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


AA, Page 157.  Respectability and Independence of small Farmers in comparison with Day-labourers

It is said that a man is more comfortable as a day-labourer than as a small farmer. Experience is in opposition to this opinion, in so far as, where we see many thousand labourers become paupers, such is never the case with the occupiers of land. These may be poor and involved in difficulties, but they are never in want of food, or dependent on charitable aid. Ireland is stated as an instance of the misery of small farmers. This is no more a fair example, than that of the people placed on small allotments of moorland in the new mode introduced into the Highlands.

That part of Lord Breadalbane's estate, which is on both sides of Lochtay, contains nearly 11,000 acres of arable woodland and pasture, in sight of the lake, besides the mountain grazing ; the whole supporting a population of about 3120 souls. Were he to divide the 11,000 acres into eight or ten farms, agreeably to the practice now in progress in the Highlands, placing the present population on small lots as day-labourers, would they be so independent as they now are, paying for the lands on the banks of Lochtay, high as they are, and notwithstanding a backward climate, as good a rent as is paid by many farmers in Kent or Sussex? Lord Breadalbane is sensible of this, and preserves the loyal race of men who occupy his land, without having occasion to establish associations for the suppression of felony, as in the improved districts in the North,

[When protecting associations are found necessary in the Nortli Highlands, under the new mode of management, I may notice the state of morals in this great property, maintaining a population of more than 8000 persons in Perthshire, besides 5000 in Argyleshire. From the year 1750 to 1813, there have been only two persons accused of capital crimes in Lord Breadalbane's estate in Perthshire, and both were acquitted. The first was a farmer tried on suspicion of murder. (He was a married man, who lived at the foot of Ben Lawers. In autumn 1765, a servant girl in his family suddenly disappeared, and no trace of her could be discovered till the following spring, when the shepherds found her body floating in a small lake, nearly half way up the mountain. Owing to the length of time the body lay in the water, no close examination could be made, and no marks of violence were observed : but after the body was found, a report was spread that an improper intimacy between the deceased and her master had been observed. On this suspicion he was apprehended and tried at the Perth Circuit Court, and acquitted, as there was no evidence beyond this suspicious report. While he lay in jail, it was broke, and several prisoners made their escape, and as he refused to accompany them, saying he was conscious of his innocence, the circumstance acted powerfully in his favour; he, however, never returned to the country. His family followed him to the Low country, where he settled and died.) The second was Ewan Campbell, (or Laider), noticed in Appendix EE. Macalpine, also mentioned in page 12.3, Vol. I. was tried for an illegal act, which would have subjected him to the punishment of felony, namely, for wearing the Highland garb. Some aberrations from the general rule of morality have lately occurred,—the concomitants, as a certain class of political economists say, of the progress of civilization. -- Swindling, fraudulent bankruptcy, and forgery, the consequences of civilization.!!! ]

or establishing rates for the poor, as has been done in the fertile and wealthy counties of Roxburgh, Berwick, &c. Should his Sovereign visit Scotland, and pass through the Earl of Breadalbane's territory, his Lordship might assemble, on a few hours' warning, 2000 men, in the prime of life, ready to receive his Prince at any of the great passes or entrances into his property, at Taybridge, Glenorchy or Glenogle. At the head of this loyal and hardy race of men, Lord Breadalbane may welcome his Sovereign, and, pointing to his followers, may say, such men as these are good supporters of the country and the throne, and, while their loyalty, principles, and ancient spirit, are preserved pure and undaunted, they will always be ready to "Follow me" [See-page 31, Vol. I.] at the call of their King and Country. [Since the above was written, a meeting of this kind happened in September 1819, when 1238 men of Lord Breadalbane's tenants, in the prime of life, and in the garb of their ancestors, assembled on the lawn in front of Taymouth Castle, when Prince Leopold honoured his Lordship with a visit. The number could have been doubled.]

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