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

Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter XXI. - The Veto Act

FROM the first raising of the question, all our Glen debaters, on the strength of the knowledge they got from their own thoughtful if limited studies, and from the more vehement arguments put forth in the Assembly and in Press reports and pamphlets, unanimously agreed that patronage was not in harmony with the theory of Presbyterian Church organisation, that it had always been considered a grievance, and that having been abolished imperfectly after the Revolution of 1688, its restoration near the end of Queen Anne's reign, for a reactionary political purpose, by English Ministers backed by a majority of English members of Parliament, was a fraud upon Scotland; and if not in the letter, surely enough in the spirit, a gross violation of the 1707 Act of Union. The few "Gray Egyptians" who did not yet sleep with their fathers were by this time too old and feeble to take a leading part in Glen politics. But younger men imbued with their ideas in diluted form contended that it was premature, and consequently most inexpedient, to raise such a weighty controversy, while in the districts they knew best, patronage had been exercised with conscientious care to select excellent presentees here many names were mentioned and great deference had been paid to wishes of congregations and the cause of religion, morality, and education.

The supporters of the Veto Act frankly admitted that in the past the co-operation of landlords and patrons with the Church of Scotland had been kindly and beneficial, but they asserted that now landlords as a class were taking up a hostile attitude to the Church and to the native Highland population. They alleged that at the second post- Reform election, which had just taken place, the Tory landlords with some honourable exceptions had not let tenants vote as their fathers would have done, but, by factors and other agents, had driven them like dumb cattle to vote for Tory candidates. They next called attention to the Breadalbane and Sutherland evictions to show what hollow mockeries the liberal professions of Whig magnates really were. On these great properties the big farms made by clearing out the native inhabitants were usually let to strangers in race and language. Such was the substance of the rejoinder; and it is worth being noted. I was so young that it did not impress me deeply at the time, but at the Disruption I realised that the something felt, if unmentioned, which underlay the religious and ecclesiastical agitation in the Highlands was a seeking for means of native race defence in. a democratically constituted national Church, liberated from influences which were formerly friendly but were now be- coming hostile. The seeking for defence in this direction might not have been vain if the Highlanders themselves had not made it so by leaving the Church of Scotland in 1843. At the time when our Glen people were discussing patronage and the Veto Act, anyone who prophesied the Disruption would have been ridiculed as a fool or morally stoned as a lying mouthpiece of Baal. At and after the Disruption a similar fate would have been his who prophesied the Union of the United Free Church in 1900.

Our Glen objectors to the Veto Act wished) as almost all Highlanders did, to see patronage abolished in a regular way, since they had to admit sorrowfully that there was too much cause to fear the old harmony was nearly at an end, but they argued that a wrong thing done by Parliament could only be undone and righted by Parliament ; and that the device of giving the majority of male communicants the right of rejecting presentees was a wretched piece of tinkering, even if it were within the legal competence of the General Assembly to confer such a right of rejection at all. The other side did not denv that the Veto Act was far from being so satisfactory as the abolition of patronage by Act of Parliament would have been. "Why then," asked the objectors, "do we not ask Parliament to give us abolition?" "Because," replied the others, "there would be small chance of Parliament soon granting us our request, when all Church of England members, peers and commoners, would join our Scottish Tories in resisting abolition."

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