STATEMENT of NAPIER CAMPBELL, Esq., Solicitor in Stornoway.
I am a native of Edinburgh, aged 50, and practising for upwards of twenty years as a solicitor in Stornoway, wholly independent of the estate of the sole proprietor of the island of Lews. The following remarks are of the nature and within the scope of my special instructions produced to the Commissioners. It is quite a mistake to suppose, as has been elsewhere suggested, that crofters' grievances are only a thing of yesterday ; and Fenian agitators, if heard, would, I think, leave no permanent impression. Whatever may have influenced them recently, the real question now is, I respectfully submit—Are their grievances real, and if so, can these be remedied ?
This island most undoubtedly is, and has long been, seething in a chronic state of discontent. Any vagrant spark might kindle a dangerous conflagration. What precise shape this unhealthy feeling might ultimately assume no one can predict. The crofters of Uig and Lochs petitioned Lady Matheson to allow her factor, William M'Kay, Esq., to meet them in conference in order to discuss their alleged grievances. She declined ; and in a published letter, she used the word 'dare' and called them rebels! Now Lewsmen are, as yet, loyal to Queen and country. They have broken no law. They are a frugal, industrious, sober, shrewd, peaceable, and a notably religious people. In Argyllshire, where I was for eight years in law offices, extensive evictions were being made. Intelligent Highlanders spoke feelingly and bitterly of the cruelty, harshness, and oppression suffered by ' the poor people' (especially where estates fell into other hands than the good old Highland lairds). ' Compelled,' they said, ' to leave their bonnie glens or straths, and heath-clad hillside pastures, for which their ancestors had fought and bled, their hearts were " wae " (very sad). In violation, too, of the crofter's right of tenancy—a more ancient charter' they maintained, 'than the sheep-skin parchments of decaying feudalism—their homesteads were unroofed and their hearths made dark and cold. They were, as in the island of Islay and elsewhere, ruthlessly forced abroad in masses from the country of their hearts, sometimes under the dread of army bayonets, among aliens in language, religion, and sympathy, and with no other dirge than the weeping and wailing of their women and children.' ' Where now,' they exclaimed, are the 300 stalwart Islaymen who, under their chief, Campbell of Islay (and his sons), came to swell the gay pageant of a truly Highland welcome given by their over-lord, the Duke of Argyll, to their Royal Sovereign in 1847, on her first visit to Inveraray ?' (See Leaves on Our Tour in Highlands, p. 80.). No wonder if Highlanders sometimes croon melancholy laments, and brood in sickly silence over the evil fortunes of their once martial race. It is their proverbial submission to authority and their literal faith in the decrees of Providence, almost approaching to fatalism, that keeps them humble. Naturally they are proud, high-spirited, and sentimentally impulsive. Highlanders idolise the Queen, who writes so favourably of them and their beloved country. Some protection has been afforded to crofters in later years, by the growth of public opinion, based on the policy of denuding the Highlands of brave, strong, hardy, well-made men, whose very history, and their reverence for it, ——make them heroes on the battle-held, while in peace they are a law-abiding, home-loving, and a God-fearing people. Wholesale evictions have thus become less frequent. Some proprietors have, fortunately, more regard for reputation than a heavy rent roll Others, not a few, continue quietly evicting by legal process, and clearing by so-called ' voluntary' emigration. The lawyer's pen supercedes the soldier's steel. This depopulation, gild it as you may, is a bitter pill to swallow. Yet it is not rapid enough for proprietors who look only at the most immediately profitable side of the question. With this brief introduction, permit me now, most respectfully to state :—
I. The Grievances of Lewis Crofters:
These are as follows :—
1. Wholesale evictions from good land now under deer and sheep, e.g.,
Morsgeil, Lynshader, and Park.
2. Shifting whole townships, and sometimes individuals, from place to place, without any compensation for improvements. This is spoken of as one of the most frequent forms of eviction in Lews. I remember one instance on the very outskirts of Stornoway. About twenty-seven crofters were removed from Widow's Row to Valleyfield or elsewhere. From crofts reclaimed, built upon, manured and tilled, they are suddenly compelled to shift to rough bog or bare rocky land, there again to reclaim, build, and cultivate, only perhaps to be again shifted. Those so shifted are crowded in upon other townships. This has a tendency to create mutual discontent. Individuals have been thus shifted three times.
3. Individual evictions of a revengeful or capricious nature, sometimes accompanied by aggravations of the evil. I have in view a recent case at Callanish, but other examples have, from time to time, come under my notice. Sometimes the outcasts cannot get a bit of land to build on, and they are refused parochial relief or other work.
4. In townships and individually they are frequently exposed to encroachments or minor readjustments to their loss. Cases of this kind are known to me down to recent date, and the ' Bernera Trial Pamphlet.' Thus, while their families increase, their holdings diminish. The rent remains the same. They have to bear indirect increase of rent and other exactions which, though small in amount, press heavily on poor families.
5. The ' arable land/ and sometimes the grazing and peat-ground, is limited and very poor. Hence the cry for ' more land.' One effect of small crofts is M'Millan, crofter, Lemeraway, I observed three generations (sixteen persons, I think) in one bedroom. Lastly, it is impossible to extract a bare living from very small crofts.
6. The rents are in excess of the true agricultural or pastoral value of the lands. Such rents are a virtual tax upon the fishing industry, which is their main source of livelihood. The soil is naturally semi-sterile. It is thin and light. Its substance gets blown away and washed out. What little sun there is, is generally accompanied, up till mid-summer, by cold blighting winds, and sometimes the weather breaks up before the meagre crops can be secured.
7. As tenants-at-will (that is, tenants holding land, &c , under the legal presumed verbal lease for one year terminable at Whitsunday), the crofters have long been, and still are, insulted, trampled upon, and terrorised over. Examples of this would just be to give the unwritten history of Lewis. Their submission to authority, lay and clerical, is well known. All this, combined with despair of redress, engenders a condition of servility, listlessness, and dependence, which undermines their manliness, their moral virtues, and their self-reliance. A conventional lease (that is a written lease—a Lewis one in particular—vide ' Rules of Estate') would not improve their condition. It would only place them more in the power of estate lawyers.
8. The crofters (and I can endorse this grievance) complain that there is virtually no law for their redress ; but in any view, they dare not resort to law with their laird or any one under the shelter oi his ample wing. During my long experience I could see no other alternative in all such cases, than to counsel instant submission, lest worse should come of it. It is not for themselves alone that crofters are concerned. Their parents, grand-parents, wives, and little ones share their anxious solicitude. To all these they are, as a rule, much attached and remarkably kind. They will work hard and endure much to keep the old people' off the poofs roll. They positively shudder at the every-day threat,' I'll put you out of your lands.' Frequency does not rob this threat of its terrors (indifferent as their lands sometimes are). They get off lightly by paying 30s. as the law costs of a removing !
The remedies which occur to me are:—
1. Enlarged crofts for such as desire them, of average quality, of 'arable land,' with sufficient pasturage and peat-ground for each township.
2. Failing the proprietor providing the necessary land within a reasonable time, and to the crofter's satisfaction, power to take such land as purchasers, on the analogy of railways, or for occupation merely, on equitable valuation and decree of Court.
3. Absolute security from eviction, so long as the crofter is not hopelessly in arrear and performs his crates as tenant. By ' hopelessly' I mean three years' arrears without value therefor, and for the next year's rent on the lands. By 'duties' I mean such as modern statutes would impose.
4. A fair rent should be judicially fixed, on the basis of a neutral valuation at the outset. It should not thereafter be raised, or the possession disturbed, for nineteen years, and then only under a new valuation and decree.
5. In the event of eviction, or loss of tenancy otherwise, the crofter should be entitled to full compensation for buildings, fences, drains, and other permanent improvements, on well-defined principles.
6. Anxious and minute provisions—
(1) against proprietory influence ;
(2) to secure fair valuations of rent and compensation ;
(3) to provide cheap, summary, and efficient courts ; and
(4) for protection at the ballot-box. The object of all such provisions is that, so far as possible, the crofter ought, when not in fault, to be quite free and independent in defending his public and private rights as an humble member of a great empire.
7. Any Government grants in aid could not, in my opinion, be better applied than in the reduction of assessments for roads; schools, and poor.
III. Some practical suggestions
The foregoing proposals may be further elucidated:—
1. I do not propose to take present statistics. These are virtually factorial figures. There ought to be a full, careful, and minute neutral survey of all croft lands, and lands suitable for crofts, in addition to a proper classification of Campbell, the rural population, in order to discover how many families might really require land, and to what extent, and also whether and where that can equitably be provided for them. Many widows and poor persons might not wish more land.
2. Such survey might also embrace the forelands of the shores. These are already secured to fishermen and others by old Fishery Acts for fishing purposes; but the said Acts are disregarded—
(1) owing to the difficulty of recovering the penalties ; and
(2) from dread of conflict with the lord of the manor.
3. For neutral valuations I respectfully suggest the appointment of wellpaid officials, like fishery officers, specially qualified one to reside at each seat of Court. These officers could send statistical reports to the Crown, take an active superintendence of crofts, give all necessary information, and value rents and compensation. It should be optional always, to either party, to demand the valuation of a non-resident official.
4. As to lands taken on compulsion, the analogy of railways seems to be, constitutionally, preferable to the proposal of a Government purchase. The same analogy suggests the creation of an intermediatory board, such as croft commissioners, elected like burgh commissioners, with borrowing powers, power to appoint district comptrollers (superceding ground officers and farm constables), and generally with powers for enforcing sanitary arrangements, simple improvements in dwellings, agriculture, and such like, for the benefit of all concerned. Such boards would educate crofters to exercise the franchise, and manage their own concerns. In these boards might be vested, ad interim, all lands taken on compulsion, and the ' forelands.' The encouragement of fishing settlements all along the coast suggests one remedy for future overcrowding. This would greatly increase the value of adjoining lands per acre; and fishing might, in due time, become self-supporting.
5. The Crown appointment of procurator-fiscal should be put on the same footing, as regards prohibition from agency, as sheriffs and sheriff-clerks. In no case whatever ought fiscals, or any one identified with them, to be agents for landed proprietors within the county where the estate is situated.
6. I attach almost vitally importance to the great protection which cheap, summary, and efficient Courts would afford. Our Small-Debt Court (if it allowed the successful party relief against the loser for agency) with a Circuit Appeal Court of three principal sheriffs, furnishes an excellent model. Long residence of local sheriffs would find in this powerful appeal Court a counterpoise. Such used to be the Appeal Court for valuations ; but it would be a great improvement thereon that sittings should be frequent, and that they should be held in each district seat of Court. It might be called the Lands Appeal Court. If successful it might also, by after extension to all sheriff court cases, supercede the present double sheriffship. The cost to the country would, by thus utilising existing machinery on tried lines, be quite nominal. An agency fee of 7s. 6d. for the local Court, and 12s. 6d. additional for appeal, if taken, would be within the reach of any crofter. A more liberal allowance would be required, and be reasonable, in township cases. Such Court would, I am satisfied, contrast favourably with Irish Land and Appeal Courts (1) on the grounds of expense; efficiency; and despatch; and (2) political jealousies incidental to party appointments would thereby be obviated.
7. I here confine myself to pointing out deficits leaving the appropriate remedy to abler hands. Our present ballot system does not protect poor, dependent, and illiterate crofters. The polling officer is no doubt sworn; but, in remote districts, he is virtually nominated by the proprietor. He is closeted alone with the voter. Now, under pressure or strong electoral excitement, any of the following three things may happen:—
1st, the officer, contrary to the spirit of the ballot, must know who the elector votes for;
2nd, he can easily deceive such voter by misdirecting him in recording his cross-mark; and
3rd, if the voter is undecided in his choice, he can, at a critical moment, influence him,
8. In the event of a competition for or choice of crofts, a preference should be given to soldiers, army reserve men, militia, naval sailors or marines, naval coast volunteers, and merchant seamen.
Underlying all the foregoing grievances, remedies, and practical suggestions, or ranking highest in importance among them, is the operation of existing laws affecting crofters. This cannot be better illustrated than from my own experience as ' opposition' agent in Lews.
An urgent cry for a law agent reached me in Edinburgh in May 1863. Promised both moral and material support, I responded to the call. Six or seven agents had failed to establish a footing. I am here yet. But owing to all appointments of profit going one way, I can appreciate the bitter truth propounded by Lord Macdonald's agent at Portree—I have had great difficulty in 'making my tea out of it.' The town was in a ferment about the foreshores dispute. I was welcomed by the most prominent townsmen. Alas ! how few of those can appear here to-day! One of my first duties was, under estate opposition, to get Stornoway created a police burgh, so as to give the people a status to defend their public rights. The proprietor's purchase of the foreshores of Loch Stornoway was considered a breach of good faith. He had been applied to by ' the people' to obtain for them a Harbour Act to legalise the levying of dues on quays built by their ancestors and maintained by themselves. Instead of this he purchased the foreshores for himself, whereby he, in addition to a now very valuable foreshore property, claimed exclusive control over said quays and over the public pier, which formed the only outlet for the crofters' cattle, sheep, eggs, and fish, and the customary inlet for their clothing, oatmeal, flour, tea, sugar, tobacco, and all other necessaries and luxuries of life. He would also acquire exclusive control over the principal shipping and fishing industries of the island. No sooner was this purchase effected, than sixty householders were dispossessed, by an equal number of actions of declarator in the Court of Session, of valuable curing stations in front of their feus. With very few exceptions the feuars were either too poor or too timid to defend. The people, however, acting in concert, challenged the purchase in Parliament, on the ground, inter alia, of a very inadequate price having been paid. They not only petitioned, but they eent a special deputation to London and secured the services of several members of Parliament in support thereof. Measures of punishment were resorted to. Many of my earlier patrons were defending themselves from vexatious legal proceedings and other implications. Some became bankrupt, others emigrated, while many are dead. Concurrent therewith, measures of intimidation were instituted against one or more bankers, doctors, shipowners, fishcurers, public officials, bakers, general merchants, tradesmen, labourers, and others who were in any way in the reverence or under dread of the estate (Who are not ?). A lithographed copy of the said petition, with facsimile signatures, was pointed out to me in situ. It was hung up in the factor's office. Parties who had signed it were invited or induced to call. They were asked, ' Is that your signature ?' if answered, ' It is/ or ' It is like it,' they were then asked to withdraw their signatures and sign a counter petition. Those who refused, and many did refuse, were told significantly ' You will get no more estate work or estate money'! Sir James Matheson was then residing in the island, and personally negotiating with the people. A compromise was ultimately arrived at, and sanctioned by the Harbours Trust Act of 1865. It was only, however, of a very limited nature. The said foreshore' right, with the acquired curing stations, a large claim for feu-duty and sundry other valuable rights, including a preponderating control over the trust, were carefully conserved or secured to the proprietor. Mr M'Kay, in his statement, classes expenditure on the said curing stations as expenditure for the good of Stornoway! The estate has been drawing rent for these stations for eighteen years, and feu-duty for the quays and pier—say, in all, £3500! He refers also to outlays on the public pier. These, if really expended, were made in the hope that the pier would belong to the estate, and, being carefully provided for, the capital sum over £800, with 6 per cent per annum for interest, was duly repaid. The original price of the foreshores, of which the proprietor still retains nearly the whole, was little over £300, and the actual outlays on the curing stations very nominal. Altogether the said foreshore purchase was a brilliant pecuniary success for the proprietor, and at same time a serious encroachment on public and private rights.
The courts of justice, particularly the Sheriff Courts, were almost unanimously complained of. This was a substantial grievance. In the majority of cases the decision of the local sheriff was final; and where not so, only a few had the means to resort to higher courts. Mr Andrew Lothian Macdonald held this office for twenty-eight years prior to November 1871. In private life he was an amiable and accomplished gentleman ; but latterly well advanced in years, as was also the then local sheriff-clerk, Mr Colin Leitch. With the utmost desire to avoid giving offence to the relatives of those two gentlemen, both now dead, I fear that I cannot conscientiously discharge the important duty I have undertaken without stating that neither of those gentlemen appeared to me to maintain the position and dignity of their respective offices, in the face of arbitrary power. I now refer to Justice of Peace Courts. In 1868, the estate promulgated a policy of restricting ' drinking facilities.' As regards hotels, & c , these were and are very summarily dealt with, under a series of general resolutions of the justices, and under estate and Good Templar influence. Under this new regime, 1st, all back-doors of hotels, even those almost indispensable for domestic purposes, were shut up ; 2nd, with one very marked exception, all licensed houses were ordered to close at 9 o'clock P.M.; 3rd, all new licences were refused ; and 4th; even renewals could not in many instances be obtained,—in other words, old-established licences were withdrawn from houses without any fault alleged much less proved. Great hardships were thus not infrequent. The said earlyclosing hour was continued until the Court of Session established in the Rothesay case that certificates with that hour were illegal, whereupon the original hour of 11 o'clock P.M. was restored. For a time there were a few independent justices who refused to apply general rules to all cases ; most of those, from death, removal, or other cause, ceased to act, while the remainder (probably finding themselves in a helpless minority) changed their views. In all the latest Licensing Courts the justices appear as if acting in concert like one man, under the guidance of the present factor, a justice of the peace. They support the above policy adverse to hotels, &c. The Quarter Sessions Appeal Court at Dingwall now acts with almost like unanimity. Sir James Matheson was for many years Lord-Lieutenant for Ross-shire, and his influence was used in the nomination of justices, &c. In the landward part of this populous island next in size to Ireland, there is not one licensed house for the accommodation of the public or of tourists, travellers, or others. Compare this with the policy pursued by Sir Alexander Matheson of Ardross on the mainland, who has beneficially I believe, expended £10,733 on hotels—more than he has expended in shooting lodges, and bank offices together, and nearly as much as on roads. As to the Lewis crofters, they are not consulted in the matter, yet it is alleged that they are the special objects and causes of all this very anxious solicitude. They are said to be intemperate. This I deny. Even prior to the inauguration of this policy I never knew a more sober people as a class. One of the J.P.'s, a very worthy rural clergyman, having warmly advocated the withdrawal of the licence from the only inn in his parish, stated that ' drunkenness was alarmingly on the increase.' On being asked to specify the number of people in his parish who were known to him to be ' addicted to drink,' he very innocently replied,' I only know one man of my people of whom that can be said,' and he subsequently admitted that' this man did not patronise the inn in question.' I also deny that the crofters are extravagant; they are quite remarkable for economy. Such an extreme policy is in many ways hurtful. So far as crofters alone are concerned, it is a serious encroachment on their liberty. It is only one of a multitude of like extremes, the outcome of all which is the almost total subversion of freedom.
I now mention two procurator-fiscal illustrations. There had been a skirmish in town between certain unpopular police, since removed, and some crofters from Knock, which was followed by mobbing and rioting. The fiscals, or one of them, wrote to Sheriff Cook in Edinburgh, asking him to try the complaints before a jury elsewhere,' because a local jury could not be trusted to convict in a question with the police.' It was further alleged that 'the police required protection.' Happening accidentally to call on Sheriff Cook, he questioned me and handed me the letter containing remarks to the above effect. My answer was,' I think it is the people who require protection from the police.' This view turned out to be correct. The police, it was clearly proved, were originally in the wrong, and, while wrong, they used their batons too freely, drawing blood. This led, probably in despair of other redress, to the police being on a subsequent occasion mobbed by a large gathering from Knock. Sheriff Cook wisely entrusted the cases to a local jury. A unanimous verdict was given against the men who broke the law by mobbing; thus showing that local juries were just like other upright juries. Again, in a series of letters laid before the County Commissioners of Police, and published in the press, the Lews crofters were called ' hereditary sheep-stealers.' The people were naturally indignant. Mr Sellars of Park Farm apologised at a public meeting; he said he was misled as a stranger. Mr Munro also stated that in the whole of his experience as fiscal he had never known one case of sheep-stealing in the island. Meantime, however, two extra policemen were stationed in Lochs, thereby increasing the rates and adding another link to the heavy chain of absolutism. After this meeting, having called at the factor's office, I found the factor in high glee; he was studying some water-coloured drawings of sheeps' heads. One of these he held out at arm's length, saying ' Don't you admire it ?' The full force of the joke I was then unable to appreciate. It was evident, however, that the meeting must have interrupted a congenial task. Time partly unfolded the mystery. A crofter retained me to defend him against a charge of sheep-stealing. It was only a dispute between neighbouring crofters about ear-marks, which were often much alike, and the disputes settled in a Small-Debt Court. The said drawings probably referred to this case. Before the criminal court day arrived, my services were dispensed with. The accused pled guilty. I was much surprised at this, and through a reliable source I ascertained that he admitted having been induced, he would not say by whom, to plead guilty, on the assurance that he would save an agency fee, and get off lightly. His fine was small. But here was a recorded conviction for sheep-stealing. Another conviction took place about the same time of a Harris man, who was thereafter placed at Valleyfield, much to the indignation of the crofters there. From that date he became the marked recipient of factorial favour. Indeed, such implicit confidence had the factor in this man's honesty, that he located him just where he could, if so disposed, help himself to the fattest (estate) wedders in the island! I never heard of any conviction for sheep-stealing either before or since.
The late Sir James Matheson, Baronet of Achany and the Lews, M.P., and Lord-Lieutenant for Ross-shire, was a great man, a public benefactor, a resolute pioneer of progress, the architect of his own colossal fortunes, most hospitable, and sometimes profusely benevolent. Alas! there is another side to this picture. He was peculiarly accessible to flattery through the public press. In addition to the factor and his staff industriously fostering this specialty, any one who could write local articles was speedily secured and patronised. Their constant theme was laudation of the proprietor. Thus the outside public came to have a different ideal portrait of him from that which had slowly and silently corroded itself into the popular heart. Appeals on the ground of poverty seldom, if ever, moved him to relax one condition of a hard bargain. The usual answer was, ' Sir James will not negotiate till you place yourself entirely at his mercy. If you do not so submit you must take the consequences,' &c. To anything dignified with the name of 'estate policy' all must bow with almost Oriental docility. He carefully left poor people who were compelled to negotiate with him in defence of their rights, on a most unequal footing, to be dealt with by his lawyers, who enjoyed an exclusive monopoly of all local influence and power, and who zealously exercised it, in most things, to the full measure of its capacity. The policy of the estate—not under one factor alone—but steadily pursued through nearly all factors, for a long course of years, must, I fear, if truth is to be spoken, be characterised as a tortuous, subtle, and aggressive one in pursuit of territorial aggrandisement and despotic power, so absolute and arbitrary as to be almost universally complained of. No one could reside long in Stornoway without observing and feeling this encroaching spirit Virtually 26,000 people complained, and still complain, of one.
The factor or 'chamberlain' who enjoyed most of the proprietor's confidence, and longest retained it, was Mr Donald Munro, solicitor. His various titles are enumerated in the Bernera phamphlet. He held office for twenty-one years prior to 1875. In the said Bernera trial he deponed to his having taken out and ordered execution of forty removings without even consulting the resident proprietor, who looked very closely after his own business! Were I to attempt to give some conception of the popular ideal of such factors, I would have to resort to metaphors such as Bismarck for his iron rule and farreaching diplomacy ; King Theodore, surrounded by his terrified prisoners and Campbell, trembling subjects, boasting of his invincibility in his own remote Magdala, pursuing, even to the bitter end, his measures of revenge, tyranny, and oppression while ' hugging his big guns.' Or I might refer to the legend of the Scottish Border, which describes the English matron hushing her fractious babe to sleep with the terror of the Douglas' name. I would still leave much to the imagination. Mr Charles Innes, agent in said Bernera trial, wittily declared that, on his first visit to Lews, he thought the people had ' Factor on the brain.' It is only fair, however, to Mr Munro to say that his immediate predecessor, Mr John Munro Mackenzie, a native of the island, did not enjoy a much more enviable reputation, while Mr M'Kav, the present chamberlain, has been so long in the estate office, under both of the said Messrs Mackenzie and Munro, and the estate and legal machinery remain so much alike (if not stronger than ever), that, if there is any change for the better, it is only a question of degree. I have complaints from townships and individuals, aye, even of parishes in quite recent times. So that the conclusion I draw is, that as the present system would spoil any man, even one quite new to it, so Mr M'Kay only requires time and circumstances to develop into the usual type of factors of great proprietors in remote districts of the far north.
The long exercise of too much power has a depreciating influence. I could frequently recognise the late proprietor's own master-mind. The master makes the servant. I took good care, for causes to be explained, that he should be unable to plead ignorance of what was going on in his name and for his behoof in anything I had on hand. Mr Munro's zeal for his employer was beyond question. The rental of the estate, which was about £10,000 in 1844, is now nearly £18,000. The rental, however, does not, I think, show all or anything like all, the various exactions imposed on crofters. It will not, in particular, show the law costs recovered —one very severe method of punishment, and not an uncommon one. Were I to mention cases with large tenants and cases affecting property in town, in which the fiscal element generally figures, I could still more forcibly illustrate the view I have expressed as to the estate policy and system; but the strict relevancy thereof might not so readily appear. One of the most perplexing elements I encountered was a secret partnership between the factor (Munro) and the estate agent (Ross), which they and the proprietor appeared to be most anxious to conceal. They were openly enough joint-fiscals. They kept a joint bank account. In the case Skinner v. Stephen, Mr Ross swore to this partnership. I could never obtain evidence of its dissolution. In another case, the Proprietor v. K . Murray Ness, Sheriff Cook commented on the singularity of the one partner acting for the pursuer and the other for the defender. This curious phenomena was not infrequent. The partnership was very visible to me. Yet many believed there was no partnership. I am very difficult to persuade that it does not exist at this moment, all outward appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. I raised this question about five years ago in open Court; but Sheriff Wilson did not allow the inquiry to proceed. I have met the factor Munro in seven different capacities in one case (John M'lver's). I also heard him boast of appearing in sixteen distinct capacities at one time ! He could thus cut himself up into sixteen different personages in law, or he could, at pleasure, unite all these parts or personages into one great person under the powerful name of the sole proprietor of Lews. To follow the intricate windings of a Lewis legal labyrinth, in the hope of obtaining justice, required great independence, some means, considerable nerve, and resolute steadiness of purpose. Above all, it required a reliable tribunal within the compass of the person's purse. How seldom could all these elements be united in Lews. The poor crofter was least of all fitted for such a contest. It was like fighting with some hydra-headed monster. Nor was it free from serious risk to an agent—as I experienced. In defending a tenant (Alexander) from vexatious litigation and a network of complications of a very peculiar character, I used words which were so far indiscreet, that I did not see my way to defend an action of damages for £1000 in Court of Session. I preferred to retract and pay £30 of expenses. The wielders of this terrible complex legal machinery could almost be ' a law unto themselves.' Silence resulted from sheer dread. One of my earliest cases was to defend a poor crofter named Beaton. His only cow having strayed on Goathill farm it was ' poind-folded' (an old Scotch remedy for trespass). Beaton offered double trespass money (2s. 6d.). This was refused, and a warrant to sell the cow applied for. The cost of this warrant, unopposed, would exceed the value of the cow, and a sale would leave a balance to pay at next rent collection. On my appearing for Beaton he was threatened with fiscal proceedings and to be put out of his lands. I protected him from these threats and succeeded in restoring his cow, under appeal to Sheriff Cook, who reprimanded the said local sheriff for language used in his decision.
C O N C L U S I O N.
The foregoing statement or memorial has been written altogether in vain if my purpose is not self-evident. It is not any individual I desire to assail, it is a system. If I could, in justice to others, avoid names I would do no. Confining myself to matters within my own cognisance, I have sought to prove that the poor, humble, but respectable Lews crofter has much to complain of. He could hardly be happy and contented under such a system. Our crofters are quite unused to Royal Commissioners. They hardly know how to express their deep-seated inner feelings to the representatives of their Sovereign. So few are independent of estate influence that they hardly knew who to trust as advisers. Their evidence has been given under the chilling presence of a factor. A few words of assurance from him cannot instantly dissolve this spell. It would require much longer time and more systematic preparation than they have had to exhaust the Lews evidence. For every delegate examined they could of&r two more. No doubt the evidence given by themselves should thus be all the more valuable—but as an expose of such a minute and elaborate system it is very incomplete. It is contended that the Lews crofter will compare well with his Irish neighbour. They desire permission to live, quietly and peaceably, by their hereditary pursuit of joint land culture and fishing, for which mode of life they seem peculiarly adapted. Their sons have a striking aptitude for mercantile pursuits. Left to themselves many leave the island and emigrate. This class have been remarkably successful Assisted emigration, as hitherto carried out, is the total breaking up of their home with all its association. It is dispersion or virtual annihilation as a race. They complain, too, of injustice in former emigration arrangements. The factor, they say, gave what he pleased, and inadequate value, for their stock, crop, and effects. Be all that as it may, they have a deep-rooted antipathy to compulsory or disguised expatriation. Migration, as distinguished from emigration, they are already used to ; and, even though not hitherto conducted on equitable or enlightened principles, they submit to it. Their feelings are not thereby so seriously outraged nor their fears and prejudices aroused. For many a year to come, every able-bodied man, with a taste for the sea, is required in Lews. Our fisheries are only in their infancy. We have no oyster farms, which are said to be very profitable.—See Bertram's work on Fisheries. If proprietors should be, by force of law, compelled to make reasonable concessions to their poor tenantry, every one pound sterling spent on harbours, piers, coast-roads, telegraphs, and such-like aids to the development of our fisheries, as a great national industry and nursery for our maritime supremacy, will have the practical effect, in course of time—while operating as a widespread boon—of amply compensating sea-coast proprietors. Sir James Matheson asked £16 per acre for the site of the Free Church Manse (now Greenfield's Manse). Could he ever have dreamed of such a price—or even the present price of feu stances—but for the fishing industry at Stornoway ?—
In respect whereof,