ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Extract Regarding The Clearances
Source: Pages 367 to 369 of 'Scotland - A New History' by Michael Lynch (Pimlico 1991) There are few issues in Scottish history which rouse such deep feelings as the clearances and fewer still in which there is such profound collision of evidence.

Oral history, folk memory, Gaelic poetry, sensational newspaper reports and the evidence given before the Napier Commission in 1883 of the happenings which had taken place one or two generations before are all the stuff of the clearing times. Estate records, learned editorials of pro-landlord newspapers such as the Inverness Courier or the Scotsman, which was fond of blasts against 'Celtic Laziness', demographic statistics showing growing population on the land and the analysis of seemingly inexorable economic factors by some modern historians have all contributed to a defence of landlords. In one view, the logic of Clearance had an inexorable and gathering momentum, because the basic problem was population growth and pressure on the land: the population of the Highlands rose from 115,000 in 1755 to 154,000 in 1801 and to 201,000 by 1831. Congestion on the land led to the clearance of it. In another, the 'Highland Problem' was the creation of the landlords, who encouraged a new structure of small holdings in the period between 1770 and 1810, picked up the new profits to be made from kelp or sheep. and cleared the land when economic trends turned against them.
Debate has, inevitably, often focused on the most notorious cause celebre in the popular mind, the clearances which took place on the huge estate of the Countess of Sutherland in three phases between 1807 and 1821; the number of families involved is difficult to quantify with precision, but some 700 were removed from their farms between 1819 and 1821. The principal estate factor, Patrick Sellar, was acquitted in a High Court trial held at Inverness of the charge of arson, stemming from an eviction in Strathnaver during which some of the houses caught fire. He remained, however, convicted at the bar of Highland folk memory. He has since, on the whole, been defended by most modern economic historians, who have seen no other answer to the problem of growing population on the Sutherland estates. The Sutherland clearances are, however, the wrong case to debate for there were a number of aspects to them which were untypical. Population pressure was not always so unambiguously a factor in favour of clearance. Few Highland landlords of the period had the resources of the Countess of Sutherland, bolstered by her marriage to a wealthy English landowner. Few 'improving' landlords or factors had before the 1840s the same depth of conviction as Sellar, who was convinced as early as 1813 that, in order for the estate to become economically viable, the land had to be completely cleared, if necessary by emigration to North America.

At stake too, it is argued, was a clash of two cultures, Highland and Lowland, which had fundamentally different understandings of the nature of land. Those who lived on the land were deeply attached to it, convinced by the 'traditional' notion of duthchas that they held it in heritable trusteeship. In contrast landed proprietors, who since the later seventeenth century had become exposed to the cosmopolitan (and expensive) world of British landed society, had begun, like Lowland landowners, increasingly to view their estates as commercial enterprises; lordship, which viewed the land as a source of manpower, began to give way to a more 'modern' view which saw it as a resource to be exploited for productivity and profit.

Most were happy, at least until the 1820's, to encourage population growth....Sir John MacDonald of Sleat admitted in 1763 that he could not help rejoicing 'in the flourishing condition of the country when it overflows with people'.

The 'traditional' view of the land was not based solely on immemorial custom. It had been deeply reinforced in the second half of the eighteenth century by large scale grants on some estates of leases in return for service in the British Army. Somewhere between 40,000 and 75,000 Highlanders were recruited into twenty-four regiments of the line and twenty-six of fencibles during the period between 1756 and 1815. This, in a sense, a new form of a very old relationship, of military service, which had always involved tenure of land.

Okay there is debate on the causes of the Clearances, the point I am trying to make with this text is that the Jacobites last throw of the dice that ended at Culloden resulted in horrific atrocities and extensive persecutions and deportations (as well as executions) but these should not be confused with the migration known as the Clearances years later.

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