« AnteriorContinua »
States, and there were Indian tribes on the borders always regarded as a great danger by the colonists.
The colonies of the extreme North, which, as a whole, may be inaccurately expressed as New England, practically the only colonies which seriously competed with British manufactures, had been settled from the islands by an aggressive leaven of those who feared lest Episcopacy should have authority among them, those who had found it impossible to live at peace with their neighbours at home, men who insisted on the general acceptance of their views by society, “ that stubborn crew who
“Do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun,
calling themselves, as they whipped and burnt other extremists, sufferers for conscience' sake. In this part congregationalism was practically established.
In between these two extremes was a population of European extraction, in New York mostly Dutch with British, French and Jews, in New Jersey mostly British with Dutch, French and Swedes, and in Pennsylvania Finns, Swedes, Dutch, Germans, Welsh, Scots and English. In none of the colonies was there any large body of negro slaves, either in the North, where such labour was uneconomic, or in the South until the introduction of the cultivation of cotton (in 1677 in Virginia 2,000 out of a population of 40,000).
Into this medley of religions and races the rulers of Britain had poured for more than a hundred years a continuous stream of criminals, wastrels, and of enemies deported because they were defeated in party warfare, men carrying bitter memories of humiliation and defeat, hatred of organized government and opposition to law. It does not follow that a great many of these were not good citizens, men and women transported for poaching or other like offences, as told in The Life of a Shepherd by W. H. Hudson But they were all naturally inclined to disputation and opposition to authority ; it was not likely that under any conditions such elements would accept easily any restriction on the undisturbed smuggling which they had enjoyed for a century along a thousand miles of coast, and which for many of them was a livelihood. .
In addition to this body of compulsory settlers, many of whom were exported as indentured servants to the planters, there had been a continuous emigration of voluntary exiles seeking land and opportunity in the imagined paradise of the new world from the hard conditions, inequalities and oppressions of the old. Scotland in particular so threw off from time to time the surplus population for which her poor soil could not find sufficient sustenance. At the very time when the disputes between the British and the colonials were at their height, there had come about a most extensive emigration from the Scottish Highlands and Islands throughout the entire extent of the country to America, principally to New York, the Carolinas and Nova Scotia.
iv. The Emigration from Scotland.-After the '45 the English government had abolished the hereditary jurisdiction of the chiefs and broken up the clan system, encouraging the chiefs to exchange their position and privilege as heads of the tribal community for that of landowner under grant from the government. Under the clan system the rents payable by the people to the chief were small and they were fixed, and their right to the soil was inalienable. They were not tenants of the land in the sense of acknowledging the chief, or any one person, as proprietor. Their rents for their enclosed plots and hovels were paid to him as an acknowledgment of his headship only; they used the unenclosed waste in common with him for their stock.
But the effect of the change after the '45 was that in the hands of the lawyers the waste lands as appurtenances were included in the grant to the chief proprietor, the common rights over the unenclosed land began to disappear, and the chief and his tacksmen, men of his family who held under him as tenants-inchief and agents, began to raise the rents of the poorer holders and obtain them in money instead of in kind. The process took a long time to mature ; the old feeling of kinship and of loyalty to the chief only very gradually disappeared. But the final effect was that the chief and his more wealthy followers
went to live in Edinburgh or London and spent there the higher rents which he received from the Highlands; while enclosures, not as in England for arable cultivation, but for deer parks or for sheep, deprived the resident population of the means to pasture their stock. The change was inevitable, and emigration the only remedy for over-population. But the immediate result was a great emigration lasting from the close of the Seven Years' War to the American Revolution of many thousands of hardy and independent Highlanders, leaving their country with sorrow from imminence of starvation for the American colonies. “They represented,” says a recent American writer, “nearly all grades of the population-tacksmen, farmers and other tenants and labourers—and covered many gradations of wealth, from the substantial and prosperous chief tenants to the very poor, unable to maintain themselves and their families.”
v. The Emigration from Ireland.-I must speak of the emigration from Ireland, though it is a hard matter to mention that country, since Englishmen have been trained to accept without question the statements of such writers as Froude, and to lay all blame for the results of their own centuries of oppression upon the Irish. Yet one must touch on the causes which led to a continuous stream of emigration throughout the century from Ireland of men of initiative and energy, filled with feelings of hostility to Great Britain. It is, I know, an unpopular story.
Ireland, says Lecky of the eighteenth century, was a country where all popular government was reduced to a system of jobbery, where the most momentous material and moral interests were deliberately crushed by a tyranny at once blind, brutal and mean, where the people had lost all spirit of selfreliance and liberty, and where public opinion was almost unknown.” Of the Catholic persecution he says: “It is extremely difficult in our day to realize the moral conditions of a society in which it was the very first object of the law to subvert the belief of the great majority of the people, to break down among them the sentiment of religious reverence, and in every possible way to repress, injure and insult all that they regarded as sacred."
“I hoped," wrote Lord Townshend, the Viceroy, to Lord Weymouth in November, 1770, “ to be excused for representing to His Majesty the miserable situation of the lower ranks of his subjects in this kingdom. What from the rapaciousness of their unfeeling landlords, and the restrictions on their trade, they are amongst the most wretched people on earth.”
At the time of the accession of George III. the lands of Ireland, which are always subject to an excessive rainfall harmful to arable farming, had been turned in great part to pasture, owing to the restrictions on the farming industry in the interest of Great Britain. Such pasture lands fell, as in England in Tudor times and in Scotland in the eighteenth century, into the hands of great graziers. These men, Protestants and men of capital, had in Ireland the power to obtain their exemption by a vote of the Protestant House of Commons in 1785 from the payment of tithe, throwing the whole burden upon the extremely poor cottier. It was the equivalent of the exemption of the nobles. from taxes which brought on the French Revolution.
The cottier would have been a labourer as well, like the yeoman in England, but, owing to various causes, of which the chief was the absenteeism of the landowners, there was no money to employ him. The absentee landlord drew the money from the country into England. Rents, often originally reasonable, were raised against these poorer tenants by excessive subletting from the agent, himself often an absentee, of the absentee landowner, the action and its effects being very similar to that occasioned in India by the sub-letting from the Zemindar, created a landlord by Lord Cornwallis. The cottiers, said Chesterfield, whose splendid Vice-royalty in 1735 shone brightly in the darkness of Irish administration, were used worse than negroes by their lords and masters, "and their deputies of deputies of deputies." Appeal was impossible, as the landowner or his agent held much the same position, controlling the legislature and the courts, as the Polish noble with the Liberum veto.
That the great mass of the land was given over to pasture, that it was in the hands of well-to-do men, and that it was exempt from tithe, meant, as it has meant in England and Scotland, enclosure. In England, though the enclosure had seriously injured the yeoman class, it was an advance in agriculture, in accordance with economic conditions, and was settled in courts where the small man had a considerable amount of support in defending his rights against his greater neighbour. In Scotland the land enclosed was poor rough mountain pasture, fit only for deer or sheep, and the man put in possession was in the first instance of their own stock and name, and head of the clan, professing a common religion ; by the Union the laws restricting commerce had disappeared. In Ireland the conditions (see Arthur Young, II., 108–116) were the opposite of all these. The cottiers were driven off the fertile land, their tenant rights seized without compensation by the agent of an absentee landlord, alien in race and religion, for the benefit of his graziers. The Protestant clergy, taking a fixed sum for tithe, very often without any corresponding duty at all, left its collection in the hands of men called tithe proctors, who, like the agents of the Zemindar, would collect all that they could squeeze out of the tenants. As the only appeal of the starving cottier was to a Church Court of Protestants, the legality of the tithe could not be questioned.
This gave an opening for the Whiteboys, who pulled down enclosures, drove out the tithe proctors, and prohibited the letting of land to other than the sitting tenant. They set up an illegal despotism, regulated all relations of landlord and tenants, and committed all kinds of crimes on persons who dared to disobey their orders. It was easier, safer, better to obey the elements of disorder than to obey the law. We taught the Irish this political doctrine for centuries, and then blame them for having learnt the lesson. How very dangerous such dealings with a starving, rebellious people were at that time can be judged by the opinion of Chesterfield, a high-minded statesman, so progressive that he reformed the Calendar. He based the movement with all its attendant crime and evil on " the sentiment in every human breast which asserts man's natural right to liberty and good wages, and that will and ought to rebel when oppressed and provoked to a certain degree.” (Letters, V., 463.) "Under the long discipline of the penal laws the Irish Catholics learnt the lesson which above all others rulers should dread to teach. They became consummate adepts in the art of conspiracy and disguise.” But authority would not take notice of the coming storm. The movement was suppressed in such a horrible manner by all kinds