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AFTER THE 1745 REBELLION.

Prior to the 1745 rebellion most Lairds still lived on or at least in the same country, as their estates, so that it was in their and their Tacksmen's interest to have a reasonably contented population who could feed themselves whilst being able to pay their rent and provide such services as were required of them. After the rebellion their world had changed. Many of the clan chiefs, Lairds etc who survived Culodden and previous battles were subsequently arrested, and  attained*, .  

 

Whilst some of the confiscated lands were subsequently restored to their successors, the Crown was determined that rebellion must never happen again and such restorations came with much reduced autonomy and sworn acceptance that they held their lands at the Kings favour and that the King's favour could be withdrawn. Much of the confiscated lands went to increase the estates of the Lairds who had remained loyal and some English Lords acquired Scottish estates.  This led to some enormous estates of poor quality land being built up.

Once things settled down post 1745 most of the Highlands consisted of very large states with landlords who had frequently never even visited the estate but were very happy to use it as a cash-cow. If this involved enclosing the land and dispossessing those who had worked it for centuries, that was really not the Landlord's problem. Who were these people anyway? from what he would have doubtless heard, just a load of dirty feckless oafs living in squalid hovels and necking illicit whisky instead of working. Such was the prevailing view of the Highlander. Sadly in many cases by 1750 this was not so far off the mark, though this was not entirely the fault of the Highlanders.

 

 

It is easy to see that the potential was there to make money, . The traditional Runrig was a hopelessly inefficient way of farming and agricultural practices were in desperate need of modernisation but the peasant farmers on their own did not have the resources or the know-how to do this. Some more benevolent Lairds did try to improve things but generally achieved little. The Man with the big idea could get rich and the big idea was sweep it all away and start again. This involved enclosing the land, getting rid of the pesky people whose livelihood it was and introduce modern farming practices, which in much of the Highlands meant sheep or cattle.

 

There was now a huge financial incentive to invest in improved productivity of the better land suitable for crop growing and cattle rearing. Transport links were vastly improved with the military roads built by General Wade allowing food produced to be got to Southern markets where the rapidly increasing population and England's constant wars kept prices high. In particular, on suitable land there was money to be made from large scale cattle production as the Navy needed vast quantities of salt beef, salt pork, mutton etc.Some of the Lairds were well placed to make money from this demand but little if any trickled its way down to the remaining Clansmen.

 

So long as the locals didn't insist on eating the stuff, larger farms could be very profitable. After Waterloo in 1815 when there was the possibility of lower cost food, especially grain being imported, the Government helpfully passed the Imported Foods Act better known as the Corn Laws to prevent this happening.  lots of small improvements in farming practice had an additive effect, production per acre greatly increased, the nation and its forces were fed, Napoleon got walloped and lots of farmers had a really good time.

Just how good a time the farmers had can be seen by looking at farm houses and their associated buildings. A brief drive around a traditional farming area will pass many large well built spacious farm-houses as well as good brick built barns, milking parlours etc. Within a given area most of these buildings will have a marked similarity of style, this is because they were all built around the same time during the Napoleonic Wars when farmers had it real-good.

The development of basic mechanisation of some tasks was timely. During the wars manpower could not be found, now it could not be afforded, something had to change. In order to compete with imported food, the traditional Runrig system had to go. Starting with the better agricultural land in the Lowlands landlords started parcelling up their land into larger, more economic farms, the leases to these were sold off to the highest bidder. This might be a group of the former tenants but normally it would be someone from outside. The previous tenants who never had any actual legal rights to the land they farmed, could work as labourers for the new farmers, they could seek other employment usually in a town or city or they could join the many who left for America and other colonies. Most of the new-style landlords did not feel that the people who happened to live on their land were their problem. In general if a settlement was in the way of a new  farm then the settlement and its inhabitants had to move, simple as that.

 

Once land amalgamation got going on a large scale backed up by private parliamentary acts of enclosure, there would be some basic compensation for the resident population built into the act. This however was generally very basic, the landlord would be required to provide enough land somewhere on the estate where the former tenants could build houses and a small amount of land for them grow at least some food.  Needless to say this would normally be on a patch of ground so remote, rocky, marshy or just poor quality that the Laird did not want it. Thus was the basic idea of "The Croft" born.

* Attainder

An act or Bill of Attainder is when a legislature passes an act of some form of punishment against a specific person.  Following the 1745 rebellion, Parliament passed an Act of Attainder against the 51 Scottish Lords, Lairds etc who were felt to be the ringleaders of the. rebellion.  

 

Those attained were to be tried for treason, executed and all of their lands confiscated by The Crown, they were also barred from being able to leave any material inheritance in their will. In the end there was not public appetite for further killing and only nine were executed. In 1747 the  Act of Indemnity was passed, this allowed all of those not yet apprehended to remain free .  Most of the estates were claimed at least in part by creditors, 13 entire estates passed to The Crown.  In 1784 the Disannexing Act allowed any remaining family to buy back their estates for a sum not exceeding £65,000.  A lot of money in those days but a fraction of the value of a vast estate.

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