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To state any comparison with a part of the empire so dreadfully convulsed, may appear an exaggerated view; but incidents have occurred in the Highlands, sufficient to prove that this apprehension is not altogether visionary. For the truth of this, I may appeal to any gentleman who was in the shire of Ross or Cromarty in July and August, 1792. I happened to be there myself at that moment when the irritation alluded to broke out into actual violence. Sheep-farming was then in the first stage of its introduction into that district, but the people had heard of its consequences in others. Roused by the circumstance of a particular estate being turned into sheepwalks, the tenantry of all the adjoining country took part with those who were ejected, and rose in arms. These poor and ignorant men, without leaders, and without any intelligible plan, actuated by indignation merely against their immediate superiors, and as if they did not understand that they were committing an offence against the general government of the kingdom, proceeded to vent their rage in driving away
the sheep that had been brought to stock the grazings. They had for many days the entire command of the country; and it was not from want of opportunity that few acts of pillage or personal violence were committed. In a letter to the officers of government at Edinburgh, a general meeting of gentlemen expressed themselves nearly in these words: We are at the feet of the mob, and if they should proceed to burn our houses, we are incapable of any re'sistance.'
It is satisfactory to reflect that this irritation of the common people has been hitherto against their immediate superiors only, and that the Highlanders have never given reason to impeach that character of loyalty towards their sovereign which their ancestors maintained. It cannot surely be reckoned of no importance to preserve these sentiments unimpaired; and this object ought not to be overlooked in the consideration of any legislative measure which may appear to these people the result of un
due partiality for the interest of their superiors, or which can with any plausibility be deemed an infringement of the principles of equal justice towards the lower orders.
This, however, is not the only view in which a direct attempt to restrain emigration may have pernicious consequences. There is scarcely any part of the Highlands that has not in its turn been in a state of irritation as great as that of Ross-shire in 1792; can any comment be necessary to show what would have been the dreadful state of things, if this had come to a height at the same moment over all the country? It has been the good fortune of Scotland, that, from the gradual manner in which the new system of management has advanced, this has happened in different districts, at different times; and by means of the emigrations, the discontented people of one have been removed, before the same causes of discontent had produced their full effect in another. What must we think, then, of
the policy which would impede this salutary drain, and would prevent a population infected with deep and permanent seeds of every angry passion, from removing and making way for one of a more desirable character?
IX. Prejudices of the Highland proprietors against Emigration: mistakes from which they arise.
If the preceding arguments are satisfactory, it must appear very unaccountable, that the gentlemen of the Highlands should express such extreme aversion against emigration. Since the removal of the superfluous population is necessary for the advance of their rents, why (it may be asked) do they quarrel with that which is so beneficial to them? But those who reflect how very common it is for men to mistake their own interest, will not consider this as a paradox. The change that has taken place in the Highlands, is so extensive, its effects are so complicated, and so many circumstances have concurred to disguise their operation, that it ought not to excite surprise if they are not generally understood.
The prejudices which many persons entertain on this subject arise from the most patriotic, though mistaken motives. Ascrib