§ MR. MACFARLANE
, in rising to call attention to the condition of the crofters in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland; and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission upon the condition of the crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, or to apply such other remedies as they deem advisable: and that this House concurs in the opinion expressed by the Royal Commission, at page 110 of its Report, that 'The mere vindication of authority and repression 1732 of resistance would not establish the relations of mutual confidence between landlord and tenant, in the absence of which the country would not be truly at peace, and all our inquiries and counsels would be expended in vain,'said, he had drawn the attention of the Government to this subject last Session, and had warned them that the situation was becoming serious and grave. He had tried, along with other hon. Friends, to convince the Government of the fact, but without success. Now, it had become quite obvious, not only to the House, but to the whole country, that the situation was exceedingly grave. Armed police and soldiers were being sent into the Island of Skye. They knew that Skye was a place where soldiers came from, and of the best quality too; but this was the first time in modern history that they had been sent there to coerce the people. He hoped and believed that, in spite of the efforts of the Local Authorities to bring about a collision, they would not be successful. In his opinion, those who were nicknamed agitators had succeeded, by their influence, in preventing a collision between the soldiers and police and the people. He trusted that would continue to be so. When disturbances occurred on the same subject—namely, the Land Question—in Ireland, they used to be attempted to be explained on the ground of the religion of the people. Some few people, perhaps, believed that; but the most of those who made the statement did not believe it. As a matter of fact, it was not true; but even if it had been, that explanation was not available in this case, for the people involved in the Skye disturbances—the extent of which had been greatly exaggerated for specific purposes by interested persons—were good, substantial, sober Presbyterians. They were not open to the charge so falsely made against the Irish people. A Member of the Government, the other day, at the opening of the Liberal Club, said that he hoped words of warning addressed to the House of Lords would not be regarded as a menace; but in this case the Home Secretary treated the words of warning as a menace. Indeed, the right hon. and learned Gentleman indulged in many phrases which were so simple that they might have been taken from any penny copy-book. Questions on this subject had been addressed 1733 by himself and others to the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but all the answer they could get was a statement of principles which were easy to accept. He readily accepted the principle that law and order should be maintained; but there was another proposition which should be put on a level with that, if not before it, and that was, that law and order should coincide with justice and right. That was not the case here. The Home Secretary said on Tuesday that the Question put to him invited him to express an opinion that there was some palliation or justification on the part of these men for their defiance of the law, and that he could not do so, inasmuch as he thought these proceedings were entirely without justification or extenuation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman added that if there were grievances—putting it as a doubtful matter—there were other means for remedying them. Thereupon he (Mr. Macfarlane) invited him to mention a single instance in which the Civil Law had been defied in the locality in question; and all he could get from the right hon. Gentleman was a vague statement about the general defiance of the law. Commenting on what then passed, The Times of the following day recalled the fact that the Royal Commission had not only begun, but finished its labours, and that its Report had been for months before the world, and said that, while having regard to the Franchise Bill, legislation could not have been fairly looked for, and those interested in the question might be excused for declining to be satisfied with vague official assurances that the matter was receiving the attention of the Government. In regard to the assumption of the Home Secretary that there was no justification on the part of the Skye crofters, he thought that those who looked into the matter would find that there was very considerable justification. He had in his hands the letter of a correspondent of a Glasgow newspaper, of the 10th instant, describing the condition of the tenants where the disturbances had arisen. The writer said that Major Fraser was not long in possession of his estate when he believed in the large sheep-farming system; and, of course, the crofters, with their small holdings, were looked on as in the way, and were treated accordingly—townships, in many instances, 1734 being altogether deprived of their pastures. Along with this, the rents were raised considerably, and a few years afterwards were raised again, while in 1879 or 1880 the rents were doubled. This last rise was considered a special hardship, as it took effect at a time when the price of live stock fell very low, and when most of the crops, which had been partially secured, were blown into the sea. When these facts were brought before the factor and the landlord as an argument against the increase of rents, the factor told the crofters that this was one of the risks which they had to calculate in taking land. The increase ranged from 200 to 300 per cent. In 1871 the Major's rental was £6,250, and in 1881 it was £7,486, showing an increase of £1,236. The people were not consulted in the raising of the rents, but were simply told that the rent would be so-and-so; and if they were agreeable good and well; and if not they must clear out as quickly as possible. This was only the testimony of a newspaper correspondent; but he could also refer to an authority that he thought would not be questioned—that of a minister of religion in the locality, the Rev. Donald M'Phail, Free Church minister at Kilmuir. This rev. gentleman was far from being a partizan, and, indeed, was in very bad odour with the crofters on account of some dispute that had taken place during these disturbances. This gentleman stated that he was a personal friend of Major Fraser, and that since the Major came into possession of the estate the Free Church community had enjoyed far more freedom than existed before. He had been a minister in Skye for 30 years, and 10 years at Kilmuir; and he expressed the fear that, in the present circumstances and mood of the population of the Island, a little more strain and a little more agitation would soon land them in a state of wild confusion. He went on to say that he had observed a gradual sinking of the people into deeper poverty during the last 10 years, and that they were becoming yearly less able to pay their way, and more displeased with their circumstances. This gentleman stated that the taking of the hill pasture from the crofters had greatly added to their discomfort, and said that if things remained as they were, there seemed to be no remedy for this gradual sinking of the people except 1735 by their dying out. The official table of the number of decrees of removing from holdings in the Island of Skye between 1840 and 1883 inclusive showed them to have affected 6,960 families. Taking each family at five persons, a total of 34,800 persons had been affected by these decrees of removal, and this at a cost to them of £3,480. The gentleman who was factor in Skye described how necessary these notices were in order to obtain rent, and in the management of an improving estate. In these 43 years the number of summonses of removing amounted to very nearly twice the whole population of Skye. It had never been stated—at least, he had not heard it so stated—that these people were unwilling to pay rent; and if it was necessary to issue these summonses of removal so often, it followed that the people were unable to pay their rent. He inferred from that that the rent was more than it was possible for them to earn. If anyone would just go down to the Western Isles, and look at the place, they would see, what everybody there knew, that the rents were paid from the fishing, and not from the holdings. He asked hon. Members to consider what that meant to the people of Skye, and to consider what was the state of the Land Laws under which it could take place, that there should be notice to quit to the whole population twice over in 40 years? In regard to the Island of Lewis, he had the statement to the Crofters' Commission of the Free Church clergyman of one of the parishes—a gentleman who was born in Lewis, and whose recollection of the Island went back for 70 years. The clergyman, in his statement, contrasted the present state of the population with their state 60 years ago. Then the people were in a condition of comparative comfort, with ample land and hill pasture, whereas now poverty and want largely predominated. Increase of population could not be the cause of the immense difference in the condition of the people. The present population of 3,489 was only 448 more than it was 50 years ago. This was so, in the face of the large increase of the value of the fishing industry since 1831. How, then, arose the unfavourable condition of the people now? It arose from large reaches of pasture land being taken from them and put into sheep walks and deer forests. That was 1736 done without a decrease in the rent of the crofters, and with, in some cases, an increase. The rev. gentleman, in his statement, also described the evils resulting from absentee landlords, and referred to the large sum of money spent by the late Sir James Matheson in the Island. Much of the sums, it was stated, had been spent in mere experiments, which would lead to no permanent good. Had part of the money so spent been applied to the improvement of the crofters' dwellings, and in making piers and harbours for the development of the fishing industry, the result would have been that the welfare of the people would have been very different from what it was. The whole tenour of the management, they were further told, had been rather to discourage than encourage the crofters. Were it not for the fishing, the crofter population could not subsist. The soil in possession of the large farmers was by far the best in Lewis. It was taken from the crofters and given to these large farmers. This was done without the crofters having got any compensation or consideration for what they had done to improve it. So much for the statement of this Lewis gentleman; and he thought he had quoted enough to show that these people had a grievance. The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt) had told them that if they had grievances there were other ways of redressing them. He should like to know what ways there were except agitation? He knew of no law in this, or any other country, that had ever been remedied except by agitation. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman said—"Yes, but not by breaking the law;" and he also said so. He had no wish that the law should be broken; and he hoped the Home Secretary would to-night make such a statement as to the intended action of the Government as would give no further excuse for opposition to the law. He hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would make such a statement as would disarm violence. The people had been holding out their hands praying for redress, but could get none. It was stated by the Government that the subject was under consideration; but no time was indicated when the people might expect to obtain redress. They never asked, nor desired, nor expected that the Government would bring 1737 in a Land Bill for Scotland during this Autumn Session; but he wanted the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give an assurance which would satisfy the people that something was going to be done when the Government had time to do it. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Am I to yield to violence?" or, at all events, he indicated something of that kind. The violence which had occurred would not, he hoped, be put forward as an excuse for any delay in this matter on the part of Her Majesty's Government. He did not wish to minimize the difficulty of dealing with this question; but a beginning would have to be made, and the sooner it was made the better. That there was a necessity for remedy he could quote many other authorities to show; but he had only taken two samples dealing with the Islands of Skye and Lewis, and they confirmed him in his opinion that there was an absolute necessity for a change in the Land Laws of Scotland. That that was so was asserted by the Commission of the Government. It was asserted by public opinion. The Government themselves had admitted it, yet nothing was done. He wanted to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he could see his way to make a statement that when the Franchise Bill and the other measure intimately connected with it were disposed of, he would deal with this question seriously? If the House should pass his Resolution, it would be accepted by these people as a promissory note. The Home Secretary could not give them a note payable on demand; but perhaps he would put upon it some approach to a date with reference to the time when he would deal with this question. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman would do that, he believed, even far as things had gone, the turmoil and excitement in the Islands of Skye and Lewis would quickly subside, because unless these were peaceable people they would not have remained quiet so long. He wished hon. Members could go down and see for themselves the condition in which these people lived. They were huddled together in dwellings resembling pigsties, they were half suffocated with smoke, and they were covered with dirt. Dukes and Earls and great landlords seemed to think that these people were kept there by some law which could not 1738 be changed, and that the people were fore-ordained to live in these places. Why, English gentlemen would be ashamed to see their dogs in such places. Highland chiefs and Highland lairds made good use of these people whenever they wanted them to assist in robbing others; but as soon as that game was at an end the people were cast off, and those who fought for and bled for the chiefs and lairds, fools as they were, were cast aside to live as best they could. Many of the lairds were so ashamed that they had not the face to live among these people, but left behind them some hireling to screw out of these poor people every farthing which could be got. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution which stood in his name.
§ MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
said, he had great pleasure in seconding the Resolution. The question divided itself into two parts—one the present condition of Skye, and the other as to the question generally. He hoped he might be allowed to make special reference to the state of Skye at the present moment. It had been said the Motion was in the nature of censure upon the Government. He did not think so; and if he had thought so he would not be in the position of seconding it. He thought, on the contrary, the Government would be only too glad of the opportunity of satisfying not only the Highlanders, but the civilized world, that the circumstances of Skye were such as required the placing among a lot of inoffensive people armed soldiers and sailors. They knew nothing of the grounds which had prompted the Government to accede to the request of the Local Authorities to send an armed force. All they knew was that the hon. Member for the County of Inverness (Mr. D. Cameron) placed on the Paper, on the shortest Notice, a Question last week, in which he asked the Home Secretary whether he had received intimation that there were movements in Skye of a lawless character, and what the Government intended to do? Next night the Home Secretary made a statement that he had received intimation of lawlessness, and that the Government were prepared to take measures to support the law. As soon as he (Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh) had an opportunity he put a Question to the Home Secretary, asking for the communications which the 1739 Local Authorities had sent requesting an armed force, and also the reply of the Government agreeing to such a proposal. What was the answer he received? The Home Secretary made a very civil reply; but it was one which put him for the time being entirely out of court. The right hon. Gentleman said as negotiations were going on he could not give any information; but the information, to be of any use, ought to have been given at once, so that they might know what they were about. Under these circumstances, he thought they were entitled to look with some suspicion on the application made by the Local Authorities. Who were the Local Authorities who made this demand? They were a self-elected body. They had no shadow of popular representation, and they had no responsibility whatever. The Commissioners of Supply—landlords of £100 value and upwards—were the ruling body in the county. They numbered about 100, and yearly devolved their duties on a Police Committee, which consisted of about 12 members. These 12 members had the whole authority of the county. They could do as they thought proper; but they had no responsibility whatever, unless such as was due to supervision by the Home Secretary or the Lord Advocate. Who were the officials who took part in this state of matters? The Sheriff and the Procurators Fiscal. The Sheriff was non-resident, and could know very little of what was going on. And who was the Procurator Fiscal? Well, in the case of Inverness County, although he was a gentleman for whom he had great respect, by that unhappy state of matters, whereby such officials were allowed to take other business, this gentleman held the position of agent for a great number of landlords in Inverness County. He believed he was not wrong in stating that in the Police Committee the Procurator Fiscal was agent for one-third or one-fourth of the members of the Committee. He had not the slightest fault to find with the Procurator Fiscal for the county of Inverness; but the public might come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that his interests were to some extent mixed up with the landlords' and proprietors'. There was another under Procurator Fiscal in the Island of Skye. He was not, so far as he understood, agent for any landed 1740 proprietors; but, unfortunately, he was also in the unhappy position of not being paid by salary, but by business done; and it was inevitable there might be a tendency to think that cases might be trumped up which would not be if the Procurator Fiscal were an independent man, paid by fixed salary. In looking over the official statistics for the county of Inverness for 1883, he observed a very significant fact with regard to the number of people apprehended. There were apprehended and taken up on criminal charges in that year 384 people. Of these, there were not tried, 42; acquitted, 53; undisposed of at the end of the year, 4; convicted, 285. What was the result? Of all the people apprehended in the county of Inverness during the year 1883, 20 per cent were not tried at all, or were acquitted. He was afraid they could come to no other conclusion than that there were mischievous efforts to trump up cases. With regard to the general question, as far as he knew, all that the people of Kilmuir did was to turn back 10 policemen sent from Inverness—for what purpose? Not to keep order, for there had been no disorder. The people had met, as they had every right to do, to discuss the conduct of certain individuals who had given evidence before the Commission; and really, if they did use some strong language with regard to those individuals, he thought it not altogether unjustifiable. A certain individual named Urquhart was at this moment in possession of the lands of 43 crofters, containing more than 150 souls; and the consequent shiftings, removals, and evictions had taken place from these lands within the last 30 years. Could it be supposed that the people had no feelings on this matter? He did not justify anything that was illegal; but he felt that a great deal could be said for his fellow-countrymen in their unfortunate position. With regard to this very property, it was well known that the rental of the crofters had been increased three times over within the last 30 years, and the proprietor had been obliged to reduce, or temporarily abate the crofters' rents, by nearly 20 per cent. He was in great hopes that the Home Secretary or the Lord Advocate would be able to make a satisfactory statement on this question. The words of the Resolution 1741 of his hon. Friend were written by the noble Chairman of the Commission (Lord Napier and Ettrick), after a great deal of thought and consideration. They knew that certain expectations were raised by the issue of the Commission, and by the evidence taken before it; but they were afraid that, like many other Commissions, nothing would come of it, and that the end might be worse than the beginning. Therefore, they put these pregnant words into their Report in order to warn the Government of what was likely to take place, and that a police force, which might be necessary in certain contingencies, would be of no use in a permanent settlement of the question, unless beneficial legislation were adopted. One of the chief grievances of the crofters was that they had not sufficient land, although there was plenty of land for them if it were properly distributed. A factor of the Duke of Sutherland had told him that in parts of Sutherland shire they would not be right unless the population were diminished by one-half. When it was known that there were in that county nearly 1,250,000 acres, with but 23,000 people, the absurdity of this was evident. There were splendid glens and straths in the Highlands which at one time were under cultivation, and which might profitably be given to the people. The same state of things existed in Skye and the Long Island. But there were other matters to complain of. One was the question of deer forests. When this subject was before the House last Session, he made some observations with regard to deer forests. In order to have a unanimous Report of the Commission on the subject, he had agreed not to interfere with the existing deer forests. But with new forests the Commission were unanimous. But had the formation of deer forests come to an end? In the last debate he had pointed to a property of 20,000 acres on the West Coast of Inverness. It was then a sheep farm, running down to the sea, and it had been advertised for sale as a proper subject for a deer forest. That was bad enough; but not far from that locality there was another large farm now in process of being afforested, great part of which ran down to the sea. This was running directly against the indications of the Commission that no new forests should be made, at least under a certain altitude. Who was the person 1742 who was running in the teeth of the recommendations of the Royal Commission? No less a person than Her Majesty's Representative for the county of Inverness. The evils of deer forests were becoming intolerable. The largest deer forest in Scotland, covering nearly 200,000 acres, was occupied by one man; and he at this moment had actually taken out a process of interdict against a poor man living on the shores of Loch Duich, because a pet lamb had strayed 60 yards into the forest. Was not that intolerable? He had made these observations in no hostile spirit towards the Government; but he would not have acted on the Commission, and would have considered he was appointed under false pretences, unless he had been satisfied that the Government were in earnest in their desire to rectify those matters which were complained of in the Highlands. In that view, he hoped the discussion to-night would strengthen the hands of the Government, and not be one of which they would have any reason to find fault.
To leave out the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission upon the condition of the crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, or to apply such other remedies as they deem advisable; and that this House concurs in the opinion expressed by the Royal Commission at page 110 of its Report, that 'The mere vindication of authority and repression of resistance would not establish the relations of mutual confidence between landlord and tenant, in the absence of which the country would not be truly at peace, and all our inquiries and counsels would be expended in vain,'"—(Mr. Macfarlane,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have no doubt that many Members of this House wish to express their opinion on this subject. At the same time, I have no doubt it may be convenient that at an early period I should make the observations on behalf of the Government that I have to make on the Motion of the hon. Member. I have no ground to complain in any way of the speeches that have been made by the Mover and Seconder of this Motion, or of the spirit 1743 and terms of the Motion itself, in which I generally concur. There is only one thing that I would desire to explain with reference to what the hon. Member who made this Motion has said of the expression I used, that the violations of the law had no justification or extenuation. Perhaps I should have been more accurate if I had confined myself to the first word, and said they had no justification, because the word extenuation is a word of more doubtful meaning. With reference to the whole of this question, all that I can say is, that I stand in a rather different and a more difficult position with reference to it than either of the hon. Members who have addressed the House. With the official responsibility that I have in this matter, hon. Members in the House will feel that I am not free to say all that I think, because I must exercise a certain amount of reserve. But I think I am not acting inconsistently with my duty in this matter in saying what is known to the hon. Member who made this Motion, that the persons on whose behalf he speaks have long had my deep personal sympathy. I know these West Highlands well. I doubt whether there is anybody in the House who knows Skye better than I do. I have spent my leisure time for nearly 20 years mostly upon its shores and its bays; and all I can say is, that I have a deep sympathy and regard—I might almost use stronger terms—for the people who inhabit them. They are a people distinguished remarkably, as I think I once observed before at Glasgow, by a mildness of character which seems to belong to the climate in which they live. They have a high-bred courtesy in their demeanour; they have a kindliness towards all who have dealings with them that is singularly attractive. I, for one, therefore, approach this question certainly not in any spirit of harshness or of rigour. All I can say is, that though there are painful duties connected frequently with the Office which I hold, I have never exercised a duty which I considered incumbent upon me with more personal regret than when I felt myself under the obligation to send a force to support the Local Authority in that part of the country. The hon. Member who has just sat down—though I do not think the hon. Member who made the Motion took that view of the subject—seemed to question whether there 1744 had been any disturbance in Skye at all, and whether there was any occasion for the interference of the Government. To anybody who has read the reports in the public Press, I should have thought it was almost unnecessary to offer any evidence on that subject. What took place was this—A certain condition of things existed in Skye in which individuals were menaced in the pursuits of ordinary life—a condition of things of which in recent times we have unfortunately been too familiar. I will not go into many of the details of petty outrages which had taken place. The hon. Member who has just spoken referred to a case which led to a small force of police being sent to Skye, where it was intimated at a meeting of the crofters that three individuals—I abstain from mentioning names—were to be forcibly carried to the meeting to demand explanations of their conduct—I think there is no man in this House who will justify such a proceeding as that—whereupon the Police Commissioners thought it necessary to strengthen the Police Force in Skye. That is a thing entirely within the competence of such an authority; and I should be extremely suprised if in any part of London I was informed that there was a certain district requiring a larger Police Force my rights to increase that force were questioned. What happened? The extra police—I think there were six men—were sent to give protection to the people in Skye. As soon as they arrived at Portree, a large number of people used certainly very violent proceedings, turned them back, and said they would not allow them to come into the country. Now, I think there is no man who will not admit that that is a condition of things which it is impossible to tolerate. Well, the information that reached us was, that there was a special animosity there against the police. That, to my mind, is a very grave symptom indeed. It is a symptom which deserves, I venture to say, the attention of all classes of the community, and of the proprietors quite as much as any other class; because I am the first to state and to feel that the employment of the Naval or Military Forces of the Crown in keeping peace in this country, or in any way aiding the civil authority, is in itself an immense evil. It is one to which I am most reluctant to resort, and never would do so unless I was convinced that it was 1745 absolutely necessary. The preservation of peace, and the exercise of the civil authority, ought to be carried out by the Civil Force, which is the police; and happily in this country, although cases do occasionally occur where the police, not being sufficient, military support has to be given to the police, I take it to be a maxim, subject to very few exceptions, that the Military and Naval Forces ought never, if it can possibly be avoided, to be used for that purpose. And, accordingly, when a few years ago there were disturbances in Skye, and I was pressed by the Local Authorities to send military there, I told them of my reluctance, and declined. I am speaking in the presence of my hon. Friend, if he will allow me to call him so, the Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. D. Cameron), whose counsel I naturally sought upon a question of that character; and he agreed with me that that ought to be postponed to the latest possible moment. Accordingly, the military were not sent to Skye two years ago. I confess it was with the greatest reluctance that I came to the conviction that if this were left to the police alone there would be such a powerful and violent resistance as would probably lead to a very dangerous breach of the peace; and I believe that is the opinion of every man acquainted with that district of Scotland. Well, under these circumstances, I came to the conclusion that, upon such an occasion as that, to exhibit weakness was no kindness to the people of Skye; and, thinking it necessary that order should be preserved, it was essential that it should be preserved in a manner that did not invite or admit of conflict, and I think that was at once a humane and a prudent view to take of the case. Now, at the same time that I speak of what occurred in 1882, the Government showed that they were not insensible to the consideration that there were grievances to be redressed, and that there were inquiries to be made. I can assure my hon. Friend who has last spoken that when I, on behalf of the Government, appointed the Commission, of which he was so valuable a Member, it was with the fullest intention that the Commission should bear practical fruit. Therefore, we acted in that respect with a spirit that, while the law ought to be sustained, at the same time every grievance that could be demonstrated ought also to be 1746 redressed. Well, now, Sir, there has been a good deal of exaggeration, I think, about this state of things. There has been a great amount of sensational reports. I received a telegram only yesterday, which, although it was not very complimentary to me, and was very strongly on the side of the crofters, I thought contained a great deal of good sense. It said—"If it were not for the agitators and the newspaper reporters, we should get on very well." Of course, there is a habit of picking up every flying rumour, whether it is well founded or not, and then it gets into print—and people have a habit of believing that everything that gets into print is the truth—and the result is that a great many unfounded statements receive a credit that they do not deserve. But I think there is no doubt—and the House will take this from me without my going into great detail—that there is a very serious condition of things existing in Skye and the West Highlands generally, and. I do not think it will be in the least disputed by the hon. Member who has made this Motion. Now, I say alone this hostility towards the police, this determination not to show to them that obedience and that respect for law and order which is common in other parts of England and Scotland, is in itself a very serious symptom. When it comes to this, that in some parts of Skye and the Highlands the police have to be sent to execute the ordinary processes of the law, that is in itself a very serious condition of things. At the same time, I say it is very necessary that all classes of the community—and I include in that the Police Committee of the county of Inverness — must understand that the Government cannot undertake to aid the police permanently by military force. And a state of things must be established in which the police shall be able to maintain the public peace, and execute justice within their own territory. The Government make it clearly understood that in giving this support to the police it is as a subsidiary force, and not as a principal force, in the execution of the law. In my opinion, nothing can be greater proof that there is something which requires a remedy than when you are obliged to employ a military force. Now, I join with the hon. Member who has made this Motion in the hope and the belief that there will be no conflict 1747 in Skye. There is one phrase which I am sure the hon. Member dropped in the heat of the moment, and which he would not wish deliberately to repeat—that the Local Authorities or anybody else desired to provoke a conflict. I believe that is a statement which is without foundation. If it were true, it would be a most serious state of matters. I believe nobody desires to provoke a conflict; but there are persons who have rendered, in my opinion, great services in preventing a conflict, whose influence I ought to acknowledge, and they are men who, from their profession, were bound to exercise such a duty—the ministers of religion in Skye. In a meeting which took place, and which is reported in The Scotsman of yesterday, I find, first of all, the Rev. Mr. Macdonald, the Free Church minister from Inverness, exercised his influence most beneficially in advising the people to abstain from any breach of the peace. I find also the gentleman to whom the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) has referred—the Rev. Mr. M'Phail, of the Free Church of Kilmuir—used his influence in a speech which he made on that occasion; and I have also read a speech from the Rev. Mr. Davidson, of the Established Church at Stenscholl, one of the disturbed districts, and I have a telegram from him to say that he was satisfied that the people would be tranquil. I will ask leave to read the observations which he made, for they are short, and I think they highly deserve attention—He stated that prior to his being settled at Stenscholl, two and a-half years ago, there was not a single man in Skye who was more opposed to the Land League, and for months after entering on his duties as minister of the district he had but little belief in the crofters' grievances. He soon, however, began to see that the state of matters existing in that parish was such that he could not but sympathize with the people. He could not consistently ask the people to stop their agitation to secure a remedy for their grievances; but he solemnly impressed upon them the danger of offering resistance to the police, and bringing themselves under the correction of the law. He had been present at some of their meetings, and he could honestly say that the speeches were moderate, and that the business was conducted in the most orderly way. He was fully acquainted with the men who were considered the leaders of the movement, and he could say that they were among the most respectable men on the Kilmuir estate.I think that statement is a most weighty 1748 one, and one which is extremely worthy of the attention of the proprietor of the Kilmuir estate. And, Sir, that spirit of conciliation having been shown on the part of the ministers of religion, who have sought by their influence to allay the spirit of excitement and to prevent a conflict, I confess it was with very deep regret that I received this morning a newspaper which was forwarded to me—The Nairnshire Telegraph—reporting a speech of Major Fraser, which is couched in an extremely different spirit. He says repressive measures will be required to be used, and he did not know that another week would elapse before these would be used; and he hoped, when justice was done, all dissensions would pass away. I also hope, when justice is done, dissensions will pass away; but I hope that Major Fraser puts the same construction on justice that I do in these matters. I wish, at the same time, to have it clearly understood that this force which is sent to support the police is sent for the preservation of the public peace, and that if that support so given to the police were to be used for the purpose of oppressive measures, which would not and could not otherwise be employed, to use it as a cloak or a shield for such a purpose would be a gross abuse of that support. It is not intended to cover these notices of removal of which we have heard—things which, I think, are deeply to be regretted—notices of removal which are served, not for the purpose of being enforced, but for the purpose of keeping up a condition—I do not know whether I should call it "suspension," or whatever term I should employ. These notices of removal seem to me to be a source of irritation which is not to be justified at all. That there exists in these districts extreme poverty, in some parts borne for many years with extraordinary patience, I think everybody who is acquainted with those districts must be aware. There is one subject to which the hon. Member for Carlow referred, in some of the evidence that he read, in which I very much agree with him. Some people say—"Oh, the remedy for this is emigration." Well, Sir, in my opinion, emigration is a very poor remedy indeed. I have myself no sympathy with a policy which improves a country by getting rid of its people. To my mind that is the policy of despair. 1749 It is like the old medical treatment of Sangrado, who cured all diseases by blood-letting; but, after all, blood is the life of the body, and the people are the life of the country. I, at all events, do not accept the policy of making a solitude and calling it political economy. No doubt the Scottish are people who have shown great qualities for emigration. A great part of the Empire of England, which covers every sea, is due to their intelligence and to their energy. Under Lord Chatham they played a great part in the conquest of Canada, and they still, by their industry, support and extend the greatness of that Colony. The history of Scotsmen in India is famous, and in New Zealand, also, there is a Scottish Colony of great prosperity and eminence. But that is, or ought to be, in my opinion, a voluntary emigration. I am entirely against pressing people out of their own country, and, least of all, such people as the West Highlanders. These people are remarkable—and I know them well—for their passionate attachment to the soil upon which they live. I have myself always thought that those beautiful lines in which one of the greatest masters of human nature—Goldsmith—described the history of the Swiss peasant were singularly applicable to the Highlanders of the West. I may be permitted to remind the House of those lines—Dear is the shed to which his soul conforms,And dear the hill which lifts him to the storms;And as a child, when scaring sounds molest,Clings close and closer to his mother's breast,So the loud torrent and the whirlwind's roarBut bind him to his native mountains more.I believe that a policy which is founded upon tearing these men from their soil is not the remedial policy which is the best to be applied in these cases. I believe that you ought to find means for these people, so attached to their country, to live in their country. But that is a very difficult problem. It will be asked how? Well, there were times when they did live in the country in comparative happiness and prosperity; and, therefore, the problem is not insoluble in itself.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, there was not a great deal of kelp in 1750 the inland Highlands of Scotland, and yet there were a great many people who lived there. I think the hon. Member for Wigtonshire will have to study the history of the Highlands a little more closely before he comes to the conclusion that kelp is the solution, of the problem. The Royal Commission has collected a great deal of valuable materials, and it has made some important suggestions; but one great difficulty in dealing with this question is, that I do not find that all the suggestions, or even the most important, of the Royal Commission have met with general acceptance from any quarter, or even from the friends of the crofters themselves. This is a very ingenious project for the creation of the communal system; but in all the discussions that I have heard since that project was announced by the Commission I find extremely little approbation. Even in the resolutions of the Land League itself it has been only faintly alluded to. All the proposals that I have seen accredited by the friends of the crofters have been a great deal more in the direction of the Irish Land Act than in the direction of that particular recommendation—extremely ingenious, but more theoretical than practical—of the Royal Commission. When it is asked in some quarters that the principles of the Irish Land Act should be applied to the West Highlands, I have to observe that the condition of the West Highlands, as I understand them, and the evils that exist there, are not of precisely the same character as those which were dealt with by the Irish Land Act in Ireland. There is not the same competition for land. I will speak directly about the question of there not being land enough. There is not in the West Highlands of Scotland that same competition of tenant against tenant which had led in many cases to great over-renting in Ireland. I do not say that there are not cases of over-renting in the West Highlands—that is certainly not the general character of the grievance which has been alleged; nor, according to my knowledge of the matter, is there the same prevalence of eviction that took place in Ireland; and, therefore, the evils in the Highlands are not the evils of over renting nor eviction which took place in Ireland. And, therefore, if the two principal evils do not exist—at least to 1751 the same extent—and if the evil is not the same, it would not appear that the remedy would be identical. What is complained of, and what was complained of by the hon. Member in his Motion, is the want of more land. "Well, in a certain sense, I suppose everybody wants more land if he could get it. I have no land, and I suppose many people in that position would desire to have it; but that is not the sense, no doubt, in which the hon. Member uses it. I confess that when you come to such a question as that, the evils and the difficulties, and, even if those were superable, the danger of compulsory legislation upon such a question appears to me to be extremely great. They may be necessary; but nobody can doubt that they are an evil in themselves; and, therefore, upon this point I would venture to take this opportunity of making a very serious and earnest appeal to the proprietors of the West Highlands themselves. They have very great facilities for dealing with this question. I speak in the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. D. Cameron), whose speech that he made last June I am sure very strongly impressed the House. And no difference of political opinion upon other questions would prevent me acknowledging the great benefit that I have derived from my hon. Friend in all these difficult questions as they have arisen. The number of proprietors in these districts is extremely small. That, in itself, I should call a great evil; but it does offer great facilities of coming to some understanding as to what would be the best to be done in these circumstances. I think in the Outer Islands, in the Long Island, I doubt whether there are six separate proprietors altogether. When you come to Skye the number is very few—proprietors of any magnitude at all. "When you come even to the mainland the number is not considerable. Certainly, there are no people who have more reason to desire to see this question settled than the proprietors of the West Highlands. It is certainly not their interest to raise a great land question in Scotland; and there are great reasons, it seems to me, also, why they should be prepared to make—I will not say great sacrifices, but moderate sacrifices, to settle this question. They must remember, in the first place, that there is a very remarkable feature 1752 in the history of the land in the Wrest Highlands. There has been in it a sudden growth of rental which has never been equalled anywhere else, I should think, within the course of the last century, and even still more of the last half-century. If you think of what the Highlands were long before the introduction of sheep farming, you will find that estates which were worth hundreds, or perhaps only tens, are now worth thousands. In those times, and not so very long ago—almost within the memory of living man—those great tracts of hill yielded no profit at all to the proprietor. Lord Malmesbury, in his Memoirs recently published, states that in his own recollection any man could go and shoot where he liked without paying anything, or almost anything, at all. But before the question of shooting arose, you must remember there was the question of grazing; and I do not think it would be untrue to say that 100 years ago in the West Highlands all these people who are now crofters, and were, in fact, the population of the country, had practically their grazing upon the land, just for the same reason that in Lord Malmesbury's recollection a man could shoot because it was not worth anybody's while to prevent it. The chief of the clan, or the proprietor, did not object to his clansman turning his black cattle on the hill any more than he objected to a man shooting; on the contrary, it was an advantage to the proprietor, who got something from him. No doubt, it was a rude state of life—a life, as appears from Burton's History, not of high civilization, but of great comfort. We read an account of it—perhaps the most accurate account—an account to which Scott gave an air of romance in Waverley—in The History of the Highlands. It there appears that the chief, or proprietor, and the clansmen lived together, certainly in a rude state, but in a state of comparative comfort. Then, however, came the great and sudden growth of the wealth of the Highlands by the introduction of sheep-farming. I do not complain of sheep-farming. The Duke of Argyll, in an article in The National Review, has gone a considerable length into that, for the purpose of showing that it is of a great economical advantage. Well, so far it gave an immense increase to rent. Men who had hundreds before found themselves 1753 in possession of thousands a-year of rent. I am afraid that within the last year or two that account is more unfavourable than it was. That undoubtedly was the history of the transformation. What happened after that? After the sheep farm gave an enormous increase to the rent of the proprietor—an increase without absolutely any expenditure on his part—there was possibly never a better instance of the unearned increment except that which I am going to mention. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Belgrave Square.] I will not dispute with the noble Lord in that peculiar hostility to Dukes which he always displays. I was only referring to the great windfall which came to the Highland proprietors. Then close upon the sheep-farming came the grouse-shooting rent, which was often, I believe, equal to the sheep-farming rent; therefore, the proprietor found himself in possession of land which rose within a generation from being worth nothing at all to an enormously increased and valuable rental. In more recent years, in my own recollection, there was found a still more valuable thing than the sheep farm and the game rent, and that was the deer forest, over a great part of the county of Ross and a considerable part of the county of Inverness, in the place of both the sheep rent and the game rent. Well, what was the result of that? The result was that, while the rent value increased, the grazing of these people disappeared. The Duke of Argyll, in his article in The National Review, says that it was not only the high hills that were necessary for the sheep, but also the low hills, in order that the sheep might have their wintering. But, then, what became of the black cattle of the crofter and the tenant? Unfortunately, there was not that softening influence which, happily, in England, softened the harsh outline of proprietary rights. Recollect what happened in this country. There was a population even more humble in its condition, more subject in its lot, than the crofter of the West Highlands, and that was the old villein of socage tenure in England; and what happened to him? He had rights of usage of this character, rights which certainly in their origin were not distinguishable in law, rights which were never enacted by any Statute, but which were consecrated and crystallized 1754 and secured to him by the spirit of the Common Law of England. What happened to them was described by the rough, masculine, and liberal language of the great Common Law lawyer, Sir Edward Coke, who said that—In Saxon and Norman times these copyholders were subject to their lords' will; but now they stood upon a sure ground, and waited not their lords' displeasure.That is a curious and very interesting chapter of law. It is one of those fortunate circumstances which have gone to create the safety of the social system of England. In modern times we have had another example of the operation of the law sustained by the action of Parliament. It was a work and a policy that was mainly conducted by the man whose loss we have recently had occasion to deplore—by Mr. Fawcett. The work which he began, and which I and many others did our best to aid him in—in the prevention of the inclosure of commons—was a highly useful work. It prevented the absorption in single hands of all the commonty lands, which would have placed the mass of the population under disadvantage, and which was sure to have created discontent. Now, Sir, I say that all these considerations seem to me to point to a remedy which I cannot help thinking that the patient might administer unto himself to a great degree. Now, just consider what would have happened if, when these large tracts of land were being turned into sheep farms or into deer forests, yielding, as they did, an enormous increment of rent, there had been a more moderate use of these powers—if, while thousands of acres were taken for these purposes, a few hundreds had everywhere been reserved for the small population of these Highland glens—why, it would not have destroyed the system of sheep-farming at all. It would have been perfectly possible to have kept a moderate area which would have been sufficient for this population. They never could have covered the whole of these hills. That, it seems to me, is a thing which might very reasonably and well have been done. We have heard in this debate, and evidence has been given, of townships losing the hills which they had before. Why should townships lose the hills? I have never heard of them having refused to pay rent, except under the influence—I was almost going 1755 to say of pardonable excitement. But why, if a reasonable rent and a fair rent be offered them, should not these people have the accommodation which might make to them the difference between penury and comparative ease? It is quite unquestionable that it has led in a great degree to the change in the condition of the crofter in the West Highlands. What has become of the crofters' black cattle? There is no doubt that they can look back to a time, which they remember themselves, or of which they certainly had a tradition from their fathers, when they had this land, on which they had black cattle, and which, having lost, they have been confined to that little spot in the strath which, when potato disease comes or a bad season, is totally unable to sustain their existence. Well, is there not room in this matter for a very reasonable settlement? I appeal to my hon. Friend (Mr. D. Cameron), who knows this matter very much better than I do; and I ask him, considering how few hands this land is in, how reasonable might be the settlement of a question like this? I ask you to consider whether in each locality it would not be possible to apportion to these people a single hill in their immediate neighbourhood? That might deduct, say, £20, or £30, or £50, from the rent of a great sheep farm; but is not that a settlement of a question like this, which is worth while making if it can be done? Sir, there is no doubt whatever—from the reason that I have already stated—there have not been those modifications, those temper amenta, as it is called by the lawyers, of the naked right of proprietorship in Scotland which arose under the Common Law in England. It is because civilization in Scotland in earlier times was ruder. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] I am ready to acknowledge how much more rapid, comparatively, the advance has been, and I thought the contrast would be agreeable. But from some cause or another the question of the bare proprietorship of land in Scotland is presented in a more raw and more harsh form in its legal aspect, certainly, than it is in England. I believe this to be a correct statement. Well, then, I have endeavoured to indicate that there are methods by which these people and the Government, in the task which is justly imposed upon them, may be greatly 1756 aided by a wise and prudent generosity on the part of the landlords themselves. There are immense difficulties in compulsory legislation, although I do not say it may not be necessary. The real truth is, that in all these cases the innocent bear the burden of those who are most to blame. A single landlord who exercises his right unfairly and harshly brings discredit and injustice upon many who deserve no blame at all. That I believe to be the case, to a great extent, in the West Highlands of Scotland. I believe it would be very unfair and very unjust to say that the landlords in the West Highlands are unjust or harsh to their tenants. That there have been instances in which things have been done that could not be approved I am not here to deny; but I believe at this moment that by far the best, by far the wisest thing that could be done, would be that the landlords, who are few in number, and have, therefore, greater facility for acting together, should take into consideration what can, and what ought to be done, to heal a sore which, I am sure, they must feel as desirous as anyone to close; for it is their interest, above all, that it should be closed, and that the Government, co-operating with them in so much of it as requires legislation, may form some scheme which will remove the discontent that everyone must deplore. I only make these suggestions because I am quite sure if they were acted upon they would be a very useful contribution to the settlement. However, that may or may not be the case; but in answer to the appeal which has been made to me by the hon. Member who has made this Motion, I desire most distinctly to state that the Government are fully conscious of the responsibility that belongs to them—the responsibility of endeavouring to find some adequate remedy for the state of things which is disclosed in the Report of the Royal Commissioners. They have always accepted that responsibility. They appointed the Royal Commission to aid them in discharging the responsibility, and it is their intention to discharge it. Now, I understand the object of the hon. Member for Carlow to be to appeal to me to give an assurance that this question was intended to be seriously taken in hand, and that at an early period. He spoke of a date. Of course, he did not mean a particular day or 1757 month; but I have an answer to that appeal. I have to say that it was not necessary for these unhappy occurrences in Skye to have taken place to have satisfied the Government of the necessity of at once dealing with it; and if the House will accept from me—for I hope I have spoken in no unfriendly spirit of the subjects of this discussion—in no unfair spirit either towards the crofters or the proprietors—if the House will accept from me the assurance that I have given of the responsibility which the Government feel and which they are prepared to discharge—I hope that under these circumstances the hon. Member will not feel it necessary to press his Motion, which, I believe, only states a proposition that everybody accepts.
§ MR. D. CAMERON
said, that as he had had previous opportunities of expressing his views on this matter he would not detain the House at any length. The wording of the Resolution involved, as the Home Secretary had observed, a principle which every Member of the House must accept. If, however, he had not listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Carlow, he should be compelled to say that some tone of censure might be discovered in the Resolution. The idea seemed to be that the Government had failed in their duty in not taking active measures for legislating on this subject at an earlier period. In spite of the emphatic declaration of the hon. Member that this was not so, he could not help feeling that there was, on the part of the hon. Member and his Friends, a belief that the Government, if they had been so inclined, might have taken earlier steps to legislate on the subject. It was not for him to act as a defender of the Government; but he must remind the hon. Member of the exact state of affairs. Last Session was taken up with one important measure, which swamped all others; and it was impossible to suppose, even had the Home Secretary made up his mind as to the proper form legislation on this matter was to take, that time could have been afforded for the purpose. As to the present Autumn Session, the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) had himself admitted that it was impossible to pass an Act of Parliament at this period. Then, in regard to the ordinary Sitting of the House in February next, the House could hardly require anything beyond the declaration 1758 of the Home Secretary that the Government distinctly intended to bring forward some measure. He would like to ask hon. Members, who talked so glibly of bringing in Land Bills, if they had ever considered the gravity of the question; if they had ever seriously contemplated what a Land Bill meant; if they had ever put pen to paper and endeavoured themselves to draw up a Bill such as would meet even their own ideas? To take thousands of crofters, steeped in poverty, holding wretched holdings, mere patches of land, and to transform them into a body of tenants—small tenants, certainly; but still tenants—with some hope of improving their condition, and of becoming eventually prosperous and contented farmers, was a work which appeared to him of no small magnitude. He would point out two difficulties which met them on the very threshold of the question. One of them was not noticed in the general Report of Lord Napier's Commission, although he himself, in a Memorandum printed with the Report, had dwelt upon it; and that was the difficulty of settling the area over which any Bill relating to this matter should extend. Was the area to extend over the whole of Scotland, or was it to be confined to the Highland districts properly so called? If it was to extend over the whole of Scotland, it must necessarily omit certain provisions in parts of the Highlands where remedies were most required, because these provisions would, if applied to other parts in the South, create such confusion between the relations of landlord and tenant, and such dislocation of existing practices, as would render the new state of things insupportable. Such a measure, so far as he knew, had never been asked for, and was not required in the South. On the other hand, if they limited the area to the Highlands, they were certain to create a great amount of discontent in many portions of the rest of Scotland where small tenancies existed, and where they might also expect some relief. There was another difficulty, perhaps a still more important one. How were they to deal with the poorest and most wretched class of all, the landless—he might almost say the homeless—class of squatters and cottars, whose condition was one of misery to themselves, and the cause of an additional amount of poverty among the 1759 crofters where they found themselves placed? He could not say that these difficulties were insurmountable; but they were very grave, and what he feared was that those who were demanding immediate legislation had not faced them. As to the disturbances which had lately occurred, he trusted, from the last Report that had been received, that they would come to an end without any serious conflict. If he were asked, however, whether the proceedings adopted by the hon. Member for Carlow, and those who acted with him, had in any way added to the disorder that prevailed in Skye, candour would compel him to admit that it had. It was true it was reported in the newspapers that the hon. Member for Carlow had sent a telegram to those who had deforced the police, begging them on no account to break the law. But when he noticed the Questions which were showered upon the unfortunate Home Secretary and the Lord Advocate the other day, he could not help asking himself what effect those Questions would produce on the people in Skye who had disobeyed the law. The hon. Member for Carlow pressed the Home Secretary again and again on the subject of what he called civil breaches of the law. Everyone knew that the Highlanders, and especially the men in Skye, were amongst the most law-abiding races in the world. It was not a question of the breach of the Civil Law, but special agrarian outrages, which the police were sent to quell, in doing which they were deforced by the people. That was fully explained by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in answer to the Resolution. He was bound, therefore, to express his deliberate conviction that if peace were happily preserved it was not in consequence of, but in spite of, advice tendered by the hon. Member for Carlow. But it was possible the hon. Gentleman might turn round and say—"Well, you are a landlord; you support the Government where there is any question of coercion; but when the Government bring in a measure of reform to bring about a better state of things—in short, a Land Bill for the Highlands—you will then probably oppose them with all your might." That was not so. If at that time he had the honour of a seat in that House, he should accept the invitation just made by the right hon. and learned 1760 Gentleman in the spirit in which it was made, and do all in his power to assist the Government in passing such a measure, even although its provisions might go further than what he himself might consider expedient. He should only ask for two conditions—first, that such a measure would really benefit the crofters; that it would provide some kind of security of tenure to the most deserving and industrious; and that it would provide a mode of adding to their holdings, which was the one point on which everyone in the Islands agreed was an absolute necessity. The other condition which he hoped to see fulfilled, although he would not insist so strictly upon it, was that the Government should not confine their efforts alone to a Land Bill, but take into consideration the unanimously expressed desire on the part of the Royal Commission that other remedies should be forthcoming. He was far from saying that everything recommended in the Report should be carried out. That was impossible; but he did think a beginning might be made in one branch of industry—that of the fishing, to improve the piers and harbours of the unfortunate people of the West Coast, and thus enable them to prosecute the fishing industry with greater success than they had hitherto been able to do. While he had expressed his grave doubts as to the effect of much that had been done by the hon. Member for Carlow and others, he in no way impugned their motives. He believed their object was an honest desire to do good to the people; but he entreated them to lay aside suspicion of the landlords, and co-operate with those who might not hold the same extreme views, but who had the welfare of their common countrymen at heart, so that by the union of all parties, in the interest of the Government, who would have to introduce a Bill, of the landlord, who would have to make some sacrifices of the tenants, who, he trusted, would reap some benefit, and the sympathizers of the crofters in all parts of the world, some solution might be arrived at which would restore contentment to the crofters and add to the welfare and happiness of the whole population.
§ MR. PICTON
Mr. Speaker, in addition to the diffidence usually felt by a new Member in asking the indulgence of the House for the first time, I am 1761 haunted by a fear lest it should seem presumptuous in a Member for a Midland constituency to say anything whatever about a question affecting the population in the extreme North. But if any excuse is needed, my apology must be that the people of the constituency I represent (Leicester) are profoundly interested in the fortunes of the crofters. And, indeed, if I may venture to refer to my own experience, I may say that having been brought into close contact with millions of the labouring classes in the East of London, in Manchester, and in Liverpool. I have reason to know that this question, affecting, in the first place, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, is very extensively regarded as only a special instance of a much larger issue. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. D. Cameron), to whose wise and weighty words we have all listened with respect, sees many difficulties in the way of any solution. But, after all, the hon. Member has not mentioned any difficulty that is insuperable, or even any difficulties greater than those already overcome in the Sister Island. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke with deep sympathy of the sufferings of these unfortunate crofters; but what we wanted to hear from him was his idea of the practical remedy to be applied; and, while I recognize the limitations necessarily imposed by the responsibility under which he spoke, I confess I was disappointed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not give us more substantial ground for hoping that something effectual would be done to relieve the sufferings of these poor people. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed inclined to leave the whole remedy to the charity of the landlords. [Sir WILLAM HARCOURT: No, no.] But he also told us that there were circumstances in the South which softened the harshness of the outlines of proprietary rights, and that these circumstances did not exist to the same degree in the North. Well, if the landlords in Scotland are more unsympathizing than the landlords in England, I cannot help saying that I pity the poor tenants who are committed to their tender mercies. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave the House some interesting information about the change which took place centuries ago in the tenure under 1762 which copyholders held their land. He spoke of this change as happy and beneficent, and this precisely because, in consequence of the change effected, the copyholders received fixity of tenure. Surely, if fixity of tenure is good for copyholders, it may turn out also to be good for ordinary tenants. In fact, the interest I have in this question arises from the belief that the principles involved manifestly affect not a few Islanders, but the whole Kingdom, for the core of the difficulty presents only a special case of an evil that is more and more widely condemned—I mean the absorption of the land by the few to the detriment of the many. In the Report of the Royal Commission, I find it stated on page 14 that in four parishes there are 30 occupiers, forming less than 1 per cent of the population, who hold two-thirds of the whole area of the land. Now, if anyone regards that as a natural and fitting arrangement, I confess I cannot understand him. How did the land come to be thus concentrated in the hands of so few occupiers? The cause is that it has been monopolized by a very few owners, and that they have found this arrangement more profitable to them than a wider diffusion of occupancy. But how did these few owners come into possession of their power? This is not a mere theoretical or unpractical question. It is often said, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has hinted as much this evening, that the fact of possession must be accepted as final. Nevertheless, in the case of the crofters it is not possible entirely to reject the moral aspect of the question. If we have endeavoured to unite law and equity in Judicial Courts, surely it would be a very poor thing to insist upon separating them in the High Court of Parliament. Now, in the course of the debate, reference has been made to the fact that old tenures subsisted to a later period in the Highlands of Scotland than elsewhere. The clan system, we are told, existed down to 1745, and the rights of Chieftains, under this system, were very different from those of landlords in the present day. I am aware that Charters were granted to loyal Chieftains, and that legal arrangements were made by which old rights were changed into those of modern landlords. I am aware also that, as we are often told, estates have since that time frequently changed 1763 hands by sale, and it is argued that the moral claims against the former Chieftains cannot be urged against the present territorial owners. But it is not denied that, whatever may be the case with the owners, the tenants and peasantry are of the same race, inheriting old traditions and family claims. Now, what I contend is, that the new owners ought to regard themselves as subject not only to the legal conditions of modern ownership, but to the moral claims and conditions prevalent in the society of the district where their estates exist. The Commissioners say on page 8 of their Report, that—Claims on the part of tenants to security in their holdings cannot now be seriously entertained.But to this proposition they make a curious exception. They say on page 9—It is difficult to deny that a Macdonald, a Macleod, a Mackenzie, a Mackay, or a Cameron who gave a son to his landlord 80 years ago, to fill up the ranks of a Highland regiment, did morally acquire a tenure in his holding, more sacred than the stipulations of a written covenant. Few will hold that the descendant, in possession, of such a man should even now be regarded by the hereditary landlord in the game light as a labourer living in a Lowland village.There seems to me to be something of the glamour of military romance about this passage. Surely, if the existing tenant has a claim to security of tenure, because his grandfather or great grandfather fought under a former possessor of the estate, ancient custom and the necessities of life constitute a more general and also a stronger claim. It appears to me that the tendency of the Report, in spirit if not in the letter, is to support such claims as these; and it is precisely their refusal now that is the occasion of threatened disorders. Sir, there is no arguing with misery; you must either relieve it or crush its complaints by violence. In the year 1880 a very similar state of things existed on a much larger scale in Ireland. At that time, the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), while refusing all legislation, advocated the widest application of charity to the needs of the Irish tenants. But the Government, at that time, said, "No; we want justice, not charity;" and they brought in the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. Of course, that measure was not passed. In the present state of our Legislative 1764 Institutions, no large measure of justice ever is passed on the first time of asking. But, at any rate, the Bill showed the mind of the Government; and from the debate of that time I might quote many passages from authoritative speeches strikingly applicable to the case before us. The Home Secretary, indeed, has urged that there is no parallel between the two cases. But what he meant plainly was—that there is no parallel in details. It is impossible to deny that there is, at any rate, this general similarity—that in both cases we have a distressed tenantry who cannot live on their holdings; and in both cases the main reason is that the Land Laws work in an oppressive manner under conditions not suitable to the life of the present day. In 1880 the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) congratulated himself and the country that the Land Act of 1870 had gone so far as to establish the principle not only in Ulster, but out of Ulster, that the tenant had some right in his holding. And he added that—Without such a clause Ireland would by that time have required to be governed by Martial Law.Well, the crofters are suffering quite as acutely as the Irish tenants ever did; and, undoubtedly, unless some remedy is forthcoming—a legislative, not a charitable remedy—there are dark days in store both for those people and the Government of the country. If the question of property be raised, I may, perhaps, be allowed to remind the House of certain wise words spoken by the Prime Minister, when discussing the rights of landlords in Ireland on July 5, 1880. He said—The principles of property are vital to the welfare of the State. They are at the very base of the social system; but, notwithstanding these great and fundamental truths, it is not less true that there are occasions when, not merely necessity calls upon you to modify the extreme application of those principles, but when the introduction of modifications are the best and the only means by which you can effectually preserve the principle of property itself."—(3 Hansard,  1657.)These words seem remarkably applicable now. I do not deny the legal rights of the landlords; but I maintain that some legislative changes are necessary—if these rights are to remain worth having—to make them consistent with the happiness of the people who live upon the land. The circumstances are so pressing 1765 that I could wish the Ministry were willing—or rather, perhaps, that the working of the Parliamentary machine had enabled them—to bring in some suspensory measure analogous] to the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, in order that a stop might be put to the cruel evictions continually referred to in the Report of the Royal Commission. But if that is impossible, surely the Government need not object to the passing of this Resolution. It is an exceedingly moderate one, and yet it would be effective as a record of the opinion of the House. It would give great satisfaction to the poor people concerned, and would, I believe, go farther than hordes of police and fleets of gunboats to keep them in quietness and hope. Sir, the time is coming when this House reformed, and resting upon a much broader electoral basis, will hear much more of the question of land tenure. It is a question on which passionate convictions are held by the multitude—convictions which will find vent in demands for very drastic reforms. And, I believe, that not merely the fortunes of the crofters will be affected by the attitude assumed by the House on the question before us, but that it must influence for good or evil the mood and temper of all the millions who are soon to receive so great an accession of political power.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he must congratulate the hon. Member who had just sat down on the ability which characterized his first speech in that House. It was interesting not only from its ability, but also because it claimed to represent the views of large portions of the population, and to be the harbinger of violent changes in the Land Laws of England and Scotland. But he regretted that the hon. Member cherished feelings against the landlords of this country which were certainly not founded on a profound knowledge of the subject; and he feared that if land legislation in the future was to be founded on the ideas expressed by the hon Member, it would not proceed on very sober or rational lines. The hon. Member lamented the absorption by a few individuals of large tracts of land. He, too, regretted it likewise, that there was not a larger number of freeholders in the country, not because he thought that peasant proprietors would necessarily, or even probably, be a prosperous class, 1766 but because, undoubtedly, there was a political danger in the concentration of land in a few hands. The hon. Member seemed to suppose that the landlords of the country were occupied in remorselessly adding house to house and field to field. The real fact was, as everyone knew, precisely the reverse. The landlords of England and Scotland desired nothing more than to find purchasers for the land which they already possessed. He desired to point out the extraordinary attitude which the Home Secretary had taken up on the question with which the House was more particularly dealing, when they reflected what the Government were doing at this moment in Ireland. The Home Secretary denounced the practice of collecting rents by armed force; but what were the Government doing in Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary denounced emigration; but, again, he asked what were the Government doing in Ireland at this moment? Why, they were acting in Ireland precisely as the right hon. Gentleman said he never would consent to act in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that it was merely political economy run mad which objected to emigration. But if he had read the Report of the Royal Commission with the attention which he ought to have bestowed upon it, he would see that this was not a question of political economy, but a question of arithmetic, and a very simple question too. They had a certain population to deal with, and they knew the amount of ground required by a family to enable it to live in comfort on its holding. Divide the acreage by the number of families, and let them see, in the case of many of the Islands, whether the quotient was equal to what was required. He did not see how the right hon. Gentleman could refuse to assent to the proposition that there were large tracts in the Highlands which could only be adequately dealt with if, in addition to whatever else they did, they, at all events, promoted emigration. Nor was it fair or just to represent the distress existing in the Highlands at this moment as the result of large sheep farms, because the distress existed in places where there were no large sheep farms. It existed in places where almost all the good arable soil, and most of the hill pasture, was in possession of the 1767 crofters. The hon. Member for Carlow had said that in the Island of Tyree a great part of the land was divided into large holdings. That, like many of the statements that were made in connection with this question, he was sorry to say by people of responsibility, was untrue. The large farmers in the Island of Tyree had 5,700 acres of the hill pasturage, and of the soil that could be tilled they had about 300 acres. The small tenants of the Island had of the hill pasturage 10,300 acres, or nearly double what the large farmers had, and of the land which was capable of being tilled they cultivated 3,700 acres, or more than 10 times the amount held by the large farmers. He listened with regret to some of the attacks made by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) on some of the landlords in the Highlands. No doubt, there were individuals here and there in this class, as in every class of society, who did not do their duty; but he thought it might fairly be claimed for the Highland landlords that they had, on the whole, as far as lay in their power, managed their properties less on strictly commercial principles, less with a view directly to their own profit, but more with a view to the happiness and the material well-being of those with whom they were connected than any other class of the community, be that class what it might. The recent Commission had examined, or rather had swallowed wholesale, the case of the crofters; but the case of the landlords had never been examined, and until it was examined no judgment could be passed against them without cruel injustice. The question was, however, What was to be done? He did not profess to have a remedy; but he thought it important to point out what the real difficulties of the problem were. What, then, was the Crofter Question? What was a crofter? A crofter was practically a labourer with a very large allotment, who lived in the very worst climate for agricultural as opposed to pastoral purposes in the world. He had hitherto been obliged to eke out his farming by labour, or his labour by farming—whichever way they liked to put it—and in those parts of the country where overcrowding existed, and where there was insufficient employment, it was absolutely necessary that the man should go afield and seek work 1768 elsewhere, either by fishing or otherwise. How was this state of things to be cured? They could not cure the existing evil by merely increasing his holding, even in those cases where that could be done without evicting some of his neighbours. That would do no good unless they increased his capital. Spade labour required, indeed, but little capital; but then spade labour could never be productive or profitable in the Highlands. A very competent witness from Skye, in giving evidence before the Commission, said it paid to import oatmeal. The House could not have a more suggestive statement than that, because oats were the one form of cereal crop which it was supposed could withstand the Highland climate. Spade labour, then, being out of the question, how were they to increase their holdings for pastoral purposes without at the same time increasing their captial? In those districts of the country where distress existed at this moment, the poor people complained that they were in debt to the shopkeeper and the moneylender; and by what machinery and from what source, he asked, did they propose to provide the indebted population with the additional capital necessary to increase their holdings and to stock their land? When he mentioned that there were upwards of 140 inches of rainfall in Skye in a year, the House would see that spade labour, by which the peasant proprietor earned his living, was absolutely out of the question. It must be by pastoral industry, therefore, and pastoral industry, he repeated, re-required capital, which the people had not. If the British taxpayer chose to provide £300 capital for each family, he should, of course, as a Highlander, be glad to see it done; but would any responsible Government in this country dare to maintain that the position of the crofters on the West Coast was so peculiar that they, among all the distressed populations of the United Kingdom, were to be provided for out of the pockets of the taxpayer? If that was not done, what was to be done? He was afraid that the Government, listening to monitors like the hon. Member for Leicester, might say—"There is great discontent, there are outrages, disturbances, real distress and poverty, and we must do something. What can we do? We cannot subscribe large sums of public money, because the taxpayers will not 1769 allow it; we will give these people fixity of tenure or an Irish Land Bill, something that, if it does no good, will, at all events, hurt no one but the landlord." Fixity of tenure would, he believed, be a very serious matter, not for the landlord, but for the tenant. He failed to see how people, who were not evicted, and were not rack-rented, would be benefited by a measure whose only object was to prevent eviction and rack-renting. What they suffered was from neither of those scourges, but from the scourge of poverty; and no mere manipulation of the Land Laws, however drastic, could, he feared, do the slightest good to these poor people. If any man was weak enough to suppose that by buying out or turning out the landlords, or destroying their interests in the estates, any advantage would accrue to those poor men, he made a most melancholy mistake. In one of the Islands at this moment where distress was both acute and chronic, the whole rent had for many years been devoted by the proprietor in aid of the people. He feared that no sudden and miraculous improvement could be produced in this state of things by any human means, least of all by Act of Parliament; they must look to the gradual operation of increased education, improved means of communication, the spread of the English language among the people, and the desire for greater comfort inducing them to emigrate to ameliorate their lot. These were the slow but sure means which would provide a remedy for the present condition of the Highlands. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of the former condition of those people as if they had once lived in plenty and prosperity in their Highland glens. He dissented altogether from that view. Those who really knew anything of the matter knew that the "plenty and prosperity" of the right hon. and learned Gentleman were fine words for chronic starvation. Nothing was more remarkable than the fact that as rents had increased so was the increase of prosperity in a large part of the Highlands. He admitted freely that there were parts of the Highlands where the state of the population was perfectly shocking, and where the dwellings, the poverty, and the misery of the people were such as to drive them almost to anything that pretended to 1770 be a remedy; but that did not by any mean srepresent the whole of the Highlands. There were large tracts in Ross-shire, Argyleshire, and Perthshire, where the prosperity was equal to anything to be found in any other part of the country. In these more prosperous parts of the Highlands, partly by emigration, partly by sheep-farming, partly by improved methods of agriculture, partly by the inflow of Southern wealth, the even layer of chronic misery which once overspread the whole of those glens had now disappeared. The Government, he understood, meant legislation; but what precise form their legislation was to take, he could not gather from the Home Secretary. But one request he would most earnestly press on them. Let them not legislate for show. Let their legislation not be merely contrived to satisfy the people of the big towns, who were not concerned in that matter, but such as should have regard to the welfare of the people who were concerned. Let it not be of that sensational kind which would gratify men like the hon. Member for Leicester, but rather such as would slowly, perhaps, but effectually and permanently, raise the condition of the poverty-stricken dwellers on the West Coast and in the Islands of Scotland.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, that he had, like his right hon. Friend (Sir William Harcourt), a strong sympathy with these crofters. Anyone who had spent any portion of his time in the Western Highlands and Islands amidst a scenery unsurpassed, perhaps, in the whole world for beauty, must have had his soul stirred with the sight of dwellings that were for the most part utterly unfit for human habitation. Who did not know the look of the miserable cabin—house it could not be called? Who did not know the look of the listless figure leaning against the gable end? Why was the Highlander, who was energetic enough when met in Canada, so listless and unoccupied when they saw him on his croft? It was the surroundings of his home that had brought the man down. It was the confinement of his home that brought him down. He had not got occupation for his arms. He had got no hope of a better life. These things were not too strong to say of him; but when they came to speak of a remedy, difficulties 1771 met them on every side. It was not so easy a task as the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) thought. He confessed that, although he was glad that the Government proposed to take up that matter, and to take it up at an early date, he conld not hope for very much from legislation. They might give the crofter security of tenure; they would stereotype him in his poverty. They might give him more land, as the hon. Member who seconded the Motion suggested; but how was he to find capital to stock it? He knew of one instance in a district where he had long resided in which the proprietor, anxious to ameliorate the condition of the crofters there, offered to them, at a very low rent indeed—a rent which they themselves would admit to be exceedingly liberal—a large sheep farm which was very close to them, and which they had longed and asked for. The men were anxious to take the farm; but he was sorry to say they were, at any rate a month ago, unable to take any part of that farm through the want of necessary capital. How, then, were they to get over that difficulty of the want of capital? He did not think it was quite an insuperable difficulty. He agreed with the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) that they could not ask the taxpayers of the country, poor as many of them were, to find a large sum of money per family to ameliorate the lot of the crofters; but it was here, he thought, that there was a ray of light if they could only get the reasonable co-operation of the proprietors. He confessed he looked on the action of the proprietor with more hope than he did on any law they could pass, for this reason—that they could not, by a stroke of the pen or by passing any Act of Parliament, suddenly raise the whole mass of the crofters, and make them prosperous. What they could possibly do was so to legislate that they might raise those among them who were most capable of rising, and that the most thrifty crofters might have a better opportunity of getting larger holdings. That was the way in which, he thought, they must look to solve this difficulty. It was not by a sudden elevation of the whole body of crofters, but by a gradual process of lifting those who were capable of rising out of their present condition; and by lifting these they would give hope to 1772 those who were behind, and those who were behind would see that thrifty habits and industry might raise a man out of the condition of the average crofters, and put him in a better and more prosperous state. His right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary had fired a very heavy gun against any idea of emigration. He could not go with the right hon. Gentleman the full length of what the House understood him to say. No doubt, migration was better than emigration where it was possible, and he would never suggest emigration if he thought that the condition of a man could be bettered at home; but if there was no chance of that—if the difficulties in the way of it were insuperable or appeared to be insuperable—then, if the man himself was anxious and willing to go where his relations and his fellow-countrymen had already gone and prospered, for his own part he would encourage that man to go. That was the principle which had all through governed those who had taken an interest in Irish emigration. To take another point, there was the question of fishing. How were they going to legislate for that? They were told that more harbours and piers should be provided. That was a very good thing; but how came it that the East Coast fishermen came round to the West Coast, and took the fish from under the very noses of the starving crofters? Something might be done by a little forethought as to the storage of salt and such matters; but they could not make the lot of a crofter who had to depend npon arable ground anything but an intolerable one in the West of Scotland. The climate was against them, even if the land was theirs in abundance. The hon. Member for Hertford had said that more oats might be grown. But as a rule the crofter did not eat the oats he grew; in most cases they did not ripen, and they were grown chiefly for the cattle. The climate was wanting, and the crofter had to depend really upon three things—pasture, fishing, and what labour he could get elsewhere. It was all very well to say that the crofters had been squeezed out and sent down from the centre of the country to the shore. But there was no comparison between the lot of a crofter who lived away from the coast on fair land and that of one who lived on worse land, but with 1773 fishing close to his door. He did not advise that the crofter should be left to the charity of the landlord. He should be very anxious to see the Government take any steps which they could to help the crofters; and if they had the security of the landlord, he should be prepared to go as far as to vote for any measure which would enable the landlord to acquire money, at a moderate rate of interest, for the sake of improving the condition of the crofter. He could not go further than that. He was very unwilling to burden the public with loans of that kind; but he believed that unless something of that kind were done it would be found almost impracticable to get the crofters into larger holdings. The landlord might be willing to offer the land, but the crofter would be utterly unable to take advantage of it, even if he was in a condition of having security of tenure. He could not see any great danger to the State or the Exchequer if they had the security of the landlord. Whether the landlord would be, in many cases, willing to burden himself with such a debt he was unable to say. He most cordially endorsed the appeal made by the Home Secretary. In the first place, in endeavouring thus to ameliorate the condition of the crofter, it was necessary to pick out those who would be able to make their living there. That was a thing which Government could not do; only persons intimately acquainted with the locality, with the varying circumstances of the locality, and with the men themselves, could carry this out. A landlord who was acquainted with these details would know who could be trusted with an advance of capital. With reference to the landowners themselves, he was astounded that, being so few in number as they were, and willing as many of them were to make efforts in the right direction, they had not met together for the purpose of taking some joint action in the matter.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
remarked, that he had, at all events, seen no public mention of their having done so. In the meantime this agitation was growing. What were they waiting for? Were they thinking of sheep-farming, or did they think that they were going to put the whole of the land under forest? He 1774 would not go into the question of how far public opinion would tolerate such action; but he thought that there were solid reasons against it. In the first place, deer did not multiply quickly, and the making of a forest was a slow process; and, secondly, there was only a limited number of men who were wealthy enough to afford to give extravagant prices for forests. If the landlords allowed this agitation to go on without taking any collective action to meet the condition of affairs, he feared that the line which separated what was reasonable from what was wild and unreasonable would soon be blotted out; and he thought that they would have themselves, and themselves alone, to blame if, at some future time, legislation of a very drastic, and not of a very useful, character was passed in that House—legislation which was now utterly unnecessary, if now the proprietors themselves would meet and, after carefnl consideration, take collective action in the way of ameliorating the condition of the crofters.
§ MR. MUNRO-FERGUSON
said, that so soon after his admission to the House he would not have trespassed on its indulgence had it not been for the vital importance which was attached to the Land Question in the Highlands. His second plea for extenuating circumstances was that he wished to make public a telegram which he had received in regard to the disturbances in the Hebrides, which had, from the reports in the newspapers, been considerably exaggerated. He received a telegram some three days ago, which he handed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, on the subject of these disturbances in the Island of Lewis, and since then he had received another which he had been requested to read to the House. It was—A large and enthusiastic public meeting of inhabitants of Lewis indignantly repels the untruthful and misleading reports of lawlessness in the Island in The Scotsman of last Monday. Contradict these reports in House; they are used for the purpose of damaging the crofters with the Government.He might say, on behalf of the people of his constituency, that they recognized the difficulties of the Government in dealing with this question in consequence of the position of the Franchise Bill. But while he recognized those 1775 difficulties fully, yet he could not help saying that any further delay on the part of the Government in dealing with this question would be fraught with the greatest danger. The Government, in short, must do something at the earliest possible moment. Besides the ordinary reasons for attending to the Report of the Royal Commission, which, recommended very sweeping changes in the existing law, there were special reasons to be considered. In the first place, the Highlanders were an imaginative and impulsive people. He had found, in the course of land management in the Highlands, as compared with the Lowlands, that if a contract was to be arranged between a proprietor and a tenant, the decision should be given at once, and the work carried through at as early a date as possible, because if that were not done the one contracting party brooded over the cause of delay, and attributed all sorts of reasons as to the other contracting party; and so it would be with the action of the Government. They would have the people brooding over their wrongs, which would not decrease under that process until the matter was taken in hand and, so far as possible, remedied. Another reason he had for pressing the Government not to delay taking the matter in hand was the outside influence which was brought to bear upon the crofters, and which was not always of the best description. He ventured to say that a speech from the Home Secretary, or a few words from the Prime Minister, would be a better and healthier remedy for the Highland fever than the reckless statements of professional agitators. It was to be regretted that, although the crofters had the sympathy of everyone who had inquired into their case, it had not been accompanied by a just proportion of practical and sound knowledge of the case. Here they had a very grave social problem to tackle—one of the most dangerous that he thought lay before them. The question was a very grave one, and it was quite as serious in all its parts as the Land Question in Ireland. The Land Question was too big a one for a private Member to tackle; and that was why he wished to see the Cabinet turn its attention and resources in that direction. In respect to these disturbances in Skye, while he fully recognized that it was the first duty of the Home Secretary to restore 1776 order in that Island—and that action, he believed, had met with the general approval of the House—yet he could not help thinking himself that a Royal Proclamation would have been better before resorting to sending an armed force. This agitation could never have been aroused amongst a deeply religious and loyal people without a strong reason; and that agitation would not subside until the cause had been considered by the House, and it had applied a remedy. There was one other point alluded to by the hon. Member (Mr. Picton), who suggested that a Suspensory Act should be brought in. If there was to be any delay in dealing with this matter, he thought it would be well worth the attention of the Cabinet whether a Suspensory Act should not be brought in, because if it had no other effect it would tend to pacify the people. He thanked the House for the kindness with which it had received his few remarks. He was well aware of his own deficiencies, both in youth and inexperience; but he had studied this question with the utmost earnestness. What he wished, above all other things, to impress upon hon. Members was that this was a question of the first importance, and not one of secondary rank.
§ MR. WARTON
maintained that contracts with regard to land ought to be fulfilled, and he protested against another Land Act being passed for England and Scotland. Principles were being advocated that, if carried into effect, would deprive the landlords of all their rights, and he was sorry that the Home Secretary should go as far as he had done in support of those principles. It seemed to him that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had almost forgotten the lessons taught by the Irish Land Act of 1881—a measure which he (Mr. Warton) foresaw was doomed to failure. There was plenty of room in the world for all its inhabitants to exist in prosperity, and it was absurd to attempt to overpopulate any particular parts of it. The real remedy for the state of things which was now complained of was emigration; but they could not apply any enduring remedy by taking away the property of the landlord and giving it to the tenant.
said, nobody could have listened to the debate without feeling that the crofters had much 1777 reason to be satisfied up to a certain point. Much sympathy with them had been expressed, as well as a general desire to provide a remedy, as far as possible, for the existing state of things. The Home Secretary had said much that was very satisfactory to himself (Mr. Dick-Peddie) and to his hon. Friends who took an interest in this question; but there was also a great deal lacking in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman of what they most desired to hear. While he showed a just appreciation of the character of the crofters, be left them very little satisfaction in anything he promised on their behalf. After recognizing in strong and forcible language many of the evils under which the crofters suffered, he proceeded to tell the House in what direction he looked for remedy; and, so far as he (Mr. Dick-Peddie) could find out, the only thing he indicated that would be of any benefit was the duty of the proprietors to do something for the crofters. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had appealed to the benevolence of the landlords, and to their sense of what was right, but still more to their fears; and he (Mr. Dick-Peddie) should regard the latter appeal as more likely to be successful than any other, for while he well knew that Highland landowners generally were kind and considerate, those of them whose conduct had given rise to the present agitation were not likely to be much moved by appeals to their humanity. Further, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had promised that the subject would very soon receive the attention of the Government. Last Session a similar promise was given, in almost stronger terms than to-night; but nothing had come of it. Still, a slight advance had taken place in the attitude of the Government since 1882, for on that occasion, when the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) brought forward his Motion for the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry, the Lord Advocate appeared entirely to ignore the fact of there being any claims on the part of the crofters at all. The Lord Advocate then said—It appears to the Government that there has neither been in the statements made in the House to-day, nor from the information of which they are otherwise in possession, any sufficient ground for taking such a serious and unusual step as to appoint a Royal Commission 1778 such as that which is now asked for."—(3 Hansard,  779.)Last year, when the Government were asked to give effect to the Report of the Commission, they met the demand by a mere evasion on the ground of the difficulties of legislation. He thought it was impossible that the crofters would settle down to bear the evils of their lot unless they got not merely a vague promise, but a serious indication that the Government intended to deal in some definite direction with the evils from which they suffered. He could not help contrasting the attitude of the Government with the attitude of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. D. Cameron), a most respected Highland proprietor, who had spoken of the crofters in terms of warm sympathy, and who last year indicated in no vague terms certain directions in which he thought immediate legislation should take place. That hon. Member had suggested the provision of piers and harbours, the cutting down of the high education rate in the Highlands, and a system of loans which would enable the holders to stock the land now occupied as deer forests, and, lastly, to make it compulsory on the landlords to give 30 years' leases, with full compensation at the end for improvements. These were very valuable suggestions, especially as coming from a Tory landlord, and a Gentleman who knew the Highlands as well as any man could know them. He, therefore, thought the Government might be encouraged to set about devising some definite measures. The Home Secretary had read to the House an extract from a speech by the Rev. Mr. Davidson. He did not know where the right hon. and learned Gentleman had got the report; but he held in his hand an extract from The Daily Mail, Glasgow, in which he found the language attributed to the rev. gentleman to be much more emphatic in favour of the crofters than that which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had quoted. Mr. Davidson said—When he began to see the sufferings of the people, he became convinced, as any impartial person must be convinced, that the system"—that is, the crofter system—must be viewed with reprobation. The system of tyranny and oppression was so studied and refined that it had been reduced to an art.He wished to ask the House whether men in the position described by the rev. 1779 gentleman could be expected to remain silent? He felt there was too much truth in that rev. gentleman's statement, and that there existed an evil which called for immediate remedy. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) spoke of some parts of the Highlands where the population were more prosperous than the peasantry of any part of the United Kingdom; but these were the parts where there only remained the shepherd, the gamekeeper, and the ghillie. These crofters were told two years ago that they had no grievance. In the following year these grievances were acknowledged by a Royal Commission. Last Session they had a discussion on the Report of that Commission, in which the Home Secretary promised legislation; but nothing had been done, and now they felt that they were being trifled with. They knew that the Irish peasants had gained great advantages—not because they were more entitled to them than the crofters, but because they were stronger and more numerous. The crofters were a small body, peaceable, and well ordered; and he believed the statements in many newspaper reports of their proceedings had been exaggerated. They had been bearing with a patience, which no other persons in this Kingdom could equal, hardships which the more they were considered the more grievous they were found to be. He trusted that the result of this debate would be to induce the Government more boldly to face this problem, and, notwithstanding its difficulties, to feel that there was nothing in the way of legislation, after the Reform Bill had passed, which more demanded their attention than this question of the crofters of Skye and Lewis.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
wished to explain an interjectional remark which escaped him during the interesting and eloquent speech of the Home Secretary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking of the condition of the crofters at the present time as compared with the condition of their predecessors, and gave the House to understand that the condition of the crofters now was not so good as it was in former times. His own experience thoroughly bore out the correctness of the picture which the right hon. and learned Gentleman drew; but other causes had been at work to the 1780 deterioration of the comfort of these small holdings, and among those causes, especially in maritime districts and in the Isles, he thought there could be no question that the great change which had come over the industry of the manufacture of kelp had not been one of the least. When he interjected the word "kelp," he by no means meant to indicate that he considered "kelp" a panacea, and that if the industry were restored they could thereby remedy the evils that existed; but there was no doubt the manufacture of kelp was in times past a profitable source of income to a class of people who could ill afford to dispense with it. The speakers in the debate had generally spoken in support of the Motion of the hon. Member for Carlow; but there were one or two considerations which presented themselves in connection with it that had not yet been set before the House. He came from a district of Scotland in which, not very long ago, the crofters' system was in full swing. It had passed away, and with it had passed undoubtedly a great part of the rural population. They had in their hills in the Lowlands traces of the townships which the Royal Commission recommended should be re-established and confirmed in the Highlands. The small villages on the hill sides were now objects of interest to the anthropologist and archaeologist; but they had completely passed away from rural society. Would the South of Scotland, he asked, be any better if, at a former period, the old state of things had been stereotyped and confirmed? Should they be better now if the crofters who 100 years ago occupied the bleak hills of Galloway and Dumfriesshire were still settled upon the miserable holdings; or were they not infinitely better off, and were not the people who had gone to other parts of the world better off, than if they had remained upon those bleak hill-sides? Nobody who knew that part of the country could doubt what the answer would be. Landowners lived in palaces; farmers lived in what used to be landowners' houses; and the labourers, in their turn, lived now in houses which were infinitely better than the houses of 100 years ago. Was there, or was there not, in such a state of things any reason for congratulation or satisfaction? He said most decidedly there was. If legislation 1781 had been undertaken such as was proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Picton) and others of his school in that part of the country 100 years ago, they should have been infinitely further back on the road of progress than they now were. It had been admitted on all hands that the question was full of difficulties, but that the difficulties were not insuperable. They were met at the outset of the Report of the Commission by the warning that they were not to take everything "at the foot of the letter," but that in judging of the validity of much of the evidence they should do well to bear in mind that depositions were made from hearsay, memory, or popular tradition, even where they were not tinged by resentments or passions of the hour; and in addition to the causes of infirmity which would apply to miscellaneous testimony not given on oath, they had the fact that the progress of the Commission was anticipated by agents enlisted in the popular canse. He remembered that in the last Autumn Session, two years ago, the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) asked him, as a Scottish Member, to sign a requisition for a Royal Commission to inquire into the grievances of the crofters. He declined, saying he did not approve of "round robins," whereupon the hon. Member for Carlow said he was wrong, and further observed—"Mark this; we will take care that this subject shall not rest, and you will hear plenty of it before another year." Who was the "we?" He presumed the "we" referred to the hon. Gentlemen from Ireland with whom the hon. Member for Carlow usually acted. ["No, no!"] At any rate, he considered that the "we" certainly included the remaining Irish Members; and he was struck by the fact that in last August a most singular phenomenon manifested itself in the Western Islands. A steam yacht arrived laden with senators, and senators not of the same caste—the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane), the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. R. Power), and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). He regretted very much that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham was not in the House, and he hoped that the hon. and learned Gentleman would take an early opportunity of disclaiming, 1782 at all events, a portion of the sentiments and utterances that were attributed to him. It certainly was with dismay the Members of the Conservative Party read one morning in their newspapers the utterances that were attributed to his hon. and learned Friend, whose abilities and resource had made him conspicious in the House, and who was also conspicuous in another way, because on the very last occasion of his appearance in Scotland he was the accredited official of the Central Constitutional Association in London, for the purpose of Party organization in Scotland. In a hurried interview before the debate began, his hon. and learned Friend had thanked him prospectively for giving the opportunity of refuting these speeches. According to the report in The Scotsman, the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), who was introduced by Professor Blackie as a Tory with common sense, advised the electors not to be tied to any one Party if they wanted Reform, but to form a party of their own. He deprecated the idea of a landlord being a suitable Member for them, and was proceeding to criticize Mr. Ferguson's speeches when he was interrupted by the meeting. What his hon. aud learned Friend said was this—that owing to the presence of the hon. Member for Waterford and himself on the same platform their utterances were by the reporter confused. He must say it seemed strange that his hon. and learned Friend had taken no opportunity since then of re-repudiating statements so utterly at variance with those usually professed by the Party with whom he had been in the habit of acting, and to whom he certainly owed some degree of consideration. He could not believe that his hon. and learned Friend would be willing to tarnish his reputation for political sincerity merely because he happened to find himself dans la meme galere with the hon. Member for Carlow. There was one thing he should like to say with reference to the present state of the crofting population in the West Highlands — Was it so very much worse in the present than it was in the past? Of course, they had a mass of evidence taken before this Royal Commission, which contained a narrative of suffering, of indigence, and of poverty. But it was not an altogether unmitigated picture. 1783 It was because he wished really that this question should be satisfactorily dealt with that he urged upon hon. Members not to expect any Utopian solution of this problem. Let them not aim at too much if they had truly at heart the interest of the crofters, whom they all loved and honoured for their character, for their demeanour to strangers, and for the part they had borne in the history of their country. Let them be content if they could devise for the crofters some reasonably comfortable and healthy mode of existence. They could not expect more. They could not expect ever to be in affluence, because the very elements were at war against them; and he for one—if the discussion to-night were not altogether barren, if it led the present Government, or any succeeding Government, to undertake this matter and deal with it satisfactorily—if it led to the amelioration of the hard circumstances which were endured by these brave people—then he should say this night had not altogether been spent in vain.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, it was remarkable that the elements were only against the poorer classes of the rural districts and never against the landlords. The elements were always advanced when any explanation was needed of the condition of the farmer or the labourer. He did not regard this as an exclusively Scotch question. It was merely one phase of the great question which was becoming the most burning question throughout the country. It now came forward in a manner which touched the sentiment and conscience of the nation, because it was allied to intense suffering. The debate would carry very little comfort to the crofters. But it would add a great deal to the force of the agitation in Scotland and England. Those connected with the territorial interest had admitted the evils and dangers which existed, but they had no remedy. It would be the large towns that would settle this question. The eyes of the toiling millions who were suffering socially and in every way from the Land Laws would take this question in hand, and the landlords, when the time came, would have cause to regret that they had not agreed to something reasonable in time. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary had, it appeared from his speech that night, no 1784 remedy to propose for the present state of things in the Highlands, and hon. Gentleman on both sides of the House had declared how difficult it was to find a remedy; but they were even then engaged in the discussion of a Report which contained a remedy. Was the Commisssion which drew up that Report intended to be merely an insult to the poor people whom it affected, or was it intended to have some practical result? That Commission had now presented a Report which was eminently practical in its character, and it was now to all intents and purposes ignored by the Government. He thought the Government were shirking a responsibilty which would become greater and greater as it went on. They were teaching the multitude that they would get no reform unless they made themselves disagreeable. The Home Secretary had admitted the evils, but he had no statesmanlike remedy; he had sent a force and not a remedy, and had by so doing assumed a responsibility which he would find, on reflection, a very solemn matter. Could not an Act of Parliament afford a remedy? Had not Acts of Parliament secured a remedy in many cases similar to this? The Home Secretary had expressed a hope that the proprietors would do something. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also read a speech by Major Fraser, from which he could draw little hope that the remedy he was suggesting would be realized; but when did landlords in the history of this country or any other country do anything to ameliorate the condition of the poor connected with the land except in the face of a revolution or in fear of it? These troops were despatched at the instance of a self-elected body—of a nonresident Sheriff, and of a Procurator Fiscal, who was the agent of the landlords. They found in Skye the same old story they found in Ireland—namely, the manufacture of outrages by the class who called on the Central Government for troops. The Commissioners in their Report pointed out that the crofters had in many cases been confined within narrow limits on inferior and exhausted soil, and that they had been sujected to arbitrary augmentations of rent. They also complained that the land had been used to too great a degree for sporting purposes, and that the crofters had been compelled to pay for the peat, heather, 1785 and grass which they required for thatching their dwellings. Another of the crofters' grievances was that they were refused the right of pasture on the hills. In his opinion it was intolerable that while a certain section of the people who derived their incomes from the agricultural industry lived in palaces, the tillers of the soil, who were the real farmers, should lead a miserable existence, doing a maximum of labour, and securing in return only a minimum of comfort. He held that the work of the labourer was as worthy of consideration as the capital of the employer; but he despaired of inducing the territorial classes to accept that view. The question must be fought out between the agricultural labourers, the urban workmen, and the moneyed classes.
§ DR. CAMERON
said, the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary had disappointed him. It was a distinct retrogression from the speech he made last Session. He then told the House that the Report of the Royal Commissioners was under the consideration of the Government, and that they had no time to deal with the chief matters in it, but that there were departmental and administrative changes that might at once take effect—going more or less in a jocose spirit into what might be done at once. Well, nothing was done. The Departments had been pressed to do something, and they did nothing. This Session the right hon. and learned Gentleman had not repeated what he said last Session. He had, however, again told them that the Report was under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. He had made a very conciliatory speech on the subject of land tenure in general, had made a long quotation from Coke, and had told the House that the only thing definite that he could say was—that if the landlords would consent to give up a hill here and there, all things would go well. Was there ever a better illustration of the Eastern story of the fruit seller who went about crying out—"In the name of the Prophet—figs!" The mountain had been in labour and the result was this ridiculous mouse. The first portion of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech referred to the present state of things in Skye, and the second, so far as it went, to the Report of the Royal Commission. As to Skye, 1786 they were told that there was no law in Skye, and it was necessary to send police and military there. Talking about no law in Skye was an old story. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had quoted from the statement of the Rev. Mr. Davidson, of Stenscholl, who sent a paper to the Commission, in which it was said, on behalf of the crofters, that there was no law in Skye. As to the Government action in the present state of things, they had been told about some outrages. The Home Secretary had been pressed by an hon. Member opposite to say what these outrages were, and the reply was "all kinds of outrages." He (Dr. Cameron) had inquired minutely, and he could not hear of any outrage worth mentioning. There had been a threat to bring certain persons before a meeting; but the fact of the matter was that no action was taken on that threat, and even the threat was denied. He was told that some windows had been broken and some spades hidden; but these things had been taking place for a long period of time. The reports were to the effect that there had been half-a-dozen of these trifling affairs over a considerable period. They were denied by the crofters themselves, and those who were said to have been threatened had also denied that there was any truth in the statements. The most serious affair that was alleged to have taken place was the burning down of a peat stack, with the object of coercing the owner to join the Land League. The agitating crofters were credited with this. It appeared, however, that the owner of the stack was a member of the Land League long before the destruction of his property, and he openly declared his belief that the stack was burned accidentally. He (Dr. Cameron) did not question the right of the local authorities of Invernss-shire to send 10 policemen to Skye at the time they did; but he questioned the judiciousness of their sending down such a small force if the state of matters were so bad as they were reported to be. He did not think there was violence used in getting the policemen out of the place. If there was, it was of the slightest description. He did not, however, defend that. Now that a greater police force and military were being sent at the expense of the nation, what he had to say was that if on every occasion of this sort the Government sent police and 1787 military in strong force on application, they would have pressure brought to bear on them on many occasions. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary said that it was his determination not to allow this military force to cover the serving of eviction notices. The serving of eviction notices was constantly a cause for resistance. It was a most unpopular thing; and if the military were not to give support in connection with it where support was needed, it was extremely injudicious to make such a declaration, for by making it the Home Secretary might be more responsible for resistance to eviction notices than all outside agitators. He trusted the present dispute would be settled with more discrimination than previous disputes—such, for instance, as the Braes and Glendale cases. Unless Government behaved in a more sensible manner than in those two cases, and distinguished between criminal and civil administration, any action on their part was likely to do a precious deal more harm than good. As to the second part of the Home Secretary's speech, the logical consequence of the Home Secretary's quotation from Coke on the advantages of permanence of tenure would have been the enunciation of a proposition for the greater security of tenure for the crofters of Scotland. That was what had been demanded by every authority on the subject, what had been recommended by everyone who had reported on the subject for years. Seeing that he had these authorities to support him, and the extract which he had quoted to back him up, why did not the right hon. Gentleman give some promise to give some little effect to the logical conclusion of what he said? Instead of doing so, all he told them was that the landlords were much concerned in the matter, and that probably, if they put their heads together, they might agree as to what ought to be done. The whole thing arose out of the close monopoly of land that existed in Scotland. All the mischiefs that were complained of arose out of this very close monopoly. That monopoly was closer than any in England or Ireland. Under 100 persons owned one-third of Scotland, and under 300 owned one-half of it. It was in the Highlands that the largest estates were. This monopoly in the possession and management of the land of the country was 1788 the source of all sorts of tyrannies—that was not too strong a word. In the evidence given before the Royal Commission examples were given of certain proprietors or their agents who would not let fish taken by the crofters be sold to anyone but themselves, and at their own price too, and where these poor people were not at liberty to sell their cattle unless they paid the whole price to the factor. It was proved that men were compelled to give so many days' labour; and that upon absenting themselves they were obliged to pay half-a-crown for every day absent, whereas the stipulated daily wages was only one shilling. Evidence was given as to extra rents having been put upon houses in order that a monopoly of shopkeeping might be kept up, and of a great number of other acts of oppression resulting from the same monopoly, and that monopoly was kept up in the case of Scotland by a law which was at variance with the law of the country. It compelled the subdivision of personal estate. Now, it appeared to him (Dr. Cameron) that if it was desirable to prevent the accumulation of any form of property in a few hands, the property that should be so dealt with was heritable property. They were told that there was no plan before the House. There was a most distinct plan before the House—that embodied in the recommendation of the Royal Commission. The right hon. Gentleman dismissed as with a wave of the hand the proposal as to townships as a suggestion that no one cared for. Why, the township proposals appeared to the Commission, and Lord Napier, the Chairman, in particular, as the most valuable feature in the Report. It was proposed by Lord Napier as the only means of giving security of tenure to the smaller classes of occupiers. What he proposed was that in communities enjoying the pasture of certain land in common, it should not be in the power of the landlord to reduce it; but, on the contrary, power should be provided for the increase of the area where possible. Such communities were also to have the right of gathering peat and seaweed for the manure of the land, and they were to have the power of compelling the landlord to make fences and roads at their joint expense; and it was further provided that when those townships became overcrowded there should be a legal machinery for securing their extension. 1789 It was proposed that new townships should be made with Government assistance. The Commission proposed to establish judicial rents, with a 30 years' improving lease and compensation for improvements, and the right of new leases. In his speech last year, the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) said it was a great pity that the Commission had gone only to places where the crofters were badly off, and had not gone to where they were well off. Well, the Commission did go to where the crofters were well off. They went to Orkney, where they found a class of men known as the "Lairds of Harray," a colony of peasant proprietors who occupied Harray and an adjacent Island. There, even on such small holdings as four and five acres, they discovered an improved husbandry, as good farming, in fact, as was to be found in Mid Lothian, and that when such land came into the market it fetched sometimes as high a price as 40 years' purchase. Now, contrasting them with the poor crofters of the Western Isles, the difference was seen to consist in the security of tenure in the one case, and its absence in the other. The recommendations of the Commission also provided that ejectment for arrears should not take place unless the arrears reached a certain amount, and that arrears over a certain number of years should be irrecoverable. Now, those were very thorough-going recommendations, and taken together, would doubtless go very far to effect what was wanted. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary did not say anything about security of tenure. The Commissioners also made recommendations on the subject of education which were most important, for in many of those Highland parishes the education rate amounted to a second rent. Again, on the question of deer forests, which was a crying evil, the Commissioners made a specific proposal, and also in referenoe to commons; but nothing had been done, or was proposed to be done, by the right hon. Gentleman to give effect to those recommendations. The right hon. Gentleman himself had acknowledged that the commons were being taken from the people by the landlords. In past times the most flagrant injustice had been done to the poor of Scotland by the lawyers carrying out the doctrines of 1790 feudalism with regard to common lands, and where the process was still going on it should be checked. The Commissioners made recommendations for the saving of commons which had not yet been occupied. Surely the Home Secretary might take that work in hand, and deal with it right off. The Commissioners further recommended increased postal and telegraphic facilities. He (Dr. Cameron) should do the Post Office the justice to say that that was the only Department that had done anything in following out those recommendations of the Commissioners. The Commissioners recommended the erection of a light at Stromeferry; but even that had not been done. But the greatest injustice of all had not been dealt with, and that was the administration of justice. According to evidence given before the Commission, on a certain estate in Skye the factor undertook to settle all disputes, and anyone who appealed against him to the Sheriff got a notice to quit. The Procurators Fiscal were either practising solicitors, dependent for their practice on the gentry or the larger farmers, or the land agents of the gentry. The result was that the poor did not believe that they got fair play; in fact, it was notorious that justice was not evenly administered. Members of the present Government had, when in Opposition, voted against Procurators Fiscal engaging in private practice; but in Office they had not found a remedy. [The hon. Member then proceeded to instance cases in which sheep belonging to crofters, upon straying on tacksmen's land, had been cruelly mutilated, and contrasted the impunity with which such outrages had been practised with the outcry raised over the mutilation of animals during the Irish Land League agitation. And he pointedly asked what would not have been the outcry raised if those mutilations had been done by the crofters on the landlord's or tackmen's sheep, instead of by the big men upon the crofters' sheep?] There was one thing at least which might be done by the Government, and that was the administration of justice on an even keel. But that was not done. A gross violation of public law was committed even in the streets of Glasgow in the case of the man Harrison who had escaped from a lunatic asylum, about whose case he 1791 (Dr. Cameron) had asked a Question in the earlier part of that Sitting. Contrast the apathy of that case with that wild zeal for the vindication of the law that sent a Sheriff and Fiscal and Chief Constable to the Island of Rousay, in one of Her Majesty's gunboats, to hunt up a schoolboy suspected of penning a threatening letter to a landlord. If some of the money spent in sending those troops to Skye were applied to even a partial removal of the grievances of the people, it would do much good, at least as giving the people an earnest of the desire and the intention of the Government to do something for them. He himself would undertake, with a fraction of the money squandered on Bechuanaland and such other objects, to successfully carry into effect those recommendatioas of the Royal Commission, which would give comfort and satisfaction to the people. The speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary would go down to Scotland either as a message of peace or of war—of peace, if it was speedily followed by acts; but as a message of war, if nothing was done, and it was allowed to end, like too many Ministerial promises affecting Scotland—in mere empty wind.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, that the Resolution could not be disconnected from the general land system of the country. There were villages in England that enjoyed common rights over common pastorage, and it might be asked—"Why should they be excluded?" The recommendations made by Lord Napier would amount to the establishment in this country of a land system corresponding to that of Russia in its leading features. If the Resolution had simply proposed the adoption of the recommendations of the Commissioners, he could not have supported it; but his difficulty was removed by the fact that the Resolution asked the Government to consider the grievances of the crofters. He (Mr. Arthur Arnold) would ask whether it was the intention of those who supported those recommendations that there should be different Land Laws for different parts of Great Britain? [An hon. MEMBER,: Ireland.] Ireland was not a part of Great Britain, and the circumstances of that country were wholly different; and the passing of the Irish Land Act, although, in his judgment, 1792 it was a wise and necessary step, had certainly tended to separate the two countries. But he should be asked what was to be done? His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had referred to the very small number of landowners in Scotland. He (Mr. Arthur Arnold) found that 12 owners owned nearly a quarter of the whole country; 70 owned nearly half; 330 owned two-thirds; and 1,700 ninetenths. That showed the real difficulty of the question, and it was to that aspect of the case that attention should be directed. He should advocate to the crofters the application of the principle of compensation to sitting tenants for their improvements. He should also be glad to see an increase of the number of peasant proprietors, although that portion of the United Kingdom was not the most suitable for peasant proprietary. But he would not support any attempt to force such a system, which, to be satisfactory, must be a natural growth.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, that having had some experience of the district where these disturbances had occurred, he felt bound to express his sympathy with the poor crofters; but his principal object in rising was to take exception to what had been said by the Home Secretary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to ignore the fact that there were parts of the Highlands where the population was so dense that it could not be supported by the land. Take the Island of Lewis, for example. The area of Lewis was about 400,000 acres, and there was a population of between 25,000 and 27,000, and the rental of the agricultural portion of the Island was not more than £10,000 or £12,000—the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) said £20,000; but he (Mr. Ramsay) was of opinion that must include the rental of Stornoway, which had no more to do with the agricultural parts of Lewis than London had to do with the agriculture of Middlesex—therefore, taking five as the average number of a family, and dividing the Island among them, each would have an area equal to £2 or £2 10s. each. It was absurd to suppose that any family could subsist upon such a plot of ground. He agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary in thinking that migration would be preferable to emigration if it were possible; but the formation of 1793 the townships at the expense of the State could not be seriously considered. No sensible man would say that the orofters should be removed by the Government from Skye, and settled in the fertile fields of East Lothian. It was easy to indulge in vague declamation against all landlords; but what would be thought if the same rule were applied to the owner of a factory who dismissed 300 or 400 of his workmen, as manufacturers often did, without thinking auy more of them? There were, no doubt, bad landlords, as there were bad employers; but if it had not been for men who had no interest in land going to Skye to agitate, he did not think there would have been any occasion to use force.
§ LORD COLIN CAMPBELL
said, that he must congratulate the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) on having brought this question a second time—and this time not inopportunely—before the House. When hon. Members holding the views of the hon. Member, and actuated by the spirit which stirred him in an uncommon degree, and with a force which he was not always able to subordinate to the rules of civilized argument, confined themselves to vague declamation on public platforms, from which they breathed threatenings of slaughter against the whole landlord class without exception and without discrimination, and when, by their inflammatory harangues, they incited the people to a dangerous agrarian revolt, he thought it became a question how far the forms of Constitutional Government were adequate to bring them to task. It was desirable that they should be made to substantiate the allegations which they spread recklessly abroad; and therefore it was satisfactory when they had the courage to bring their charges and their accusations to the test of argument and discussion in that House. But he had been very much disappointed with the speech of the hon. Member for Carlow. He found one great difficulty in dealing with the hon. Member, and that was his singular character of duplicity. [Cries of "Order!" and interruption.]
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is not a term which should be used in this House by one hon. Member to another hon. Member. I hope the noble Lord will withdraw that expression.
§ LORD COLIN CAMPBELL
said, he was sorry he had used any expression which was out of Order. He could only assure the House that it was not his intention to make use of any expression which was unseemly; and he certainly, therefore, would withdraw it. Hon. Members might remember to have seen a picture of the Great Napoleon, which, if looked at from a certain angle, showed a common animal, a certain domestic quadruped, a harmless and innocent creature. If the picture was looked at from another angle they saw the "scourge of Europe." The hon. Member for Carlow had used language in the House which certainly could not be described as immoderate. When he heard the softness of the hon. Gentleman's tones, and observed the suavity of his manners, he had some difficulty in recognizing the wolf swathed in so much sheep's clothing. He would begin by making one admission, for which he hoped the hon. Member would duly credit him. He was not one of those who, falling back on the hard lines of political economy, could see in this question all morality, all respect for property, all love of law and order on one side only, and that the side of the landlords, and on the other only an incorrigible and lawless peasantry. He thought there had been much in the system pursued towards the Highland peasantry since the Rebellion of 1745 which had been hard and harsh, of doubtful policy and of dubious right, and which, if they took a narrower and lower ground, had been unwise from a merely commercial and pecuniary point of view. But he confessed that he had not attained that degree of discipline—or perhaps he should spy of strength of mind—as not to feel tempted, at least, to swerve so far as to disguise his opinions when he found the war of controversy carried on with a reckless and implacable hostility towards the whole landowning class in Scotland. It was scarcely in one's power not to be swayed, to a certain extent, when one found the class to which one might happen to belong being attacked in a manner which must be regarded as dangerous to the public peace and unjust to the individuals, and when one saw the whole controversy fought with weapons which he, for one, would be ashamed to use. There was one feature of this agitation in connection with the 1795 grievances of the crofters, which he thought separated at once the Land Question, as it appeared now in Scotland, very broadly from the Irish Land Question. He thought it was true to say that it was an agitation not directed against excessive rents—that there was not in the Highlands of Scotland rack-renting at this moment. He knew that there were exceptions to this rule; but the verdict of the Commissioners in their Report was a distinct acquittal of the landlords on the score of rack-renting. [Mr. MACFARLANE: Except in Kilmuir.] Very well, except in Kilmuir. But did those exceptions justify the condemnation of a whole class? The hon. Member for Carlow and his friends had, however, accused the landlords of greed, rapacity, selfishness, and cruelty. [Mr. MACFARLANE: Where did I use those words?] In your public speeches. Indeed, the hon. Member had revelled in the language of the professional demagogue. But, putting him aside, it was true to say that the contention of moderate men was, not that the landlords had been wanting in humanity, not that they had been rapacious and cruel, but that they had acted upon mistaken doctrines of political economy with respect to their Highland estates and the conversion of the land into large sheep-farms. Now, they were bound to remember that this was not a new controversy, but the revival of a very old one. He did not know of any facts or circumstances which had occurred to bring that question forward except the advent in the Highlands of Scotland of a very opulent man of the name of Wynans and the passing of the Irish Land Act of 1881. If they needed to be reminded of that, let them notice that this question was not brought up by one of the Scotch Members who were presumably the most interested in it, but by an Irish Member of Scottish extraction. But it was an old controversy indeed; and he would ask the House to bear in mind that round it had gathered a great mass of literature. The hon. Member for Carlow had not been able to cite a single fact, or found a single argument, that added strength to the position taken up by a host of writers and thinkers, beside whom, if the hon. Member would pardon the remark, his own efforts and effusions appeared Liliputian indeed. But it was not a controversy which had been fought 1796 out by the people on the one side and the landlords on the other. There had been no hard line of severance between the two sides which had taken part in this matter; and it should be remembered that it was a Highland landowner who wrote by far the ablest work extant on the Highlands and the management of Highland estates—namely, Colonel Stewart, of Garth—a work which he believed none could read without admiration, and which had brought the conviction to very many minds that the system of management of Highland estates, as pursued at the beginning of the century, was wrong in principle and pernicious in its effects. Neither should the work of Lord Selkirk, also a Scotch landlord, be forgotten in connection with that subject. It was a work which had a powerful effect in directing public attention to the condition of the Highlands, and to the subject of emigration. But, far as these writers went in support of popular contentions, could even their authority be cited in support of the proposition that the Highlands had undergone changes with respect to the agricultural population, such as no other country had experienced? He had heard with some surprise the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary indirectly compare the case of the Highland crofters with that of the English copyholders, who were treated in the manner described in the passage quoted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman from Lord Coke. But he remembered very distinctly a passage in the work of Colonel Stewart, of Garth, in which that writer quoted from the writings of Sir Thomas More, and urged the view that to find a parallel for what was going on in the Highlands, they must go back to what had occurred amongst the agricultural population in England two centuries ago, in the Reign of Henry VIII. The system of engrossing farms in England had led to results which were almost identical in the two countries. Then, again, what had occurred in the Highlands had not occurred solely through the influence or the bad direction of the landlords. There had been changes resulting from economic causes which occasioned great hardship, and it was often not in the power of the landlords either to arrest the one or to alleviate the other. The hon. Member for Carlow had often referred 1797 to great fluctuations of population; but had he ever shown those whom he addressed some of the causes for these fluctuations? Now, there was no more extraordinary fluctuation of the population of the Islands than in the period from 1755 to 1795. During that time the population increased by 23,000. There were four causes of that increase — first, the flourishing kelp trade; secondly, the cultivation of the potato; thirdly, the spread of inoculation; fourthly, the non-existence of large sheep farms. But what happened afterwards? The kelp trade declined, and in the middle of this century the potato disease appeared. That had been a great calamity, which it was impossible to exaggerate. It marked the turning point in the economic history of the Highlands; and no one who had not studied the history of that time could gauge adequately the temptations under which the landowners lay to convert their lands into large grazing farms. The hon. Member for Carlow seemed to have persuaded himself that the whole land in the Island of Tyree was in the hands of large farmers. The real state of things was that the crofters possessed double the amount of land held by large farmers, and ten times more than the arable land. As regarded the population of Tyree, in 1750 it had been 1,600; in 1798, 2,416; in 1846, 3,706; and in 1884 it was 2,700. This decrease in the population had been deplored in a previous speech of the hon. Member for Carlow; but he (Lord Colin Campbell) would ask the House to listen to what had been said by a deputation of 900 of the people to Sir John M'Neill, who had been sent as a Commissioner. These people had themselves said that since the making of kelp had ceased, and since the failure of the potato crop, they had been in a state of great destitution; and if it had not been for the benevolence of the proprietor and the assistance which they received from the Relief Boards they would inevitably have starved, and that they had neglected to take advantage of opportunities of emigration, trusting to the potato crop. They went on to say that those who advocated the possibility of employing the people on the waste lands were not influenced by motives of philanthropy, and earnestly requested the Commissioner not to credit 1798 the statements of those who were inimical to the best interest of the people. That state of things was one which was periodically recurring. He would not deny that the introduction of sheep-farming had been far too hurriedly carried out, and had so brought many and great hardships on the people. But who was to blame for that state of things? The hon. Member for Carlow asked the House to intervene between the landlords and their tenants. But were they to forget what had been the attitude of Parliament after 1745—that it was the one aim of Parliament to abolish what was called the patriarchal system, and to sever all those ties of clanship and of mutual attachment that had held the Chiefs and the people together? Parliament had abolished the hereditary jurisdictions; and only a century had elapsed since Parliament repealed those disrobing and disarming Acts, by which even the wearing of the Highland dress was proscribed, and which Dr. Johnson described as "an ignorant wantonness of power." That was all that Parliament had done for the agricultural population of Scotland; and he thought he might fairly ask the House to bear this in mind, although he did not intend to allege it as a reason why Parliament should not intervene if legislation was justly called for. It was, however, a reason why Parliament should share the blame, if blame was due. There was one fallacy in what had been said in previous speeches—and which had, much to his astonishment, been repeated to-night, even with the Report of the Royal Commission before them—to which he wished to allude—namely, that the condition of the people was infinitely worse than it had ever been before. The hon. Member for Carlow had quoted the evidence of a reverend gentleman before the Land Commission to prove that the people of Lewis were worse off than in former times; but if he would take the pains to study the question and read the work of John Buchanan he would see that the condition of the people in Lewis and in North and South Uist was far worse in 1782 than it was now. The land was now held directly from the landlord, whereas formerly it had been in the hands of a class of middlemen, under whom the people had been in a condition of the most grinding servitude, but who 1799 had now happily disappeared. Now, was the House aware of the true objects of this agitation? It was said that the crofters, in the course they were adopting, were merely trying to get back their own; but no statement could be more inaccurate than that. No claim on the part of the crofters to security of tenure could be founded on the ancient usages of the country. The Commissioners said that the average amount of moral and material welfare was as great now as at any previous period, and the poorer classes never were so well protected against the extremities of human suffering. It was of vast importance that the Executive should not lose sight of the fact that they had to deal with an agitation which, he said, with all deference, was more purely Socialistic than anything that had appeared in this country since 1798. It was an agitation which was founded on the doctrines of Michael Davitt and Henry George; and they all knew what those doctrines were. It was an agitation the fundamental principles of which were the redistribution and the nationalization of land. Scarcely a day passed without some of the crofters threatening to drive their cattle upon the land of neighbouring farmers, and language had been used inciting the people to outrage. It was a most significant fact that what had been demanded for these people at the beginning of the century no longer satisfied the agitators. In many respects the condition of the crofters had improved. For example, in 1808 Dr. Walker declared that the chief cause of the misery of the crofters was the sub-letting of holdings. He says—All the sub-tenants, who are the great body of the people in the Highlands, are tenants at the will of the tacksman or farmer, and are, therefore, placed in a state of subjection that is not only unreasonable, but unprofitable, both to themselves and their superiors.Now, in almost every case at the present day, the crofters held direct from the landowners. So much is this the case that the Commissioners say that a crofter, in common acceptation, is an occupier paying rent directly to the proprietor. With regard to leases, there had been a great change; and not only so, but he thought there might be a still greater change; but the truth was that the knowledge that leaseholders were 1800 exempted from the benefit of the Irish Act had done very much to discourage the crofters of Scotland from coming forward to demand leases. It was idle to disguise the fact that the main recommendation of the Commissioners was with reference to the creation and extension of townships. He regretted to hear the Home Secretary say that that proposal did not meet with the full assent of those who agitated on this question. The proposals were complicated; but he should not despair of finding a solution in the proposals of the Commissioners, modified to a certain extent. They had been warned by the Royal Commissioners that a period of an economic crisis had arrived, and in the judgment of the Commission the time was favourable for legislation. He certainly thought that it was an economic crisis which justified, to a large extent, the prediction of those who, 40 or 50 years ago, said that if the landlords of the Highlands were led away by the prospect of temporary gain to convert their holdings into pasture lands, their successors would wish to undo that which they had done. He should deprecate hasty legislation. They should take the greatest care that the proposals which the Commissioners made received the full assent of those on behalf of whom they were made; and to that extent it was desirable to take note of the words of the Home Secretary. The time had certainly come when it was for the interest of the proprietors themselves to consult together; and he hoped that consultation would not be long delayed, and that they would give their earnest co-operation to the Government.
MR. PRESTON BRUCE
said, he did not wish to occupy the time of the House at any great length at that late hour (11.50 P.M.), as he did not claim to possess any special local knowledge of the subject under discussion. Having listened carefully to the debate, he could not help thinking that a good deal of misapprehension, or difference of opinion, existed as to the meaning of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), and others, had described the speech as amounting to nothing more than an appeal to the 1801 charity of the landlords, and as containing no promise whatever of legislation. That was not his (Mr. Bruce's) understanding of the right hon. Gentleman's observations. No, doubt a very marked appeal had been made to the landlords of the district chiefly concerned, and it had appeared to him that the appeal had reference to a particular part of the subject—namely, the necessity which existed, in some places for finding more land for the crofters. Everyone must see that there were immense difficulties in the way of providing that additional land, not now occupied by the crofters, through the medium of compulsory legislation. As he had understood the right hon. Gentleman, he had appealed to the landlords to come forward and assist the Government especially in reference to this matter. He had not by any means understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government did not intend to deal, and to deal speedily, with other parts of the question—such parts, for instance, as the conferring of additional security of tenure upon the crofters in regard to their existing holdings, and also in regard to preventing further encroachment on the lands which they held for the purpose of common pasturage. There were many other parts of the question referred to in the Report of the Commission which he hoped the Government would see their way to deal with, and to deal with speedily. It certainly was his understanding of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech that these subjects would be dealt with next year; and he by no means desired the impression to go abroad that the Government meant to do nothing but merely appeal to the landlords.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
By the indulgence of the House I may say a word. I think I may entirely accept the interpretation put upon my words by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and I had no idea that any other interpretation could have been placed upon them, I certainly did appeal to the landlords of Scotland for two purposes. I thought they might be of great service immediately by removing some of the causes of grievance that exist. I appealed to them, also, that by concert they might be able very much to assist the Government with reference 1802 to future legislation; but I added that the Government accepted themselves, independently altogether of any action of the landlords, the responsibility of dealing with this question. These were the words with which I concluded my speech; and I also stated, as I thought quite distinctly, that the Government do accept the responsibility of dealing with legislation upon the subject at the earliest possible time when they are able to do so.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he had not intended to address the House, because he was in hopes they would have heard from some Member of the Government that they were prepared to accept the Resolution. He had been led to believe that that would be the case, and he still hoped that it would be so. After the words which had fallen from the Government he did not see how they could resist the Motion.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he rejoiced that the Motion was about to be accepted; and he would not detain the House longer than to say that, though it did not pledge the Government to particular action, it did pledge them to take action of some kind. That was all they thought the Report of the Royal Commission demanded; it was all that the supporters of the Motion sought. He would only, further, say this. Yesterday the House voted a large sum of money for carrying on two small wars; and he understood that in a day or two they would be called upon to vote another large sum for the building of ships and increasing the efficiency of the Navy. A very small portion of that money would be sufficient to put the administration of justice in Scotland on a proper footing, and get over the difficulty of want of capital on the part of the crofters in Scotland. He hoped the Government would not grudge a small sum to assist the voluntary action of the landlords and tenants in this matter.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he did not wish to detain the House for more than a few minutes; but he thought it ought to be clearly understood what the Government undertook to do. He wished to congratulate the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) on the result of the debate. There was a great deal in the speech of the Home Secretary 1803 with which they ought to be satisfied. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had expressed strong and generous sympathy with the crofters. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had undertaken that the force now on its way to Skye, if not already there, should not be employed for the purpose of serving notices of eviction against the crofters in Skye; and he (Mr. Barclay) understood that measures had been taken on behalf of the Government to introduce a Bill dealing with the subject if the landlords in the Island did not take some step for the purpose of coming to some accommodation with the crofters. That, he thought, was all that could be expected of Her Majesty's Government; and, for his own part, he was perfectly satisfied with the pledges which had been given. There was one other point on which he should have expected some declaration on the part of the Government, if not from the Home Secretary, at least on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, with whom the matter more particularly rested, and that was the question of some reform in the administration of justice in these Islands. There was no doubt that the people of the Western Islands had great reason to be dissatisfied with the administration of justice. The Procurator Fiscal, and every public officer, with the sole exception of the Sheriff, were more or less in the pay of the landlords. How, then, was it possible, under these circumstances, for the people to be convinced that they were getting justice, and that their interests were attended to with the same certainty as those of the landlords? The hon. Member for Glasgow had referred especially to certain cases where the outrages committed were upon the crofters; and he (Mr. Barclay) had expected to see the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate get up and declare that he, for his part, would take care that the Crown officials should make due inquiry into the alleged cases, and see that equal justice was meted out to the crofters and the landlords. It was to be hoped that the question of the administration of justice would not be neglected. There was one further matter. No doubt the present excitement was due to the expected service of notices for removal on Whit Monday; and he thought that if steps were taken to enforce these notices 1804 of ejectment the agitation would enormously increase. It seemed to him that it would be the duty of the Government, early next Session, to bring in some suspensory Bill to allow matters to remain, as far as possible, in their present position until Parliament had time to consider a more general measure for effecting the desired changes in the law.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
I did not intend to intervene in this debate, because I thought it unnecessary to repeat what I have had occasion to say more than once in the course of the last Session, and incidentally, in answer to Questions this Session on this matter. With regard to Procurators Fiscal, I should have thought it was understood by everyone taking an interest in the question, and that it would have been unnecessary for me to repeat that since the present Government came into Office they have, in every case where they have had the power, by weight of salary and in other ways, done what they could to obtain the exclusive services of a gentleman for this office; but that is not in their power in every case. I also pointed out before that in very distant localities, where you cannot put one man over an indefinitely large territory, there are questions of efficiency which make it difficult—at least, which make it a very grave question whether you would get the very best services from a man who did nothing else except that one thing. But I am not again going to enter upon a discussion which was so fully gone into before. I thought I had conveyed on previous occasions that the matter was fully in view of the Government, and that, as far as they thought the object in view could be obtained with regard to other considerations of efficiency, they were doing, and would continue to do, their best.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
By legislation? I have already shown what the Government are doing by way of administration. It is another question whether the Government should undertake to present to the House a Bill to revolutionize the system of appointment. I am not in a position at present to promise that. It involves considerations of efficiency, and many other considerations. In regard to the only other matter that I was invited 1805 to say a word upon, I should have hardly thought it necessary to say anything, inasmuch as one point was raised in a Question I answered to-day. It would be a total misapprehension to suppose that there was any difference in the justice meted out to one person and another. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) used the expression "mutilation" in regard to something that was done to certain animals. The subject is one it is not very fit to discuss in this House; but the expression used might convey a wholly erroneous impression. I think what was done in this case was something very cruel and very unnecessary; but it avowedly was put forward as a defensive act done to certain animals which got astray. I do not think it is an act that was justifiable; but it is one thing to say it was a crime where animals were straying and had no right to be, and a totally different thing for a man to say it was a defensive measure to guard his flocks. I can quite understand that a very great change in the circumstances under which it was done might have made it so that if the act were repeated it would indicate an element of malice, and take away the element of what may have been precaution—injudicious precaution—and thus bring the act within the range of the Criminal Law, though it would be a peculiar case. I shall certainly take care that the case the hon. Member for Ross-shire (Mr. Munro-Ferguson), whom we are glad to hear to-day, mentions, shall be inquired into. I shall take care to have it carefully examined into in the fullest way; and if it is shown that there is any element of malice in it something shall be done.
§ DR. CAMERON
said, he should like to know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman would inquire into the allegation of branding sheep in Skye?
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
Yes; I will do so if the hon. Member will have the goodness to give me some indication as to the place, so that I may know where to send an order.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.1806
§ Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission upon the condition of the crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, or to apply such other remedies as they deem advisable; and that this House concurs in the opinion expressed by the Royal Commission at page 110 of its Report, that "The mere vindication of authority and repression of resistance would not establish the relations of mutual confidence between landlord and tenant, in the absence of which the Country would not be truly at peace, and all our inquiries and counsels would be expended in vain."