Page images
PDF
EPUB

and generous attachment, which, however erroneous the judgment may be, are honourable for the heart; I must do the Highlanders the justice to attest, that I found everywhere among them a high opinion of the virtue of the king now upon the throne, and an honest disposition to be faithful subjects to his majesty, whose family has possessed the sovereignty of this country so long, that a change, even for the abdicated family, would now hurt the best feelings of all his subjects.

The abstract point of right would involve us in a discussion of remote and perplexed questions; and, after all, we should have no clear principle of decision. That establishment which, from political necessity, took place in 1688, by a breach in the succession of our kings, and which, whatever benefits may have accrued from it, certainly gave a shock to our monarchy, the able and constitutional Blackstone wisely rests on the solid footing of authority :-" Our ancestors having most indisputably a competent jurisdiction to decide this great and important question, and having, in fact, decided it, it is now become our duty, at this distance of time, to acquiesce in their determination."*

Mr. Paley, the present Archdeacon of Carlisle, in his "Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy," having, with much clearness of argument, shown the duty of submission to civil government to be founded, neither on an indefeasible jus divinum nor on compact, but on expediency, lays down this rational position: :-"Irregularity in the first foundation of a state, or subsequent violence, fraud, or injustice, in getting possession of the supreme power, are not sufficient reasons for resistance after the government is once peaceably settled. No subject of the British empire conceives himself engaged to vindicate the justice of the Norman claim or conquest, or apprehends that his duty in any manner depends upon that controversy.* So, likewise, if the house of Lancaster, or even the posterity of Cromwell, had been at this day seated upon the throne of England, we should have been as little concerned to inquire how the founder of the family came there."+

* Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book I. chap. 3.-Boswell.

B. VI. chap. iii.-Since I have quoted Mr. Archdeacon Paley upon one subject, I cannot but transcribe from his excellent work a distinguished passage in support of the Christian Revelation. After showing, in decent but strong terms, the unfairness of the indirect attempts of modern infidels to unsettle and perplex religious principles, and particularly the irony, banter, and sneer of one whom he politely calls, “an eloquent historian," [Gibbon] the archdeacon thus expresses himself:

"Seriousness is not constraint of thought, nor levity of freedom. Every mind which wishes the advancement of truth and knowledge, in the most important of all human researches, must abhor this licentiousness, as violating no less the laws of reasoning than the rights of decency. There is but one description of men to whose principles it ought to be tolerable. I mean that class of reasoners who can see little in Chris

In conformity with this doctrine, I myself, though fully persuaded that the house of Stuart had originally no right to the crown of Scotland, for that Baliol, and not Bruce, was the lawful heir, should yet have thought it very culpable to have rebelled, on that account, against Charles I., or even a prince of that house much nearer the time, in order to assert the claim of the posterity of Baliol.

However convinced I am of the justice of that principle which holds allegiance and protection to be reciprocal, I do, however, acknowledge, that I am not satisfied with the cold sentiment which would confine the exertions of the subject within the strict line of duty. I would have every breast animated with the fervour of loyalty with that generous attachment which delights in doing somewhat more than is required, and makes "service perfect freedom." And, therefore, as our most gracious sovereign, on his accession to the throne, gloried in being born a Briton,* so, in my

tianity even supposing it to be true. To such adversaries we address this reflection: Had Jesus Christ delivered no other declaration than the following-'The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth-they that have done well unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation,' he had pronounced a message of inestimable importance, and well worthy of that splendid apparatus of prophecy and miracles with which his mission was introduced and attested-a message in which the wisest of mankind would rejoice to find an answer to their doubts, and rest to their inquiries. It is idle to say that a future state had been discovered already. It had been discovered as the Copernican system was-it was one guess amongst many. He alone discovers who proves; and no man can prove this point but the teacher who testifies by miracles that his doctrine comes from God."-Book V. chap. ix.

If infidelity be disingenuously dispersed in every shape that is likely to allure, surprise, or beguile the imagination-in a fable, a tale, a novel, a poem-in books of travels, of philosophy, of natural history-as Mr. Paley has well observed-I hope it is fair in me thus to meet such poison with an unexpected antidote, which I cannot doubt will be found powerful.-BOSWELL.

* George III., in his first speech to parliament, November 18, 1760, said-" Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton." This use of the appellation Briton instead of Englishman was attributed to Lord Bute and the Scotch influence supposed to preponderate in the court of the young king. Junius makes it one of the points of attack against the sovereign: "When you affectedly renounced the name of Englishman, believe me, sir, you were persuaded to pay a very ill-judged compliment to one part of your subjects at the expense of another." We find Lord Bute using the name of Briton in one of his letters to Home, the author of "Douglas," dated from Venice, October 5, 1770: "I hope I may get better, if permitted to enjoy that peace, that liberty, which is the birthright of the meanest Briton, but which has been long denied to me." (Mackenzie's "Life of John Home.") The Bute influence (" a power behind the throne greater than the throne itself") was much exaggerated; but it had the effect of perpetuating and increasing the prejudice against Scotland, which Johnson, Junius, and others entertained. Lord Chatham disclaimed it. In his celebrated speech, when boasting of having called into the service of the State a hardy and intrepid race of men from the mountains of the north, he added, "It was not the country I objected to, but the man of that country (Lord Bute), because he wanted wisdom, and held principles incompatible with freedom."-ED.

more private sphere, Ego me nunc denique natum gratulor. I am happy that a disputed succession no longer distracts our minds, and that a monarchy established by law is now so sanctioned by time, that we can fully indulge those feelings of loyalty which I am ambitious to excite. They are feelings which have ever actuated the inhabitants of the Highlands and the Hebrides. The plant of loyalty is there in full vigour, and the Brunswick graft now flourishes like a native shoot. To that spirited race of people I may with propriety apply the elegant lines of a modern poet, on the "facile temper of the beauteous sex:"

66 Like birds new caught, who flutter for a time,
And struggle with captivity in vain ;

But by and by they rest, they smooth their plumes
And to new masters sing their former notes." *

Surely such notes are much better than the querulous growlings of suspicious Whigs and discontented Republicans.

Kingsburgh conducted us in his boat across one of the lochs, as they call them, or arms of the sea, which flow in upon all the coasts of Sky, to a mile beyond a place called Grishinish. Our horses had been sent round by land to meet us. By this sail we saved eight miles of bad riding.† Dr. Johnson said: "When we take into computation what we have saved, and what we have gained, by this agreeable sail, it is a great deal." He observed: "It is very disagrecable riding in Sky. The way is so narrow, one only at a time can travel, so it is quite unsocial; and you cannot indulge in meditation by yourself, because you must be always attending to the steps which your horse takes." This was a just and clear description of its inconveniencies.

The topic of emigration being again introduced, Dr. Johnson said, that "a rapacious chief would make a wilderness of his estate." Mr. Donald Macqueen told us, that the oppression which then made so much noise was owing to landlords listening to bad advice in the letting of their lands, that interested and designing people flattered them with golden dreams of much higher rents than could reasonably be paid, and that some of the gentlemen tacksmen, or upper tenants, were themselves in part the occasion of the mischief, by over-rating the farms of others. That many of the tacksmen, rather than

"Agis," a tragedy, by John Home.

+ The distance actually saved by the sail from Kingsburgh to the head of Loch Grishornish is about seventeen miles of riding.-ED.

Pennant states that a large farm in Skye, which in 1750 used to let for 161. per annum, had before 1772 been raised to 501.; and that the whole rental of the island,

comply with exorbitant demands, had gone off to America and impoverished the country, by draining it of its wealth, and that their places were filled by a number of poor people who had lived under them, properly speaking, as servants, paid by a certain proportion of the produce of the lands, though called sub-tenants. I observed, that if the men of substance were once banished from a Highland estate, it might probably be greatly reduced in its value; for one bad year might ruin a set of poor tenants, and men of any property would not settle in such a country, unless from the temptation of getting land extremely cheap; for an inhabitant of any good county in Britain had better go to America than to the Highlands or Hebrides. Here, therefore, was a consideration that ought to induce a chief to act a more liberal part, from a mere motive of interest, independent of the lofty and honourable principle of keeping a clan together, to be in readiness to serve his king. I added, that I could not help thinking a little arbitrary power in the sovereign, to control the bad policy and greediness of the chiefs, might sometimes be of service. In France, a chief would not be permitted to force a number of the king's subjects out of the country. Dr. Johnson concurred with me, observing, that were an oppressive chieftain a subject of the French king, he would probably be admonished by a letter." [Lettre de cachet.]

[ocr errors]

During our sail, Dr. Johnson asked about the use of the dirk, with

which in 1750 was only 3,5001., had " by an unnatural force" been doubled or trebled. Even then, however, the greatest rent in Skye was only 801., and the medium rate 301. or 407. The new rents do not appear to have been exorbitant, but the rise was too sudden, and the people unprepared to meet it. The country exhibited the remains of feudalism without its chivalry-a people unused to steady industry, and chiefs without power or riches. Cattle was the principal trade of the island; about 4000 being sold annually, at from 21. to 31. each. About 250 horses were sold. No sheep were kept but for home consumption, or for the wool to make clothes. The population of Skye in 1755 was 11,252; it is now nearly double, and is thus classed:-Proprietors, clergy, schoolmasters, professional men, &c., 77; shopkeepers and tradesmen, 380; farmers or tacksmen of more than thirty arable acres, 41; small tenants of less than thirty, and not less than eight arable acres, 184; crofters of less than eight arable acres, 1,888; cottars with no land and no regular trade, 1,765-total of individuals in Skye, in 1851, 22,532. The rental of the island is now nominally about 24,000l.; but the bulk of the people being small crofters or cottars, the potato-blight cut off their chief means of subsistence, and the arrears of rent are considerable. Kelp, herring fishing, potatoes, and cattle, the chief sources of employment and subsistence, successively failed or declined, while the population continued to increase."-" Sir John M'Neill's Report." The great bar to the extension of arable cultivation in Skye and the other islands is the wet and stormy climate. The corn-market is now open to the competition of all the world, and the Hebridean farmer, retarded at every stage of his operations by heavy rains and stormy winds, would have no chance as a corn-grower with the genial nations of the south. Still it is believed that, by a judicious expenditure under the Drainage Act, the lands now in the possession of the small tenants might be made capable of producing a third or fourth more than they produce at present, and thus tend to avert those periodical famines which have so often scourged the Hebrides.-ED.

L

which he imagined the Highlanders cut their meat. He was told, they had a knife and fork besides, to eat with. He asked, how did the women do? and was answered, some of them had a knife and fork too; but in general the men, when they had cut their meat, handed their knives and forks to the women, and they themselves ate with their fingers. The old tutor of Macdonald always ate fish with his fingers, alleging that a knife and fork gave it a bad taste. I took the liberty to observe to Dr. Johnson, that he did so. "Yes," said he, "but it is because I am short-sighted, and afraid of bones, for which reason I am not fond of eating many kinds of fish, because I must use my fingers."

Dr. Macpherson's "Dissertations on Scottish Antiquities," which he had looked at when at Corrichatachin, being mentioned, he remarked, that "you might read half an hour, and ask yourself what you had been reading there were so many words to so little matter, that there was no getting through the book."

As soon as we reached the shore, we took leave of Kingsburgh, and mounted our horses. We passed through a wild moor, in many places so soft that we were obliged to walk, which was very fatiguing to Dr. Johnson. Once he had advanced on horseback to a very bad step. There was a steep declivity on his left, to which he was so near, that there was not room for him to dismount in the usual way. He tried to alight on the other side, as if he had been a young buck indeed, but in the attempt he fell at his length upon the ground, from which, however, he got up immediately, without being hurt. During this dreary ride, we were sometimes relieved by a view of branches of the sea-that universal medium of connection amongst mankind. A guide, who had been sent with us from Kingsburgh, explored the way (much in the same manner as, I suppose, is pursued in the wilds of America), by observing certain marks, known only to the inhabitants. We arrived at Dunvegan late in the afternoon. The great size of the castle, which is partly old and partly new, and is built upon a rock close to the sea, while the land around it presents nothing but wild, moorish, hilly, and craggy appearances, gave a rude magnificence to the scene.* Having dismounted, we ascended

* The old storm-beaten castle of Dunvegan and its wild shore have been rendered classic ground by Johnson and Sir Walter Scott. The first rude tower which constituted the residence of the chief is said to date back as far as the ninth century. A second and higher tower was built by Alasteir Macleod, called Crotach, or the Humpbacked, who died in 1428. Rorie More, who was knighted by James VI., connected the towers by a low range of buildings, and almost every succeeding chief added something to the massive and venerable pile. The late and present Macleod were large contributors, adding comfort and elegance to the strength and picturesqueness which the castle always displayed. Its site was probably determined at first by the

« PreviousContinue »