STATEMENT by the Rev. EWAN CAMPBELL, Lochs, Stornoway.
THE MANSE, LOCHS, STORNOWAY,
25th August 1883.
I am sorry that much that has been uttered before the Commissioners is misleading and inapplicable to the circumstances of the questions at issue.
' Grievances' presuppose deprivation of RIGHTS. ' The earth being the Lord's and the fulness thereof, the crofters apparently assume that He has given them, as His 'chosen people,' absolute right to the Highlands, and appointed Government as tax-gatherer for their special behoof ! They consider themselves, therefore, empowered by' Right Divine' to spoil the Egyptian proprietors and their tacksmen, whom, nevertheless, they look upon as being ordained to replenish the public purse, out of which they are to draw freely to stock their heritage and build their manor houses ! Conjoined also with this is the strange assumption: That inasmuch as the Highlands are heritages of the Sword, the Clan that fought successfully in robbing, maiming, and ousting the previous occupants of the land, obtained the self-same right to it as the Chieftain of that Clan. Under the shadow of this peculiar allegation, ' The CROFTERS,' or rather their nefarious instigators, ground a 'right' of. repossession, and mutter insane threats of reprisal by this Charter of Right-The Sword of Brenua !' These being apparently the underlying principles of their statements—a disruptive and disorganising principle—permit me to indicate the real facts of the case at issue.
'Townships' were originally held by the occupants on the commonty system, in relation to which the cropping ground was yearly portioned out by [text obliterated] he grazings by ' sooming.' In course of time, the crofting system superseded the yearly ' casting of lots ;' hence the croft still goes under the designation of' lot.' The boundaries of the township, however, remained fixed as theretofore, as the croftage formed ' part and parcel' of the commune as of old. It is thus self-evident that each member of the Communists would have to be served with summons of removal first, with a view to a different settlement, before any encroachment on their rights, by the designing of additional lots out of the commonty, could be perpetrated. That such high-handed encroachments exist, and constitute a serious grievance, is a notorious fact. It cannot be denied that the tendency of such arbitrary encroachments is not only to impoverish but also to enslave a community, by the undermining of that sense of right which lies at the root of a genuine independence. And when to this is superadded the baneful effects of an ' obnoxious charity/ inaugurated by designing, loud-speaking demagogues and self-glorifying bigots, the wonder is how the Highlander, whose poverty and religiosity form a capital for revolutionary 'stump orators' could escape being dragged down to a state of inertness
and dependence. Looking at our Highland scenery, no person except one who is wilfully blind would have thought of ' gulling the public' by pleading for ' compensation for improvements' that are as impossible as they are chimerical ! The truth is, should an Act be passed to-morrow providing for such ' compensation, the contemplated improvements would forever remain a baseless fabric of a vision in the addled brain of the agitator !
Population is so rapidly increasing, in the ' Islands' in particular, that recourse to emigration must inevitably eventuate, while the actual occupant of a croft will have to be allowed, as his legitimate right, to till the commonty. Rents are anything but excessive. The real root of the ' grievance' is to be traced to a reprehensible system of management, and to inertia and sectarian bigotry. The people must be transplanted elsewhere out of the sphere of existing influences, to enable them to raise themselves to a state of manly independence