§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College),
in rising to move the following Amendment to the Address: —Humbly to express to Your Majesty our regret that no reference is made in Your Most Gracious Speech to the acute distress which prevails in many parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, to the disturbances which have arisen out of that distress, or to any projected remedial legislation intended to put an end to the critical state of matters which at present exists in the North of Scotland;said, that if the Queen's Speech had contained no allusion to Scotland whatever he should have explained the fact to himself by recollecting that there was no Representative of Scotland in the Cabinet at present. But he saw from the Speech that Her Majesty's Government had not altogether forgotten that Scotland existed, and they had consulted someone who had framed a paragraph for the Speech for Scotland. But they might have consulted someone who knew Scotland better, as although the paragraph consisted of hardly four lines, it showed that the party who drew it up did not know how to spell the word "burgh" according to the Scotch fashion and usage. The paragraph mentioned two or three proposed Bills, concerning which he had not heard one word during the Recess. On the other hand, the matters of which he complained in his Amendment had attracted 1011 the most widespread attention in Scotland, and they could not possibly have been unknown to the Government, although the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland (the Marquess of Lothian) had not a place in the Cabinet. Not only had the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland knowledge of them, but the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) bad as intimate a knowledge, for they had been the cause of the greatest naval demonstration that had take place on the part of this country since the bombardment of Alexandria. They had five ships of war threatening the shores of the Island of Lewis—the Belleisle, the Seahorse, the Jackal, the Amelia, and the Forester. With them co-operated on land a detachment of the Royal Scots. Not only was this the case, but the troopship Assistance, with 200 Marines, had been ordered, to take part in the demonstration, and the Ajax would have been present at it too if that vessel, being built on approved Amiralty principles, had not, on the voyage to Stornoway, broken down and been only saved from foundering by the skilful seamanship of its commander and crew. The cause of this expedition was the Park Forest deer raid, which was not marked by any violence except on the part of one man, whom the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) did not prosecute. The raid was an incident about which the noble Marquess the Secretary for Sootland—after having a fortnight to study the facts of the case—deliberately and publicly stated that he had no doubt that although the men had broken the law they had not broken it from any bad motive whatever. In assuming a breach of the law had been committed to justify the sending of the expedition, the noble Marquess seemed to speak without the book, because, notwithstanding the fact of the unrivalled criminal experience of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, and notwithstanding that last year he obtained an Act from the House to render the drawing of indictments more easy — notwithstanding all that, he failed to prove any relevant indictment against these men; and the only result of the trial—disadvantageously conducted for the prisoners as it was—was to prove that these men—who undoubtedly took part in the deer raid—were not guilty of 1012 the crime libelled; and that apparently the crime under which they were libelled was the only one under which it was competent to libel them. Now, as to the origin of this raid. It arose out of the extreme destitution of the 27,000 inhabitants of the Island of Lewis. In the commencement of November the destitution began to be bitterly felt, and the result was—as might naturally be expected in an Island where such a quantity of land was devoted to game— that poaching largely increased. On one day nine men were tried for poaching. The tale of misery told by these men moved the heart of the Sheriff, and it was with the greatest reluctance that he was compelled to impose the penalty that the law required. Some of the men were fined 20s., and so much sympathy had the Sheriff for them in their distress that he allowed them a fortnight to try and scrape up the fine, so that they might be able to avoid going to prison. As a matter of fact, even in the case of a man who had not been able to pay the fine, imprisonment was not enforced, for when he (Dr. Cameron) sent the fine to the goal in order to have the man released, he made the discovery that he was not there. In this miserable condition the crofters saw 140 square acres of the Island, on which they might live comfortably, devoted to deer. They saw, too, in that deer forest the sites of many old crofts that their forefathers had cultivated. They believed that if they only could get the land that had been cultivated by their forefathers they might live in comparative comfort, but they also knew that their frequent applications for some of that land had been persistently refused, or no notice taken of them by the proprietor. On the 12th November the inhabitants had a meeting. There were present on that occasion a large number of cottars who had neither land nor stock to fall back upon, and in their poverty and starvation they resolved to make a raid on the deer forest and provide themselves with a few good meals of venison. Having concluded their arrangements for the 23rd of the month, they invited the Sheriff —the proprietor and the lessee of the shooting—to visit their homes and see for himself what was their condition. The Sheriff at first consented to go, and a deputation was appointed to receive him, but on the 18th November he wrote 1013 stating that the object of his visit to them might be misconstrued. He subsequently, however, saw Mr. Donald Macrae, of Ballallan—a schoolmaster, of Ballallan—who was afterwards arraigned as the ringleader of the raid— and endeavoured to get that gentleman to stop the projected deer raid. Mr. Macrae told him that he could not undertake to do that unless the starving people were supplied with meal, and as the Sheriff had no authority to give the assistance required the raid took place. There was no secrecy about the affair. It was conducted quite openly, and in a most orderly manner. They went to the forests, carrying with them old sails and poles for camping purposes, in the open day, and attended, like an army, by quite an array of newspaper correspondents. Having slain a certain number of deer, they had a repast, and one of the elders offered up an eloquent and appropriate benediction. There was no act of violence committed except in one single instance, where a man named Donald MacKinnon, a member of the Constitutional Party, and an ornament to the Primrose League on the Island, threatened to shoot the Inspector of Police who threatened to arrest him. The raiders in returning home were met by the Sheriff, who read the Riot Act, and they, out of reapect for Her Majesty and the law, fired their guns in the air and dispersed. It was part of the programme that any man who was wanted afterwards by the police should give himself up; and that the authorities recognized that that was a bonâ fide arrangement was shown by the fact that one policeman was sent many miles into the Island with a list of the men required by the authorities. The crofters entertained the policeman to the best of their ability, and sent word to the men whose names appeared in the list. The men afterwards walked a distance of between 15 and 20 miles to Stornoway and gave themselves up. This incident was followed by raids on sheep farms. In Lewis, Ross, and Sutherlandshire, mobs assembled, fences were destroyed, and there were a couple of conflicts with the police, but no one received any serious injury. Well, he thought these proceedings were deserving of some notice in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech. Undoubtedly the cause of the destitution was the failure of the fishing, and it 1014 was greatly aggravated by an unprecedentedly severe epidemic of measles— unprecedented in severity and violence for the last half-century—which broke out in the Island a few months ago. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, in answer to a Question yesterday, said it was a mild epidemic—
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
said, what he had stated was that the disease was of a mild type.
§ DR. CAMERON
said, the Lord Advocate would find from reliable reports from the officers that the epidemic was the most severe that had visited the Island for half-a-century. The men were starving on an insufficient diet of potatoes. Many of them were obliged to eat seed potatoes, which they had put away for the coming year. Some had been obliged to live for weeks on rotten potatoes which they gathered from the fields. In the condition the crofters were in it was not to be expected that they had great faith in the eternal justice and infallibility of the doctrines of political economy. They had heard a doctrine preached by its great apostle — the "land for the people," and that seemed to them to be a doctrine much more suited to their cause. They saw land unstintedly devoted to sheep, deer, and game, and they believed if they could get that land they might be able to live. If not, they must go on starving. Prison had no terror for them. In many instances the crofters offered themselves to the police to be arrested. And now fresh raids were threatened. Hitherto the crofters had published their plans. When they saw that these tactics did not work well, they would adopt the tactics of secrecy, and then, it was as clear as daylight, recourse to force must be useless—as useless as force had been found to capture the modern "Rob Roy" Kerr, against whom three expeditions had been sent, or to suppress that illicit distillation which, in consequence of the prevailing poverty, had again become very prevalent in the Highlands. What steps did the Government take in this state of matters? What steps did they intend taking? He should have liked more information on the latter point in Her Majesty's Speech. Hitherto the Government had relied on gunboats and martial law—upon a 1015 vigorous enforcement of the law, as it was called. Latterly the Government instituted an inquiry. The gunboats were sent on the first rumour of anything being wrong, but the inquiry was not instituted till after many weeks of delay. The enforcement of the law was vigorous, but it was partial and one-sided in the extreme. The inquiry was quite right. Its results had confirmed what was known weeks and months ago. He (Dr. Cameron) only complained that the inquiry was not instituted sooner, and that it was not carried out in a less obviously whitewashing spirit; and he complained further that no indication was given in Her Majesty's Speech of any steps based on the result of that inquiry. As for the gunboats, he protested against their employment when they were employed. He thought it was a disgrace to the Government that a country like Scotland could not be ruled without our having every year a fresh naval expedition sent against the crofters. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was Home Secretary he was repeatedly asked to send gunboats and military to Skye, and he laid down in a State Paper the principles which should guide a Government in interfering with military force in local affairs In a document written by the then Lord Advocate under his direction, he said—The duty of preserving the peace and exercising the law in a county rests upon the county authorities who are by statute authorized to maintain a police force for that purpose. The number of the force must necessarily depend upon the state of the county and nature of the service; but recourse should not he had to military aid unless in case of sudden riot and extraordinary emergency, to deal with which police cannot he obtained, and soldiers should not he employed upon police duty which is likely to be of a continuous character.He (Dr. Cameron) maintained that not a single one of those principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman had been recognized in the present case. There was no resistance whatever even to a single policeman for weeks after the naval force had been lying off Lewis. The despatch of that force contravened every principle laid down by the Liberal Home Secretary. It was especially obnoxious, because it was sent in the interest of deer preserving, and because it afterwards turned out that it was 1016 sent in consequence of an action which had proved to be not an indictable offence under the law of Scotland. This policy of gunboats and marines was a useless policy if intended to be permanent, because the moment the crofters resorted to tactics of secrecy gunboats and marines could do nothing. It was a foolish policy if it was intended to be only temporary, because it prevented the Local Authorities relying upon their own resources and exercising the powers which Parliament had conferred upon them. As to the enforcement of the law by the Government, he complained that it had been vindictive and one-sided, and calculated to destroy respect for the fairness of the law and for the law itself, and that its effect had been to raise up throughout Scotland a feeling of sympathy adverse to the law and its administrators, and sympathetic with those who were ranged against the law. He could go into numerous cases; but, taking the case of the deer raid, he would point out that that raid was dealt with by means of gunboats. The Riot Act was called into requisition, the law put in motion by a Public Prosecutor to whom they had repeatedly objected, because he was the law agent of the proprietor of the Island, and also of the tenant of the deer forest. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, not content with trying the men locally, dragged them to Edinburgh for trial. He must needs change the venue. The men were all poor, and it was impossible for them to bring witnesses to Edinburgh. They asked for assistance to bring witnesses. They wished to bring the Sheriff and some other persons of high and undoubted position in the Island. But the Government refused any such assistance. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate himself brought witnesses. He brought that ruffian MacKinnon, who, of all the raiders, had been guilty of violence, who was proved to be the ringleader; and he put him in the witness-box in order that he might criminate his less guilty associates. These unfortunate men had against them the eloquence of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson), and could bring no witnesses in their defence. But in this case the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Department received a slap in the 1017 face. They only elicited a decision and judgment to the effect that, according to the Common Law of Scotland, it was no crime to trespass—that trespass constituted a proper ground under Common Law for an action for damages, but that it was only a crime in specific instances, where it had been constituted a crime by Act of Parliament—as in the case of trespass in pursuit of game. It elicited from the Judge the dictum that deer were not game, and not property; and from the jury the decision that trespass was not mobbing and rioting—all of which decisions were to those who, like himself, thought it a crying scandal that 3,000 square miles in the Highlands of Scotland should be monopolised by deer forests, afforded ample compensation for the inconvenience which the crofters had been put to. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate knew well the impossibility of these men bringing proper evidence before an Edinburgh jury. They had no funds. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knew how similar proceedings last year had miscarried, and how injustice had been done. He knew how in 1886 a notorious idiot —a man in receipt of parochial relief as an imbecile—had been led by his idiot curiosity into a riotous mob in whose proceedings he took no part; how that he, having been brought to trial at Edinburgh, and having no witnesses to testify that he was imbecile, was sent with the rest for months to prison. Again, this year, he could give an instance where a miscarriage of justice had obviously occurred. Here was another case. He held in his hand a letter from a gentleman known to many hon. Members of the House—the Rev. Norman Mackay, minister of Lochinver—who wrote that a meeting had been called near Clashmore to protest against the sentences and to try to get Hugh Matheson out of prison. Mr. Mackay, and the minister of the people there, met with the Clashmore men, and he wrote—I am quite satisfied—from evidence that can be produced—that Matheson was not in the row, and that he is as innocent of it as any one can be. He only met the crowd after the work was over and they had dispersed. Nine men who were onlookers can hear witness to this, three who were with him in a house can certify it, and all those who were blackened, if secured against prosecution, will bear witness that Matheson was not there.But Hugh Matheson—in spite of the 1018 recommendation of the jury to mercy— was now undergoing sentence of twelve months' imprisonment. He complained not only that the crofters had been persecuted by the Government, but that the law had been strained against them in a manner deserving the reprobation of everybody who regarded the Constitutional liberties of our country. They— the authorities—did not bother themselves about warrants in the Highlands. The other day he read in the Scottish correspondence of The Times a statement that an Excise officer in the Highlands had expected to make some important seizure of apparatus used in illicit distillation. When he went to a house he was asked to produce his warrant, but having no warrant he had no alternative but to go away for one. Even an Irish Member arrested under the Coercion Act had a right to demand a warrant. But the police did not stand on ceremony in the Highlands. If they were asked for a warrant during the recent occurrences they threatened men for obstructing them in the discharge of their duties, or if they vouchsafed any explanation, it was that the man was wanted for cross-examination, and on with the handcuffs and off to the Seahorse. Let the House contrast such cases with cases where landlords were concerned. Let them contrast the action of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate in cases where landlords and not crofters were concerned. Last year a Sheriff's officer burned down a crofter's hut. [Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD dissented.] Why, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had him reprimanded. He was a namesake of his own—Macdonald. They tried to get proceedings taken against him for incendiarism, which was an unbailable offence under the law of Scotland; but the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate said he could see no case for action. The other day a man was charged with setting fire to his own house in Dundee —but this was a non-agrarian offence— and, although the defence was set up that he did no harm to the property of his neighbours, the Judge ridiculed the plea, and the man was now in prison, illustrating the state of the Scottish law. Men had been sent to prison for 12 months for pulling down the walls round a sheep farm. Well, the other day the proprietor of an estate at Aberlour—a Deputy Lieutenant of 1019 his county and a Justice of the Peace —pulled down a crofter's but without giving the tenant any warning or notice to quit. The case was brought before the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate by another Justice of the Peace, but the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate absolutely refused to take any cognizance of the matter. He would not say that the landlord was actuated by any criminal motive. His eyes were simply blinded to the real state of the law by an extravagant idea of his landlords' rights, just as he said the crofters were blinded to the state of the law by their theory of the people's right to the land. But in each case equally a breach of the law was committed. In the one case the men were crofters, in the other it was a landlord and a Deputy Lieutenant. In the one case, accordingly, the Fleet was called into requisition; in the other the bandage was simply drawn a little tighter round the eyes of Justice, and the Lord Advocate declared there was no case. But, to come to the inquiry instituted by the Government. He (Dr. Cameron) asked why was it not instituted a little earlier? On 12th December Lord Lothian, in replying to a deputation, begged the members that "if anything came to their knowledge that there was such great destitution as to cause occurrences such as had lately taken place, they would be so kind as to come and tell him before, and not after such occurrences had taken place; for it seemed to his Lordship's mind that one of the difficulties in dealing with a question of this kind was that those who agitated got something, and those who had not agitated got nothing." Well, a good many years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) used an expression about the Clerkenwell outrage which his opponents construed into an encouragement to outrage. But what plainer encouragement to outrage and to agitation could they have than that conveyed in that speech of the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland? No wonder after that that the agitation became brisker, and took the form of raids upon sheep farms and diverting of salmon rivers. Did not the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland know of the destitution that created this state of things? Early in November Sheriff Fraser knew all about it. What were the Parochial 1020 Boards for but to let him know? They were under the Board of Supervision; and if the Board did not do its duty, why did not the noble Marquess himself see into what was a matter of notoriety? Of what use was the Scottish Secretary if he could not see that the administrative machinery of the country was working smoothly? He must have known that something was going on, or he would not have sent the gunboats. He might have guessed that it was not for the mere sake of fun that the crofters abandoned the attitude which they had so long maintained in connection with those deer forests. If he knew anything of the modern history of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, he must have guessed very shrewdly that the disturbances arose out of some exacerbation of the chronic want which prevailed. If he had instituted an inquiry a little sooner, it appeared to him (Dr. Cameron) that the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland might have devised some cheaper and more satisfactory remedy than a Naval squadron. If he had inquired he would have learned that the Poor Law machinery of the Island of Lewis was a mere mockery, that the Parochial Boards never met, and that the proprietor was practically the Board. He would have learned that the elected members were elected at hole-and-corner meetings, and that in some cases these members did not know that they had been elected until they were summoned for a meeting of the Board by the gentleman sent to inquire into the state of Lewis a few weeks ago. If he had asked the medical officers he would have learned that—An epidemic of measles had appeared more searching and universal than any known for the last half-century; that the epidemic broke out before the crofters had had time to convert their grain crops into meal, and that the cottars were prevented not only by want of means to buy food, but also by the sickness of their families from going out to the fishing.Hundreds of sick were lying on straw, and those who were well deprived themselves of clothes in order to cover the sick. He might have learned, as he (Dr. Cameron) learned, from the deputation, that in many cases where poultices were ordered, for the sick there was not enough meal in the house to make them. A large proportion of the paupers, who have not even the alterna- 1021 tive of a poor-house, are expected to live on less than 1d. a-day, and half of the paupers on the Island did not receive a 1s. a-week. The families of those who died got 4s. to buy a box and dig a grave to consign them to the earth. Although the Parochial Authorities were also the Sanitary Authorities in that district, not a thing had been done in the matter of sanitation. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate talked of segregation, but there was not a single hospital, hut, or tent put up in the Island, and as for provision being made for the sick let him look at the Blue Book and see if he could repeat that assertion. And as to the provision made for the sick, while in the whole Island there were 900 sick in the last three months of 1887, the entire amount expended by all the Parochial Boards in the Island during the entire year was only £24. In the parish of Lochs there were 300 sick, and 16 deaths occurred during the last three months of 1887, and the entire amount expended on nutritious diet for the whole year was £4 13s. 10½d. In Barvas, where there were also during these three months some 300 sick, the entire amount spent in the year was £2 19s. 4d. He might have learned, if he had read the report of Mr. M'Neill, that even the inspectors of poor—who were not reputed to be a tender-hearted set of men —denounced the provision as absolutely inadequate, and came, some of them, begging to the administrators of charitable funds for God's sake not to forget their poor regiment of paupers. Under these circumstances, it was not to him strange that, while the women and children were starving, the men cast their longing eyes towards the deer forests and ground occupied by game. As it was, the noble Marquess must have had some idea of the matter, for he said, in reply to a deputation—I feel very strongly in regard to a great many in these Islands who are living in a desperate state of misery.In discussing the remedies with the deputation, he said something might be done in the way of reforming the Land Laws, but he could not express himself upon that point before he had consulted Lord Salisbury. He (Dr. Cameron) would like to know what the result of that consultation had been. There was no indication of the result of his con- 1022 sultation with Lord Salisbury in Her Majesty's Speech. Again, in referring to the cases of the cottars—for whose benefit various suggestions had been made by a Royal Commission which a few years ago investigated the whole subject—the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland could also make no definite proposal until he had consulted Lord Salisbury. He (Dr. Cameron) asked if he had consulted Lord Salisbury. Was he going to do nothing for those cottars? If there was one subject on which the noble Marquess had a mind of his own, it was the subject of emigration. He had no doubt about that; the evil was due to overcrowding, and emigration was the obvious remedy. But it appeared to him (Dr. Cameron) that if the 250 square miles —constituting about half the area of the Island —and which were now used principally as deer forests and game, and in which large districts were available for the feeding of stock—were handed over to the crofters, the Island would be considerably less over populated. As to emigration, it always struck him (Dr. Cameron) that however strong a Minister might be upon political economy, when other remedies were suggested, all ideas of political economy fled from him in connection with emigration. When public works were suggested, the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland said, he could not justify the giving of relief to the crofters because there was as much distress in London and Liverpool, and how would they justify giving relief from Imperial funds to the Highlands if they refused it to London and Liverpool? But the noble Marquess altogether failed to see that there were people in London and Liverpool who would like to emigrate, and to go out and get rich in Canada. What was the result of the deliberations with Lord Salisbury in regard to emigration? The Government must not be too confident about emigration. The report of Mr. M'Neill was a special plea for emigration from beginning to end, but that report he (Dr. Cameron) contended was based on arguments which would not hold water for a minute. Great stress was in that report laid on the evidence of Mr. Clark, of Ulva. He happened to be an intimate friend of that gentleman's only son, the late Sheriff Clark, and that gentleman had 1023 again and again told him there never was a greater economic mistake than the clearance of Ulva. Emigration had been tried in Lewis. Sir James Matheson had spent upwards of £12,000 on it, and between 1867 and 1873 2,300 persons had been emigrated, while from the Highlands of Scotland hundreds of thousands of people were emigrated to Canada, but the Highlands were no better. Millions of people emigrated from Ireland; yet, was Ireland more prosperous, more contented? If the Government believed prosperity could be restored by reducing the population, they must try some experiment that had not been, tried and failed 100 times, and he would suggest to them as a much more likely panacea the plan ironically embodied in his "Modest Proposal" by Dean Swift. It was absurd to rely on emigration—in the case of the Highlands—as a remedy, for the very simple reason that the people would not emigrate. Why? Because traditions lived among them, and there had been some cruel instances of clearances within a generation. Hardly more than 30 years ago a ship sailed from Stornoway with 450 men, women, and children cleared from the neighbouring Islands. A letter was sent back, signed by 70 of them, when they arrived in Canada, which told how the islanders had attempted to escape this voluntary emigration; how a number had gone to the hills; how they were pursued by the police and ground officers, and 20 of them brought back by force and handcuffed; how families were separated, succeeded in hiding, some members managing to conceal themselves and others being forced off to Canada; how on reaching Canada, instead of, as they had been told, everything being prepared for their comfort, they might have starved but for the good offices of some benevolent Scotchmen whom they found there. These traditions lived, and the people did not believe everything said in favour of emigration to Canada. It was the business of the Government to decide as to the primary and heroic remedies—the alterations of the land laws, the provisions for the cotters, and the schemes of emigration on which they proposed to rely for the remedy of the state of things which existed in the Highlands. But he might suggest one or two small remedies that might otherwise escape 1024 notice. So far as Lewis was concerned the Crofters Act might never have been passed, for the Commissioners never sat there. It would sit there shortly, because, as the noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland said, those who agitated got something. If these men had not agitated themselves into the dock at Edinburgh, the Commission would not in all probability have sat in Lewis for Heaven knew how long. If the Commission sat in Lewis it would be precluded from sitting somewhere else. It seemed to him that it would be very proper to increase the strength of that Commission, for which they paid £ 10,000 a-year. Let them appoint a Sub-Commission in order that the Highlands might get what good was to be got out of the Act with the least possible delay. As to the advances to fishermen. Years ago Parliament, in order to assist the fisheries, had sanctioned grants to the fishermen, but the Treasury had contrived to draw up rules under which it was utterly impossible for any of the fishermen to get a shilling. The noble Marquess the Secretary for Scotland had informed the deputations that he had been in communication with the Treasury on the subject, and since the notice of his (Dr. Cameron's) Amendment had appeared, he saw that it had been announced that new regulations had been drawn up. He did not know whether these regulations would work, but if not, he would suggest that half a dozen or a dozen of the clerks in the Treasury and the Scottish Office—for whose benefit all this circumlocutionary correspondence was kept on—be discharged, and that the head of the Scotch Office and some responsible gentleman in the Treasury should meet and settle the matter in half-an-hour. There was another matter which he would mention. They were constantly told that the land would not suffice to support the crofter population, and that they must reap their harvest from the sea. But how were they to utilize the sea in Lewis when they were cut off by the proprietor of the Island owning the foreshore? Sir James Matheson in 1844 bought the Island, and subsequently obtained the right to the foreshores from the Government for £400. In virtue of that right, Sir James Matheson received £15 5s. a year as feu-duty from the Harbour Commissioners of Stornoway, which paid a 1025 fair interest on the entire sum; and, besides that, he had received, in the shape of rent during the last 20 years, £2,500 for fish-curing stations. Moreover, his successor wished to change the position of the fish-curing stations to some other portion of the foreshore, and the curers said if that were to be persisted in it would be so inconvenient that they would have no alternative but to leave the Island, and the consequence would be that the fishing interest would be strangled altogether. The fact that the proprietor owned the foreshores enabled him to prohibit the crofters from fishing in the lochs, from gathering seaware and bait, except under most stringent regulations. His advice to the Government was to rescind that grant, pay back the £400, and throw open the sea to the crofters. He also advised the Government to give the people in the Lews some little say in the management of their own affairs, especially in regard to Parochial Boards, the management of which had simply been infamous. One matter on which the Crofters' Commission laid some stress was the restriction of deer forests. Thanks to the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, the people now knew how to settle that question for themselves. Give them fixity of tenure, and allow them to be possessors of dogs, and, whether the Government took action or not, he thought the deer difficulty would soon remedy itself. He commended to the notice of the Government the proposal of the Commissioners to grant money for the institution of a peasant proprietary, and to enable crofters to purchase stock and build houses, which, under similar conditions, had proved so successful in Harris. He believed that every principle which justified large grants from the Public Exchequer in the case of Ireland would justify them in the case of the Highlands, as recommended by the Crofter Commission. The Government need not think they could avoid spending money in connection with the Highlands. They wore spending money now. They lost the gunboat Lively and nearly lost the Ajax in consequence of the distress in the Highlands. The squadron was not sent to the Island for nothing. The Crofter Commission cost £10,000 a-year, and it was no use trying to blink the question, for it would force itself upon Parliament. They might be certain of 1026 one thing—that the Crofter Question would not be settled by any policy of dragooning. It was a matter for statesmanship to settle, and although he did not pretend to believe that there was enough statesmanship in Dover House to settle it, he held the Government bound to make an effort to do so, and therefore he had put down the Amendment which he proposed.
§ MR. A. SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
said, he rose to second the Amendment. The House would recollect that on a previous occasion he had appealed to the Government to undertake some remedial legislation for the Highlands of Scotland, on the ground that the Highlands had hitherto owed very little to either Party in the State. That appeal was made at a time when his (Mr. Sutherland's) political experience was not so great as it was now, and he was sorry to say that it was made in vain, and Her Majesty's Government continued to act in the same way as their Predecessors in regard to the Highland Question. He remembered upon that occasion that the right hon. Gentleman who was then Secretary for Scotland, and who was now Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour), told the House that the crofters, as the people of the Highlands were now called, had legislation passed on their behalf which was better than that adopted for any other tenant farmers in the world. He (Mr. Sutherland) did not pretend to give the ipsissima verba; but that was practically what the right hon. Gentleman stated. He granted that there might be an element of truth in the statement; but why, he would ask, was it necessary to pass such exceptional legislation for the people of the Highlands? It was because the landlords there had previously possessed powers which no one of Her Majesty's subjects ought to hold over any other of her subjects, and because those powers had been given through the action of Parliament, that it became necessary for the Government to bring in legislation to counteract what had been done in the past. He maintained that if that was the principle on which the right hon. Gentleman justified legislation for the Highlands, there was still a great deal to be done. He had no desire to go at length into the question of the distress existing in the Highlands. It was a very sad thing to find 1027 that so much distress did exist, when all that the people wanted was permission to work and to cultivate the land. All the misery and distress which existed in the Highlands was the direct result of what had happened in the past; nor had the Liberal Party any greater claim for the sympathy of the crofters than the Conservative Party. No doubt, the late Liberal Government passed a remedial Act; but after a year's trial it had been found to be a failure. That was a strong argument in support of the appeal which was now made. The House would recollect that a Royal Commission was appointed in 1883 to inquire into the state of the Highlands. That Commission examined several hundred witnesses, and held 77 sittings, and the Report of the Commissioners was a most valuable one. It touched the real merits of the Highland Question, because it gave the opinion of the people themselves; not of the officials only, nor of the view of other people, but the opinions of the Highland population themselves. He cast no reproach upon Her Majesty's present Government as regarded what was done in consequence of the recommendations of the Commissioners, because the Act was passed by a Liberal Government; but he maintained that the legislation passed by the late Government was as far behind the necessities of the case as the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners were behind the demands of the Highland people. The Commissioners reported that although great complaints were made to them about rack-renting in the Highlands, yet greater complaints were made about the people being denied the land. Yet, strange to say, an Act was passed which made no provision whatever as to the land. Although that Act had been in force for 19 months, not one single square acre had been added to the land of the Highland people. It must have been perfectly clear to Her Majesty's Government that the consequences which had followed must necessarily follow, unless the Government tackled the question of land. It was deeply to be regretted that instead of initiating a repressive policy the Government had not tried remedial measures. It could not be urged that those who were elected to represent Highland constituencies had 1028 not given the Government full warning. The Marquess of Lothian, the Secretary for Scotland, in answer to a deputation which waited upon him, complained that he was not informed of what was likely to happen in the Highlands until it actually took place. It was very distinctly in his (Mr. Sutherland's) recollection that both he and several of his Colleagues had pointed out that the state of things in the Highlands was such as to demand the attention of Her Majesty's Government, in order that a remedy might be applied. It was therefore of no avail for Her Majesty's Government to plead that they had no knowledge of what was going to happen in the Highlands. Lord Napier's Commission in 1883 called attention to the rents that were imposed in the Highlands, and the Crofters' Commission appointed under the Act of 1886 had found that there had been gross rack-renting in the Highlands. The people, although they complained in a secondary degree as to the rent, pointed out that the primary grievance had reference to the giving of the land, and yet up to the present moment not a single inch of additional land had been provided for the people under the operation of that Act. Some persons said that the people could not avail themselves of the land when they got it. He could point to a time when the people of the Highlands were deprived of the land they held, and were driven from the good land they were then cultivating on to the bad land, without any provision being made for them in the shape of money to enable them, to build houses or reclaim the land. They were driven to the bad land, and had to shift as best they could. Nevertheless, they made that land fertile and built houses upon it as well as they could, and were living upon it now, and therefore it was idle to say that such people would be unable to make use of the land if they now got it. Surely people who managed to get on under circumstances such as those were fairly able to utilize the land if it were allotted to them. Therefore, if Her Majesty's Government were prepared to give £150,000 to send people from the Highlands across the Atlantic, he would recommend that the whole of it, or, at any rate, a portion, should be given to them to enable them to make homes for themselves in their own country. Cer- 1029 tainly, the people of the Highlands would not have a single difficulty to encounter in making homes for themselves in the deer forests of their country which they would not have to encounter in the West of Canada. It might easily be pointed out that the loss of a population such as that of the Highlands would be a great loss to this country. He had often heard appeals made by hon. Gentlemen opposite on behalf of those who had served in the Army, and had helped to build up the British Empire. He asked if his own countrymen had not done that? Yet what had been their reward? He maintained that those hon. Members who had made an appeal of this kind were bound to support the appeal which was now being made on behalf of the Highlanders. Although these people were called crofters now by Act of Parliament, they were simply the ancient Highland clansmen to whom the country owed a deep debt of obligation. He therefore claimed the support of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who made such earnest appeals on behalf of the British soldier. The area of land devoted to deer forests had been constantly increasing, and he contended that it ought to be given back to the people. It had not been withdrawn from habitation directly, but from sheep grazing. The feeling in the Highlands was that it should be given back to the people, but Her Majesty's Government had lost the opportunity and had devoted it to the rearing of vermin. People who came from America said that there could not be found in that country a single acre which was devoted to the rearing of wild animals alone. They had to come to an over-populated country in order to find that. It was said that there was a congestion of population, but who had congested it? The people had not resorted to those places of their own accord, and Her Majesty's Government, in vindication of the honour of that Assembly, were bound, on account of their neglect of the interests of the people in the past, to do something in order to ameliorate their condition in the future. Those who advocated the claims of the Highland people were said to be agitators. He was himself an agitator, and he did not deny it. Indeed, he would not be doing his duty to his own people if that were not so, and he intended to 1030 be an agitator so long as the wrongs of the people to whom he belonged were not redressed. It was no reproach to a man that he was an agitator on a question of this kind; therefore, if Her Majesty's Government proposed to use small arguments of that nature, they might altogether spare themselves the trouble. It was the duty of Her Majesty's Ministers, in the agitation which was going on in the Highlands, not to make ex parte statements; it was their duty to look after the interests of Her Majesty's subjects, and in this case they should endeavour, in the agitation which was undoubtedly going on in the Highlands, to hold the scales evenly between the people and the landlords, and not to favour one side more than the other. The hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had pointed out cases of maladministration of justice in the Island of Lewis. It was well to view the condition of things in that Island and elsewhere in connection with the surrounding circumstances. The Act passed in the year 1886 would be well within the recollection of the House. It was the intention of that Act that all arrears of rent incurred before the passing of the Crofters' Act should be dealt with by the Commission. That was clearly the intention of the House and of the Lord Advocate of that day (Mr. J. B. Balfour), who was in charge of the measure, and who was afterwards a counsel in a case which was tried in Edinburgh in regard to the meaning of the Act. By the decision of a Judge, given shortly after the Act came into operation, it was found that it was open to the landlords to sue in the ordinary Courts for the recovery of arrears. Now, the Crofters' Commission, when it was appointed, received full power to deal with the question of arrears; but, nevertheless, it was claimed by the Court that the landlords had the right to recover them. Advantage was taken in Sutherland immediately when the defect was found in the Act, and processes were taken out against the people who were in arrears in the parish of Assynt at Clashmore. Writs were sent down and served upon the people, who believed that they were fully sheltered by the Crofters' Commission, and were of opinion that if they accepted service of the processes issued against them, they would be deprived of the 1031 rights which it was the wish of the House to bestow upon them. It was then that the disturbances occurred. The people had no desire to infringe the law; but they were afraid that they would be cut out of the benefit of the Act altogether. Many of them had assured him personally that they had no intention of doing anything against the law, but they had no confidence in the local Judge. He admitted that technically they did break the law; but Her Majesty's Government passed an Act last Session to remedy the defects of the Crofters' Act; and therefore it would seem that those people were punished for doing what the Government acknowledged was necessary to be done, and which the House of Commons intended should be done. In one case an act which amounted simply to an assault was distorted into a charge of mobbing and rioting. It ought to have been dealt with by the ordinary magistrates; but these poor people were dragged away from their houses at great expense, and had to travel a long way to the Court in order to answer a charge of mobbing and rioting, which did not even amount to common assault. It was a case which the counsel for the defence in Court aptly described as "a mob composed of such trivial materials as nine women, three stirks (or cattle), and three of Her Majesty's lieges." For the putting down of this trivial affair, however, all the mighty resources of the Government were called into action. In the case of the Clashmore people, not only police constables, but the military, were resorted to for the arrest of the redoubtable Hugh Kerr, who refused to obey the summons of the Court, and had been sought for by the authorities for months past. The police and military were unsuccessful in their expedition; but they arrested Hugh Kerr's wife. It was not at all in his power, nor could he trust himself to speak with moderation of the conduct of the Government authorities in the case of Hugh Kerr. Did Her Majesty's Government imagine that by the treatment they had given to this poor woman, and to others now in prison in Edinburgh, sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, they would put down the agitation in the Highlands? If so, he would tell them plainly that they reckoned without their host. If 1032 there was anything calculated to bring the law into contempt it was conduct such as this. He had in his possession a newspaper paragraph describing the arrest of this woman, after the police and military failed to arrest her husband. When she was liberated on bail she looked very careworn, and was in a delicate state of health. She told a most pathetic story of her imprisonment. She had been confined in a gaol without fire or light. She had been compelled to travel in an open carriage, on a cold winter day, from 5 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, and had been driven for 50 miles in the most inclement weather without any of those considerations which were due to a woman. On her arrival she was confined in a cold and dark cell, with only a rug to cover her, and she was compelled to lie down in her clothes. The next morning she left Dornoch at 6 in the morning for Dingwall by way of Bonar Bridge, a distance of 16 miles, and when she arrived there she was compelled to put on the prison garb. He wished to know from the Lord Advocate if that was a legal and proper thing to do, and whether it was customary to put unconvicted prisoners in prison, to keep them there, and to compel them to don the prison dress? Was it legal and proper that such prisoners should be made to do so? On being liberated on the Thursday, after bail was found for her, her railway fare was paid, but she reached her destination cold and penniless. She attempted to make her way to James M'Kenzie; but she had not calculated her own strength. Fortunately, she met with a commercial traveller, who humanely drove her there, and when she arrived she was hospitably received by Mr. M'Kenzie. He had only alluded to these circumstances to show that these were some of the disadvantages to which people were subjected on being sent to trial at Edinburgh. He thought it was a hardship that they should be compelled to travel that distance at their own expense. To make the matter worse, Her Majesty's Government refused to pay anything towards the expense of bringing witnesses to Edinburgh. Some of the witnesses were unable to speak the English language; they could only speak their own language; and, notwithstanding their protestations to that effect, they were subjected by the Judge, among 1033 others, to such, an amount of browbeating that he could not remember a parallel to it in any previous case in Scotland. During the examination by the Lord Advocate of Hector M'Kenzie, one of the witnesses, the witness was told to say "yes" or "no" to the questions put to him; but when it became necessary to give an explanation, he found that his knowledge of English was not sufficient to enable him to make one. Lord Craighill said to the witness—You must answer the questions in English.But the witness said—I have some English; but I am not able to answer the questions.Lord Craighill said—You must try to answer the questions in English in some way or other, or I will commit you to prison,Did you know M'Kenzie?"—"Yes." "Was he in the house?"—"Yes." "Was he seen there?The witness answered in Gaelic. The Judge thereupon said—I do not understand Gaelic. You must answer in English.Nevertheless, the learned Judge declined to permit the witness's want of English to justify him in answering in his own language. He said—You must answer 'yes.'The prisoners were taken up and tried in batches. He wished to know why that was so? Probably the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate would be able to state to the House why the prisoners were tried in that way. He (Mr. Sutherland) had his own ideas as to why it was, and the only reason he could conceive for the adoption of such a course was this—namely, that if some of the prisoners were acquitted, as the deer raiders of the parish of Lochs were, another jury was to be empanelled. Although the prisoners were recommended to the leniency of the Court, he was unable to find any leniency in the sentences passed upon them, ranging, as they did in the case of the Lewis people, from six to nine, 12, and 15 months' imprisonment. The Clashmore prisoners got 12 months, and two poor women nine months each. Hon. Members from Ireland complained of the great hardship of being sentenced to two months' imprisonment; but in Scotland it did not seem necessary to rig the Bench 1034 from stem to stern in order to find prisoners guilty; but Judges were found ready to sentence people for the crime of "mobbing and rioting, composed of such trivial material as that he had before mentioned—namely, nine women, three stirks, and three of Her Majesty's lieges." He trusted that Her Majesty's Government, even at that late hour, would do something to alleviate the condition of the people of the Highlands. The destitution of which complaint had been made was traced to its cause. The people were willing to work; but they did not wish to be dependent on the charity of the public or of the Government. They desired to have the land of which they had been deprived in the past given back to them for cultivation. It did not lie in the mouth of Her Majesty's Government to say that the people of the Highlands would not work if they had the opportunity of doing so. Let them only be given the chance, and the people who had survived the difficulties of the past would be able to live comfortably in the Highlands. He made this last appeal to Her Majesty's Government, hoping that they would, even yet at the eleventh hour, extend the operation of the Act so as to give the Commissioners power to give the people land for cultivation in accordance with the recommendations of Lord Napier's Commission. The recommendation of that Commission was that power should be given to form new townships. Hitherto no attention had been paid to it, and the consequence was that it had been decided to agitate the country and make a fresh appeal to the House of Commons to take the question up. It certainly would not have been necessary to take it up if Her Majesty's Government had done their duty in the past. In conclusion, be begged to second the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ At the end of the Address, to add the words —"Humbly to express to your Majesty our regret that no reference is made in Your Most Gracious Speech to the acute distress which prevails in many parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, to the disturbances which have arisen out of that distress, or to any projected remedial legislation intended to put an end to the critical state of matters which at present exists in the North of Scotland."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."1035
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
I certainly feel that if there over was an occasion on which a public official should endeavour to address himself to this House in moderation, and without being tempted to use any strong or vehement language, this is the occasion. And I think my two hon. Friends who have addressed the House will both agree with me in saying that, if I occasionally avoid the use of strong language, it is not because certain things which have been said by them, and which I am in a position to show are unfounded, are not to a certain extent provocative. I must say at the outset that it is hardly a fair thing that, under the shelter of an Amendment, every word of which points only at an effort to relieve distress in the Highlands of Scotland, and without any Notice whatever being given or without any steps being taken by hon. Members to bring other matters forward in a Constitutional way, we should have had such severe attacks as we have had on the good faith of the Executive Government of Scotland, and also on the good faith of myself as Public Prosecutor, and on the conduct of Her Majesty's Judges. Of the first two attacks I do not complain at all. Only I say this—that I am not going to meet them formally until they are formally made. As regards the last, I think that everyone will agree that if any attack is to be made upon the fairness or propriety of conduct of the Judges of the land, it ought to be made in the most formal and specific manner possible, and with all those safeguards that will prevent being conveyed to the public mind a mere general impression, for which I know it will turn out in this case that there is no foundation whatever. This Amendment is based on the undoubted fact that there is at present a distressing state of things in the Highlands, and it proceeds entirely upon the footing that some new measure and some new operation of the Executive Government, either in the way of legislation or otherwise, are essential for the purpose of meeting and remedying that state of things. Well, I think, at least, Her Majesty's present Government cannot be held to blame if there is any now existing state of things which might have been got rid of by legislation. Our Predecessors had a full opportunity, 1036 nearly two years ago, of meeting the difficulties which then presented themselves to the public mind by proposing any necessary amendment of the law. They took a particular course in doing so, and that course we cannot do otherwise than believe was the course which they thought was the best, the most complete, and the most effectual course they could take for disposing of the difficulty. And, with one exception, which was brought forward last year, when the present Government came into Office, nothing has been done since by those who promoted that Act to show that they thought it required any serious change at all. There was a certain phrase used in the Act which was interpreted in a particular way by the Court contrary to what was its intention, and the Government last year brought in a Bill for the purpose of rectifying that, and it was rectified. I shall speak presently of the view that seemed to be taken by the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire (Mr. A. Sutherland) with regard to what took place at Clashmore. Certainly, it is a new doctrine to me that persons should endeavour to resist the law, and should burn the Queen's Writ, because they thought some legislation should be brought in at a future day. It is new to me not only to hear that doctrine stated in private conversation, but it is still more new to me to hear it stated by an hon. Member on his responsibility as a Member of this House.
§ MR. A. SUTHERLAND
I never made such a statement. I simply said it was a belief of the people, and I urged it in mitigation of any judgment that might be passed by the House.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
Well, I understood that the hon. Member considered it a palliation of their conduct. I think it would be more advisable if the hon. Member would point out to those ignorant people that the proper course to be taken is never to burn the Queen's Writ; but that if those Writs are issued under the Act of Parliament which they may not approve, steps should be taken to amend the Act. I think to suggest that the want of something in an Act of Parliament is an excuse for assaulting the officers of the law, burning the Queen's Writ, and resisting the law by violence, is a suggestion that ought not to be made in this House. A great number of 1037 matters have been spoken of by hon. Members who have addressed the House. They have pointed out various defects, as they think, in the present state of social life in the Highlands which ought to be remedied. It is a most extraordinary thing, while they found that on the evidence of Reports of Commissions and upon part of the evidence of people who know about the Highlands, from the beginning to the end it is their persistent determination to ignore the one remedy for the state of things which every Commission, which every witness of weight, has in the past invariably put forward as the only possible remedy—namely, emigration. I think the theories put forward, if sound, would lead to the most extraordinary result. According to the theory put forward by hon. Members opposite, no one ought to suggest that people in the Highlands should leave their native land, and go elsewhere, and that the best reason for the Government not attempting to do that is that the people will not go. A very sound argument as far as it goes; but I should like to ask how far are you going to carry it? Could this country of England have sustained itself in prosperity if all the people who were born in this country in the past 200 years had all said they would not go out of this country? Do my hon. Friends doubt for one moment that the population of these places in the Highlands will go on increasing at the same rapid rate as it has done in the past? Do they contemplate that no time shall ever come when it shall be necessary for people to leave those Islands? I think the economic problem to be worked out is an extremely simple one. I perfectly understand the argument that at present there is sufficient land for the people. But an abstract argument against emigration is one which I think ought not to be listened to for a moment. Turning at once to the question which first presents itself in the Amendment, my hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) asks us to say when we first heard of what was happening in certain parts of the Highlands, and what steps were taken. The information which we have received was received early in December, and steps were immediately taken to get a Report on the matter. We received a Report from the Sheriff of the county, which reached us about the 9th December. The Board of Super- 1038 vision Report was received on the 8th December, and it was deemed advisable to have a special Commission of Inquiry, which was appointed, and has now reported. As regards the state of things and the destitution of the crofters in Lewis at that time, there can be no question of how it has arisen. It has not arisen from anything connected with the crofts which were held by the crofters in Lewis. It is admitted on all hands that last year's crop was one of the best they have had; and the reason why this present destitution has come upon the crofters is not in consequence, as is said, of their not having sufficient land to cultivate, or of anything connected with the crofts which is abnormal, but is entirely in consequence of the absolute failure of the fishing industry. The crofters are in the position, not of farmers who want more land to cultivate, but of those who cultivated a small quantity of land in aid of the income which they derived from their regular business, that of fishermen. One would naturally have expected that, if such destitution was coming to a head, the agitation which might arise among the community would be an agitation which would indicate immediate want. But, as a matter of fact, nothing that has taken place has been of that nature. There is no doubt whatever that there was nothing in what took place to indicate to the authorities any immediate, pressing, actual want on the part of the community. Now, Sir, the deer raid has been referred to. The most remarkable thing in connection with that deer raid, and one absolutely incomprehensible with the theory of actual want, was that, so far as I have been able to trace—though many deer were destroyed in that raid—there is not a solitary instance in which one single particle of the food thereby obtained was brought home by any crofter to his family. There was one case in which a deer was found partly consumed by the gentlemen in the tent by the seashore, but the rest of the deer were found lying dead in various parts of the forest afterwards. Well, then, take the next occasion which happened—the case of Aignish farm. I can perfectly understand these men thinking that they were committing a very small breach of moral and civil law, if they were in a state of starvation, going and stealing a sheep or an ox, 1039 and turning it into food. Although the law would not justify anything of that kind, yet the law would certainly look upon people who were in absolute starvation as in a very different position from people stealing for purposes of gain. Although 700 people came to the farm of Aignish for the purpose of agitation—and that was admittedly their purpose—what was their act? They do not seize any cattle or sheep, and take them for the purpose of food; but they proceed to drive thorn off the farm, and endeavour to drive them into the sea. That was absolutely contrary to any idea of people in actual want endeavouring to provide for themselves. No doubt it was a strong demonstration for the purpose of inducing people to believe that they were compelled to take possession of that farm. But that farm could not supply them with food until it had been in crop. Their whole action was the action of men determined to show those whose duty it was to uphold the law, by the destruction of the property of the farmer, that the law should not prevail in protecting that farm against the action of the people in driving him off with his sheep and cattle. Now, I very much fear that the action which was taken by these raiders was the natural fruit of the agitation which my hon. Friend considers to be so valuable. And it is said that we, in endeavouring to prevent such mobs going to drive cattle and sheep off Aignish farm, are guilty of a policy of gunboats. I think I ought to tell my hon. Friend that this is not a question, so far as I am concerned, and so far as the Executive in Scotland are concerned, of policy at all. In sending a sufficient force to prevent the law being defied we are not fulfilling any policy at all, but simply doing our duty as Executive officers. And I think it necessary to say, from this place, that in so far as power is necessary, whether by gunboats or in any other way, to prevent people from committing the folly that was done at Aignish and Clashmore, that power must and will be put forth. I think it would be a most cruel kindness to these people themselves to lead them to suppose for a moment that if they show sufficient violence to overcome the resistance of other law-abiding people in the thinly populated neighbourhood in which they 1040 live, that these people and their property will not be protected. And as regards the case of Aignish, I was very much surprised to notice that while my hon. Friend said a very great deal about the deer raid, he passed over Aignish and Clashmore very lightly. No doubt, he was supplemented as regards Clashmore by the hon. Member for Sutherlandshire, with reference to whose facts I shall have a word or two to say presently. But when my hon. Friend took up the case of the deer raid, and passed over the case of Aignish, he acted with great prudence for the argument which he had to bring forward, because his great point was to make out that there was no relative charge in the case of the deer forest raid. In that my hon. Friend was entirely mistaken; and I am quite certain of this—he will not get any lawyer to back him up in that. It is perfectly true that trespass is not a crime; and it is perfectly true that deer are not property. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; but it is equally true that it is not the law of this country that any mob of people are to be allowed to trespass on any man's land for an unlawful purpose —the purpose of overcoming his right in it, and his right to protect his land— and it does not matter what the purpose is with which they do so, if their purpose is a common purpose. Nobody can doubt for one moment that if a mob of people were to assemble upon any person's land for a purpose which was not in itself a legal purpose, that that mob is guilty of a crime against the law of the land. That is the law, and it was so laid down by the Judge. It seems to be thought by some Gentlemen that it is necessary, in order to constitute crime, when the people assemble against order in a case of this kind, that that mob must be a criminal mob. That is entirely a mistake. If it is merely an illegal purpose, that is perfectly sufficient. Of course, the amount of guilt in the one case or the other depends very much upon what the purpose is. It is just as much an unlawful purpose for a mob of people to assemble in front of a door in order to prevent a man getting into his own premises, as it is for them to assemble for the purpose of committing an assault upon him. If they assemble for the purpose of committing assault they will be severely punished. If they assemble merely for the purpose 1041 of preventing him going about his lawful business, they are equally guilty in the eye of the law, but the crime is not so serious. Now, having made that explanation, I wish to say, in reference to this deer raid, that the act which was done was unquestionably an act of mobbing and rioting. It has been distinctly held so by the Bench. My hon. Friend made an entire mistake when he said that I had failed to bring a relevant indictment.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
The jury have no province to find indictments relevant; and my hon. Friend, in saying that, plainly shows his opinion that the jury mistook their duty. I thought it was known even to every layman that it is the duty of the jury to take the Judge's statement of the law in regard to an indictment, and then deal with facts. If they formed an opinion upon the relevancy of an indictment, then they were doing that which their duty did not allow them to do. But the best proof that the indictment was relevant was this—that though the prisoners in that case were well defended, and their ease was conducted by as shrewd counsel as we have at the Bar, no objection was taken to the relevancy at all. It went to the jury as a relevant indictment; and though the jury thought proper to find that the parties at the Bar were not guilty "as libelled," if they meant by that that they did not consider the indictment relevant, they went quite out of their province. But I do not think that the raid upon the deer forest was of so great consequence in itself. Its importance was that it indicated a general lawless tendency among the community in the Island of Lewis, indicating, as it did, an express determination on the part of the people there to over-ride the law— a purpose which I believe would not have entered their minds unless it had been brought to them from without. When such things took place, it was absolutely necessary for the Executive to see that measures should be taken to prevent them occurring again. A force was sent to the neighbourhood of Lewis. It was perfectly well known to everyone there; and then what happened? A large number of people assembled at the farm of Aignish, and 1042 held a meeting, at which it was resolved that upon a certain day, if the farmer did not submit to the law made by them— their law made at this meeting—their Act of their Parliament—he should be turned out of his farm without any process of law whatever. And the principal speaker at that meeting—one of the men who was afterwards tried— announced at the meeting that when they made their raid the police would come from the one side of the farm and the soldiers from the other, and that he was prepared to shed his blood in order to take possession of that farm. I think that was a pretty plain indication of intention to break the law. Up to that point all was plain sailing. That was merely a threat, and probably in itself did not require any special observation on the part of the Executive, unless they were satisfied that there were other sources of danger, which might lead to something serious resulting. But the Sheriff and the Sheriff Substitute, considering what had taken place at that meeting might not be mere bombastic threat, and considering the state of the public mind, issued a distinct warning in the shape of a Proclamation, which was extensively posted throughout the district, warning all persons who intended to take part in the threatened proceedings that they would be guilty of the crime of mobbing and rioting. [The right hon. and learned Gentleman here read the Proclamation.]
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
It was published both in English and in Gaelic; and in proof that it was well observed a very great number of notices were torn down, and a shopkeeper's window in which one had been placed for the information of the inhabitants had a brickbat thrown through it. Here, then, you have a deliberate intention to hold the assembly, a warning by the authorities not to hold it, and yet it is held notwithstanding. Well, the farmer had been told that he was allowed by this assembly a certain time to do what they ordered, him to do. They told him that if he did not by the 8th of January clear himself and his stock off the farm they would do it for him. Accordingly, on the morning of the 8th, a force was sent there to prevent this illegal riot. 1043 Seven hundred people appeared upon the scene, and spread themselves out in a sort of military formation like a body of skirmishers across the whole breadth of the farm. The resident Sheriff Substitute, who appears to be a man of great coolness and courage, instead of bringing out at once, as many would have done, his force of Marines and police and Royal Scots, and meeting the crowd force by force, very courageously walked out himself to meet the mass, accompanied only by the Deputy Procurator Fiscal and two constables. A certain number of the people gathered round him, and he endeavoured to get them to give up their proceedings. He called attention to the illegality and criminality of these proceedings, and he produced the Riot Act, and proposed to read it, but was met with jeers and shouts. The people who came round him thereupon moved on and joined the line again, and they went forward, with the result that every single animal on the farm—and there were some 320 sheep and 50 cattle—was driven off the farm. I do not suppose that any Member of this House will say that that was not criminal.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I said I did not suppose any Member would; and I am glad the hon. Member assures me of that. But I go further, and will venture to say that no one will say that it was not highly criminal, or that it was not a state of things most dangerous to the community in which it happened. No one will venture to say that if any Executive had tolerated such a state of things, and did not put it down, they ought to be allowed to remain in office for a single day. I do not want to exaggerate; but I say this, that you could not possibly have a more serious insurrection than that, unless you had an insurrection with actual armed forces. It was a distinct, deliberate, wilful persistence in riot, in defiance of the law, in spite of all that the law could do by reasonable remonstrance to prevent it. And I have not heard from hon. Members who have addressed the House one single word of regret upon their part that that the cause which they have at heart, and which I believe in their case to be an honest and sincere cause, 1044 has had that blot of criminality and illegality cast upon it by those proceedings. I have never heard one single real word of discouragement by any of the Leaders of this agitation to the people against doing such things again. On the contrary, as I shall show, every suggestion which has been made to them by those who are their self-constituted Leaders are suggestions which still lead in the same direction; and I want to know if any hon. Member in this House, who has the interest of the crofters at heart, will get up in this House and even now repudiate, on behalf of himself and his friends, the folly of the incitements which are being held out to those people from day to day. It would be an enormous help to Her Majesty's Government and to the Executive in Scotland if we got an honest and straightforward statement, on the part of someone who is a Leader among them, and who is in this House, against the people proceeding to carry out the schemes which they have been urged to by their supposed friends, but who are their most real and dangerous enemies. But that case did not stop there. When at last the Sheriff-Substitute, as he was bound in his duty to do, brought forward the forces at his command—he still kept some of them back—he brought forward about 20 constables, and between 20 and 30 Marines; and having told the constables to arrest those who had been most prominent in the riot as an example to the others, and to vindicate public justice, he was met with such determined resistance that it was necessary to send two miles for another force, which he had purposely kept concealed, lest the larger force should irritate the people. No remonstrance availed; no arguments were listened to; and when certain of the ringleaders had been apprehended the case became so serious that the Royal Scots had to be sent for, and on their arrival the Sheriff-Substitute, after another vain remonstrance with the people, read the Riot Act. When he concluded with the usual words, "God save the Queen," there was a shout from the crowd that "the Queen might go to hell." Well, a number of people having been apprehended, the authorities made up their minds that the best thing for them to do was to take their prisoners to Stornoway. It had 1045 become absolutely certain that, without absolute bloodshed, the only lesson they could teach those people was to bring some of them to the bar of public justice. The people followed them, throwing stones and dirt, for two miles; and at last one of the prisoners himself, suffering from the violence he was receiving from his friends, asked to be allowed to address them. He urged them to go home, but was at once met with cries of "traitor" and "coward." In these circumstances, I will say that a more persistent and determined attack upon the law has not been made in the history of this country. But it did not stop there. The mob threatened to march on to Stornoway, and break into the prison, and take out the prisoners. But, finding at last that their efforts could produce no effect upon the authorities, they turned round, and what did they do then? Up to this time all the harm they had done to the farm was to drive the cattle and sheep from the farm. The cattle were met by the Royal Scots, and turned back in the direction of the farm; and now these people, although they had had the warning of the capture of 13 of their number, proceeded to make a deliberate attempt to drive all that valuable stock into the sea. Now, what could justify such an inhuman and wanton action as that? It could do no good to anybody, unless good could be done by a riotous mob indicating to the law that they were determined upon resistance to the last. I think all will agree it was a brutal and cruel act in itself. It could do no good to anybody, but a gross and monstrous injury to the farmer, who had done them no harm, who had lived among them in peace for years, and with whom there had been no dispute. There was one thing, and it was a matter which I do not wonder the hon. Member did not bring up against us—that is, that the Crown had been chary of paying the expenses of bringing witnesses to Edinburgh. I think it would have been difficult for the Crown to pay the expenses of all the witnesses we were asked to bring. They were to be brought—what for? For the purpose of proving that the whole of this assemblage of 700 people—yelling, and swearing, and rioting—was for no other object than to visit the graves of their ancestors in some small, disused grave- 1046 yard in the vicinity. Why, the Executive would have made itself the laughing-stock of the whole country if they had paid the expenses of all these witnesses. Why, one of the prisoners, when he heard such evidence given in his favour, was so astonished that he went off into a perfect fit of laughter.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
But I think I know the facts better than the hon. Member does. I speak of what I myself saw, and I take the opportunity to say that I consider it an extraordinary proceeding to filter all sorts of evidence through this House for the purpose of showing that the decisions of Courts of Justice, given through the juries, are to be set aside for the chatter of people who tell Members of this House things which will not bear examination for one single moment. I now turn to the case of the Mainland, and I will say that there is this difference between the case of Lewis and that of Clashmore. In Lewis the pinch of distress, no doubt, added to the effect of agitation upon the people; but I venture to assert that no one will stand up in this House and say that that is the case in regard to the inhabitants of Clashmore. There is not one single case in that parish in which an application has been made for relief by a single person. What is the case of Clashmore? It is, unfortunately, more disgraceful than that of Aignish. For everything in Aignish was done boldly and above-board, in open defiance of the law, and without any attempt at concealment whatever. But the case of Clashmore was this—that, time after time, a field on a farm which had been in the occupation of a tenant for 15 years—
§ MR. A. SUTHERLAND
was understood to say that it had been taken from the people to give to the present tenant.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I think my hon. Friend is mistaken. But I shall accept it. That is 15 years ago, and for 15 years it has been in the peaceable possession of a tenant. Yet for weeks and weeks every fence he had was being 1047 injured. The locks upon his gates were broken off. He had placed a look six or seven times on the same gate, and it had been broken off again. [Another inaudible interruption from Mr. SUTHERLAND.] I really wish the hon. Member would allow me to proceed. Ultimately he determined to protect the land which was in his legal possession. A mob of people came—not, as the Aignish people did, with warning beforehand and openly—not, he admitted, a large one, but a mob every one of whom had their faces blackened that they might not be identified. That is a new thing among the Highlanders. And I should be very glad indeed if Members who represent Highland constituencies will kindly give us their views in this House, for the help of those people, that it may not occur again. They are copying the manœuvres of another country—copying ways that will never bring them any credit, and which will only have the effect of making many real and hearty sympathizers of theirs shrink from further efforts in their behalf. It is most unjustly said that it is an infinitely trifling matter; but this blackening of their faces plainly showed that they were conscious of the criminality of their action, and that they knew very well that if their actions were detected they ought to be punished. But it is worse than that. It is bad enough that women should actually in the daytime blacken their faces before going upon a criminal expedition. But what is to be thought of the Highlanders—the men of whom I agree with the hon. Member that they are proud, gallant men—themselves dressing up in women's clothes in the middle of the day, and blackening their faces?
MR. J. H. A. MAODONALD
Yes, it is proved. It is not creditable. It is pitiable. It is a thing, I am sure, which will not be approved by hon. Members. I am asked about the case of a man convicted for the offence who was innocent. No doubt there are always difficulties in identifying people who blacken their faces. It is alleged that there was a mistake on the part of one of these men. But what are we told? That if the men should get a guarantee of indemnity from punishment, they will come forward and say that the other man did not do it. That 1048 is the kind of manliness we have now in the Highlands.
§ DR. CAMERON
was understood to say that various persons who could testify to the man's innocence did not take any part in the offence themselves.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
The hon. Member says that men who were not in the riot themselves would come forward; but the men who had the blackened faces are prepared to allow an innocent man to suffer unless they get an indemnity from punishment. Why did not these men come forward and say who this man was mistaken for, if it is really the case that a mistake has been made? These men are not ordinary offenders—I do not say they are; but it is new to me that an Executive Government and a Public Prosecutor are to give an indemnity to people who admit their guilt in coming forward to clear an innocent man. It is no part of the duty of the Executive to interfere. The jury heard the evidence, and found that the man at the bar was guilty. It is not for the Executive lightly to interfere with such a decision, and least of all on the evidence of those who wish to be saved themselves before freeing an innocent man. A great deal has been said about the arrest of Mrs. Hugh Kerr. The hon. Member (Mr. A. Sutherland) said we arrested her because we could not find her husband, but I scarcely think the hon. Member is serious in putting that forward. The expedition was sent to arrest persons who had been going about with blackened faces and committing damage, Mrs. Kerr was known to be one of those, and she was accordingly arrested. Does the hon. Member consider that a woman going with a blackened face to assault people who are going about their own lawful business and protecting their own property, ought not to be dealt with by the severity of the law? As to the charge about Mrs. Kerr being badly treated in prison and being put in a cell without a fire, I do not think that complaints of this kind ought to be made for the first time in this House. If made at the time, such complaints could be inquired into. It is very easy to bring forward in this House charges of inhumanity, but where there is any foundation for them they ought to be made to the Executive Government. I have never heard of it till now, and if 1049 any responsible person lays a statement before me to that effect. I will even yet order a full inquiry to be made; but it has nothing whatever to do with the subject of the judicial inquiry. It has been stated that the sentences were very terrible sentences for very slight offences. But the offences were not slight. All that I can say is, that we had several cases during the last two years of riots of this description in the Highlands, and that lighter sentences have been given, varying from one to six months; but these were always accompanied by a distinct warning that these light sentences could not continue to be pronounced for this class of cases, if the community in which they were prevalent indicated their determination not to submit to the law when it treated them leniently, but showed their defiance of it. I deeply regret—and I hope the House will believe it—that such sentences had to be given; but I say I would not venture for one moment to gain the approval of a single Member opposite by saying that I disapproved of them. It is not my duty to say I approve or disapprove of them, because I have no right to express an opinion upon the conduct of the Judge; but I do say that, in my opinion, as far as the sentences in the Aignish and Clashmore cases are concerned, they were absolutely necessary for the purpose of indicating what must be the result of a continuance of such cases. Looking back to the previous history where riots of a similar nature have occurred, I find that the sentences pronounced were very different indeed, much severer sentences having been imposed for less grave offences. But I am glad to think that, with the greater publicity given to sentences in these modern times, happily long sentences are not so absolutely necessary as they may have been in past times. I say that if in districts such as the West Highlands you have, during the last 18 months, sentences of six months for offences not so bad as these two, we ought to be thankful that a lesson is given which may have the effect of preventing people listening to agitators; and I would fain hope it may have some effect upon the agitators themselves. There are too many agitators in this country, and also in another, who go about carrying on an agitation in one district and another, and at the same time 1050 taking very good care to keep at the cool end of the poker. They do not themselves run the risk. They carry on their agitation, and allow it to take its evil effect in the action of crime on the part of the population. They have disappeared, but the baneful and evil effect of their cruel conduct on these poor, ignorant people remains behind. I only wish some means could be found by which we could get at those who incite these poor people to acts of violence. I hold them to be infinitely more guilty than the unfortunate people who commit them. But the Executive Government must deal with those it can find who commit the acts. I believe many of the men now in prison are the last to complain of their sentences. They have been put upon their trial and convicted, and know perfectly well that it was absolutely necessary to vindicate the law by a firm and sharp lesson. We all regret the necessity; but so long as it exists, I, for one, will do my utmost in all such cases, and I am not going to be frightened by hon. Members' statements about gunboats or anything else, believing that I am doing the best for the peace of the country. In these outlying districts individuals would be at the mercy of the mob, unless it was understood that the mob would be firmly dealt with. It is not as if these were only isolated acts. They are part of a general system of terrorism which has been promoted by agitators in the North of Scotland. A very curious occurrence took place which shows that is so. The moment the witnesses who had charge of Clashmore Farm left for Edinburgh to give evidence, and there was no one to protect the farm, in the course of the night no less than 700 yards of new stone fencing was levelled to the ground. You had the same thing occurring in Lewis and at Aignish. These are dangerous crimes. They can be committed in the secret of the darkness, and they involve enormous expense to innocent people. They are extremely dangerous, because they are mean crimes, and they sap out all feeling of morality and honesty in the community in which they exist. No doubt, the hon. Member (Dr. Cameron) will say the people have been brought to do these things by provocation; but what provocation did they receive from the tenant of Clashmore? 1051 His conduct was not different from what it had been for 15 years. In what respect has he offended these people? It is ridiculous. Is the law going to allow it? When you talk of the severity of sentences, it is absolutely necessary to take into consideration the circumstances for which the sentences are pronounced. No Judge would be doing his duty, where offences were committed of the nature of raids and mobs, if he did not consider the general state of the neighbourhood, and what is necessary for the purpose of vindicating the law in these places. Will hon. Members go down to these places, or send to the people who are now agitating among them, and toll them distinctly that they can gain nothing by such action? And will they warn them of the danger to their own happiness which comes from introducing among what has hitherto been a peaceable, honest, and kind community, those feelings of malice, hatred, and wanton mischief which are being developed amongst them by agitation? The next question is, what is to be done in the present unfortunate state of circumstances, and I think, if my hon. Friends had addressed themselves to that question, it would have saved a great deal of time, and been a great deal more beneficial to the people of that country. I venture to say again what has been said here before, that as regards what has to be done in the way of remedying the condition of the people, all attempt would be absolutely delusive and futile which does not recognize the fact that the population of Lewis is in excess of what the land will bear. ["No, no!"] That is my opinion, and the opinion of everybody who has examined closely into the question with an unbiassed mind. ["No, no!"] Well, I shall be glad to hear in the course of the debate who is the man of skill who has gone over this matter for the last 100 years who has not come to that conclusion. When the Bill of 1886 was before the House, we said it was a Bill which could have no other result in the near future than to produce—if it did produce, which I greatly doubted—a temporary alleviation of the difficulties of the situation, and would not, in our view, bring about any results which would meet the difficulties. I adhere to that now, and I am sure that the events subsequent to the passing of that Act have fully borne out 1052 the view then expressed. All that could be done on the footing of dealing with the population as not being too much for the place in which it lives would be for the State to give additional land. The Crofters' Act went beyond all previous legislation in that direction; but the Crofters' Act could not make land, and still less could it make land which would respond to labour by producing such fruits as would justify cultivation, or would admit of any family cultivating by its own labour obtaining the means of subsistence. I say this—that if all the land in Lewis were given to the crofters, it would not enable them to live by husbandry. I say, in the second place, oven if it did, it would not put off the evil day for any substantial period. It is perfectly clear on the face of it, even if at the present moment the land in the Lewis would admit of supporting the present population, that that would not meet the difficulty for any substantial period, for the increase of the population goes on at such a rate that the time must come when even the most sanguine Member who sits opposite will be obliged to give up the idea that there is not a surplus population. I say that period has arrived already, had arrived long ago, and I say so on the authority of all who have examined into the question in the past as well as in the present, and admittedly on the authority of every Royal Commission which has reported. In the case of Lewis it was recognized 100 years ago that it could not bear an increase of population at a time when there were only 8,000 inhabitants, and when we did not hear of places being converted into deer forests and let off to American sportsmen. In the case of Lochs parish, we find that from 1790 to 1797 it is distinctly stated that there were no lands in the parish that could properly be called arable. The population in 1790 was 1,768, and it had more than trebled in 1881, and is now 6,284. In the parish of Stornoway in 1790 there were 2,600 inhabitants, and now there are 10,389. In Uig parish, of which it was declared in the Statistical Account that it never supplies itself with a sufficiency of provisions, there were in 1790 1,898 inhabitants, and in 1881 there were 3,489; and in no season it is declared, as regards Barvas parish, is the produce more than barely 1053 sufficient to support the population, which in 1790 was 2,006, and in 1881 was 5,335. So that in point of fact you have a population which has risen from something like from 8,000 to 10,000 up to something over 27,000 at present. The truth is that last year, which was the hest for many years, as is admitted on all hands, in the way of successful cultivation, we have had destitution staring us in the face, because the source from which the people derived that which enabled them to tide over one part of the year—namely, the fishing—failed them, illustrating what has been dinned into the ears of people for years; but they will not take it in, that the crofter is a man who ought to have an industry and some land for purposes of cultivation as well. If you attempt to make farmers of people who have no capital— so that they must obtain their subsistence entirely out of the land they cultivate— the attempt must necessarily result in disastrous failure anywhere; but still more in such barren wastes as many parts of the Highlands, and in places where the climatic conditions are unfavourable to successful agriculture. This is what we urged, and urged in vain, on the House in 1886. The crofter is practically, and ought to be, an allotment holder. Sir J. M'Neil reported to that effect in 1851. What I and other hon. Gentlemen urged in vain in 1886 was that the crofter could not be a farmer unless the State was prepared to provide him with capital for the purpose of working the farm. I do not suppose any hon. Gentleman will propose that, or that if it were proposed it will be accepted. If crofters are impressed with the belief that they can subsist on the soil of the Islands it will end in disastrous failure. This is how the problem works out in money. The average rent of a croft in Lewis is £3 and some odd shillings, but a great number of them are under £2 rental. If £2 be too high, upon what economic basis of calculation can it be supposed that a croft will support the crofter? I suppose a fairly economic basis of rent would be a third at the utmost of the produce; but suppose the rent is too high, it is not a third, and therefore it should be less than £2. I think that answers itself. Then, if £2 be too low a rent, what becomes of the attack on the landlords of charging exorbitant rents? So that whichever way 1054 you take it, it is perfectly plain that the crofts in Lewis are not, and cannot have been in the past, the means of support to the crofter. What is the state of things now? Two sources of support have disappeared—namely, labour and the kelp industry. You cannot have labour without capital, and you cannot have capital in a place like Lewis if there is no rent being received. Only the fishing remains. I am very thankful to say that the news we have received during the last few days does indicate that there is something to come this season from that source. It seems a Providential interposition that in the present destitution, when assistance must be given by the charitable, that great industry is likely to give the people a stimulus, and put some heart into them, and prevent them from being demoralized by a condition of absolute pauperism. What is the state of things in Sutherlandshire? The proprietor there has consistently made up his mind that he will not allow squatting. What has been the result? The result is that, whatever the Clashmore people complain of, they do not complain of want. ["No, no!"] I am sure if my hon. Friend had seen Mrs. Kerr and her lady companion in the dock at Edinburgh, he would have been very well satisfied they were not in want. In that district there is not a single soul during the past year that has been in want, and has applied for parochial relief. In Sutherlandshire not only was no squatting allowed—and that has had a most salutary effect—but what was done? Money was poured into Sutherlandshire for the purpose of testing whether the land could be made productive—whether it could give a response to labour, however expensive. The Duke of Sutherland selected the best land he could find.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
He has expended thousands upon thousands of pounds upon experiments. I have heard him say that he was quite willing, if he could make it yield a reasonable return, to put aside altogether the enormous capital he had spent upon experiments, if he could only, after they had been carried out, secure a return for the labour put into the soil. I have seen steam ploughs and other enormous appliances of every description—some 1055 of them more like paddle steamers than anything else—employed in these experiments for tearing up the ground, rooting up old trees, and clearing away stones. All that capital could do to produce results having been done, I myself saw a very good crop of potatoes grown. But the experiment resulted in failure. Nature and the climatic conditions have been too strong, and the result is that the Duke has been unable to get anybody to take that land off his hands at any rent. Could a man have done more to endeavour to test the productive value of the soil? He expended his money freely under his own personal supervision. He was always there looking after the land. Not only so, but everybody knows that the Duke of Sutherland has done everything in his power to open up the country, and vast sums of money have been spent in wages in the district, which, but for his enterprize and determination, never would have been spent at all. I do not believe that, from first to last, the Duke has ever received any practical money return from his estate there. His great wealth, derived from other estates in the country, and from his other means, has been freely poured out to test the capabilities of the soil. That leads me just to mention what I saw the other day, in a letter written by the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), who thought he saw a remedy for the evils of the crofters in his Bill to compel landlords to put all land, particularly waste land, under cultivation. I thought the hon. Member suggested the worst places; because if a man is going to spend a large sum of money in making an experiment, he is surely going to take the most favourable conditions, and the most favourable opportunity of testing the experiment. But everything must be accounted for on the part of those who say the Highlands are sufficient to produce food for the people by, somehow or other, getting rid of the proof. It must be thought that the Duke was a great fool, and was badly advised; but he was advised by a gentleman more clever in these matters than most people—Mr. Kenneth Murray. [Dr. CAMERON dissented.] My hon. Friend need not shake his head. I have been there, and have seen the whole of the operations conducted with the greatest possible 1056 skill, and under the best possible advice. In these circumstances, it really comes to be a question whether it is not beating the air for people to say that we have only got to divide the land in order to get prosperity. I should like to read a few words from Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, a man who has taken great interest in the Highlands, who is greatly respected, and who has been a very useful man in his day and generation. Here is what he says, and I want to ask hon. Members if they think the Government of a country is to give no effect whatever to the opinions of men who have lived all their lives in the country, and studied it, and given their attention to the welfare of the community, particularly when we find that these opinions are in accord with opinions expressed in the past by other people, and are fully borne out by experience. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie says—If agriculture is to be a source of living, can the farmer hope to be above want whose farm is not of a size to give him constant employment throughout the year? Opinions may differ as to the minimum size of a farm in Lewis, but no one with a cool head and ordinary powers of calculation can maintain that as an agricultural subject Lewis would be otherwise than over-populated with one-fourth of its present population. Were it divided into farms of £20 rental at the current letting value, it would not accommodate one-sixth of the existing inhabitants. The mass of the people are not farmers at all, but fishermen, and labourers with allotments. They might be converted into farmers if a profitable subject for their labour and means of stocking it were found, just as the unemployed in London might be turned into shopkeepers. It might be worth the country's while in either case to risk the cost of effecting such a conversion where there is a probability that the experiment may be successful; but if the farming capital was found, the land in Lewis would provide for only a select few of its inhabitants, and in these times there would be little prospect of the loaned capital being repaid. It is in these circumstances simply madness, in my view, for those seeking the welfare of the people to say that until the large farms and the forest are re-peopled the surplus population is not to consider any proposal for improving their present condition.There is the opinion of a man who is, at any rate, entitled to some weight, and who cannot be supposed for a moment, from his past history, to be speaking from any evil disposition towards the crofters. He is speaking in the position of a man who feels it his duty to tell them the truth; and it will be a very sad thing, indeed, if these truths 1057 do not come home to the people. Some people never tired of asserting that the Report of the Crofters' Commission, which has been sitting under the recent Act, has proved conclusively that the rents in the Highlands are too high. Well, their rents have not been reduced on an average more than rents all over the country, without any Crofters' Commission, have been reduced voluntarily. Even if you take these cases that always will occur in a largo tract of country where there has been gross rack renting, you will find that the actual reductions of the Crofters' Commission are no more than the reductions which a number of men have made elsewhere of their own accord, owing to the present distressed state of agriculture. Has the value of stock got anything to do with it? [Dr. CAMERON dissented.] The hon. Member shakes his head. Has the value of produce got anything to do with it? Why, the whole of this House rang for two years with assertions from the Irish Members that it was the depression caused by the low prices of stock and produce that necessitated a reduction of rents. What is the case of Lewis? Stock that formerly sold for £5 a-head you cannot get 30s. for now. Is that not a case for the reduction of rent? Therefore, I say it is perfectly clear that the reductions caused by the decisions of the Commission have nearly brought the matter to the same footing as in the rest of the country. Suppose the rent were too high, then you come at once closer to the problem. If the rent be too high, it is plain that the produce of the land is not sufficient for the support of the people; and here again I should like to refer to what was said by me on the subject in 1886 in this House—If, on the contrary, it turned out to be true that the rents were too high, then the result was contrary to the Commissioners' Report, but if that were the result there was an economic corollary that flowed from it, and that was that it was fatal to the idea of this Bill being a real settlement of the question, because, if it were proved that the rents, even as at present, on which all the calculations hitherto had been made as to the capabilities of the land for supporting the population, were too high, that would bring about this result—that it would become more certain than ever that the population could not be supported from the profits of the produce of the soil alone.But the present crisis in Lewis has nothing whatever to do with the question of rent, for ka very simple reason—the 1058 rent has not been paid. Therefore, if the people are at present destitute, it is not on account of excessive rents, but because the land has not produced even a bare subsistence for the people. Even in one of the best years they have ever had, in the parish of Lochs, out of a land rental on which one proprietor is assessed at £2,452, the sum actually paid in rent is only £350. That includes all agricultural holdings, but not shootings; so that the proprietor has got only about one-seventh part of his rent. Perhaps somebody will say that one-seventh of the rent is all the landlord should get. But what is the result? There are 6,284 people; and take them at the rate of six to a family, which is a very large estimate, you have 1,047 families residing in the Lochs parish. That makes six shillings and a few odd pence for each family. If it is said that the rent which Lady Matheson is getting is only a seventh, it comes to this, that the people are properly rented on their holdings at a rate which represents six shillings and a few odd pence for every six persons of the population. The thing has only to be stated to show its monstrous absurdity. I say, therefore, that fishing or labour of some other kind is absolutely essential, and as regards labour, that which practically proves its necessity is the fact that these enormous sums have been expended upon labour in the past, and that it is this enormous expenditure that in many cases has kept the wolf from the door. It has been contended that it is not the fact that the population is too large, but it was proved time after time by reports that real famine and an absolute breakdown on the part of the population has only been prevented on more than one occasion by the coming in of something from outside, which enabled them to succeed. They could never have lived before 1851 without the kelp industry, and they could never have lived after 1851 without the fishing industry. It cannot be denied that in Sutherlandshire, Ross-shire, Inverness-shire, and in Lewis it has formerly been possible for a landlord who had large personal property to pour out his money in the making of improvements, and thus giving employment to the Crofters, and it is not contested that vast sums had been thus expended in Lewis and elsewhere. That, however, is not possible now, and it is not 1059 contended that these proprietors have got the means of making any more improvements. With regard to the two places in which outbreaks have recently taken place, in both cases the proprietors were people who had spent a great deal of their time among their people. Lady Matheson, notwithstanding some abominable threatening letters which she has received, and which I earnestly trust are hoaxes, has persistently refused to leave Stornoway; and I believe she will remain there as long as she has a shilling left. She has been put to enormous expense, and has received nothing in return. She is a brave lady, and a most generous lady; and I am sure there is not a single Member in the House who sympathizes with the Crofters who will venture to say a single word against her as regards Lewis. It is said, of course, that Sir James Matheson expended this money with the expectation of making some profit out of it. Undoubtedly that is the case, but it is none the less the act of a kindly and right-thinking man. If Sir James could have carried on the works which he instituted in such a manner as to benefit the people with scarcely any return, not to speak of profit, he would have been glad to do so. All this shows the difficulty of struggling against a barren soil and an unpropitious climate. With respect to Lewis, full information has been given as to the enormous sums which had been expended there, and yet there has been no result in prosperity, because nature has been fighting against it. Labour is scarce, proprietors are crippled, and the vast sums that have been expended are bringing in no return. Now, the only thing that has a prospect of success is the fishing, and certainly, if a successful fishing industry could be established on the West Coast of Scotland, you may solve the question of the difficulty of population in the future. You cannot solve it for the immediate present. You may be able to sustain a large number of people if you establish a permanent and successful fishing; and with regard to that I may say Her Majesty's Government have made arrangements by which boats and gearing can be procured by fishermen on very easy terms—one-tenth of the cost to be provided in the case of new boats, and two-tenths in the case of old boats, the 1060 Government giving a loan on the footing that the boats will be fully insured for the remainder. I was glad to hear to-day that a gentleman who has, I believe, made a wonderful discovery in fish curing, has in prospect the establishment of a large industry on the West Coast of the Highlands, by which he believes he will be able not only to make a good profit himself, but to give remunerative labour to many people. I hope it will be admitted that the Government have done all that could be reasonably expected of them in the way of stimulating the fishing industry. As regards the destitution, the Government are in direct communication with those who are meeting the present want, and care will be taken that the greatest vigilance is exercised on the spot to prevent any calamitous results. Lastly, we come to the question which I believe lies at the root of this whole matter at the present time, and that is what is to be done in view of the fact—which I consider to be established on incontrovertible testimony—that the population is too heavy to be carried by the district? There is only one way of looking at the fact, and that is, that some part of the population should do, as all the populations of the rest of this country do— namely, go to some other place. Those are the worst enemies of the Highlands who are endeavouring to persuade the people that it is a cruel thing for the Government, or for other people, to endeavour to induce them to go to other countries. Love of country is a very proper sentiment; but if it had been carried out in the way proposed in the Highlands, it would have prevented this country from being the great country it is. Why it should be thought that the manliness and the pluck which are good all over the rest of the country should be bad in the West Highlands, I am utterly unable to conceive. In old days, when to leave their country practically meant expatriation, men have braved it, and we had all over this country monuments of the success of those men in other countries, by which they had shown their love and appreciation of the old country. We know perfectly well that Highlanders have gone forth to all parts of the world, and have distinguished themselves in arms, in Government, and in everything. I think there is a great deal too much of 1061 mawkish sentimentality about the question, and it does enormous harm. If these people could be persuaded that they are doing good to themselves and to their neighbours by going abroad, it would be the greatest possible blessing to these districts. How this is to be done is a totally different question. It must be voluntary; but one thing is quite clear, that every obstacle is put in the way of voluntary emigration by the people who try to persuade those unfortunate crofters that they can struggle against economic laws. I know there are people who hold the opinion that there is plenty of land for the crofters to live in comfort; but I hold that that opinion is contrary to the experience of the past. They have only been kept down in numbers by disease and by clan feuds. With regard to the latter, that kind of thing is not allowed now; and with regard to disease, protection is now given; and though with regard to children it is not, perhaps, so efficient as may be wished, still much has been done for the people. If these people could be convinced that it is a good and wise thing to go abroad, as others have done before them, I am sure that it would be of the greatest benefit, both to those who go and to those who are left behind. The Government is willing to entertain any substantial proposals from any number of persons who may desire to emigrate from the congested districts. More than that it would be extremely unwise to say. I invite hon. Members and their Friends to consider whether they are acting wisely in the interests of these people in endeavouring to persuade them to do that which can only be done up to a certain point. It has been proved by conclusive evidence from a vast number of sources that there is a limit to the productiveness of the soil and the number of people who can live upon it, and that that limit has been reached long ago. I have endeavoured, in the course of this speech, which has lasted already too long—["No, no!"]—to notice every point brought forward by hon. Gentlemen who have spoken. If I have omitted to notice anything, I should be glad to hear it now. But I think I have pretty well exhausted all that I ought to say. I think that this House, in dealing with the question, ought to realize that it is one which ought to be 1062 discussed dispassionately, and without any personal reflections. I have no objection whatever, and no Member of Her Majesty's Government has any objection whatever to any attack upon us in our official capacity for anything we have done. But I am sure every Member of this House must feel that this is a matter which ought to be considered with an earnest desire to find the best solution we can, and that the line of attack and recrimination is one which it is not wise to adopt. That destitution is ahead of us in Lewis at the present moment, there can be no question whatever. I am very glad, indeed, to think and to know that influential means are being taken to meet that destitution. But, after all, the present destitution is but the fringe of the question. We have our view, and some conclusion must be arrived at as to what is to be done in the future; and I hope I have stated clearly and temperately what I mean in giving expression to the view of Her Majesty's Government. I do trust that these views may at least be calmly and carefully considered. We can lend ourselves to no scheme which expresses a belief that, by endeavouring to break up present arrangements of land anywhere in these West Highlands, sufficient can be provided for the people in these districts. We express that opinion with regret; but we have formed it after most careful consideration. But it does not at all prevent the operation of the clauses of the Bill which became law two years ago, under which— if it is convenient to do so, and if it does not interfere with the rights of other people—additions may be made to Crofters' and to existing holdings. Undoubtedly the removal of some people from the congested districts would at once afford relief in respect of the amount of land available; because there is no question that crofts have been divided up until, as they now exist, they are absolutely insufficient to afford substantial means of subsistence. If some of these people could be removed to a place where they have a prospect of success, the land which is vacated would be a great comfort to those who are left; and we would not be favourable to any scheme of emigration upon the footing that crofts already divided up into too small patches are again to be occupied. 1063 Our aim and intention would be that where people remove, the part of the croft divided off in the past should be added to it again, so as to provide a proper size of croft, and afford a reasonable help to the families who are left. We should be glad, indeed, to find in the course of time some people come forward for the purpose of being voluntarily emigrated. And recently, in the many cases which I know of, such a scheme has been eminently successful. Lady Gordon Cathcart succeeded in getting 11 families to emigrate in one year, and the result was that no less than 45 families emigrated in the following year. And I am convinced of this, that, if you could only get 12 or 20 families in Lewis to make the experiment, the whole of your agitation to tell them they ought not to emigrate would be defeated by the news which came from those who had emigrated. I assure the House that this matter has engaged, is engaging, and will engage the most earnest attention of Her Majesty's Government. It is our earnest desire, and I am sure it is the earnest desire of the House, that the best should be done for an interesting population such as we have in these Western Highlands—so different from those who live in other parts of the country. My hope is that the demoralization amongst them, which is at present rapidly spreading, will be checked; that they may come to believe that the Government has a real interest in them; that they and their friends will turn over a new leaf, and will calmly consider the question whether agitation is the mode by which they are to be brought to happiness, or whether happiness is not rather to be found by recognizing the Constitution as it really exists, by devoting their energies really to labour and to industry which may be remunerative, and not by seeking from the Government things which they never can obtain, and which, if they did obtain, it is my firm and confident belief would leave them in a few years' time no better off than they are at present.
§ DR. R. MACDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)
said, that in dealing with the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) he wished to say that a complaint was made that no Notice had been given of some of the 1064 subjects which had been alluded to, and that they had been sprung on the Government and on the House. At any rate, Mr. Speaker must have thought that the references which had been made to what occurred in the Highlands could properly be included in the debate, otherwise he would not have allowed hon. Gentlemen to deal with them. He (Dr. R. Macdonald) did not therefore think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had good ground for grumbling on that score. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had begun with the statement with which he (Dr. R. Macdonald) perfectly agreed, for he had said that whatever the state of matters in the Highlands was now, it was owing to past legislation for which the Government were not responsible. He and other hon. Members from the Highlands had done their best to get the late Government to take the view of the matter which they were taking now that they were in Opposition, and all that could be said against the present Government was that it had helped the late Government in preventing the Crofter Members from getting those improvements in the Crofters' Act which they otherwise would have obtained. The Crofter Members now appealed to the present Government to act in the matter and to improve the legislation of past Sessions. The working of the Crofters' Act had shown the world that the measure would not do what the House and the Government who brought in the Bill expected it to do. It had done nothing of the sort, and they asked the present Government to improve the Act in that respect. They asked the Government why did they not do in the case of the Scotch Highlands what they had done in the case of Ireland? Why did they not break down the leases and allow farmers all over Scotland the same privileges as they had allowed Irish farmers? If the Government would only do that they would find more than one way out of the present difficulty, and it would be shown that there were plenty of farms for the poor crofters to go into, and that it would not be necessary for the word "emigration" to be the beginning and the end of the speech of a Minister of the Government on this question. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had told them that nothing else but emigration could be done, and 1065 that the Crofter Members were advising these people not to emigrate Well, certainly the Crofter Members were advising the crofters not to emigrate except on certain conditions. If the Government would give them a scheme of migration as well as emigration, then they would help with all the power they had; but so long as the Government refrained from doing this, and from telling them that the crofters should get additional land which was now used for deer and game, they could not agree with the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate that the people should leave their own country. Was it a good thing for a country that it should be denuded of its population? Were they to depopulate their own country in order to accommodate sportsmen from America who could not find land in their own country for the keeping and shooting of deer? He (Dr. R. Macdonald) would tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, so long as this or any other Government would not give the Highlanders a scheme of migration, and would not give them land to cultivate from the deer forests and establish farms, they would get no help from the Crofter Members in trying to induce the crofters to emigrate. What was desirable, in the first instance, was that the crofters should thoroughly populate their own country, and that when that was done the surplus population should be sent to other countries. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman had declared that the distress was not owing to the present crofters, and that no matter what was done the people would not get better off. He (Dr. R. Macdonald) frankly allowed that that was the case; but what the Crofter Members had always been asking for in this House—and he thought they knew what the crofters wanted—was more land. They did not ask for reductions of rents, though they were granted. They had stated incidentally that the rents were too high, but they did not make much trouble about that matter. What was really laid stress upon was the necessity of giving the crofters more land, and it was more land that the Government would not give. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said—"If you give these people their land at 10s. an acre they 1066 will be no better off," and that was, no doubt, very true. The only way to improve their position was to give them more land; that, as a matter of fact, was the only solution of the question. It was entirely beside the question to talk about the present crofter system not having been introduced by the Government, and the Government not being to blame for keeping it on. The right hon. and learned Gentleman then entered upon a phase of his speech which he (Dr. R. Macdonald), as a Highlander, could hardly recognize as very patriotic. He had told them that the Highlanders were wanting in manliness and committed illegal acts. Well, he could tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that all manliness had not departed from the Highlanders, and that the Highlanders never had so much manliness in their lives as they had now. In olden times when a Highlander met his landlord he would take off his hat to him in the road half-a-mile before he came up to him; but all that had now changed, and the crofter now went up and looked his landlord straight in the face. It was because the crofters had acquired more manliness that they refused to be ground down by such laws as were now in force in Scotland. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in referring to the deer raid in Lewis, had stated that it did not seem at all to indicate to the Government or anyone else, that there was starvation amongst the people. He had said that if the people had been starving what one would have expected them to do would have been to kill a sheep or two and take them home and eat them. But that was a thing which a Highlander would not demean himself by doing—he would rather starve than steal a sheep; but the Highlanders did not see much harm in pulling down a wall as a protest against the present law. As to whether the deer were taken home by the raiders or not, he had a great deal more information on the point than the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because he happened to have had as his guest for some time the gentleman who was at the head of the raid, and he had learned from him that a great many deer had been taken home by the Highlanders to their families; and if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would promise not to prosecute, he might, later 1067 on, be furnished with the names of the families in question. So that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had made another mistake when he argued that the agitation had not in view the relief of distress. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman told them that the Mover of the Motion had passed lightly over the rioting at Aignish and Clashmore, but that was a matter of opinion. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to have employed this evening in putting up men of straw in order to knock them down again. He said that the hon. Members who had spoken seemed to entertain such and such views, when in reality they did not do anything of the kind. No doubt, Aignish and Clashmore people were wrong in what they had done; but still there was something to explain their conduct. The explanation was simply the despair of the people. They felt that they must do something legal or illegal — something that would make their names talked about in this country, and get into the English as well as into the Scotch papers; and they were even willing to undergo the awful sentences which had been passed upon them in the Court of Session the other day in order to bring their case before the country. He (Dr. R. Macdonald) was not much of a lawyer, and he would not enter into a long discussion with him as to the decision in Edinburgh. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said it was all right; but the country did not think so, and, unless he was very much mistaken, before very long an Edinburgh jury would have another opportunity of trying crofters. In this way the question would be again brought up, and the public would see whether the first decision was right. The people had come to find that deer were nobody's property, and that for taking them all they had to pay was a trespass fine of £2. No doubt, a great many people would be willing to risk such a fine as that when they would have the prospect of taking as much vension as would pay the fine, and when they knew that they themselves would go scot-free. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to observations made at public, or semi-public, meetings, and had quoted the statement of one person, that he was prepared to shed his blood in the cause; and he 1068 had asked what meaning was to be attached to that sort of thing. Well, the right hon. and learned Gentleman knew what his own principal witness against these deer raids in Edinburgh was going to do. This person had said that he was going to the forest alone, if no one else went with him; and it was plain what little value was to be attached to any such statements of the kind. These men of both sides said things which they did not mean. Men threatened to do heroic acts; but such statements were not worth making capital out of. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had been most severe with the awful lawlessness which had been committed at Aignish. He had stated that there had been a mob of 5,000 or 6,000 people; but he had gone on to refer to an incident which clearly showed that the people were not lawless, because he had mentioned the fact that the Sheriff had been able to go and smoke his pipe amongst the men, who had not attempted to interfere with him in any way. It therefore did not come very well from the mouth of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to talk of these people as being very lawless. So far from doing the Sheriff of Stornaway any injury, the people had not even spoken disrespectfully of him. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of the Royal Scots Regiment being called upon; but he had not referred to an incident which was not very creditable to those soldiers—he had not mentioned that when the crofters came down with spades and pikes the soldiers were put to flight.
§ DR. R. MACDONALD
said, he believed it had occurred at Aignish; at any rate, the newspapers reported it, and he had not seen it contradicted. With regard to another matter alluded to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, it was only fair to remark that the witnesses for the defence ought to have been assisted to get to Edinburgh. It should not be said that witnesses in such cases as this were of no use. Scores of people had written to him (Dr. R. Macdonald), and pointed out that witnesses could be brought up to show that the men in custody were innocent and to prove an alibi. It was, no doubt, a great inconve- 1069 nience to th6 poor crofters who had not a shilling in the world, to be removed from Stornaway to other parts, and not only was that unjust in itself, but it was unjust in enabling the Government to keep away witnesses for the defence. As to the sentences passed upon those poor people, very few Scotch Members, he thought, would agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that they were very light. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought that a sentence of nine months' imprisonment on a poor woman for simply having thrown a clod at a policeman was a light sentence, his view and the view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman differed. Then with regard to rents in the Highlands. No doubt, they had been lowered, and very properly so; but did the right hon. and learned Gentleman know of any reduction—except in the single case of the Duke of Sutherland—having been given before the year 1886. There were many cases in which reductions had been given upon large farms, but no reductions had been given to the crofters until the Crofters' Commission got settled down to its work. If there were no Crofters' Commission, he did not believe that the crofters would have obtained any reduction in their rents. Everybody knew that the crisis in the farming industry occurred long before 1887, when the Crofters' Commission began to sit. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to Lady Matheson as a brave woman for continuing to live in Lewis, but he (Dr. R. Macdonald) would put it to any hon. Member whether that statement was correct and whether it could be called a sign of bravery on the part of any one to continue to reside on the Island. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told them that the Government had done all that they could in this matter, and if that were the case then their "all" was very little indeed, and this or any other Government would have to do a great deal more than had yet been done to satisfy or allay the agitation in the Highlands. Before be left the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech he must just remark, with regard to the sentences which had been obtained against the prisoners, that if the jury had known what the sentence was to have been it would have influenced them very much in finding a verdict. Even the jurors had 1070 their hearts touched when they found that the sentences were not such as they expected. The Crofter Members did not contend that there were not too many people in Lewis; but while admitting that the place was over-populated, they pointed out that three-fourths of the land was under deer forests and sheep farms, and only one-fourth was in the hands of the people, and they asked that the Government should give them that three-fourths, or as much as the people could make use of. When education was more advanced than it is now in the Highlands, the Government would find that it was not necessary to emigrate the young men and women, but that they would emigrate themselves very quickly. With respect to the Duke of Sutherland's improvements, he would point out that in no case had any of the improved land been allotted to a crofter. They had all been offered to large farmers; but if the Duke of Sutherland would try the experiment of offering them to the crofters he would not be very likely to try unsuccessfully. The hon. Member for Sutherland (Mr. A. Sutherland) had said that it was not very nice for them as Highlanders to talk about the poverty of the Highlands, and that was very true; but, after all, that was the only way to bring the subject before the world. The Report on Lewis gave a number of incidents showing the poverty of the inhabitants. It stated in one case, that of Kenneth M'Kenzie, that he had no potatoes; that he had got destitution meal; that he had two beds badly equipped for nine people to sleep in; that a son of 17 and a son' of 10 had to sleep with two daughters of 21 and 14, or else sleep with their parents, as there was no other way of doing it. Many other cases of this kind were quoted. It was a well known fact that there were formerly 37 crofting villages in what was now the(Park)deer forest, averaging from, two or six families up to 20. Those villages bad disappeared and the inhabitants had not gone abroad, but were crowded amongst the other people. The landlords did not come out of this matter very well. With reference to the condition of the people of Lewis, all the medical authorities, with one exception, agreed in saying that the state of things was very serious there. As to the Crofters' Commission, it was sometimes 1071 said that they ought to be satisfied with what had been done in the Highlands, and with the Courts which had been established; but, although rents had been in many instances reduced, the crofters had been ordered to pay very large percentages of the arrears. It had been held out to them that they would get more land. He did not know whether hon. Members in all parts of the House were aware of the fact, but the Crofter Members were. However, although it was understood that the crofters were to have more land, already the Crofters' Commission had dealt with 1,500 odd crofters, but in no single instance had they given an inch more of land. Hon. Members had thought that the Government of the day had been giving them something, when in reality they were giving them nothing at all. The crofters, as a matter of fact, had not been treated as favourably as the tenants on the large farms, because, whereas the former had only received reductions to the extent of 38 per cent, the large farmers had received reductions ranging from 37 to 57 per cent, and this notwithstanding that the crofters ought to have the benefit of all their improvements. How could the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that they were going to have peace in the Highlands if this was the sort of justice that was to be meted out to the people? He maintained that the crofters would be wanting in that manliness which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to if they put up with such a thing, and it was for the Government to see that something was done for them. The crofters were quite willing to go to prison rather than to put up with the existing state of things. Therefore it was desirable that the Government should do something. Though he sat on the Opposition side of the House, up to to-night he had had very great expectations of the Tory Government. His hopes were in a fair way to be disappointed, however; still he must express a hope that something better would be done than emigration.
§ MR. MACDONALD CAMERON (Wick, &c.)
said, he had been very much amused to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) deliver such an interesting speech and ask hon. Members to look at this matter in the calmest 1072 manner. He thought that this appeal of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was evidence that he was somewhat afraid of the result of the present condition of things being allowed to continue. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to those Members who represented Highland constituencies as agitators, and said that hon. Gentlemen were giving advice to the people in those constituencies which they dared not get up and report in that House. But he (Mr. Macdonald Cameron) had sat in that House for two years, and he had never heard from them anything that could be considered as advice to the people to indulge in lawlessness; on the contrary, it was a wonder to him that they should have accepted for so long as they had the condition of things. The hon. Gentlemen referred to were agitators in this sense—that they were doing all they could to get the wrongs of the people righted by what they believed to be Constitutional agitation; and he thought it was perfectly undeniable that such wrongs did exist. If the Government did not listen to the Constitutional agitation which they were engaged in, how, he asked, could they possibly preserve law and order in the country, because otherwise the people would be driven to do what all deplored? The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that no one would get up and repudiate those acts. He (Mr. Macdonald Cameron) repudiated those acts. He was exceedingly sorry that the people had committed such acts; but it was not the people who were to blame; it was those who refused to right the wrongs of these people, and in saying that he spoke of right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. If the present attitude towards these people was maintained, the present agitation would probably spread and there was no saying what the result might be. Reference had been made to the Report recently presented with regard to the position in Lewis. It was impressed on the House at the time of the passing of the Bill by hon. Members for Scotland generally, that it was of great moment and necessity that the cottars should be possessed of some land, and the result was that, not having got that land, they were in great destitution through the failure of fishing and the change in economic conditions. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had 1073 referred to the experiments made by his Grace the Duke of Sutherland; but he would point out that, in the first place, the land selected was at too high an altitude to allow corn to ripen upon it. He had heard that his Grace was badly advised in this matter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to Mr. Kenneth Murray as one of the most intelligent and enterprizing men in the county of Ross, who had the confidence of the noble Duke and advised him to make those experiments, which were made at his Grace's expense. But it was found that a great mistake had been committed, no matter how practical a man Mr. Murray was. He gave the noble Duke every credit for desiring to do the best he could for his people; but this mistake had been made, and starvation having almost overtaken them, it could not be expected that they would appreciate his Grace's action to the extent they would otherwise have done. If his Grace, instead of spending this large sum per acre, had placed on the land the descendents of the people evicted some eighty years ago, he would have got a large number of men to go there; the land would have been brought into cultivation at no expense to his Grace, and besides, he would be at that moment one of the most highly respected landlords in the Highlands of Scotland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said the young men would be much bettor off if they would only leave the land and go elsewhere; but he looked at it in quite a different light, and he considered that the reference of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was a most unfortunate one. He looked on the instance given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman as evidence of the great physical and mental power which the Scotch people possessed, and which, if it were well treated on the soil, would develop the country. Why should they send the best blood and sinew of the country to America and other countries? He said that the large cities of the country would become effete, disintegrate, and run to seed, so to speak, unless there was an influx of a healthy element from the rural districts. He held in his hand some cuttings from a Northern newspaper relating to the reductions made to the crofters since they had been engaged in this particular business. 1074 The right hon. and learned Gentleman said, in the course of his speech, that reductions of rents meant nothing, and that they had been reduced in accordance with what was obtaining elsewhere; but as his hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Dr. R. Macdonald) had pointed out, they would not have been reduced were it not for Lord Napier's wishes, and for the passing of the Act of 1886. He said it was begging the question to bring forward such a miserable case as the right hon. and learned Gentleman had adduced. There were two estates mentioned in the Paper before him, one of Lord Macdonald and the other of Colonel Frazer; on the first of these there were seven or eight townships, and the reductions had been about 50 per cent; but what struck him forcibly was the great number of widows on these estates, and the high rents these poor women had been paying for many years before the passing of the Act. There were no less than 35 on the Macdonald estate, and their rents had been reduced by 30 and 35, and, in one or two cases, by 40 per cent. He thought they ought to try to get the landlords to disgorge the money they had improperly exacted for some considerable time back from these poor women. In connection with the fact that landlords had been forced to reduce the rents, he might mention the case of a landlord who had not been so forced, but who, knowing that it was better to deal sympathetically with his tenantry, called them together, and told them to value the land for themselves. This was Mr. Macdonald, of Skaebost, in Skye, and the result was that a committee was established for the purpose, the land was valued, and in most instances he got a fair rent, and in several others it was agreed that he should be paid more than he considered the land was worth. Let hon. Members contrast that with some of the neighbouring estates, and also with the case of Mr. Sutherland, of Skibo, who refused to accept the rents which were fixed by the Crofters' Commission. He had not that pessimistic view of the working of the Crofters' Act which was entertained by some hon. Members. He believed it was a great gain. It had admitted for the first time in Scotch legislation that the landlord could not do exactly what he liked with his land, especially if in doing so he 1075 acted against the well-being of the community. He was afraid that hon. Gentlemen opposite had been basing their arguments on the principle that if a man possessed property it did not matter whether he managed it in a manner injurious to the community or not. He was sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate had not promised greater amelioration for the crofters than he had done in the speech they had heard that evening. With regard to the sentences which had been passed lately on the poor crofters, and which it was said were not cumulative, it was monstrous that a man should get 15 months' imprisonment, and women nine and 12 months, for being present at what was practically nothing more than a moderate attempt to advertize their grievances. Let hon. Members contrast those sentences with what occurred in Scotland a few years ago, when the City of Glasgow Bank directors were arraigned before the chief tribunal of the country for having defrauded widows and orphans, and reduced them to poverty. Those men got off with a few months' imprisonment, and he was reading the other day, in The Pall Mall Gazette, the account of a man who came home one evening drunk and trampled on his wife, and crushed her almost to death, and who, when brought before a London magistrate for the offence, got off simply because he was the wife's husband. With regard to the estate of Lady Matheson, he knew Lady Matheson to be a most worthy woman; but in the midst of this agitation she was perfectly helpless; she was surrounded by the same sort of advisers who had surrounded proprietors in the Highlands from time immemorial. He exceedingly regretted to read some little time ago that a deputation had waited on her Ladyship, asking for a greater amount of land for the crofters, and, in some instances, for a reduction of rental. To this deputation her Ladyship replied—"I cannot give you what you want when you cannot pay the rent of the small piece of land you have got." When the Crofters' Bill was passing through Committee in that House it was repeatedly stated and urged on the Government that these people could get a very good living if they had more land; and it was distinctly stated, in reply to Lady Matheson, that the crofters could not 1076 pay their rents on their small holdings because they were not large enough to occupy the whole of their labouring time, and so yield sufficient for their subsistence. Her Ladyship said— If you are not able to maintain yourselves at home, you should go to foreign lands and make provision for yourselves," But that, he (Mr. Macdonald Cameron) said, was just what the Highlander would not do. He was now reading the Penny Press; and, if hon. Members liked the term, the Constitutional agitation was going on among the Highlanders, and they did not regard the alternative offered them as the solution of the difficulty. There was another point he would mention in connection with this subject. These people believed—whether rightly or wrongly— that they, as descendants of the head and progenitors of the Clan, had a right to the Clan lands. That belief governed them; it would continue the present agitation; and the Government might send their troopships with soldiers and police, but they would never drive the Highlanders into believing the contrary. There was no doubt that a great deal of the existing destitution was due to the failure of fishing. He did not mean by that that they did not catch as many fish as in times past; in fact, they caught a great deal more; but there were difficulties in the way of their obtaining a market for it. A few years ago a large number of the Western Highlanders used to hire themselves to the fish curers at a large and handsome wage, plus a certain sum per cran for the herrings they took; but in recent years there had been much competition, not only among the fish curers themselves, but several Continental ports that were previously open to the British fisherman were now closed, so that the Northern curers were not able to give so large a bounty as formerly. The result was that those Lewis men who went to the East for a few months' fishing had practically come back empty handed, whereas previously they earned sufficient money in six weeks or two months to enable them to carry their families through with comfort for the better part of the year. He was sorry the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, had not seen his way, by timely assistance, to allay the agitation among these poor people.
1077 The Government had power under the Crofters' Act to utilize £20,000 for the purpose of assisting these fishermen on the North and West Coast; and one thing had struck him in connection with this subject—namely, that not a single shilling had been advanced to the people for whom that House had authorized the money to be employed. They had made terms which those men could not possibly accept; and in that way the most important part of the Act had become practically a dead letter. The Government said that they would never listen to the proposal on behalf of these men; but there was a power more supreme than that of Her Majesty's Government, and that power was outside the House of Commons, and it would decide in this matter. The Government had created a precedent, and they could not go back upon it; and he said that it would cost the country much less to spend money in helping the people to earn an honest livelihood on their native soil than in sending ships and men to coerce them into obedience to iniquitous laws or emigrating them to foreign lands.
§ MR. ASHER (Elgin, &c.)
said, he did not intend to travel over the wide range of subjects which had been introduced by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, for if all speakers were to do that the debate on the Address would be indefinitely prolonged. No subject at the present time occupied more of the attention and the interest of the people of Scotland than the state of matters in the Highlands. They were now in possession of an official Report from the gentlemen appointed to make an inquiry, indicating, that although up to the present time there had been few, or no cases, of actual starvation, yet that the time was close at hand when the people in some parts of the West Coast of Scotland would be undergoing all the privations of absolute starvation. That was a state of matters requiring the immediate attention of the Government; and with that information before the Government, it appeared to him that, in the absence of any adequate explanation, it was expedient that this House should express its sense of the propriety of that matter being noticed in the Speech from the Throne. As to the causes of that state of matters, he had little doubt that the more immediate cause was 1078 the great adversity in the fishing industry; but he would remind the House that that was not a temporary cause or one that would pass away in a limited time. It was due to a change which, had been brought about in the method of prosecuting the industry. Formerly the fish-curers employed boats' crews at specified rates, the curers taking the risks of the results of the fishing for the season. But that system was found to be disastrous for the fish-curers, and the new method had been adopted of letting the men work for themselves, and sell the fish to the curers daily at the market rates. In this way men from the West Coast who had hitherto found employment on the East Coast at fixed rates had to take their chance of the results, whether profitable or not. In bad years like the present they would make little or nothing. That being so, it became all the more important to consider the other schemes for the amelioration of the condition of the crofters. But before coming to that, he would refer to a matter in connection with which the Lord Advocate had appealed to him (Mr. Asher)—namely, the administration of the Criminal Law. Now, he had no hesitation in saying that he regretted sincerely that the agitation or the movement connected with the crofters should to any extent whatever be sullied by anything in the nature of crime. He thought it most desirable, in the interests of the crofters, that they should keep in all respects within the strict limits of the law. At the present moment they enjoyed a very large measure of the sympathy of the people of Scotland, and, for his part, he believed that that sympathy would remain with, them, and that they would have the best efforts of the Scottish people and their Representatives to secure every right and legitimate demand; and the only ground on which he would conceive that they would forfeit that sympathy and support was if they so far forgot themselves as to give way to a system of criminality. But when he came to the part of the speech of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate dealing with the Government proposals of amelioration, it appeared to him that there were vital principles distinguishing the right hon. and learned Gentleman's views from the views entertained on that side of the 1079 House. His right hon. and learned Friend appeared to place as the first and most effective ameliorative method, the emigration of the people; then, secondly, that there should be some aid given to the fishing industry; and in the third place—if, indeed, it was recognized at all—some alteration of the rights of the people with regard to the occupation of the land. Now, on that head, he (Mr. Asher) humbly took a different view. He would class the various means in precisely the inverse order from that in which they were stated by his right hon. and learned Friend. It appeared to him that the most natural quarter in which to look for the amelioration of the crofters' condition was a further possession of the land in the district where he lived. He did not suggest that there should be anything in the nature of spoliation, or taking the land without due compensation; but he thought there should be made available to the people of a district all the land in their neighbourhood susceptible of profitable use for cultivation or pasture, they, of course, obtaining possession on fair and reasonable terms as between them and the owner. His right hon. and learned Friend—and it was greatly to be regretted—seemed to depreciate very much the efficacy of the Crofters' Act, and to look back with satisfaction upon the predictions made to that effect when the Bill was passing through the House. But now that the Act was in operation and being carried out by a Royal Commission, he (Mr. Asher) thought it would have been more conducive to the benefit of the Highlands if his right hon. and learned Friend had spoken of the Act as a measure which was to be carried out so as to give all the benefits which could possibly be conferred upon the people within the limits of its provisions.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I did not suggest anything to the contrary. What I said, and still maintain, was that the Act was not efficacious for the purpose it was intended by its promoters.
§ MR. ASHER
said, he quite understood what his right hon. and learned Friend meant, and regretted his depreciatory remarks. He admitted the Act might be in many respects defective and incomplete. There was no doubt it 1080 embodied a new principle. That was conceded at the time. It was to a large extent tentative, and was guarded and restricted so as to let the principle be tried without being unduly extended. But if it had been inefficacious to produce the results intended, he should have listened with more satisfaction if his right hon. and learned Friend had told the House in what respect it had been found inefficacious, and what was necessary for the purpose of remedying its defects. They had been told that under the Act there had been no extension of the crofters' holdings. If that were so, undoubtedly the Act had not fulfilled one of the primary purposes which its promoters intended. The three leading ideas on which the Act was passed were, first, the reduction of the rent to a point which indicated a fair rent; second, the extension of the area of the crofters' holdings; and, thirdly, the development of the fishing industry by means of loans to fishermen for the purpose of prosecuting their industry. With regard to the first, he was disposed to think the Act had fairly fulfilled its purpose, because there could be no doubt there had been large reductions of rent. His right hon. and learned Friend said the reductions which the Act had brought about had not been larger than were voluntarily given by landlords in other parts of Scotland. He believed that in many parts of Scotland landlords had given large and liberal reductions; but he was afraid that had not been universal. But when one remembered, what must not be overlooked, that the crofters and their predecessors were the persons who had, to a very large extent, created the value of their holdings, he was inclined to think there would not have been such reductions as had been granted without the agency of the Crofters' Act. As to rents, he thought all the evidence justified the passing of the Act, and showed its success. But in regard to the extension of the holdings, if it were the case that up to the present there had been no extension of the crofters' holdings under the Act, then, in his humble opinion, the Act had failed in that department. He should have liked to hear from the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate what had been the experience of the Commissioners in that respect. If the Act had 1081 been inoperative, was it due to any undue stringency in the Act, or to what other cause? He was aware that there were certain provisions in the Act regarding deer forests which he did not think were introduced by the Party to which he belonged. He had never said, neither did he hold the opinion, that there ought to be a complete annihilation of deer forests in Scotland. He believed there were portions of Scotland which could be devoted to no more useful purpose than deer forests; but, on the other hand, he contended that all those parts of the mountainous districts which could be profitably applied to the purpose of cultivation or pasture ought to be dedicated to these purposes, in preference to deer forests, where they had a teeming population which could not find sustenance in any other way. If the Crofters' Act had failed to affect deer forests to the extent of giving the people the possession, on fair terms, of those portions of land at present under deer, which were susceptible of profitable cultivation or pasture, then, in his opinion, the Act had failed in its purpose, and the sooner it was amended the better. Then, with regard to the fishing industry, he was glad to hear that arrangements had been made to facilitate loans being granted to fishermen under the Act. From the time of the passing of the Act in 1886 to the present, there had, as far as he knew, been no loan effected for the purpose of enabling fishermen to procure boats and other implements for fishing. But he did not care to criticize the past if they were to have things put right in the future; and he received with great satisfaction the statement of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, that arrangements had at last been made which, he hoped, might result in the fishermen being able to take advantage of these provisions, and obtain the means of prosecuting the fishing industry, in which he agreed with his right hon. and learned Friend was to be found one of the most important channels for improving the unfortunate condition of the people of the West Coast. With regard to emigration, he would put that in the third rank, though he by no means left it out of view as a means of alleviating the condition of the people. The right hon. and learned Lord Advocate was aware that there had been rumours in Scotland for some time that the 1082 Government were about to propose a scheme having for its object the providing of facilities for those crofters to emigrate who were disposed to do so. There was no doubt that the idea that such a scheme was contemplated had taken possession of the public mind to a certain extent, and it had been spoken of in official utterances as under consideration; and he thought it would have been a most appropriate time for Her Majesty to have intimated to the people of Scotland in the Speech from the Throne what was the result at which the Government had arrived. He quite believed that many parts of the Highlands and North-West of Scotland were of such a character that they should have at frequent intervals overcrowding of the population, and he had no doubt that emigration, which had been a common practice all along amongst Scotsmen, would be a most wholesome principle to introduce there. At the same time, it was impossible to ignore the fact that there was a very great disinclination amongst the people to go away. He was bound to say, whilst he regretted it, that it excited his sympathy. He had no doubt that it was largely due to this. Distinguishing these people from Scotsmen on the mainland, they were less intelligent, less well-educated, more grouped together in small communities, and, above all, they were much poorer; and those small groups of people have positively only one possession in the world and that was the sympathy and charity of the neighbours amongst whom they lived. It was impossible to read the Report of Sheriff Fraser and Mr. M'Neill without being struck by the extraordinary extent to which the poor in that locality helped those who were a little poorer; and it was perfectly intelligible that those poor destitute people should have some comfort in the thought that at the last extremity they would always have a share of the little belonging to a neighbour, however poor, and so feel unwilling to renounce that, their last possession, and go abroad amongst strangers upon whom they would have no claim. He sympathized with the feeling which found its origin in that source; but he deeply regretted it. He thought it would be very much better for the people in the West of Scotland themselves, and for the country, 1083 if they could only become imbued with the same spirit of enterprize which had sent Scotsmen from other parts of Soot-land into the Colonies and elsewhere abroad. But he did not believe that the result would be accomplished by adopting the policy proposed by the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, of putting emigration in the front and foreground as the first remedial step for the present condition of the Highlands. It could only be efficaciously and practically adopted when all those portions of the land which the people could occupy with advantage had been made available for them. When, in addition to that, they had the fullest facilities afforded them for the prosecution of the fishing industry at home, then, and after that only, would it become expedient to press the emigration theory. While appreciating what the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate said as to the fishing industry, he should have been glad to have heard something on the subject of railway rates, because, considering the situation of the locality in question and the difficulty of carrying the produce of the fishing to an available market, he was afraid until they had some legislation in the direction of making the railway rates for the carriage of fish very much lower than at present, they never could get the full benefit conferred upon those people of the fishing industry even by the instrumentality of those advances which it was proposed should be made by the Government. On the grounds he had stated, it humbly appeared to him that this Amendment ought to be adopted, and accordingly it was his intention to support his hon. Friend.
§ MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars, &c.)
said, that notwithstanding the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate had gone over almost all the ground connected with this subject, he thought his speech most unsatisfactory, because in substance he had really left the question just where it was when he began. The Government he said had only one thing to propose, and that was the encouragement of voluntary emigration. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not tell them by what means the Government intended to do this, but he limited himself to voluntary emigration, and having done so he had not moved the question one 1084 step onwards. He did not think the Government could leave this question where it was. It appeared to him impossible that they could decline to take some steps to deal with the condition of the people in Lewis, where a state of things existed which they would be compelled to deal with. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said that a Member of that House had spoken in a somewhat derogatory manner of the late Sir James Matheson, and he believed those remarks referred to himself. He could assure him that the report of his (Mr. Provand's) remarks was most inaccurate. He accepted the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own description of Sir James Matheson when he said he was a business man. His whole connection with Lewis was of a business kind; he had paid £200,000 for the Island, and he bought it on terms that would give 5 per cent for his money; he also bought with it the right to sit in that House, which he (Mr. Provand) believed in 1844 carried with it a certain monetary value. He thought all the rents collected in that Island since the late Sir James Matheson bought it, with the exception of a small amount, had been re-invested in various enterprises in the Island, and no one regretted more than he did the unfortunate outcome of every venture the owner had put his money into in that place. He did not intend to travel over any of the ground in the North of Scotland which was covered by the Amendment except Lewis, because it was there, he thought, the Government would find a state of things which they would be compelled to deal with. He did not think it was possible to exaggerate the importance of the question relating to Lewis. Within the borders of this little Island they had examples of every kind of evil to which the crofters were exposed. They had had crofters turned out for sheep, and they had had sheep turned out for deer; they had squatting; they had general poverty and sometimes destitution. Besides all these they had had what he did not think existed in other parts of the Highlands; they had over population. The present condition of Lewis was really that of impending famine, and he did not think it was possible for the Island to be brought into any condition in which the inhabitants might live in ordinary comfort 1085 unless Parliament intervened. Legislation could not long be postponed with safety. The present state of the Island was not, however, without precedents; they had experienced many periods of scarcity and some periods of actual famine. They had the details brought before the House in 1851 in the Report of Mr. McNeill. That gentleman predicted that there would be a great famine. His prediction, however, was not fulfilled; still it was possible to account for the fact that his prophecy was not fulfilled; as he could not have foreseen everything that had taken place since; indeed it was only during a few of the intervening years that there had been at all good times in the Island. In 1883, only five years ago, there was great scarcity, and about £7,000 or £8,000 was subscribed in Glasgow and other places for distribution in kind amongst the crofters. It was impossible that the inhabitants could live for ever on charity. Everyone would like to see every man in Lewis able to maintain himself from the time he became a householder until he passed away. Everyone would like to see him a self-dependent man all his life. If such a condition was good for anyone it must be good for a community, but it was impossible for the community of Lewis to be self-dependent in future unless Parliament took up the work. He had received a Report within the last 10 days of an official kind. In that Report it was said that about 1,600 families, that was about 9,000 persons, or rather more than a third of the inhabitants of the Island, would require to be relieved with food and seed potatoes, and also with clothing during the coming spring and the early summer months. Of course, good fishing, —and they had that at present in some part of the coast of Lewis—might have some effect on that estimate. At the same time it was clear from the official Report that had been made, and also from all the other information that came from Lewis, that they were at the beginning of a severe economic crisis amongst the inhabitants. The condition, in fact, was that of impending famine. On page 1 of the Report to which he alluded, and which had just been laid on the Table of the House, Mr. McNeill said that from his inquiries wide-spread destitution amongst the 1086 population seemed inevitable. On page 5 Mr. McNeill said that on all sides he found evidence of the deepest poverty and dejection, and following that he remarked—In short, within the next two months, so far as I have been able to discover, the bulk of the population will be brought face to face with, the necessity of killing cattle and sheep to sustain life, while those who have no stock will have to appeal to the Parochial Board or to starve.He had mentioned that charitable funds were being raised in different places, so that there was no positive risk of actual starvation amongst the people until the early summer; but if the people had to depend upon the parochial rates starvation would certainly ensue. Mr. McNeill stated that the scale on which relief was allowed was altogether inadequate. There was no doubt that was correct, because he (Mr. Provand) found that in one case 4s. a-month was allowed to fill nine mouths. It was true that this widow and children had some extraneous support from neighbours and others, but to allow her only 4s. a-month was to aggravate the conditions under which she must starve to death unless she was assisted in some other way. There was more than that to be said about the parochial assistance. The rates were at the present time very much in arrear; the bank account had been overdrawn, and the effect was that in Lewis they were fast approaching a state of things which had no precedent in this country since 1841 or 1842; that was to say, the whole of the rates in Lewis would exceed the whole amount collected for rent. The Island was very nearly in a state of insolvency. He had got a Return of the whole stock in the possession of the crofters, and according to the current rates that stock was worth about £40,000. Against that £40,000 and a few shares they had in boats, they owed on the average somewhere about three years' rent, about £25,000; they owed rates and other debts, and he was certain the crofter population of the Island of Lewis was at this moment insolvent. With respect to the rents he did not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman stated the case quite clearly. Perhaps he might be excused if he mentioned how far the rents were behind. The rents had been getting behind for years past. The rent which the crofters were supposed to pay was 1087 about £8,200 a-year. In 1883 they only paid £6,300; in 1884 they paid less than £5,000; in 1885 about £5,000; in 1886, £3,600; and last year they paid less than £2,000 out of the £8,200; that was to say, less than a quarter of the rent due. He understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate to say that they had paid no rent, or, at least, were paying no rent at present. That might now be correct, but some of the rents at least were paid up to December. The total amount of rent due in Lewis was about £27,000, and nearly the whole of that was due by crofters. After this statement of the case no one would question that the matter demanded the attention of the House, and that there was ample justification for his hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) placing his Amendment on the Paper. The condition of Lewis was known to Her Majesty's Government weeks before Her Majesty's Speech was prepared, and yet there was not a single word of reference to the condition of the North of Scotland in the Speech from the Throne. On the other hand, the Government appeared to think it quite reasonable to devote a whole paragraph to the information that a Mission had been sent to the King of Abyssinia, a very trumpery matter indeed as compared with the state of the Northern parts of this country. There might be some difference of opinion as to the causes of the present state of affairs. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Lord Advocate had spoken about the population of Lewis; but he did not intend to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman in putting the matter in the detailed way in which he did. He should try to put it so that any Member of the House could carry the figures easily in his mind. There was no doubt that Lewis was very much over populated. From the beginning of the present century until now the population of the Lewis had increased threefold, whereas during the same time the population of the whole of Scotland had only increased two and a-quarter fold. From 1841 to 1881 the population of Lewis increased 50 per cent, whereas that of the whole of Scotland, during the same period, only increased 40 per cent. In these 40 years 2,300persons emigrated; 1088 but, nevertheless, it was found that the population of the Island had increased much faster than that of the whole of Scotland. These were very significant figures, and he was certain it was impossible to exaggerate their importance. One would think that when a population increased to such an extent all the outlets and opportunities would be given to the people to benefit themselves as far as it was possible—that no door would be shut upon them. The House would presently see how far the Government had carried out views of this kind. Amongst the accidental causes of the present condition of things was the failure of fishing since 1884. The precarious existence of these people was shown by the fact that in 1883, just one year before the fishing began to fail, a single storm left them with very little to eat, and in that year between £7,000 and £8,000 had to be distributed in relief amongst the people; but there were two other causes which had accentuated the distress, and that was the suspension of two forms of credit to which the people were accustomed to look for assistance—the advances which were made by fish curers had stopped, and so had also the supplies by country store keepers, because it was said they could not go on trusting the crofters any longer. The Crofters' Commission for the settlement of fair rents would shortly go to Lewis; but did the Government suppose for a single moment that the Crofters' Commission could possibly deal with the present condition of things in the Island? It was impossible that the Commission could do so—[Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Hear, hear!]—for their power, as he understood it, was to revise the rents; at least, if they possessed any other powers they had not, up to the present, exercised them. A great many applications had been made, and a few had been considered; but he was not aware that the Commission had enlarged the holdings of any crofter. What did the Government intend to do? He understood that the Front Ministerial Bench agreed with him that the Crofters' Commission could not deal with the present state of things in Lewis. If they could do nothing to assist the people to emigrate, he maintained that the Government should give them an answer as to what they intended 1089 to do. If the Crofters' Commission settled what they might call fair rents, although he was unable to see on what basis they would go, that would not settle the matter. They might reduce the crofters' rents, and they might wipe out the arrears altogether; but if they left the Island in its present congested state there would be nothing for the squatters, cottars, and others, who were living there at present on charity, but to continue to do so. One point had not been touched upon in the debate as yet, and that was how many people Lewis would keep. Of course, it was very easy to say that so many persons given a certain number of acres could be accommodated; but no one could really say what the Island could accommodate. To enable the Crofters' Commission to do any good—to enable them to increase holdings—they must be empowered to examine the Island. If the Government really intended the Crofters' Act to be of any benefit to the people of Lewis they must confer additional powers on the Crofters' Commission, otherwise the Commission might as well never go to Lewis at all. One or two remedies had been suggested. The Government's favourite remedy was emigration; they did not appear to have any other except some civilities which the Lord Advocate dropped with respect to the fisheries. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Asher) spoke of the impression in Scotland that the Government were negotiating in reference to emigration. He (Mr. Provand) believed there was some foundation for that impression. He believed that negotiations took place last year between the Government and the Canadian Government, or between the Government and the Land Companies of Canada, and that the proposals fell through. The Land Companies were perfectly willing, on terms which appeared reasonable to most persons, to assist emigration from the North of Scotland, but for some reason or other the Government were pleased to let the negotiations fall through. He was certain they could not get such terms this year as they did last year. Would any Member of the Government tell them what those terms were, and why they did not accept them? If they had accepted them the condition of things at this moment might have 1090 been very different. The Lord Advocate allowed Lady Cathcart or her advisers to make arrangements with the Canadian Government which they might have made and did not make. Would the Government explain why it was Lady Cathcart considered the negotiations good enough, and how she succeeded in making terms with the Canadian Government or with the Land Companies, and that we failed? He was afraid there was a good deal to be set down to the circumlocution to which the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) alluded in opening the debate. Besides emigration there was migration. He had heard nothing said about migration by the Lord Advocate except that he did not intend to propose to do any-thing to break up the large farms or large holdings in the North of Scotland notwithstanding that one of the provisions of the Crofters' Act was expressly intended to effect that object. He had heard from one or two Crofter Members what the crofters' views were on the question. Why would not the Government give the question more consideration when there were so many hundred thousand acres in Scotland used as forests? He quite agreed with right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite that deer forests should be kept up wherever they could be kept up without injury to the community. Deer forests would always be fashionable with rich men, who if they could not get forests of 100,000 acres would take those of half that extent. In the Island of Lewis there must be a great deal of land that was only fit for deer. Now, he had said that the Island was insolvent, and he thought the Government were amongst those who had made a very bad debt there. He did not see how they would ever get back the money they had advanced for education. The amount advanced for education was extravagant to a degree which he should not attempt to describe to the House. He asked if the Government would not try migration? Was it intended to set that principle expressed in the Crofters' Act at naught, because by the end of the summer, or certainly by next winter, there would be a state of things not as it was to-day but greatly aggravated. The Lord Advocate had referred to the fishing in- 1091 dustry of the Island. He (Mr. Provand) had said they could not estimate what the soil of the Island could support, but the fishings there were of great value. If the Government were very anxious to help the people why had they never surveyed the banks off the coast of Lewis? Experts had given their opinion that the bank off the North-West Coast was the richest fishing bank in the world. Up to the present moment, however, it had never been surveyed except so far as the length and breadth of it. Of the character of the bank they knew nothing. In some places it was poor, but in other places it was remarkably rich; in some places turbot, which commanded high prices, was caught, while in other places inferior kinds of fish were caught. He believed that a vessel was fitted, or partly fitted, last year for this survey. Why did she not go and do the work? There was another way in which fishing could be assisted, and that was by laying telegraph wires over the Island. Nothing had been of greater value than the wire in the North of Scotland. On one occasion, while boats were fishing in one place, news was sent by telegraph of the presence of fish in another place, the boats came, and within a few days £1,800 worth of fish was caught. With reference to boats, he was glad to have the assurance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the question of making advances to fishermen had been settled. It was more than two years since authority was given to make advances, and it was only now that terms had been arranged whereby the advances might be made. Letters were written by the Government officials to the fishermen on the faith of which the men had commenced to have boats built, then the advances were not made, and the boats were retained on the builders' hands until now. Again, additional harbour accommodation was requisite. There were three harbours about which there had been much agitation in Lewis for a long time past. The three harbours were recommended by the Crofters' Commission who sat there. Admiral Fellowes made a sketch of what he thought might be done, and two of the harbours were estimated for by a firm of Edinburgh engineers. It was not quite certain that the estimates made were for harbours which were suitable for the purpose. They were not, so far 1092 as was known, surveyed by any engineer at all, and, notwithstanding what the right hon. and learned Gentleman had said, he (Mr. Provand) had tried in vain to get the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland to appoint an engineer to see what could be done in reference to the three harbours. The noble Lord had told him that he had no money whatever for such purpose. It would cost very little for an engineer to survey the places. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman do something in the matter? Probably the whole survey could be made for £100. He was satisfied that the fishings could be largely developed. Would the Lord Advocate do something to assist the development? This was the source from which the people must live if they were to live at all; it was the source from which one-half or three-fourths of the people must find their food in the future unless they were removed from the place. He wanted some assurance from the Government that they would take this work in hand. The condition of Lewis demanded the serious attention of the House of Commons. No Member could free himself from the responsibility. There was not one of the 72 Scotch Members who was not more or less responsible for the condition of the people. The subject must be brought up again and again until the Government consented to take the work in hand and to provide a permanent settlement.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
said, the House generally, and certainly the Government, were prepared to admit that no more proper subject could be brought up on the Address than the one dealt with by this Amendment; and certainly it was not because it was a subject that had failed to attract the earnest attention of the Government that no allusion was made to it in the Speech from the Throne. The Government entirely admitted that it was a topic well worth raising on the Speech. They entirely denied that the fact that no mention was made of the difficulties in the Western Highlands was in any way due to laches on the part of the Government, or to any want of interest in the population concerned. The hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Provand) had shown, in the course of his speech, a knowledge of his subject 1093 and a candour which he (Mr. Balfour) confessed he thought was lacking in some of the other speeches made on the same side. For example, the hon. Gentleman admitted frankly that the population of Lewis was greatly in excess of the possible means of sustenance derivable from that Island. That was the contention which the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, in his most able and masterly speech, had abundantly proved; but it had not been admitted generally by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, except in a sort of lame and halting manner by the late Solicitor General for Scotland (Mr. Asher). He (Mr. Balfour) did not think anything his right hon. and learned Friend had said about over-population of Lewis was in the least in excess of the facts of the case. The growth of the population of that Island during the past century was amazing—he might say appalling. In 1755 it was 6,300; in 1790 it was 8,300; in 1841 it was 17,000; in 1881 it was 25,000; and it was now, he believed, 28,000. A growth of population of that kind was not a matter for condolence, but for congratulation, if the industrial resources of the community which had grown had increased in anything like that proportion. But what growth of the resources of Lewis had taken place, or was possible? No doubt, since the middle of last century, there had been poured into Lewis a vast amount of wealth from other sources than the Island itself. The Island was owned by a very wealthy man, who spent his money freely among the population; but, unfortunately, that source of wealth was now dried up. The present owner was quite incapable of carrying on the vast works undertaken by her predecessor. When hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway said the one thing required was an opportunity for work, they forgot that work in the Island was formerly given by a wealthy man, and that everything had been done by the agitators to prevent any human being spending in the future a single sixpence where it could be avoided. If any set of men more than another were responsible for the fact that the amount spent on wages had fallen off, and was likely to fall off, it was the agitators who had taught men like the Duke of Sutherland, who had spent money derived from other parts of the 1094 country, that a more foolish investment, whether they desired cash or gratitude, could not be undertaken. If, then, it was admitted by the hon. Gentleman, who had just sat down, as it must be by every candid man who had listened to his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, that the present difficulty in the Lewis was due to over-population, what were the remedies which had been suggested by those who had spoken especially on behalf of the crofters? The hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) said great statesmanship was required to deal with the present difficulties, and he gave the House a sketch of the remedies he thought should be applied. The first was an increase of the number of the Crofter Commission, as he said the present Commissioners were dealing too slowly with the question, and that rents ought to be reduced more speedily; but the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Provand) told the House that the question they had to deal with was not the problem of rent, but of population. The next remedy referred to was loans for boats. Now, if there was one question more than another on which he should have thought the Government were not open to reproach, it was with reference to these loans, for the Treasury had one by one dispensed with the guarantees which in the interests of the public purse they had first imposed, until now he believed, if the Treasury were asked whether they would give the money or lend it, they would perhaps almost say they would prefer to give it, and yet the hon. Gentleman said the Government had been too rigid in the conditions they had imposed. The next remedy proposed by the hon. Member was that the foreshores of the Islands should be thrown open to the fishermen; but it was not worth while dealing with the question, for a more absurd contention on that point than that of the hon. Gentleman could hardly have been raised. The hon. Gentleman was aware that if the foreshores were handed over to the population for nothing, no appreciable improvement of any kind could possibly accrue to the population of the Island. He was not going to discuss the question of local self-government for Scotland, although the hon. Member had further suggested that the prosperity of the crofters would be pro- 1095 moted by making the Parochial Boards more representative; but he should like to know whether there was a man in that House endowed with sufficient gravity to keep his countenance when it was proposed as a remedy for the pauperism of 28,000 people to make an alteration in the electoral system of Parochial Boards? The last recommendation of the hon. Gentleman had reference to deer forests. He (Mr. Balfour) was not going to raise the general question of deer forests, after the judicious and moderate statement of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down; but he would apply himself to the problem whether the difficulties in which the population found themselves could be mitigated in any way by the whole Matheson deer forest being thrown into the common stock, and divided amongst the population. The hon. Gentleman gave a very highly pictured account of the attack upon the deer forests in Lewis. He would not say the hon. Gentleman had defended it, but he went very near defending it, on the ground that the people who indulged in that raid were suffering from the pangs of want—a circumstance which he (Mr. Balfour) freely admitted might palliate much, if it did not justify much. But let the House bear in mind people who made the raid on the deer forest destroyed the deer, and did not send a single atom of deer's flesh to their starving wives and families.
§ MR. MACDONALD CAMERON
The hon. Member for Boss (Dr. R. Macdonald) in his speech distinctly stated that he had letters in his possession which showed that many of these deer found their way to the homes of the crofters.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the information he had received led him to an entirely different conclusion, and that conclusion was borne out by what the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) said, because he gave a picturesque and glowing account of the Homeric feast made on the scene by the men who indulged in the raid, who apparently were accompanied by a gentleman who pronounced a blessing on the proceedings; but he entirely omitted to mention the interesting circumstance referred to by the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ DR. CAMERON
My information as to the disposal of the deer flesh for the 1096 benefit of the families quite coincides with that which has just been stated to the House by my hon. Friend.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he must repeat that his information led him to an entirely opposite conclusion. He did not wish to say an unnecessarily harsh word against the people of Lewis; but they unquestionably behaved, to say the least of it, in an extremely foolish manner. They were like children who pulled down china and furniture about their ears from sheer temper. This raid was utterly incapable of doing them any good, and he wished the House would realize what these foolish people were doing. The rates in the parish of Lochs, supposing them to be paid, would be 11s. 6d. in the £1 on the present rents, including the shooting rents. If they abolished the latter, the rates would rise to 21s. in the £1; and if they were, in addition, to destroy every farm above £30 rental, the rates would rise from 11s. 6d. to about 24s. It might be urged that the ground taken from sportsmen could be used by the crofters, and that as tenants they would pay rates, and thus fill the vacuum left by the abolition of the sporting rents. But if the whole ground from which the crofters were now excluded was given to the crofters at the rents now habitually fixed by the Crofters' Commission, leaving the remainder of the parish rented as it was at present, then the rates would amount to 18s. 8d in the £1. In speaking of these rates, he meant merely those which were divided between the owner and the occupier. There were others, which he had not included in his statement, paid entirely by the owner. But, beyond this, if they supposed the Crofter Commission was going to make the same reduction in crofter rents generally in the parish of Lochs as they had been doing elsewhere, then it would be found under that reduction, assuming the whole of that parish had been taken away from the sporting tenants, that the rates would amount to 26s. in the £ 1. So that the result of this mad proceeding on the part of the crofters in that parish would be to raise the rates from 11s. 6d. to the bankrupt level of 26s. in the £1. He earnestly trusted that in their own interests the unhappy example set by these crofters would not be followed by any of the other inhabitants of the Highlands. The hon. Member for Sutherland 1097 (Mr. A. Sutherland) told them the Highland Question would be settled if land out of cultivation were given to the people. He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) supposed that was a new version of the land of the country for the people of the country. In the Highlands, unfortunately, it would be too often the bog of the country for the people of the country, and while the deprivation of it might injure the present possessors the new possessors would not be benefited. He had a strong objection on principle to the proposals laid down by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Macdonald Cameron) said the people of the Highlands had, rightly or wrongly, a strong belief that the land which belonged to the Clans, and had been owned by the Chiefs, was theirs of right, and ought to be divided amongst them. Admitting this for the sake of argument, it meant that the land which used to belong to the M'Lennans should be divided amongst the M'Lennans, that the land which belonged to the M'Leods should be divided amongst the M'Leods, and the land which belonged to the Camerons should be divided among the Camerons—
§ MR. MACDONALD CAMERON (Wick, &c.)
said, what he had said was that the present crofters were the descendents of the ancient clansmen, and, whether rightly or wrongly, they believed they had some claim on the soil of their ancestors.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Precisely. But he was at a loss to understand on what historical Highland principle the hon. Member based his argument. The principle of nationality had now risen to such a height, and had taken such eccentric forms in that House, that people seemed to suppose that the Highlands had at one time constituted a separate nation. They never had been a nation; they had always been an integral part of Scotland, and, in so far as the Highlands might be considered separately, they had always been divided among themselves by internecine feuds. And even if every Highlander supposed that he had a right to a share in the ancient Clan lands, he could hardly suppose that he had any right to share the lands of any other Clan. If they had a right to other people's land when their own was exhausted, why exercise that right only in Scotland? 1098 Why not come down upon the dairy farms of Aylesbury or the rich pastures of Northampton, or divide Mentmore and Althorpe among the starving clansmen of Lewis? These were the main objections in principle to the proposals of the hon. Member; but there were other objections of a still stronger kind. Hon. Members talked in a glib manner of taking the people from Lewis and locating them casually over the less occupied lands of the Highlands and Mainlands. But where were they going to find the money to do that? He presumed they would not settle these new colonists on worse terms than the people now on the Mainland. No landlord, so far as he knew, built cottages for tenants or labourers at a less rate than £130 or £150 per tenant. No farm capable of supporting a family which depended on agriculture alone could be stocked for less than about £150, so that the Government would be committed to an expenditure of £300 per family to start these people. And where were they going to start them? On the unoccupied lands—in other words, on the least fertile lands of Scotland. Could there be a proposal more insane than that? To the people whom it was proposed thus to migrate, migration would be almost as serious as emigration. To take these people from Lewis and to land them in the glens of Ross-shire and Inverness-shire would be as great an exile from their homes as to transport them to Canada. It would cost three times the money, and when they had done it they would not have laid the seeds of a future prosperous colony, but the seeds of the same difficulties on the Mainland that they now found it so difficult to contend with in the Islands. Therefore he thought, in addition to the difficulties in principle, there were financial difficulties, and difficulties of expediency which the House would think of, not once, twice, or thrice, but many times before it attempted to surmount them. The Government had felt as acutely as anyone the sufferings and the difficulties to which the population of the Western Islands were at present subject, and they had done what the hon. Gentleman who criticized them had not done—they had taken some practical steps towards diminishing that suffering. But they held, in the first place, that the question 1099 was mainly one of over-population; in the second place, that when they came to supporting a people by charity, the first source from which such eleemosynary aid should come was the rates, and if the rates were bankrupt—and they were nearly, if not quite, bankrupt in Lewis— the second source was public charity, and that it was not till these two sources were exhausted that any Government would think it their duty to step into the breach. The Government felt the heavy and solemn responsibility—a responsibility apparently not felt by some hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway—the responsibility which rested upon any Government who undertook—in however guarded or modified a form—to support a population unable to support itself. He was not aware that hitherto in any single case in these Islands such a course had ever been pursued. He might be wrong, but he was not aware of it. The principle universally adopted hitherto in England and Scotland was that every locality was responsible for the support of the population in that locality. Never before had they been so directly face to face with the problem of over-population as to feel that the resources of the locality were inadequate to meet the wants of the locality. While the Government felt that responsibility, they might, under certain circumstances, and as a merely temporary measure, preparatory to a large system of emigration, be prepared to step into the breach. But emphatically they said that they could not be guilty of a more criminal action than to hold out the slightest hope to the population of Lewis that they were to be supported in a district where they could not earn their livelihood by honest labour out of the Imperial funds for an indefinite time. They believed it would be absolute madness, and that the people who would suffer most in the long run would be the people of Lewis themselves; and they would be no parties—directly or indirectly—to any such proceedings. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment seemed to imply—by way of a sneer —that the Government specially believed in the principles of political economy. The principles that they believed in he did not care to christen by the name of any special science. They were the principles of common sense, and nothing that the hon. Gentleman had said would 1100 shake their belief—that if a population recklessly multiplied generation after generation in a singularly inclement climate and on a singularly infertile soil, the time must eventually come when that soil would no longer support them. Hon. Gentlemen might call that political economy if they liked; but no name, no definition—however contemptuously used—would shake the primary truth of the axiom which lay at the very basis of the whole question of population. The hon. Member seemed to think that our laws might be modified in a manner to remedy this state of things. It was not our laws that required to be modified, but the laws of Nature, and the laws of Nature were in no sense amenable to the sentimental considerations which naturally influenced Members of that House. Something more was required in a doctor than mere enthusiasm for his patient. He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) did not deny the enthusiasm of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. He did not deny that it was perfectly genuine, and that they had at heart the welfare of the population whose cause they pleaded. But he emphatically said they were going the wrong way to work to obtain the amelioration of that condition. The hon. Member for Sutherland told them that he was an agitator, and that he was proud of being an agitator—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes, exactly; Constitutional; he had no objection to agitating. He had rather a weakness for it. But he certainly preferred that agitators, when they agitated, should show some slight appreciation of the problem with which they had to deal. Neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the Amendment gave the House the slightest idea of what the real difficulty in the Highlands was, or how that difficulty was to be met. In so far as they dealt with the question of emigration at all—the very root of the whole matter—they dealt with it only because it served their purpose, and in so dealing with it it showed that they were agitators who had at heart very much more the political interests of their Party than the material prosperity of the country. The Government objected to the remedy which hon. Members proposed. They concurred with them in feeling the ex- 1101 treme gravity of the situation. It was not because the Government did not feel that gravity of the situation that they omitted any reference to it in the Queen's Speech; but it was because they did not think this was the time to lay before the House any settled plan for carrying out what they believed to be the only permanent and solid remedy for the evils of Lewis that they had abstained from dealing with the question; but they took this opportunity of stating to the House and to the country the conviction—which they had never wavered in from the time when this question first came before them—that it was by emigration, and by emigration alone, that the question of over-population in the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland could finally and satisfactorily be solved.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had made a speech which, when read in the way people outside that House generally read speeches—namely, chiefly with reference to the peroration— would give the idea that those on the Opposition side of the House had been advocating Socialistic measures, and measures which had not received the sanction of Parliament. He thought he should be able to show in a very few words that this was not the case. He should deal with the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate's speech with a brevity which he trusted would not be considered a mark of disrespect. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had, as he was bound to do, stated the case at great length and with thoroughness, and in the most calm and temperate spirit—he had spoken also on a great deal besides the Amendment before the House. But for that he did not for a moment blame him, because in the previous speeches there was a great deal to answer, and the matter to which he referred was not really introduced into the debate by him. But it was difficult to believe that he could think his speech would be considered by the Mover of the Amendment as an argument against it. He could only say that the propositions laid down by the right hon. and learned Gentleman were of such a nature that he, at any rate, and Gentlemen who sat with him on the Front Bench opposite, would be obliged to go into the Lobby in favour of the Amendment. The right hon. and 1102 learned Gentleman had spoken much of law and order. On that point he did not intend to say a single word, except that he was himself the strongest supporter of law and order; that he thought law should be administered impartially and firmly, and that when they administered it they should take very great care that it was just. He had always been opposed to lawlessness in any part of the United Kingdom and elsewhere. He was always opposed to any crime—and not least to the crime now in question, which resembled what in Ireland was called taking forcible possession. But under the extremely severe laws which had been passed for Ireland crimes of the nature which had been committed during the crofter agitation had been considered to be sufficiently punished by periods of imprisonment for three and. six months, which, under the Irish Coercion Act, was the utmost penalty given, to these crimes. But while the Government punished the breaking of the law, they should alter the law, so as to bring it into such a shape as to have on its side the conscience and opinion of the community. It was quite useless to come down to the House, whatever question might be uppermost, and talk about agitators. The Government should prove, if they could, that the doctrines put forward were not correct doctrines; but they ought not to say that the men who laid them down were urging the people to break the law. The position laid down by the Lord Advocate was a very serious one. He said that the crofter was a man whose croft was to help out his labour, who had other industries besides his croft. Now, that, he thought, was entirely opposed to the opinion of Her Majesty's Commission of Inquiry. That Commission spoke of a particular district in which there was a great number of crofters in a position in which they did not think they ought to be. They said there were little more than one twelfth of the whole number who were provided with holdings that could afford sufficient occupation for a labouring family and provide for its subsistence: which showed that the opinion of the Commission as to what a crofter ought to be entirely differed from that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It was that condition of things which the Commission was desirous of amending, and it was 1103 for that purpose that the Bill of 1886 was presented to the House and became law. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the attempt to support the crofters by the soil would end in disastrous failure and humiliation. But that was not the opinion of the Commission on whose Reports the late Government had acted. The essence of the Commissioners' Report was that land should be added by compulsory allotments to the crofts, so as to enable the crofter successfully to support himself without failure and disappointment. In order to carry out that, they had a machinery of their own, which was, in its essential features, the machinery of the Government of 1886. That Government brought in a Bill, and drafted it into an Act, by which the crofter was to have enough land to enable him and his family to live in decency and comfort. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had charged hon. Members who had spoken on that side with violent and extreme views. He said that the hon. Member for Sutherland (Mr. A. Sutherland) argued that the land in the Highlands should be given to the people, and that the hon. and learned Gentleman described as a new version of the phrase, "the land of the country for the people of the country." It was an old version of the Act which Parliament passed two years ago, and not carried out by the Government. The Chief Secretary for Ireland also spoke of the futility of settling the crofters on the least fertile land in the least fertile part of the Kingdom. But that was not a fair description of the case. The case was that the Government should take measures to have the will of Parliament carried out, and to have pasture land added to the arable crofts to enable the crofters to earn a living. Now, that was exactly what had not been done. The Commission had not enlarged the holdings, and the enlargement of holdings was the essence of the Act of 1886. The Commission had fixed crofters in their crofts, had fixed fair rents, and had dealt with arrears. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate said nothing had been done in the Highlands except to lower rents to suit the fall of agricultural prices. But that was not the case, because unjust rents had been largely diminished. In one case, where the old 1104 rent had been £5, the fair rent was fixed at £2 16s., and the arrears, amounting to £.5, had been cancelled; in another case, where the old rent was £6, the fair rent was fixed at £3 2s., and of the arrears, which amounted to £13 10s., £6 was ordered to be paid.
§ MR. J. H. A. MACDONALD
I took the average. The average reduction was 31 per cent, which was no more than was given willingly by most landlords over the whole country.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
said, that 31 per cent was exactly the amount which, if the Crofters' Bill, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman disapproved, but did not oppose, had not passed, the Highland tenants to that day would have gone on paying against all principles of right and justice. There were, besides, numerous cases where the rent had been shamefully unjust, and where the Commission had reduced it by nearly 50 per cent. Then came the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was a great authority on Highland land. What was the language of the right hon. Gentleman in the House of Commons two years ago with regard to this measure, which had lowered the rent 30 per cent, and in some cases 50 per cent? In March, 1886, when the Bill was introduced into that House, the Chief Secretary said that—In a country where rack-rents and evictions were common, he could understand that such a Bill might be necessary;but he added—no such case can be made in respect of the Highlands of Scotland.The right hon. Gentleman went on to support his opinion by the Report of the Commission; but he expressed this as his own opinion also. In face of what had since been disclosed, the right hon. Gentleman stood convicted of having expressed an exceedingly rash opinion, to say the least of it, only two years ago.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
What I said was that I only based my opinion upon the Commission, which was virtually the sole foundation for the whole legislation of the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
The right hon. Gentleman said that the rents which were paid seven or eight years ago were so low that they would not require the services of a Commission to reduce them. This did not augur very 1105 much knowledge of the state of agriculture in the Highlands. The Commission had done all this, and a most excellent task it was; but they ought to have done more if they had carried out the spirit of the Act of 1886 —they ought to have enlarged the crofts so as to afford substantial occupation and subsistence to the labourer and his family. When the Government found that this was the case they ought to have applied themselves to carry out the intention of Parliament. The Prime Minister had told them that there ought to be a continuity of legislation. Parliament intended that the crofts should be enlarged; they were not enlarged, and it was the business of the Government to say why. That was the essence of the Act of 1886. His hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) thought they ought to have new Commissioners. At first in Ireland there were only seven or eight Commissions; but after the Act of 1881 became law, 40 new Commissioners were appointed, and the Viceroy of Ireland saw 120 Commissioners, with each of whom he conversed a quarter of an hour. That was the way in which the Government of the day carried out the intention of Parliament. Then it was urged that there were difficulties in the Act itself. What those difficulties were were very familiar to hon. Members acquainted with the Act. The conditions, no doubt, were very rigorous indeed, and the most difficult of all was one which was put in by the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That was the condition which forbade interference with deer forests. When the Government found that the Act could not be worked, and that the people were not getting the advantage which Parliament intended, it was the business of the Government to alter the Act. As in Ireland it was found impossible to alter the land system all at once, and the present Government had been obliged to extend the advantages of the Act of 1881 to leaseholders, and to revise rents, and might find it necessary to consider the question of arrears, so in this question the Secretary for Scotland ought to have examined into the failure of the Act, and if he had sat in the House of Commons he would have been kept up to his business. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate and the 1106 Chief Secretary had said a great deal about emigration. Now on the question of emigration he was not going to utter any uncertain sound. He should indeed despise himself, after years of hereditary connection with the question of emigration in the Highlands of Scotland, and having fought side by side with the right hon. Gentleman now the head of the House for emigration from the West of Ireland, if he did not now say that emigration was a great and important remedy. But it was not the only remedy. They ought not to send people abroad until they had assured themselves that they had made the most of the laud at home. The Government to which he had belonged advocated and encouraged emigration in the West of Ireland; but in the West of Ireland the most was made of the land, and a great deal more; and all the land that could be used was occupied. There were no deer forests there; but in this single Island of Lewis there were 90,000 or 100,000 acres devoted to deer forests. With regard to deer forests, he ventured to protest against the system. He protested when he sat upon the Treasury Bench. He remembered very well the speeches upon which the Act of 1886 was founded. The ground on which it was founded was that the hills of Scotland used to be covered with the black cattle of these people, who were able to live in comparative affluence. But these hills were taken from them for the sake of private lucre. The Government likewise based the Bill on the fact that the deer forests might be interfered with as a public nuisance, because for the selfish sport of the few or of many persons agrarian operations ought not to be interfered with. The case of deer was not the same as that of grouse and blackcock—contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman said—for grouse and blackcock interfered with no man's rights and with no man's self-respect or agricultural prosperity. It was only in the deer forests that, for the selfish advantage of one man, and that man sometimes not even a sportsman, that a great number of people were to be put to inconvenience generation after generation, and a very bad example set to the country. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the large sums of money spent in Lewis. He did not 1107 wish to mix up the case of the late Sir James Matheson with the more selfish class of occupiers of deer forests; but he pointed out that those sums of money had been spent very largely on the amenity of the Island. Sir James Matheson spent money in a way in which no man could continue to spend it which had not an enormous fortune; so that in that way he ultimately aggravated the unhappiness of the Island without intending to do so, and though he acted with public-spirited and benevolent intentions. Passing from him to those who spent £1,000 or £2,000 a-year on their deer forests, he did not believe that that money added anything to, but rather detracted from, the position of the population. It bred up a number of myrmidons of sport of a class very different from the two or three honest gamekeepers who had care of the grouse moors. He should like to know whether the exchange of the gillies and foresters of Mr. Winans were a favourable exchange for the small cattle farmers who used to graze their cattle on those hills? If it were for the general interest to interfere with deer forests, he thought they ought to be interfered with. In saying that he was uttering no new doctrine, because it was the doctrine on which the Act of 1886 was passed; and he maintained it was the duty of the Government to take all the steps necessary to enable the undoubted intentions of Parliament to be carried out, whether right or wrong. The right hon. Gentleman said they could lend themselves to no scheme which embodied the idea that to break up land in the Western Highlands would be sufficient to meet the difficulty. Now, they did not maintain that the Government should do that; they did not believe that in the Island of Lewis the land could be so broken up as to remove the whole difficulty. But they asked the Government to carry out the intentions of Parliament, and restore to the people that part of the land which it was intended by the Act to restore to them, and to see how much of the difficulty could thereby be met. One main cause of the increasing population of Lewis was the miserable condition of that population. They did not find the people increase at that rate in those parts of the North of England where the country folk were well off, where the old people were 1108 supported by their children, where not 1d. of poor relief was received, where a parent when he died prematurely left enough to put out his orphans in life, and where, when the husband died, the widow was secure. Those were the circumstances in parts of the North of England, where the population was increasing with far less rapidity than in the Highlands. And, again, population did not increase rapidly where they had a quantity of small holdings on which the people could live in comfort and self-respect. When they had made all the use they could of the land which Parliament intended should be given to the people, they might go to emigration with a clear conscience. The people who would then go abroad would not go with a sense of wrong, but because they would know that they must go having no other resource, and those who remained behind would be able to live in a state of comfort. He thought they had a right to ask that the Government would grapple with this difficulty in such a way as to secure the confidence of the people and to carry out the expressed wishes of Parliament; and it was with an earnest desire to meet the sad circumstances of the situation, and because the Government had done neither one thing nor the other, that he should feel justified in voting for the Amendment.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said, he had listened to the speech of the earnest supporter of lawlessness in all parts of the world who had just sat down, and when that right hon. Member talked of Gentlemen on the Government side complaining on all occasions of these questions being raised by hon. Gentlemen who always posed as agitators, would the right hon. Gentleman forgive him for reminding him that it was the hon. Member for Sutherland (Mr. A. Sutherland) himself who announced that he was something in the nature of a professional agitator?
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he never asserted for a moment that the hon. Member called himself a professional agitator, but what undoubtedly the hon. Member said was that he was an agitator and 1109 had always been one, and intended to agitate on this question until the grievances of the crofters were redressed. The hon. Member said—"I am not ashamed of being an agitator; I am proud of it, and shall always be an agitator." If he (Mr. Chaplin) was not justified in saying that the hon. Member was something in the nature of a professional agitator he should like to know when he would be entitled to do so. But if the hon. Member did not like the phrase he would withdraw it.
§ MR. A. SUTHERLAND
said, that what he had stated was that he should be an agitator until justice was done.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, the question was what was real justice to these people. The hon. Member and his Friends had no monopoly of a desire to see justice done to the unfortunate inhabitants of the Highlands. But what propositions had they made for amending the law which would in any way give effectual relief to the crofters? The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down stated that the Crofters' Commission recommended that additional land should be given to the crofters throughout the Highlands. Allow him to observe that there was great distinction to be observed between the existing crofters and the crofters under the old system. It was true that the Commission did advocate that additional land, and especially grazing land, should be given to crofters already in existence; and, so far as he was concerned, where it was possible he was quite ready to assist them in that respect. But the proposal of hon. Gentlemen opposite was something very different, for they wished to extend the system in every possible direction and to put people in the places from which it was said they were driven in former days. That was their view, and he thought he should be able to show that the House would be taking a very fatal step if it accepted such a proposal as that. Then, said the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Trevelyan), emigration was a very good thing, but they must have migration until they had first of all taken all the land that was available for addition to the crofts. Well, how much land was there available in Lewis at present? Was there 40 miles? [An hon. MEMBER: 250 miles.] That might be about the total; but they wanted to know how much land that was under deer and 1110 game at this moment was available for the hon. Member's purpose? [An hon. MEMBER: It was stated that a number of crofting villages have been cleared out] Even if that were so, he (Mr. Chaplin) would rely on better authority than the hon. Member. There had been a Report presented on the subject; and when the hon. Gentleman who introduced this subject (Dr. Cameron) spoke of taking available land for the crofters, he must have forgotten the Report of those Gentlemen who had just examined this question on the spot. What did they say on the subject? They stated that certain gentlemen to whom the crofters looked for guidance had forbidden them to entertain proposals for transferring them to some field of labour whore their efforts would secure them against want; and they further said that the fact was forgotten that if the whole area of Lewis was transferred to the crofters, they were destitute of capital, and that, if they had the capital with which to work the land, a few years must witness a recurrence of the present difficulty in an aggravated form. That was the opinion of gentlemen who had just made a most complete inquiry on the spot. Then hon. Gentlemen had spoken of unjust rents and rack-rents; and the hon. Member who had moved the Motion, after speaking of disturbances in Lewis, had told them that they were very shortly afterwards followed by the raid in Ross and Sutherland. How did he account for the raids? It had been urged that the harshness of the landlords or the destitution of the people had led them. He (Mr. Chaplin), however, denied that there had been anything which could be called serious destitution or rack-renting in Sutherlandshire. He knew many of the crofters in Sutherlandshire himself, and had conversed with them during the autumn; and one of them, not long ago, told him that they were very anxious to see Mr. Angus Sutherland again, as they had something to say to him, and they had not seen him for a long time. If he were not much mistaken, it was under the advice of that hon. Member that many of those unfortunate crofters had been induced to take their landlord into the Land Court, and when they did so their rents were very considerably raised.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that, no doubt, when the hon. Gentleman went back to that part of Sutherlandshire he would explain that matter. In the parish of Clashmore, unless he was misinformed, the proprietor had spent very large sums of money, about £4,000 of which had gone in providing labour and wages for the people, which it would take many years of the rent of the district to recoup. The real reason for the lawless behaviour of the raiders was, as the hon. Member had stated—for he himself had let the cat out of the bag— that the crofters had been seduced by the doctrines about the land for the people which had been preached to them. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir George Trevelyan) had spoken much about the deer forests in the Highlands. Now, he was willing to admit that where land occupied as deer forests would be desirable and useful for the crofters it should be devoted to the latter purpose; but having often walked and shot over the best deer forests in Scotland, he must say he did not know where such lands available for the crofters were to be found. There might be exceptional cases; but, as a general rule, those deer forests were in parts of the country where it was impossible for crofters to exist and get a living. He said, as a matter of personal experience, that the quantity of land which could be obtained for the crofters in the present deer forests of Scotland would be found to be a mere fraction of the whole. Moreover, even if the thing could be done, it would be most undesirable. The whole system had been tried years and years ago, and had utterly failed. If hon. Members would allow him, he should like to give them an account of what he had read and been told from authoritative sources—and what he knew to be true—as to the effect of the system in former days. Most hon. Gentlemen had heard of the clearances effected in the county of Sutherland many years ago. And why were they effected? They were made simply and solely in the interests of the people themselves. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen would allow him to say why he made that statement. It was a positive fact of which there was proof in existence; he had not got it with him, but he could produce it. In those days in many parts of the county 1112 of Sutherland people were winter after winter upon the verge of starvation. They lived in wild parts of the country, in glens which were filled up with snow for many months in the year; there were no roads there—no means of approaching people—and their condition was most deplorable. During one winter the then proprietor of Sutherlandshire spent no less than £9,000 in sending meals over those glens, with incredible difficulty and labour, in order to save the people from dying of absolute starvation. That had constantly to be done over and over again; and at last it was resolved that in order to rescue the people from dangers recurring every winter they should be removed to other places where food could be provided for them with less difficulty. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but these were facts which were known, and of which proof could be produced. It was well-known that the position of the people at that time was absolutely deplorable. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite discredited what he said; but he would read to them a passage from a book written on the subject containing statements which were known to be true. It was a book written by the father of a distinguished Member of the House, whose only fault, in his opinion, was that he was an extremely advanced Radical. [Cries of "Name!"] It was Mr. James Loch. [An hon. MEMBER: A factor.] Yes; he was the factor of the Duke of Sutherland; but was that any reason why his word should not be true, or should be doubted for a moment? The records of the work done by Mr. Loch were records of which no man need be ashamed; of which any man, whether factor or not, might be proud. Writing of the year 1816–17. Mr. Loch said—During the latter period the people suffered the extremes of want and of human misery, notwithstanding every aid that could be given to them through the bounty of the landlords. Their wretchedness was so great that, after pawning everything they were possessed of to the fishermen on the coast, such as had not cattle were reduced to come down from the hills in hundreds for the purpose of gathering cockles on the shore. Those who lived in the more remote situations of the country were obliged to subsist upon broth made of nettles thickened with a little oatmeal. Those who had cattle had recourse to the still more wretched expedient of bleeding them and mixing the blood with oatmeal, which they afterwards cut into slices and fried. Those who 1113 had a little money came down and slept all night upon the beach in order to watch the boats returning from the fishing, that they might be in time to obtain a part of what had been caught. In order to alleviate this misery every exertion was made by the proprietor. To those who had cattle he advanced money to the amount of above £3,000. To supply those who had no cattle he sent meal into the country to the amount of nearly £9,000.That was in one winter alone. Was that a state of things, in all seriousness, and putting aside all Party questions or political feeling, which hon. Gentlemen really thought it would be desirable to reproduce in the Highlands of Scotland? If they desired really to deal with this question satisfactorily, it was desirable to ascertain what were the real causes of distress in Lewis at the present time. The causes of distress were very clearly explained in the Report from which he had quoted already. They were two— the first of them was the complete breakdown of the herring-fishing industry; and the second was the great fall in prices, which had reduced the value of stock by, he supposed, 40 or 50 per cent a-head. If that was so, there was no remedy but one. They might make room, perhaps, for a few more crofters, but that would not be sufficient. The only remedy was to remove the people to a place where they would have the advantages of a more fertile soil and a less inhospitable climate. That was the only thing they could do in order to bring comfort and relief to the unhappy people living in Lewis, with whom no one had more heartfelt sympathy than he.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
intervened in the debate in consequence of what had fallen on one point alone, first of all from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald), to whom he listened with, great attention and pleasure, and then from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour). He understood the Chief Secretary for Ireland to say that the cause of the evil they had to deal with in the Highlands and Islands, especially in the particular Island dealt within the debate, was over-population. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the sole remedy for that overpopulation was emigration. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to denounce the reckless increase of the population of that district during the 1114 last 40 or 50 years. He avowed he felt some astonishment that the right hon. Gentleman should put forward such an argument when he remembered that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and those who sat around him, and moat of those who sat on the Benches opposite, tried before all England to make him seem as one of the most immoral men alive because he had tried for the last quarter of a century to teach the people the very evils of over-population, and the very difficulties of their condition connected with that reckless increase. It was astonishing to hear from the other side of the House that put forward as a doctrine to be supported, which, when urged by him in olden times, made him the mark of very wicked—[Cries of "Question!"]—made him the mark of some of the wickedest language any man could use towards another.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he would not further discuss the personal position of the matter; but he remembered that when the right hon. Gentleman was a Member of a great Party which sat upon the Opposition Benches, he did not repudiate publications made with the sanction of his Party, to achieve that which he repudiated to-night. He would pass on to deal with the remedy. Did hon. Gentlemen opposite pretend that emigration was the sole remedy? Were they going to apply it to the distressed persons mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). Were they going to apply it in every district? Were they going to emigrate the people by the State, by force? Where were they going to emigrate them? There was no part of the world to which they could send any mass of the people of this country. There was no place where the people would not find the labour struggle awaiting them. He did not speak without knowledge of these matters. He did not speak without thought on these matters, and although he might be denounced as an agitator, he never failed to tell the people where he thought the evils lay—namely, on their side as well as those who represented them. What did they do to those who emigrated? Did they not send them to climates unsuitable for them; to 1115 conditions of life hostile to them; to temperatures of heat and cold which killed the strongest amongst them? There was no country in the world where paupers found a welcome at this moment. It was said the people of Lewis were paupers. There was no portion of the whole globe to which they could send such people but where they would have to contend with a colonizing race which could live cheaper than the English could. There was a time when we were the colonizers of the world, but the German race, which now flowed out in huge masses, existed on a lower standard of comfort than we did. When men were emigrated they were sent to face contests with that race, and with climates and with conditions which killed the greater portion of those who went out. The Government told the House of the few successes, but they did not tell them of the many miserable failures. Medical men in America and in Canada could tell them of those who had that home sickness which embittered the emigrant's life, and in many cases drove them into the asylums. Were they going to emigrate the people by the State, by force? It was an impossibility if they tried it. By charity? It was a mockery if they pretended it. He agreed with what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) had said. It was not until they had exhausted every means that were possible of providing a remedy here; it was not until the unjust conditions which hampered the poor, and which had been artificially created by the class to which hon. Gentlemen opposite belonged, were swept away, that emigration ought to be thought of as a remedy for the present state of things.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
said, there were one or two points to which he thought reference ought to be made. The Amendment of the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) was divisible into two parts. It dealt with the acute distress which prevailed in many parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and then it dealt with the disturbances which had arisen out of that distress. With regard to the disturbances which had arisen owing to the distress, he quite agreed with what had been said by the hon. and learned 1116 Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Asher). There existed in Scotland a considerable amount of sympathy with the population of the Highlands; but that sympathy would be greatly withdrawn if the lawless acts which had begun were continued. If the Amendment had referred simply to the lawless acts which had taken place it would have been a subject which ought not to have been accorded a place in the Address; and it must be admitted that the cause of the people of Lewis who were in distress was being greatly injured by the lawless proceedings of a few individuals. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) stated a proposition to which particular attention ought to be paid. According to the reports which had been made, destitution prevailed in Lewis to such an extent that in the course of a very few weeks the people would be absolutely starving. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had said that the Local Authorities must, in the first instance, deal with the distress. Now, it had been altogether overlooked in the discussion that the Local Authorities of Scotland were in no way responsible for the relief of distress which was caused through the want of employment. In England they might assess local rates for the purpose of giving relief to able-bodied poor; but it was one of the peculiarities of the Scotch system that the authorities could not levy any assessment whatever for the purpose of giving relief to able-bodied poor. The Chief Secretary for Ireland said that the Local Authorities must first of all deal with the distress; that the general public should be appealed to after that; and that not until these two sources of relief had been resorted to did the Government's responsibility come in. But he (Mr. Caldwell) maintained that the Government's responsibility came in first of all. A man was not allowed to steal, neither was he allowed to beg, and if the conditions of life were such as not to admit of human existence, it was the duty of the Government to step in and see that the conditions of life were made such that a man could earn an honest livelihood by his industry. Another point he desired to allude to was that of population. It was stated by the Chief Secretary for Ireland that there had been a considerable increase of population since 1790, and that 1117 in 1881 the population of Lewis had reached 25,000. The question of population, however, did not arise in this case, because it was the fact that down to 1884 the people were perfectly able to earn their living, and maintain themselves in comfort. The population was not too great down to 1884 for the means of subsistence. Down to that period the sources of income of the inhabitants of Lewis were threefold. The people had the advantage of hiring engagements, firstly at the home fishing; secondly, at the East Coast fishing; and, thirdly, to some at the home white fishing; and to others there was work on the roads or estates. Since 1884 the fishermen no longer received hiring engagements and freed wages. The fish were sold by auction, the fisherman reserving one-twelfth of the free produce, and therefore was a sharer in the profit and loss of the fishing industry. The result was that, in this Island, there had been a loss of wages to the extent of £40,000 in 1886, and a similar loss in 1887—the sales in many instances leaving nothing for the fishermen at all. It was evident, therefore, that it was not over-population that was the true cause of the present state of affairs, and that it was not mere agitation that had produced the loss of £40,000 to which reference had been made. What was the remedy? The remedy was to be found not by any change in regard to the Land Laws; but it was to be found in the development of the fishing industry. It was to be found in increasing harbour accommodation, whereby fishing might be conducted with safety. That was one of the essential means of promoting the fishing industry. In the next place, they must have speedy communication with the main land. It had been suggested that there ought to be a railway from Garve to Ullapool, so that the fish might be brought more rapidly to market. In the third place, there ought to be a cheapening of the railway rates. [Cries of "Divide!"] At present the charge for the conveyance of preserved fish to London was double that for the conveyance of the same weight of potatoes. [Cries of"Divide!"] The question of railway rates was a very important one indeed in regard to the development of the fishing industry. [Renewed cries of "Divide!"] 20,000 people were reported by a Commission to be on the point of starvation. 1118 Surely the matter was one which deserved the consideration of the House of Commons. The development of the fisheries would not only benefit the people of the immediate neighbourhood, but would result in the production of cheaper food for the large industrial population in the West of Scotland. Besides, the making of harbours and railways would give immediate employment to those who were willing and able to work. He quite agreed that, in the first place, land was intended for cultivation. The country had long acknowledged the principle of the supremacy of the Crown and of Parliament in dealing with land. On giving fair compensation to the proprietors, land was taken every day for public purposes— for railways and the like. If land were required for the purpose of tillage and giving employment to the inhabitants of any particular district, there was no reason why Parliament should not adopt the very same principle which they had adopted in the case of railways. It, however, was a matter for serious consideration how far the giving of land would meet the present exigency. The giving of land was the more remote question; what they had to deal with was the population who were not tillers of the soil. He was fully persuaded that the remedy was to be found in the direction he had indicated.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
moved the adjournment of the debate. He thought that in view of the importance of the subject, and more especially in view of the numerous or rather innumerable fallacies set forth by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, a little more time ought to be allowed for the proper thrashing out of the question.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." — (Mr. Wallace.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
greatly regretted the hon. Member had thought it right to move the adjournment of the debate. There was certainly a distinct understanding with right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the debate should be concluded that night; probably the hon. Gentleman was not aware of the understanding. He ventured to make an appeal to the House. 1119 The House had now been debating the Address for nearly a fortnight, and they were now encroaching most seriously on the time which was required for important Public Business. He was very far indeed from, in the slightest degree, depreciating the importance of the debate which had taken place that night; but there must be a limit even to the most important debate, a limit which was imposed by the necessity of transacting Public Business. It was on this ground that he appealed to the House to conclude the debate, which had been interesting, which had been important, but which he thought had been sufficiently long. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion for Adjournment, but if he did the Government must resist it.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 194: Majority 61.—(Div. List, No. 6.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Anderson.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he would offer no opposition to that Motion; but he trusted that the hon. Member would consent to some arrangement whereby the House could come to an early decision to-morrow upon the point the hon. Member desired to raise by his Amendment, so that the House might proceed with the Report stage of the Address to-morrow and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). He made that appeal on behalf of the House, for he believed there was a strong desire to conclude the discussion of the Address on Thursday. That could not be done unless the course he suggested were adopted. If the hon. Member and his Friends would conclude the discussion of their Amendment to-morrow, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton might then be proceeded with, and the debate on the Address as a whole finished on Thursday.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, he thought the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman was very fair so far as it could be accepted, and that was that the hon. Member who would open the debate to-morrow would close the discussion of his Amendment early. That discussion would occupy two hours, or possibly less. It was, however, not impossible that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) might attain to debate of a dimension he could not foresee at the moment. He hoped it might close on Wednesday, and he was quite sure that the Business that was to come before the House would induce many Members on that side to do their best to attain that result, but he did not think they were in a position to say that the discussion of the hon. Member for Northampton's Amendment would certainly close by 6 o'clock.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he could only make a further remark by the indulgence of the House, and would only say that the course he suggested was one that would conduce to the convenience of the House and the forwarding of Business. He trusted that he should have the assistance of both sides in the endeavour to dispose of the Address on Thursday.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman would not deny that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton was of a most important character, and both in the House and throughout the country there was the greatest possible anxiety for a free and open debate on the question. Unfortunately, on previous occasions, they had generally found that they were a day too late, but now his hon. Friend had taken time by the forelock with a view to safeguarding the country that it should not be committed to engagements without full consideration. He was afraid the subject might not be concluded by 6 o'clock, and if that were the case no harm would be done to Business and a great deal of good service would be done.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.