Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

especially the latter, who, in his memorable, though, unhappily, afterwards recalled, reply to the famous sermons of the former against German Rationalism, showed thorough knowledge of the older Continental criticism, as well as the chivalry that could dare to speak the truth concerning it. But one seeks in vain in Newman's early writings—poems, essays, articles, pamphlets, tracts—for any sign or phrase indicative of real comprehension of the forces he opposed. He does not comprehend their real nature or drift, what reasons they have for their being, what good they have in them, what truth, what wrongs to redress, what rights to achieve; he only feels that they are inimical to his ideals. There is no evidence that he ever tried to place himself in the position of the philosophical radical, or the rational critic, or the constructive socialist, or the absolute idealist, and look at his and their questions through their eyes and from their standpoint. He hated them and their works too utterly to attempt to do so—perhaps he was haunted by a great doubt as to what might happen if he did; but the result was, he resisted he knew not what, and knew not how to resist it. As a simple matter of fact, he resisted it in the least effectual way. He emphasized the Church idea, the historical continuity, sanctity, authority, rights, prerogatives and powers of the organized Society or body which called itself here the Anglican, there the Catholic Church. The idea grew on him; the more he claimed for the Church, the more he had to claim ; the more he set it in opposition to the movement and tendencies of living thought, the more absolute and divine he had to make its authority. The logic of the situation was inexorable, if the Church. alone could save man from the spirit embodied in “Liberalism,” then it must be a divine and infallible Church, the vicar and voice of God on earth. But the logic of the situation was one, and the logic of history another, and tragically different. In the past Catholic authority had bent like the rush in the river before the stream and tendency of thought; if it had had divine rights it had been without divine wisdom; men and countries it had owned it had been unable to hold, and for centuries the noblest life, the best minds, the highest and purest literatures of Europe had stood outside its pale. And what had been was to be. Newman went to Rome, and carried with him, or drew after him, men who accepted his principles, but the “Liberalism” he hated went its way, all the mightier and more victorious for the kind of barrier he had tried to build against it. He succeeded wonderfully in making Roman Catholics of Anglicans, but he failed in the apologetic that saves the infidel, and baptizes the spirit of a rational and revolutionary age into the faith of Christ. A. M. FAIRBAIRN. (To be continued.)

THE CROFTER PROBLEM.

T HE condition of the Scotch crofters has been thrice the subject

1 of official investigation within the last half-century, but it remains essentially as unsatisfactory as ever. The picture drawn by the Napier Commission in the careful and liberal report they have receutly issued answers, feature for feature, almost to the pictures drawn by the Emigration Commissioners in 1841 and by Sir John McNeill in 1852. There is the same black record of contracted holdings, insufficient employment, miserable dwellings, insecure tenure, eviction, and, still more, dread of eviction; here excessive rents, there deprivation of pasture; everywhere deterioration of agriculture, exhaustion of the soil, and periodical destitution. Some of the deeper shadows indeed have grown fainter. Destitution, for example, has never within the last thirty years been so acute as it often used to be; there is no word now of whole countrysides keeping themselves in life by gathering limpets and sea-ware; but still the distress was sufficiently severe during the winter before the Commissioners' visit to call for advances from the proprietors and considerable contributions from the charitable public.

The dwellings of the people, too, are stated to have improved here and there, but they remain as a general rule so utterly vile throughout the whole wide region of the inquiry, except Caithness and Orkney, that the Commissioners declare that such houses would: imply " the moral and physical degradation" of their inhabitants if they were found elsewhere, though they are suffered here with complete self-respect on the part of the tenants who live in them, and—what often strikes a stranger as more puzzling still—with equally complete self-respect on the part of the proprietors who take rent for them. The proprietors do not build better houses, because

TOL, XLVII.

the rent of the small crofts would not warrant the expense, and the crofters themselves, who would no doubt, one after another, build better houses for their own comfort if they had an assured tenure of them, cannot be expected to do so while they may be ejected from them at six months' notice without compensation, or merely provoke a rise of rent by their enterprise. The Chamberlain of Lewis will have us believe that the people prefer living in those “black houses,” with the dunghill in the centre and without either window or chimney, because he has known a case of one family that got a “white house” with a partition between the cattle-stalls and the human dwelling, and the first thing they did was to break through the partition and shut up the separate door for the cattle. Others will have us believe that the prevailing insecurity of tenure is no obstacle to the people building better dwellings, because they have known cases of crofters who, greatly daring, built slate-roofed cottages at their own cost and risked ejection. But there was a great mass of testimony taken before the Commission on this subject, and the evidence is really overwhelming that the crofters would more generally improve their dwellings if they felt themselves secure against eviction. Wherever sufficient assurance to that effect has been given them—or, what is tantamount to the same thing, assurance of adequate compensation in case of disturbance—they are seen setting themselves very promptly and generally to the erection of more decent and habitable dwellings. Such an assurance was given, for example, on the estate of Torridon, and Mr. Darroch, the proprietor, states that “it is assuring to see how they are gradually improving, one following another. Nine improved houses have been built on my conditions, and many more are in course of erection.” For want of this simple security, then, which would practically cost the landlords nothing but a slight restraint on their absolute power of eviction, most part of the Celtic peasantry of Scotland are housed in hovels that no stranger looks on without a thought of shame. Work, again, is less scarce among the crofters now than it was thirty or forty years ago, for the fishing has grown largely since then; but still very few of them possess boats or nets of their own, and even the boats these few possess are generally too small for the present requirements of the industry, so that there has not arisen as yet any class of independent fishermen living by the sea alone. The entire population are really labourers who migrate for three months every year to work for fishermen elsewhere, who bring home with them from £15 to £25 a year from such labour, but who require to have a croft to furnish the rest of their maintenance. And while no class of independent fishermen has grown up, the old class of independent peasants, needing no resource but their farms, has more and more completely vanished. Eviction and deprivation of pasture have done their work, and what they have left undone, the fear of eviction is fast completing. The descriptions given of the agriculture of the people are most pitiable to read. In the management of stock the crofters are improving, and have an eye to improvement. It is mentioned everywhere that they lay out money on better bulls, and that on the club farms their sheep fetch as high a price as those of the large farmers. But their husbandry has gone from bad to worse, and is now heartless, slovenly, unskilful, unproductive to the last degree. The worst cases of exhaustion of the soil brought before Sir John McNeill were from certain parts of Skye, where the land was said to yield no more than the seed sown, or at most two seeds; but we are now told of districts in that island that often give back only a third of the seed, and where the mills have gone out of use because for years the people have had no corn of their own growing that was worth turning into meal. Their fields are illdrained and ill-fenced, they observe no proper rotation of crops, they do not use enough of manure, and in a climate where early sowing is imperative, if crops are to ripen, they sow later than ever. Of modern agriculture they have manifestly still to learn the very letters. The late Sir Robert Peel, whose clear economic insight perceived that a few simple lessons in good husbandry might carry those small people the whole way from indigence to comfort, wrote to Dr. Mackenzie of Eileanach after the Highland destitution of 1846:—“Surely there is public spirit enough among the great land proprietors of Scotland, and enough of sympathy with the position of their crofter tenants, to induce them to combine for the purpose of procuring this means of instruction in the first rudiments of agriculture, which I concur with you in thinking would be most useful to all parties, to the crofters, to the landlords, and the public.” Had this been done there would probably have been no crofter question to-day, but nothing of the kind has ever been undertaken. Sir A. Matheson, it is true, sent some young crofters to the South to learn the management of stock, and then gave them and certain other picked tenants fair-sized holdings on lease, and the result is the thriving club farms of Ardross. Lord Lovat did still better. He brought a farmer from Aberdeen to teach his crofters their business, showing them even how to handle a spade ; and that instruction, backed by an improving lease, and the personal interest of the landlord, has been crowned by the creation of a body of 500 independent and substantial peasantry who have doubled the rental of the estate by the improvements they have made. What was done there might be done elsewhere, but so far as we can judge from the evidence of the recent Commission it seems never to have been thought of, and on one estate, where a slight movement in this direction had at one time

been made, the very tradition of it has been forgotten. An old factor on the Macdonald property stated to Sir John McNeill that he had got good results from appointing an inspector of improvements to guide the people into better ways; but the experiment was only three years in operation when it had to be abandoned in consequence of the potato famine. The potato famine is happily long past, but the experiment has never been resumed, and the present factor, who is also factor on most of the other large properties of the island, has never so much as heard of the idea, and can only think that perhaps it may be worth trying. The crofters have been left to shift as best they might. Other tenants have been generously assisted in their improvements by the proprietors, but the Commissioners have found singularly little evidence of any assistance, pecuniary or other, being rendered by proprietors for the direct benefit and improvement of crofts. On the Sutherland property, indeed, a small sum of money is set apart for this purpose every year, but the principle adopted on most Highland estates, as was explained by Lord Macdonald's factor, is to lay nothing out for the crofters' advantage, but, as a compensation, to keep their rents a little below the competition maximum. And this seems to be very generally the case. Of course there are estates, like Clyth, for example, where a system of rack-renting worse than Irish has prevailed, and there are others, like the estate of Kilmuir, at present so much before the public, where successive rises of a very burdensome nature appear to have been imposed, and there are many where no adequate reduction was made when hill pasture was taken away; but, as a rule, Highland crofts are not rented at their full competitive value. The only large Highland property where crofts are avowedly let at competition rents is the property of the Duke of Argyll,” but the crosters receive as little assistance there as elsewhere. Taking one estate with another, it may be laid down that throughout the Highlands the large farms are managed on the English system, but the crofts on the Irish, and, latterly at any rate, without any of the Irish customary security. “The crofter belongs,” say the Commissioners, “to that class of tenants who have received the smallest share of proprietary favour or benefaction, and who are, by virtue of power, position, or covenants, least protected against inconsiderate treatment.” In fact, Highland land management has for nearly a century been * I make this statement on the explicit testimony of the Chamberlain of Argyll before the Commission, but it is fair to say that the Duke of Argyll in his recent speech in the House of Lords made an equally explicit statement to the opposite effect, but without taking any notice of the conflicting evidence given by his factor. Most people must have read the factor's statement with surprise, but at the same time. he must be taken as an authority of the first order regarding the rule he has himself actually observed in letting crofts; and therefore, in the absence of more precise explanations, one can only conclude that this is another instance of the evil inevitably

attending factorial rule, that the factor interprets the landlord's interest in a much narrower and less liberal spirit than the landlord himself really desires.

« ElőzőTovább »