Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

A Sketch of the Life of the Hon. and Right Reverend Alexander MacDonell
The Chaplain's negotiations with the British Government on behalf of the disbanded Regiment

The Highlanders now found themselves in the same destitute situation as they were in when first introduced into the manufactories of Glasgow. Stuck with their forlorn condition, the Chaplain, at his own expense, proceeded to London to represent their situation to the Government and to endeavour to induce ministers to lend them assistance to emigrate to Upper Canada. He was introduced to the Right Honourable Charles Yorke, Secretary at War, and by him to Mr. Addington, the Premier. The latter, on account of the testimonials which the Chaplain presented to him of the good conduct of the regiment during the whole of their service, signed by the different general officers under whose command they had been, directed that a sum of money should be paid to the Chaplain, out of the Military Chaplain's fund in lieu of half pay, which could not be granted to him without forming a precedent to other Chaplains of Fencible Corps ; and this favor was conferred upon him at the recommendation of His Royal Highness the Duke of York, then Commander in Chief, on account of his having constantly attended the regiment when every other regimental Chaplain had retired upon five shillings a day, by virtue of an order issued from the War Office in 1798. Mr. Addington requested the Chaplain to state to him, in writing, the cause of the frequent emigrations from the Highlands of Scotland. The Chaplain complied with his request in a series of letters, on the perusal of which Mr. Addington expressed' his deep regret that so brave and faithful a portion of His Majesty's subjects, who were always found ready at the call of Government, and from whom no murmurs or discontents were ever heard, even under the most trying and distressing circumstances, should be compelled to quit their native soil by the harsh treatment of their landlords, and to transfer their allegiance to the United States, whither the emigration had been flowing previous to this period.

"Mr. Addington added that the loss of so many Highlanders was one of the circumstances which had given him the greatest uneasiness during his administration, and that nothing would give him greater satisfaction than to convince them of the friendly feelings and kind intentions of Government towards them by putting them in the way of acquiring, in a few years, prosperity, and even wealth, with which they might return and live in ease and independence in their native land. He then proposed to the Chaplain to send a colony of those Highlanders with whom he was connected to the island of Trinidad, which was then first ceded to the British Empire and to give a farm of eighty acres of land to every head of a family, and money Out of the the treasury to purchase four slaves for every farm; a larger proportion of land and slaves to such gentlemen who would accompany the colony, and to the Chaplain as large a salary as he could reasonably demand. Mr. Addington also offered to send a surgeon and a schoolmaster, with salaries from Government, to the new colony, and, to remove the difficulties which the Chaplain had stated in regard to the unhealthiness of a tropical climate and the propensity of Highlanders to drink ardent spirits, undertook to furnish the colony with as much wine as the Chaplain and surgeon should consider necessary for the preservation of the general health for three years, also sufficient vinegar wherewith to wash their habitations for the same period; after which it might be supposed that the constitution of the settlers would become inured to the climate.

"For these liberal and advantageous offers the Chaplain could not but feel grateful to Mr. Addington, but while he thanked him for kind i1tentions towards his countrymen, he assured him that no consideration on earth would induce him to prevail upon Highlanders to reside in the unhealthy climate of the West Indies, or reconcile to his conscience the bitter reflection of his being the cause of making a woman or a child a widow or an orphan.

Mr. Addington seemed greatly surprised and disappointed at this expression of the Chaplain's sentiments, and demanded in what other way he could serve the Highlanders. He was answered that what they expected and wished was to be assisted in emigrating to Upper Canada, where several of their friends had already settled themselves.

"The Chaplain proceeded to state that if this assistance were tendered upon a more extensive scale, it would allay the irritated feelings entertained by the Highlanders against their landlords, whose cruel conduct was identified with the system and operations of Government. Moreover, the Scotch, quitting their country in this exasperated state of mind, and settling in the United States, readily imbibed republican principles and a determined antipathy against the British Government; whereas by diverting the tide of emigration into the British colonies, their population would be increased by settlers retaining British principles, British feelings and an attachment towards their native country, not only undiminished, but even increased by the parental conduct of the Government towards them.

"Mr. Addington then offered to lend some assistance to the Chaplain to convey his adherents to the sea coast of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Cape Breton, but assured him that His Majesty's Government considered the hold they had of Upper Canada so slender and so precarious that a person in his situation would not be justified in putting his hand in the public purse to assist British subjects to emigrate to that colony. The Chaplain, however, adhered to his first resolution of conducting his countrymen to Upper Canada, and Mr. Addington procured for him an order (with the Sign Manual) to the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada to grant two hundred acres of land to every one of the Highlanders who should arrive in the Province.

"No sooner was it known that this order had been given by the Secretary for the Colonies than the Highland landlords and proprietors took the alarm, considering the order as an allurement to entice from the country their vassals and dependents.

"Sir John McPherson, Sir Archibald Macdonald (the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer in England), the late Mr. Charles Grant, one of the directors of the East India Company and M.P. for the County of Inverness, with other gentlemen connected with the Highlands, and even the Earl of Moira, then commanding the forces in North Britain, endeavored to dissuade the Chaplain from his purpose, and promised to procure a pension for him provided he would separate himself from the Highlanders whom he had promised to take to Canada, and that the amount of the pension should be in proportion to the number he should prevail upon to stay at home.

"So anxious were these gentlemen to keep the Highlanders at home that they applied to the Prince of Wales, and by His Royal Highness' sanction, Sir Thomas Tyrnvhit, the Prince's agent, sent for the Chaplain to Canton House for the purpose of prevailing upon him to induce the intending emigrants to settle on the waste lands of the County of Cornwall, under the patronage and protection of His Royal Highness. This the Chaplain also declined, and in concert with Major Archibald Campbell, then on the staff of General Pulteney, now Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, proposed a plan of organizing a Military emigration, to be composed of the soldiers of the several Scotch F'encible regiments just then disbanded, and sending them over to Upper Canada for the double purpose of fonning an internal defence and settling the country. It was requested that a certain Portion of land should be granted to every man after a service of five years, or on his furnishing a substitute; so that the same force might always be kept up and the settlement of the country go on. It was considered that this plan would prevent the frequent desertion of His Majesty's troops to the United States; would make these military settlers interested in the defence of the Province, and be a prodigious saving of transport of troops in the event of a war with the United States.

Several distinguished officers appeared anxious to join this military emigration, and the scheme was nearly matured, when Mr. Addington found himself under the necessity of resigning the Premiership, and Pitt and Dundas returned to office.

"The war was soon after renewed, and the Scotch landlords combined to keep their people at home.

"Most of these gentlemen had received commissions from the Government to raise levies, and were, of course, anxious to fulfil their engagements. Seeing that so many thousands of their poor countrymen who had been let loose in the country in a state of destitution, had no other alternative, if prevented from emigrating, than to enter the army, they procured an act of Parliament to impose certain restrictions and regulations on vessels carrying out emigrants to the colonies. By those regulations, a vessel could not get her clearance from the Custom House if she had more than one passenger, even an infant, for every two tons of the registered burden of the ship—although the transport regulations for carrying troops to the East and West Indies allowed a ton and a half for every soldier, even without reckoning women and children; another clause was that the provision should be inspected and certified, that a pound of salt beef or pork and a pound and a half of flour or of hard biscuit should be found on board as the daily provision for every man, woman and child for the space of three months. A third clause was that a vessel carrying emigrants from any part in Great Britain and Ireland to the colonies should be provided with a surgeon, who should have his diploma from Surgeons' Hall in London, from Edinburgh University or Trinity College, Dublin. A diploma from any other college or university in Great Britain would not qualify him for this charge. Several other clauses similar to the above were contained in this act, and all under the specious pretext of humanity and tender benevolence towards the emigrants, and, forsooth, to prevent the imposition of those who were employed in chartering vessels to carry emigrants to the colonies, who were designated by the Scotch lairds, dealers in white slaves; yet, by the operations of this merciful act of Parliament, an emigrant could not pay the passage of himself, his wife and four children under eight years of age for a less sum than 84!

"Alexander Hope, then Lord Advocate of Scotland, was instructed to bring this bill into Parliament, and in his luminous speech in the House of Commons the learned gentleman, to show the necessity of such regulations, related a most pathetic story of an emigrant vessel arriving in a harbour in one of the British colonies of North America, the whole of the passengers and almost the whole of the crew of which were found dead in their berths, and the few survivors of the crew not able to cast anchor. He also asserted that emigrants who had been some time in the colonies were desirous to get back to their native country, and when they could not accomplish their wishes, were desirous to prevent their friends at home from emigrating, but dared not acquaint them of their now miserable condition but by stratagem, desiring them to consult their Uncle Sandy, and if he advised them to come, then they might proceed. Now, it was well known that Uncle Sandy was dead many years previous. These and many other such like pitiable and affecting passages of the Lord Advocate's speech in the House of Commons blazed through the public prints in Scotland, and were believed, or it was pretended that they were believed, like Gospel, by the Highland lairds and their friends.

"The moment that this bill passed into law, an embargo was laid on all emigrant vessels in British harbours, and this though many of them had already nearly received their complement of passengers, and the whole of the emigrants of the season, after selling their effects, had arrived or were on their way to the seaports to embark. Fortunately, however, for the soldiers of the disbanded Glengarry Fencibles, the greater part of them had got away before the bill came into operation. The Chaplain, having been detained in London on business, after the sailing of his adherents, received a call from the Earl of Selkirk, who proposed to him to join in his plan of taking emigrants to North America. The Chaplain requested his lordship to explain his views and intentions, upon which the Earl stated that he intended to settle those regions between Lakes Huron and Superior with Scotch Highlanders, where the climate was nearly similar to that of the north of Scotland, and the soil of a superior quality; besides, they would enjoy the benefit of the fish with which the lakes teemed, particularly the white fish of the Sault Ste. Marie.

"The Chaplain at first declined this offer on the plea that private business would detain him in London. The Earl then offered him an order for 2,000 upon his agent, as an indemnification for any loss or inconvenience he might experience by so sudden a departure. The Chaplain was a second time compelled to give a refusal and to decline this generous offer of the Earl, declaring at the same time that he felt most grateful for such generosity, but that he could never think of putting himself under so great an obligation to any man; that the situation which his lordship had selected for his settlement was beyond the jurisdiction of the Government of Upper Canada, and so far from any other location that he was apprehensive that emigrants settling themselves in so remote a region would meet with insuperable difficulties; that he could by no means induce those with whose interests he was connected to go beyond the protection of the Provincial Government, arid, besides, such a settlement would entirely destroy the Northwest Company, as it would cut off the communication between the winterers and Canada ; and as several of the principal members of that Company were his particular friends, no consideration would induce him to enter upon an enterprise that would injure their interest.

"The Chaplain then asked the Earl what could induce a man of his high rank and great fortune, possessing the esteem and confidence of His Majesty's Government and of every public man in Britain, to embark in an enterprise so romantic as that he had just explained. To this the Earl replied that the Situation of Great Britain, and indeed of all Europe, was at that moment (September 1803) so very critical and eventful that a man would like to have a more solid footing to stand upon than Europe could offer."

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus