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Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland

Mutinies of the Highland Regiments


In the year 1778, the Seaforth Highlanders were marched to Leith, where they were quartered, for a short interns though long enough to produce complaints about the infringement of their engagements, and some pay and bounty which they said were due to them. Their disaffection was greatly increased by the activity of emissaries from Edinburgh, like those just mentioned as having gone down from London to Portsmouth. The regiment refused to embark, and marching out of Leith, with pipes playing and two plaids fixed on poles instead of colours, took a position on Arthur's Seat, of which they kept possession for several days, during which time the inhabitants of Edinburgh amply supplied them with provisions and ammunition. After much negotiation, in which the Earls of Dunmore and Seaforth, Sir James Grant of Grant, and other gentlemen connected with the Highlands, were actively engaged, the causes of the soldiers' complaints were investigated and settled to their satisfaction; they then marched down the hill in the same manner in which they had gone up, with pipes playing, and "with the Earls of Seaforth and Dunmore, and General Skene, at their head. They entered Leith, and went on board the transports with the greatest readiness and cheerfulness."

In this case, as in that of the Athole Highlanders, none of the men were brought to trial, or even put into confinement, for these acts of open resistance; consequently, similar inferences have been drawn, accompanied by that feeling of distrust in their future transactions which I have just noticed, and which has contributed to give strangers an unjust and prejudiced view of the real character of this race of people; for when a seemingly ungenerous want of confidence and narrowness of mind has, in a manner, been forced on men, by meeting with breaches of faith and with deception at the hands of their superiors, it cannot, with justice, be called their original native character.

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