David Tyrie’s letter to John Gordon of Glenbucket, 17 September 1745
I hope yew will not question my love and affection to ye good cause. Och for 20 years less age, and a little health, nothing should hinder me from assisting ye cause. Butt since I’m ane invalide and cannot doe good, I shall indeaver to advise all young men to Joyn.
There were a number of different reasons why someone might join the Jacobite army in the late summer of 1745, just as things were starting to heat up after the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Western Isles of Scotland. Specific motivations to pick up arms or to help others to do so were as disparate and multi-layered as the individuals involved in the conflict, as were their levels of sustained commitment as the campaign progressed.
Some fought for the ancient claim of the Stuart monarchs, and some stood in opposition to the parliamentary union that bound together England and Scotland into a single kingdom. Many resented being forced to accept the authority of the presbyteries over the traditional Divine Right of kings, especially when it came bundled with oaths of fealty to a sovereign from Lower Saxony. Others reckoned that they would be better off without the influence of a comparatively liberal representative government, an establishment which to them symbolized the decay of traditional values – especially in certain long-established and autonomous regions of ‘North Britain’.
The intelligence report from Patrick Campbell’s Highland venture, Autumn 1746
Our last post explored some examples of the Highland cantonment schemes proposed by British government officials after Culloden, their locations largely selected based upon a combination of local banditry, general lawlessness, and noted recalcitrance toward the policies of the Whig administration of George II – defiance often manifested by varying levels of Jacobitism. Some of the loyalists who were responsible for influencing the creation of these garrisons had witnessed the violence and disorder firsthand – like Donald Campbell of Airds, whose own property was savaged, ironically, by soldiers of the British army. Nonetheless, the unpredictable and complex lattice of malleable alliances, divergent loyalties, and partisan politics in certain remote areas of Scotland essentially guaranteed that some kind of official program of regulation would be instituted after the brutal coda of yet another armed rising.
Access and control were collectively the name of the government’s game in eighteenth century Scotland. The Western Highlands bore the brunt of unconscionable retaliation and enforcement after Culloden not because it provided the largest number of rebels who bore arms (it did not), but because it was so difficult to regulate due to the remoteness of its communities and the severity of its weather and terrain. While the isolated villages and steadings in many regions of the Highlands provided distance and shelter for their occupants, that same isolation also enabled heritable chiefs to maintain control of their clans with little interference, as well as allowing currents of Catholicism to endure within a rapidly reforming Scottish populace. ‘The old way of life’ may have been desirable for some heritors, but plenty of others were progressive improvers with interests in both imperial ventures and global mercantile investments. This alone adequately disproves the popular myth that the Forty-five was a conflict of atavism versus progress.
Donald Campbell of Airds’ scheme for ‘civilizing’ the Cameron lands, 3 October 1746
Much of the enduring memory and emotion of the final, failed Jacobite challenge blooms from the British government’s retributive and bloody response in the aftermath of Culloden. In what Allan Macinnes calls the ‘exemplary civilizing’ of remote areas of Scotland, a calculated campaign of violent suppression was waged upon recalcitrant communities whether or not they were directly involved in active rebellion. Whether tantamount to genocide, as some scholars have argued, the cantonment schemes established in Culloden’s wake and the retaliatory expeditions against communities singled out by government intelligence networks undeniably had a disastrous effect upon ‘Scottish Highland’ culture, though these depredations were not by any means meted out only in the Highlands.