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


X, Page 132. Equality of Property, and Operation of the New Systems

It may be curious to notice the similarity of action among men with very different principles in all things, except what concerns their interests. After the new system of managing lands and laying out farms had commenced in the Highlands, the ancient occupiers and cultivators were often overlooked by those who undertook to new-model gentlemen's estates. Their future happiness or misery formed no part of the new plans, and seemed as much disregarded as the fate of the ancient breed of horses and sheep. The old Highlanders were considered unfit for the new improvements; the length of time they held their lands gave them no claim; they had possessed them too long already; they must now give place to others. This was the language of many agents employed in these arrangements, and the language also of too many of those who employed them.—At the beginning of the French Revolution, when Dundee, Perth, and other towns, planted the tree of liberty, and the doctrine of equality of property was held out to encourage the partisans of Revolutionary Principles, the late Mr Dempster of Dunichen observed, in the sprint of 1791, that his farm-grieve, or overseer, had paid particular attention to a large field, ploughing and harrowing it twice, and laying down a double allowance of manure. He was preparing a third dressing, when Mr Dempster asked the cause of all this care bestowed upon one field more than the others. After some hesitation, the man answered, that every person had a right to attend to his own interest. Mr Dempster observed, that however true that might be, it could have no concern with that field. To this the grieve replied, that, as he had been a kind and generous master to him, he would explain the whole matter. He then told him, that, at a late meeting of Delegates of the Friends of the People, they had discussed much business, and, among other matter, had made a division of all the lands in the district, when this field, and some acres of pasture, fell to his share. His master told him he was happy to find him so well provided, and asked what part of the estate they had allotted to him. "Oh, as to you, Sir, and the other Lairds," replied the man, "it was resolved that you should have nothing to do with the land, and that none of the old Lairds and Proprietors were to have any. They and their families had had these lands long enough; their old notions were not fit for the new times; therefore they must all quit, and make way for the new system and new order of things; but as you have been always so good to me, I will propose, at the next meeting, that a portion be left for you."

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