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W HEN, on a question that has undergone much investigation and excited general attention, an individual comes forward to controvert received opinions, and to offer views which have previously passed unnoticed, every one is disposed to ask, what have been the peculiar opportunities of information upon which he presumes to contradict those who have gone before him. I trust, therefore, it will not be deemed an unbecoming egotism, that some particulars relating to myself form the subject of these preliminary pages.
Without any immediate or local connexion with the Highlands, I was led, very early in life, to take a warm interest in the fate of my countrymen in that part of the kingdom. During the course of my
academical studies, my curiosity was strongly excited by the representations I had heard of the antient state of society, and the striking peculiarity of manners still remaining among them; and, in the year 1792, I was prompted to take an extensive tour through their wild region, and to explore many of its remotest and most secluded valleys. In the course of this I ascertained several of the leading facts, on which the arguments of the following pages are grounded; in particular, that Emigration was an unavoidable result of the general state of the country, arising from causes above all control, and in itself of essential consequence to the tranquillity and permanent welfare of the kingdom.
The particular destination of the emigrants is not likely to excite much interest in those who believe that emigration may be obviated altogether. Being persuaded that no such expectation could be reasonably entertained, I bestowed some attention on details, which to other observers may have appeared nugatory. I learned, that the
Highlanders were dispersing to a variety of situations, in a foreign land, where they were lost not only to their native country, but to themselves as a separate people. Admiring many generous and manly features in their character, I could not observe without regret the rapid decline of their genuine manners, to which the circumstances of the country seemed inevitably to lead. I thought, however, that a portion of the antient spirit might be preserved among the Highlanders of the New World—that the emigrants might be brought together in some part of our own colonies, where they would be of national utility, and where no motives of general policy would militate (as they certainly may at home) against the preservation of all those peculiarities of customs and language, which they are themselves so reluctant to give up, and which are perhaps intimately connected with many of their most striking and characteristic virtues.
It was on the eve of the late war that these views occurred to me, and any active prosecution of them was precluded by the eventful period which followed; but the