Volunteers and Local Militia
Having thus endeavoured to place in one view that portion of the military array of the Highlands whose career of duty called them abroad, as well as those whose service was limited to a certain distance from their native country, I have now much pleasure in noticing those who, by their avocations, were confined to a particular district, but who, with patriotic spirit, formed themselves into an excellent species of internal defence in the corps of Volunteers and Local Militia. In the Highlands this force is the less necessary, on account of the well regulated and peaceable habits of the people, and their contentment with their lot: at the same time that it is more difficult to be organized, in a rugged country, thinly sprinkled with inhabitants, who live at a distance from the places of rendezvous, while the expense and loss of time is greater than that experienced in the populous, level districts of the Lowlands. Yet, in the mountains, the volunteer corps were numerous, and their ranks well filled. Previous to the peace of 1801, the volunteers in the Highlands and Islands exceeded 11,500 men. When the war recommenced, 13,323 volunteers were embodied, and placed in corps, as stated below.
In this enumeration, only the native Highlanders are included, as, for example, in the case of the Dunkeld and Stormont regiment only 190 men are stated, although the corps was upwards of 700 strong. The same calculation has been made with regard to the Aberdeen, Banff, Elgin, and other corps on the Borders, where the population on each side was united in one regiment.
In the year 1811 the Local Militia were instituted. Although military duty was seldom required of the Highland volunteers and local militia, * we may include them in the military array of the Highlands. The number being 34,784 men, it formed an important addition to the force already enumerated. It was important in another respect; namely, in accustoming the youth of the country to the use of arms, and so preserving a warlike feeling, which had been greatly cooled and broken by the acts for depriving the people of their arms and garb, and by other irritating causes; the effects of which were increased in no small degree by those false and absurd reports of the death and destruction. that awaited them should they enter the army, and which, as has been stated, were too generally credited. But so numerous a body as thirty-four thousand men from among so limited a population, could not fail to infuse a proper spirit, not only among the youthful and the active, but among all the inhabitants of the country.
* The Volunteers of Sutherland,—a county conspicuous for willing and excellent soldiers,—showed in 1804 that the name of Volunteer was well applied to them; for the regiment, 1000 strong, volunteered a march of 300 miles to the south of Scotland, and back to their native county, in all 600 miles. They marched to Linlithgow, and, after being disciplined there for some time, returned to Sutherland.
The Fencible regiments, also, contributed in a very eminent degree to promote and invigorate this spirit. The corps of this description mentioned in the foregoing pages are those considered as exclusively Highland. There were, however, other regiments raised in the North, not nominally Highland, but in whose ranks were a number of men from the mountains; as, for instance, Lord Elgin’s regiment, which, as I have already mentioned, had about 300 Highlanders, wearing a part of the Highland garb,—the bonnet and truis; the Aberdeenshire, Colonel (afterwards Lieutenant-General) Sir James Leith; the North Lowland, Colonel Balfour; and the Banffshire, Colonel (afterwards Major-General) Andrew Hay. There were also the Tay, Angus, and other Fencible corps, bordering on the Highlands. We thus find, that, independently of Colonel Macneil’s Argyle, Colonel Robertson’s Perthshire, both having very few Highlanders, and the Ross-shire Fencibles, which are not included, as the number was small, the whole corps embodied in the Highlands amounted to twenty-six battalions of Fencible infantry, which, in addition to the fifty battalions of the Line, three of Reserve, and seven of Militia, formed altogether a force of eighty-six Highland regiments embodied in the course of the four wars in which Britain had been engaged since the Black Watch was regimented in the year 1740. From a first glance, the allowing of 1000 men to each of the eighty-six regiments would appear to come near the truth; but, on a closer view, it will be found to be far short of the actual number. Leaving out of our estimate the men who have, at different times in the course of seventy-five years, from 1740 to the conclusion of the late war in 1815, joined the 42d, [See Appendix.] several of the regiments had, in the course of their service, treble or quadruple their original number in their ranks. Thus, the 71st, the 72d, and the 73d, which, during the thirty-one years they were Highland,—that is, from their formation in 1778 till 1809,—had at least 3000 Highlanders each; and other regiments had numbers in pro-portion to the length and nature of their service, both in tropical and temperate climates. But, without coming to a close calculation, we have sufficient evidence to show that the eighty-six battalions, including their numerous reinforcements, contained a very large and efficient body of men, who have contributed, in a very eminent degree, to preserve Scotland in the recollection of Europe as once an independent, and still a brave nation.
It is only necessary to mention farther, that thirty regiments of the Line [The second battalions of the 71st, 72d, 73d, and 74th, are not included, although they were raised within this period, and had a great many Highlanders in each; but the garb having been changed, they ceased to come within the line I had found it necessary to draw. The number of Highlanders in these corps, and also in the Royal Scots, and many other regiments of the Line, as well as a considerable number in the Elgin and other Fencibles, will in some measure counterbalance the number of Lowlanders in the Highland regiments. Were this a correct supposition, (and there are good grounds for it,) the number of Highlanders who have served in the late war in all regiments would greatly exceed the number of men not Highlanders in the ranks of the forty-seven battalions. Of the twenty-nine battalions raised in the two former wars, nine-tenths of the men were Highlanders, In twenty-one battalions the whole were Highlanders.] and Fencibles, and three regiments of Militia, were raised during the first six years of the last war, from 1793 to 1799; and, from 1800 to 1804, both years inclusive, seven battalions of the Line, four of Militia, and three of the Army of Reserve, were raised in the Highlands ; in all, forty battalions of the Line, Fencibles, and Army of Reserve, seven regiments of Militia, and 34,785 Local Militia and Volunteers, during the late war.
It is fortunate for the poor Highlanders that so large a portion of their number served their country, during the eventful period referred to, as the publicity and notoriety of their military services furnish the best answer to the statements published by different authors, whose opinions might lead the public to believe that their military character is annihilated; that they are indolent and useless as cultivators and shepherds, incapable of becoming manufacturers, too impatient for mechanics, and averse to the duties of a military life. It appears, therefore, highly necessary that the real facts should be known; that the Government of this country should have a full knowledge of the true character of those they govern; and that the inhabitants of one part of the kingdom should be made acquainted with the dispositions, and civil and military habits of the other part. This is but justice to a people who may suffer, without pity or sympathy, if their character and principles were taken from the views given by Mr Pinkerton and several other authors, whose statements have made a most unfavourable impression on the public mind ; not generally, but to such an extent as to afford a justification of the acts of oppression and cruelty of which the Highlanders complain, and which are so rapidly generating a spirit of hatred and revenge against the higher orders of society. But, if there be any truth in the character drawn of this race, revenge, and all the worst passions of our nature, might be expected from “mere radical savages,” as Mr Pinkerton describes the Celts. “Look at them,” says he, “for they are just as they were, incapable of industry or cultivation, even after half their blood is Gothic, and remain as marked by the ancients, fond of lies, and enemies to truth.” If a Highlander offers to state what he believes to be true, as I have presumed to do, then “to say that a writer is a Celt, is to say that he is a stranger to truth, morality, and modesty.” Another delineator of Highland manners and capability says, “They are so deficient in intelligence, so slow, heavy-footed, and inert in their movements, that one Lowland shepherd will do more work than five indolent Highlanders.” Then, being so unqualified for the duties of a pastoral life,—a life of all others for which they have been supposed peculiarly well calculated— if they are placed on fishing stations on the coast, we are assured that “a decided preference will be given to strangers.” Thus, while they are noted for being enemies to truth, worthless as cultivators, as fishers, and as shepherds, and incapable of industry, “they are everywhere,” says an author who advances strong opinions on the subject, “notedly averse to the army, and I do not say, without abundant information, that it probably would be impossible to raise a single recruit by beat of drum, or a single volunteer for the navy, throughout the Islands. It is doubtful if the whole Islands possess at this moment one hundred men in both services. Skye, with a population of 16,000, has not a man in the army.” [Dr Macculloch’s Western Isles.] And again, with regard to the state of religion in the Highlands, we are told by one authority, that they are “Christians only in name;” while, as the natural consequence of this deplorable state, it was to be expected that another authority should meet with the “basest vices” in a country where the people are “enemies to truth,” and “savage heathens,” as they have also been called; and where, we are told by some reverend preachers, —not surely of the Gospel of truth—that there are many who “know not the name of Jesus!” [See Reports of different Societies for the Encouragement* of Religion, Education, and Morals in the Highlands. If these societies teach the morality some of their members practise in publishing slanderous and lying reports, better would it be for the Highlanders to remain in their original ignorance, than to be so taught and instructed.]
My personal information and experience of the state and extent of religious knowledge among these people, with the beneficial influence thereof on their principles and character, leads me to a perfectly opposite conclusion ; but from my not having practical experience of farming, of the management of sheep, or of fisheries, it is necessary for me to speak with caution, when giving an opinion on the capabilities of the Highlanders for these occupations; as a soldier, however, I can speak with some confidence, and beg leave to refer to the statement in page 408, as an answer to the allegation, that “Skye, with a population of 16,000, has not a man in the army.”
As I have served with many a good and brave soldier from that island, and as 1 have observed a strong sense of religion, a clear knowledge of their faith, and more general intelligence, than is usually found among the common people of many countries, combined with much moral feeling, industry, and capability in the Highlands, I. may be allowed to doubt the accuracy of statements which militate against the evidence of my own senses—of what I have seen with my own eyes; and I may also be allowed to express pity and sympathy for an unfortunate race who suffer so severely, and who are in the progress of suffering still more, from prejudiced and distorted views of their character. But they will not suffer alone. If the modern system is pursued; if all the kindness and encouragement of landlords are to be bestowed on monied men alone; if they are to be nourished and protected, and the people rejected and despised; if two castes, capitalists and cottars, are formed without common interests, feelings or sympathy; if the system of traducing and calumniating this poor unfortunate race be continued; if Government and the proprietors of the soil continue to give credit to the statements laid before the public, and to withdraw their countenance from them as a people altogether worthless;—the rich farmers will learn to look with contempt on the poor ejected Highlanders, who, in their turn, will attribute their depression and poverty to the avarice of the landlords, and to the encroachments of the great monopolists of the soil: And thus, as I have more than once had occasion to notice, mutual jealousies and hatred will be generated; the moral ties which connected intimately the landlord, tacksman, and small tenant, will be dissolved; and the Highlands of Scotland may have to witness the painful contrast of a virtuous and contented, with a demoralized and disaffected population; and this, too, in an enlightened age, when the influence which a kind regard to the welfare of the lower orders exerts upon their character ought to be understood and practised. In that country, the cordial intimacy which subsisted between the higher and lower orders had the best influence on the feelings and habits of the latter. It roust, therefore, appear remarkable, that, in times when so much is said and written on the liberty, independence and education of the people, we should find them too often treated with a cold, haughty, distant reserve, totally unknown during the slavish dependence of the clans, as their former state is generally and improperly called.
I have already quoted the opinion of an author on the warlike spirit of the Highland Islanders, who, according to him, are so deficient in this respect, that, during the last war, they were defended by the manufacturers of the Lowlands, as they would not take up arms themselves. In prosecution of the subject, it is farther stated, that, “If recruits should be raised in the islands, they would be found in Islay, not in Skye or in the Long Island.” Now, in twenty-five years of regimental duty, besides six years on half-pay, during which I have had full knowledge of the circumstances in question, I found the case to be entirely the reverse, and that there no dependence can be placed on what this author states with regard to the facility and manner in which soldiers are obtained in the southern islands; for, during the twenty-one years I belonged to the 42d and 78th, we had not twenty men from Islay in both regiments, while the best and most exemplary soldiers were those from the northern isles: and these were so numerous, that, as I have already noticed, 732 men enlisted for the 78th regiment even from the estate of one landlord (Lord Seaforth’s) in the Long Island, and upwards of 1500 men for other regiments from Lord Macdonald’s estate in Skye. And yet we are told not to expect soldiers in Skye or in the Long Island !
In a Report of the county of Ross, we find the same want of spirit alleged to exist in that part of the country. “The Highlanders are trumpeted forth as our best resource for soldiers, although it is well known that they are notoriously averse to the army. The second battalion of the 78th, commanded by my lamented brother-in-law Lieutenant-Colonel Macleod, was raised in a very short time, yet this was not owing by any means to the spirit of the people. Indeed, some bands of young Highlanders, who went to join the regiment, declared, rather indiscreetly, perhaps, that they had enlisted merely to save their parents from being turned out of their farms.” [Report to the Board of Agriculture, by Sir G. Stewart Mackenzie, Bart.] The best and purest motives may thus be overlooked or perverted. If these youths were not inclined to a military life, the greater was the sacrifice to filial piety, in order to save their parents from being ejected from their farms. But as, no doubt, the terms of their agreement werefulfilled, (there are great doubts on this head,) and their parents permitted to remain undisturbed, there could be no indiscretion in mentioning them. The same Report farther observes, that “there were many fine fellows, however, who enlisted out of pure regard for some of their officers, and their connections, but their number was small when compared with the total amount.”
If they were thus actuated by a rooted aversion to a military life, I confess myself unable to ascertain the motives which induced these young men to enlist, though no man had a better opportunity, as I was a Major in the regiment, and had added 419 men to its strength by recruits and Militia volunteers. It is probable, that, when the Reporter estimated the warlike spirit of his countrymen so low, it did not occur to him that the chiefs and chieftains of his own clan and name had, in the course of a few years, raised six battalions, of which about 11,500 men, including the different reinforcements, were Highlanders; and, although Lord Macleod, the Colonel of two of these battalions, had no lands or farms with which young men might be encouraged to enlist from the hope of a future settlement for themselves, or compelled by threats of removing their parents, each battalion (the number of Highlanders in both being 1750) was completed in a few weeks. [See article Macleod’s Highlanders.] In my battalion, also, 240 men, as good soldiers as ever left the Highlands, enlisted in a few days from the Island of Lewes, one portion of Lord Seaforth’s estate on the Long Island. If these men, and the many thousands of Highlanders who enlisted in the Mackenzie regiments, were notoriously averse to a military life, their conduct displayed an inconsistency not easily accounted for on any common principles of action. If the young men who engaged with me had the same feelings, they so completely concealed their aversion that I could discover nothing but the best spirit and a desire to learn and discharge their duty. The recruits from the country enlisted sometimes five and six together, when I gave them only twelve guineas, whereas they would, the same day, have received twenty or twenty-four guineas as substitutes for the Perthshire and other militia regiments. Did this preference of a distant, dangerous, but honourable service, for which the regiment was destined when completed, evince any want of spirit ? On the contrary, was it not more like the pure spirit of brave soldiers, regardless of danger, and exhibiting a generous desire to serve their King in the most effectual manner, and to connect themselves with the fortunes of an individual from whom they expected friendship and protection, in return for the fidelity, obedience, and respect they showed him? If this was not a proper spirit, I know not by what name it ought to be designated. I am sure their conduct on all occasions merited as honourable a name, and as much distinction as a soldier can well obtain, and fully proved the nature of the feelings and principles with which they entered the service. When the information received by Sir George Mackenzie, a Highlander by birth, and proprietor of an extensive inheritance, once occupied by a numerous tenantry, has led him to form the opinion he has given of his countrymen; and when Dr Macculloch, who had made the Highlands one of his principal studies, and had lived on the Mainland and Islands for months, nay, for whole seasons, produces, statements so easily refuted; certainly those whom he consulted must have concealed the truth, or been themselves ignorant, and thus led to the opinions adopted with regard to the men of Skye, and the warlike disposition of the men of Islay, which are at total variance with the personal knowledge of all military men whom I have ever heard speak on the subject.
When gentlemen who have published so much on these subjects are ignorant of circumstances of public notoriety, can correct reports be expected from land agents and others, who are generally ignorant of the country, the people, and their language, and who often run over a district in one day, speaking to none except those appointed to meet them, and who, of course, will be careful not to communicate any thing but what is agreeable to their employers, more especially of the capabilities of the people, with whose ejection from their farms the first step of these agents commences? Neither can the best information on the state of morals and religion be expected from itinerant preachers and missionaries, such as are often employed (or rather who sometimes take up the task of their own accord) to instruct the Highlanders. They are frequently very ignorant persons, especially of human nature, avoiding all communication with gentlemen and well informed individuals, associating chiefly with the weak and ignorant, whose imaginations they so bewilder and inflame by their incoherent harangues on faith, and the eternal punishments of unbelievers, that the poor creatures, thrown into a perplexity of doubt, terror, and shame for their former state of sin and wickedness, are ready to confess themselves guilty of all the crimes forbidden in the Decalogue, and, till they knew their present teachers, ignorant of religion, of the gospel of salvation, and of the name of Jesus. Then comes the statement of these new teachers of the ungodly mountaineers, on whose alleged want of religion and morality their own future employment depends. Reports from such sources would, therefore, deservedly pass unnoticed, were they not too often countenanced by respectable persons, who know not, perhaps, from their own experience, the correctness of what appears under their sanction, and from whom it might Slave been expected that a whole people would not have been vilified, and exhibited to the world as an unchristian race, degraded by the basest vices, without sufficient cause, and on the best foundation. That in any part of Scotland there are people who know not the name of Jesus, is a strong assertion, and ought not to be hazarded, far less sanctioned, in the absence of all proof. Without presuming to offer my own personal experience in opposition to these statements, extensively circulated, to the great prejudice of a people who have not the means of defending themselves, I now appeal to all liberal and intelligent Highlanders, if they ever met with even one instance in their native country, where the name of Jesus was unknown; or with the basest vices, and with savage heathens. Such reports, unless founded on indisputable facts, injure the cause they are intended to support, especially where the general conduct of a people offers so ready and full a contradiction. So far as regards the Highlands, they ought to be received with extreme caution. It is difficult to conceive,—indeed many think it impossible to believe,—that a people who have enabled me to bring forward so many honourable traits of their native character, and to produce instances equally honourable to them as soldiers, can be, indeed, without religion,, without military spirit, enemies to truth, degraded by the basest vices, and ignorant even of the name of their Saviour.
It will be equally difficult to believe, that in this country, with such uninterrupted and general means of communication, men should be found intelligent in many respects, yet so deficient in correct knowledge of the state and character of the inhabitants of a large portion of their native country, as to doubt whether they are Christians, and if they ever heard the name of Jesus in their families; for it must be solely to an ignorance of facts that the false and unfounded reports published by societies and individuals on the religion and morals of a whole people can be ascribed. Many very good men, with the best intentions, are not aware of the injury they do by thus lending their name to defame, as unprincipled and base, the unfortunate objects of these cruel animadversions, and the misery they contribute to entail upon them by the countenance they give to those who are too ready to consider the lower orders of their country as a burthen which must be borne with, or as an evil to be removed with the most convenient speed. Men, who were before irresolute, and, perhaps, afraid to encounter public odium by harsh measures, will have their resolutions strengthened when they hear it proclaimed by societies, and in meetings, that their dependents are affected with the basest vices; and thus their plans of reducing their station in society,—breaking their spirit of independence, by making them cottagers, and subservient to the men of capital, will be enforced, and will occasion more crimes and demoralization than the united exertions of all the societies in the country to educate and enlighten will be able to counteract. Instead of slanderous aspersions, equally unjust as they are injurious, it might have been expected that men, who profess much Christian charity, would abstain from injuring and slandering the character of an unoffending people, who have always shown themselves ready to receive instruction, and who ought rather to be commended for the religious knowledge, moral rectitude, and general intelligence which they exhibit under the greatest disadvantages. When the people are represented as base and worthless, why are those who have the power, and yet neglect, or refuse, to provide the means of instruction, exempted from blame? When parishes in the Highlands are twenty, forty, and, in some cases, even more than sixty miles in extent, the cause of ignorance, wherever it is found to exist, ought to be traced to a source different from the supposed innate depravity and incapacity of their poor inhabitants; and when a few thousand pounds annually in the erection of new parishes, and in support of clergymen, would remedy this evil, are those who draw the whole produce of the country in the rents they exact, and withhold these benefits to pass without animadversion, and those only who are in poverty and unable to payclergymen, and who suffer from this disregard to their spiritual welfare, to be reprobated, and to be made to suffer still more, by cruel and unjust misrepresentations of their character? That itinerant preachers, and others who oppose the established church, should represent the state of religion in the Highlands, where the people are, with the exception of the few Catholics, strongly attached to theNational Faith, as grossly ignorant of what they call Evangelical truth, is no more than was to be expected, since thereby they promote their own objects; and therefore, if they can make the world believe that they found the people sunk low in heathenish practices and ignorance, and that their rivals, the parish ministers, are ignorant of the true faith, and regardless of their sacred duties, they expect to have the better chance of being themselves employed, and the greater triumph, should they make converts to their own tenets; so that, although the barbarism, the ignorance, and the immorality of the Highlanders form the basis of such Reports, their correctness may with perfect propriety be doubted.
[One of the most remarkable of all the new discoveries with regard to the Highlands was one said, to have been made some time ago, of a population, consisting nearly of 2000 persons, living sequestered in the mountains of Sutherland, paying no rents, acknowledging no superior, and existing in a kind of independant freedom, like the Indians in the wilds of America. Such, on the authority of the advocates for the new improvements in the North, was the state of this numerous body, some of whom must no doubt be of those unfortunate Scotchmen who know not even the name of their Saviour. If the circumstances were true, what opinion must be formed of the landholders and clergymen, who allowed the people to remain in such a deplorable state, unprecedented in any other Christian country?
Expressing my astonishment, some time ago, to a gentleman of considerable influence, and a frequent speaker at public meetings, how he could be a party to such Reports as he had countenanced, when, by his frequent excursions to the Highlands, he must have seen how false and perfectly contrary they were to the real state of the case 5 his excuse was, that he did not know the whole of the country,—that, although he never met with an instance of the kind him-self, others might,—and that a strong case was necessary to make people advance money! Is it for the sake of a strong case, and to make the world approve of the changes in the Highlands, that near 500 families are described as living like savages in the mountains, under no control or obligation? And is it to forward the cause of religion, that lying statements are published, and people falsely calumniated as being unchristian? The Christian religion is founded on truth, and ought to be supported by truth; and it is a bad example to that morality which is expected from the diffusion of religious instruction, and the prosperity from agricultural improvements, to publish statements which every intelligent person in the country can contradict as not founded on fact; and the nature of those improvements, which must be so defended, and which cost so much money in vindicatory publications, must be very doubtful, and must be very different in their nature and effects from the improvements of some honourable friends of mine, which require no apology. These improvements speak for themselves in the prosperity of the landlords, and the contented and happy condition of the people ; and the state of religious knowledge, with its practical effects, is best proved by the character, conduct, and well regulated established principles of those who profess it.]
But that the established clergy should give in to those unfounded calumnies and thus prejudice their own church and brethren, the ministers of Highland parishes, was not to be expected; for, if the people are in the state represented, the character of the clergymen of the church of Scotland must be greatly changed, since much of the fault must be theirs, from a neglect of duty—a neglect of which they were never accused till itinerant preachers began to traverse the Highlands, and the publication of the Reports on which these observations are founded. The people of this country are naturally charitable, and only require to be told a plain and faithful statement of facts to call forth and rouse the most benevolent feelings. Let the poverty of the Highlanders, the shameful neglect of their superiors, the want of clergymen and of schools, and the consequent privations to which they are subject, be fairly and honestly stated, and it will be sufficient for the purpose intended, without making unjust and unfounded reflections on morals and character, and making assertions which it is impossible to prove. In the Highlands, attempts to calumniate and underrate the capability and morals of the people may do, and have already done, incalculable injury.
Oppression is unjustifiable on any grounds, but if exercised on a worthless and unprincipled race, the indignation naturally excited is softened. If the Highland character were to be taken from recent statements, any oppression, even to extirpation, would meet with little reprehension, and excite no pity for the victims.
[The black Carribbs of the Island of St Vincent were a Negro-African race, and had committed great excesses during the insurrections in the years 1795 and 1796. Indeed, the persons and properties of the white inhabitants were in constant risk of murder and conflagration from their black neighbours; and when they were rooted out, and banished to the Island of Ratan, it was considered a measure of indispensable necessity, and met with general approbation. The yellow Carribbs, the aborigines of the West Indies, are, on the contrary, of a mild disposition, remarkable for their regular and proper conduct. Had they been extirpated, something of the same indignation would have been expressed as has ever been in all Christian countries against the horrible cruelties of the Spaniards after the discovery of those islands. But in St Vincent the yellow Carribbs were cherished and protected as their character and exemplary habits deserved, and the few of them who remain are now in possession (as I hope they will always be) of the woods and forests of their forefathers. It is unnecessary to follow up the illustration, as it is evident that if the character of the Highlanders were such as is too often represented, their extirpation would be a happy riddance to this country.]
I have endeavoured to place the character of my countrymen in what appears to me its true light, and I regret, for their sake, that the task to unveil the truth, to vindicate the injured, and, by an honest and plain narrative of undoubted facts, to point out the wrongs of the oppressed, has not fallen into abler hands, and that, among all the philanthropists whom this age has produced, none has stepped forward to advocate the cause of the calumniated Highlanders. This task devolved upon me, as I have noticed in the preface, from my compliance with the accidental request of a professional friend; and I hope this attempt will at least show, that the subject is worthy of some notice; and, if followed up by a man of talent and research, it will be found that I have given a sketch merely of a great mass of matter of no common interest. The military part of the subject presents a wide and interesting field, and much both of the past and the present state of the Highlands, fitted to awaken the strongest and tender-est sympathies of the heart, still remains untold. The present state of that country is indeed well worthy of the attention of the moralist, the philanthropist, the patriot, and the rural economist. In any age but the present, when every evil is to be cured by finding its own level, and when so much is said and written to subdue all feelings of humanity, or regard for the happiness of the people, when supposed to come in opposition to any plan for individual advantages, or general improvements in the Highlands; a full exposition of the plans pursued, the slanders and falsehoods on which they are founded, the callous manner in which they are carried into execution, with their lamentable effects as they have already shown themselves, and still more to be dreaded in their further progress, would perhaps create a stronger impression in favour of the poor Highlanders. But still, as it is to be hoped that many will not allow themselves to be deluded by those specious views of expected prosperity to the proprietors of the land, and the monied men who are to occupy it, (as, by the views of modern economists, none but men of capital ought to be agriculturists and cultivators,) we may look forward in the hope that some person, capable of doing justice to so interesting a subject, will undertake it, and introduce many facts and much important information, which, in this first attempt to call the public attention to the state of the Highlands and the inhabitants, I have been induced, for various reasons, to suppress.
And now I cannot conclude these Sketches better than by noticing the obligations which the public in general, and Scotland in particular, owe to the author of those exquisite pictures of life called the Scotch Novels; from the great moral effect produced on the mind, by exhibiting the pleasing, the homely customs of our country, and the feelings of our common nature, as they appear in his specimens of the Lowland peasantry, and of all the lower orders of his countrymen. Many of the highest qualities of the human mind, as he has shown, are called forth by the very privations and difficulties to which their humble lot subjects them : fortitude, kept in continual exercise by having always much to endure,—gratitude, more lively as obligation is more deeply felt,—fidelity, very frequent, and more meritorious as resisting strong temptations,—acuteness and sagacity, sharpened by frequent exigencies,—and, above all, that humble and earnest piety which forms the basis of their virtues and the solace of their hardships. It is melancholy to observe, that, when so many have taste enough to be, or fashion enough to seem, delighted with these fine pictures of rustic worth, so few should seek out and cherish the originals from which they were drawn. Let us hope that this feeling, once awakened, and seconded by sound reason, will produce in the Highlands a revival of that kindness and protection which preserved the attachment and confidence of the peasantry, and prevent that demoralization, and that dissolution of those mutual feelings between the different orders of society which appear in so threatening an aspect as to afford some plea for the extirpation of a brave, loyal, and estimable race, of whom, if once banished, we may truly say, that “we shall not look upon their like again.” What the Highlanders have been, and what they may still be, I have endeavoured to show; and while I have presumed to differ in opinion with many, in exhibiting the character and capability of my countrymen, I trust I have not done so without producing some well authenticated facts in support of opinions, which militate against those of men conspicuous for talents and acquirements, and to whose judgment I would readily yield, were I not sensible that I speak with more know-ledge of facts illustrative of the subject, originating principally from the circumstances of my being a native of the country, and having from early infancy associated much with the people. Speaking their language, and keeping an attentive ear and observant eye to what was said or done in my presence, I have been enabled to acquire a considerable knowledge of their habits, dispositions, and traditional histories. Descended by both parents from families in which all I have said of patriarchal kindness and devoted attachment had for ages been exemplified with the happiest reciprocal results; and still farther, having had occasion, in the course of my professional duties, to come into daily contact with the same people, and thus had an opportunity of witnessing their moral worth, and steady courage, and of experiencing their fidelity and friendship,—1 should consider myself ungrateful and unworthy of that fidelity and friendship, of which I have so frequently been the object, if I had not availed myself of those opportunities of calling the public attention to an interesting subject, in the hope of arresting, if possible, the extirpation, or, what is equally to be deprecated and lamented, the destruction of the moral feelings and unshaken loyalty of a valuable race.
Having made use of these combined means of information, when my profession offered no employment, I shall consider my spare time and humble talents as having been well occupied, if I have succeeded in affording some idea of the character, capability, and importance to the state, of an interesting part of the population, when treated with Justice and kindness. I also feel gratified in having been able to exhibit in one view the military force embodied in the barren and unproductive mountains of Scotland; and how far these eighty-six battalions, with their numerous reinforcements, have, by their numbers and physical force,—by their courage, and by their moral character,—contributed to uphold the honour, and to maintain, what has been often threatened, the very existence of this country as an independent state.