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This is a principle worth preserving, and a more honourable security for good payments than distraining for rents, and other modes much too common; for it is no uncommon thing to see a tenant's whole stock under sequestratration, without liberty to dispose of an article, unless by consent of the landlord, who orders an examination of the stock and produce at certain periods, and what is marketable to be disposed of for the rent. Will it be credited, that such a system can be pursued, and that men, who thus act towards their tenants, complain of their indolence and want of spirit to improve—under sequestration, and an annual learning to remove?
After so long a disquisition on a most painful subject, I now turn to one of a more agreeable nature;—the exertions made of late years to remedy, or rather to restrain the progress of those evils which press so heavily on the natives of the Highlands. These efforts, and the examples shown by individuals, have done much; but having avoided the mention of names, either in approbation or the reverse, I shall now follow the same rule, and merely notice public bodies. Among these the high respectability of the members of the Highland Society of Scotland;—the judicious discrimination
preside in person, but in more refined modern establishments, the steward takes the head of the table. The annual appearance at this table is a subject of honest pride. The absence of a tenant is considered ominous of his declining credit. Not to appear at the rent-day is disgraceful. The conversation at these dinners is on the best breed of cattle, and the best modes of husbandry. They have given rise to agricultural societies. Thus emulation, good neighbourhood, respectful attachment to landlords, and friendly feelings towards each other, are promoted. The man who would offer a higher price for his neighbour's farm, or endeavour to supplant him, could not show his face at the Rent-Day Dinner; and the landlord ,who would accept such an offer at the expence of an old and respectable tenant, would be held in contempt by many of his own rank, and in abhorrence by his tenantry. Such, I believe, are the implied conditions between landlord and tenant; and how soon the increasing progress of luxury and extravagance may produce rapacity and extortion it is impossible to say; but hitherto the respect paid to good faith, and the value attached to good character, have prevented those melancholy and cruel effects which have been so severely felt in many of the northern parts of the island."
VOL. I. p
and spirit with which its objects are carried into effect P"" the benefits it has conferred;—and the liberal and impartial manner in which its premiums are distributed ;—justly entitle this patriotic body to high estimation, and render it the most eminently useful of any public association ever connected with the Highlands.
"The Highland Society of Scotland derives its origin from a number of gentlemen, natives of or connected with the Highlands, assembled at Edinburgh in the year 1784. That meeting' conceiving, (as the words of their own resolutions express,) that the institution of a Highland Society at Edinburgh would be attended with many good consequences to the country, as well as to individuals,' determined to take the sense of their countrymen on the propriety of such an institution. A numerous meeting of such gentlemen as a residence in or near Edinburgh allowed of being called together, was assembled. They warmly approved of the measure; agreed to become members of such a society; proceeded to the nomination of a President, Vice-Presidents, and Committee} and having thus far embodied themselves, wrote circular letters to such noblemen and gentlemen as birth, property, or connection qualified, and, as they supposed, might incline to join in the formation of such an establishment, inviting them to become members of the proposed society." *
The original objects of the Society were, an inquiry into the present state of the Highlands and adjacent isles, with the condition of their inhabitants, the means of their improvement by establishing towns and villages, roads, and bridges, advancing agriculture and extending fisheries, introducing useful trades and manufactures, and by an exertion to unite the efforts of the landlords, and to call the attention of Government towards the encouragement of these useful purposes. The Society also proposed to pay attention to the preservation of the language, poetry, and music of the Highlands. These were the original objects
* Introduction to the first volume of " Transactions and Essays of the Highland Society," by Henry Mackenzie, Esq. one of the Directors.
of the institution; but they are now extended so as to embrace a great variety of branches, both of agriculture and the arts. The premiums annually distributed by the Society have raised a spirit of emulation, exertion, and desire to improve, productive of the greatest advantages. Premiums have been given in every district of the country for improving the breed of horses, cattle, and sheep;—for draining, trenching, clearing, and planting;— for the cultivation of green crops in all their varieties, as well as for many other improvements, applicable more especially to the Highlands. In support of national literature, the Society has been equally liberal; and the amount of the sums expended in preparing and publishing a Gaelic Dictionary is, I believe, almost unexampled in the history of literature. In the Lowlands also, premiums are given for various agricultural improvements, machinery, &c. Much labour and a considerable portion of the Society's funds have been expended on the subject of establishing an uniformity of weights and measures, with many other important objects intimately connected with the welfare of the country.
Faithful to the purposes of its institution, the Society has taken every opportunity of encouraging whatever tended to improve the cultivation of the country in general, and particularly of the remote and mountainous region from which it assumed its name. The premiums, therefore, are not confined to the Highlands, or to such kinds of agriculture or manufactures as are exclusively adapted to that country; they have extended, and continue still farther to extend, to draw forth information, and to stimulate ingenuity in every branch of those departments which may be useful, whether in the Highlands or other parts of the country: and in the eloquent language of one of its first members, who has ever been a constant, zealous, and able conductor of its duties,—" The Highland Society has been, not unaptly, compared to one of our native rivers, which has its rise indeed in the Highlands, but which, increasing as it flows, fertilizes and improves Lowland districts, at a distance from
those less cultivated regions whence it originally springs." * In prosecution of these views, the Society has, within the last twelve years, distributed about L.1000 annually in premiums.
The subject of emigration did not escape the attention of the Society; but the Directors were too intelligent to attempt to prevent emigration, among a people who, in the language of the report on the subject, have been " thrown, as it were, loose from their native land," and left without the means of subsistence. With more humanity they endeavoured to shew the cruelty of such measures, and, at the same time, suggested the necessity of establishing regulations to preserve the health and lives of the emigrants on their voyage, by preventing vessels from taking more than a certain number of passengers, that there might be proper accommodation and a sufficient supply of provisions, so that emigrants may in future be treated with humanity, "instead of being delivered over, by numberless privations, and the want of comfort and care, to diseases and destruction." t In conformity to these views of this important subject, the Society got a bill brought into Parliament, founded on their suggestions: It passed with little opposition, t so that an emigrant has now the chance of reaching his destination without danger of being doomed to " diseases and destruction." With this humane act,' I conclude this short notice of the patriotic Highland Society of Scotland, which has rendered such essential service to that part of the country whose name it bears. It consists of nearly 1300 members.
q Introduction to the third volume of the Transactions of the Highland Society, by Henry Mackenzie, Esquire, Lord Bannatyne and Mr Mackenzie are now the only surviving members of the Lounger and Mirror Club. For a period of thirty-five years they have never been absent from a General or Committee Meeting of the Highland Society, except in instances of indisposition, or some indispensable engagement.
f Report of the Highland Society.
£ Emigration, properly regulated, ought to be encouraged from those districts where the new improvements have sent the people to patches of land, to lay the foundation for realising the cottage and potatoe system, and the wretchedness of the Irish peasantry. Better for the mother country that they should emigrate than remain with such deplorable prospects in view. Two years ago some gentlemen, natives of Sutherland, resident in India, lamenting the state to which so many of their countrymen were reduced, subscribed about L. 1,250, and sent home the money to pay for the passage of a certain number of emigrants. About 200 got the benefit of this donation, and have gone to Canada. This humane act of these gentlemen is called the " Demon of Reform" by those who write in praise of the new order of things in the North.
A few years previous to the institution of the Highland Society of Scotland, a Society was established in London in somewhat similar circumstances. General Fraser of Lovat and several Highland gentlemen met at the SpringGarden house in the year 1778, and, after a few arrangements, formed themselves into a society with the same views, and for somewhat similar purposes as those I have detailed of the meeting in Edinburgh. The Society soon increased in numbers, and in the rank and respectability of its members, among whom were not only many of the first nobility and men of talents and property in the kingdom, but several members of the Royal Family; and in 1817, the Prince Regent was graciously pleased to become f Chief of the Highland Society of London."
The Highland Society of Scotland taking the lead in promoting the agricultural, and indeed the general improvement of the country, that of London confines itself chiefly to the language, music, poetry and garb of the Highlands, and, along with these preserves perhaps some of the best traits of the ancient character of the people: and while in Edinburgh, rewards and premiums are given for agricultural improvements, ingenious inventions, and other objects applicable to civil life; in London it was intended to give rewards and honorary marks of distinction for particular instances of courage, distinguished talent, and chivalrous deeds in war, as they might be displayed by Scotchmen and Scotch corps. But in this respect the intentions of the Society have been interrupted by an unfortunate misunderstanding, which will be noticed afterwards. Cut in the encouragement of national music and other use