Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Germanni, he exclaims, “more powerful with them are good manners than with other people are good laws : nobody makes vices subject of mirth.

The lofty notions of honour which imbued the minds of the ancient Celts, and urged them to deeds of admirable heroism and striking generosity, is a proof of elevation of mind and refinement of sentiment. The influence of the noble feelings inspired and upheld by the spirit-stirring effusions of the venerated and deep-versed Bards, is prominently displayed in the history of both Gaël and Cymry.

Their chivalrous feelings are indicated by proverbs, the repetition of which instilled respect for virtue in the minds of youth ; and the generous feelings of a warrior were implanted, while the ferocity of a barbarian was subdued ;* Cha n'eil fealladh ann, is mo, no'n gealladh gun a choghealladh.” There is no greater. deception than a promise without performance. “Cha'n fhuilling an onair caramh." Honour will not bear patching.

And “Gwell angau na chywilydd.” Better death than shame : say the Welsh.

A virtue for which the Celtæ were proverbial was hospitality.

In the old Gaelic there is but one word for a brave man and a good man, and but one for a landed gentleman and a hospitable person. A happy state of society," says the learned Dr. M.Pherson, “when the generous and martial virtues are the only themes."

The morality of the Celtic inhabitants of Britain is indisputably evinced by the peace and happiness in which they live, under disadvantages which are in some cases deplorably great. The modern Highlanders “are no less sober than generally correct and exemplary in their moral conduct," an assertion not to be denied. That the Gaelic population of Scotland is "the smallest portion of the Celtic race, but decidedly the most susceptible of improvement,"may be also true; but that the means of substantial improvement have been ever afforded them, admits of great doubt. To be sure, the “barbarous and Ethnic" inhabitants have not been lately so harshly used as they were in former ages, when James VI. advised his officers to “ danton the overlords and chiefs” by a strict enforcement of his unjust and cruel

[ocr errors]

“Na seachinn an iorguill, 'sna h iarr i :" Never seek for the battle, nor shun it when it comes.-Fron Mac Coul.

| “Scotsman,” 12th Jan. 1828.

laws, and to "root out the stubborn and barbarous sort in the Isles."

The humane and wise proposal of the celebrated Fletcher of Saltoun, for transporting the whole population and re-colonizing the country, has not indeed been seriously entertained, but a system has been in some parts pursued, which has partially accomplished the first part of ihat legislator's design.

The wild and savage Celts did not appear in so forbidding a character to an Englishman who lived among them one hundred years ago, and who, as an officer in the service of government, when taking measures to coerce the inhabitants, appeared in a character by no means calculated to procure him much civility. He says, “I never had the least reason to complain of the behaviour towards me of any of the ordinary Highlanders; but it wants a great deal that I could say as much of the Englishmen or lowland Scots.”+

Their scrupulous honesty he found in the restoration of a plaiden horse-cloth, which was dropped or stolen: it was sent after him a great distance to Fort William ; and their industrious and managing habits he repeatedly noticed. “Nothing," he elsewhere says, “can be more unjust than the notion that the Highlanders are an indolent lazy people;' an opinion which must have been forced on him by witnessing their diligence and exertion.

Those who contemn the Highland character affect to believe that its amelioration is produced by Saxon intermixture; but we are of opinion that no moral improvement has arisen from that cause. The author of a “Journey through Scotland" in 1729, whose business was chiefly with the Highland gentlemen, gives the praise of superior polish to the northern Scots. “By north Tay the inhabitants are more courteous, familiar and affable, than in the southern parts, and seem to be another people." Dr. Johnson might be quoted to the same purpose ; and many modern writers have confessed the superiority of the Highland character in certain points, compared with their Low country neighbours, and its deterioration by intermixture. A learned author, who resided some time in the Highlands, where he carried “prejudices which nothing but the conviction arising from observation and experience could remove,'

* Hist. of Prince Henry. + Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland.

*

returned with his opinions respecting the people quite changed.

That the Highlanders are indolent and averse to labour, so repeatedly asserted, is here denied. If we take into consideration their circumstances, and the nature of the country they inhabit, we shall be disposed not only to acquit them of laziness, but to award them the praise of active and well-directed industry: The Highlander lives in a country peculiarly unpropitious to the agriculturist. The rigour and variableness of the climate, and general sterility of the soil, are disadvantages which no human industry can obviate ; and in the article of grain the Highland districts were never known to maintain themselves. This, however, is not owing to an indifference for agriculture. The country is best adapted for pasturage; and to this the people pay their chief attention, having it always in their power to supply themselves with grain from the country, which again receives cattle from the mountains.

That agriculture is less attended to than its importance appears to demand, cannot be charged on the farmer as a proof of indolence. He acts with most prudence in declining to raise much corn, when he may lose the whole ; but the mountain spots, where he raises his scanty supply, are tilled and brought into cultivation with the most praiseworthy exertion. He has the labour of cultivation, however small, to perform ; some months are consumed in providing fuel, &c. for winter, and the necessary attention to the cattle certainly leave him little time for indulging his sloth in summer. If the winter, when he cannot with safety venture even far from home, be “spent in comparative inactivity, it is” says Skene Keith, " (involuntary) ease, accompanied with poverty and privation, but under which they are contented, and even cheerful."'$

Their awkward modes of performing their farming operations have been adduced as shewing their obstinate adherence to old customs, and aversion to activity and enter

• Dr. Jamieson.
† Sutherland Agric. Report, &c.

We have seen even in the Low country a field of corn reaped when the snow lay on the ground, and the produce of one and a half acre was only about i peck!!

© Agric. Report for Aberdeen; where it is observed, that “the economy of the Highlander is almost equal to his hospitality.”

prise. The venerable Sir John Sinclair, whose long attention to agriculture renders him an unexceptionable authority, has recommended some of their implements for adoption by the Lowlanders; and an intelligent gentleman from England, who lived among them when much more rude than in our days, observes, “ their methods are too well suited to their own circumstances, and those of the country, to be easily amended by those who undertake to deride them.” A late Essayist, who brings forward this writer as bearing testimony to Highland laziness and disinclination to labour, is yet forced to admit, from the same authority, that the people have no objection to labour, if they can see a prospect of any reward !

Mankind is not indeed naturally desirous of labour. There must be a stimulus for exertion; but, because the Highlander, who manages to live comfortably where others could not exist, does not do a great deal more that is kindly recommended to him, he is charged with an aversion to work !

That neither his alleged " pride,” nor" want of energy" and “disregard of comfort," prevents him from pursuing the habits of industry, and undergoing great toil, is easy, of proof. It is well known that the Highland labourers in the Low country are engaged in the most severe employments, which they go through with an abstemiousness quite astonishing; and the words of the intelligent Dr. Knox, in his “View of the Highlands," may be here quoted." They are a hardy, brave race of men, equally qualified for the domestic, the naval, and military line."" Till the days of Chatham, he proceeds, “the intrinsic value of the Highlanders, like the diamond in the mine, remained in obscurity; some obstructions removed, they shone forth at once a tractable, useful people, who might one day prove a considerable acquisition to the commerce, as well as the internal strength of Britain.” Describing the sufferings of those who, living on the coast, are forced to try the herring fishing as a means of counterbalancing the precariousness of their other sources of subsistence, he draws a touching picture of the miseries to which the poorer tenants are subjected. A better system, however, is now pursued, and landlords have found that it is their policy to be more indulgent to the deserving.--The young men who find no work at home, go southwards from the north Highlands in spring, and engage in all sorts of labour, returning with the few pounds they have hardly earned, to increase the necessaries and comforts of their paternal cottage.

The women, in like manner, go to the harvest, and are often accompanied by the men ; and both, in the words of an intelligent communicant to the Board of Agriculture, " are remarked for their docility, assiduity, and indefatigable execution of all manner of work.” Bands of those light-hearted, labour-seeking peasants, may be seen descending from the mountains, cheerfully following a piper, who inspirits the party by the wild strains of their native vales.

What has been done to change the condition of the “poor Celt," and to induce him to “think less highly of himself,” and embrace “ the arts of peace,” in which he is so far behind ? The extension of commerce and introduction of manufactures are declared to be, in the present state of things, impracticable; and how is the industry of the Highlander to be stimulated, or that ignorance and wretchedness, dirtiness and discomfort, which have so confidently been imputed to them, to be removed ?

It is no blame of the Highland tenant that his case should be so miserable. The rash experiments that have been tried with him, and the injudicious attempts to diffuse knowledge, and impress on him a sense of his inferiority in point of civilization, have had the worst effect. Villages have been formed, and the Highlanders have been invited to settle there ; but scarcely any of them flourish, and the advantages given by the proprietors have been generally accepted by the loose and worthless.

The Caledonian canal, which has cost the country so much, was ostensibly carried on for the benefit of the Highlanders, for whom, it was said, it afforded plenty of work; but very few natives were engaged on it. Those who were employed were chiefly Irish, or people from the south. A good many Welsh were also engaged ; and we know a Cambrian, who now lives in the north, on fortune which his industry at this labour enabled him to accumulate.

Manufactures, the materials for which the country produces in plenty, are neglected. No efficient encouragement has been given to the fishing, and the alteration in the duty on barilla has destroyed the kelp trade.

With all the disadvantages, however, under which the

a

« ПредишнаНапред »