Showing posts from August, 2014

Highland Clearances #4: Loch's Sutherland 'Account'

Loch's Sutherland Account

AN ACCOUNTof the IMPROVEMENTS ... on the ESTATE of SUTHERLAND ... By James LOCH, Esquire Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown,  Paternoster-Row, LONDON. 1820
[This document has been edited (underlining added) to reveal some idea of how important the MORAL ARGUMENT was to this generation of IMPROVERS. This part of the Doctrine/Discourse was a central justification for the radical social changes undertaken in the name of political economy.]
  "...the plans of improvement...and their rapid and successful progress, and the increased and increasing industry and comfort of the people, have justified...the new system; especially in the manner in which it has influenced the habits of the people...A fit opportunity, therefore, seems to present itself, for giving a more particular account of the former condition of this estate...the very wretched and deplorable situation of its inhabitants, under that state of things, what mann…

Highland Clearances #3: Sellar's Trial 'Report'

Sellar's Trial Report

REPORT of the TRIAL of PATRICK SELLAR, Esq. Factor for the Most Noble the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford. For the Crimes of CULPABLE HOMICIDE, REAL INJURY, and OPPRESSION, Before the Circuit Court of Justiciary, held at Inverness, on  Tuesday, 23d April, 1816, By the Hon. DAVID MONYPENNY of Pitmilly, One of the Lords Commissioner of Justiciary. ------------------- EDINBURGH 1816.
Preface "From the general interest which the trial of Mr Patrick Sellar has excited in the north of Scotland, it is thought that a correct detail of the proceedings may not be unworthy of public attention...The accuracy of this report may be depended on. It is published by the junior counsel for Mr Sellar [P. Robertson, Advocate] from notes taken in Court, and omits nothing but the arguments of Counsel, which are kept back, least it may be supposed that this publication was intended to convey anything beyond the mere facts of the case." [This claim of impartialit…

Highland Clearances #2: Lord Selkirk's 'Observations'

Lord Selkirk's Observations

OBSERVATIONS of the Present State of the HIGHLANDS OF SCOTLAND, with a View of the Causes and probable Consequences of EMIGRATION BY THE EARL OF SELKIRK A. Constable and Co. Edinburgh Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, London 1806
[Editor's note: code words or phrases from the Improver Discourse are underlined]
I. Independence of the Highland Chieftains in former times ...     "The state of commercial refinement and regular government to which we are accustomed to in England, has been so long established, that it requires some effort of imagination, to form a distinctive idea of the situation of things under the feudal system...This has also been the case, to a great degree, in the Low Country of Scotland; but the progress of society in the Highlands has been very different...The feudal system has been abolished [after the abortive rebellion of 1745]; but the customs that arose out of it have not been forgotten...The value of landed prop…

Highland Clearances #1: Improver Discourse


Improver Discourse

The emergence of the Improver Discourse of agrarian capitalism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is really about the formation, and consolidation, of a new way of explaining things in a changing society.

The idea behind this series of posts is to consider some contemporary documents that were influential in this development of a different way of thinking:
(i) Lord Selkirk's Observations of the Present State of the Highlands - 1806
(ii) Patrick Robertson's Report of the Trial of Patrick Sellars - 1816
(iii) John Loch's Account of the Improvements...on the Estate of Sutherland - 1820

These publications seem significant for their insight into the way observers of the period interpreted, or made sense of, the emotionally charged phenomenon now known as the Highland Clearances. (The more common, contemporary terms were "removals" or "evictions"). They are also relevant to the general theme of this historica…

Bass Strait Traders #4: The embarrassing barque ISABELLA

Vessels in southern colonial waters 1830-1850

The embarrassing barque ISABELLA
TF Bride & CESayers (eds), [1898] 1983, Letters From Victorian Pioneers, Currey O'Neil, South Yarra
There is an interesting gap in Captain John Hart's letter to Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe in 1854. Firstly, Hart provides details of his time as master of the sealing schooner ELIZABETH, concluding with the information that, "In December 1835 I sailed as a passenger to London..." His account then effectively skips two years, resuming with the information that "In November 1837 I undertook to drive a herd of cattle from Portland to Adelaide". Occupying the intervening silence is Hart's embarrassment over the ISABELLA.

The ship
Ronald Parsons, 1983, Ships of Australia and New Zealand Before 1850: Details of ships Registered with Customs at Ports in Australia and New Zealand, Magill SA
"ISABELLA.  Wood, 3 masted ship [barque], Length 89 feet 7 inches, Width 2…

Bass Strait Traders #3: The grog runner MS YATCH

Vessels in southern colonial waters 1830 - 1850

The grog runner MS YATCH

Strictly speaking, this small vessel did not traverse the Strait between Van Diemen's Land and the mainland. Like other little ships working Port Phillip Bay in the early colonial period, MS YATCH provided a regular service between the nascent settlements of Melbourne and Geelong. But while the 15 ton DEVONSHIRE (a weekly Melbourne - Geelong service from December 1839) and the 13 ton HIND (a regular trader to Geelong from January 1840) still captured the attention of customs and port authorities, Captain Armstrong's 6 ton yacht eluded the government's gaze. As far as the official maritime records go, it is as if she never really existed.

There is only one contemporary source that reports of her nefarious activities, but because its author was 'the law' in Geelong and surrounding districts at this time, it seems fairly likely that this account is true. The writer is Foster Fyans…

Bass Strait Traders #2: The ex-slaver brig HENRY

Vessels in Colonial Waters 1830-1850

The ex-slaver brig HENRY

1. Arriving in Australia in 1836

Ian Nicholson, 1985, Shipping Arrivals and Departures Tasmania 1834-1842, Roebuck No 33, Canberra
The HENRY, a brig, an ex-Atlantic slaver, registered in London, of 145 tons burthen, under Master and Owner Captain Edwin Whiting, arrived at the Launceston bar on 9 April 1836. The brig had left London, Gravesend on 27 November 1835, making passage via Funchall Bay (22 December) and Tristan de Cunha (10 February), and carrying cargo including pork, butter, beer, rum, brandy and wine.

1.1 A dishonourable past
Ronald Parson, 1983, Ships of Australia and New Zealand Before 1850: (Details of Vessels Registered with Customs at Ports in Australia and New Zealand), Magill SA
"HENRY Wood, 2 mast, square rigged (brig), 144.75 tons, 74 foot 4 inches X 21 foot 8 inches X 9 foot 9 inches...Built time and place unknown and condemned in a court of mixed commission to suppress slavery at Sier…