Progress, Poverty and Criticism
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Progress, Poverty and Criticism book
The Dowager Duchess/Countess, on the death of her husband, told her agents that she considered the common people of Sutherland under her special care; all their little disputes were to be listened to. They were to be treated with the greatest kindness. 'Recollect how a person in the Duchess's position is watched as to her treatment of the people', wrote Loch. None the less, further removals occurred in the years 183~, and, in one instance, the common people had to be threatened against being 'foolish enough to use violence'. The Temovees were usually given timber for their new houses, some old potato land for their immediate support and a period of rent-free occupation. But there were problems in the older reception areasat Oldshores on the west coast there was overcrowding which Loch attributed to 'natural causes and produced by the people themselves', and he believed that the inconvenience would help 'to compel them either to depend entirely upon fishing or·emigrate to the colonies', Loch's attitude to emigration was changing-in 1833 he wrote that, 'even at the risk of our losing occasionally some of the best settlers, the advantages which are derived by the withdrawal of the surplus population are very great not only to those who go but to those who stay.'l
In 1835 Loch again perambulated the Sutherland estates. He submitted a lengthy report, a justification of the estate policies. He cited the particular example of Knockan and Elphin, the only remaining uncleared interior districts of Assynt, where crops were produced with the greatest difficulty-clearly demonstrating, Loch
claimed, 'the risk that the country would run, even in these days, if any large proportion of its population were to be resident in the high interior'. The miserable, wretched hovels of the old settlers contrasted with the houses and industry of the resettled people. He gave examples of the worthy change. But he did acknowledge that many people had experienced great difficulty at the beginning, particularly in the erection of their houses. It had 'greatly exhausted their means', as also had the cessation of employment on road construction and the collapse of the kelp trade. But, Loch insisted, these problems had been magnified by a minority of cottars who were congenitally given to hyperbole. Viewing the clearances as a whole, Loch confronted the perennial criticisms of the policy and answered: 'I am satisfied now more than ever ... that the course pursued was the correct one and that it produced less suffering than a slower process would have done.' Furthermore, Had it to be done again I should adhere as near as possible to the course that was pursued. The ancient customs of the people are not to be rashly innovated upon. They are to be shook by degrees, and their minds gradually prepared for the change. But this being done, the change must still be effected by one general, combined, determined exertion.