Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Awakening of Scotland
Chapter VI. A Material Progress

In the middle of the eighteenth century, when the Union had been in operation for more than forty years, the Scots were very far from being a wealthy or even a thriving people; but the colonial trade, which was the most coveted concession obtained from England in 1707, had not belied its promise; and the city, which engrossed its gains, stood forth in marked contrast to the general discontent. Glasgow, indeed, had not yet outgrown its old-world charm. With broad, clean streets, relieved from monotony by piazzas and crow-stepped gables, sloping gently southward to the river bank, bordered with meadows, and presenting a wealth of fruit and flowers to the sunlight which flashed from the quartz in its slated roofs, it was still the delectable spot which Richard Franck in 1656 had called “the nonsuch of Scotland where an English florist may pick up a posie” Macky, who visited it in 1723, wrote: “The beautifulest little city I have seen in Britain; it stands deliciously on the banks of the Clyde”; and as late as 1736 it was described by one of its own citizens as “surrounded with corn-fields, kitchen and flower gardens and beautiful orchards abounding with fruits of all sorts, which by reason of the open and large streets send forth a pleasant odoriferous smell.” 

Industry, the offspring of commerce, was, however, exploiting for less savoury purposes this fair domain. The merchants of Glasgow had imported tobacco from Virginia and Maryland even before their right to do so was recognised at the Union; but legitimate commerce afforded them a much wider field than smuggling; and their business was soon conducted on a considerable scale, began to make rapid progress about 1750, when more speculative methods were introduced, and had attained to extraordinary dimensions for some years before it was ruined by the outbreak of the American Revolution. In 1769 more than half of all the tobacco imported into Great Britain was brought to the Clyde, and of 57,000 hogsheads exported, no less than 34,000 were despatched thence—chiefly to France and Holland. The shipping of the Clyde, reckoned at 5,600 tons in 1735, had so greatly increased in 1771 that it was believed to exceed 60,000;1and the population of Glasgow, which in 1753 Dr. Webster, the statistician of the Widows’ Fund, computed at 18,336, had risen to 28,100 in 1765.2 Fortunes, which staggered the imagination of a frugal age, were rapidly amassed; and one merchant is said to have owned twenty-five vessels in addition to their cargoes, and to have traded with a capital of half a million a year. Palatial mansions, with gorgeous lackeys ‘ ‘ frisking across their barricaded courts,” betokened the rise of a commercial aristocracy no less potent and haughty than that which had once ruled in Genoa and Venice. As they paced the Trongate in the splendour of their cocked hats, scarlet cloaks and gold-headed canes, these “tobacco lords” inspired as much awe as respect. The pavement was reserved for their use; and no inferior trader, whose courage had not been fortified by a nod of recognition, ventured to accost them.

The colonial system of Great Britain was, in the words of Adam Smith, “less illiberal and oppressive” than that of any other nation; but the colonists, though they enjoyed a measure of free trade and in certain articles, such as tobacco, a monopoly of the home market, could obtain only from or through the parent State their manufactured imports. It was far beyond the capacity of Glasgow or even of Scotland to supply any large proportion of these goods, and threequarters of the cargoes shipped on the Clyde were derived from England; but industry followed, though at a long interval, in the wake of advancing commerce. Soap, sugar and rope works had been established in Glasgow before the Union; linen-making was introduced in 1725, thread-making in 1731; and during the next twenty years ironmongery, copper work, earthenware, stockings and leather goods were all being manufactured for the colonial market. “ Glasgow,” exclaims a writer of 1751, “industrious, indefatigable and exemplary Glasgow ! These people attempt almost every branch of trade, and in most of their undertakings they are very successful.” With the expansion of commerce after 1750, old industries developed and new industries arose. The American bark is said to have been unfit for tanning; and Pennant, who visited the city in 1772, found “vast tanneries” at work—one of them the second largest in Europe— and an equally extensive manufacture of boots and horse-trappings. “The magazines of saddles and other works respecting that business is,” he wrote, “an amazing sight.” 

In 1775 the discontent, which had so long smouldered in America, burst into war, and the commercial greatness of Glasgow suddenly collapsed. During the last four years, probably owing to a growing reluctance on the part of the colonists to buy goods of British manufacture, its exports had much declined; but the quantity of tobacco imported had increased; and in 1775 it reached its highest total—110,000 hogsheads, of which Scotland’s, or practically in other words Glasgow’s, share was exactly one half. At the close of the war in 1782 the total importation, authorised and smuggled, was scarcely a sixth of that amount; and the shipping of the Clyde, which in 1771 was no doubt over-estimated at 60,000 tons, had fallen to 20,000. Such of the Virginia merchants as happened to hold large consignments of tobacco when the supply was cut off made enormous gains, and most of them retired from business to live on their estates; but not a few were ruined, including Andrew Brown, the author of a History of Glasgow, whose firm failed for £40,000. Nor was it possible for the city when peace was restored to recover its position, since little of the tobacco intended for foreign markets would now be sent to Great Britain, and Ireland had recently been admitted to the West Indian trade. Nevertheless, however individuals may have suffered, the loss of America caused no real harm to Glasgow, and was soon found to have been positively beneficial. The decrease of shipping was no doubt largely due to the exigencies and misfortunes of war. Many of the swifter and bigger vessels must have been employed—as was the case at Liverpool3—as transports and privateers; and no fewer than 313 are said to have been captured.4 Commercial intercourse with Great Britain during the war was, of course, prohibited by Congress; but the Americans paid little or no attention to this decree, and continued on a large scale to import British goods by way of the French, Dutch and Danish West Indies. Glasgow, indeed, does not appear to have obtained any great share of this traffic; but its citizens discovered the truth of Adam Smith’s contention that the tobacco monopoly had been mischievous in so far as it diverted capital “from a direct foreign trade of consumption into a round-about one.” European markets engaged more and more of their attention; and capital, which had taken a year and a half to realise its proceeds, was now employed thrice as profitably in business which yielded a return in six months. “Perhaps/5 wrote the ablest of the city's historians as early as 1777, “no circumstance could have occurred more fortunate for the manufactures of Glasgow than the stop which has for some time been put to the commerce with America."

Glasgow, it need hardly be said, was still cut off from the sea. Its harbour was twenty miles distant; and, whilst many of the vessels owned by Virginia merchants were registered at this port, a still greater number belonged to Greenock, which had also a larger coasting and fishing trade. The site of Port-Glasgow was acquired by the corporation in 1662, and soon afterwards they built a stone quay within their original bounds at the Broomielaw; but Glasgow was so c ‘ tantalised with its river," which abounded in sandbanks and was fordable on foot about half-way between the city and its seaport, that only very small vessels could ascend the Clyde as far as this pier. In 1755 the magistrates consulted James Smeaton as to the best means of improving the channel, and on his recommendation they procured an Act of Parliament authorising the construction of a lock and dam four miles below Glasgow Bridge. Happily, before anything was done under the authority of this Act, it was superseded in 1770 by another, obtained on the advice of Golborne, who proposed to dredge the river and at the same time to contract it by throwing out rubble jetties. By such means the engineer hoped to remove the worst shoals and to ensure that there should never be less than seven feet of water at the Broomielaw; and his operations were so successful that the magistrates presented him with a silver cup and with £1,500 in addition to the amount of his contract. On March 20, 1773, a local periodical informed its readers that "three coasting vessels" had come up the river from Ireland without unloading at Greenock; and in 1780 Glasgow was recognised for Custom-House purposes as an independent port. In that year, however, the "Triton" from Dublin had no "foreign" successor till, after three months, one arrived from the Isle of Man; and so late as 1807 the sight of a two-masted and square-rigged vessel—a brig of about a hundred tons— brought ££thousands of persons” to the harbour.

Much more important as a source of revenue was a new port which had been formed in the immediate vicinity of Glasgow. Charles II., influenced no doubt by the achievements in this sphere of his friend and ally, Louis XIV., had proposed to cut a canal suitable for both mercantile and naval purposes between the Forth and the Clyde; in 1722 a survey was made; and about 1760, when the Duke of Bridgewater was giving so great an impetus to inland navigation in England, the scheme of Charles II. was revived in a more modest form by the elder Pitt. Pitt’s successors in office did nothing to promote his views; and private enterprise, when enlisted on behalf of the project, was directed more to local than to national aims. A company was formed at Glasgow to construct a canal only four feet in depth; but "the proposed ditch,” too shallow for anything but Clyde lighters, met with great opposition on the east coast; the Bill in its favour was dropped; and in 1768 statutory powers were obtained for the construction of a canal, seven feet deep, from the point on the River Carron where Grangemouth now stands, a mile above its junction with the Forth, to the meeting of the Dalmuir Burn and the Clyde, six miles below Glasgow. The first nine miles of the canal, begun in this year, were constructed by Smeaton, and, on his resignation owing to a difference with the directors, two other engineers advanced it nine miles further; but Smeaton was again employed and had carried the work to Stockingfield, six miles from its proposed termination and within half that distance to the north of Glasgow, when in 1777 operations were suspended for lack of funds. Glasgow, however, put itself in communication with the Forth by means of a branch canal terminating at Hamilton Hill, within a mile of the city, where a large basin was formed. The water-high way from the east conveyed far more shipping to this centre than the Clyde, even after it had been deepened by Golborne, brought to the Broomielaw; and, during the three months of 1780 which elapsed without any but local vessels making entry at that pier, the arrivals at Stockingfield averaged about twenty a week. At the other end of the canal the Carron had justified unfavourable forecasts by proving a difficulty to navigation, and three rival cuttings were made to the Forth. In 1784, as we have seen, Parliament assisted the baffled projectors with a grant of £50,000 from the forfeited estates. The last and most difficult part of the canal was entrusted to Robert Whitworth; and on July 28, 1790, it was opened to the Clyde—not at Dalmuir, but, three miles further down, at Bowling. These thirty-eight miles of inland navigation, available for the smaller ocean-going craft and attaining a maximum elevation of 156 feet, were the greatest achievement of the kind that had yet been attempted in Great Britain. Indeed, Whitworth’s aqueduct over the Kelvin, which carried “a great artificial river over a deep valley, 400 feet in length,” and presented to pedestrians the strange spectacle of vessels passing 68 feet above their heads, was said to have no rival in Europe.

It is probable that but for the establishment of the Carron Ironworks in 1760 the realisation of this great project would have been still longer deferred; for Carron and Glasgow, with a view to their mutual advantage, had co-operated in promoting the ditch canal which reacted so powerfully in favour of the larger scheme. The founder of these works was Dr. Roebuck, a Birmingham physician, educated in Scotland, whose activities found a more fruitful field in chemistry than in medicine. At Prestonpans in 1749 he had introduced an improved method of manufacturing vitriol; but his attention was soon directed to the use of pit-coal—which had hitherto made little progress—as a substitute for charcoal in the smelting of iron. Capital added to his own by relatives and friends enabled him to carry out his ideas; and, having examined both sides of the Forth for a place which abounded in ironstone, coal, water-power and means of transport, he set up his foundry, near Falkirk, on the River Carron. The two furnaces there erected proved highly successful, particularly after Smeaton had introduced cylinders to work the blast; the Canal in 1777 afforded easy access to Glasgow, and in 1790 to the Clyde; and by the end of the century the Carron foundry had become “the greatest ironworks in Europe, conducted by the greatest company ever associated for carrying on a manufacture.” Cannon, cast solid and bored by water-driven drills, were the chief product, and were supplied not only to the British, but to every European, Government. The short, light guns, of large calibre, known as carronades, had been invented at Cork in 1752, but the invention was of little use till it was perfected here, and adopted by the Admiralty, in 1779. All the varieties of iron-work then in use— pipes, cylinders, sugar-boilers, anchors—were also manufactured; and the Carron stoves and grates were "in almost every apartment in the British dominions where coal is burnt.” About a thousand artisans, in addition to miners and quarriers, were constantly employed, and double that number in time of war. Several works on the same model, most of whose staffs had been trained at Carron, were established after 1788; and during the next eight years the production of iron in Scotland increased from 1,500 to over 18,000 tons.

Not content with his achievements in the manufacture of iron, Roebuck obtained a lease of the Duke of Hamilton’s collieries and salt-works at Bo’ness. This venture proved so unfortunate for himself that it swallowed up all his capital, and forced him to withdraw from the works at Prestonpans and Carron; but Bo’ness profited by a considerable expenditure in wages, and was thus compensated to some extent for the rise in its neighbourhood of a rival seaport. On the Grange Burn, at the eastern end of the Canal, a village had been erected in 1777, which, growing rapidly under the name of Grangemouth, soon acquired a large Baltic and coasting trade. By the end of the century it had become a more important place than Bo’ness, where, however, till 1810 its shipping was registered.

The Union, which did so much for the prosperity of Glasgow, had long been unfavourable to that of the eastern towns. Edinburgh in ceasing to be the political capital lost much of its retail business; packmen, bringing East India goods across the Border, diminished the trade with Holland which had enlivened Leith and the Fife ports; smuggling and the salt-duties proved disastrous to fishing; and several industries, which had maintained a precarious existence behind tariff walls, such as the cloth factory at Haddington, were ruined by English competition. It must have been difficult, when a brighter day had dawned, to recall these dismal times of stagnation and gloom. The revival in this district was closely connected with the general development of textile manufacture which is yet to be traced; but it will be convenient to mention here some of its more distinctive features.

Between 1746 and 1770 various industries, more or less new, were established at Edinburgh, such as a sugar-refinery and works for the making of bottles and tallow candles; but the manufacture for which the city was most celebrated was that of leather. Its tanneries were no doubt less extensive than those of Glasgow, but their material was even more skilfully wrought. Vast quantities of boots were made for both the home and the West Indian market, and large orders for military purposes were received from Government during the American War. A preparation of leather, which gave it the appearance of tortoise-shell, was patented in 1756 by a certain Gavin Wilson—“in this line perhaps the greatest genius which this or any other country ever produced"; and, till the patent expired in 1770, his snuff-boxes and writing cases were in universal demand. Another distinctive industry, which began to flourish after 1738, was coach-building. From 1766 coaches made at Edinburgh were exported to the West Indies, Holland, France and Russia; and after the Peace of 1783 an order for a thousand “ crane-necked carriages ” was received from Paris. A few miscellaneous facts will illustrate the progress that was now being made. Between 1763 and 1790 the printing works of Edinburgh increased from six to sixteen, and the paper-mills in its vicinity from three to twelve—some of them the largest in Britain. The manufacture of paper rose from 6,400 reams to about 100,000; of printed cottons from 150,000 yards to 4,500,000; of candles from 1,400,000 lbs. to 3,000,000. In the twenty years 1763-1783 the annual revenue of the Post Office expanded from about £12,000 to £40,000; and by 1786 the valued rent of houses liable to the land-tax had more than doubled.

Before the middle of the century two double rows of good houses opening off the Canongate—New Street and St. John Street—had been built; but these did little to relieve the congestion of the narrow, crowded and squalid city; and at this period a movement was initiated for its improvement and extension. The objects proposed were to erect an Exchange, to provide accommodation for the public records and the Advocates’ Library, and to open up approaches from the north, south and west. Encouraged by the offer of societies and individuals to contribute funds, the magistrates purchased “several decayed houses”; and in 1752 the principal subscribers were recognised by Parliament as an executive commission. One of the reasons for the Act as stated in the preamble was the need of “proper areas either for erecting buildings or opening streets and places of resort.”1 The Royal Exchange was begun almost at once and soon completed; but the town council encountered opposition from neighbouring landowners when they proposed to extend their jurisdiction to “the fields in the north” a Bill they had framed was put aside; and, without waiting to annex the proposed building-ground, they prepared to make a thoroughfare over the ravine which separated the city from that site. In 1763 the North Loch was drained; its bed was cleared of mud and strengthened with piles; and on October 21 was laid the foundation-stone of the North Bridge. Nothing further was done, however, till August, 1765, when William Mylne was appointed engineer, with such confidence on the part of the magistrates that they declined to make provision for superintending his work. Their trust proved to have been misplaced; for Mylne contented himself with piers eight feet lower than the contract elevation; and in 1769, when the bridge was almost finished, its south-end collapsed, causing the death of five persons—a disaster which was due in some measure to weakness of foundation, but also to the great mass of earth imposed upon the stone-work in order to make amends for its reduced height. In 1772 the bridge was opened. On a site facing its northern extremity the Register House—for which £12,000 had been obtained from the forfeited estates—was then begun; but this work, like the Forth and Clyde Canal, was suspended for financial reasons; and it was not finished till 1788, with the assistance, as we have seen,1 of another Government grant.

In 1767 the magistrates had obtained their desired Act for the northward extension; a plan of streets and squares was prepared by James Craig, nephew of the poet Thomson; and a premium of £20 was offered to the person who should build the first house. By 1790 the New Town had extended from the Register House to Castle Street, and in 1800 a further extension was designed; but its progress, rapid as it seems, was somewhat retarded by fears as to the stability of the bridge, by the negligence or greed of the corporation in allowing workshops and artisans’ dwellings to be erected, and still more, perhaps, by facilities for house-building in another quarter. Mediaeval Edinburgh, compact as it was, had overflowed southward into the low-lying Cow-gate; and it was not till after the battle of Flodden in 1513 that this part of the city was enclosed within the walls. On this side the "royalty” had not yet been extended; and a sagacious speculator, foreseeing that people would build readily on ground which was not subject to the burgh rates, purchased a field which was soon converted into Brown Square and George Square. In 1768 the South Bridge over the Cowgate was finished; and, two years earlier, the North Bridge was supplemented, further west, by another means of access to the New Town—"Can immense mound of earth,” composed of building refuse, which is still called “The Mound.” Leith, since the time of the Reformation, had been a dependency of Edinburgh, and it was not till 1832 that the much oppressed town emerged "from the yoke of feudal vassalage,” and took rank as a burgh. A dozen years after the Union some sort of dock was constructed—so insubstantial that it was continually under repair, and the old wooden wharf was extended a hundred yards by means of a stone pier; but the shipping of Leith made so little progress from 1692 to 1744 that it increased only from 1,702 tons to 2,285. About this period, however, the revival set in. In 1752 the shipping, which had increased so slowly in the course of half a century, was much more than doubled; and next year the Act for the improvement of Edinburgh was accompanied by another—nullified by the want of financial provisions—for the enlarging and deepening of Leith harbour. In 1777 the short pier, afterwards known as the custom-house quay, was built; but in 1784 a proposal to carry out a more ambitious scheme by means of increased tonnage dues was successfully opposed as inimical to trade; improvements authorised by an Act of 1788 were not carried out; and the docks, which now cover so large an area, were not begun till 1800. Such an extension of the port had long been urgently required. In 1792 the registered shipping amounted to 18,000 tons; and the shore dues payable to Edinburgh, which in 1763 yielded £580, had risen in 1783 to £4,000. Timber from Scandinavia and Russia, hemp, flax and tallow were the principal imports. Only two British ports are said to have surpassed Leith in the volume of their Baltic trade; and then as now wool and printing-paper were shipped in large quantities to London. The growth of industry kept pace with that of commerce. Bottle-making and soap-making were the chief occupations; but there were candle, rope, canvas and barrel works, graving docks and shipbuilding yards. In 1747 only one glass-furnace was at work. In 1790 there were six; and from 1763 to 1790 the manufacture of soap expanded from half-a-million to six million lbs.

On the north side of the Forth depression had begun before the Union, and the revival was longer delayed. The Fife coast, at a time when it was compared to a fringe of gold on a beggar's mantle, had been the most flourishing part of Scotland, and its prosperity culminated during the half-century of peace which preceded the outbreak of the civil war in 1644. Great shoals of herring then frequented the Firth, and Crail, where several hundred boats assembled each season, was the busiest of many fishing towns. A considerable foreign trade was carried on with France and the Netherlands— particularly with the latter, in which Campvere was the official, but not the only, emporium of Scottish goods. Dysart owned thirty-six brigs, and had so bustling a market that it was known as “Little Holland.” Kirkcaldy, when its charter was renewed by Charles I., is said to have possessed “a hundred sail of ships”; and the burgh records prove that ninety-four vessels belong-, ing to the port were lost by storm or capture from 1644 to 1660. This was a disastrous period for the merchants and ship-owners of Fife. Some of them were impoverished by loans to the revolutionary Government; many were slain or dispersed in the civil war; and Monck’s pillage of Dundee, where all their goods had been deposited, “completed the ruin of those wealthy and industrious tradesmen.” No fewer than 480 persons belonging to Kirkcaldy were killed—200 of them on the field of Kilsyth. A recovery of trade after the Restoration was retarded by the two wars with Holland; and the Union, as we have seen, proved injurious in this district to both fishing and commerce. An expatriated Scotsman, who traversed the Fife coast in 1723, described its towns, Kirkcaldy excepted, as mere “heaps of decay”; and in 1760 the shipping of Kirkcaldy had dwindled to one coasting vessel and two ferry boats.' Pennant in 1772 found St. Andrews “ greatly reduced.” Once there had been sixty or seventy bakers in the town —now there were but nine or ten; only one vessel "of any size” belonged to the port; and manufactures were represented by “several people” employed in making golf balls. Fishing could not be expected to revive, as the herring shoals had ceased to visit the Firth; but in other respects the impulse of the time made itself felt. Pittenweem, which had greatly declined, was “saved” by the opening of collieries and salt-works.

The fisheries have been more than once mentioned, and it will be convenient at this point to review their progress. The firths and salt-lochs of Scotland had once been a principal source of its wealth. In the far north, amidst the perilous rocks and currents of Orkney and Shetland, the Dutch had long enjoyed what they called their “gold-mine"; but the “busses" or deep-sea smacks belonging to Fife ports obtained some share of the spoil; and the herring fishery in less remote and exposed waters employed great numbers of small open craft. In the seventeenth century 600 to 800 boats were at work in the Firth of Forth; almost as many, though of smaller size, in the Moray Firth; and some 900, still smaller, within the mouth of the Clyde. Greenock, where a curing factory was established about 1670, owed its development from “a few huts" to this trade; Glasgow's earliest speculations were made in the purchase of herrings for export; and Walter Gibson, the father of its modern commerce, acquired the nucleus of his fortune by shipping a cargo of 1800 barrels to France. These flourishing conditions were not, however, maintained. The deep-sea fishery of Fife was involved in the havoc wrought by the civil war. The number of small boats, indeed, showed little or no diminution, and before the Union as many as 168 were sent out from a strip of coast not above twelve miles long; but after 1707, when the duties on wine and brandy were much more than doubled, there was more smuggling than fishing. This evil—at all events in the form of running contraband cargoes1—was almost unknown on the west coast; but, as fish-curing required about a third of foreign salt, it was universally discouraged by the Union, which had raised the duty on this article from a shilling to ten shillings the bushel. The Trustees for Manufactures established in 1727 endeavoured to counteract such discouragements by offering premiums and prizes; but in 1733 the boat-fishery was said to have greatly declined "these several years”; and before the middle of the century, if not even earlier, busses had entirely disappeared.

These decked vessels, cruising in all weathers over the open sea, were a far higher school of navigation than the shore cobles; and the extinction of an industry so essential to the nation as a maritime Power excited general alarm. In 1750 fish-curing was exempted from the salt duties; bounties were granted of 30s. a ton on every buss and of 2s. Sd. on every exported barrel; and the “Society of Free British Fishery” was incorporated, with the Prince of Wales at its head, and a Government premium of three per cent, on its stock. Edinburgh presented its freedom to six gentlemen, including Hume Campbell, for their services in promoting this scheme; and “fishing chambers,” with the same Government premium, were formed at Edinburgh, Montrose and Inverness. Two large busses were immediately fitted out in England for the Shetland fishery; and when a barrel of herrings reached London as a sample of the cargoes which had been exported to Hamburg, it was compared by a patriotic versifier to the olive leaf which had “proclaim’d the earth not drown’d.”  As an omen of good fortune, however, these salted herrings proved less reliable than Noah’s dove. The incorporated Society, operating from the Thames, persevered for a time in its attempt to wrest from the Dutch their Shetland “gold-mine”; but it soon collapsed, as also did the fishing-chambers; and in Scotland it was only, with one exception, on the west coast, within the vivifying influence of Glasgow, that the inducements offered to private adventurers met with any considerable response. In 1757 the bounty was raised to 50s.; and, ten years later, the number of busses fitted out had increased from two to 263; but in 1770, owing to fluctuations of the fund assigned for payment, it fell to nineteen. In 1771 the bounty, though reduced to its original amount, was guaranteed by being made a general charge on revenue; and the western buss fishery developed rapidly till 1776, when another, but less marked, period of decline set in, owing to the high price of salt, tar, hemp and staves caused by the American war. A barrel of tar, which before the war could be purchased for eight shillings, now cost two guineas.

The herring-bounties, as an investment of public money, were severely criticised by Adam Smith; and their tendency to discourage the coble-fishing—which went “almost entirely to decay"—was confirmed by a law prohibiting the purchase of herrings from the Highland boats. In certain districts, however, the wisdom of these bounties was not likely to be questioned. Stranraer, Greenock, Port-Glasgow, Rothesay, Campbeltown and Stornoway were incited to great efforts. Campbeltown, in particular, where the busses collected for the voyage to Loch Broom, was said to have been “created by the fishing.” Between 1750 and 1777 its shipping increased from four vessels to 62; allied industries, such as ship-building, coopering, and net-making, sprang up; and the population was doubled. A visitor to Stornoway in 1778 found that the part of the town “situated on the sea-shore” had all been built—and very well built—within these years. In discussing the economic policy of the herring-bounties, Adam Smith took little account of the fact, which he fully acknowledged in regard to the navigation laws, that their primary object was not wealth but maritime power. Two-thirds of the sailors who manned the shipping of the Clyde had learned their business in the buss-fishery; during the American war Campbeltown alone contributed a thousand men to the navy; and on this basis the total contribution from the west coast of Scotland was estimated at 3500 to 4000. On a single ship of the line a hundred Highland seamen were once counted.

On the east coast the chief result of the bounties, in addition to some activity at Leith and Montrose, was the rise of Wick. The inhabitants of that town had hitherto fished for herring with handlines merely as bait for cod; but in 1767 two busses were fitted out; and henceforth they zealously pursued the shoals of herring, not indeed in busses, though many of these frequented the coast, but in open boats. In 1790 the total catch amounted to 13,000 barrels; and then as now it was “an agreeable sight on a line evening r to trace across the bay the long procession of brown sails. The “herring metropolis” was still, however, very far from having earned its name. It had “hardly any real fishermen,” the industry being carried on by shopkeepers and mechanics; its river-mouth, narrow and half-choked with sand, afforded but a precarious shelter; and the creek of Staxigoe, two miles distant, did duty as “a kind of port.”

“Since the year 1746,” wrote an acute observer in 1778, “a most surprising change has happened in this country. Now we have not the feeble and detached efforts of a few towns, but it is the united force of the whole nation which seems at length to be exerting itself.” In order to appreciate this general movement, we must direct our attention to those great branches of industry which were characteristic of the country at large.

The national manufacture of Scotland was linen, that of England wool; but the Scots were not content with their success in one of these commodities, and devoted so much attention to the other that each was claimed by its votaries as the staple product. The legislature showed a similar indecision, and corpses were ordered to be buried, usually in linen, but sometimes in "woollen cloth or stuff.” It was long only a coarse kind of serge that could be satisfactorily made, and an Act of 1597, when the wearing of imported material had become universal amongst the upper and middle classes, prohibited “the home-bringing of English cloth” on the very dubious ground that it had "only for the most part an outward show.” Shortly before the Union, when native industry was being zealously promoted, several Acts were passed to protect experiments in the manufacture of fine woollen goods; but these barriers were, of course, overthrown in 1707; and the Union, whilst enabling broad-cloth to be imported 10 or 15 per cent, more cheaply than it could be produced at home, opened a large domestic as well as colonial market for linen by removing the restrictions on that product which England, in retaliation for the treatment of her wool, had formerly imposed. Under these favourable conditions the linen manufacture speedily developed; and it was greatly stimulated when foreign and Irish workmen were introduced as teachers by the Board of Trustees, and when in 1742 a bounty was granted on exportation.

In 1727, when the Trustees entered on their duties, linen-making was carried on in twenty-five counties, headed in order of output by Forfar, Fife and Lanark; but in those days of manual labour, when steam-power was unknown and water-power little used, there were no natural limits to its extension; and from Orkney to Wigtown there was only one county—that of Peebles— in which it was never practised. Idleness and poverty were dispelled by the current of enterprise which permeated the country as village after village applied itself to the spinning, and frequently also to the weaving, of yarn. In Barry and Cullen almost every householder was thus employed; the linen of Keith attracted purchasers from all parts of Scotland; and Comrie was one of several parishes in which the profits of spinning defrayed great part of the farmers’ rents. The Trustees endeavoured, with considerable success, to promote the growing and dressing of flax; but half of the supply, in addition to linseed, potash for bleaching, and hemp, was imported from Holland and Russia. Agriculture and east-coast shipping were thus encouraged; and the increase of shipping reacted on the manufacture by enlarging the demand for sail-cloth and rope.

The growth of this national industry was a principal factor in the local movements whose progress has been sketched. Edinburgh was famous for its damask tablecloths; its linen was highly prized in the colonies, and sold at home for two-thirds more than the ordinary price. Dunfermline acquired a more lasting reputation for damask; Kirkcaldy, when its shipping declined, applied itself to the manufacture of bed-ticks; Wemyss excelled in the use for this purpose of home-grown flax; and in all the Fife ports the spinning-wheel made some amends for vanished commerce and truant herring. In Glasgow linen-making, being an offspring of the colonial trade, was not established till 1725; but it soon dwarfed all other industries, and was prosecuted with great success in a neighbouring town. Paisley, like Glasgow, owed its early development to the Union. Its infant industries were promoted by the opening of a free inland trade; many of the pedlars, who had frequented the town, settled there and disposed of its coarse linen goods to their correspondents in England; and its market was extended to the colonies by way of Glasgow and the Clyde. The looms were soon at work on articles of finer texture; and in 1725 the making of white sewing thread, which has ever since centred in this district, was introduced by a lady who had learned from a relative how it was produced in Holland. About 1760 Paisley attempted to rival Spittalfields in the manufacture of silk-gauze; and the fibre proved to be so finely and curiously wrought that it “outdid everything that had formerly appeared.” The manufacturers of Spittalfields were driven from the field; new companies, English as well as Scottish, were formed; the industry diffused itself over an area of twenty miles; and the leading firms opened warehouses in London, Dublin and Paris. As late as 1755 Paisley contained only some 4000 inhabitants; but in 1792 it had a population of 14,000; and much of the town had been built within the previous six years.

In Forfarshire and the adjoining part of Perthshire linen was not merely the principal but almost the sole cause of progress. Dundee before the Great Civil War had been the second largest town in Scotland; but it lost a sixth of its inhabitants and nearly all its wealth when it was stormed by Monck in 1651; the famine of 1696/1703 still further reduced it; and one of the last Acts of the Scottish Parliament was to afford some relief to this unfortunate town in consideration of its sufferings and “decay of trade.” The Union was no less prejudicial to Dundee than to other eastern ports; and till 1746 the population continued to decrease. Meanwhile, however, the townspeople had begun to make coloured thread, and were extending their manufacture of coarse linen and hempen fabrics, such as clothing for the slaves in America and the West Indies, canvas of all kinds, sheeting, buckram and sacking. Their ship-canvas was soon reputed the best in Britain; and, favoured by the bounty of 1742, they acquired a large export trade. In 1746 ,£2 or £3 was the highest rent that could be obtained for a shop; but two shops, which in that year had been shut up for want of tenants, were sold in 1789 for £450 each. During the nine years, 1746-1755, the population increased from 5000 to 12,000; in 1792 it was over 20,000; and 4000 persons were living on a piece of ground which in 1772 comprised only five or six houses.

Dundee was the headquarters of an industry which occupied all the neighbouring towns and villages— Forfar, Blairgowrie, Kirriemuir, Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin. Pennant in 1772 found that the manufactures of Montrose had all arisen within the last thirty years, and that the town in that period had “increased one-third.” Perth in this district was the principal, if not the only, town which excelled in the manufacture of fine linen goods. It was famous for its printed handkerchiefs had long been famous for its gloves; dyeing had already begun; and there were four large bleaching-fields, to which linen was sent from all quarters—even from England. By 1796 the town had been much enlarged, and the population, which was about 9000 in 1755, had more than doubled.

The Scots had foreseen that the finer branches of their woollen industry would not survive the Union, and, by way of compensation, had stipulated that their manufacture of coarse wool should be subsidised for seven years to the amount of £2000. The total grant of £14,000 was not, however, turned to account till the Board of Trustees was instituted, twenty years later, and it was then invested in order to provide a permanent fund; but the linen trade received, as we have seen, so much natural as well as artificial encouragement that its rival had little room to develop; agricultural improvement tended more and more to substitute tillage for pasture; and between 1740 and 1780 the number of sheep in the Lothians is said to have decreased in the proportion of twenty to one. Before the end of that period, however, the more favoured of the two staples had lost something of its lead; for the American war had greatly reduced the demand for linen, and the West Indian planters, having discovered the wholesomeness of woollen shirts, had adopted them as clothing for their slaves. In response to such encouragement, and quickened by patriotic motives, the wool trade began to revive. Sheep supplanted black cattle on the grazing grounds in the Highlands; rams for breeding purposes were hired from England; and pamphlets were written to prove that the linen industry was an exotic, which had been unduly fostered in deference to English interests, since three-fourths of its materials were of foreign growth. An association was formed at Hamilton to discountenance the wearing of any but Scottish broadcloth; in East Lothian landlords and farmers started a company to carry on the manufacture; and the spirit of the movement was forcibly expressed by David Loch, its most enthusiastic promoter: “Let us, I say, from the shoes on our feet to the hats on our heads be clothed in the manufactures of our own country.” Zeal rather than method was, however, the characteristic of this attempt in the opinion of a competent critic, who pointed out that no officials had been appointed to sort the seven different qualities of wool which were to be found in the fleeces of a single flock, and that no artisans had been brought from England to give instruction in spinning and weaving. “What then have we done,” he asked, “for the proper establishment of the woollen manufacture? Nothing. We are blundering into it as fast as we can, and blasting it at its first outset.” 

The production of woollen goods, such as wearing apparel, blankets and carpets, was distributed geographically very much as it is to-day; but later developments were anticipated in outline rather than in detail. Stirling, Alloa and Kilmarnock were then as now important centres, but so also were Edinburgh and Haddington, whose efforts in this branch have long been extinct; no Bannockburn had yet arisen in the vicinity of Stirling; and the industry barely existed, where it is now so firmly established, on the banks of the Devon, Tweed and Gala. Tillicoultry had manufactured wool since the reign of Queen Mary, but in 1795 there were only twenty-one weavers in the parish; and Alva, which had superseded it in the making of “Tillicoultry serge,” made no advance in population between 1767 and 1796. Not till 1787 was the cloth manufacture introduced at Hawick, and not till 1790—and then very feebly—at Innerleithen. Galashiels, indeed, was sufficiently skilful in weaving to obtain almost all the premiums offered by the Trustees; but it rather dwindled than developed. In 1770 it had “only one slated house besides the manse”; and as late as 1791 it contained less than a thousand inhabitants. A writer of 1785, in describing this district, said: “Some feeble attempts have lately been made towards the manufacture of their wool”— attempts so feeble that “ in several parts” the wool was despatched to Yorkshire to be combed, sent back to be spun into yarn, sent again to Yorkshire to be woven and dressed, and finally, in great part, returned to be sold as cloth.

Wool was an important factor in the development of Aberdeen, “a city of great trade,”whose inhabitants, according to David Loch, were “the best merchants in Scotland.” Their principal manufacture—for which they imported wool from the south of England—was that of stockings; but they spun large quantities of linen yarn; produced more thread, chiefly of the coarser kind, than any other town; excelled in salmon-curing, brewing, tanning, and sugar-refining; and had applied themselves with great vigour to the improvement of their harbour and their soil. Aberdeen had long been as much “tantalised” by the Dee as was Glasgow by the Clyde. Extending across the mouth was a bar of sand, which shifted so much under the influence of sea-storms and river-floods that “a stranger could never depend upon finding it as he'left it.” Under the direction of Smeaton, between 1775 and 17S0, a high and massive pier was built along, and for some distance beyond, the north bank of the Dee. By this means the channel was contracted and deepened, and the sandbank, owing to the pressure of an increased current, was carried considerably further out. A barren and stony moor encircling the city, “close to the very houses,” seemed to afford little scope for tillage; but these unpromising environs were speedily cleared and reclaimed; and in 1783, within a radius of three or four miles, they produced as good crops as any district in Britain. “There is perhaps no place in the world,” wrote the author of a report to the Board of Agriculture in that year, “where a spirit for husbandry has made such a figure as about Aberdeen.” In the latter half of the century the population of the city and suburbs increased from 15,000 to 24,000.

The cotton manufacture had existed in England from the reign of Charles I., if not from that of Elizabeth; but it made little progress till after 1750, when a change of taste and fashion increased the demand, and the production was immensely facilitated by a series of mechanical inventions associated with the names of Hargreaves, Arkwright and Crompton. Glasgow had anticipated Manchester in the making of calico, and was only one year behind it in the making of muslin; but the manufacture of cotton in Scotland seems not to have been dissociated from that of linen till a cotton mill was erected by an English firm at Rothesay in 1778. It was soon acquired by David Dale, a native of Glasgow, and, having entered into partnership with Arkwright and thus acquired the use of his patent for roller-spinning, he built the first of several mills at Lanark in 1785. The industry was introduced at a time when the Clyde district was suffering from the losses occasioned by the American War, and was prosecuted with such vigour that in 1790 it had almost superseded the manufacture of linen, and in Paisley even that of silk gauze. Two Scotsmen succeeded in giving a much wider scope to the machinery which Englishmen had invented. At Lanark Mills in 1790 William Kelly applied water-power in place of manual labour to turn Crompton’s mule; and in 1792 the steam engine of James Watt, which had already been utilised for this purpose in England, was adopted in Glasgow. Domestic industry could not long survive the concentration of effort resulting from the use of water-power and steam; but the factory system was not carried very far within the period of this book. It was practically confined to the cotton manufacture, and even here was retarded by the fact that weaving had made little progress in comparison with spinning. The power-loom had been invented by Cartwright as early as 1785, but was of no great use till improved about 1803 by Radcliffe and Horrocks. In 1787 a machine for spinning flax was patented by Kendrew and Porthouse of Durham, and, in concert with the inventors, several flax-mills were erected in Scotland—the first at Bervie in that year; but these mills were small and unfortunate, and till 1810 the “flax-spinning machinery continued rude and imperfect.” Hawick, which was to supplant Aberdeen as the centre of the hosiery trade, had adopted the stocking-frame as early as 1771; and at Galashiels in 1790 a carding machine was set up in the first modern woollen factory to be erected in Scotland.

Cotton seemed likely at one time to enrich the south as well as the west. Below a line drawn from Berwick to Ayr, the country had suffered even more severely than Fife from the Union; and at this time it presented “a melancholy picture of decayed boroughs, neglected seats and a dejected commonalty.” During the seventeenth century when Scotland and England had one. sovereign, but in other respects were independent kingdoms, the Border towns and villages had enjoyed a large illicit trade. Salt, skins, linen and malt were smuggled into England, and wool and broad-cloth were smuggled out of it—the former to be exported at Leith. After 1707 this source of profit disappeared, and the Scottish Border was depopulated by a stream of emigration to the wealthier side. Adam Smith, conversing with Samuel Rogers in 1789, remarked “that the Scotch on the borders were to this day in extreme poverty.” Jedburgh, one of “the places called towns,” was in 1784 “half in ruins”; its population had dwindled from 6000 or 8000 before the Union to less than 2000; and only three malt barns and kilns were in use amidst the vestiges of forty. In Whithorn, another royal burgh, some of the houses were ruinous, "others open at the roof, and the streets partly overgrown with grass.” On the Solway coast as in Fife the Union had fostered smuggling; and this practice was far more fatal to industry under a system of open competition than in the days of hostile tariffs. In the town of Kirkcudbright the loss of a considerable inland and maritime trade was attributed solely to this cause. Knox, who visited the district about 1783, “lost all patience” when he was told in place after place that there was no shipping, no fishing, no manufactures. “Unhappy beings! How, in the name of wonder, do you get a subsistence? "We do a little," answered they, "in the spirit way; we smuggle a little."

It was on the shores of this beautiful but desolate firth that the cotton industry unexpectedly took root. On the banks of the River Fleet about 1764 Mr. Murray of Broughton designed what we should now call a model village; and, as the first dwelling to be erected was an inn, “not only commodious but elegant,” at the entrance of the avenue to Cally House, it was appropriately termed Gatehouse-of-Fleet. The liberal terms offered to builders and the occupation to be found in a tannery attracted the better-class peasants, but as late as the time of Knox’s tour it was too sweepingly described by that writer as “without trade of any kind.” A few years later, the cotton manufacture was introduced, and in 1794 it contained more than 160 houses and 1150 inhabitants. There were four mills for spinning cotton yarn, in addition to fifty machines worked by private hands, and a factory for the weaving of muslin. The villagers made “a grand effort” to obtain a share of maritime trade by deepening their river, and “seemed for a time to menace the Glasgow of the West with the energetic rivalry of a Glasgow of the South.” Several coasting vessels belonged to the port, and one traded regularly to London. An enthusiasm for the new industry diffused itself throughout the district, and at Annan, Newton Stewart, Kirkcudbright and Stranraer cotton mills were built. It need hardly be said, however, that all these Solway factories have long since crumbled into ruin. Gatehouse after 1815 ceased to develop, and, though still “one of the handsomest towns in Galloway, equalled indeed by very few in Scotland,” its population during the last half century has steadily declined. Stranraer alone, which owed its progress rather to the buss-fishery than to cotton, was to achieve a permanent success. Between 1764 and 1805 its shipping increased from two small vessels to over 1600 tons.

The growth of credit, and particularly its growth in a form unusually favourable to the small capitalist, was a factor of no small importance in the development of trade. The Bank of Scotland had been founded in 1695, a year memorable as the starting point of the Darien scheme, and, despite the imputation of Jacobitism, it flourished greatly for over thirty years. In 1727, when financiers of less questionable loyalty were incorporated under Government patronage, the dividend paid to its shareholders fell from 32K to 13K per cent., and next year to 3% per cent.; and the Royal Bank, an offspring of the Union, stole a march on its rival by initiating a system so helpful to impecunious talent as that of cash credits—the system by which a customer is credited with a certain sum over and above what he has paid into his account on the security of a bond signed by himself and several friends. The two corporations plunged at once into a deadly feud; and the Bank of Scotland, in order to strengthen its reserves against the activity of the Royal Bank in buying up and returning its notes, resorted to the expedient of issuing £5 notes payable at its own option either on demand or at a premium of half-a-crown, six months later. This device, legitimate enough for its immediate purpose, had unfortunate results, since it facilitated the issue of notes, frequently for trifling sums, by companies and even persons of insufficient means. The usual practice of these so-called bankers, when pressed for payment, was to offer bills drawn at long notice on their London correspondents. One Englishman, who refused this accommodation, received £50 or £60, “all in silver to plague him”; and another, even less fortunate, is said to have been saddled with £200 in shillings and sixpences. Coin was soon almost supplanted by paper— some of it representing only one penny sterling; and these abuses were not checked till Parliament in 1765 prohibited the “optional clause ” and the issue of notes below the value of £1.

Meanwhile a number of private banks had been established—one in Dundee, the chief partner of which was George Dempster, one in Ayr, three in Glasgow, and some twenty in Edinburgh; and in 1769 a great impetus was given to speculative finance by the rise of Douglas, Heron & Co., a powerful syndicate which acquired the small business already established in Ayr, and called itself the Ayr Bank. The object of this new venture, which did something to arouse the stagnant south-west, was to develop the system of London credit, which, in the opinion of wiser heads, had already been carried too far; and, when the Ayr Bank suspended payment in 1772, all but three of the Edinburgh private banks were involved in its fall. The crisis, however, was less harmful than severe. In Edinburgh and the country, banks of a sounder type were established; the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank opened branches; and by 1794 the capital of both had been increased, largely out of profits, to £1,000,000.

In the first half of the eighteenth century the type of agriculture which was all but universal in Scotland was still that of the township farm. The infield or home land was cultivated in alternate “rigs” or ridges, of which there might be seven or eight in a small field, by several tenants; and, though each of these had his own share of the live-stock, the outfield, which consisted mainly of natural grass, was common to all. The evils of such a system hardly needed to be proved. The common right of grazing made it impossible to reclaim any portion of the waste; and a tenant, if the meagre pasture was over-stocked, could have no interest in reducing the number of his beasts, since his neighbours in all probability would increase theirs, or in trying to establish a better breed, since all the animals were herded and folded together. The ridges changed hands too frequently to permit of their soil being improved; and, as the arable land after harvest was added as common pasture to the waste, no ground could be enclosed for the making or storing of hay. The tenants were nominally individual farmers; but even in matters of ordinary routine little or nothing could be done without mutual consent. The plough of these days was a huge unwieldy instrument requiring the co-operation of several men and horses and of four to six oxen; and the cattle were usually so weak after their winter fare of straw and boiled chaff that the owner had to obtain the assistance of his neighbours in “lifting” them on to the grass. The general aspect of the country must have been cheerless and uncouth. “The land,” wrote an eye-witness, “is like a piece of striped cloth, with banks full of weeds and ridges of corn, in constant succession, from one end of a field to another.” Even in fertile districts, such as the Carse of Stirling, the soil was defaced by stones, stagnant pools and bogs; and, except in pleasure grounds and orchards, there were not only no fences but no trees.

It was not till about 1760, a year which marks an epoch in English as well as in Scottish farming, that “run-rig” cultivation fell into disuse; but the movement, which then became general, may be traced, half a century back, to the Union. One result of that measure was that Galloway took to rearing cattle for the English market; pasture was extended at the expense of tillage; and men of intelligence were roused to effort when they found that their half-starved beasts were bought at a low price and then fattened in England for sale. Cattle, better fed, were imported from Ireland; and, in order to remedy the depreciation of stock caused by constant herding, mixture of breeds and the want of hay, they proceeded to “park” or enclose their lands. Many families were evicted in the course of this change; farmers were deprived of their outfields, and herdsmen were dismissed. In 1724 men disguised as women rose against the “parks and depopulating enclosures”; and, despite military intervention, many of the dykes were thrown down.3 The South Sea Bubble had recently given an impetus to rural progress, for landowners who had embarked in that venture sought to recover their losses by improving their estates; in 1723 an agricultural society was formed; and from this date we can trace here and there, but chiefly in East Lothian, the introduction of improvements which in later days were to be universally adopted, such as enclosing, fallowing, and the culture of turnips and clover. The movement thus initiated was quickened by the suppression in 1746 of the last Jacobite revolt. Scotsmen resorted more and more to England, where the principles of farming were better understood; the Crown turned to good account its possession of the forfeited estates; and a large sum of money was distributed amongst landowners in purchase of the heritable jurisdictions. About the same time, owing to the ravages of war in the Highlands and of cattle-disease in England, Lowland graziers began to make higher profits; and in 1760 the price of their stock in the English market had nearly doubled. Hence a fresh impetus to “the new husbandry,” far more widely diffused than that which had set in after the Union. Green crops for the summer and winter food of cattle had, as we have seen, been tried; but clover could not contend with weeds; and it was only after this period that the culture of turnips, which cleansed the soil much more effectually than fallowing, gradually became common. As late as 1773 turnips were served on Edinburgh dinner-tables as part of the dessert.

Agriculture, which had been the most backward of Scottish industries, was now caught up into the general advance; and its progress was promoted by men who had made fortunes in private business or in the service of the East India Company. Mr. Somerville, writing in 1813 at the age of seventy-two, remarked that in Roxburghshire within his recollection no fewer than eight considerable estates had been purchased by Anglo-Indians, and that at least two-thirds of the landed property had been “transferred by sale to new proprietors.” It cannot, however, be said that the old aristocracy were at all reluctant to embark in agricultural reform. The township farm, when its group of holdings became vacant, was let in most cases to a single tenant, who not only obtained a long lease, usually for nineteen years, but was bound by its provisions to adopt certain methods, such as fencing, manuring, the sowing of grasses, and the rotation of crops. The cluster of thatched cottages, “generally of only one storey and often not floored," was replaced by a substantial farmhouse and steading; and in the southern parts of Perthshire—a district by no means the most advanced— the change which had taken place by 1793 in domestic comfort is thus graphically described: “About half a century ago the farmer went on foot to market; now he rides, properly accoutred in all points; formerly he ate his food off his knee, and it consisted of meal, vegetables and milk; now his table is covered, his knife and fork are laid down before him to dine on meat; his father lay in a straw or chaff bed without curtains; he sleeps on feathers with his curtains drawn around him. Servants and labourers have advanced in the same proportion in their desire and enjoyment of the comforts of life.” Rents rose enormously, but so also, owing to better methods and better tools of husbandry, did the farmer’s profits. The mediaeval plough, with its huge wooden framework and procession of oxen and horses, gave place to the modern implement drawn by a single team; fanners, barley-mills and, after 1786, thrashing mills were successively introduced; and, as roads were made and improved, the farm produce was conveyed no longer on pack-horses or in sledges, but in carts.

The progress which had been made by the commerce and the manufactures of Scotland during this period must be ascribed mainly to the prompting of an enlightened self-interest; but agriculture was controlled by the leisured class; and the story of its development, though associated with a rise in rent, is ennobled by the names of several men who spared no effort, and even no expense, to promote the welfare of their tenants. Such a man, as we have seen, was George Dempster; and such another, at a time when model landlords were much less common, was John Cockburn. His father, the laird of Ormiston in East Lothian, had been the first proprietor to grant leases for more than five years; and he himself, on succeeding to the estate about 1714, improved on this example by granting a lease, not for nineteen years, the period ultimately established, but for thirty-eight. The holder of such a lease could count on securing the benefit of improvements if he chose to make them; and Cockburn was anxious that he should have both desire and knowledge. Skilled labourers were brought from England; some of the tenants, in the interest of their education, were sent thither; fields were enclosed and fallowed; and the sowing of turnips in drills was practised on this estate half a century before it became general in Scotland, or even in Britain. The village of Ormiston rose from squalor to neatness and comfort; farmers were encouraged by the opening of ft brewery; with the assistance of workmen from Ireland and Holland a bleachfield for linen—the second of its kind in Scotland—was established; and the Irish immigrants are said to have introduced potatoes—at least, as a field crop. “No person,” wrote Cockburn to one of his tenants, “can have more satisfaction in the prosperity of his children than I have in the welfare of persons situated on my estate. I hate tyranny in every shape, and shall always show greater pleasure in seeing my tenants making something under me they can call their own than in getting a little more money myself by squeezing a hundred poor families till their necessities make them my slaves.”

Cockburn died in 1758; and, two years later, a reformation, not unlike that which he had effected in East Lothian, was begun in Kincardineshire. That county was one of the least progressive; and, when Barclay, who had studied agriculture in Norfolk, succeeded to the estate of Ury, near Stonehaven, he found his fields stony, undrained, unlimed, and only very partially tilled, “scarcely a shrub of any value on the property,” no fences, no roads, no good implements, no carts. In thirty years the exertions of this spirited landowner had wrought a surprising change. The whole estate had been enclosed with hedges; nearly a thousand acres had been planted with wood; stones had been used “in myriads” in making roads and drains; and 900 acres had been brought into a high state of cultivation, of which half had not hitherto been tilled. “Mr. Barclay of Ury,” wrote the surveyor of the Board of Agriculture in 1782, “is the most intelligent farmer I have ever conversed with5"; and we are told that he was known amongst his neighbours as "‘ the father of farming.” In another quarter of Kincardineshire philanthropic, though not exclusively agrarian, schemes were being carried out by Lord Gardenstone, a Lord of Session, who erected the Grecian temple over St. Bernard’s Well at Edinburgh, and was the only member of the court to incur suspicion as a sympathiser with the French Bevolution. Lord Gardenstone attempted to do for Laurencekirk what Murray of Broughton was doing for Gatehouse. By offering building sites and small holdings on very moderate terms he enabled many families to settle there in independence and comfort, and the number of inhabitants rose during his lifetime from 54 to 500. He put himself to great expense in establishing a printfield and the manufacture of linen and stockings, and not only erected, like Mr. Murray, “a commodious inn,” but placed in it “a very neat assortment of amusing books which every traveller has access to.” Towards the end of his life he wrote thus to his humble friends in Laurencekirk : “I have tried in some measure a variety of the pleasures which mankind pursue, but never relished anything so much as the pleasure arising from the progress of my village.” 

The wealthier lairds had formerly devoted two years of their education to foreign travel; but we are told that they now remained at home "cultivating their fields and could talk of nothing but of dung and bullocks." In the latter half of the century, indeed, agricultural reform found so many exponents amongst landholders of every grade—nobles such as the Duke of Buccleuch, lairds such as Callendar of Craigforth, who dressed like a farm servant and "ate his victuals in the open air amongst his labourers," physicians such as Dr. Moir of Leckie, who banished malaria from his estate by draining its soil, clergymen such as Alexander Carlyle and “Potato Wilkie," author of the Epigoniad—that it must suffice to direct attention to one more name. Lord Karnes, who spent the leisure of his long life in stimulating both letters and agriculture, had done much to improve the estate, from which he took his judicial title, in Berwickshire ; but a wider field of usefulness was opened to him when in 1766 he inherited through his wife the lands of Blair-Drummond between the Forth and the Teith. Sparing neither promises nor threats, he induced the farmers of that district to reform their methods; and, in order to afford them easier access to lime, which was their most valuable manure, he built, largely at his own expense, a bridge over the Forth, and so improved the roads that sledges were soon superseded by carts. Every labourer on the home farm had his cow and his plot of potatoes, and was liberally encouraged to supplement his income by growing and dressing flax. The soil was extremely fertile, but much of it, amounting to 1500 acres, was buried, eight or nine feet deep, under a layer of moss. Lord Kames proposed to drain off this obstruction by means of channels cut to the Forth. He allowed every squatter or moss-tenant to occupy rent-free for nineteen years as much land as he could hope to reclaim in that period; and at his death in 1782 a third of the swamp had been cleared and brought under tillage.

There were, of course, many bad landlords, and those of them who were bad enough to be oppressive could indulge their humour without violating the law. Feudalism as a social institution was by no means extinct. The military tenure known as ward-holding had been abolished after the rising of 1745; but the contributions in kind and the agricultural services incident to feu-holding remained intact; and in certain districts superiors showed no disposition to follow the lead of Dempster in renouncing these vexatious dues. Many a farmer, both industrious and skilful, must have found it no easy task to secure the fruits of his toil. When he had sown his seed, it was liable to be devoured by the large stock of poultry which he had to keep in order to supply the mansion-house with its tribute of fowls and eggs; a cloud of pigeons, issuing from the seignorial dovecot, preyed upon his ripening corn; in spring, if his farm was near a town, he was harassed by huntsmen, and in autumn by both huntsmen and shooters,2 who trampled his crops, damaged his fences and gates, and frightened his cattle; and on the few good days of a wet or inclement harvest he might be called away with his servants and horses to work for the laird. In a report of 1784 on the agriculture of Aberdeenshire it is stated that a landlord usually kept in his possession a large farm, which was cultivated entirely by the free labour of his tenants; that these calls must be obeyed “though the tenants’ own crop should be destroyed in the meantime by shaking winds or rotting rains"; and that the people were so demoralised by these exactions "that they have not spirit to work for themselves.” Ten years later, “boon-work” was described as a great obstacle to progress in Dumfriesshire; and as late as 1813 it was still a serious, though diminishing, evil in the county of Inverness.

Grievous as were the obligations of personal service, it was only in the more backward districts of the north and south that they were at all strictly enforced; but there was one obstacle to the progress of farming which elicited vehement complaints from almost pvery shire, and was described in 1794 by an indignant argriculturist as “the greatest that ever existed in a free country.” This was thirlage. At a time when hand-querns were the common instrument for grinding corn, it had been usual for a man who proposed to utilise water for this purpose to obtain a promise from his neighbours that they would send their corn to his mill in preference to any other that might subsequently be erected, and grant him, in payment of his outlay and profit, a proportion of their produce. The “multures” charged before 1760 are said to have been reasonable; but they had risen with the development of agriculture, arid in several parts of the country had been almost quadrupled, amounting, after the deduction of seed-corn and horse-corn to one eighth of the crop. The effect of so heavy a burden on the arable value of land was either to render pasture more profitable than tillage or to discourage any attempt at increase of yield; but the mischief wrought by thirlage was not confined to this direct tax. It frequently happened that a mill had been erected much nearer to the farmer than that to which he was thirled, and that this mill had water, whilst the other had none; but, if he had his corn ground at the nearer mill, he had to pay double dues, whilst, if he sold it unground, he might be called away, perhaps in the middle of harvest, to settle accounts with the miller at a multure court. Mills protected by thirlage were usually of a less modern type and more carelessly maintained and worked than those exposed to competition; and the farmers who used them had to assist in their repair. A proprietor had little interest in perpetuating this system where it was confined to his own estate, for, though the miller paid heavily for his privileges, the farmers, when relieved of this burden, could afford to pay higher rents; but in very many cases the mill belonged to one proprietor and the thirled lands to another; and here there was no remedy till an Act was passed in 1799 which enabled the victims of thirlage to obtain its commutation for an annual payment in grain.

Writers who commented on the evil of these artificial restrictions frequently included in their complaints a change of custom. The common drink of Scotland had long been a species of beer which, when not brewed at home, was sold at twopence the pint, and hence was known as “tipenny ale.” At what rate this beverage should be assessed was one of the points most difficult to adjust in the Treaty of 1707; six years later, a proposal to levy the full English malt duty was met in the House of Lords by a motion to repeal the Union; and in 1725, when half of this duty was imposed, there was a serious riot in Glasgow and a strike of brewers in Edinburgh. The Highlander, however, had a drink less profitable to the revenue in his native whisky; and usquebagh, as it was then called, came into general use in the Lowlands about the year 1790, when so heavy a tax was imposed on malt that ale ceased to be brewed in all but the richer households, whilst as an article of sale it became both weaker and dearer. Cheap and bad whisky naturally proved far more injurious to the working classes than cheap and good ale. "These spirits, hot, fiery, new from the still in a poisonous state, are used by them to great excess, intoxication and the destruction of everything valuable; many have been killed by them in the very act of drinking, almost as quickly as they would have been by a dose of arsenic.” Between 1708 and 1784 the amount of whisky on which excise was levied rose from 51,000 to 268,000 gallons, whilst during the same period the amount of ale fell from 288,000 to 97,000 barrels. The price of whiskj^, still low in 1780, had been doubled in 1796; and a great impetus was thus given to smuggling and illicit distillation.

An improvement in the means of communication was both a cause and an effect of agricultural progress. Under an Act of 1617, renewed in 1661, the making and repairing of highways was one of the duties assigned to Justices of the Peace; and in 1669 they were empowered for this purpose to exact six days’ work in the year from all tenants and farm-servants. Little could be expected from compulsory and untrained labour employed for so short a period; and the roads continued as a ruie to be mere tracks, available only for sledge traffic, till about 1760, when it became not uncommon for a county to obtain an Act of Parliament authorising its Commissioners of Supply to commute personal service for money. This expedient, wherever it was adopted, produced excellent results; and as early as 1776 it was stated, as the outcome of an exhaustive survey, that travelling had become "incredibly easy, expeditious and commodious, and such a spirit of improvement prevails throughout Scotland that we may venture to say, a few years will complete all the public roads.” The construction of new lines of road, broader and less precipitous than the old horse-tracks, was, however, beyond the funds to be obtained in lieu of statute labour; and this difficulty was not overcome till Road-Trusts were formed for the purpose of borrowing money on the security of tolls. The first Turnpike Act—restricted to Midlothian—was passed as early as 1713; but it was not till the last quarter of the century that any great extension of this system took place.

Enormously as rural Scotland had developed during this period, its soil and its population were alike too varied to permit of any uniform advance; and even in districts contiguous to Edinburgh and Glasgow the old methods of husbandry were not easily displaced. It was remarked of Midlothian in 1793 that it was "only within these few years" that the fencing of fields as well as of farms had become general; and, five years later, the mediaeval plough was still the most used in Clydesdale. In 1800 only a third part of Fifeshire was completely enclosed; and so late as 1812 the town lands of Renfrew were occupied by run-rig tenants. When such blemishes existed in the south, it may be imagined what difficulties had still to be overcome in the north and north-west. On the level tract extending round the coast from Fraserburgh to Thurso there were many fine examples of scientific tillage; but these were confined almost entirely to the farms managed by proprietors and large tenants; and in Banffshire, the most advanced county, the great majority of farm houses were described in 1S12 as one-storeyed dwellings of only three rooms. Still more marked was this contrast in the Highlands, where poverty and ignorance all but engulfed the isolated instances of wealth and skill. We have seen how thriving was southern Perthshire in 1793; but the surveyor of the Board of Agriculture drew a melancholy picture of the central and northern districts of that county when he visited them—after, it is true, an unusually severe winter—in May of that year. Except for a few enclosed fields of clover, there was not “the faintest appearance of greenness.” A waste of barren and stony pasture, “gnawed to the quick” and strewn with dead and rotting sheep and prostrate cattle, extended on all hands; and the less exhausted of these animals were running after the plough in quest of “the roots of weeds turned up.” The surveyor returned in July, and then indeed there was no lack of verdure, for “oats universally were hid under a canopy of weeds.” The reports made on both visits were applicable, we are informed, “to nine-tenths of the tenanted lands.” Throughout the Highlands, where only the better-class farmers had leases, the same wretchedness prevailed. In Argyllshire in 1798 run-rig cultivation was only beginning to go out of fashion; in 1807 it was still universal in Arran; and the farm-houses of Inverness-shire were described in 1812—with the usual exceptions —as no better than Red Indian wigwams. It was, however, in the Hebrides that ignorance and squalor reached their nadir. The islands of Islay, Bute, Gigha and Colonsay had, indeed, adopted the new husbandry, and enclosures had begun in Skye; but the following description, published in 1811, will suffice to show how primitive were the methods of agriculture as "generally practised" in this region: “A man walking backward with his face towards four horses abreast, brandishing his cudgel in their noses and eyes to make them advance to their enemy; followed by a ristle plough employing a horse and two men—the three commonly altogether superfluous; still followed by four horses dragging clumsy harrows fixed by hair ropes to their tails and almost bursting their spinal marrow at every tug and writhing of their tortured carcases; all this cavalcade on ground unenclosed, undrained, and yielding on an average three returns for the seed sown."

Highland farmers had of course little scope for tillage, and the turn taken by industrial enterprise tended to reduce even that. Their principal occupation had long been the rearing of black cattle; and, like the graziers of Galloway, who, however, had the advantage in local position and skill, they were encouraged by the opening of an English market at the Union. We have seen that the cattle trade developed greatly after the last Jacobite revolt. In 1766, owing to an unfavourable season in England, there was a “great start"—so great that the dealers hardly knew "how much to ask"; and during the next fifteen years prices, though variable, never fell to their former level. The increase of profits was soon almost absorbed by a rise in rent; and about the time of the “great start” the attention of graziers began to be diverted from cattle to sheep. It had hitherto been supposed that sheep, if they were to survive a Highland winter, must be housed during the night. A broken-down laird, who kept the inn at Tyndrum, is said to have retrieved his fortunes by disproving this error; and so late as 1791 Sir John Sinclair, the President of the Board of Agriculture, found it necessary to enlighten the people of Caithness by a similar practical demonstration. About the year 1762 several farms in the southern Highlands were leased to Border graziers, who stocked them entirely with sheep of the black-faced Tweeddale breed—a breed which gradually supplanted the diminutive native stock; and, though the multiplication of these animals was retarded for a time by the idea that they could not stand the long journey to Lowland and English markets, this delusion also was soon exposed. Once established, the new industry was not likely to stand still; for sheep yielded wool as well as flesh, and were reared more expeditiously and at much less expense and risk than cattle, which, except during the summer months, could find pasture only in the valleys, took three or four years to develop, and died yearly at the average rate of one in five. “For every pound of beef that a Highlander can send to market,” wrote Sir John Sinclair, “a shepherd can at least bring three pounds of mutton.” In 1783 sheep were reported to have “increased greatly” in the West Highlands; in 1795, though cattle still held their own in Western Sutherland and in the Hebrides, they were being rapidly supplanted in Central Ross-shire; and in some ten years after 1800 the number of sheep in Inverness-shire was believed to have doubled.

The gains both of cattle-farming and of sheep-farming were confined to a very limited class, and each of the two movements left behind it a track of desolation and distress. The claim of the landlords to participate in the high profits of the cattle trade was indeed reasonable, and not always excessive; and a great outflow of emigration, which set in about 1770 from Skye and North Uist, is said to have been caused by an advance in rent which could easily have been met. In less remote districts, where a keener spirit prevailed, the tenants frequently vied with each other in offering extravagant terms. Such competition should, of course, have been discouraged; but the Highland proprietors were now, for the most part, the successors of those who had fought at Culloden, and, with few exceptions, they had lost the sentiment as well as the authority of chiefs. Redeemed from political and social isolation by the maxims which had prevailed at Court since the accession of George III., and immersed in the fashionable life of Edinburgh or London, they thought only of increasing their incomes; and it has been truly said that the prospects of gain opened by the cattle trade did more in a few years to dissolve the bond of clanship than all that legislation or policy had been able to achieve. The management of an estate was too often entrusted to a harsh agent; many of the landowners were absentees; and very few of them took the practical interest in their dependents which was shown by the great houses of Argyll, Breadal-bane and Athol. Knox tells us that in the course of his journeys he frequently met “families or bodies of people” who were begging their way to Greenock. They complained of inclement seasons and inexorable lairds; and, having no other means of procuring a passage to America, were anxious only to be informed how they could sell themselves as slaves. A pamphleteer, writing in 1773, declared that nothing could exceed the avarice and cruelty of many Highland proprietors in raising their rents and expatriating their people. “What greater sign of hating their fellow-creatures can there be than men grinding their very faces?”

In later years the introduction of sheep-farming gave rise to a much greater exodus, and in this case at least the tenants could have done nothing to avert their fate. The evil was due in some measure to loss of employment, for sheep could be managed with fewer hands than cattle, and were less dependent on tillage; but “the chief incompatibility between sheep and people” was that the valleys in which the small tenants had their dwellings and holdings were required during the winter months for the food and shelter of the flock. The high price of mutton and of Spanish wool, occasioned by the French Revolutionary War, quickened the progress of depopulation; and parishes were mentioned in 1S06 in which the number of inhabitants had been reduced to a third or even to a fourth. So disastrous were, or appeared to be, the results of this movement that it was denounced as “an inhuman speculation”; and its victims may well have re-echoed the complaint, which was made with regard to a much earlier agrarian revolution in England: “Sheep have become devourers of men.”

Poverty and overcrowding were, however, more voracious “devourers” than either cattle or sheep. Much of the emigration that took place was natural and inevitable, and the alarm it excited was largely due to the fact that Highlanders were valued chiefly as potential recruits. They showed 110 great readiness to enlist for foreign service during the French Revolutionary War; but twenty-four battalions were raised, as we have seen, for home defence; and the number of men able, if not willing, to become soldiers had never been so great. During the period of this book the losses from emigration and recruiting were so much more than counterbalanced that the population of the Highlands, and particularly of the Hebrides, greatly increased. Before 1780 the growing of potatoes for domestic use had become almost universal; and this food not only made the people more healthy and prolific, but, with the aid of charity, kept them alive during the great dearth of 1782-3. About the same time the practice of inoculation, if it did not quite avert the scourge of smallpox, made it less frequent and much less deadly. Nothing, however, contributed so much to multiply human life in the Hebrides and on the adjacent coasts as the manufacture of kelp, which was introduced into Tyree in 1746. This substance, obtained from the drying and burning of seaweed, yielded the carbonate of soda which was required for the making of soap and glass; and, so long as the superior qualities of salt and barilla were neutralised by high duties., it possessed a monopoly of the market. Kelp-workers frequently made more than enough to pay the rent of their holdings; and, as some twenty tons of seaweed went to every ton of kelp, the benefit in wages was widely diffused. It may be supposed that the rise of this new industry must have made the Highlands more habitable; but, as the labour required was of the roughest and simplest kind, the standard of living was not raised; .and the only result was early and reckless marriages and .a population so poor and so dense that every bad season plunged it into acute distress. It was computed that in the forty years 1755-95 the inhabitants of the Hebrides increased by almost a half. Between 1771 and 1790, unaffected by sheep-farming, which was then almost unknown in these islands, 2400 persons emigrated to America from a single parish in Skye; and at the end of that period the population of the parish had not been diminished.

The extension of sheep-farming in the Highlands provoked so much adverse criticism that proprietors were constrained to seek a remedy for its depopulating effects. Sir John Sinclair in 1795 suggested that the small tenants might participate in the movement by disposing of their cattle and combining to purchase sheep and hire common shepherds, and that those who could not thus be provided for should be “collected into small villages properly situated for the carrying on either fisheries or manufactures." The plan actually adopted may have owed something to this suggestion, and in 1806 it was said to be “now becoming universal.” When the hills and valleys of a Highland estate had been leased to a sheep-farmer, the inhabitants were brought down to the low grounds, assumed to be arable, where they received allotments and a common right of moor-pasture. These “one and two acre lots” yielded a poor as well as a scanty crop, and where—as was usually the case—they were situated on the coast, the crofter was expected to become a fisherman. In other words, as the rent of his holding could not possibly be paid out of its produce, he was to extract it, under little less discouraging conditions, out of the sea. We have seen that the herring bounties had been the making of several western towns; but this was a consequence of the law which required the busses to set out from these ports; and a man who dwelt on the shores of Loch Broom had thus to make a voyage of a month or six weeks before he could fish at his own door, and another such voyage before he could return home. Busses, however, required higher seamanship than could be acquired by inland-bred tenants; and the law was such that these unfortunate people could do little in their open boats. For the purpose of fish-curing, and for that purpose alone, foreign salt was exempted from duty; and, in order to guard against fraud, the importer was required under bond either to produce a sufficient quantity of cured fish or to return what remained of his salt. This was hard enough on the buss-fishers who had to spend much of their time cruising back and forward to the customhouse, and so hard on the boat-fishers that they could make little or no use of bonded salt. They might indeed have sold their fish to the busses, but the crews of these vessels, in order to stimulate their activity, were forbidden to buy. By a curious anomaly Ireland, but not Scotland, was permitted to import rock-salt from Liverpool; and consequently to other evils affecting the Highlands was added smuggling. A person in one of the Hebrides is said to have owned that in one year his illicit importation of Irish-made salt amounted to 970 tons. It will thus be seen that what the Highlands gained in kelp from the salt laws was neutralised to some extent by the discouragement to fishing.

It was natural, if not inevitable, that certain classes and districts should suffer in the course of an industrial development so great and so rapid as that which has now been reviewed. Some of the men who won distinction in the movement are commemorated in these pages; but this struggle, whose bloodless triumphs were won in the counting-house, in the factory and on the farm, was as honourable to the soldiers of industry as to their leaders; and our gratitude is due, in the words of George Eliot, to “many valiant workers, whose names are not registered where every day we turn the leaf to read them, but whose labours make a part, though an unrecognised part, of our inheritance."

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus