Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

make the pedigree otherwise than what it really wastraditional. But even had Celtic pedigrees been minutely recorded, the plan of conceding the succession, not to the representative pointed out by hereditary descent, but to the nearest relation or the strongest, introduced such elements of confusion that the most expert genealogist could not have made a family-tree out of such materials. But there was a further element of confusion. Neither in Ireland nor the Highlands had the clergy been able to enforce the distinction between marriage and concubinage, and consequently the distinction between legitimacy and illegitimacy. The son taking the succession might be one out of a mob by different mothers, all in the eye of English and Lowland laws illegitimate. We have seen that when the Lord of the Isles was brought within the pale of civilisation by a peerage, the patent was taken to his illegitimate offspring. The great families, therefore, were something like the Roman gentes—a group related to each other, and traditionally believed to have their roots deep in unknown antiquity.

Some conditions of a broader character curiously but mysteriously connected Ireland and the Highlands. In the seventh century a great battle was fought at Moyra. 1 It was to the Irish what Bannockburn was to the Scots. Donald Brec, the head of the kingdom created by the Irish migrators into Scotland, had gone with a mixed army of English and Scots to conquer for himself the throne of Ulster, or of all Ireland as tradition reported his claims. He was defeated by King Domnal, who thus saved his country from slavery.2

From dim reminiscences of this contest, or other causes,

i See chapter ix.

? The great epic commemorating the battle is very interesting, as translated in “The Banquet of Dun na n-gedth and the Battle of Magh Rath (viz., Moyra), an ancient Historical Tale," printed by the Irish Archäological Society. Surely the translator vindicates his own personal nationality in saying, “Mr Moore, the latest author of the history of Ireland, does not condescend so much as to name the monarch, or to notice the battle. His defence is as follows,'' &c. --Introductory Remarks, xxii.

there seems to have lingered an impression that whoever was the chief ruler of the Western Highlands had a claim to be king also in Ireland. The genealogical confusion already referred to gave ample room for any such assertion. The great Shane O'Neil in Queen Elizabeth's day nearly completed the creation of a kingdom in Ulster. When he made the visit to the Court of England so picturesquely described by Camden, it was as an equal, not a vassal. When twitted with submission to the Saxon, he gave the haughty answer, “I never made peace with the queen but at her own seeking.”] He held his powerful position as the acknowledged representative of the Hy Nyal—that royal race which comes into distinct light during the Augustan age of Columba and Adamnan, but sinks into obscurity as Ireland lapses from civilisation. But there were several Highland houses with pretensions as well founded, or rather as well acknowledged ; for the whole foundation of these pedigrees was contemporary belief, and any member of these houses becoming as powerful as Shane, would have been as near to a throne. 2

To bring Ireland and the Highlands to conformity with the rest of the empire—whether by displacing the Celt or socially regenerating him—was naturally one of the chief missions of the consolidated powers following on the union of the crowns. Before the Union-in 1597a requisition was made by Parliament of a kind very unpalatable to the Highland potentates. They were required to produce their written titles. “All landlords, chieftains, and leaders of clans, principal householders,

i Ulster Archäological Journal, iii. 45.

2 "Colla, termed Huaish,' or the Noble, was the twenty-ninth King of Ireland in a direct line from Heremon. Twenty-four generations from Colla, was Sanhaish or Sorley, Thane of Argyle, whose grandson, Domhnall or Donnell, was the chief from whom the Macdonnells, in all their family ramifications, derive their surname. Besides the Antrim family, there are many branches of Domhnall's descendants in Scotland ; among whom may be principally mentioned the Macdonnells of Glengarry, the Macdonnells of Moidart, the Macdonnells of Morar, the Macdonnells of Keppoch, the Macdonnells of Sleat, the Macdonnells of Glencoe, and the Macdonnells of Loupe.” - Translations of the Ulster Journal of Archæology, vii, 247, 248.

heritors, and others, possessors or pretending right to any lands," were to assemble at Edinburgh, and there produce “all their infeftments, writs, and titles whatsomever," on which they claimed possession. The reason given for the command was not complimentary to those required to obey. It is because they have, “through their barbarous inhumanity, made and presently makes the said Heelands and Isles—whilk are most commodious in themselves, as well by the fertility of the ground as by rich fishings by sea-altogether unprofitable both to themselves and to all others his highness' lieges within this realm ; they neither entertained any civil or honest society amongst themselves, neither yet admitting others his highness' lieges to traffic within their bounds with safety of their lives and goods.” 1 Another statute authorised the creation of three municipal corporations in the Highlands. Any internal amelioration in the direction of these statutes came some years afterwards, when the power of the Crown was enlarged by the Union. The three municipalities are believed to be now represented by Campbelltown, Fort William, and Stornoway.

These were the preliminary steps to the “ plantation" of the Isles. This word has a peaceful and gentle sound, like the soothing shape in which the discreet surgeon announces that he has to perform some painful and critical amputation. In its full meaning, it was the removal of the race in possession of the soil, and the planting of another. Whether driven forth as wanderers elsewhere, or put to death in their old homes, the first step in the process was one of sheer cruelty to the natives. In the usual authorities we are told that “ Ulster, from being the most wild and disorderly province in Ireland, became in time the most cultivated and most civilised ;” but the balance between infliction and beneficence in the operation has to be struck from data broader than those allowed in such an estimate. As in the Highlands the disease was not so desperate, the operation was less cruel.

There was but a meagre response to the call for titles

1 Acts, iv. 138.

- they did not exist; and the chiefs who held their lands by the sword and the allegiance of their people, were loath to go to the king's Chancery for “sheepskins.” A large tract of country, including the whole of the island of the Lewis, was thus forfeited. The Crown professed to put these districts at the disposal of certain Lowland adventurers. They were men of rank, with the Duke of Lennox at their head. They were to hold the lands rentfree for seven years, and afterwards to pay a modified rent or tax to the Crown. They began to fulfil the object of the adventure by introducing a few Lowland cultivators of the soil ; but these, after the usual harassments attending an unsuccessful colonisation, returned to their Lowland homes, tired and disappointed, in the year 1609.

After this abortive attempt, instead of “planting” according to the Ulster plan, the Government fell back on the old policy of strengthening the great houses which had one foot in the Highlands and the other in the Lowlands, and helping them to aggrandise themselves by the process called in Germany mediatising—the process through which Prussia became one of the great Powers. Huntly had a commission against Keppoch in the north. The Campbells, of course, took in hand the south. This house was waxing so powerful that its own greatness might be a danger to be weighed against Highland lawlessness and independence. But between the northern and the southern potentate a third was found in the Mackenzies of Kintail, afterwards the Earls of Seaforth. Then the Campbells had spread so far that they were divided into three houses, and one might weigh against the others. Besides Argyle reigning in the districts round Loch Fyne, there was Breadalbane with his castle in Loch Awe, and farther north the house of Calder, in Morayland. It was on this last that the Government chiefly relied in the present emergency.

There was a war crowded with incidents, of which a characteristic morsel has been already given in the adventures of the warlike Bishop of the Isles. When the revolution was accomplished, the Highland territories of the Campbells were increased by the acquisition of Kintyre, Islay, Jura, and other smaller items. 1 The Government was but slightly taxed in aid of the aggrandising powers. Four hundred of the Highlanders, trained in the Irish wars, were added to the natural following of the invaders. The bishop did not give his entire approval to the policy he was employed to enforce, having a preference for “plantation.” His views are instructive on the spirit in which the statesmen of the day looked on the Celts both of the Highlands and Islands : “ All the trouble that is done to me and my friends is because of Archibald Campbell's diligence to procure the isle of Islay for the Laird of Calder, of which they are certainly informed. The which if it take effect will breed great trouble in the Isles—far more nor all the fine and duty of the Isles of Scotland will afford these many years, and in the mean time be the wreck of my friends. Neither can I, or any man who knows the state of that country, think it good or profitable to his majesty or this country to make that name greater in the Isles nor they are already, nor yet to rout out one pestiferous clan and plant in one little better, seeing his majesty has good occasion now, with little expenses, to make a new plantation of honest men in that island, answerable to that of Ulster in Ireland lying upon the next shore, with the which Islay hath daily commerce.” 2

The Highland revolution was not completed until the year 1616. It was by no means the entire regeneration that would have come out of an effective “planting ;” but it broke all organisation for concentrating power in the Highlands, and increased the controlling authority of

1 These estates were gifted to Campbell of Calder, and afterwards passed to the Shawfields branch of the Campbell family. Highland property has ever been subject to mutability ; and as generations passed, the Campbells of Islay came to be among the longest rooted of the Highland families. Many people both in England and Scot. land will remember the last chief who kept state in Islay, as a genial, accomplished, hospitable gentleman. :9 For the affairs of the Bishop of the Isles, see Gregory's Highlands and Islands, 349 et seq. ; and Original Letters (Bannatyne Club), 372, 393, and 397.

« AnteriorContinuar »