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


P, Page 92. Honourable manner of Contracting Bargains

In the common transactions of the people, written obligations were seldom required, and although the bargains were frequently concluded in the most private manner, [When their money agreements or other negotiations were to he concluded and confirmed, the contracting parties went out by themselves to the open air, and looking upwards, called Heaven to witness their engagements, at the same time each party repeating the promise of payment, and, by way of seal, putting a mark on some remarkable stone, or other natural object, which had been noticed by those ancestors whose memory they so much respected and loved, and whom from the superstitious notions of the times they believed were permitted to look down upon them and their actions and conduct.] there were few instances of a failure in, or denial of, their engagements. A gentleman of the name of Stewart agreed to lend a considerable sum of money to a neighbour. When they had met, and the money was already counted down on the table, the borrower offered a receipt. As soon as the lender (grandfather of the late Mr Stewart of Ballachulish) heard this, he immediately took up his money, saying, that a man who could not trust his own word without a bond, should not be trusted by him, and would have none of his money, which he put up in bis purse and returned home. An inhabitant of the same district, father of the late Dr Smith of Campbelton, and of Donald Smith, M. D. eminent for antiquarian learning and research, kept a retail shop for nearly fifty years, and supplied the whole district, then full of people, with all their little merchandise. He neither gave nor asked any receipts. At Martinmas of each year, he collected the amount of his sales, which were always paid to a day. In one of his annual rounds, a customer happened to be from home, consequently, he returned unpaid; but, before he was out of bed the following morning, he was awakened by a call from his customer, who came to pay his account. After the business was settled, his neighbour said, "You are now paid; I would not for my best cow [My longest horned cow, was the literal Gaelic expression. Long and well-shaped horns are considered as marks of health and strength. f Although Mor is great, the word does not always mean great power, or su] that I should sleep while you wanted your money after your term of payment, and that I should be the last in the country in your debt." Unfortunately, new regulations, new views of Highland statistics, and the novel practice of letting land to the highest bidder, regardless of the fidelity and punctual payment of old occupiers, have occasioned a melancholy change. Few of the late moral population now remain, and that few are mostly reduced to the condition of cottars and day-labourers. The person who now occupies the shop, a son of the former possessor, must not only keep strict accounts, but give short credits, and calculate on an annual reduction of his profits by bad payments; and he is in little danger of being deprived of his morning slumbers by debtors anxious to pay, and ashamed of being in debt. This is now too common to be a reproach, and is one of the many concomitants of modern improvements and civilization, as they have been forced on and practised in the Highlands.

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