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By a strict administration of the laws, since the laws have been introduced into the Highlands, this disposition to thievery is very much repressed. Thirty years ago no herd had ever been conducted through the mountains, without paying tribute in the night to some of the clans; but cattle are now driven, and passengers travel, without danger, fear, or molestation.
Among a warlike people, the quality of highest esteem is personal courage, and with the ostentatious display of courage are closely connected promptitude of offence, and quickness of resentment. The Highlanders, before they were disarmed, were so addicted to quarrels, that the boys used to follow any publick procession or ceremony, however festive or however solemn, in expectation of the battle, which was sure to happen before the company dispersed.
Mountainous regions are sometimes so remote from the seat of government, and so difficult of access, that they are very little under the influence of the sovereign, or within the reach of national justice. Law is nothing without power ;
and the sentence of a distant court could not be easily executed, nor perhaps very safely promulgated, among men, ignorantly proud and habitually violent, unconnected with a general system, and accustomed to reverence only their own lords. It has therefore been necessary to erect many particular jurisdictions, and commit the punishment of crimes, and the decision of right, to the proprietors of the country who could enforce their own decrees. It immediately appears that such judges will be often ignorant, and often partial; but in the immaturity of political establishments no better expedient could be found. As
government advances towards perfection, provincial judicature is perhaps in every empire gradually abolished.
Those who had thus the dispensation of law, were by consequence themselves lawless. Their vassals had no shelter from outrages and oppressions; but were condemned to endure, without resistance, the caprices of wantonness, and the rage of cruelty.
In the Highlands, some great lords had an hereditary jurisdiction over counties; and some chieftains their own lands; till the final conquest of the Highlands afforded an opportunity of crushing all the local courts, and of extending the general benefits of equal law to the low and the high, in the deepest recesses and obscurest corners.
While the chiefs had this resemblance of royalty, they had little inclination to appeal, on any question, to superior judicatures. A claim of lands between two powerful lairds was decided like a contest for dominion between sovereign powers. They drew their forces into the field, and right attended on the strongest. This was, in ruder times, the common practice, which the kings of Scotland could seldom controul.
Even so lately as in the last years of king William, a battle was fought at Mull Roy, on a plain a few miles to the south of Inverness, between the clans of Mackintosh and Macdonald, of Keppoch. Colonel Macdonald, the head of a small clan, refused to pay the dues demanded from him by Mackintosh, as his superior lord. They disdained the interposition of judges and laws, and, calling each his followers to maintain the dignity of the clan, fought a formal battle, in which several considerable men fell on the side of Mackintosh, without a complete victory to either. This is said to have been the last open war made between the clans by their own authority.
The Highland lords made treaties, and formed alliances, of which some traces may still be found, and some consequences still remain as lasting evidences of petty regality. The terms of one of these confederacies were, that each should support the other in the right, or in the wrong, except against the king.
The inhabitants of mountains form distinct races, and are careful to preserve their genealogies. Men in a small district necessarily mingled blood by intermarriages, and combine at last into one family, with a common interest in the honour and disgrace of every individual. Then begins that union of affections, and co-operation of endeavours, that constitute a clan. They who consider themselves as ennobled by their family, will think highly of their progenitors, and they who, through successive generations, live always together in the same place, will preserve local stories Vol. IX.
and hereditary prejudices. Thus every Highlandet can talk of his ancestors, and recount the outrages which they suffered from the wicked inhabitants of the next valley.
Such are the effects of habitation among mountains, and such were the qualities of the Highlanders, while their rocks secluded them from the rest of mankind, and kept them an unaltered and discriminated race. They are now losing their distinction, and hastening to mingle with the general community.
We left Auknasheals and the Macraes in the afternoon, and in the evening came to Ratikin, a high hill on which a road is cut, but so steep and narrow, that it is very difficult. There is now a design of making another way round the bottom. Upon one of the precipice my horse, weary with the steepness of the rise, staggered a little, and I called in haste to the Highlander to hold him. This was the only moment
my journey in which I thought myself endangered:
Having surmounted the hill at last, we were told, that at Glenelg, on the sea side, we should come to a house of lime, and slate, and glass. This image of magnificence raised our expectation. At last we came to our inn, weary and peevish, and began to inquire for meat and beds,
Of the provisions the negative catalogue was very copious. Here was no meat, no milk, no bread, no eggs, no wine. We did not express much satisfaction. Here, however, we were to stay. Whisky we might have; and, I believe, at last they caught a fowl and killed it. We had some bread, and with that we prepared ourselves to be contented, when we had a very eminent proof of Highland hospitality. Along some miles of the way, in the evening, a gentleman's servant had kept us company on foot, with very little notice on our part. He left us near Glenelg, and we thought on him no more till he came to us again, in about two hours, with a present from his master of rum and sugar. The man had mentioned his com
pany, and the gentleman, whose name, I think, is Gordon, well knowing the penury of the place, had this attention to two men, whose names, perhaps, he had not heard, by whom his kindness was not likely to be ever repaid, and who could be recommended to him only by their necessities. We were now to examine our lodging.
Out of one of the beds on which we were to repose, started up, at our entrance, a man black as a Cyclops from the forge. Other circumstances, of no elegant recital, concurred to disgust us.
We had been frighted by a lady at Edinburgh, with discouraging representations of Highland lodgings. Sleep, however, was necessary. Our Highlanders had at last found some hay, with which the inn could not supply them. I directed them to bring a bundle into the room, and slept upon it in my riding coat. Mr. Boswell being more delicate, laid himself sheets with hay over and under him, and lay in linen like a gentleman.
In the morning, September the twentieth, we found ourselves on the edge of the sea. Having procured a boat, we dismissed our Highlanders, whom I would recommend to the service of any future travellers, and were ferried over to the isle of Sky. We landed at Armidel, where we were met on the sands by Sir Alexander Macdonald, who was at that time there with his lady, preparing to leave the island, and reside at Edinburgh.
Armidel is a neat house, built where the Macdonalds had once a seat, which was burnt in the commotions that followed the Revolution. The walled orchard, which belonged to the former house, still remains. It is well shaded by tall ash-trees, of a species, as Mr. Janes the fossilist informed me, uncommonly valuable. This plantation is very properly mentioned by Dr. Campbell, in his new account of the state of Britain, and deserves attention ; because it proves
prea sent nakedness of the Hebrides is not wholly the fault of nature,
As we sat at Sir Alexander's table, we were entertained, according to the ancient usage of the north, with the melody of the bagpipe. Every thing in those countries has its history. As the bagpiper was playing, an elderly gentleman informed us, that in some remote time, the Macdonalds of Glengary having been injured, or offended by the inhabitants of Culloden, and resolving to have justice or vengeance, came to Culloden on a Sunday, where, finding their enemies at worship, they shut them up in the church, which they set on fire; and this, said he, is the tune that the piper played while they were burning.
Narrations like this, however uncertain, deserve the notice of a traveller, because they are the only records of a nation that has no historians, and afford the most genuine representation of the life and character of the ancient Highlanders.
Under the denomination of Highlanders are comprehended in Scotland all that now speak the Erse lan. guage, or retain the primitive manners, whether they live
among the mountains or in the islands; and in that sense I use the name, when there is not some apparent reason for making a distinction.
In Sky I first observed the use of brogues, a kind of artless shoes, stitched with thongs so loosely, that though they defend the foot from stones, they do not exclude water. Brogues were formerly made of raw hides, with the hair inwards, and such are perhaps still used in rude and remote parts; but they are said not to last above two days. Where life is somewhat improved, they are now made of leather tanned with oakbark, as in other places, or with the bark of birch, or roots of tormentil, a substance recommended in defect of bark, about forty years ago, to the Irish tanners, by one to whom the parliament voted a reward. The leather of Sky is not completely penetrated by vegetable matter, and therefore cannot be very durable.
My inquiries about brogues gave me an early specimen of Highland information. One day I was told, that to make brogues was a domestick art, which every man practises for himself, and that a pair of brogues was the work of an hour. I supposed that the husband