XC. DESTITUTION IN EASTER ROSS, ROSS-SHIRE, 1783.
Resolutions, of the Gentlemen Landholders, of the Eastern District of Ross-shire,
At Tain, 10th December 1783.
In Consequence of a Circular Letter addressed by Donald Macleod of Geanies, Sheriff-depute of the County, to the Gentlemen Landholders of the Eastern District of Ross-shire, and the Factors of such as are absent, requesting their Attendance here this Day, in order to take into their Consideration, the State of the Tenantry in that part of the County, and to form some Plan whereby they might convey some effectual Relief to their distressed Situation, by adopting uniform and lenient Measures for their Relief, which might set their Minds, now in suspense, at rest, and give them a Confidence in the Support and Assistance of their Masters and Superiors, in their present reduced State, as well as a Prospect of its continuance, in case of their being hereafter visited by a like General Calamity, as has occurred for these Two last succeeding Years.
Charles Munro of Allan, Esq.;
Alexander Baillie of Little Tarrel, Esq.;
Hugh Rose of Damn, Esq.;
Donald Macleod of Geanies, Esq.;
The Reverend Mr John Urquhart of Mountcagle,
Mr Colin Mackenzie, Factor on the annexed Estate of Cromarty and Estate of Invergordon,
Mr Alexander MacCulloch, Factor on the Estate of Balnagown,
Mr Hugh Robertson, Factor on the Estate of Cadboll,
Lieut. John Ross, Factor on the Estate of Calrossie,
Mr David Ross, Factor to Lord Ankervile,
Mr John Montgomery, Factor on the Estates of Newmore and Culrain,
Mr John Barclay, Factor on the Estate of Glastulich,
Who made choice of the said Donald Macleod to be their Praeses, and of Lieut. Donald Davidson to be their Clerk.
When Mr Macleod reported to the Meeting, that in consequence of his Circular Letter, Duncan Munro of Culcaim, and Munro Ross of Pitcalnie, Esqrs. had both requested of him, that he would apologise to this Meeting for their necessary Absence; the first being obliged to set out for London, on private Business a few Days ago, and the latter, being in bad Health and unable to attend; but both expressed their Resolutions of settling with their respective Tenants, agreeable to whatever Plan should be adopted by this Meeting. Mr Macleod also produced a Letter from Mr Baird, Factor for Sir Hector Munro, regreting his inability to attend on account of his bad Health, but expressive of his firm belief, that his Constituent, would readily adopt whatever Resolutions should be determined on by this Meeting. Thereafter Mr Robertson, Factor of Cadboll, produced a Letter from Charles Robertson of Kindeace, Esq.; regreting the impossibility of his attending on the present Occasion on account of bad Health, but stating fully his Sentiments, upon what was to be the Subject of their deliberation. After which, the Gentlemen present, having taken the State of the Country into their serious Consideration, and having maturely and deliberately reasoned thereon, they were unanimously of Opinion, that the Situation of the whole of this Country is extremely critical, and that if severe and harsh Measures are adopted, by the Proprietors of Estates, in forcing the Payment of their Arrears at this time, though the Conversion should be at a low Rate, it must have the Effect of driving the Tenantry into despondency, and bring a great Majority of them to immediate and inevitable Ruin; and in so doing, will go near to lay the Country waste, which to the personal Knowledge of this Meeting, has been for these Two Hundred Years back over-rented; and if once the present Set of Tenantry are removed, there would be very little probability of getting them replaced from any other Country. That on the other Hand, if a moderate Rate of Conversion is adopted, and a separate Security taken therefore, there is every Reason to expect, that the People will be actuated by Principles of Gratitude, to reduce that Debt by degrees, and to make a regular Payment of
the current Rent in kind. The Meeting are aware, that there ought to be exceptions to any General Rules they may adopt, which they will state in the succeeding Part of this Minute, so far as they may occur.
Upon which the Meeting came to the following Resolutions unanimously:
Imo. That when stating with their Tenants for Arrears of Crop 1782, and Preceedings, the same shall be charged (with the under-mentioned Exceptions), at a Conversion not exceeding TWELVE SHILLINGS Sterling per BOLL.
IIdo. That a Bill or Security, payable at the Term of Whitsunday next, shall be taken for the Amount of the Arrears due by each Tenant respectively, charged at the Conversion above-mentioned.
IIItio. That the Tenants shall be assured at counting, or when otherwise conveened for that Purpose, that whatever Victual they do pay into their Masters, exceeding the Amount of their Rents respectively, for Crop 1783, they shall be allowed Credit therefore in part extinction of the Security granted, at the highest Rate, the Victual on the Estate to which they belong does Sell for.
IVto. That the Tenants granting Security as above, shall be assured, that while they continue to make regular Payments of their succeeding Rents, and satisfy their Masters, that they use all their Exertions by a sober and industrious Conduct, to reduce the Debt incurred as above-mentioned, and do remain on the Estate, that no Interest will be charged on the Balance which may remain due on that Account, nor will they be personally distressed for the same.
Vto. That the above Indulgence on the above Conditions, will remain in force for Three Years and Crops.
VIto. As the Meeting are convinced that Frauds have been committed by some of their Tenants, and Advantages taken of the General Calamity, which raised the Price of Victual to an unusual height last Season, by their selling Quantities clandestinely, which ought to have been delivered to their Masters: They do recommend, that every Endeavour should be used to discover the Tenants who made Sales in that fraudulent Manner, and that they should be excepted from the Benefit of the above General Rules, and be made to pay the Price they exacted from those to whom they Sold.
VIImo. That as the Gentlemen Clergy will not probably be satisfied with the Rate of Conversion above-mentioned, for what Arrears of Stipend Crop 1782, may happen to be due them; This Meeting do Resolve, and consider it as a proper and equitable Measure, that in settling with the Tenants, the Amount of the Stipend due to the Ministers respectively, from each Estate, should be proportioned on the whole Tenants of the Estate, at the precise Rate the Reverend Clergy do charge the Proprietors; and that this Sum shall not be made any Part of the Debts for which their Securities are to be taken, but must be paid either immediately in Money or Victual, taken therefore at the current Country Price.
VIIIvo. The Meeting do consider, that Tenants who have removed at Whitsunday last, from the Estate where the Arrear has been contracted, are not altogether entitled to the Benefit of the above lenient Resolutions; but they would Propose, that so far as the Crop they have left on the Possession from whence they removed may go, after paying the current Years Rent, that a Boll of that Crop shall be taken in full Payment of a Boll of their Arrears ; and that in so far as the Crop cannot pay both, that the Balance shall be converted at a Price not exceeding EIGHTEEN SHILLINGS Sterling per BOLL.
IXmo. The Meeting are aware, that there are Feu-Duties payable in kind by Vassals, Proprietors of certain Estates, in this Country to their Superiors, which they hereby declare do not come within the scope or meaning of the above Resolutions; neither can the Case of those Tenants who have Leases at low Conversions, be supposed to come within the meaning of these Resolutions.
Xmo. Though none of the Gentlemen Proprietors present in this Meeting are themselves possest of Highland Property, they are fully in the Knowledge of the State of the Highland part of this Country; and knowing how much thay have suffered from the loss of Cattle, Spring 1782, and total failure of the succeeding Crop, with the high Price they paid for Victual to support them, during this last Season, they are satisfied, that they are reduced almost to absolute Poverty: and though they cannot point out the particular Mode the Proprietors of these Estates ought to adopt, to afford them the most effectual Relief, they must recommend in General Terms, the most lenient and tender Treatment, to prevent that part of the Country being depopulated and laid waste.
XImo. The Gentlemen of the Meeting Proprietors of Land, have for themselves, determined to adopt the above Resolutions in stating with their Tenants; and though they are sensible they cannot in force them through the Country in general, yet they will venture earnestly to recommend to those Gentlemen, Proprietors of Estates in this part of the Country, who are themselves absent, and cannot be supposed to know so much of the real Situation of the People as they do, to give Directions to their Factors or Men of Business, to enquire into the Grounds on which these Resolutions are framed, and to adopt them or not as they shall see cause, after making such enquiry; and intreat that they may not neglect this, as the Consequences may be more dangerous than they are aware of. Though some of the Gentlemen Proprietors or their Factors, may have Already stated with their Tenants, by a different Plan from what is proposed in the above Minutes, The Meeting do recommend, that these Tenants should be again called upon, and their Arrears settled for in Terms of the above Resolutions; as it would be a peculiar hardship on these People, to suffer for no other Reason than having been settled with before this Meeting.
XIImo. The Meeting to prevent a Misrepresentation of their Proceedings, desire Mr Davidson their Clerk, to procure a Copy of these Minutes, certified by the Praeses, to be Printed at Inverness, and to procure Sixty or One Hundred Copies of them, which he shall deliver to any Person who calls for the same upon paying a Proportion of the Expence of Printing them.
(Signed) DONALD MACLEOD, Praeses