection which mark the history of an advancing people.

All historians of Scotland are agreed that the two centuries which elapsed between Malcolm Can- more, with his wife Queen Margaret, and the death of Alexander III. in 1286, constitute the epoch during which Scotland made herself a Nation, and advanced most rapidly in civilisation and in wealth. During the whole of it the direct descendants of that illustrious union of the Celt and Saxon continued to occupy the throne, and during the whole of it there was constant progress made in that amalgamation of races to which our Island owes so much. I have spoken of the line of mountains—the Grampian Range—which rises like a wall from the low grounds of the Valley of Strathmore, and from the Firth of Clyde—as the Highland Barrier. But it must not be supposed that it remained long a barrier after the union of the Picts and Scots, still less after the Saxon and Norman stream set in under Queen Margaret and her descendants. The broad belt of country, comparatively low, which flanks that line of mountains to the east, and stretches from the Forth and the Tay round the whole coast of Scotland to the Bea-Lily Firth, was gradually but surely occupied by an Anglo-Saxon population, and one of the Kings of this period—Malcolm the Fourth—drove out the Celts from the rich province of Moray, and resettled it with the mixed races of the South.

From many points of all this low country, the central Highlands were accessible along the banks of rivers rising on the hills of watershed, between the west and east. The Teith, the Earn, the Tay, the Dee, the Deveron, the Don, the Findhorn, and the Spey, were all more or less easy lines of access to the strongholds of the Celt, whilst the great diagonal Valley which cuts right across Scotland from Inverness to the Isle of Mufl,—Glenmore constituted another line of penetration. On the southern flank, the beautiful Province, and ancient Earldom, of the Lennox, was open from the branches of the Firth of Clyde, and from the fertile Strath through which Loch Lomond sends its waters to the tidal estuary at Dumbarton. It is this gently flowing stream the Leven, in Celtic tongue Levenachs," from which the whole district takes its name. Embracing the whole of the present county of Dumbarton and a great part of Stirling, the country of the Leven,—the Lennox—remained, almost up to our own day, half Lowland and half Highland —half Saxon, and half almost purely Celtic.

Under such a combination of geographical and of political conditions, it is not surprising to find that the fusion of races and the assimilation of institutions had made immense progress, when the light of history first becomes clear in the Eleventh Century. The way had been prepared beforehand, not only for the Saxon or the Norman Knight, but for any Chief or any leader of kindred blood who could combine courage with knowledge and with conduct in the pursuit of arms. It must always be remembered that the Celts had been successfully invaded by the Teutonic races from the North and West, long before they came to be invaded by the Saxons and Normans from the South and East. For several hundred years, after the union of the Picts and Scots, in the middle of the Ninth Century, a very large part of the country, what we now call the Highlands of Scotland, was ruled by an alien Gothic race. Over the whole of the Hebridean Islands, and over the whole of the Northern Highlands down to the chain of Lakes now occupied by the Caledonian Canal, petty Kingdoms were established under Chieftains who were Norsemen. The native Celts became their Clansmen rather than their subjects—or their subjects only in the same sense and measure as all Clansmen had become subject to their Chiefs. The Celts must have clustered round the standard of those hardy warriors, just as they had before clustered under leaders of their own. Of course this Norse dominion had not been achieved without endless fighting. But it was achieved without any extermination, and apparently without even much displacement of the native Celtic population. The Celts were enlisted rather than subdued, and incorporated in the rough Feudalism of a great military race.

There was constant intermarriage between the Teutonic and the Celtic Chiefs, so much so, that it is often difficult to determine clearly to which of the two bloods the most celebrated men belonged. There is no name more familiar to our ears, in the history of that dark time, than the name of Somerled, and none more associated with our very idea of the northern race, whose dominion was founded on the Galley and the Sea, and from whose language the sound of that name unquestionably comes.' Yet it seems now certain that on the father's side, at least, his origin was Celtic, whilst his Norwegian name probably indicates some near family relationship with those whose rule he fought against and, at least, locally overthrew. But that a Chief who championed the cause of the old native population of Argyll and its Isles should have borne this Norwegian name, although in the male line his parentage was Celtic, is a sufficient indication how purely personal were the qualifications which then determined leadership; and how thoroughly mixed in origin the great leading families had become. Whether the population had become equally mixed, is very doubtful. Probably they had not, because, except in Caithness, and in some other parts of the lower margins of land most accessible to the sea, it does not appear that the Norsemen settled in large numbers upon the country as colonists. But it is clear that the native Celtic population had come to serve under whatever rulers were able to establish their authority, and had been absorbed into the military system by which that authority was maintained. This system was purely feudal in its root and essence,—consisting in subordination and fidelity to Chiefs, on whose capacity the followers depended, and to whom they in turn contributed only that which Muscle must ever yield to Mind.

When we consider that these contests with the Norsemen, and between rival Chieftains who were half Norse and half Celtic, and between Clans formed by the followers of these Chiefs, but who were predominantly of one race,-----went on in the Highlands and Islands for the long period of more than 400 years—that is to say, from about 860 to 1266,—when we consider further that at one time—about the middle of the Eleventh Century —the battle rolled through all the mountains to the eastern shores, and southwards as far as the valley of the Tay, so that the whole of Scotland north of that river was for a season under the Norse power'—we can imagine how thoroughly and minutely the individuality of Clans must have been broken up, and every fragment of the Archaic Tribal organisation must have been ground to powder. The dream of any simple patriarchal system in the Highlands, within historic memory, bound together in peaceful Village Communities like those of the mild Hindu, is a dream indeed. It is true that the people lived in villages, partly from immemorial habit, but still more for the excellent reason that men must cluster together when they live in perpetual danger. It is true that they pastured great extents of land promiscuously, because the scientific agriculture which requires inclosures and the application of individual skill, was entirely unknown, whether as regards the production of corn, or as regards the breeding of animals by careful and artificial selection. It is true also that in name at least the hereditary principle lingered on, for this was common to the Saxon and to the Norman as well as to the Celt, and was provided for in the better and stronger form by the higher Feudalism of those races than by the ruder Feudalism of the Clans. But the organisation of society throughout the Highlands had become military from the apex to the base, and all the power of Mind, and of supreme Authority, had been concentrated in Chiefs, who represented a mixture of races, and who brought in the elements of a higher civilisation. The tie of common blood had through the fierce work of centuries been universally superseded by the tie of fidelity to men who could lead others to victory, and who could protect them during intervals of peace in the complete devolution of all labour upon their women, in the enjoyment of their turf huts, of their thin cattle, of their little hairy sheep, and of their strong cakes of meal.

It is only when we remember all this tremendous history of fighting and of rapine,—when the only bond between man and Chief was not blood in herited, but blood shed in common,--that we can fully understand the significance of the very earliest facts which reveal to us the condition of the Highlands, when the light of history first shines clearly upon it. Thus more than forty years before the close of the Celtic dynasty of Malcolm Canmore, we are startled by finding that a Knight of purely Norman name and race was the feudal leader of a powerful Highland Clan, and the possessor of a great tract of country in the very heart of the Highlands. This comes out in the curious story of the Byssets which well illustrates how the Highlanders of that day thoroughly understood Feudalism in its rude and archaic principle of personal and military fidelity, but did not understand it in the modifications and refinements which had arisen among races more advanced in civilisation, in courtesy, and in law. In the year 1242, in the reign of Alexander H. (1214-1249), a great tournament was held in Lothian, near Haddington. The Byssets came to it from the mountains and glens of Lochness with their Highland Clan. One of the Byssets was unhorsed by the young Lord of Atholl. In the high code of chivalry this involved no feud, nor even any offence. But the Celts of Lochness understanding only that part of Feudalism—noble in itself—which consisted in fidelity to their Lord, and understanding nothing of the chivalry which was of Norman birth, vented their anger in the murder of Atholl and the burning of his house. For an outrage so hideous against all the laws and feelings of chivalry the Byssets were justly outlawed, and it shows how powerful the Scottish Monarchy had then become even in that remote region of the Highlands, that this great Norman family were deprived of their lands, and their somewhat incongruous name disappears from the history of the Highlands.

But it is equally significant both of the state of the country at that time, and of the course which subsequent history has taken, that part of the same lands in the heart of the Highlands were transferred not very long after, in the Thirteenth Century, to another family of blood as purely Norman as the Byssets, but whose name, by phonetic decay or assimilation, has become one of the most familiar, and one of the most Highland, of all names connected with the Clans. This is the name of Fraser. The evidence seems complete that this name appears first in Norman-French under the form of Frézeau, from which it passed through the forms of Fiézel and the English Fresel, until fully a hundred years before this Lothian tournament the family was firmly established in the Lowlands of Scotland, with extensive possessions, under the name of Fraser.' From this position they passed on by alliances and military services until, under Robert the Bruce, they became lords of great possessions in the central Highlands, where, as is well known, under the title of Lovat, they founded and maintained for centuries one of the most powerful of the Highland Clans. It is needless to say that Bruce himself was the immediate descendant of a Norman Knight, De Brus, that his family was first settled in Yorkshire, where it was cherished by the successors of the Conqueror, —and that its first possessions were in the Border counties of Scotland, the great districts of Annandale and Carrick. Yet from the moment that the standard of national independence was raised by Bruce, he had no more devoted adherents than among the purest Celts, whilst some of his bitterest and most dangerous opponents were the descendants and representatives of western and northern Clans who had collected under Norseman Chieftains. Among the earliest of his followers, and among the most constant, was the purely Celtic family from which I am descended—a family of Scoto-Irish origin—that is to say, belonging to that Celtic colony from Ireland which founded the Dalriadic Kingdom, and to whom the name of Scots originally and exclusively belonged. The name when it first appears in writing is always Cambel, and never Campbell, the letter p having been subsequently introduced in connection with the fashion which set in at one time to claim Norman lineage as more honourable than the Celtic. But the name as universally written for many generations is a purely Celtic word, conceived in the ancient Celtic spirit of connecting personal peculiarities with personal appellatives. "Cam" is "curved," and is habitually applied to the curvature of a bay of the sea. The other syllable "bel" is merely a corruption of the Celtic word "beul," meaning "mouth." So, in like manner, the purely Celtic name of another Highland family, Cameron, is derived from the same word " Cam," and "srôn" the nose. But that portion of the Celtic race which first owned the name of Scots must have had in its character and development something which made it predominant, so that its name came to be that of the whole united Monarchy. Probably all its Chiefs had a memory and traditions which predisposed them to fight for that Monarchy as their own. Certain it is that Sir Nigel Cambel fought with, and for, the Bruce in all his battles from Methven Bridge to Bannockburn, and was finally rewarded by the hand of the Lady Mary, sister of the heroic King, who achieved the final independence of his Country.

But though King Robert the Bruce had the advantage of loyal help from Chiefs who were of purely Celtic blood, he does not- seem to have had the smallest difficulty in granting complete dominion over large tracts in the Highlands to followers who had no hereditary connection with them. To his own nephew, one of the noblest and bravest of all his little conquering band, Randolph, he gave the great Earldom of Moray,—one of the most extensive of all the Highland territories which had been long held by Celtic Chiefs, under the ancient title of the Mormaers of Moray. This territory stretched from the line of the river Spey, on the east, right across the whole Highlands to the western coast opposite to Skye, and included the whole modern county of Inverness from the marches of Ross on the north to those of Argyll on the south. We have seen that Norman Knights had long before been established in this Celtic country, and that the Celts had served them with a rude and fierce fidelity. There was no reason why they should not serve with equal fidelity under the Ownership and the lead of a Chief who was a leader of men indeed,—whose name had become famous in the world,—and in whom the strong Norman blood had been quickened by Celtic descent from Malcolm Canmore, and refined by Saxon inheritance from the saintly Margaret.


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