Page images
PDF
EPUB

fence, or for an attack on some hostile clan. The merit of every individual was estimated by his prowess on these occasions; warlike atchievements were ever the favourite theme among them; and the amusements of their leisure hours generally consisted of active exercises, or displays of strength and agility, calculated to enhance their character as warriors.

This style of life, favourable as it was to those qualities of mind and body which are requisite to form a good soldier, was no less adverse to habits of industry. If, indeed, the natural disposition of the Highlanders to industry had been ever so great, their situation would have allowed it but little scope. Their lands afforded few objects of commerce: the only article of which they ever had any considerable superfluity was cattle; and, from the turbulent state of the country, these could not be brought to market without the utmost difficulty. The desire of accumulating was checked by the insecurity of property: those, indeed, who derive their acquisitions from the

sword, are seldom in the habit of hoarding them with care; what may next day be replaced by the plunder of an enemy, they are disposed to lavish with careless profusion. Thus, among the antient Highlanders, the same men, who made a glory of pillage and rapine, carried the sentiments of hospitality and sity to a romantic excess.

genero-.

The meanest of the Highlanders was impressed with these sentiments; but, while he reckoned it disgraceful to shut his door against the stranger, or to withhold from him any thing which his house contained, he considered it as equally unpardonable, if a friend refused him any thing of which he was in want. From the chieftains, in particular, the most unbounded generosity was expected; and the necessity, which they were under, of conciliating the attachment of their people, led them to follow the same conduct, whatever might be their natural disposition.

The authority of the chief, however great, was not of that absolute kind which has some

times been imagined, and could not be maintained without an unremitted attention to all the arts of popularity. Condescending manners were necessary in every individual, of whatever rank; the meanest expected to be treated as a gentleman, and almost as an equal. The intimate connexion of the chief with his people, their daily intercourse, the daily dependance they had on each other for immediate safety, the dangers which they shared, were all calculated to produce a great degree of mutual sympathy and affection; and if there were any of the higher ranks who did not really feel such sentiments, prudence prevented them from allowing this to appear.

On the other hand, the devoted attachment of the common people to their chiefs, though described in terms of astonishment by contemporary writers, was an effect easily deducible from the general principles of human nature. Among the poor in civilized countries, there is, perhaps, no circumstance more severely felt, than the neglect they meet with from persons of superior condition, and which ap

concern.

pears to stigmatise them, as of an inferior species and if in the hour of distress they meet with an unexpected degree of sympathy, the attention bestowed on their situation is often more soothing than direct benefits, conferred without any appearance of sensibility or When a person of rank treats his inferiors with cordiality, and shows an interest in their welfare, it is seldom that, in any country, this behaviour is not repaid by gratitude and affection. This was particularly to be expected among the Highlanders, a people naturally of acute feelings, habituated to sentiments of a romantic and poetical cast: in them the condescending manners and kindness of their chiefs excited an attachment bordering on enthusiasm

* See Appendix [B],

II. Change in the policy of the Highland proprietors subsequent to the Rebellion in 1745.

THE change which this state of society underwent after the rebellion in 1745, was great and sudden. The final issue of that contest

annihilated the independence of the chieftains; and the vigorous measures, by which the victory of Culloden was followed, gave to regular government an authority which it had never before possessed in that part of the kingdom. The country was disarmed, and a sufficient ce stationed in it to prevent any great and daring violation of the law.

The chiefs now ceased to be petty monarchs. The services of their followers were no longer requisite for defence, and could no longer be made use of for the plunder of a defenceless neighbour. They were reduced to the situation of any other proprietors: but they were not long in discovering, that to subsist a numerous train of dependants was not the only way in which their estates could be

« PreviousContinue »