STATEMENT by the Rev. DONALD MACKINNON, M.A., Minister of Strath, Skye
STRATH, BROADFORD, ISLE OF SKYE,
29th October 1883.
In compliance with the request of the Royal Commissioners, conveyed to me by a letter from their Secretary, that I should furnish them with a written statement, I now proceed to do so, by way of supplementing my oral statement before them at Broadford; and though my remarks will bear chiefly on this end of the island, with which I am best acquainted, they may, I think, from my knowledge of the country, be held as generally applicable to the whole island. That there may be no misunderstanding as to my views, let me state, in the outset, that I am strongly opposed to clearances, and have been so all my life,—for I hold that no man should have the power either of clearing townships bodily, or of weeding them out year by year, until he effects his purpose equally in a way that does not attract public attention. In 1854, when, unfortunately for the country, Lord Macdonald's estate was under trust, clearances were carried out by the trustees, attended with circumstances of heartless cruelty, not only without Lord Macdonald's consent, but against his strongly expressed wishes. In the course of these clearances, paupers were ejected by the inspector of poor, who was a sheriff-officer, and also groundofficer on the estate. Clearances and maladministration of the Poor Law thus came to be mixed up together. I denounced both these abuses in the public papers. The evictions having been carried out, my letters were too late to benefit the crofters, but the exposure secured important advantages to paupers throughout the country. Some of my letters were printed by order of the House of Commons, with the result that several gentlemen of good standing were appointed under the Board of Supervision to superintend the doings of parochial boards and of poor inspectors, and that it was made illegal for a sheriff-officer, ground-officer, or landlord's servant for the future to be an inspector of poor. But while I thus thought it my duty to denounce the ejection of these people. I believed then, and do still, that a certain amount of judiciously conducted emigration would be for the benefit not only of those who would thus escape from poverty, but also for the benefit of those who would remain behind. In the face of the fact that almost without exception the crofters who have emigrated have been successful, and that a good many of them have become very wealthy men, I cannot see what claim these people have to be considered friends of the crofters, who, while they maintain that their condition is so low, yet advise them to continue in that position, from which there seems so little hope of escape, thus doing all they can to suppress the natural aspirations of men to better their position in life. Why, because a man has been born a crofter, whose lot in life is at best a poor one, induce him, by bad advice, to remain hopelessly with all his offspring crofters to the end ? It appears to me that both the public and the crofters themselves have formed an erroneous idea about their true position. Crofters, even with the best holdings they possess in this country, were not intended or expected to be self-supporting farmers but working men with allotments [When crofting began to be extended on the Macdonald estates, and up to about 1830, Lord Macdonald had an average income of .620,000 a year from kelp, as may be seen in the Parliamentary Blue Book, in the evidence of Mr Robert Brown, who at the time spoken of was commissioner for Lord Macdonald, and who at the time he gave his evidence before a Parliamentary Committee subsequent to the abolition of the duty on Spanish barilla, which destroyed the kelp trade, was commissioner to His Grace the Duchy of Hamilton. It is hardly necessary to remark, that such a large revenue from kelp and it was some years £25,000—implied the expenditure of very large sums among the crofters for the manufacture. All sea-board proprietors on the West Coast suffered in proportion by the destruction of the kelp trade. Macdonald of Clanronald lost an income of £18,000 a year; and all this loss came on in one year upon all the sufferers, so that their consequent financial difficulties were forced upon them, and were not so much of their own making as is commonly supposed.]. When, as in their case, what was merely intended to be subsidiary to the main purpose of living by labour, has come to engross their whole time and attention, to the exclusion of that labour to which it was intended to be subsidiary to the main purpose of living by labour, has come to engross their whole time and attention, to the exclusion of that labour to which it was intended chiefly to the supplementary, it is no cause of wonder that poverty has come in the wake of so unwise a transposition. The result is even in the deplorable fact, that a very large majority of our male adult population spend from eight to nine months of the year in absolute idleness and consequently in poverty, for the relief of which appeals have had from time to time to be made to public charity. There is here, therefore, manifestly a state of matters requiring rectification, and the only apparent remedy is a certain amount of emigration, combined with crofts of such extent as will give full employment to such families as wish to follow farming exclusively, and another class of crofts for those who wish to be fishermen, of such extent as will enable each family to keep a cow, with as much land as will not interfere with their vocation as fishermen. Without either migration to some place where land is more abundant, or emigration, this last remedy is not practicable; for there is not in this country anything like the quantity of land that would be necessary to make crofts of a proper size, and to give besides crofts of proper extent to those who now hold only fractions of crofts, and to those who have no crofts at all. A good many could be accommodated by reducing the size of the excessively large farms, and laying the lands thus taken out in crofts of proper size, the money could be found to stock the lands—of which, I believe, there is little probability. Of the finding of money for this purpose by Government, as has been suggested—and as the crofters, I think, unfortunately, expect—I do not entertain any hope, for I do not see what claim crofters can set up to Government aid any more than men who are in poor circumstances in any other locality, and following any other vocation. I certainly would not advise the increase of crofts of such limited extent as even the best of the existing ones. If any change takes place, I would suggest that, in the first place, attention should be given, as the readiest practicable remedy, to restoring all divided crofts to their original extent, and where possible, to extending them, and that steps should be taken to prevent the possibility of subdivision in the future; for should the present generation be received as proposed, unless subdivision is made impossible, the same state of things which now exists will soon come round again. I can look back to more than one occasion on which landlords, recognising the evils of subdivision, attempted to put a stop to it; but it was looked upon by the people as oppreession, and created such discontent, that though the rule was in existence, it was abandoned to a great extent in practice,—so that the subdivision which has been so disastrous, which has caused so much poverty, which has led to improvident marriages, and to the consequent heavily burdening of the poor-rates with the support of widows with families of young children, has been in reality the work of crofters themselves.
The only instances of subdivision by the landlord which I can recall, are poorer, a few cases in which the holders of crofts, cither from age, poverty, or ill health, could not manage a whole croft. In this connection it falls to be stated that the cottars, or squatters, who the delegates complained were a burden upon the crofters, are, without exception, either the sons and daughters of crofters who have been born on the lands, or people who have been permitted by the crofters themselves to settle down upon their holdings, who, without the landlord's consent asked or given, have often come from other estates, and become connected by marriage with some of the crofters on the farms on which they squatted. I have never known even one instance in which a landlord or factor gave an order, or even permission, to a cottar to settle on lands held by crofters, unless at the request of the crofters themselves; on the contrary, landlords and factors uniformly discountenanced the system, but in vain, just as they have in vain discountenanced subdivision. This was as well known to the delegates who stated it as a grievance against their landlords that cottars were settled upon their lands, as it was to me, and I was sorry to hear this and other evidence given here, and to see that such was given elsewhere which was notoriously untrue, much of it mere hearsay, referring to matters which took place fifty or sixty years ago, of which the delegates knew nothing, casting reflections on people long dead for matters which, had they been in life, they could have explained in a way that would give them a very different complexion to that put upon them by the delegates. For instance, Donald Mackinnon, delegate from Elgol, stated that within his time eight farms had been depopulated on the estate of Strathaird. Now, it is a certain fact that, for more than a hundred years, there have been only two farms on the estate occupied by crofters, and one of these is so occupied still. From the other, the people were removed because they had fallen into arrears for several years' rent; such of them as were solvent got crofts as they became vacant, in the tenant farm which still exists. In addition to the two said farms, there were two detached crofts worth about £12 or £14 a year each, held rent free by two old servants of the proprietor during their lives, Though holding those crofts free, these men were just as poor as their neighbours, and left nothing at their death to their families to enable them to hold the lands; still they were left in possession for several years, and they fell so deeply in arrears that they had to abandon their holdings. These two crofts the fertile imagination of the not over-scrupulous delegate has magnified into depopulated farms, which help to make up three of the eight farms said to have been cleared within his recollection. It will be in the recollection of the Commissioners that tins delegate stated in his evidence at Broadford, that the School Board had deprived the people of his township of the ground on which they used to haul their boats. I think it right to contradict now, as I did at the time, this knowingly untruthful statement, as I am not sure that I made the state of the case sufficiently clear in my oral evidence. The place was never used for the purpose alleged, and no tide ever known prior to that of November 1881 made it necessary to make the people think of using it. It had been a schoolmaster's croft, and was enclosed as such for many years. Prior to the passing of the Education Act, the place was for some time without a schoolmaster. I was petitioned by the people to procure a schoolmaster for them, which I did, and I built with their full concurrence on this very ground, at my own expense, the walls for a schoolhouse and teacher's dwelling—the contractors being some of the people of the place. After I had spent so much money, I asked themselves to fetch the materials for the roofing of the buildings, which were provided by me, and to cost them nothing but their own labour, and the use of their boats for one day; yet they would not take the trouble, wrangling among themselves, aw proftera uniformly do, as to which of them should do the work— those who had no children refusing to assist, and those who had, refusing to take the sole trouble of what they said was to be for the good of the township at large. Finding themselves so indifferent and ungrateful, and seeing that an Education Act was in prospect, I ceased to take any further action in the matter, and my outlay was entirely lost, When the Education Act passed, I, as chairman of the School Board, was deputed along with the factor on the estate, who was also an elected member of the School Board, to select a site at Elgol. From some cause the factor was not able to meet me on the appointed day; but as I had received intimation that he, on the part of tire proprietor, would agree to any site selected by me, I proceeded with the work on hand. From tire first, I had the site ultimately selected in view, as the most advisable, both because it did not interfere with any of the crofts, and also because it obviated the great expense of carrying building material to the higher ground, which is so difficult of access from below. I took all the inhabitants of the place into my counsel, assembled them on the ground, and without one dissenting voice they agreed that the site which I recommended was the best. As a consequence of the agitation, and unreasonable expectations of a crofter's millennium raised by well-meaning but injudicious counsellors, who wish them well on the one hand, and by disloyal socialistic demagogues on the other, a tendency to exaggeration and misrepresentation has seized the minds of the people, who are evidently under the impression that the worse the case they make out, irrespective of its truth, the more are they likely to get as the result of their complaints, so that men have come forward to complain who really have no cause or right to do so. For instance, Malcolm MacInnes, delegate, Heast, complained that his holding was too small, and too highly rented. Now in that farm on which he lives the lands are well known to be very reasonably rented; they have a club stock of sheep, the proceeds of which usually pay the whole rent of the farm, so that the holder of each whole croft has from seven to nine acres of fairly good land, house and fuel—grass for six cows and two horses virtually free. This delegate is one of two brothers who are known to have from £2000 to £3000 left to them by a relative who emigrated to Australia, and, to my certain knowledge, they were offered, some months before this man gave his evidence, a holding suited to their means, and that they declined to take it. Neil Nicolson, Torrin delegate, holds about eight acres of the best land in the parish—every inch of it arable—with grazing for six cows, two horses, sixty sheep, at a rent of £13, and is in as good circumstances as a man with a holding of this extent can be; the return from his sheep pays his rent, so that he has his house, fuel, land, and the grazing of his cows and his horses free. John Macdonald, delegate, Harrepool, occupies two crofts in a farm which is reasonably rented, and he has been able to raise his sons above the position of crofters. Finlay Maclnnes again complained of being over-rented. He holds a small croft, rented at 30s., and he sits better than rent free, for the Parochial Board pays him for a spare house upon his croft a rent of £4, while he only pays 30s. to the landlord. These are all decent, well-conducted men in their station of life, and I mention the above facts to how, by the unreasonable nature of their complaints, the erroneous notions with which the people have become imbued. Much of the poverty of which they complain is undoubtedly of their own making, for they too commonly spend in entire idleness time during which they might earn money enough to improve their circumstances very materially; and as illustrative of this, it is right that I should state that many strong able-bodied me n are now returning home to live in entire idleness until next summer, from the fishing in Banff mid Aberdeenshire, who from the failure of the fishing there hardly earned as much money as would pay their way home, while there is abundance of railway work where they could have got employment, going on in the district which they have left; and when one or two, perhaps three men, come home in such circumstances to one family, the result may easily be seen; and even when men return after a short time of absence, who have been fairly fortunate, their earnings as a rule simply go to pay debts due from the previous year, so that they are for about nine months running into debt for the expenses of the current year. I am inclined to think that the facilities now afforded our people by banks and business me n to settle their debts by bills, has a good deal to do with the reckless disregard of industry just described. The crofters are as apt at discounting and renewing bills as me n in the great centres of business, and the Commissioners are already aware of the ruinous rate they usually pay for this very doubtful benefit. Another active factor in this life of indolence is the facility with which large sums of money have been raised for Highland destitution. I have always strongly felt that eleemosynary relief was attended with bad effects in their ways besides encouraging idleness, though, when surrounded by people in want, I have felt obliged to surrender my own opinions in order to avert destitution; but the experience I have had of its humiliating effects for the last two years, in administering the boat and destitution funds, has satisfied
too that the effects are more lowering to the character of the people than I conceived possible. At various periods from 1782 to the present date, the government and the public have been appealed to for the relief of Highland destitution, and I trust the Commissioners will in their wisdom devise some scheme which will render this humiliating state of matters no longer necessary; for as long as people continue to look to external sources for relief, they shall not, I fear, exert themselves steadily to live by their own industry. Though a considerable amount of poverty does exist, I am quite satisfied that the evidence the Commissioners have heard, alleging that the circumstances of the people in bygone years were better than they are now, is a pure myth, as the following statistics will show:—
(1.) About fifty years ago there was a large amount of arrears due by crofters, which was cancelled as irrecoverable. Again, in 1850, Lord Macdonald cancelled about £10,000 of arrears due by crofters, while for the last five-and-twenty years the rents have been regularly paid, without any appreciable arrear; and they pay besides poor rates, school rates, and doctor's salary, which amount to about 3s. per £1 on their rental.
(2.) Fifty years ago all the import trade, which was chiefly in food, was carried on by a small steamer of about 80 tons burthen, plying weekly in summer and fortnightly in winter; at a later date, a steamer of 110 tons was for many years sufficient for the trade, also running weekly in summer and fortnightly in winter; whereas now we have two to three thousand tons of steamships engaged weekly all the year round, and the railway besides in supplying the wants of the island.
(3.) Five-and-twenty years ago, when people were out of meal, a large number of those now in good credit could not, on their own responsibility, get meal from the dealers without security from me and other responsible parties. For a good many years I had to become security for sums varying from £100 to £200 to meal dealers, but for some years I have rarely been asked for such security. They are able either to pay money, or their credit is good enough to obtain meal on their own account. At that time the people were clothed in home-made stuffs, and most of them shod with leather of their own making, both usually of poor quality. Now they are clothed in tweeds or west of England cloths, and the women too often dress beyond their station in life, and the people altogether indulge in luxuries unknown to them in ' the good olden time,' which accounts to a great extent for their poverty; for though they earn so very much more than they did in the old times, these luxuries are incompatible with the amount of time they spend in idleness, and in consequence, as the Commissioners have repeatedly heard from themselves, the crofters are as a rule heavily in debt. The taste for an improved style of living I am very glad to see, for I am satisfied that it has been an influential factor in the greater exertion and industry which have been developed in recent years, and I am not without hope that when they see they cannot continue to enjoy these luxuries while they lead lives of idleness, they will be stimulated to more permanent exertion.
(4.) Much has been said of the abundance of home-grown food in former years. Potatoes certainly were then wonderfully abundant, but nothing else in the way of food was. That home-grown meal was abundant is a mere fallacy, which is clearly shown, as far as this locality is concerned, by the value of the multures paid at the only mill in the the parish. I have reason to be acquainted with the fact, that in the best years, including the grain of the tacksmen, which would at least be one-half of the grain ground, forty bolls of meal was the largest amount made by the miller by these multures, and as the multures were a twelfth part of the grain ground, the total amount of home-made meal would allow less than a boll for each family in the parish, while now the usual consumption of a crofter's family is, as the Commissioners have repeatedly heard from themselves, from ten to eighteen bolls. The value of the multures is also shown by the fact that the miller's rent, including a croft rented at £5 10s., was only £16 sterling. I am satisfied that other localities, tried by the same test, would give a similar result
(5.) So recently as 25 years ago many of the crofters were so scarce of stock that in every township numbers of cattle belonging to dealers and other parties were taken in to graze during the whole year, but now the crofters generally, though not invariably, have stock of their own upon their pasture, so that they do not require to take in grazing cattle, and when they do, they belong to other crofters as a rule. In old times very few men left the country to work, therefore money was scarce. The price of cattle and sheep was less considerably than half the price they now realise. The case being so, how is it possible that the people could have been in better circumstances then than now, for they paid practically the same rents as they do now (the recent increase being only five per cent.), with far smaller means of doing so than they possess, now that the value of their stock and of everything they have for sale is more than double what it was then, and when their own labour is so much enhanced in value that they can earn considerable sums in a very short time, though unfortunately they devote much less time to steady labour than their circumstances require ? Taking this improvement in their circumstances into consideration, the question naturally arises, what is the reason of the agitation and discontent which have been prevalent ? I am quite aware that there have been reasons of complaint in certain localities, but these have not been so general as to account for the universality of the complaints. Not a few have been unwillingly concussed by threats of personal violence to join in the agitation who had no sympathy with its promoters. Many joined, not because they felt they had unbearable grievances, but on account of the Utopian and communistic ideas instilled into their minds by professional and unprincipled agitators on the one hand, and by the unreasonable expectations raised in their minds on the other by well-meaning but injudicious friends; and further, by the way in which the disaffected and turbulent were permitted so long with impunity to go on setting the law at defiance. To people not in very nourishing circumstances, and so foolish as to believe in the teaching referred to, the prospects held out were of course very captivating; but leading the people to look for unattainable objects was only part of the teaching of these demagogues. The pamphlets and cartoons herewith sent [The titles of the pamphlets referred to here are as follows:-The Land for othe People; as Appeal. The Irish Land Question; an Appeal to the Land Leagues. A Plea for the Nationalisation of the Land; Letter from Dr Nulty, Bishop of Meath to Joseph Cowen MP; printed and published for the National Land League of Great Britain 1882. Several objectionable cartoons from the Weekly Freeman] show that the teaching was not only foolish but criminal, and that it is only owing to the inherent good character of our people that they were not incited to violence and bloodshed. These pamphlets and cartoons, and others more objectionable still, which I have not been able to get, were freely circulated by an agent of the Land League among our people, and they show one of the sources from which emanated much of the bad feeling in existence, which led the crofters to take a position antagonistic alike to kind and considerate as well as to inconsiderate landlords. Though I am satisfied that the position of the crofters is much improved and capable of further improvement, I cannot look upon it as calculated to admit of their rising much in the social scale; but I recognise it as an existing institution which cannot be done away with (even though wrong-headed and influential parties should advocate such a course), and which, therefore, every well wisher of his country must wish to see put upon the best possible footing, that it may make the people as prosperous and happy as their position will admit. I have no doubt that the inquiry by the Royal Commissioners, while in the meantime it had done mischief by unsettling the minds of the people and raising expectations so extravagant that they must to a great extent be doomed to disappointment, will have the effect of drawing the attention of landlords to the faulty points in their management of their crofters, and that more real good can be done in this way than by any possible legislation. And where landlords do not themselves recognise the duty of kind and liberal treatment of their crofters, the 'fierce light' which is said to beat upon a throne will shed on ungenerous landlords, and bring them to a sense of their duty by the voice of public opinion. The country, whatever party is in power, must now be governed by public opinion, and if the Government of the country must yield to its authority, is it not manifest that landlords in a matter like this of public policy must yield to its voice, even if they wished to deal harshly with their people, which I believe few indeed have any desire to do—but it must not be supposed that the fault is always unfailingly with the landlord, and that the crofter is an infallible being. Crofters have many excellent traits of character. They are usually a good, God-fearing, moral, and hitherto orderly people; but they have their faults, though they have been recently lauded as immaculate. From my knowledge of the country, I am satisfied that the influence which landlords and factors as a rule exercise over crofters is salutary—say, is absolutely necessary to prevent the injustice with which crofters, when they have the power, treat each other. It is only one who has lived amongst them, and has a practical knowledge of their ways who can understand the difficulty of keeping them in order. As families they are kind to each other beyond anything known out of the Highlands, but as crofting communities they are quite the reverse. In every farm the inhabitants are divided into cliques, each working in its own interest, so that they are rarely harmonious, and the more the crofts are subdivided so much the more intense is the feeling of rivalry, the explanation of which is this:—Various matters affecting the common interest in the management of their farms are decided by vote. The holder of one-fourth of a croft or one-third of a croft, as the case may be, has a vote as well as a man who has a whole croft; and those holding subdivisions being commonly more numerous than those who hold a whole croft, and being more needy, will, when they require money -—where they have a common stock—in selling the annual cast off the farms, outvote the holders of a full share, and sell, to raise money, young sheep which ought to he left for keeping up the stock, thus ultimately not only increasing their own poverty, but helping to impoverish the well-to-do tenants. Another mode by which they injure each other is, that by the vote of the holders of subdivisions, who rarely have enough winter provender for their cattle, a portion of the common pasture set apart for the grazing of their cows is almost every year broken up for cultivation, so that the cattle are scrimp of food, and that on an average not more than half of them have calves. The man who has a full croft thus suffers much more loss than the holder of a subdivision, for the man with a whole croft suffers by the injury done to from four to six cows; the other suffers only by injury done to one or two. Again, when they have hill pasture without a common stock, there are always some who have a great many more sheep than the fair share they are entitled to keep, and yet, though they have thus the use of grazing for which their less fortunate neighbours pay, they uniformly refuse to make any compensation to those who pay the same share of the rent which they do, though they have frequently little or no stock upon the land. They quarrel constantly among themselves about various other matters, such as sea-weed, peat mosses, keeping up dykes, herding cattle, and finally, when there is an improving tenant who lays his land out in grass, or grows a patch of turnip,—when he attempts to keep his neighbour's cattle off his grass in spring, or off his turnips in autumn, instead of preventing the trespass, they make his endeavours to protect his property a cause of quarrel and abuse. Crofter communities, like a family, require a head to rule them; some members are kind and considerate to their neighbours, while others are quarrelsome and selfish. Taking them all in all, they are inclined to be overbearing and inconsiderate to each other when they have the opportunity, and it is only the landlord or factor having the power of using summary measures against parties doing injury or injustice to their neighbours who can settle disputes, prevent injustice and enforce order in crofter townships; and, as a rule a factor over crofters has to adjust perhaps as many disputes as the Judge Ordinary of the country, and cases, too, which no one but a factor can understand or decide on their merits. The present factor is the eighth I have seen on the Macdonald estates, and I have never known abuse of power by any one of them, excepting by the factor appointed by the trustees while they held the estates. Two cases of seeming hardship were brought under the notice of the Commissioners at Broadford. I knew perfectly the nature of the case of Widow Matheson. I knew that she was heavily in arrears, which she could not hope to pay, and that she was at once transferred from the landlord's rent roll to the poor's roll, and that she and her family were kept upon the roll until they were able to support themselves. I did not at the time so readily recall to recollection the case of Widow Macdonald, though I knew the case well enough. She had a grown up family, who did not assist her; the croft was too large for her destitute circumstances, a croft rented at £9 which she never could pay; she was not herself one calculated to cope with difficulties, and she was ere long put into a small holding suited to her circumstances, where she has been for nearly twenty years. A good deal has been said about the paying by an incoming tenant of the outgoing tenant's arrears; but to this question, as well as to most others, there are two sides—it has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. The custom originated in a wish to deal gently with the outgoing tenant, as much as in a desire to secure the landlord's rent. The outgoing tenant is usually in reduced circumstances, and by this arrangement he leaves without any claim being made by the landlord upon either the way-going crop, the cattle, or other property he may be possessed of. Thus there is no such thing known on this estate as sequestrating a crofter who runs into arrears. The incoming tenant is usually one who is in fair circumstances, able and willing to pay the arrears, which is the game in principle as the common custom of paying for the goodwill of a business. Clearances, as they have been carried out in other places, have not been the custom here, excepting those carried out by the trustees. These were not carried out because the people were in arrears, but because their lands were wanted as a farm for a connection of the factor for the trustees. I stated this in the Inverness Courier at the time, and it was not denied, I had my information from the party who valued the lands for the said purpose, by authority of the then factor. In, I think, two instances, nearly sixty years ago, and only in one case since—a few crofters were removed in consequence of changes that were thought advisable, but they were all provided with places as good, and some of them with better places than those they had left. The tendency here has been quite in the opposite direction to depopulation. Nearly all the land now under crofters was held by tacksmen up to the beginning of tbe century, and even within my own recollection four farms now under crofters were in the occupation of tacksmen. More recently, Mr Macdonald, Tormore, when factor, took land off the sheep farms of Knock and Corry, which he let to crofters, and off the farm of Kinloch, which he gave to the Breakish crofters; and to the people of these farms he offered to let the valuable Island of Pabba, in their immediate vicinity, which they refused to take, as they thought they had not the necessary capital. I had ample opportunities of observing how matters were conducted, and I can with confidence say that Mr Macdonald, during his term of office here, was kind and considerate to the crofters, [A notice was produced by a delegate at Broadford, which had been sent to himself during the currency of the year, for which the rise of rent was laid on, intimating that the rise on the rent took effect from the Whitsunday preceding the date of the notice, which the delegate wished to imply, if indeed he did not say, was the first notice he had received of the proposed rise; whereas it was a matter known to everyone in the district that the valuators had, months before the date of the circular, inspected and valued the croft, and that at the rent audit at the previous Martinmas notice of the intended rise from the next Whitsunday was publicly given, and the explanation of the notice which seemed so ill-timed and arbitrary given by Mr Macdonald, is, that the irregularity arose from the negligence of his clerk, who omitted to issue it at the proper time.] never pushing them when in difficulty. but, on the contrary, treating them leniently, and generally taking a kindly interest in their affairs, and giving them time to pay, when he fairly might have taken stringent measures for the recovery of arrears. The small rise of rent (about 5 per cent.) which was made by him on the crofters' rental, and which brought so much unpopularity upon him, was a measure which he took in hand to save the crofters from what would certainly have been a much greater rise. On the coming of age of the late Lord Macdonald a revaluation of the estate was resolved upon by Lord Macdonald's Edinburgh agents, during the factorship of M r Macdonald's predecessor in office. A professional valuator appointed by them, in the first place, valued the sheep farms, which were out of lease, and at a rate far above the old rents. Mr Macdonald, seeing this, and anticipating that the professional valuator would rack-rent the crofters, told his lordship what was likely to be the result, and asked and obtained his sanction to have a valuation by local parties, so as to make it as easy as possible for the crofters. The crofters were told six months before the term from which the rise was to take place, how the matter stood, and they acquiesced without a dissenting voice in the valuation at sight of Mr Macdonald; yet when it became an accomplished fact, his attempt to save them came (from the time of the first payment of the increased rent) to be construed into an act of oppression. I state the above facts as having been within my own knowledge at the time. I do not think that, even including the rise, the rents are high. There are few if any crofts which, if properly cultivated, and energetically worked, would not pay the rent and afford fair remuneration for labour—in point of fact, a good many of the poorer crofters do pay their rents from the produce of the croft, and have nothing to pay it with but the corn, hay, and pasture which they sell. Living thus from hand to mouth, as these and even the crofters in rather better circumstances than these do, is it wise to ask for fixity of tenure as a panacea for evils with which the nature of the tenure under which they occupy has really little to do ? I am satisfied that no greater injury could be done to crofters under the present system than granting them fixity of tenure as commonly understood, and thus binding them more tightly to their poverty—no more effectual barrier could be opposed to their advance in the social scale—nothing would more effectually perpetuate indolence, helplessness, and dependence upon external aid, instead of relying upon their own exertions, and taking an honest pride in making themselves independent of elcemosynary relief. There must be a more healthy industrial condition before fixity of tenure can with advantage bo given. In this quarter they have as much as they can well desire, for the crofts, with few exceptions, are occupied by the descendants of the original occupants, and have been so for three or four generations without a break in the succession. I hold the opinion very strongly, that crofters should be protected against forcible eviction, as long as they are not troublesome to their neighbours, as long as they obey the law, pay their rents, and follow the rules of good husbandry, the entire neglect of which, adds much to the poverty of the country at large, but I am as decidedly of opinion that they are not yet so alive to their own interest as to make a good use of leases. I have not a doubt that leases would be antagonistic to their progress, would make them more difficult to deal with, and render hopelessly permanent the various causes which concur in bringing about the state of matters for which it was intended that the Royal Commissioners should find some permanent remedy, though until the habits and ideas of the people are materially changed, it is difficult to judge in what direction an efficient remedy is, to be found, but while in present circumstances I do not think leases would be advisable in the interests of the crofters themselves, I would in order to stimulate them to industry and to proper cultivation, advise the giving of leases to all holders of undivided crofts, as soon as they make their houses decently comfortable—as a good many have already done—and adopt a proper rotation of cropping; to give leases to holders of subdivisions would only be perpetuating poverty and making consolidation of subdivisions impracticable. In the event of the Commissioners coming to the conclusion that the solution of the difficulty is to be found in an extension of the crofting system, I would respectfully suggest that any new crofts which may be laid out, should not be of less value than £25 to £30 rent, including hill-pasture. With our poor soil and bad climate, nothing less will enable a family to live by the land. That extent of land would be something to look forward to by the smaller crofters, and would act as a stimulus to industry and thrift, and from that position when attained, an industrious crofter could in due time hope to rise to the position of a farmer, for now it is becoming evident that landlords are willing to break down their large farms into moderately sized holdings. How much can be done in this way to raise the status of the crofters, has been clearly illustrated by His Grace the Duke of Argyll, in Tyree, where we see not only that a good many of the crofters have by the good management of their landlords, and by their own thrift and industry, been raised to the position of farmers, but that a steady improvement is visible among the smaller tenants, so that they are decidedly superior to others of their class in the West Highlands, and that while general progress is visible in everything, their houses are unique in comfort among the other cottages of the Highlands, than which there can be no better test of a rise in the social scale. All this has been accomplished since 1853, and be it observed, that during the transition period, there has not been a single clearance or eviction in the island.