Page images
PDF
EPUB

VI. The Emigrations of the Highlanders intimately connected with the progress of National prosperity—not detrimental to Manufactures or Agriculture.

EMIGRATION has also been thought prejudicial to the public interest, as depriving the country of the hands requisite for carrying on its agriculture and manufactures. How far this idea might be just, if the people who went away were industrious workmen, is not the / question; but in the case of the Highlanders, the effect of emigration is absolutely beneficial to the commercial prosperity of the kingdom.

To give a just view of this subject, the great and important change that has been described in the general management of the Highlands, must be considered as one connected event. Emigration is a part of the general change: it is one result, and cannot in fair reasoning be abstracted from the other concomitant effects. If the national wealth be essentially promoted by the causes from which emigration necessarily ensues, this

[ocr errors]

their effect cannot be reprobated as detrimental.

The same change in the state of the country, which we now see going on in the Highlands, took place in England under the Tudors. In the reign of Henry VII. the authority of the crown was firmly established; the power of the great barons was broken; their retainers, being found to be useless, were dismissed. In the same progressive manner the rents were then raised, by turning the lands into more profitable modes of management, and letting them in larger farms; the same odium was excited by dispossessing the small occupiers, and by the prevalence of pasturage; the very same complaints were made of the sheep having driven out the men*. No one, however, now entertains a doubt, that from the æra of this change the prosperity of England, as a commercial country, is to be dated: and can it be supposed that an arrangement, of which the beneficial consequences in England have been so remarkable, * See Appendix [G.]

[ocr errors]

will have an opposite effect when extended to the Highlands of Scotland?

After all the declamation that has been excited by the depopulation of the Highlands, the fact in reality amounts to this; that the produce of the country, instead of being consumed by a set of intrepid but indolent military retainers, is applied to the support of peaceable and industrious manufacturers. Notwithstanding the marks of desolation which occasionally meet the eye of the traveller, impressing him with melancholy reflections on the change which is going on, it can-` not be doubted, that the result is ultimately favourable to population, when we take into account that of the whole kingdom, balancing the diminution in one district by the increase in another.

In former times, when a great population was maintained in the midst of these mountains, their produce was almost entirely consumed on the spot. All the cattle that at any time found their way to a distant mar

F

ket were of inconsiderable value, in comparison with the produce sent away under the new system of grazing. This produce is an addition to the supply of the manufacturing districts; and, in proportion as it augments their means of subsistence, must tend to the increase of population. Supposing, therefore, that the produce of every farm under the new mode of management, were of the same total amount as under the old, the effect of the change would only be, to transfer the seat of population from the remote valleys of the Highlands, to the towns and villages of the South, without any absolute difference of numbers *.

It is agreed, however, by the best authorities, that the produce is not merely changed in its kind, but augmented, by the improved management which has been introduced. No doubt can be entertained as to the augmentation of pasturage produce; but it may be questioned, whether this is not balanced by the diminution of tillage. The land, however,

* See Appendix [H].

which is still kept in tillage, will certainly be much better managed; and, from a smaller number of acres, the same, or nearly as great a produce, may perhaps be obtained.—It is observed by Dr Adam Smith, that "the diminu❝tion of cottagers, and other small occupiers "of land, has, in every part of Europe, been "the immediate forerunner of improvement " and better cultivation *." When the land is occupied by men in the lowest state of poverty, their penury and want of resources must affect their husbandry. It is only when farms are on such a scale, as to be objects of attention to men of education and capital, that agriculture can be carried on with that spirit and intelligence, which are necessary for obtaining the most abundant produce of which the land is capable.

Besides this, the change in the management of the Highlands will probably be followed by an increase of tillage in the Southern parts of the kingdom. It is well known, that in England a great deal of arable land is kept in grass, for rearing young cattle and sheep: but there *See Appendix [C].

« PreviousContinue »