POPULAR tradition, and even literary
tradition have come to associate all the great Scottish emigration
movements with poverty and distress. This is particularly so of
emigrations from the Highlands. The mere mention of them suggests at
once rackrents, brutal landlords, and evictions.
In the face of this prevailing impression, it is worth while to analyse
the nature and the causes of the first great exodus from the Highlands,
an exodus which reached its highest point of activity in the early
seventies of the eighteenth century.
Emigration from Scotland was of course not new. To judge from the
dispatches of the colonial governors, before the eighteenth century was
well begun the Scots were already penetrating into most of the English
plantations. They brought with them both their business instincts and
their zest for Presbyterianism, and everywhere their trail is marked by
newly planted kirks and flourishing settlements. Even the last outposts
of the English in America, the frontiers of the new plantation of
Georgia, depended for part of their defence upon the little settlement
of Mackintoshes from Inverness.
But this emigration, considerable as it must have been, was a gradual
process, and went on comparatively unheeded, whereas the violent
outburst that followed close after the middle of the century drew
attention at once, and was hailed by travellers, statesmen, and
patriotic writers as a new and startling phenomenon.
Roughly speaking, the phase referred to may be said to have lasted from
1740 to 1775. Knox in his View of the Highlands (pub. 1784) suggests
1763 as the earliest date, but there are several reasons for putting it
earlier. Pennant in his Travels gives 1750 as the starting-point for
Skye. A letter in the Culloden Papers hints at emigration from the
Western Islands as far back as 1740, while the Scots Magazine as early
as 1747 had begun to take notice of the spread of emigration. The latter
reached its zenith in the early seventies, and in 1775 received a
decided check, which is attributed by most contemporaries to the general
effects of the American War, and by Knox to a particular order of
Congress. The lull which followed lasted almost ten years.
The emigrants were drawn from a fairly wide area. Perthshire and
Strathspey contributed a few; the mainland districts of Argyllshire,
Ross, and Sutherland contributed more ; but the bulk of the mainland
emigration was supplied by the glens of Inverness-shire, Strathglass,
Glenmoriston, Glengarry, and Glen Urquhart.
The really sensational departures, however, were not from the mainland
but from the islands; and the places that figure most largely in the
records of the exodus are Skye, the two Uists, Lewes, Arran, Jura, Gigha,
A few districts in America received the emigrants. Some, but not many,
went to Georgia. To the majority the desired havens appear to have been
the Carolinas, Albany, and Nova Scotia. To estimate the actual numbers
that went is a matter of extreme difficulty. The sources of information
From the Old Statistical Account we gather that before 1775 emigration
had taken place from some sixteen Highland parishes; the Scots Magazine
in the numbers published before 1775 contains twenty definite references
to ships leaving with Highland emigrants, apart from the mention of
emigration projects which may or may not have materialised; and a
variety of rather indefinite evidence bearing on the subject is supplied
by the Privy Council Papers relating to the Colonies, the Scottish
Forfeited Estates Papers, and innumerable contemporary writers and
Occasionally the embarkation would take place from a regular port, like
Glasgow or Greenock, and be duly noted, but more often the emigrants set
sail as unobtrusively as possible from some lonely Highland loch. Gigha,
the Skye ports, Campbelltown, Dunstaffnage Bay, Fort William, Maryburgh,
Stornaway, Loch Broom, Loch Erribol, and even Thurso and Stromness all
figure as collecting centres and points of embarkation.
Under these circumstances the numbers become in the highest degree
conjectural. Two estimates, however, were hazarded, by men who were
almost, or quite, contemporaries of the movement. Knox gives as his
figure 20,000 between 1763 and 1773, while Garnett in his Tour (pub.
1800) states that 30,000 emigrated between 1773 and 1775. The latter
estimate seems almost certainly exaggerated, and it is not easy to find
satisfactory corroboration of even Knox’s figures. The statistics
furnished by the Old Statistical Account and the miscellaneous sources
are mostly too vague to be of much help. Our most reliable guide is
certainly the Scots Magazine, which has the advantage of being
contemporary, and of recording the emigrations as they occur. Yet if we
add together all the Highland departures before 1775 chronicled by the
Scots Magazine, the total is something under 10,000 persons. No doubt
the entries in the magazine are not exhaustive, but allowing for some
omissions the discrepancy between its figures and those of Garnett, and
even of Knox, is very great.
A partial explanation of the latter’s estimate might be found in the
recruiting records of the period. Many Highlanders left the country as
soldiers. A writer in the Scots Magazine of October, 1775, calculated
that upwards of 9500 had been thus drawn from the Highlands, and of
these many, like Fraser’s Highlanders, eventually found homes in the New
World, and might be counted in a sense emigrants.
Both at the time and later there seems then to have been a tendency to
exaggerate the numbers of those emigrating at this stage. The emigrants
were not many, and if this seems difficult to reconcile with the great
agitation expressed at their going, the explanation can be found in the
social standing and comparative wealth of the leaders of the movement.
That the emigrants included a large percentage of persons possessed of
some capital is everywhere abundantly testified. The Scots Magazine
generally gives in its entries some description of the emigrants, but
only two or three times does it refer to their poverty, and once when it
does, the emigrants set sail from Stranraer, and were almost certainly
not Highland. The only allusions in fact to the poverty of Highland
emigrants appear in connection with those from Sutherland.
What weight can be attached to such references is doubtful, for
elsewhere we read in the Scots Magazine of September, 1772, that the
persons emigrating from Sutherland between 1768 and 1772 took with them
not less than £10,000 in specie. Now if it is borne in mind that the
total number of emigrants from that area between these dates was only
500 or 600, and of these a very large percentage were women and
children, it is obvious that many of the heads of households must have
been persons of substance.
Possibly the allusions to their poverty can be explained by the fact
that they, almost alone of the emigrants, passed through Edinburgh on
their way abroad. There they became at once an object of interest and
compassion, and their unusual appearance and pathetic situation no doubt
supplied to Lowland eyes sufficient evidence of distress.
Apart from this doubtful case of the Sutherland people, there is no
suggestion that the Highland emigrants were being driven by acute
poverty. The Scots Magazine normally refers to them in such phrases as
‘people in good circumstances,’ ‘gentlemen of wealth and merit,’ ‘people
of property,’ and so on.
The impression thus given is confirmed by the mention of the amount of
capital they took with them. As a typical example the 425 persons who
sailed from Maryburgh in 1773 took £6000 with them in ready cash, while
in a number of the Edinburgh Advertiser, dated January 17, 1792, it was
stated that since 1772 £38,000 had been taken from the country by the
emigrants from West Ross-shire and Inverness-shire alone.
It must be granted, then, that at least the leaders of the movement of
the seventies were reasonably prosperous people. Knowing that they were
strongly attached to their native land, and that they were not driven
out by stress of poverty, the question naturally arises what induced
them to go?
In answer to this question various suggestions have been put forward
both at the time of the emigrations and afterwards.
If we disregard vague and unsubstantiated generalisations about the
tyranny of landlords, these suggestions reduce themselves to the
following five: the union of farms for sheep; the redundancy of the
population; the effect of the Jacobite rebellions; the influence of the
returned Highland soldier; and finally the rise in rents.
The first suggestion is rarely, if ever, mentioned in actual
contemporaries. It is generally put forward in works written twenty
years later, while a new and entirely different emigration movement was
in progress. It cannot provide any satisfactory explanation for the
period of the seventies, for in the districts most affected by
emigration the introduction of sheep had then hardly begun.
The second suggestion comes nearer the truth. The Highlands economically
utilised may have been capable of providing for all their population,
but as things were, numbers had no proper employment and lived
permanently upon the edge of subsistence. That was becoming increasingly
true and increasingly obvious, and was soon to result in emigration on
an altogether unprecedented scale. But no more than the first does this
explain the prosperous emigration of the seventies. The well-to-do
farmer who sublet his lands, as practically all did, was in the first
instance a gainer rather than a loser by a phenomenon which created an
intense and feverish competition for land, and which in so doing sent up
the rents and services paid to himself.
The Jacobite Rebellions, and the influence of the Highland soldiers,
have both a genuine effect upon emigration. Highland families whose
fortunes had been broken in the ’45, and who regarded land as an
essential of existence, turned naturally to America, and in going took
numbers of their old dependents with them. Thus John Macdonald of
Glenaladale having been obliged to sell his estate in consequence of
difficulties following the ’45, left Scotland in 1772 with 200
Highlanders for Prince Edward Island, but such cases are rather
The Highland regiments had also a distinctly stimulating effect. The
habit of planting ex-soldiers in America led to the establishment of a
connection between the Highlands and Nova Scotia and Albany. The letters
and encouragement sent home by the soldiers are frequently mentioned as
promoting emigration. But even this is rather an additional stimulus
than a real cause. A prosperous family of well-established social
connections does not readily tear itself up by the roots simply because
it happens to hear hopeful accounts of a new world. Some stronger
incentive was needed to urge on the leaders of the movement, though
doubtless the influence of the soldiers simplified the work of
persuading some of the poorer folk to go with them.
There is left then as a possible real cause the general rise of rents in
the Highlands, and this is the explanation put forward most frequently
to account for the emigrations.
Pennant refers to it repeatedly. It appears again in the writings of
Knox, in Heron’s Observations (pub. 1792), in Walker’s Economical
History of the Hebrides (1808), in the Privy Council Papers, in the
Parliamentary Debates of the period, in the Old Statistical Account, and
But while most authorities agree in mentioning the rise in rents as a
cause of emigration, the manner in which they make mention of the fact
varies indefinitely. Some regard the rise in rents as a piece of
absolutely indefensible tyranny; some like Pennant deplore the
consequences, but suggest at least a partial justification for the
landlord in the corresponding rise of cattle prices; while there are
others, like the writers in the Farmers' Magazine, who go so far as to
regard the rise as a benefit to the Highlands, since it compelled the
adoption of more modern and economical systems of cultivation.
Who were the persons primarily affected by this rise in rents, and what
was the nature of the rents previously paid?
In answer to the first question, there can be little doubt that the
people immediately affected by the rise were the superior tenants, who
in Highland estate economy occupied a position not dissimilar tq that of
feudal tenants-in-chief. On many estates the landlord does not appear to
have come into direct contact with the smaller tenants or cottagers.
They held from the superior tenants, the tacksmen, and could only
receive an increase of rents by the landlords, indirectly, and from the
evidence that follows it will seem very doubtful whether the under
tenant could have paid more for his land than he was already doing.
But the same is emphatically not true of the rent paid by the tacksmen.
The position of the tacksmen was peculiar. A definition is given of the
term in Carlisle’s Topographical Description of Scotland (pub. 1813),
which runs as follows: ‘One who holds a lease from another, a tenant of
a higher class: — this term is usually used in contradistinction to
Tenants in general, who are such as rent only a Portion of a Farm.’
Normally the special emphasis is laid on the holding of a long lease or
tack — a tenure which in early days might be taken as a definite mark of
social as well as economic superiority.
Generally speaking the original holders of the tacks were the younger
sons of the chiefs, who found that to grant farms on long leases and
extremely moderate rents was the simplest if not the only possible
method of providing for their large families. As might be expected, the
social prestige of the holders was therefore great. ‘The class of
tacksmen occupy nearly the same rank in the Hebrides as belongs to that
of men of landed property in other parts of Britain. They are called
Gentlemen, and appear as such; and obtain a title from the farm which
they hold, nearly in the same manner as gentlemen in other parts of the
country obtain from their estates.’
Almost all references to them, even when abusive as those made by Burt,
by Buchanon and by Duncan Forbes, still make use of the term
‘gentlemen.’ They prided themselves upon the upkeep of a crowd of
dependents, and the support of a constant and lavish hospitality.
Indeed, so far as we can gather from Pennant and the Gartmore MSS. their
personal habits and mode of life were strikingly similar to those of the
The relations of the tacksmen and the proprietors were naturally
strongly coloured by the social and kinship ties which bound them
together. All the evidence we have from Pennant, who describes the state
of things before the transition, to Buchanan, who in his Travels in the
Western Hebrides is writing between 1782-1790 of those districts where
the tacksmen still survived, confirms the belief that the leases were
originally granted on terms abnormally favourable to the holders.
‘The tacksmen,’ says Anderson (1785), ‘were treated with a mildness that
made them consider their leases rather as a sort of property, subjected
to a moderate quitrent to their superior, than as a fair and full rent
for land in Scotland.’
The normal acquiescence of the proprietor in this view was not, of
course, due primarily to sentimental attachments. As is well known,
Highland estate values before the eighteenth century were reckoned not
in money but in men. In the military organisation of the clan, the
tacksmen formed an essential element, since by blood, instincts, and
training they were its natural lieutenants. As such they were
indispensable to the chief, and they paid for their lands in full by
their services. Their money rents were altogether a minor matter, and
not being fixed by any economic considerations, bore no necessary
relation to the economic value of the land.
Once military services became obsolete, and the rent was the sole return
made by the tacksman for his land, the revision of rents by the landlord
was inevitable. Even if there had been no special causes at work, such
as the rise in cattle prices, rents must still have risen to correspond
to the altered social conditions of the Highlands.
But there are other considerations that also influence the eighteenth
century proprietor. The decay of the military side of the clan system
left him viewing the tacksman as an expensive and altogether unnecessary
luxury on a generally poor estate. For not only did he pay an inadequate
rent, but he possessed several other drawbacks that struck most forcibly
those landlords who had some ideas on estate improvment.
The tacksmen were bad farmers. Pennant, who is always most sympathetic
towards them, admits candidly that they had not the habits of industry.
Their establishments were frankly medieval, and as Pennant himself said,
the number of labourers they maintained resembled a retinue of retainers
rather than the number required for the economical management of a farm.
Forty years later Macdonald, in the Agricultural Report of the Hebrides
(pub. 1811), confirms this view. Macdonald is normally most moderate in
his statements, but he is emphatic in the opinion that the tacksmen,
despite their many virtues and accomplishments, had been largely
instrumental in holding back the agricultural progress of the Highlands.
Exceptions existed, but the average tacksman appeared to regard himself
as superior to the drudgery of farm work, while his natural conservatism
was a bar to all improvements. The first step towards any progress in
the eyes of Macdonald was the resumption by the proprietor of direct
control over his estates, and direct relations with his under tenants.
This brings us to the second serious charge made against the tacksmen.
Evidence abounds to prove that the tacksmen were not good masters.
Exorbitant rents, heavy services, and insecurity of tenure are the
characteristic marks of their dealings with their under tenants. With
the ethics of such practices we are not for the moment concerned. The
proprietor may have objected to them on purely moral grounds, it is
certain that he regarded them as an economic grievance. By lavish
subletting, or in the contemporary phrase subsetting, a tacksman might
live rent free, while the proprietor could only look on and see his
estate reduced to beggary by the sweating practices already mentioned. A
good landlord could not but resent a system so hostile to the bulk of
his tenants; a bad landlord could not but chafe at a practice so
entirely unprofitable to himself.
One of the earliest pieces of evidence we have on the subject is
contained in a report, dated ,1737, which was sent by Duncan Forbes of
Culloden to the Duke of Argyll. The report concerned certain estates of
the latter which Forbes had been sent to inspect with a view to the
possibility of improvements. The following is a quotation: ‘The
unmerciful exaction of the late tacksman is the cause of those lands
(i.e. of the Island of Coll) being waste, which had it continued but for
a very few years longer would have entirely unpeopled the island. They
speak of above one hundred familys that have been reduced to beggary and
driven out of the island within these last seven years.’ . . . ‘But
though your Grace’s expectations or mine may not be answered as to the
improvement of the rent, yet in this, I have satisfaction, and it may be
some to you, that the method taken has prevented the totall ruin of
these islands, and the absolute loss of the whole rent in time coming to
your Grace, had the tacksmen been suffered to continue their extortions
a few years longer these islands would have been dispeopled, and you
must have been contented with no rent, or with such as these harpies
should be graciously pleased to allow you.’
Further corroborative evidence is found in the British Museum MSS, dated
1750 (edited Lang), which, after detailing various acts of oppression,
laid down the conviction of the author that the Highlands could not be
improved until the tacksmen either were deprived of their power of
subsetting or held it under conditions which would protect the interests
of the under tenants, or better still, were only allowed to keep such
land as they and their personal servants were able to cultivate.
It must not be thought that the oppressive practices detailed by Forbes
and the anonymous writer were simply the lingering relics of a past age.
Where the tacksmen continue in existence, the abuses appear to have
continued also even to the end of the century and later.
An English traveller writing from his personal observation in 1785 makes
the following statement:
‘The chieftain lets out his land in large lots to the inferior branches
of the family, all of whom must support the dignity of lairds. The
renters let the land out in small parcels from year to year to the lower
class of people, and to support their dignity, squeeze everything out of
them they can possibly get, leaving them only a bare subsistence. Until
this evil is obviated Scotland can never improve.’
The Old Statistical Account gives some cases referring to the same
period. In Harris while the small tenants directly under the proprietor
had leases, those under the tacksmen paid more rent and held at will. In
Edderachylis, while the proprietor had abandoned all claims to personal
services, the tacksmen exacted them so rigorously that they were able to
dispense entirely with any hired labour. However extravagant the
demands, no tenant holding at will, as all did, dared to refuse them,
for no tacksman would have received on his lands the rebellious tenant
The writer on the parish of Tongue drew a similar comparison between the
conduct of the proprietor and the tacksmen. He appealed to the authority
of the former to restrain the merciless exactions of the latter, which
left their tenants with neither time nor energy to cultivate their own
farms. The tacksmen, he held, were little better than West Indian slave
But the heaviest indictment of all is that which appears in Buchanan’s
Travels. Buchanan was a Church of Scotland missionary, and the Travels
are the result of his personal observations of Hebridean conditions
between 1782 and 1790. The proprietors are referred to in terms of high
praise, but the tacksmen incur Buchanan’s unqualified condemnation.
‘The land is parcelled out in small portions by the tacksmen among the
immediate cultivators of the soil, who pay their rent in kind and in
personal services. Though the tacksmen for the most part enjoy their
leases of whole districts on liberal terms, their exactions from the
subtenants are in general most severe. They grant them their possessions
only from year to year, and lest they should forget their dependent
condition, they are every year at a certain term, with the most regular
formality, ordered to quit their tenements and to go out of the bounds
of the leasehold estate . . . there is not perhaps any part of the world
where the good things of this life are more unequally distributed. While
the scallag and the subtenant are wholly at the mercy of the tacksman,
the tacksman from a large and advantageous farm, the cheapness of every
necessary, and by means of smuggling every luxury, rolls in ease and
We may conclude from these accounts, which might be amplified
indefinitely, that the lower classes in the Highlands did not stand to
lose by any change which transferred them from the power of the tacksmen
to that of the owner.
To the unsentimental observer the whole system of which the tacksman was
a part appeared a hopeless anachronism. The tacksmen were superfluous
middlemen who farmed badly, paid inadequate rents, and by oppressive
services prevented the under tenants from attending properly to their
No landowner just becoming alive to the economic possibilities of his
estates could reasonably be expected to allow the system to continue.
Some tried to remedy matters by raising the rents of the tacksmen as
they got the opportunity. In not a few such cases, owing sometimes to
the greed of the proprietor, sometimes to his ignorance, and most often
to want of proper estate surveys, the rents were raised too high.
Raising rents, however, is only one symptom of a general transition. So
long as the tacksmen had the power to shift their burdens on to the
shoulders of their under tenants, a mere rise in their rentals could
supply no adequate solution for the landlord’s problems. There is a
case, for example, mentioned in the Caledonian Mercury of 1781, of a
tacksman holding lands near Lochgilphead. During the entire period of
his lease, he had, by subsetting, received always more rent than he had
If the tacksmen were to be brought to fulfil a real economic function in
the estate system, there had to be changes more drastic than rent
raising, and the more advanced landowners were alive to this fact. The
decay or the destruction of the tacksman system did not proceed rapidly.
It was not even complete by the end of the eighteenth century. Sometimes
it was held back by sentimental considerations, the still surviving tie
of kinship or the pride of raising family regiments. Sometimes it was
due to the poverty of the proprietor and his real economic dependence on
the tacksmen. Cases exist when the tacksmen possessed all the movable
stock on an estate, and were therefore more or less indispensable to its
running. Sometimes the slowness is due to mere geographical situation,
remote areas perhaps not receiving the influx of new ideas until late in
Still the changes went on, and what concerns us chiefly was their
peculiar activity about the sixties and seventies. To avoid
misunderstanding let us be quite clear as to what the changes implied.
The elimination of the tacksmen did not mean necessarily the elimination
of the individuals who formed the class, nor did it mean the elimination
Under the new system leases are granted, but granted on rents which
represent, or are intended to represent, the economic value of the land.
These leases are granted to a much wider class, and so far diminish the
profit and the prestige of those who had formerly held tacks. Again, the
practice of subsetting was abolished, or the services which might be
exacted from subtenants limited. Some of the subtenants were promoted at
once to the dignity of leaseholders. Finally the whole relations of
landlord and tacksmen were put on a simple business footing, thereby
extinguishing the tacksman’s partial sense of ownership, and the
half-traditional tie of kinship. The tacksmen, in fact, ceased to form a
special and privileged class. Their status was lowered as that of the
under tenants was raised.
Such were the changes that the more advanced landowners were aiming at
throughout the period of the first emigration. How they were carried out
we can gather from the records of the Argyll estates. In the early part
of the eighteenth century certain lands in Mull, Tyree, and Morven which
had been for several centuries under the chief of the Clan M‘Lean, fell
into the hands of the reigning Duke of Argyll, who in 1732 sent Campbell
of Stonefield to investigate and report upon his newly acquired estates.
Campbell reported that the subtenants complained bitterly of the
oppression of the tacksmen. This state of things Campbell proposed to
alter, partly by raising the more substantial subtenants to the rank of
tacksmen ; partly by compelling the tacksmen to give leases to their
under tenants ; and partly by drawing up a fixed statement of the
services the tacksmen might exact. An attempt was made also to commute
the more oppressive services into money rents, and as Campbell himself
was not a judge of local land values, and could not count on
disinterested advice from anyone, he took the only method of fixing
rents open to him, that was to invite the farmers to bid for their
It is not probable that all Campbell’s ideas were put into practice.
Campbell himself may not have possessed full powers, and the leases of
the tacksmen could not in any case be altered until they fell in for
renewal. Accordingly, we find Duncan Forbes being sent in 1737 on a
similar mission to that of Campbell, a mission which resulted in the
report from which we have already quoted. Forbes’ policy runs on lines
similar to that of Campbell, and he gives graphic details of the
tacksmen’s efforts to defeat his plans and unite their under tenants in
an elaborate conspiracy against their own interests.
These examples, occurring earlier than most, are yet typical of the
changes that begin to take place on many Highland estates. Tacksmen soon
after the middle of the century found themselves continually faced with
the prospect of heightened rents and lowered social position.
Some remained and adapted themselves to the new conditions ; a few
became successful farmers of a more modern type. Many of them, however,
clung resolutely to the habits of their fathers, and rather than
acquiesce in the changes, tried to transfer themselves and their whole
social system to the New World.
The point of view of the tacksman is thus stated, somewhat
unsympathetically, in an article which appeared in the Edinburgh
Advertiser in 1772...
‘Such of these wadsetters and tacksmen as rather wish to be
distinguished as leaders, than by industry, have not taken leases again,
alleging that the rents are risen above what the land will bear; but,’
say they, ‘in order to be revenged on our masters for doing so, and what
is worse depriving us of our subordinate chieftainship by abolishing our
former privilege of subsetting, we will not only leave his lands, but by
spiriting the lower class of people to emigrate, we shall carry a class
to America, and when they are there they must work for us or starve.’
To say why the under tenants went might involve an elaborate study of
the psychology of the Highlanders. We can only suggest here that the
habits of obedience engendered for generations were not easily overcome,
while the report of Duncan Forbes on conditions in Mull showed how
apparently easy it was for the ignorant under tenants to be persuaded by
the tacksmen into courses almost obviously opposed to their own
Such were the causes and the manner ot the emigration of the seventies,
a movement which deprived the Highlands of a considerable number of its
influential men and a still greater proportion of its available capital.
The movement has been often misrepresented both by eighteenth century
and by modern writers. As recently as 1914 we find an author in the
December number of the Celtic Review treating the whole incident along
traditional lines, the poverty and absolute helplessness of the
emigrants being contrasted with the brutality and greed of the
But such a view is not in harmony with what we have been able to
discover of the facts. We would go further and say that in many respects
the Highlands gained rather than lost by this particular emigration
movement. Putting aside the purely sentimental writers, those who have
lamented most the departure of the tacksmen appear to have been
influenced less by the thought of what they were than by the dream of
what they might have become. The possibilities of the tacksmen system
have for the Highland reformer an almost irresistible attraction. The
tacksmen had the glamour of tradition behind them. They were
picturesque. They had the pleasing appearance of bridging the social
gulf between owner and crofter. They had some education, some capital,
and the habit of leadership, of all which qualities the eighteenth
century Highlands stood in need.
But the value of this to the community was potential rather than real.
In practice, the tacksman’s capital was a means of oppression not of
development, his leadership led generally in the wrong direction, while
his insistence on lines of social demarcation could not have been
surpassed by the proprietor himself. Rather than lose his social
privileges he emigrated.
Regrettable as was the loss of any good inherent in the tacksmen system,
the gain was greater than the loss, and the regret expended on the
emigration of the seventies is a tribute to romance rather than to
Margaret I. Adam.