Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Highland Clearances, Cliven Bundy, and an Armed Populace

On the Scottish side of my family we are descended from Borderers, also known as Reivers. I also know about the Highland Clearances, which is when the government stole the land and evicted the people, killing quite a quite a few.

History always repeats itself, and what happened in the Clearances is now happening in the U.S. Think Cliven Bundy, who is apparently the last rancher in Nevada. The government is trying to steal his land...apparently to give its use to the Chinese (thanks Harry Reid).

This article in from Wikipedia.

"The Highland Clearances (Scottish Gaelic: Fuadach nan GĂ idheal, the 'expulsion of the Gael') was the forced displacement of a significant number of people in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and 19th centuries, as a result of an agricultural revolution that resulted in enclosures, largely carried out by hereditary aristocratic landowners. A Highland Clearance has been defined as “an enforced simultaneous eviction of all families living in a given area such as an entire glen”.

"The clearances are particularly notorious as a result of the brutality of many evictions at short notice (year-by-year tenants had almost no protection under Scots law), and the abruptness of the change from the traditional clan system in which reciprocal obligations between the population and their leaders were well-recognized. The cumulative effect of the Clearances devastated the cultural landscape of Scotland in a way that did not happen in other areas of Britain; the effect of the Clearances was to destroy much of the Gaelic culture.

"The Clearances resulted in significant emigration of Highlanders to the sea coast, the Scottish Lowlands and further afield to North America and Australasia, where today are found considerably more descendants of Highlanders than in Scotland itself.

The Clearances were a complex series of events occurring over a period of more than a hundred years.

"The enclosures in rural England in the British Agricultural Revolution started much earlier, during the Tudor period, and similar developments in Scotland have lately been called the Lowland Clearances by historians such as Tom Devine. But in the Highlands the impact on a Goidelic (Scottish Gaelic)-speaking semi-feudal culture that included the fulfilment of obligations of a chief to his clan, led to vocal campaigning and a lingering bitterness among the descendants of those forced to emigrate or to remain in crofting townships on very small areas of poor farming land.

Changes in clan leadership

"From the late 16th century, laws required clan leaders to appear in Edinburgh regularly to provide bonds for the conduct of anyone in their territory. This created a tendency among chiefs to see themselves as landlords, rather than leaders of men. The lesser clan-gentry increasingly took up droving, taking cattle along the old unpaved drove roads to sell in the Lowlands. This brought wealth and land ownership within the clan, though the Highlands continued to be overpopulated and poor. Crofters became a source of virtually free labour to their landlords, being forced to work long hours in activities such as harvesting and processing of kelp, an activity that reached its peak in the West Highlands between 1750 and 1815.

"The Jacobite Risings brought repeated British government efforts to curb the clans, culminating after the 1746 Battle of Culloden with brutal repression. The Act of Proscription of 1746 incorporating the Dress Act required all swords to be surrendered to the government and prohibited the wearing of tartans and kilts. The Tenures Abolition Act 1660 ended the feudal bond of military service, and the Heritable Jurisdictions Act removed the virtually sovereign power the chiefs held over their clan. The extent of enforcement of the prohibitions varied and related to a clan's support of the government during the rebellion, but overall led to the destruction of the traditional clan system and of the supportive social structures of small agricultural townships.

"From about 1725, in the aftermath of the first Jacobite Rising, Highlanders had begun immigrating to the Americas in increasing numbers. The Disarming Act of 1746 and the Clan Act made ineffectual attempts to subdue the Scottish Highlands, and eventually troops were sent in. Government garrisons were built or extended in the Great Glen at Fort William, Kiliwhimin (later renamed Fort Augustus) and Fort George, Inverness, as well as barracks at Ruthven, Bernera and Inversnaid, linked to the south by the 'Wade roads' (constructed for Major-General George Wade). These had the effect of limiting organisational travel[clarification needed] and choking off news[citation needed]; and further isolated the clans. Nevertheless, conditions remained unsettled for the whole decade.

Economic "improvements"

"What became known as the Clearances were regarded by the landlords as necessary improvements. They are thought to have been begun by Admiral John Ross of Balnagowan Castle in 1762. MacLeod of MacLeod (the chief of MacLeod) began experimental work on Skye in 1732. Chiefs engaged Lowland, or sometimes English, factors with expertise in more profitable sheep farming, and they 'encouraged', sometimes forcibly, the population to move off suitable land.

"To landlords, 'improvement' and 'clearance' did not necessarily mean depopulation. At least until the 1820s, when there were steep falls in the price of kelp, landlords wanted to create pools of cheap or virtually free labour, supplied by families subsisting in new crofting townships. Kelp collection and processing was a very profitable way of using this labour, and landlords petitioned successfully for legislation designed to stop emigration, leading to the Passenger Vessels Act 1803. Attitudes changed during the 1820s and, for many landlords, the potato famine which began in 1846 became another reason for encouraging or forcing emigration and depopulation.

"Yet a century earlier, before the beginning of the Clearances, there were examples of clan chiefs responding to these emerging problems before Culloden. Michael Lynch notes that:

"'If there was a clash within the [ Jacobites and Hanoverians who fought at Culloden ] between a supposedly backward-looking Highland society and a 'progressive', capitalist Lowland economy, it was not a clear-cut one. Cameron of Lochiel, who fought for Charles, was as much a representative of a new capitalist attitude to Highland estate management as was the house of Argyll, ever the mainstay of support for the Hanoverian regime.'

"Clan land had become the private property of individual landlords. Nevertheless, many of those landlords also struggled against harsh economic realities. 'Much of the drama and tragedy of the Highlands is told in the negotiations between financially racked landlords and their creditors, agents and trustees...The best of intentions were never enough amid the more populous and improvement-driven world of the mid-century Highlands.'

"The government gave financial aid for roads and bridges to assist the new sheep-based agriculture and trade.

Year of the Sheep

"Another wave of mass emigration came in 1792, known to Gaelic speaking Highlanders as the Bliadhna nan Caorach ('Year of the Sheep'). In 1792 tenant farmers from Strathrusdale led a protest by driving over 6,000 sheep off the land surrounding Ardross. This action, commonly referred to as the 'Ross-shire Sheep Riot', was dealt with at the highest levels in government; the Home Secretary Henry Dundas became involved. The Black Watch was mobilised; it halted the drive and brought the ringleaders to trial. They were found guilty, but later escaped custody and disappeared.

"The people were accommodated in poor crofts or small farms in coastal areas where farming could not sustain the population, and they were expected to take up fishing. In the village of Badbea in Caithness the conditions were so harsh that, while the women worked, they had to tether their livestock and even their children to rocks or posts to prevent them being blown over the cliffs. Others were put directly onto emigration ships.

Dawson and Farber note that 'although the landlords did not target people for ethnic or religious reasons, the effect of the Clearances was to destroy much of the Gaelic culture, which was dispersed along with the people that fled.' and Protestants were the majority both of the Highland population generally and of those Cleared. Nevertheless, anti-Catholic sentiment (along with famine, poverty and rising rents) was a contributory factor in some Clearances.)

Second phase of the Clearances

"It was only in the early 19th century that the second, more brutal phase of the Clearances began; this was well before the visit by George IV in 1822, when Lowlanders set aside their previous distrust and hatred of the Highlanders and identified with them as national symbols.

"Most notorious are the examples of landlords trying to exploit changing economic circumstances to their financial advantage by clearing uneconomical tenants from their land, making room for more profitable uses such as sheep, deer forests or tourism. Two of the best documented such clearances are those from the land of the Duchess of Sutherland carried out by her factor Patrick Sellar, and the Glencalvie clearances which were witnessed and documented by a London Times reporter.

"In 1807 Elizabeth Gordon, 19th Countess of Sutherland, touring her inheritance with her husband Lord Stafford (later Duke of Sutherland), wrote that 'he is seized as much as I am with the rage of improvements, and we both turn our attention with the greatest of energy to turnips'. As well as turning land over to sheep farming, Stafford planned to invest in creating a coal-pit, salt pans, brick and tile works and herring fisheries. That year his agents began the evictions, and 90 families were forced to leave their crops in the ground and move their cattle, furniture and timbers to the land they were offered 20 miles (32 km) away on the coast, living in the open until they had built themselves new houses. This plan has been described as a 'typical example... of social engineering which met neither the hopes of the benefactors nor the needs of the beneficiaries, but produced social disaster.'

"The Sutherlands' first Commissioner, William Young, arrived in 1809, and soon engaged Patrick Sellar as his factor, who pressed ahead with the process while acquiring sheep farming estates for himself. The Sutherlands were responsible for brutal clearances between 1811 and 1820. Sellar threw people out in person if they showed any reluctance to go, and burned down their crofts to make sure they never came back. Evictions of 2,000 families in one day were not uncommon. Many starved and froze to death where their homes had once been. The Duchess of Sutherland, on seeing the starving tenants on her husband's estate, remarked in a letter to a friend in England, 'Scotch people are of happier constitution and do not fatten like the larger breed of animals.'

"Donald McLeod, a Sutherland crofter, wrote about the events he witnessed: 'The consternation and confusion were extreme. Little or no time was given for the removal of persons or property; the people striving to remove the sick and the helpless before the fire should reach them; next, struggling to save the most valuable of their effects. The cries of the women and children, the roaring of the affrighted cattle, hunted at the same time by the yelling dogs of the shepherds amid the smoke and fire, altogether presented a scene that completely baffles description — it required to be seen to be believed.

"'A dense cloud of smoke enveloped the whole country by day, and even extended far out to sea. At night an awfully grand but terrific scene presented itself — all the houses in an extensive district in flames at once. I myself ascended a height about eleven o'clock in the evening, and counted two hundred and fifty blazing houses, many of the owners of which I personally knew, but whose present condition — whether in or out of the flames — I could not tell. The conflagration lasted six days, till the whole of the dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking ruins. During one of these days a boat actually lost her way in the dense smoke as she approached the shore, but at night was enabled to reach a landing-place by the lurid light of the flames.'

"Accounts like those of McLeod and General David Stewart of Garth brought widespread condemnation. Two old people evicted at Sellar's orders were too ill to go far. He left them exposed to the chill northern air and they died. He was acquitted on a charge of manslaughter, but the Duchess wrote: 'The more I hear and see of Sellar the more I am convinced that he is not to be trusted more than he is at present. He is so exceedingly greedy and harsh with the people, there are very heavy complaints against him from Strathnaver.' In due course Sellar was dismissed from his post.

"Elsewhere, the flamboyant Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry portrayed himself as the last genuine specimen of the true Highland chief while his tenants (almost all Catholic) were subjected to a relentless process of eviction. He abandoned his disbanded regiment; its Catholic chaplain, (later Bishop) Alexander Macdonell led the men and their families to settle in Glengarry County, eastern Ontario, Canada. The area was a major destination for Highland emigrants in the 18th century and early 19th century, and Gaelic was the native tongue of the settlement. In respect for their ancestors' Scottish culture, the county hosts the annual Glengarry Highland Games, one of the biggest Highland Games gatherings of its kind outside Scotland."


Anonymous said...

Intersting historical posting. For what it's worth, the Bureau of Land Management backed down in Nevada.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of Americans just waiting for that first shot to be fired.

John Locke said...

Power flows from the barrel of a gun. History shows that if you're too weak to defend yourself with physical force, then literally everything you have will be taken away from you. Humans are vicious predators on each other.

If some billionaire wanted to disposess you, then you would be disposessed tomorrow. The only thing stopping him is a credible fear that he or his family might be killed or harmed in consequence.

We all want peace. The foundation of peace is mutual strength, not what Bush Jr. called "a GD piece of paper." If you want to defend yourself and achieve peace, get armed: he who desires peace should prepare for war.