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I. A Corrected Picture of the Highlands. By His Grace the DUKE OF
II. The People of England versus their Naval Officials. By H. O. ARNOLD
III. The Sisters of Thibet. By LAURENCE OLIPHANT.
HERBERT SPENCER .
X. Lord Northbrook's Mission. By EDWARD DICEY ,
Note to Article on Visible Apparitions'
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ALL of us who are interested in the Highlands owe some very grateful acknowledgments to Lord Napier and Ettrick. As chairman of the Royal Commission, he maintained, amidst many difficulties, the tone of a gentleman and the temper of a judge. His dignified courtesy was unfailing, and his sincere desire to elicit truth was equally conspicuous. It is, therefore, with reluctance that I venture to criticise a Report which, by the internal evidence of great ability, and of great ingenuity, is sufficiently identified as mainly his. But this duty of criticism is imperative on all who have any special opportunity or means of knowledge on the subject.
I never look into the Report of the Crofters Commission without being reminded of the humorous description, by a great admirer, of that grand old national dish of Scotland, a sheep's head : "There's a deal o'fine confeused feeding upon 't.' Of the dish this is a most graphic account. There is some gristle; but not much. There is some pure muscle ; but not very much of that either. But there is a wonderful abundance of tissues, chiefly adipose and gelatinous. These are so delicately interwoven, and the qualities of each are so modified and tempered by the rest, that the whole is most smooth and pleasant feeding, suiting many tastes, and hardly enabling one to tell what it is that one bas eaten. So it is with the Report. There are many - facts, but they are widely scattered. There are many arguments, but VOL. XVI.-No. 93.
they are curiously mixed. For the rest, it is as 'fine confeused feeding' as the sheep's head; and when we have done with it, we feel quite at a loss what to make of it. First, one school of opinion is gently patted on the back, and then immediately after it is as gently snubbed. Again, another set of theorists are gratified by significant admissions, whilst very soon they are mortified to find that these admissions are silently set aside. But the whole is done with such literary skill, with such an evident desire to maintain a judicial attitude, and with such deft diplomacies of expression, that all adverse criticism is confounded, discouraged, and disarmed. The question. What are we to think ?' is a question which on many subjects may be indefinitely postponed. It is only when we ask the further question What are we to do?' in connection with this Report, that we fully realise the maze of intellectual confusions and of practical contradictions in which it leaves us.
I am very far, however, from undervaluing the general result of the carefully balanced sentences which constitute a great part of the Report. Some of the intimations conveyed in this form are, indeed, of the highest importance. Such, for example, are the intimations which cut up by the roots the credibility of all the evidence' taken before the Commission which consists of accusations against persons or against classes. We are reminded that the stories upon which these accusations have been based have in many cases been told by illiterate persons speaking from early memory or from hearsay, or from popular tradition.' We are reminded that the witnesses were not on oath, that they were not in the face of a court of justice, where their testimony could be sifted by cross-examination. In short, we are led to understand very clearly that in this respect the Commission was little better than a great Shop for Scandal, in which every private spite could be indulged without immediate exposure, every unfounded conception of the past could be embodied in a narrative, and every myth could be represented as an historical truth. Of the extent to which adrantage was taken of this licence I cannot give examples here. It is enough to signalise and be grateful for the candour of the Report. Not less valuable is the intimation that, whilst the Commission had no adequate power and no adequate opportunity of sifting this sort of testimony, another agency had both the power and the opportunity of preparing it beforehand. It was well known to many, but it was somewhat difficult to prove, that professional agitators preceded the Commission and instructed the poorer classes what they were to say. Lord Napier, however, has thought it his duty to record his official knowledge of this fact. He refers to it as a 'preparatory manipulation of the evidence; and the impression left apparently on the mind of so experienced and so skilful an observer is conveyed to us rather intensified than modified by the concluding observation that even among the poorest and least