*THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, I wish to call the attention of the House to the Report of the Committee on Colonisation of the House of Commons. I have several reasons for doing so. In the first place, I do not think that Blue Books are a very popular form of literature, and much valuable matter in them escapes altogether the attention of the public, and, I am afraid, even of a large proportion of the Members of both Houses of Parliament. In the second place, this particular Report, although it does not refer to what can be called a very burning question at the present moment, yet does refer to a question which is one of continual and perpetually recurring embarrassment to successive Governments, and, may I add, is not unconnected with some of the most important social problems which lie before us in the future. In the third place, I must say that this Report puts in a very accessible and condensed form the most important facts, and the main arguments, connected with this question of systematic emigration and colonisation. The Committee was appointed only in the present year, in January, 1891. The particular Reference to the Committee was a very limited one. They were to inquire into the various schemes of colonisation, which had been proposed and dealt with more or less by the Government, in regard to systematic emigration from what are called the congested districts of the United Kingdom. Now, we all know what that expression has come to mean. It is a stock phrase for particular districts in the United Kingdom; and when we hear it used we always know where to go to find what are called the congested districts. We think of the wilds of Donegal or of Kerry in Ireland, of some of the Hebrides in Scotland, and possibly some persons may refer occasionally to the East of London. The phrase, congested district, pray observe, does not mean the most densely-populated districts of the United Kingdom; on the contrary, the most populous districts are generally the most thriving—almost invariably that is so. What the term congested district means is those districts where the population is in excess of the means of subsistence which they 248 possess in that particular part of the country. Now, the Committee does not waste its time by going into the question as regards Ireland, because they know very well that the case of Ireland is in other hands, and is being dealt with by Government in its own way. Neither do they allude to the East End of London, but they go direct to certain districts of the Western Highlands, particularly to the Hebrides and especially to the Island of Lewis. What I want to direct the attention of the House to is the question—what is there that is peculiar in the condition of any part of the Hebrides, and in particular in regard to the Island of Lewis? The Committee makes one historical remark which is of considerable importance as bearing upon this question. They say that so far as the general condition of the country is concerned there is every indication that the United Kingdom is now maintaining a larger population, corresponding to its area, than almost any other country in Europe, or than itself contained in the early part—the first half of the present century. Now, this is a very important remark, because it carries us back a few years—not very many years—and enables us to see what is the cause of this particular congestion as they call it in these particular districts; it is not a question of mere population; it is a question of population in proportion to the means of local subsistence. I see that a very eminent authority—the late Professor Thorold Rogers, of the University of Oxford—in his very interesting book on Six Centuries of Work and Wages in England, says this: That, as far as he can see, there has been no year of famine in England since the early part of the 14th century—that since the year 1312 or 1315 I think, there has been no year in which England did not support its own population without the import of foreign food with comparative ease—of course with a much smaller population than at present. Now, the first fact that we have to encounter with regard to the Hebrides is that nobody can say this in regard to the past history of Scotland. The whole of Scotland until very lately, not, indeed, within the memory of living men, but within the memory of the fathers of living men, was one vast congested district. It is hardly remembered now how lately 249 years of famine prevailed over the whole of Scotland. It seems to be with nations as it is with individuals; we remember pleasure long; we remember pain and misfortune for a comparatively short period; and I have found many Scotchmen, even, to whom it was entirely new to be told that quite lately, within the last two generations, the whole of Scotland was in a state not unlike the condition of the Island of Lewis at the present moment. But that this was the case there is historical evidence, which is irrefutable. During the whole of the 18th century Scotland was only gradually arising from a state approaching to famine. Not only were there frequent scarcities in Scotland, but there were many years when numbers of the people died from want in some of the counties which are now most prosperous. So long ago as the 15th century, in the Parliament of James III., this declaration was made—Victuals are right scanty within the country, and the most support that the realm has is by strangers bringing in victuals;and declaring in favour of the unrestricted introduction of food. That declaration of the Parliament of Scotland was repeated during the whole of that century, the 16th; it was repeated almost through the whole of the next, the 17th, and during most of the earlier part of the 18th century, as we know from many later authorities. The consequence was that the people of Scotland, or rather the Scottish Parliament, were free traders long before the doctrine of free trade was put forward in modern times. The Parliaments of Scotland repeatedly declared that the people of the country were dependent upon foreign food, and they passed law after law inviting foreigners to bring food into Scotland, and, providing that no charges should be made upon importations of food—that there should be, in fact, free trade in com. That was the case with regard to the whole of Scotland: the people were often brought to the point of starvation. Now, the question may well be asked, what brought about a change? I may mention that the last year of positive famine in Scotland was so late as 1788. I have talked, and many of your Lordships have like myself talked, to men 40 or 50 years ago who were alive in that year, and who were born long 250 before that time. I remember meeting several people of great age who were alive in that year, and able perfectly to remember what then occurred. That was a year of extensive famine—I mean of real starvation over a large part of Scotland. In the county of Aberdeen, one of the most thriving in the whole north-east of Scotland, the people were on the point of starvation. In that year there were hundreds of thousands of people actually dependent upon charity, and a great many were begging about the country. What brought about the change in Scotland since 1788? Two causes, and two causes only—migration and emigration, but migration chiefly. That is to say, there was an immense movement of the population from the rural districts of Scotland which were all congested, into the great centres of industry which were then rising all over the country, and especially in the west of Scotland, a movement to the great city of Glasgow. There was also a large emigration to the Canadian Colonies, immense emigration lasting for many years, so large an emigration that when at last it arrested public attention, and the attention of the authorities, much alarm was expressed at it by the landed proprietors in the Highlands. Instead of helping the people to emigrate, or forcing them to do so, they were excessively alarmed at it, and held meeting after meeting in connection with the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, to try and prevent it. But it is little known how great this emigration was. People talk of the depopulation of the Highlands; they never think of the depopulation of the Lowlands. In the parishes lying close around Edinburgh to the north—the parish of Cramond, the parish of Dalmeny, where Lord Rosebery has his beautiful seat, or the parish the south of Edinburgh, in which stands the Castle of Queen Mary, the land was covered by crofters who were all in the condition which was usual in other parts of the country. They were all in great poverty, and in frequent years on the point of starvation. In the years 1793–5 we have the testimony of the various ministers of the Church of Scotland, who, under the admirable instructions of Sir John Sinclair, drew up, parish by parish, a Statistical Account of the condition 251 of the whole of Scotland. If you look into that record—and most creditable it is to the ministers of the Church of Scotland—you will find that minister after minister tells you that the population in his parish within 25 or 30 years has been reduced from 20 to 30 per cent. That is exactly the state of things which is now alarming many people with regard to the former population of the Highlands. The process of bringing the population of Scotland into a condition of comparative prosperity at that time was the very process which so many people are now afraid of in the Highlands. That was the case over the whole of Scotland, as I have said. Now, what was the case with regard to the Highlands in particular? The Highlands were even more congested than the Lowlands. Take the remarkable story which is told us by Sir Walter Scott, in a very interesting article which he published in the Quarterly Review in the year 1816, and upon which he afterwards founded his famous novel of Rob Roy, where the facts are reproduced in a dramatic form. He there says that the whole of the Highlands of Scotland had, in the early part of the previous century, been, as I have said, on the point of famine. He mentions the particular case of a bit of country which may be well known to some of your Lordships. Probably many of your Lordships have gone up Loch Lomond by steamer, and have stopped at a little place called Inversnaid, from which a short coach route goes across to Loch Katrine, a favourite route for tourists. Sir Walter Scott mentions that on that bit of moorland on the banks of Loch Lomond, and on the slopes of Ben Lomond, there was a large crofters' settlement. And how many families do your Lordships think were standing on that little piece of moorland, where there is not now a house to be seen, except, perhaps, a shepherd's cottage and no land fit for cultivation? Between 700 and 800 people were settled upon the land in that small part of the country, living on wretched holdings of the value of less than 30s.—9s. a piece I think was the average. Those people were living, in fact, upon plunder, and those were the men that Rob Boy, the famous freebooter, used to enlist in his band for marauding and committing depredations in the Lowlands. 252 Unable to live on the produce of their own country they lived by plunder on the Lowlands. Now, my Lords, that was the state of things from that period, which was about 1720 or 1725, on to the period of the Statistical Account, or rather, I should say, within 20 years of the Statistical Account. Then began again the same process which had already rescued the rest of Scotland; then began migration within the country, and emigration to the Colonies; large migration from the Highlands to Glasgow, and to the other great centres of industry, and also large emigration to the Colonies. The consequence was, and has been, that almost the whole of the West of Scotland is just as prosperous as any part of England. I always rather resent the expression which is used in these Blue Books, they talk about the West of Scotland and the Western Highlands being congested districts. While there are some spots in the Western Highlands which still retain their ancient characteristics in that respect, the whole of the mainland part of that country with which I have the honour to be connected, the larger part of Inverness and the greater portion of Sutherland are free from any great distress. Last year, it is true, we had a bad potato harvest, but as to there being any approach to starvation the thing is absurd. There is no such thing existing; and except in one or two small parishes there is nothing like what I should call a congestion of population. Let us now go to the Hebrides. There we have a survival and nothing more—we are to look upon it as nothing but that—a survival of the state of things caused by special circumstances to which I shall direct the attention of the House, which existed very lately over the whole of Scotland, still more lately over the whole of the Highlands, and which is now concentrated in the Western Islands, and especially in the Island of Lewis. The Hebrides have this peculiarity—that just at the time when the population of the rest of Scotland was getting thinned out by migration and emigration, the Hebrides began to increase in population to an enormous extent—out of all proportion to the means of subsistence which they had upon the spot, if it had not been for certain accidental circumstances to which I shall now refer. This enormous increase of popula- 253 tion in the Hebrides as compared with the rest of Scotland when the population of the rest of Scotland was getting comparatively thin, arose mainly from three causes, which were concurrent. First of all, there was the introduction of inoculation, which stopped a disease which used to ravage the Highlands, which decimated the population, and reduced it every few years to comparatively small numbers. Secondly, just about the same time, we had the introduction of the potato which the people took to there as they took to it nowhere else, and upon which they soon came to live for two-thirds of the year. Lastly, in the Hebrides we had the introduction of the manufacture of kelp. All those three causes were concurrent in the Hebrides: the stoppage of disease by inoculation, the introduction of the potato, and the introduction of the new manufacture of kelp. The result was that the people bred and bred upon the potato, and upon the large returns which they had from the kelp manufacture during the whole of the latter part of the 18th century. From the period in question there is abundant contemporary evidence. We have the evidence of the population Returns, founded upon an estimate of the population in the year 1755, and brought down subsequently to later periods by competent observers. In the year 1755 there were 95 islands on the west of Scotland which were inhabited. We may practically strike out three from that calculation, because three of the largest at the mouth of the Clyde are no longer considered part of the Hebrides at all—I mean Arran, Bute, and Cumbrae—and islands of that class which are just as much cultivated as the Lowlands, and where there is no question of any congestion or excess of people existing. There were 92 islands north of Cantyre, in which the total population at that time was about 52,000. Under the stimulated causes to which I have referred, that population had mounted up, long before the close of the century, to 74,466, that is to say, not far short of 50 per cent.—an increase of about 40 or 50 percent. I will just give the case of the Island of Taree, with which I am especially connected, as it has been the property of my family for many years. The population of that island 254 had increased during 80 years by actually a larger number than was added to the whole population of the City of Glasgow between the War of Independence and the Reformation. Just think of that! A small island not in itself infertile, with the potato comparatively fertile, and with the kelp manufacture supporting the population, so long as the manufacture lasted, in comparative comfort, and inducing an increase of population to that extent until in 1824 their kelp industry was destroyed and they were reduced to want. That I think is a specimen. We have a chain of authorities as to the condition of the people in the Hebrides being the same in spite of all the advantages of the kelp trade. You will find that those authorities give you an account of the; condition of the people there, which is precisely the same as this Committee gives us in its Report as to the condition of the people in Lewis, except that it is rather worse. We have the authority of Captain Burt, whose Letters from the Highlands were written about 1730 from Inverness; we have the authority of Pennant, the great Naturalist, who travelled through the Hebrides and noted everything with the most intelligent and careful observation between 1769 and 1777; we have the professional Report of Professor Walker, who was sent from Edinburgh, being himself an agriculturist, to report upon the agricultural condition of the country; then we have the Statistical Account of 1792 to 1795; and lastly we have what is, perhaps, as valuable as any, a series of reports drawn up by the Board of Agriculture in Scotland, a body which came to an end in the early part of the present century by a great misfortune, the reports of which are of the highest interest as regards the progress and the economic condition of Scotland. Now, what is the uniform testimony of all those writers on the condition of the Highlands and Islands in spite of all the artificial advantages which they possessed? I will give some specimens taken from the pages of Pennant. In the case of the Island of Islay, on which at present there is no distress, he said he had seen the people "worn down with poverty and famine," barely escaping starvation by the timely arrival of one meal-ship; in Skye he tells us that the years of famine were 255 as 10 to 1. In another of the Islands where there is no poverty now, the Island of Rum, which belonged at one time to the noble Marquess (Salisbury), Pennant said he found the people "well-made and well-favoured, but carrying famine in their eyes." And the same with regard to parts of the mainland in the County of Sutherland; he found the people "torpid with idleness and emaciated with hunger." Professor Walker's testimony is exactly to the same effect, and that went on down to the end of the century. Now, we must consider another of the conditions. Another cause that produced this misery was the complete stagnation—the entire absence of anything approaching to agricultural skill or to a knowledge of agriculture. We must not be surprised at that state of things existing in these out-of-the-way parts of the country. We must remember that even in England agriculture was stagnant for at least 400 years. There was a good deal of new land taken in; but no improvement was made in the mode of agriculture. The same authority to whom I have before referred, and who, in spite of all his strong Party antipathies as regards particular classes, I regard as being on the whole an honest writer, I mean professor Thorold Rogers, says there was no progress in agriculture, and probably even retrogression in agricultural skill over the whole of England from the date of Henry III. to the date of James I.; and I believe that to be perfectly true. There were no sown grasses, there were no green crops, there was no rotation of crops, there was no thorough drainage; and, in short, everything that is now considered requisite in good agriculture was wanting. Then, my Lords, we must not be much surprised if in the most outlying districts in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland the same condition of things should have prevailed. Instead of there being no progress in 400 years, as was the case in England, I should say that there had been no progress in the mode of agriculture in that part of Scotland for 1,100 years, because we have a very tolerable account of the agriculture carried on by the monks of Iona in the sixth century, and it is quite apparent that that was skilled agriculture as compared with what existed at the time it 256 was reported on by Mr. Pennant and Professor Walker. The truth was that agriculture declined under the wretched system of crofting tenure, under which no man could call a bit of land his own for more than one year, where the pastures were all in common, where there was no care for fodder, no hay made, and where there was no proper rotation of crops, and no care in the seleetion of breeds. What could you expect from such a state of things? This is exactly what you find surviving still in the Island of Lewis. I come to that island now as being in fact an example of the whole. The Island of Lewis is peculiarly placed. In the first place, we must remember that it is not only an island, but a very remote island, and the mere condition of insularity is very often quite enough to account for an utter stagnation in the ideas of the human mind, and in the progress of human society. In the first observations I made to your Lordships to-night, I remarked on the unpopularity of Blue Books, and I do not know whether many of your Lordships have noticed a Blue Book, a Parliamentary Paper which was issued from the Foreign Office during the present Session, which I have, I confess, read with astonishment, showing the effect of mere insularity in destroying or arresting the progress of a people; I mean the Report which has been circulated to Members of this House, of our Consul at Palermo on the condition of Sicily. That is an island round which the civilisation of the world has circulated for more than 2,000 years, and yet, as far as a knowledge of agriculture and the practice of agriculture is concerned, the people are more ignorant and more backward now than they were in the days of the Roman Emperors. Our Consul at Palermo tells us that in Sicily the poor people have no plough to be compared with that described by Virgil; they have nothing but a few sticks which only scratch the ground some three or four inches deep; they are in the deepest poverty; they never build houses in the country; they retain the absurd and evil custom of living in nests on the crests of mountains which are the greatest trouble to get at, both as regards themselves, their cattle, and their crops. That is the mere effect of insularity. Remember, that in the 257 case of the Island of Lewis, no civilisation has circulated round that island for 2,000 years. No human being came there to teach the people new ideas. During the whole Middle Ages the most horrible inter-tribal wars were waged, one clan fighting with the other. We read that at one time the island was wholly depopulated by wars between the Macleods and the Mackenzies, who were fighting for possession of it. Isolated, removed from civilisation; so it has continued to the present day. The island itself is extremely barren. It is covered by enormous tracts of moss and bog, which are eight and ten feet deep; a large part of it is rock; another large portion sand, and the sandy part is the place where they get their best crops; it is favourable for potatoes, as it long retains the very little solar heat which they get during the greater part of the year, and I have heard are ripened very quickly there in some seasons. Look at the account which is given by this Committee of the present condition of the people of Lewis. The people of Lewis have been reported upon during the last 40 years by four Commissions or Committees. The first was that of the late Sir John MacKeill, who knew the Highlands well, I think in 1843; and since that time, almost every 10 years, there has been some inquiry into the condition of this unfortunate people. What is the picture presented to us by the last Commission which was sent by my noble Friend on the other side of the House? The Report says they found the people steeped in penury; they describe them as living in filthy houses. Upon that part of the matter I must say that to an English gentleman—it is an English gentleman who makes the Report; he was, I think, a surgeon on board the ship who gives an account of the houses—to a stranger coming from another and a civilised part of the world they would appear very bad. He would think the state of the houses wretched indeed. But here we must remember what the condition of the houses was even in England until a very late period in her history. No doubt your Lordships have seen the extraordinary letter published in Brewer's Life of Henry VIII., from Erasmus, giving an account of how the people in England lived at that time. I 258 have no hesitation in saying, and I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that the habits and houses of our ancestors were at that time more filthy and unwholesome than are the habits and habitations of the people of Lewis at the present time. Erasmus tells us that the people of England lived in houses the rooms of which were strewn with rushes. Into those rushes much of the dirt and débris of the household meals went; they were not cleaned out from one week to another; but when it was thought proper a fresh supply of rushes was simply spread upon the top; and it was to the filthy condition of those habitations that Erasmus attributed the horrible sweating sickness which broke out in the reign of Henry VIII., and decimated the Court, the upper classes, and the whole of the population of London. The condition of the people in Lewis is really more healthy than that; still, it is a most extraordinary state of things to read of. The surgeon of the ship says when you go into a Lewis cottage you have to make your way through a considerable space covered with the dung of cattle and all kinds of filth and wet mud, and then you come to one end of the room not separated in any way from the rest of the habitation, but common to the cattle and the family, in which you find the family living alongside the cattle, and everything in the most filthy condition. We must remember that that account given by Erasmus of the habits of our ancestors was written at a time when there was the greatest luxury in dress and in other respects, in apparel, and in the furniture of houses—that it was the age of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. We need not wonder, then, my Lords, that these poor ignorant people in Lewis at the furthest extremity of our islands, away from the rest of the world, should still retain the habits of our ancestors in the 12th and 13th centuries. There is a most extraordinary statement given with regard to the habits of the Lewis people which we know existed 300 years ago, but which I confess I did not know had survived to the present day. It was an old habit in the Highlands to have their houses made of wicker, with, of course, a roof of thatch. There was no chimney to them; there was not even a hole in the roof; the smoke 259 percolated through the thatch, and this thatch was taken off every year, saturated with the soot from the fires, in order to be used as manure. That goes on at the present day in Lewis. You may conceive what the condition of agriculture is in a place where exist such a state of things. They do not cut the corn as we do; they pull it out of the ground, and they use the lower part of it for thatching the houses; then when it is saturated with smoke and soot at the end of the next season, they use it as I have described. That is the condition of things you are dealing with in Lewis: the lowest state of ignorance and of idleness, and the absolute want of cleanliness and care which comes of necessity from those conditions. Your Lordships will naturally ask how long has this gone on? Forty years ago, when Sir John MacNeill inquired into the state of those islands, he wrote in the greatest alarm to the Government on the prospects of the people of Lewis. You will see it in his Report quoted by this Committee. He said things were going on in a way and to an extent of misery which must end in great disaster; that the whole population would have to be supported by charity or else starve. However, one of those strange chances turned up on which no one can count, and that was that a great change for the better took place on the coasts—a peculiar change in the herring trade in the North of Scotland. The great buyers on the North and East coasts took up and introduced a new system of catching herrings, and they adopted a system of hiring the Lewis people, and giving them a considerable share in the boats' earnings. The consequence is, that since Sir John MacNeill's Report, there has been something like what might be equivalent to the manufacture of kelp—the people had the advantage of a herring trade which had brought to them considerable sums of money. What has happened now? Another great change has taken place in the herring trade. Owing partly to the free trade in herrings—there has been a great substitution of Dutch herrings for our own in the Continental markets—the former system of catch has become unprofitable, and all that source of revenue has disappeared just as the 260 revenue from the manufacture of kelp has disappeared since the beginning of the present century, so that the people are now thrown back upon their own resources in the Island of Lewis, which, I need not tell your Lordships, are wholly inadequate to the support of the people. Now, in view of these facts, let us look at the Returns of population. The population of Lewis has increased at a most enormous pace, and far out of proportion to the rate of increase in the other islands. In 1755 it was only 6,386; in 1797 it was 8,311; in 1841—about the time of Sir John MacNeill's Report, when he felt such alarm about it—it had risen to 17,037; in 1851 it was 19,694; and in 1881, at the last Census before that recently taken, it had reached 25,487. I am sorry to inform your Lordships, from official information supplied to me by my noble Friend this morning, and which I had already seen in the papers, the Census just completed reveals the awkward fact that, instead of the increase of this population being arrested, it is going on as rapidly as ever. The population is now 27,496, having increased more than 8 per cent. during the last decennial period. The consequence has been that the poor rate averages, over the whole island, 4s. 8d. in the £1, besides all other charges—that is to say, poor rates alone; and these with other charges have absorbed from 10s. to 11s. in the £1, leaving very little indeed for those who have the property in the land of the island. It is further stated in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons—though I must say I have not seen the detailed evidence upon this point—that the type of the population is suffering degradation, that their physical aspect betokens their deteriorated condition. Now, I ask your Lordships whether, under this condition of affairs, it is possible that there can be any other remedy than that which was effectual in the West of Scotland in the previous century, and even in the South of Scotland and the Border country, in the century before that. My Lords, I speak to a Secretary for Scotland who comes from the Border. That Border Country was just as bad at one time as regards its population as the Highland and Islands at the present time. I hope 261 my noble Friend will admit that, as one consequence, they had the same predatory habits——
*THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
I am afraid that the Campbells and the Armstrongs and the Scotts were quite as bad as the Macdougalls, the Macleods, and the Mackenzies. As far as I have seen, the historical evidence upon this point of depopulation is very conclusive. The moorlands with which my noble Friend is familiar are now more desolate than any similar parts which I know of in the Highlands. In going from London to Glasgow, when you come to the watershed of the country, in the County of Lanark you will see one valley alone, which must be more than 20 miles long, much more fit for habitation and for being reclaimed, theoretically, and cultivated than any of the glens I know in the Highlands, and there is not a single habitation in it, except one or two large tenants houses. That depopulation took place on the union of the Crowns. In the West of Scotland it took place, to a large extent, after the union of the Parliaments. The union of the Crowns made a large population in the Borders useless. My noble Friend's ancestors and friends could raise 10,000 men in the vales of the Borders at one time, and sometimes did actually raise a cavalry to that extent. No such force was ever raisable from the population in the Highlands. It is a well-known fact that in the Rebellion of 1745 the largest number of clansmen that ever appeared in the field in support of Prince Charles Edward was somewhat less than 10,000 men raised over the whole Highlands of Scotland. Now, my Lords, what are you to do with this population in the Island of Lewis? There are two remedies proposed—migration and emigration. Yes; but those who talk of migration do not talk of the kind of migration which took place in the last century, which saved Scotland from penury and made her one of the most thriving countries in the world. What they mean is an artificial migration—that the Government should take these poor people, in their utter ignorance, in their utter indolence, in their utter impecuniosity, and should plant them on the lands elsewhere which 262 have escaped the misfortunes to which they are subject. The Committee were not specially required to report upon migration; the word "migration" is not used in the terms of their Reference. "Emigration" is used; but as the Committee properly think, they could deal with the subject of emigration without referring to those other schemes which have been put forward as a substitute. They do not dwell upon it. But they give it no encouragement, and they make this very important observation in passing. I have reminded your Lordships that they make an historical observation in an earlier part of their Report, and they now make an economic observation in this part of it. It is a very significant one. They say that taking land on which to plant these poor people implies that you are to take land from proprietors who think that they are now employing it to the best advantage, and to endeavour to employ it to a better advantage yourselves. The Committee reply, and they reply with perfect wisdom, that the presumption is that those who possess these other lands, comparatively free from a pauper population, know best the economic purpose to which they should be applied. It is a significant hint, and I think it is one on which we ought to ponder. I do not understand this idea of what people call migration. It seems to assume that there are in Scotland what are called waste lands. Now, the word "waste" in England has a technical meaning. "Waste land" in England, through all the Middle Ages, meant land which was not tilled, the woods, and forests, and moorlands of the country. That was called the waste, and it was generally the common pasture of particular groups of men. But what these people mean by "waste" is land which they think is not put to its best purpose, not put to the best economic use. I venture to affirm positively that in that sense there is no such land existing in Scotland. There is not in that sense one acre of waste land; there is not one acre of appropriated land which is not let to tenants who value it very highly, and I have personal experience of that fact. I know that sometimes when I have wished to withdraw what I should call very waste land from a tenant's farm he always objects, and says, "That is the most valuable bit in my whole farm. It 263 contains a great deal of winter forage." I may say to him, "What a marshy bit that is; it can be of no value to you;" but he says, on the contrary, "It is of the greatest value for fodder for my cattle." And that is the condition of the land throughout the whole of the North of Scotland. There is no instance of land being unappropriated, or of land not being appropriated according to the best of our knowledge at the present day. I am not denying that a change in the present condition of things may be possible in times to come, or that in future ages there may not be some other use devised for these mountain slopes; but I say that at present all the mountains of the West of Scotland which are devoted to sheep-farming, and even those that are devoted to deer, are now employed to the best economic use, that is to say, for the purpose that will alone bring the best return to the proprietor and to the public. Then, my Lords, I often wonder why it is that people suppose the same law does not apply to mountain surfaces which applies to horizontal, or comparatively horizontal, surfaces. It has always appeared to me the strangest thing in the world the effect upon the mind which the position of a particular surface of land seems to create in comparison with all other land which is not of that particular inclination. Many men appear to think there can be no property in land which is not flat or undulating. I recollect 47 years ago going to visit the poet Wordsworth at his place in Westmoreland, and in walking with him round his garden my eye was caught, as the eye of a Highland proprietor would naturally be attracted, by the extreme richness and beauty of the pastures on the sides of the very steep hills above and around us. I asked Mr. Wordsworth "Whose property is that hill?" On which Mr. Wordsworth turned to me, with a look of blank astonishment, and said, "Property! I never heard it was anybody's property." I said, "Well, Mr. Wordsworth, all I can say is, that if you think land as steep as that cannot be made private property I should be extremely ill off." He looked greatly astonished, but he gave me no explanation of why he was surprised that the land should be anybody's property. However, I found that Mr. Words- 264 worth —I suppose, being a poet, had never thought it worth his while—a poet who wrote about sheep and shepherds, beautiful lines familiar to all your Lordships—to inquire whose property the land was on that mountain. But I have thought it worth my while to inquire, and I find that in Westmoreland the old crofting system which formerly existed everywhere in the country, prevails to this day. Many of these mountain lands belong to townships, and that is what Mr. Wordsworth possibly had—or rather had not—in his head. He had, doubtless, never heard that they belonged to a group of individuals. They belong very often to the townships. Some of them are held in severalty; but a great many of the mountains in Westmoreland are held in commonalty by members of particular townships. This does not mean that everybody—Tom, Dick, and Harry—may go and put sheep whenever they like on those mountains; it means that anybody who buys land at the bottom of a mountain has the right to put a certain number of sheep on the Township-mountain. That tenure exists also in the Highlands, but the land belongs to the proprietor; it is let to the township. It is let in common in some cases, although by far the larger part is held in severalty, and it is as much private property as any pasture land near London, which is regularly let to the tenants. Now, let us look at what the poor people in Lewis themselves understand by these theories of migration. What happened about six weeks ago? The people, I am sorry to say, are in great distress. Many of them are in extreme poverty; and my noble Friend let them have boats to prosecute the fishery. One of the first purposes for which they used those boats was to make a marauding expedition against land that did not belong to them, and take possession of it. They are poor, ignorant people, and I do not blame them very much; I blame those who put such ideas into their heads. What took place on that occasion was this: A number of those poor people took one of the boats with which my noble Friend had supplied them, and which I strongly suspect they have not yet paid for, and landed on a farm which was let to another man. They encamped upon it and took a number of 265 spades, but from the evidence given when the matter came before the Sheriff it appeared they did not know very well how to use the spades. That is their idea of migration—seizing on land belonging to other people who are competent to cultivate it according to the cultivation of the day, themselves keeping it, planting a few potatoes on the land, and living upon it. I cannot find what the other idea of "migration" is. I suppose it has a more educated name; but I presume I may take for granted that it was represented by several of the witnesses who were before this Committee, and certainly by one very remarkable witness who was examined before Lord Napier's Commission, the Free Church minister of Stornoway, a Mr. Martin, whose evidence I will refer to as of weight in this matter, because the Free Church ministers are generally in close relations with the people, and almost always in sympathy with them. He is a great man for migration; but he confessed this to the Committee, that the State, among other duties, would require to teach the people how to cultivate the land. He is simple-minded enough to suggest that the persons who are agitating for this new land being given to the people should subscribe the money required to buy land and take it for them, and he says he cannot doubt that people of so much public spirit as these agitators will come forward with the money and try the experiment themselves; but failing that, he says the State must do it. Then what is it the State is to do? It is, in the first place, to occupy land which is better occupied by those who are at present in possession of it; next to build decent houses for these people who are accustomed to such habitations as I have described to your Lordships; next to subdivide fields; next to reclaim mountain lands which are wholly unfit for arable culture; next to establish schools; and then, having come to the end of the list, he says—But I am bound to say that if the State undertakes this duty of doing all this for these poor people it roust also teach them how to cultivate the land better, for," he says, "at present they scatter their seed in such quantities that when they sow their land it is more like feeding hens than sowing corn.This is the account given of them by Mr. Martin, the intelligent representative 266 of the people themselves, as far as so intelligent a man can be their representative, regarding these theories. Just conceive the State taking upon itself so onerous a charge as that! Who are to be displaced? Perhaps you will have no sympathy with the larger farmers or against their being displaced, although I think that people who have contributed so much more sustenance to the country are quite as worthy of consideration as these people. Bat whom are they to displace? In the case of the particular raid which happened six weeks ago, whose land was it they seized upon? They seized upon the land of another crofter, a man belonging to the crofter class who had saved money, who was intelligent above his fellows, and who had taken a small farm from Lady Matheson, for which he paid only £50 a year. That was the class of man whose land was seized by these poor ignorant people who were utterly incapable of stocking it or cultivating it themselves. You would have to displace men in any case who are now good tenants, and to put in these people whom it is extremely improbable you will ever make into good tenants. I cannot conceive that this scheme can ever come to anything. Then, what is your recourse? Your only possible recourse is emigration. I know that with many people it is very unpopular to say that the number of people should be diminished. I fully admit that an increasing population is, under certain conditions, a sign of prosperity; but it must be a population that is making their own bread, earning their own living. If they do not make their own bread, if they do not earn their own living they are contributing nothing to the wealth of the State or to the strength of the population of the country. Talk of waste land in the Highlands! I know of no waste land there, but I know of a great many waste people—wasted men—men who might be great men in other conditions of life, because there is no better stuff in the kingdom than the stuff of these crofters. My Lords, I know them well. They have much native intelligence—ay, and I will say more, much native genius; and I never look at a settlement of these poor people—and I am talking only of the poorest class, such as the people in he Island of Lewis—without recalling 267 the words of Gray's famous Elegy in a Churchyard, which was familiar to our fathers:—Perhaps in this neglected spot is laidSome heart once pregnant with celestial fire;Hands that the rod of empire might have sway'd,Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.Nor is this a mere fancy, My Lords. Who have been the men whom these crofters have repeatedly turned out when they go from their wretched homes in their own miserable islands and take part in the great currents of civilised life? Who was that man whose death we deplored this week, and on whom the Prime Minister of England made a just and a generous eulogium? Sir John Macdonald, who was and will ever be regarded as the founder of the great Dominion of Canada, was the son of a crofter in Sutherlandshire. Who was the great pioneer in South Africa—the man who in future ages will undoubtedly be looked back upon as the first pioneer of civilisation, the first harbinger of the Gospel, in that country? David Livingstone, the son of an Argyle-shire crofter. Who was the man who more than any other, as Lord Macaulay told me himself, guided him in drawing up the great Civil Code of the Indian Empire—that wonderful Empire of more than 250,000,000 of people over whom England rules with a smoothness and a success unparalleled in the history of the world? Sir John M'Leod, who came from the Island of Skye, where he was a small proprietor, "bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh," with the people whose miserable condition I have now described to you. I wish to see the people of those islands removed from their miserable condition, not only for their own sakes, but for the sake of the Empire which they are so well capable of serving. In their present condition it is impossible to raise them above a state of penury and the consequence attending it, a constant danger of starvation. I, therefore, do hope and trust that my noble Friend the Secretary for Scotland and the Government of the day will bend their attention to systematic emigration in the form of colonisation, if they can accomplish it. I know the difficulties that are in their way, and the greatest of all the difficulties are the doctrines of the agitators, who tell the 268 people that they should remain where they are. The Committee of the House of Commons gives its emphatical opinion that the first thing to be done is to make these people understand that in their present condition they cannot make a living, and that they ought not to rely on the charity of the public. That is one of the distinct announcements of the Committee, and it is repeated over and over again by the Commissioners as by my noble Friend. That, however, is one of the great impediments which the Government have in their way. You cannot force these people to emigrate. You have taken away from the proprietors the power, which was so well exercised over the rest of Scotland, of gradually thinning the population as agriculture improved. The division of crofts—I do not mean the sub-division of them—but the individualisation of the arable land, giving each man his own bit of soil to cultivate and improve, and his own bit of pasture—the separation of crofts and the abolition of commonalty—those were the secrets of the whole economic progress of Scotland during the last 200 years. You have stopped that by the Crofter Act. To a large extent, that is an Act to stop the improvement of the Highlands. I admit that there have been some counter advantages. Where you have crofters who are intelligent, who have some money, who have some experience—and there are many on my own estates—I will say this: that the security of tenure which the Crofter Act has given has in many cases induced them to make improvements for the first time. But the whole effect depends upon the condition of the people to whom the Act is applied. When applied to people like those in the Island of Lewis it has no effect whatever, except to root them in their bogs, and to keep them steeped in their misery. In the first place, the Crofter Act only applies to those who have lands, and a great many of these people are not crofters, but cottiers. I have had information upon this subject, I may say, from a person who knows Lewis well; and what generally happens among these people is this: They always have large families, of course; then one of the daughters marries, and that family is taken into the house; another daughter or a son marries, and then two 269 families are taken into the house. It generally happens that when a third comes in there are a few family jars between the women, and the result is that the third family or the second family is told, "You must go out and live somewhere else," and then whichever family it may be, goes, out takes possession of an empty barn, and converts it into a cottage, and they have a new family there. This was given in evidence before the Sheriff the other day by the poor people who were convicted of raiding land belonging to another tenant. One of the crofters, in giving evidence before the Sheriff, said—The misery we endure is a consequence of the sub-division of our crofts.There were two or three members of his own family who were mere squatters on part of the land, which was unable to support them. Nor would it be able to do so if you were to divide the whole of the land in Lewis between the 27,000 people now there. There is no remedy for such a state of things, let it be told, but emigration. With regard to the form that emigration should take, I do not wish to say anything which would at all assume that I know better upon that matter than others do, or than the members of this Committee do, or than my noble Friend does, who has all the sources of information at his command; but I am bound to say, from the experience of former tenants of my own who have emigrated from my own estate in the Island of Tiree, that I believe the most likely country for the settlement of those poor people is in the provinces of British North America. A number of my former tenants are now settled in Manitoba, and I was told the other day, that some of them, who were very poor crofters in Scotland, have so greatly improved their position that they have now upwards of 400 acres of land, with comfortable homesteads, and are thriving in every way. There is another colony, further West, which I confess I have a great fancy for, on the shores of the Pacific—British Columbia. From all the accounts I have heard, that country is precisely suited to the people of the Western Highlands; a splendid country with magnificent mountains and forests, with a rich climate and a generous soil. It is 270 a magnificent place, with forests finer than any they ever saw in their own country, mountains far grander, climate more genial, and soil more generous. Why should not these people be told that they cannot be supported in that wretched Island of Lewis, which consists of nothing but bare rock, vast sheets of moss, and a few bits of sandy ground, upon which they reared the few miserable patches of corn which can be forced up under so much as they can ever get of a hot sun. Why should not they be told to do what has been done before—why should not the necessity of doing it be preached to them? I believe thoroughly that if the people once saw that there was no other resource they would do what their ancestors did 100 years ago—repair in thousands to a more bountiful and more plenteous land in the West. I regret very much that the exertions of my noble Friend opposite (the Marquess of Lothian) do not seem to have been more successful as regards the pecuniary return which has been received by the Government in their scheme for emigration to the West; but I am bound to say I do not think the experiment has failed. You cannot expect an immediate pecuniary return in such cases as this; but you will obtain an ample return in the removal of these poor people who are the most excellent material in the world for making colonists. They will be industrious for they are quite capable of it, when they are removed from their surroundings in their own country. I have numerous instances of those who were formerly my own tenants, rejoicing in their departure from the old country and at their success in the new. The other day I received an anonymous letter enclosing a sum of money, not a very large amount, and I found upon enquiry that it came from one of my former crofters whom I had assisted to emigrate 30 years ago. He wrote to say that he and all his brethren had made a fortune in the new country, and that he took the first opportunity of returning me the expense I had been at in giving that assistance. That, my Lords, is a noble and generous feeling, and shows what these crofters are capable of doing. I am quite sure that these Highlanders, pressed down by their conditions, living on such a soil in a weeping climate, a soil from which with the greatest 271 possible industry they could not extract a living, pressed down by these disadvantages they are what we could only expect them to be; but they are among the best material in the three kingdoms for the purpose of emigration, and if my noble Friend can persuade them to emigrate, and will give them some generous assistance in getting to the other side of the Atlantic, that I firmly believe is the only remedy now, as it was the remedy which in the past converted a large part of Scotland, as I have shown your Lordships, even in the recollection of people who are living, from a country exposed to the continual recurrence of famine into one of the most thriving countries in the world.
*THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I naturally feel some diffidence in rising to say a few words to your Lordships after the eloquent address of the noble Duke who has just spoken in favour of emigration for the crofters of Scotland. As far as the general question of emigration or colonisation is concerned, possibly my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies may think right to say a few words to your Lordships after wards; but as the remarks of the noble Duke have been confined generally to the crofters of Scotland, I will say a few words with regard to them. Before I address myself to the subject, I should like emphatically to convey my thanks to the noble Duke for the manner in which he has spoken of the inhabitants of the Western Highlands of Scotland, because I think the general impression is, that the crofters are utterly disinclined to work, that under no circumstances can they be induced to work, and that their one desire is to do nothing, having no wish to help themselves, but that they are content to sit down and rest under their unhappy conditions, without making any exertion on their own behalf. Now, I believe that is not the case at all, and I have to thank the noble Duke for having given expression so eloquently as he has to his own belief that it is not the case. My own view about the matter is, and I think the noble Duke also said very much the same thing, that, under the severe and hopeless condition under which they live, it is impossible, or next door to impossible, for them to attempt to extri- 272 cate themselves from their miserable position. My own desire has been, ever since I have had the honour to preside over the Department for which I am responsible, to give the crofters some means of extricating themselves from those unhappy conditions in which they now are placed. The noble Duke has, in the course of his address, travelled over a very large historical range. From the history of what has happened in Scotland he has, I think, shown your Lordships very convincingly how it is that emigration and a general lessening of the population over all other parts of Scotland has gone on from a considerable period back until the present time, and he has also shown how it is that the population of these Western Highlands has increased during the last comparatively few years. I should like your Lordships to realise what the enormous population of the Island of Lewis means, and I think the noble Duke almost under-rated its enormous increase. He stated what the actual population was at the recent census of this year, but an addition should be made even to that number. It so happened that the training of the Militia was going on at Dingwall at the time, and, therefore, a large number of the able-bodied men of Lewis was, at the moment the census was being taken, encamped at Dingwall instead of being at home included in the census there. So that, instead of the population being 27,000, the total number is 28,000. Now, I think your Lordships will be able to realise, from what has been stated by the noble Duke, what that enormous population means in such a place. The crofters themselves, or those who spoke for them, have said that they considered that 57 acres per head is the quantity of land necessary in order to maintain the population in the Western Highlands and Islands. The acreage of Lewis, if divided among a population of 27,000 or 28,000, would give about 15 acres per head—I include, of course, ail the bog and mountainous land, the utterly uncultivable parts of Lewis. According to their own showing, therefore, the acreage of Lewis is absolutely inadequate to maintain the population of that island and to afford them a living. The noble Duke has referred to the two principal points 273 which are dealt with in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, namely, the subject of migration, and the subject of emigration or colonisation. With all that has been said by the noble Duke as to migration I entirely agree; but though possibly the Duke has fairly stated what the idea of the people of Lewis as to migration is, namely, that they should migrate to some other part of the island than where they are now established, I do not think that is the general notion of migration. The general notion, I think, is that it means the surplus population should be changed to other parts of Scotland from the districts where they now are. Just consider what that means for a moment. To take the Island of Lewis, which, as the noble Duke has said, is a typical instance, I do not think that it could be said to be capable of maintaining more than 10,000 inhabitants, and there is, as your Lordships have heard, a population of 28,000 in the island. Well, if the surplus population were to migrate from the island to the mainland, that would mean a transference of 18,000 people to some place or other; but where are they to go? For the moment I am putting off the question of the landlords' interest in the matter, and I merely ask, are there any parts of the mainland of Scotland which would not be harassed by the sudden invasion of 18,000 people from the Island of Lewis? It is quite impossible to do that—absolutely impossible. I must fake this opportunity of deprecating most strongly the action of those, whoever they may be, who for whatever purposes, and of their purposes it is perhaps not very difficult to judge, are trying to persuade these people, whether in Lewis or elsewhere, to endeavour to better their position by migrating, or by any other system than that of emigration. I do not mean to say that there are no instances in the Highlands of places which cannot be cultivated. I agree with the noble Duke that the land is, generally speaking, used for the best purpose; but I think it is possible there is land which might be cultivated.
*THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
No doubt, as also in England. If it was not for the difficulty of it, I should 274 myself like to have some Return of the spots which might be so used; but as far as the suggestion is concerned that those lands, if they exist, could dispose of such numbers, and enable the islands to get rid of them, that solution of the difficulty arising from the surplus population in these islands is absolutely out of the question. I am not, I am sure, going too far in saying that the noble Duke, in speaking as he has in reference to myself, was speaking to one who was converted on the subject long ago, though I appreciate fully the difficulties attending it. But putting aside the difficulties as merely an abstract question, I, in common with others who have made any inquiry whatever into the matter, have come to the definite conclusion that emigration and colonisation from the Western Islands is the only possible solution. I have endeavoured to persuade those who represent the crofters, who know I take an interest in their condition, in the same direction; and I have no possible interest, and no object in view whatever—though perhaps I ought not to say so, had not other people outside your Lordships' House taken different views—except to aid the crofters in ameliorating their condition. I have wished to put them in a position to do so by their own exertions, and to give them hope of a better future, so that they might be able to take their position in the world, of which the noble Duke has so eloquently spoken, and which it is at present impossible they can take. The noble Duke has stated the conclusion he has drawn from the Report of the Committee as to the suitability of Manitoba and British Columbia for colonisation, and for taking crofters from the West of Scotland. As regards the latter of those two places, I have taken great interest in the matter, and, with the sanction of Her Majesty's Government, have already sent out about 100 families of crofters to those districts, and, though there have been some drawbacks, and everything has not turned out exactly as had been hoped, yet I am able to say that on the whole the result has been a complete success. The noble Duke has said he was disappointed rather in the return which has come, with regard to the sending out of these crofters, to Her Majesty's Government—that is to say, 275 repayments by the crofters. No repayments are due, I should remind your Lordships, until these people have been settled in their holdings for four years. By that time I sincerely hope the repayments will be made. I have given every encouragement to the colonists, and have urged them, if possible, to make the repayments before these people become due, so that in a shorter time they may become absolute owners of their property. However, so far I think it is the case that no repayments have been made; but none have become due, and no deduction can therefore be made from the fact that none have been paid. With regard to British Columbia, I should state to your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government are in negotiation with the Government of that colony. Nothing definite has yet been settled under the conditions which have been laid down by the British Government. A loan will be made, and the terms are, I hope, sufficiently liberal to induce the Government of British Columbia to accept them. I hope they will see their way to do so; and I trust that statement will be gratifying to the noble Duke. I do not think I need say much more to your Lordships. Already I think I have pointed out to you that the sympathies of Her Majesty's Government are entirely in the direction, as the noble Duke has indicated, of the Report of this Committee, and of other Committees which have been in favour of colonisation. Her Majesty's Government have not, as yet, been able to come to a definite conclusion as to the course they will pursue, but I can only assure your Lordships that if the Government are not able eventually to do very much in that direction, if we fail in any way, which I most sincerely and earnestly hope we shall not, it will not be from want of sympathy with the crofters and with the object which the noble Duke has in view.