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Scotland as it was and as it is
Chapter IV - The Epoch of the Clans


WHEN a great man dies, even after doing imperishable work, it may sometimes be that his work suffers skaith, and that the full value of it may not be seen until after many days. It was so with King Robert the Bruce. His work was one of the greatest which it is given to men to do. He did not merely win a Crown—that may be a very small matter. He made a Nation—and that must always be a very great one. He gave to a weak, and a scattered, and a divided people one common object of ambition, and that a noble object. He welded and disciplined diverse and antagonistic races into one people seeking to establish that national independence on which alone can be raised the structure of liberty and of law. He left a profound impression on the mind of his people. It is one of the great merits of the curious history, of the life of Bruce, which has been left to us by a Monk of the same century, that its laborious rhymes are more true to fact than to the poetic spirit. There are, however, some passages of true poetry, and there is one passage in particular of singular beauty, force, and pathos. It is the passage in which the Chronicler relates the last scene of all—when in his castle of Cardross, looking down on the junction of the Leven and the Clyde, the old Lion had lain down to die. When the sense of death had smitten him, when he had called his Knights around him and told them of his long- cherished purpose—the purpose of all knightly piety in that age—to fight against the Infidel,—when he had begged that some one might be chosen who could at least carry his heart to the war where it had long wished to be,—when the good Lord James Douglas had accepted this mission, when the dying King had given his last instructions—when the Church had shrived him—with "very repentance" Robert the Bruce gave up the ghost. Then the Historian, after the manner of Livy and other ancient authors, puts into the mouth of those who surrounded the deathbed of this great man, a Song of Lament which well expresses the sense of loss which must ever accompany the departure of a powerful Personality from the world:-

"All our Defence," they said, "alas!
And he that all our comfort was,
Our wit and all our governing,
Alas! is here brought till ending!
His worship, and his mickle might,
Made all that were with him so wycht,
That they might never abased be,
While forouth them they might him see.
Alas! what shall we do or say?
For on life while he lasted, ay
With all our neighbours dred were we:
And in till many ser contrie
Of our Worship sprang the renown
And that was all for his persoune."

These touching words were not more touching than profoundly true. The personal qualities of great men are in all ages powerful. In rude ages, when the foundations of society are being laid, they are the root and spring of everything. But hero-worship, the disposition to follow and be led by any one with strength of hand, like everything else that is good, may have its dangers too. If the men whom others follow be men like Bruce, with some fruitful principle of conduct and some really great objects of pursuit, fidelity to their standard may well be the very highest form of public virtue. But if, on the contrary, the men whom others follow are the reverse of all this—if they embody nothing but the lower instincts of mankind, and have no objects of pursuit higher than intertribal feuds or the lust of power or gain, then fidelity to Chiefs and Leaders may be, and often is, the very greatest danger to which Society can be exposed. It has broken up great Empires, and has thrown back into utter barbarism national governments which had been full of promise.

No man knew this better than Robert Bruce, nor did any man know so well from what part of his Kingdom this great danger would be likely to arise. If the thoughts of his deathbed were fixed upon the fields of Palestine, the anxieties and the cares of his last days of health had been wisely directed to duties which lay nearer home. We have seen that many of his Celtic subjects had followed him with unswerving fidelity, even when his fortunes had been at the lowest. He had not only trusted them, and disciplined them along with men of other races, but he had placed upon them special reliance as his own Battalions of reserve in the pitched battles of Bannockburn and Byland. But he knew also that whilst under good Leadership they were brave and faithful, they might as easily be equally brave and equally faithful to other Chiefs, whose first care was not for the Scottish Kingdom. Accordingly, in the Treaty which he negotiated with Edward iii. in the last year of his life, 1328, and which was ratified by the English Parliament of Northampton in that year, he took care to extract from that Sovereign an Article pledging him not to intrigue with or support the Celtic subjects of the Scottish Crown in the Western Isles. For himself, he gave a corresponding pledge that he would abstain from similar methods of attack through the rebellious Celts of Ireland. It is impossible to mistake the significance of this provision. Robert Bruce knew that when handled and led by true patriots, the Celtic element in the population of his Kingdom would be an element of strength; but he knew also and perhaps foresaw that when led by anarchical or traitorous Chiefs, they would be a source of weakness and of danger. How near and how great that danger was it was not possible for even Bruce to see. Let us look for a moment at how it arose and what it teaches.

In the long and happy processes of amalgamation between the Celtic and Teutonic races, which went on in Scotland during the 200 years between the reign of Malcolm Canmore and the reign of Robert the Bruce, there never was any recognition of such a thing as the Irish "Pale." There never was a circle of favoured Provinces within which the people enjoyed the advantages of civilised and written laws, and outside of which a whole Nation was left to Archaic usages in the last stages of decay, corruption, and abuse. Wherever the authority of the Crown extended, there was one system of law regulating the rights and obligations of men. At one early period, some special provisions were made for respecting and protecting certain local usages much valued by the Celts of Galloway—just as under the Norman Sovereigns of England respect was paid to such local customs as Gavelkind in Kent. But never in any part of Scotland, once it had been brought under the National Monarchy, were Knights and Barons encouraged or allowed to hold property and to exercise powers under the old desolating practices of Celtic Feudalism. The remotest Earldoms and Baronies of the Highlands had been brought under the law of definite and Chartered rights, and the most powerful of the Chiefs had found it for their own interest to impose the same limitations and obligations upon their subordinate Vassals and Tenants. Somerled himself, the great Celtic Lord of the Isles, who was killed when invading the Lowlands of Strathclyde in the middle of the Twelfth Century (1164), had adopted and enforced the system of written Charters. So far therefore, as acknowledged Law and the duties of loyalty were concerned, these had been universally established long before the reign of Bruce. Indeed, this had been well settled eleven years before he was born (July 12, 1274). The Celtic Chiefs and people of the Hebrides had been allowed their choice—to emigrate with their property, or, remain- ing, to be governed in future by Scottish laws. They do not seem to have had any reluctance in transferring their allegiance from the Sons of Haco to the descendants of Malcolm Caninore. By a treaty with Norway in 1266, Alexander iii., Bruce's predecessor in the Throne had secured to the Crown of Scotland the Sovereignty of the Isles, and from that date forward there never was any doubt or question of the rightful or legal supremacy of the common Law and Statutes of the Realm over the whole of the western Highlands and the Western Isles."

But although there was no "Pale" in Scotland beyond which the common laws and statutes of the Realm were out of place, there was a very large part of that Realm within which those laws could with difficulty be enforced. Not only remoteness and inaccessibility of geographical position, but the embodiment and predominance of Celtic Feudalism in the organisation of the Clans, placed in the hands of innumerable Chiefs a social and political power which was practically absolute. Removed from the centres of national life and interest, caring nothing for them, and engrossed with their own local ambitions and petty feuds, the Chiefs and population of all the Islands, and of a great part of the adjacent mainland, were a perpetual thorn, and at times a source of real danger, in the side of the Scottish monarchy and nation. They exhibited in curious perfection the operation of a tendency in human society, analogous to the tendency which Darwin detects in animal structures,—to revert to an older type. I do not believe in the Savage origin of Man. But it is historically certain, that all races of which we know anything have passed through stages of comparative barbarism. There is an innate tendency under certain conditions to go back to these. We feel it even as individuals. In the midst of our own highly developed civilisation we are conscious, in sentiment at least, of the charm of stories depicting a "wild life." In a few cases, and among the poorer classes, this tendency breaks through the bounds of sentiment, and passes into the realities of action. Darwin has told us how he was struck by the condition of the poorest savages in the world, the natives of Tierra del Fuego, when he saw a canoe full of them alongside his ship, and among them a woman who, naked herself, was suckling an equally naked child, whilst the snow and sleet of that pitiless climate were beating against her breast. Yet scenes hardly less piteous may often be seen among ourselves. There are men, women, and children—whole families, who in Scotland and England betake themselves to a life in the open air. Often with scanty clothing, and nothing to shelter them but a ragged tent, they brave the wettest seasons and the severest winters. I have seen a poor woman nursing a child under conditions of exposure hardly less apparently miserable than the mother whom Darwin saw in the Straits of Magellan. Yet the love of a wild, and almost savage life, is so strong on these wayside dwellers that it is almost impossible to reclaim them. I have known of houses being given to them, and opportunities of work; but the old instinct returns, and the old life is resumed. The same tendency, and a like result, takes place on a large scale when whole tribes of men enter upon a backward course. More gradually, and with no violent contrasts to make the changes visible or striking in any high degree, communities and nations may deviate from the path of civilisation, and wander back, without a single regret or sense of loss, to the ways of barbarism.

But the wild life of nations, and a relapse into its habits and pursuits, is a very different and a much more serious affair than in the case of individuals. The love of war is one of the most universal of these pursuits, and it has often been the most destructive. There is good reason to believe that to this cause alone was due the ruin of a civilisation in the New World which had made great progress, and the re-subjection of a great part of that Continent under the foot of the hunter and the savage. It is well worthy of observation, also, that there are some races more prone than others to such relapse, and this, too, from elements in the character which are in themselves eminently attractive. A quick and imaginative temperament, with strong passions and deep emotions, is precisely that which is most open to the love of adventure, most easily swayed by ambition, most readily incited by hatred or by revenge. Delight in songs and legends of the past, in which strength and courage, or both combined with cunning, are the great objects of worship, tend to keep alive, and to transfuse with intense reality, the feuds and animosities of the dead into the memory and hearts of the 4iving. A people with such gifts, and with these gifts so unregulated and so perverted, may not only be in danger themselves of a relapse into barbarism, but may even have power to drag down men of other races who come within the circle of their influence. Just as in many individual men and women there are indefinable sources of attraction, which consist in Charm —sources of attraction which give them a power over others far beyond any reasonable measure, so it is with some races. Perhaps more than any other race of whom we have any knowledge, the Celts have had this power of Charm. Their customs and usages, their poetry and their legends, their courteous manners, and their wild life, have always attracted the men of other races who have been brought into contact with them. Under the power of this temptation, Saxons and Normans have revelled in Celtic customs, have put into them a coarser spirit, have ridden them to the death, until they have come to represent nothing of liberty except licence, and nothing of law except licentious usages. The dwindled and degenerated representative of the great virtue of patriotism has shrunk into nothing better than passionate fidelity to some little group of men, not necessarily even of the same blood, but followers merely of the same adopted name and standard.

We have seen in a former chapter how Norman and Anglo-Saxon settlers in Ireland became the worst oppressors of the Irish, by descending below the level of their own native Chiefs, and conforming their habits and their conduct to the most corrupt of native usages. A process somewhat similar passed over the Chiefs and Barons of the Hebridean Isles and Coasts, many of whom were of Norman or of Norse descent, and almost all of whom were of more or less mixed blood. The marriage between Norse and Celtic usages could not fail to increase both the charm, the temptations, and the inherent vice of the wild life of both races. There are some outward forms and exhibitions of war, which, by their strength and poetry, tend naturally to inflame men's passion for it. The pomp and circumstance of great armies did not constitute the incitement of the Islanders. But the beauty and the winged swiftness of great fleets of galleys, each of them walking the waters like a thing of life," each of them carrying its contingent of armed men from land to land, and pouring them forth on quiet shores to fight and ravage and destroy —these, celebrated with sounds of Harp and Song, must have lived in the memory and in the imagination of "roving tribes and rude barbarians "1 from one generation to another. It is difficult to conceive anything more exciting or inspiring to wild men inheriting the traditions of the lawless races, than the habitual prosecution of war in picturesque galleys rounding stormy capes, running up sheltered inlets, pouncing upon enemies unawares, and carrying off the harvests and the cattle of all who were not strong enough to defend them. But in this, as in many other cases, poetry and charm were the servants of corruption. Civilisation withered before the Clans, so long as their Chiefs were uncontrolled by higher laws than the usages of the Celt.

Having now glanced at the causes in operation, let us look at their actual results. In round numbers, 300 years elapsed between the coronation of Robert the Bruce and the Union of his Crown with that of England. Bruce was crowned in 1306. James vi. succeeded to the English throne in 1603. Calculating, however, not from the Coronation, but from the death of King Robert, the period embraced between these two events is only 265 years. It is well worth while to note the working of Celtic Feudalism during this time of little more than two centuries and a half.

The remainder of the Fourteenth Century, in which Bruce did his work and died, was occupied by the reign of his son David II. (1329-1371), of his nephew Robert ii., the first Sovereign of the House of Stuart (1371-1390), and by part of the reign of Robert iii., who continued to occupy the throne during the first six years of the following or Fifteenth Century (1390-1406). This first period of only 65 years, short as it is in the life of a nation, was marked by several events and several circumstances highly significant of the changes which had begun. The Chief who was Lord of Islay and the Southern Islands had been faithful to the cause of Bruce, and had been rewarded for it. But he and King Robert died about the same time, and his son, though distinguished in many ways, and a great favourite of the Church, exhibited, through a long and successful life, that striking peculiarity of the Celtic race— that their fidelity is to Persons and not to Principles. The House of Islay ceased to be faithful to the Crown of Scotland the moment Robert the Bruce had ceased to wear it.' The cause of Scotland and of National independence was nothing to him. His father's King and companion in arms was dead, and John of Islay felt free from fealty. Within 15 years of the death of the Great King, David ii. had serious difficulty in coming to a peaceful arrangement with this powerful Chief. Once in 1344, and again, after the lapse of 25 years, in 1369,' the same danger arose of a rebellion of the whole Insular and West Highland population. On the last of these occasions David II. had to support his negotiations by large military preparations.

But this was not all; nor was it by any means the worst indication of a great political danger. In spite of a marriage with a daughter of the Steward of Scotland, who, in 1371, succeeded to the Throne as Robert ii., Johi of the Isles was in constant communication with the English Kings, who were at perpetual war with his own Sovereign, and were the hereditary enemies of the independence of Scotland. To such an extent was this system carried, that when in 1388 a temporary truce was made between the two countries, the agreement was openly signed on one side by the Lord of the Isles as an ally of the King of England. Considering that by an earlier marriage this Lord of the Isles had re-united all the Northern Isles with the great possessions of the Earldom of Ross on the mainland of the Western Highlands, we can estimate the formidable danger to which the Scottish Monarchy was exposed from the absolute powers wielded under Celtic Feudalism by such a strong-handed Chief over his subject Clans. This danger increased under the succeeding generation. John of Islay's son, Donald, though nearly related through his mother with the royal family of Scotland,' was a far more rebellious subject than his father. In strict accordance with the tendency to increasing corruption which seems to have been inseparable from the unwritten Feudalism of the Celts, his disaffection and his conduct took a lower and an almost purely predatory type. In 1392 another great Highland Chief gathered his following of the Clans, burst down the slopes of the Grampians upon the oldest and most settled civilisation of the East of Scotland, defeated the Lowland forces in the battle of Gaschine, and ravaged the whole districts of Angus and the Mearns.

But significant as these events are of the nature and tendency of Celtic Feudalism, I am not sure that they are so significant as two other incidents or passages of the same period, which in themselves may seem more grotesque than serious. They exhibit in two very different forms the dangerous attraction which savage customs, and the usages of a wild or lawless life, are capable of exciting over men who by race, birth, and education have risen to higher things.

There was then no blood in Scotland of more purely Norman origin than the House of Stuart. That name, as is well known, was of merely official origin, the family having long held by an hereditary tenure the great feudal office of Seneschal, or High Steward of the kingdom. This office had been granted to their ancestor in the reign of David i., and therefore some time before 1153. It had been confirmed by a Charter of Malcolm iv. in 1157. They had, therefore, a Scottish history and pedigree running through more than 200 years at the time of which we are now speaking. But, like the family of the Bruce, they had come over to England with the Conqueror, and had been first settled by him on great manors and baronial possessions in Shropshire, in the heart of England. Alan, the son of Flathald, was the name of the Conqueror'sfriend, and the title of Fitz Alan, now united with the Howards of Norfolk, comes by direct descent from them. Like the Bruces they moved northward with many other Norman Barons when the connection became more intimate between the Knighthood of the two countries. In Scotland they became the founders in 1160 of the Great Monastic House of Paisley, and had there planted a branch of the Cluniac Monks from an older Foundation they had made at Wenlock. It does not appear that they had any, Celtic blood at all except that which at a much later date they inherited through their marriage with a daughter of King Robert the Bruce—an alliance through which they at last, in 1371, succeeded to the Throne. Robert ii. was the eighth in descent from the first High Steward, and of his seven predecessors only one seems to have been allied by marriage with any Celtic House. This one exception was the fifth High Steward, who married a daughter of James Macrory, the Lord of Bute—a truly Highland name, and no doubt of as purely Celtic origin as any in the whole muster of the Clans.' The small Celtic element, therefore, which existed in the blood of the Stuarts was of the noblest type—the far-off strain of Malcolm Canmore, reinforced in later times by alliance with those descendants of Somerled in the Southern Isles who were most faithful to the cause of Bruce. It would be difficult to conceive an original descent, or a subsequent line of succession, or a course of life through many generations, which could have been better adapted to implant in any breed of men the best and highest tendencies and accomplishments of their age. Born and bred in the best times of chivalry, seeing and taking part in the rising civilisation, which, from Malcolm Canmore to Robert the Bruce, was amalgamating the Celt, the Saxon, the Norman, and the Norseman into one people, and consecrating everything that was good in old customs under the strong authority of equal laws, the Stuarts ought not to have been easily tempted to fall back into barbaric habits of which they could have had no living memory or tradition. Yet one of the most prominent occurrences of this last part of the Fourteenth Century was the part played in the Highlands by a member of this great Scoto-Norman family. No less high a member of it than a younger brother of the first Stuart King, Robert II., was granted gTeat landed possessions in the Central Highlands, whilst by marriage with an heiress he acquired also the extensive lands, or many of them, belonging to the old Celtic Earldom of Ross. In this position he at once found himself invested with absolute power over innumerable Clans who were ready to "go anywhere and do anything" which he chose to direct. Under this temptation he developed such ferocity of character, and perpetrated such deeds of cruelty, that he acquired in his own day, and has since been known in history as the Wolf of Badenoch. A recent authority has described him as "a species of Celtic Attila." His son, though he served in more civilised warfare with the chivalry of France, seems in his early life to have been a worthy representative of his father. He became Earl of Mar, and was a considerable figure in his day. It was under his command that the Clans were launched against the Lowlands in 1392, and routed their defence in the battle of Gasclune.

The second incident of this period, which still more curiously illustrates the same principles, is one winch stands alone, not only in the history of Scotland, but in the history of any modern nation. The gladiatorial shows of Rome are associated in our minds with the worst days of imperial corruption, and the worst degrading exhibitions of Pagan customs. They have had no counterpart in modern times. In the days of chivalry the contests of the tournament were not intended to be deadly, and, although sometimes loss of life occurred, this was purely by mischance, and all the rules of the game were inspired by a spirit even of gentleness as well as honour. Yet in days when chivalry had not declined, and not long after the heart of the Bruce had been cast into the squadrons of the Infidel by the Good Lord James Douglas, suddenly we hear of a scene recalling the most bloody exhibitions which aroused the savage tastes of Nero or Caligula. In that beautiful Valley which so struck the Roman Legions, that when it burst upon them from the top of its enclosing hills, they threw up their spears and shouted "Ecce Tiber,"—on the fair green meadow which borders the River Tay, and is called the "North Inch of Perth,"—all the chivalry of Scotland were assembled on the 23d of October 1396, to see a deadly fight between two bodies of wild Highlanders, sixty in all—thirty on either side. The King himself was there, with all his Court and Nobles, and a vast crowd of men of all ranks and stations. The combatants, like the gladiators, were devoid of defensive armour, and were to fight only with their native weapons, knives, axes, swords, and bows. So exciting was the scene, and such was the contagion of barbarism which it induced even in peaceful men, that on the flight of one of the Highlanders who dashed into the Tay and escaped, one of the spectators—an artificer of Perth, possibly of Celtic blood - came forward and offered the sacrifice of his life to fill up the blank. This being accepted, the bloody work proceeded. At the end of the butchery, on one side only one man remained alive, on the other, only ten, and these all wounded. Nobody, to this day, can make out with any certainty whence these men came, whom they represented, or why they fought. The most favourable view of it is that it was a Trial by Wager agreed upon as a means of settling a Clan feud, and of preventing still more extensive bloodshed. But there is no satisfactory evidence that it settled anything, or that it was ever intended to do so. What- ever it arose from, it was made a great spectacle. An enclosure was made and the lists were kept. As the historian tells us, "It was the nature of the beings brought together to fly at each other like wild cats, and kill in any way they could."' Such names as the "Clan Kay" and "Clan Qwhele" appear in the chronicles of the time as the Lowland guesses as to the particular Celtic Clans which furnished the victims. These names, evidently corrupt, have been plausibly translated into the Clan Chattan and the Clan Cameron. There is only too much reason to believe that the ferocious habits of the Clans, having then become notorious, and having very probably furnished the theme of exciting stories, and the subject of sentimental admiration to men who saw in them at least a contempt of death, these poor Highlanders had been bribed by the promise of reward to the survivors, to furnish forth this horrid spectacle to the chivalry of Scotland, with its guests from France. If this be the explanation—and it is the only explanation at least of the publicity of the scene—it is a signal illustration of the dangerous attraction which some races have exerted by their barbarous usages upon men of a far higher civilisation than their own.

With the exception of some obscure references in the old Book of Deir, in which such family names as Morgan are spoken of as representing "Clans" in the Lowlands of Buchan, the first mention of this word in the history of Scotland stands connected with the Gladiatorial Exhibition in the North Inch of Perth, and with a Brief of Robert III., in 1390, against the murderous followers of the Wolf of Badenoch. I speak of the name, or the word - not of the thing or the system which it represents. That system is as old as the existence of wild and lawless conditions of society in which the weak cluster round the strong, both for protection and in order to share in the spoils which strength only could secure. But it was not till towards the close of the century in which King Robert the Bruce died that the Scotch people recognised the new conditions under which they were henceforth to live within reach of the race which had so often stood shoulder to shoulder with them in the battles of Independence. Somewhat suddenly their eyes were opened by a bitter and a new experience. But nine years before the spectacle of massacre between the "Clan Kay" and the Clan "MacQuhele," the Parliament of the Kingdom had been compelled to take notice of the habits which were becoming developed under the licence of Celtic Feudalism. In 1385 we have the first of a long series of statutes passed for the defence of the country against the robberies and the raids of those who now came to be known under the name of "Katherans." All the subjects of the Crown were encouraged and exhorted to resist and to arrest them, and it was provided that if the Katherans resisted, the killing of them would be no murder, and no crime.

With these events, we have fully entered on the epoch of the Clans. The bloody spectacle on the North Inch of Perth was a mere outward symptom of more serious things. In the first law directed against the Highlanders as Katherans—in the systematic treachery of the Lords of the Isles towards the national cause—in the savage rebellions and ravages of the Wolf of Badenoch and his son, brother and nephew of the King (Robert ii.)—in their power to wield the force of whole hordes of men who followed them without any real tie of Tribal or blood relationship—we see the dangerous alliance between the absolute despotism of Celtic Chiefs and the mere forms of Feudal Law. Most of these Chiefs held Charters; but they used these Instruments of legal possession, and of lawful powers, only as blinds and covers for an unwritten code of usages utterly without law, limit, or restraint. The primeval Tribal system,—its poetical family origin, and its peaceful pastoral associations,—must no longer be confounded with this terrible system of military aggregations round red-handed Knights who were mere deserters and apostates from a higher civilisation. The sentimental admiration for them and for their followers is little less corrupting now than it was in the Fourteenth Century. It is a terrible mixture when violence and anarchy put on the robes of order and of law, and plead the authority of its noblest instruments for deeds and principles which they were invented to rebuke and to supplant.

One of the most careful and accurate of our national historians has pointed out more clearly than others the fundamental distinctions between all that we admire in the theory of Tribal Institutions, and the true nature of the Highland Clans when they first come into the light of history. "Powerful Chiefs," he says, "of Norman name and Norman blood had penetrated into the remotest districts, and ruled over multitudes of serfs and vassals, whose strange and uncouth appellatives proclaim their difference of race in the most convincing manner." These Chiefs used any legal power which they could find in Charters to strengthen or sustain the most absolute authority, but without themselves conforming to any feudal law whatever, either in their relations to those below, or to those above them. At a later period it became a common system through "Bonds of Manrent" to recruit from every quarter men who in return for protection, and for employment in common robberies, deliberately bound themselves over to be obedient followers and retainers. Thus, although the position and authority of Chiefs was generally founded on territorial property, it was to a great extent independent of it—did not flow from the same sources of legal possession, and was continually used to coerce and overawe men of smaller property who could not command the same armed following.

This distinction cannot be too clearly kept in view, because it is fundamental in the history of the Highlands for more than 300 years. It was not the chartered rights of landed Ownership, but the unchartered absolutism of Celtic Chieftainship, that made the Highlands for several centuries a scourge to themselves, and a danger to the nation. It can be clearly shown—so deeply marked is the distinction —that in direct and exact proportion as Highland Chiefs and Chieftains could be induced, or were enabled by the condition of the country, to live and spend their time simply as great Landowners, with the fullest rights of property, and all the chartered powers of Baronial Jurisdiction, in the same proportion did the districts under them advance in wealth and civilisation, and their people cease to be a terror to those around them. On the other hand, it can be shown with equal clearness, that in direct proportion as the principal families in the Highlands were purely or predominantly Celtic, leading only the life, and exercising only the tremendous powers of Celtic Feudalism, in the same proportion did the country go back to desolation, and the people to the most utter barbarism.

It is precisely due to this great distinction that we have a corresponding difference between two great areas of the country which are separated from each other by a well-marked line of physical geography. Roughly speaking, this line runs along the "watershed" of the mountains from which the streams divide to the West and to the East —that irregular mass of hill country which was anciently called Drurnalban, and at a later period the "Mounth." But practically we may take the dividing-line to be that which catches every eye that looks intelligently to the map of Scotland,—the line which the Celts called Glen More—or the Great Glen —running across the whole Island from south-west to north-east, and occupied by the chain of Lakes, of which advantage was taken in the construction of the Caledonian Canal. The whole Highlands to the east and south of that Great Glen, with its prolongation southwards among the Islands, was comparatively accessible to the advancing civilisation of the Eastern and South-Eastern Lowlands—a civilisation which crept up slowly but surely along the Valleys and the Firths and Lochs leading into the areas which were the centres of the early Monarchy. On the other hand, all the Highlands and Islands which lie to the west and north of that Great Glen were less accessible to the same influences, were more exclusively Celtic in their population, and were more absolutely under the dominion of Celtic usages. There the great families did not live merely as great Proprietors, but altogether in the much more absolute and formidable character of small Monarchs commanding the hereditary services of an armed and lawless population. Clustering round the memory and traditions of two Old Celtic Dignities—the Lordship of the Isles, and the Earldom of Ross—and fighting fiercely with each other, first for the succession to these, and next for the possession of the bits and fragments of them—the West Highland Clans lived perpetually such a life of war and rapine as that which was only too closely imitated by the great Norman Baron who disgraced the blood of Robert the Bruce under the name of the Wolf of Badenoch.

Gregory, in his History of the Highland Clans, was the first to point out clearly this great geographical distinction, which marks a corresponding distinction in the social and political development of the two districts. He goes so far as to say that the history of the Eastern and Western Highlands cannot be written in the same book. This is a great exaggeration. Neither in geography nor in social condition was there any hard and fast line. Glen More was not impassable to the Clans on either side, neither was it impassable to habits and institutions. Charters and Leases existed in the West, and Clan feuds and fights were not wanting in the East. Still, it is true that on the western side of the line the written laws of property were long submerged under the unwritten codes of Celtic usage, whilst on the eastern side these became gradually checked and subordinated to the precepts of a settled jurisprudence. This was the root and cause of the difference between the two areas, and it is one which arises out of the very nature of things. The corruption of human nature is a law which we cannot afford to abandon to the theologians. Historians and politicians must take note of it as the whole secret of the most characteristic facts. Hence comes the danger of mere usages as distinct from laws. All usages tend to abuse, from which nothing can keep them except the arresting barriers of written law and recorded judgments. It is the grossest of all errors that traditional customs tend to the preservation of popular liberties. They tend on the contrary to the exaggeration of power, and to the continual aggrandisement of the strong. There may, indeed, be usages which rise to the dignity of laws, and every civilised system of jurisprudence recognises as such all customs which are capable of definition, and can be classed as the real but unexpressed conditions under which all Covenants were made. But Society cannot be built up on the quicksands of shifting memories, and of loose allegations incapable of proof. These are always wrested, as we have seen that Celtic Feudalism did wrest them, to strengthen and to aggravate the abuses of personal strength and of personal ambition.

We can see then how it was that for 300 years, after the close of the century in which King Robert the Bruce had done his great work of amalgamation, that work was being steadily undone, as far as they could undo it, by the Celtic Clans. In the eleventh year of the new century, in 1411, Donald, Lord of the Isles, with an army, it is said of 10,000 Clansmen, attempted the overthrow of the Scottish Kingdom by a regular invasion. They were with difficulty repulsed in the bloody battle of Harlaw; and the final but hard-won victory of the Lowland forces was universally felt in Scotland to be a deliverance not less happy than the deliverance which had been achieved at Bannockburn. One signal note of its value is to be found in the circumstance that the contagion of Celtic Feudalism had done its worst. Alexander, Earl of Mar, son of the Wolf of Badenoch, had now returned to the allegiance of his blood and race. He commanded the Lowland gathering of that higher Feudalism which rested on written Charters, and on loyalty to acknowledged obligation. Under this banner of civilisation he distinguished himself by the most desperate valour. The Eastern Highlands, therefore, in the person of one of its most powerful Chiefs, were now committed to, and associated with the same cause:

Twelve years later, in the Fifteenth Century, we enter on the period of "The Jameses." The first Sovereign of that name, and perhaps the most distinguished, assumed the crown in 1424. He and five successors of the same name, with the tragic interlude of Mary, occupy the 179 years which elapsed before the sixth James succeeded to the English throne. No more troubled and turbulent time has perhaps ever passed over any people which still retained the elements of progress and of civilisation. But in spite of all the years of war, rebellion, anarchy, and bloodshed, those elements were retained, and some of the most fruitful of them were strengthened and developed. The Clergy of the Latin Church had not yet learned to be afraid of Learning, and under their influence the Fifteenth Century saw the foundation of the three oldest Universities in Scotland, St. Andrews, Glasgow, and King's College, Aberdeen. Some sound and excellent legislation, as we have already seen, was passed for the restraint of violence, and for the encouragement and security of Covenants between man and man. A Supreme Court was established for the administration and interpretation of the law, and some steady progress was made, both by new enactments and by systematic decisions, in the general understanding of civil obligations. In the southwestern mainland of the Highlands, as well as in the eastern Highlands, the growing power and influence of the Chiefs who had taken part with Bruce, and who continued faithful to the Monarchy he had restored, were turning to good account,—as loyal men can always turn them,—the force and fidelity of their Clans. But with this exception, the working of Celtic Feudalism during the whole of the Fifteenth, and the whole of the Sixteenth Centuries, presents little more than one continued spectacle of all the worst vices which can afflict or destroy a nation. So long as the Lordship of the Isles existed, or the Earldom of Ross, the Islanders under those Chiefs were systematically disloyal to the Scottish Monarchy. In 1462 they entered into a formal treaty with Edward iv. of England, for the subjection and partition of the- Kingdom. This led to the final suppression of the Earldom of Ross and its annexation to the Crown.

But treachery to the Monarchy was only replaced by treachery to each other among all the Clans and Chiefs, between whom the spoils were divided. There is no more miserable history than the history of the Highland and Island Clans during this period. If we silence our moral judgment altogether, it is of course possible to pick out picturesque incidents, and to bestow our admiration here and there on displays of mere animal courage. But when one compares this wretched epoch with the older and nobler time when one great man had taught the Celtic population of the Highlands how to fight in a great cause and for a great purpose, it is impossible not to turn with disgust from a perpetual recurrence of plunder and devastation, of cruel massacres, and of the most treacherous murders. Even where the Celtic Chiefs were induced sometimes to send some contingent to strengthen the national army, they could hardly be withheld from fighting out their own feuds and quarrels in the presence of the common enemy. Sometimes, even in moments of common misfortune, and of national overthrow, the passions of Celtic Feudalism could not be restrained from atrocious acts. On the fatal field of Flodden, when the King and half the nobles of his Kingdom, with a corresponding proportion of their men, fell under the spears and arrows and battle-axes of the English army, it is related of a Highlander of the Clan Mackenzie, that he heard those near him exclaiming, "Alas! Laird, thou hast fallen." "What Laird?" shouted the Celtic Clansman. In the answer, "the Laird of Buchanan," he heard a name with which his own had a blood-feud. Then and there the "faithful Highlander," as he is called by the sympathetic historian, sought out the fallen Laird, found that he was only wounded, and butchered the helpless man without ruth or pity. Even this, however, is by no means the most revolting kind of deed which was only too common among the Clans. There was one Chief of the name of Macian, possessing Ardnainurchan, who was in perpetual feud with the Macleans of Mull. But the softer passion on one occasion brought about an apparent reconciliation, when the Chief Macian was a suitor for the hand of a daughter of Maclean. In 1588 the Macians were cordially invited under assurance of peace, to come to the wedding of their Chief. The wedding over, with feast and wassail, and one of the houses of the country assigned to the wedded pair,—in the middle of the night the Macians were surrounded by the Macleans and massacred to a man—the Chief only being spared to the shrieks and entreaties of his wife.1 In a raid of the Clanranald against the Mackenzies of Kintail, a whole congregation was burned to death in the Church of Gilchrist, whilst the piper of the Macdonalds played round the building to drown the frantic cries of the victims. This was so late as 1603, the year of James vi.'s accession to the English crown.

In visiting the lofty and striking precipice which surmounts the Island of Eigg, called the "Scoor," every stranger is shown a spot where a similar atrocity was committed. In the standing feud between the Macdonalds and Macleods the whole population of Eigg, invaded by a superior force, had taken refuge in a cave, the entrance to which is narrow and concealed. Here they were discovered, and the Macleods enjoyed the savage pleasure of smoking the whole of them to death, some 200 in number, by fires lighted at the mouth. When Sir Walter Scott visited the cave in 1814, the bones of the victims still covered the floor, and he carried off a skull which seemed to be that of a young woman.

It is needless to say that where human life was so little regarded, property was still more universally held as a prey to the spoiler. Occasionally we have details of the ravages committed. Thus, in 1455, the Islanders attacked the Southern districts of Cumbrae and Arran, from which they took 500 horses, 10,000 cattle, and more than 1000 sheep and goats. In this case it is specially mentioned that the Clans did not murder more than a score of men, women, and children. Such robberies as these, and they were common, must have reduced whole districts to poverty for many years. In a longstanding feud between the Macleods of Skye and the Mackenzies of Lewis, we are told that at one time, about the close of the Sixteenth Century, both Clans were reduced to the verge of ruin, and that the people had to live on horses, dogs, and cats.

These are but a few examples of the whole course of history in the Islands and Western Highlands during the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. It will be obvious that such a condition of things tended inevitably to render more and more absolute the power of the Chiefs over all whom they recruited to become members of their Clan. To be under the protection of some powerful Chief was the only chance of enjoying any peace or any safety for the dependent classes. Those of them who were themselves little better than soldiers of fortune had indeed a different inducement with the same result. Accordingly, the Crown and Government of the Kingdom, in their perpetual contests with the Western Chiefs, determined, in 1496, to assume, as they had a good right to do, that those Chiefs were really responsible for everything done or left undone among those over whom they ruled so absolutely. An Act passed by the Lords of the Council in that year provided that the Chief of every Clan should be held responsible for the due execution of all legal writs against the men of his own Clan, under penalty of being himself made liable to the party bringing the action.

Not long after, in 1502, the Government tried to deal with the great evil of a purely military population, the obedient followers of the Chiefs, settling in the country, to the exclusion, or supplanting, perhaps, of the older settled population who may have been the truer representatives of the ancient Clans. In dealing with lands resumed by the Crown in Lochaber, the Royal Commissioners were desired to let the lands for five years to "true men "—that is, men loyally affected to the Crown— and to expel all "broken men" from the district. This was the regular Parliamentary phrase now established by which the military following of Chiefs was designated; and so numerous had this class become that the historian observes of this part of the country, that in the state of affairs then prevalent, the order of the Lords of Council "was equivalent to an order to expel the whole population." But here it is important to observe that the Commissioners were ordered to exert upon the Crown lands, in Lochaber, exactly-the same full rights and powers of Ownership, which the Highland Chiefs had long been exerting upon their own lands. In both cases the Proprietors of those lands were disposing of them in favour of men who could be counted upon as "true" to them. It was, in fact, a process of a "plantation"—that is to say, the colonising of certain lands with Tenants who would he loyal to the Owner of them. If the truth could now be fully traced, and if we could exactly see how large tracts of Highland country, which had been devastated by murderous raids, came to be Fe- peopled and re-settled by so-called "Clansmen," we should probably discover that in numberless cases the process was the same, and that Clans were largely recruited, if not sometimes almost wholly replaced by "broken men" enlisted from other districts. Such men owed everything they had in the new plantation to the Lords and Owners of the soil on which they came to seek employment and protection. Here and there a case is recorded which may well lead us to suspect how common it must have been. One of these occurs in the history of those Eastern Highlands which were, on the whole, so much less troubled than the Western. It is a hideous story which is told in the Chiefs of Grant.' In revenge for the murder of a kinsman somewhere in the valley of the Dee, the Chief of Grant had incited and joined the Earl of iFluntly in slaying all the men in the country of the Dee where the murder had taken place. Some time after, on visiting Huntly at his castle of Strathbogie, he was shown between sixty and eighty orphan children who had been carried off when their fathers were slain, and were now fed at one long trough, as pigs are fed, one row of children eating at each side. This sight is said to have caused such remorse to the Chief of Grant that he carried off the whole of these children from one side of the trough and took them to his own estate on Strathspey, where they were settled, taking the name of Grant, whilst those on the other side of the trough were in like manner kept by Huntly, and took the name of Gordon.

If these things were sometimes done in the green tree of the Eastern Highlands, how often must they have been done in the dry tree of the Western Clans! It is beyond doubt that a large part of the population of the Highlands are the descendants of men who were moved about and planted from time to time by the Chiefs who disposed of their lands, whether acquired by inheritance or by conquest, precisely as the Crown disposed of the Braes of Lochaber, and as the Grants disposed of the upper valley of the Spey. In the Western Highlands, however, the Chiefs had a somewhat different end in view. In Lochaber the King planted men who were to be real farming Tenants, holding under Leases with their settled Covenants, and definite rents. In the Northern and Eastern Highlands, such families as the Chiefs of Grant aimed always principally at the settlement and improvement of their country. The Island and Highland Chiefs, on the other hand, planted men who were to be devoted mainly to fighting, whilst the possessions of the real old native population in corn or cattle were to be held subject to the arbitrary exactions of the most lawless Celtic Feudalism.

The state of things which had again arisen among the Western Isles towards, and after the close of the Sixteenth Century, is indeed hardly conceivable as co-existing with a national Government in Scotland. It was almost if not quite as bad—as dangerous and as discreditable—as it had been four hundred years before, in the days of Somerled and of his immediate descendants. The Chief who styled himself Lord of the Isles, Macdonald, Lord of Islay and Kintyre, affected all the airs, and assumed all the powers of an independent Prince. He did exactly what King Robert the Bruce had promised, some two hundred and sixty years earlier, he would not allow his subjects to do, namely, to attack England through her rebellious Irish. In 1595, Queen Elizabeth was in serious trouble from Tyrone's rebellion. Whether from hostility to the Reformed faith, of which Elizabeth was the great supporter in Europe, or from other motives, the Macdonalds, both of Islay and of Skye, allied themselves with Tyrone, and were ready with a great fleet of galleys and a formidable force to land in Ireland, and reinforce the rebels. But the astute Queen had friends as well as enemies among the Western Celts. The old loyalty of the Campbells to the Monarchy of Bruce, and their new loyalty to the Protestant religion, combined to hold them true against an alliance so hostile to both as the alliance between the Clan Donnell and the Romish Celts of Ireland. Accordingly the Earl of Argyll, in counter-alliance with the Macleans of Douart, and with some other septs, collected so large a force, and placed it in so strong a flank position, that the Macdonalds did not dare to pursue their expedition, and to leave their own territories to devastation. Other means, moreover, were employed. The great Ministers who served Elizabeth so well kept her well informed. Divisions were sown among the Clans; preparations were made in time to meet them, so that when a small portion of their fleet reached the coast of Ireland, they were easily dispersed, and this new insular armada dissolved and disappeared.

In this incident we see how little centuries had done to change the nature of the Clans. Moreover, we have a sketch of one man in particular, to show how little time had changed the nature of the Chiefs. The description presented to us in history of the person and character of James Macdonald of Dunluce, cousin of the Lord of Islay and Kintyre, reproduces towards the close of the Sixteenth Century all the essential characteristics which we have seen marking the career of the Wolf of Badenoch towards the close of the Fourteenth. There is the same mixture of Lowland culture, of wide acquaintance with men and things, and of fierce and unscrupulous conduct in the exercise of an absolute local power. C He seems," says Tytler, "to have been a perfect specimen of those Scoto-Hebridean Barons, who so often concealed the ferocity of the Highland freebooter under the polished exterior which they had acquired by an occasional residence in the Low Country." It was his pleasure sometimes to join the Court at the Palaces of Falkland, Linlithgow, or Holyrood. There he was the gayest among the gay, giving rich presents to the Queen and her ladies, and fascinating all observers by the splendour of his tastes, and the graces of his person and manners. But suddenly some news from the West would trouble him, and then "Macsorlie"—this accomplished gentleman— would fly back to his native Island, and revel in the worst atrocities of the Clans. This man, however, had perhaps acquired from his connection with the Celts of Ireland an exceptional ferocity. For in Ireland Celtic Feudalism had long reached the lowest stages of violence and corruption. But the Hebridean Chiefs were too closely connected with those of Antrim to escape the desperate contagion. And so we have another member of the Clan Donald —a cousin of" Macsorlie," who seems to have been by no means behind his kinsman of Dunluce. This was the son of the Lord of Islay and Kintyre, also highly favoured at the Court of James i., knighted by that Sovereign, and conspicuous in the history of the time as Sir James Macdonald. Of this man the incredible atrocity is recorded that in order to accomplish the death of some feudal enemy, he set fire to the house where his own father and mother were living at the time. Escaping with difficulty, and severely burnt, the father was confined in irons for several months—until, probably, he had consented to the transfer of his authority by a premature succession.' Assuming the command of the Clan, Sir James was soon involved in a furious contest with the Macleans of Douart, the circumstances of which are variously narrated, but which in the pages of Tytler2 appear as an additional example not only of ferocity, but of the basest treachery. Maclean was an uncle of Sir James, but he was a firm friend of Queen Elizabeth, and of that Protestant cause of which she was the rallying centre, and the standard- bearer. The Macdonalds seem to have all been more or less in league with the Irish enemies of the Queen, and the determined enemies of the Clans who were most loyal to the Scottish Monarchy. On this occasion Douart and most of his men were slaughtered, and the Cause in which they had fought together, fell chiefly into the hands of the Campbells.

The interest of these stories, however, does not lie either in the illustrations of individual character, or even in the picture they present of the habits and manners of the time. It lies, rather, in the evidence they afford as to the condition of the people. It is quite certain that they were absolutely at the disposal of their Chiefs. Even when these Chiefs did not use them as soldiers, but left them to cultivate the ground, and employed mercenaries, all the resources by which these mercenaries were sustained came out of the ceaseless and unlimited exactions from the native husbandmen, which were the inseparable concomitant of Celtic Feudalism. All the minor Chieftains and all the retainers of the Chiefs were quartered on the people of the country, who were, besides, liable to be cleared off and removed as a matter of regular bargain among the Chiefs when they treated with each other for exchanges or extensions of territorial possession. The delusion that prehistoric "Tribal rights" had outlived the transforming processes of Clanship, and the absolute dependence of the people for many centuries on military Chiefs, is a delusion which is effectually dispelled if we look for a moment at the historical facts which emerge in all the transactions of this time. Thus it was one of the conditions offered to the Crown by Sir James Macdonald, in return for certain advantages, that he would give up Kintyre and remove "his whole Clan and dependers" from it, so that the lands should be completely cleared, and placed at the disposal of the Crown for the reletting of it to new Tenants. The Island of Coll had been similarly cleared in 1596 by the Macdonalds. Everywhere and in everything the Chiefs were absolute, and the more Celtic Institutions were allowed their full development, the more abject became the condition of the people.

And now let us see the consequences. The evidence comes to us in the most formal and authentic shape. Soon after James VI. united the two Crowns, he resolved, as so many of his ancestors had resolved before him, to restore peace and law to the Islands and Highlands of his native country. After several abortive expeditions and negotiations, for this purpose he appointed a special Commissioner who was to visit the Hebrides and call the Chiefs to a friendly conference. The Commissioner selected was the minister who had accepted the Bishoprick of the Isles and the Deanery of Iona, under the new Episcopacy which James had then restored. Whatever doubts the Presbyterian people of Scotland may have had as to the constitutional character of the proceedings under which the Restoration had been effected, no such doubts could affect the Island Chiefs. Constitutional illegality was the very last thing that could offend, or even be observed by Highlanders amongst whom the Reformed faith and the Presbyterian Church had as yet made but little way. They were probably rather conciliated by this renewal of an ancient Dignity, and they came in numbers to meet the Commissioner of the Crown. The place of meeting was wisely selected as one that was attractive to them. It was that Holy Island, in whose ancient Churchyard all the Kings and Chieftains of the Isles had been buried for 900 years. Their descendants seem to have come willingly to the place where probably many of them had come before to bury their own Dead, in the same sacred soil. And there they finally came under certain solemn engagements, founded on a narrative and confession as to existing evils, which have become known in Scottish history as the "Statutes of Iona."

These authentically reveal to us both the condition to which the country had been reduced and the causes which were now acknowledged to be at the root of its decline. The Bond which the Chiefs subscribed proceeded on the narrative or confession of "the great misery, barbarity, and poverty unto which, for the present, their barren country was subject." Nor were these sweeping words used without adequate explanation in detail. Religion had fallen into universal decay. The old order had passed away, and no new order had been established in its place. The clergy had been starved and banished. The Churches had been allowed to fall into ruins. Christianity had become little more than a memory and a name. Marriage itself had ceased to be an institution of general obligation, and had largely been replaced among the people by an old Celtic barbarous custom called "Handfasting," which was a contract of union for some short term of years only. It is difficult to conceive a more terrible indictment against any system of life and government than that which was admitted and acknowledged to be true of the country which had been so long under the sway of Celtic Feudalism. Nor are the promised remedies and reforms less eloquent than the general confession. The Statutes of Iona numbered nine in all—referring to so many separate measures to be taken, and to the taking of which all the Chiefs solemnly bound themselves by an oath under the most solemn sanctions of • most solemn place. Of these nine Statutes it is memorable fact that no less than four were directly aimed at abuses which were the invariable product of the unwritten laws and usages of Celtic Feudalism. These abuses indicate precisely the same conditions of absolutism on the part of the Chiefs, and precisely the same kind of sufferings on the part of their people, which we have seen Sir John Davies denouncing in Ireland about the same time, and both of which were the natural and necessary results of loose and traditional customs smothering written laws and definite agreements.

The first Statute which bears upon these was one for the establishment of Inns, on the express ground that the burden of supporting all strangers had hitherto been thrown upon the Tenants and labourers of the ground. The second Regulation touching the same subject, struck at another form of the same abuse, namely, the multitudinous retainers and personal attendants of the Chiefs, the cost of whose support was also habitually thrown on the same helpless classes in addition to their usual rents. These retainers were in future to be limited in number, and it was specially provided that each Chief should support his Household out of his own regular rents, and not by indefinite exactions levied from his Tenantry. When we look into the rules laid down under this Statute, which indicate the number of personal retainers which was thought reasonable for the station of the leading Chiefs, our eyes become opened to the prevalent delusion that the dues paid by the occupying class to the Owners were light and easy under Celtic Feudalism. The habitual entertainment of gentleman-followers to numbers varying from ten to eight, or from six to three, by each of the Chiefs and Chieftains of the impoverished Hebrides, indicates an immense drain on the sources of such a country. When we remember that these gentlemen-retainers were men who lived at the same board with the Chief —that hardly any articles of foreign produce, except wine, were then imported—that they did no work of a productive kind—that they were supported in addition to the servants necessary for work,—we must come to the conclusion that the rents paid in produce by the people must have been relatively very much greater than are paid in modern times. There are very few Landowners now except some of the very richest, and certainly there is no mere Highland Landowner, who would not find the habitual entertainment of six or eight gentlemen at his table all the year round, an intolerable, or perhaps even an exhausting burden, when added to the unavoidable cost of service. We may well conceive then what the habitual oppression of the people must have been under the native usages which rendered it habitual to throw burdens indefinitely heavier than this upon the Tenants in addition to any fixed or stipulated rents. The third Statute of the same class applied the same principle to all who were "Somers" in the country, that is to say, persons living at free quarters upon the poor inhabitants.

The Fourth Statute aiming at reform is perhaps the most remarkable of all, because it touched one of the most purely native and the most characteristically Celtic habits of life which prevailed in the country, and which in itself might appear to be the most harmless, as it certainly was one of the most poetic and the most attractive. This was the habitual entertainment of travelling Bards who by Harp and Song handed down the stories and traditions of the Clans. But it was precisely in this attractiveness that the danger lay. The bloody experience of many centuries had shown, and the exhausted condition of the country then showed, that the very root of the evil lay in the deathless animosities between Clan and Clan, and the cruel passions which were developed in the prosecution of them. It was the very business of the Bards to carry these on from generation to generation, and by all the incitements of voice and of stringed instruments to keep every offence from being forgotten, and every deed of barbarous revenge from being repented of Sitting in the hall of some strong Keep, built upon a stormy headland or a sheltered Islet,—or in the one long undivided apartment which occupied the whole of a house built of turf and wattles,—the Bards kept up round roaring fires, and in the midst of still more uproarious companies, the unquenchable flames of hatred and revenge. Thus a barbarous Past was kept from ever becoming a Past at all. Time was not allowed to have any effect in softening manners, or in bringing about the oblivion of injuries. So real and so practical was this tremendous evil that we read of one feud between two Clans—the same, it is believed, that fought on the Inch of Perth—whose feud is known to have lasted fully 300 years. Of all the causes which led to this condition of things, and kept it up, the Bards were the incarnation. It was, therefore, from no idle Lowland prejudice, but from the true and instinctive perception of the authorities who were brought face to face with the problem how to redeem the Islands and Western Highlands from utter barbarism, that they called upon the Celtic Chiefs to suppress the Bards, and that the Bards themselves were threatened first with the stocks and then with banishment.

The best remedy, however, which was provided by the Statutes of Iona, was that which provided for a re-establishment of a free communication with the more civilised portions of the Kingdom such as might bring about once more some amalgamation of the two races, and some community of thought and sentiment. With this view it was provided that every Highlander who possessed as much as sixty head of cattle should send his eldest son or his eldest daughter to school in the Lowlands, till he or she had learned to speak, read, and write the English language. It is said that this provision, as much as any other, had speedy and permanent effects—that it led in the next generation to that personal loyalty to the House of Stuart which many ,of the Islanders displayed in the following century. Representing, as I do, a Clan and family who were true to the Stuarts so long as the Stuarts were true to the Laws and Constitution of their country, but who preferred that Law and Constitution to any more personal affection, I can only in imagination admire the opposite preference shown by the Jacobite Clans. But at least their conduct, in that great division of opinion, exhibited an unspeakable elevation of character above that which had so long been spent on their own broils. Those who are faithful to a great Cause with all its attachments of intellect and heart, must ever rank higher in the history of civilisation than those who are faithful merely to a great Family. But it is impossible to praise too highly the unselfish and incorruptible devotion with which so many of the Celtic Clans, and the poorest members of these, resisted the bribes and threats of a powerful government equally strong to punish or reward, in their protection of the Royal fugitive who lived so long in the cliffs and caves of Skye. There was not only genuine poetry in it, but genuine virtue too. It is an immortal page in an otherwise rude and melancholy history, and has conferred upon the Celtic character a just and imperishable renown.

We have, however, a signal illustration of the elements of charm and of attraction which that character has included, and of the somewhat distorting effect which has been exerted by its poetry and romance, when we look at the popular estimate which has been formed of the Clan system as it existed in the Celtic Highlands and as it existed in those Border Highlands in which the population was predominantly Scoto-Saxon. It seems to be now almost forgotten that neither in nature nor even in name, was the Clan organisation confined to the Celtic Highlands. We have the best possible evidence on this subject—the evidence of the language and of the action of contemporary Parliaments, embracing representative men from all corners of the Kingdom who could not possibly be mistaken on the identity of the social phenomena with which they were called to deal in its different Provinces. Moreover this evidence of instinctive recognition is corroborated and confirmed by the still higher evidence of clear intellectual definitions. Those Parliaments had before them tremendous practical evils, exposing Society very often to great suffering, and to the continual dread and anticipation of it. They were compelled to think about, and to define to themselves and others for the purposes of legislation, the root and source of such great evils. Accordingly they arrived at consistent and clearly intelligible results. They had before them two great sources of power and of authority. One of these was the power of the Proprietor of land in the exercise of the rights of Ownership. The other of these was the power of a few great Families in the exercise of the power of Chiefship. The powers of Ownership rested upon chartered and legal authority, in close connection with systems of law and of tradi- tion as wide-spreading as the civilisation of Europe both in the ancient and in the modern world. The power of Chiefs rested on unwritten and indefinite usages, on influences essentially local, personal, and individual. These were not formal differences. They were differences in the nature of things. The interest of a Proprietor of land, as such, lay in the improvement of the soil, the increase of its produce, in the peace of the country, in the growing wealth of its population. The interests of a Chief, merely as such, were generally the interests of a political and Military Leader, whose ambitions, passions, and desires, did not by any means tend to be in harmony with the national government or the general interests of the country.

As between these two great sources of influence and of power there could be no doubt in the Sixteenth Century which of them was the instrument to be relied upon in the cause of Law, Order, and Civilisation. This was the question which, under the pressure of great and intolerable disorders in many parts of the Kingdom, came at last to be specially dealt with, first, by the Parliament of 1581, and, next, by the Parliament of 1587.

The first of these does not give a flattering description of the confraternities of men who then were known under the name of Clans. It calls them "Clans of thieves," and says they were "for the most part copartners of wicked men, coupled in fellowship by occasion of their surnames, or near dwelling together, or through keeping society in theft, or reset of theft, not subject to the ordinary Courts of Justice, nor to any Landlord that will make them amenable to the laws, but commonly dwelling upon sundry men's lands against the goodwill of their Landlords, whereby true men injured by them can have no remedy at the hands of their masters."

The Parliament of 1587 dealt with this condition of things much more carefully, and with an amount of detail which is of the highest historical interest. It was held in Edinburgh, and was attended by a full proportion of the classes which generally attended the Great Council of the nation in those days. In particular, there were both among the clerical and the lay members men from parts of the Kingdom who lived in, or in the neighbourhood both of the Celtic and of the Anglo-Saxon Highlands. The Earls of Lennox, of Mar and of Huntly, the Abbots of Melros, Scone, Inchaifray, Paisley, and many others, the representatives for the Burghs of Aberdeen, Stirling, Inverness, Dingwall, Wigton, Selkirk, and Dumfries, must have known what they were talking about when they absolutely identified the Clan system of the Highlands proper, with the Clan system of the Border Hills and Vales. This they did, not only in the general title of the statutes they passed, or in any loose cursory application of the same words to things which were only analogous, but not in principle the same. They conjoined together the Highlands and the Borders in these titles indeed, but also in the far more effective way of defining that feature of Clanship in which its essence lay. This was in the power of Chiefship as distinguished from the power of Ownership. It was the Chiefs as such who recruited, entertained, and harboured "broken men." It was the Chiefs who waged war against each other, and overruled and overrode the legitimate influence of Proprietors over their own Tenants. It was to Proprietors that the Legislature looked for a remedy to this state of things. It was to their legal and authorised powers that it appealed as involving corresponding duties in keeping the peace of the country. They had a right to turn out "broken men" who lived upon their Estates. They had a right to let their lands on any condition they liked. They were not to allow themselves, if they could help it, to be reduced to the condition of mere rent- chargers on their own Estates—divorced from the powers and rights which they held as Owners of the soil. If, indeed, from living in the "far Hielands," or on the Borders, they were helpless in the matter; if they lived on their Estates, and yet could only get their "mailes and rents, and no other service or obedience," then such landlords were to be exempt from penalty for consequences which they could not prevent. But as soon as possible they were to deliver themselves from such a condition. It was their duty not to let their farms, or other holdings, to men who were not loyal subjects of the Crown.

This language was addressed equally to all Owners of land over all the Highlands, Celtic and non-Celtic. The tongue spoken in particular districts could make no difference in these rights and powers of Ownership as known to the law, nor could it make any difference in the duties they imposed. Therefore, all over the Kingdom, both in the Borders and in the Highlands, the Proprietors of land were exhorted and enjoined to resist to the utmost the unlawful powers of Chiefs over the Tenants and others who lived upon their land, and they were especially enjoined not to let their land on hire to such men as would lend themselves to such leaders.

But in order to make these enactments more definite and practical, two lists or "Rolls" were drawn up, and scheduled in the Act; one of them being a "Roll of the Clans that has Captains, Chiefs, and Chieftains, on whom they depend ofttime against the wills of their Landlords, as well on the Borders as the Highlands, and of some special persons of Branches of the said Clans." The other list was a "Roll of the Landlords and Baillies of lands dwelling in the Borders and the Highlands where broken men have dwelt, and presently dwell." At the head of the first of these rolls we find some of the most famed names of families of the Border Counties or the non-Celtic Highlands - such as the Elliotts, the Scots, the Armstrongs, the Johnstones, the Jardines, Maxwells and Carruthers. These are bracketed in the same list with the Macdonalds, the Macleods, the Mackintoshes, the Camerons, and all the best known Chiefs of the Clans in the Western Isles and Highlands, as well as in the central and eastern districts of the Celtic area. It is quite evident that at that time the system of men aggregated into Septs and Clans under a common name, and with at least a flavour and a memory of common blood, was so identical in the two great divisions of the Kingdom that no distinction could be drawn either in its principle, or in its effects. It is evident also that the evil and danger of this system essentially consisted in the military and predatory character which these Septs and Clans tended to assume—in the perpetuation of feuds,, and generally in the encouragement of a lawless spirit, and the practices of a lawless life.

Sir Walter Scott, in the short but powerful sketch of the history of the Southern Counties during 300 years, which he has given in the preface to his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, has entirely accepted this view of the identity of the Clan sys tern in the two divisions of the Kingdom. Throughout the pages of that sketch, he speaks of the great families of the Border as the Chiefs and heads of Clans. He even speaks of the "Tribe;" and his narrative affords-signal examples of all the characteristic features of Celtic Clanship. The broken remains of some decimated Sept were in the habit of joining and merging in some other more fortunate and more powerful Clan. Exactly the same results to the nation and to society had arisen in both areas. In the Fifteenth Century the great House of Douglas played, in the southern part of the Kingdom, towards the Scottish Crown and Monarchy a part strictly analogous to that which, during the previous Century, had been played in the Highlands by the Lords of the Isles and the Earls of Ross. And when that great House was broken up, its place was taken by a crowd of Clans, which kept up against each other, and often against the Crown, the same perpetual feuds, and the same frequent rebellions. The only difference between the Celtic and the non-Celtic Clans and Septs lay in the geographical situation of their respective countries, and in the distinctions of language. Both of these differences tended to keep up the Clan system in the Highlands long after it had practically disappeared in the Lowland counties. The Union of the Crowns under James vi., in 1603, put an end to the isolated position of the southern Clans as Borderers. As Sir Walter Scott pithily puts it, this event "converted the extremity into the centre of his Kingdom."  Community of language had been already established for centuries between the southern Clans and their neighbours in the Low Country.

The Reformation took a powerful hold over the population of the Borders; and it is well known that a few years later they furnished the most uncompromising adherents and martyrs of the Presbyterian Covenant. On the other hand, the Celtic Clans continued as isolated and inaccessible as before, and their language and habits were an insuperable barrier to any real community of thought. The Reformation did not, until a much later date, make much progress among the Celtic population. They had no religious sympathy whatever with the powerful motives and incitements which kept up among the Presbyterian people a passionate devotion to constitutional liberty, and to a system of government strictly subordinate to law. All this is intelligible enough. But what is less intelligible is the extent to which it is forgotten that the ultimate decline of the Clan system in the Highlands and in the Borders was due to the same general causes which operated in both cases the same kind and measure of improvement. The only difference was that the change came in the Highlands more suddenly, and later by more than a hundred years. But the essence of that change was the same in both cases. It was the decline, on the one hand, of usages unwritten and unknown to the law. It was the emergence, on the other hand,—the survival and working—of powers and influences which were imbedded in the Legislation of many centuries, and had been from time immemorial the basis of all civilisation. The Chief, as such, lost a power which was checked by no responsibility, and was only by accident connected with any public duty. The Proprietor, as such, became free to exercise powers which were recognised by law, and were in the nature of things, inseparably bound up with the progress of the country and the advance of agriculture.

Yet, strange to say, the imaginations of men in the Highlands continued, down to our own time, to think of the Clan as having a legal and substantive existence there, although it had for two centuries ceased to be even thought of in the Border Counties, where it had once been quite as powerful, and quite as universally established. With such vividness was this imagination entertained, that so late as the year 1852 an attempt was made by a man of the name of Macgillivray to claim certain lands from the natural heir, on the ground that this heir did not belong to the "Clan Cliattan," whilst he, the claimant, did belong to it. Such a claim showed a wonderful forgetfulness of the methods by which Clans had been maintained. They had been kept up by mere enlistment—by "Bonds of Manrent" entered into with strangers—by the adoption of the children of slaughtered foes,—by the absorption of the broken remnants of other Septs. It would have been a return to barbarism, indeed, if mythical "Tribal rights" had been suffered to disinherit the nearest blood-relations of the last Proprietor, and to establish in possession the descendant, perhaps, of some "broken man" of a hostile Sept, who had changed his allegiance and his name. That such a claim should have been made is another example, in a separate line of action, of the corrupting effect of sentimental admiration for Celtic Feudalism, of which we have already seen other illustrations. The claim brought up before the Supreme Court in Scotland the whole question whether the Clan organisation had any existence which could be recognised by law. The decision of that Court is one of high legal and historical interest, and bears upon the face of it its justice and its truth. I give it therefore in full, as quoted by Mr. Skene.

"The lapse of time and the progress of civilisation, with the attendant influences of settled Government, regular authority, and the supremacy of law, have entirely obliterated the peculiar features, and destroyed the essential qualities and character of Scottish Clanship, but whether they are viewed as they once were, or as they now are, a Court of Law is equally precluded from recognising clans as existing institutions or societies with legal status, the membership of which can be inquired into or acknowledged for ascertaining the character of heirs called to succession.

"The inquiry which the pursuer's averments would here demand must be attended with extreme practical difficulties; but the recognition of a Clan as an institution or society known to law, so that membership thereof shall be a quality of heirship and a condition of succession, is open to serious objection in point of principle.

"In an earlier age, when feudal authority and irresponsible power were stronger than the law, and formidable to the Crown, Clans and Chiefs, with military character, feudal subordination and internal arbitrary dominion, were allowed to sustain a tolerated, but not a legally recognised or sanctioned existence.

"In more recent times Clans are indeed mentioned, or recognised as existing, in several Acts of Parliament. But it is thought that they are not mentioned or recognised as institutions or societies having legal status, legal rights, or legal vocation or functions, but rather as associations of a lawless, arbitrary, turbulent, and dangerous character.

"But nothing now remains either of the feudal power and independent dominion which procured sufferance in one age, or of the lawless and dangerous turbulence which required suppression in another. When all military character, all feudal subordination, all heritable jurisdiction, all independent authority of Chiefs, are extracted from what used to be called a Clan, nothing remains of its essential and peculiar features. Clans are no longer what they were. The purposes for which they once existed, as tolerated but not as sanctioned societies, are not now lawful. To all practical purposes they cannot legally act, and they do not legally exist. The law knows them not. For peaceful pageantry, social enjoyment, and family traditions, mention may still be made of Clans and Chiefs of Clans; but the Highlands of Scotland, no longer oppressed by arbitrary sway, or distracted by feudal contentions, are now inhabited by loyal, Orderly, and peaceful subjects of the Crown of Great Britain; and Claus are not now corporations which law sustains, nor societies which law recognises or acknowledges."

There is only one point of view which is not fully presented in this clear and admirable Judgment. There is probably no human institution, however liable to abuse, or however greatly it may have been actually abused, which has not also some original elements of good. These may survive and revive even in the processes of decay. When the purely feudal relations of Chieftain and of Clan were not separated from, but, on the contrary, were united with, the peaceful and industrial relations of Proprietor and Tenant, and when the life and pursuits of Chiefs were no longer directed by political ambitions or by intertribal hatreds, the combined influences of Chief and of Landlord were obviously capable of being converted into the most powerful agency of civilisation and of progress. Such, accordingly, they proved to be, first among the Lowland, and, at last, also among the Celtic Clans. Of this we shall see some examples in the next Chapter. The passage between these two conditions of Clan- ship is sure to be accompanied by incidents of difficulty and discontent. These are illustrated by a melancholy example. In virtue of the arrangement made by the Statutes of Iona many of the young Highland Chiefs came to be educated in the leading centres of learning, both in Scotland, in England, and on the Continent. Thus two young men of the Clanranald—Macdonalds of Keppoch, one of the oldest families in the Highlands—returned from the Low Country in 1666, full of zeal for the improvement of their estates. Such improvements never fail to offend many whose lives have been spent in pursuits, and in ideas, which belong to the dying past. Such men have neither the intelligence nor the education which enable them to understand reforms. They misjudge the motives and the reasons which induce men of superior knowledge to depart from ignorant but ancestral usages. The two young Macdonalds seem in this way to have fallen victims to their superior culture, and were barbarously murdered by some of their own Clan.' But these young men were martyrs in a cause which was soon to triumph. About twenty-two years after their untimely death, their own followers fought with their old enemies, the Mackintoshes, the last Battle of the Clans. This was in 1688, shortly before the Revolution which finally established the Reign of Constitutional Law in the government of the United Kingdom. After this there was a slow but steady change; and although a great number of the Clans chose and fought for the Cause which was opposed to Progress, yet they fought in that cause nobly—with a personal loyalty and a chivalrous devotion. The better elements of Clanship were thus emerging even in those who did not choose the better side. The same elements emerged, at least equally, among those other Chiefs and Clans who fought as well, as devotedly, and sometimes with as much self-sacrifice in that other Cause which was identified with the triumph of Settled Law over Arbitrary Power.


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