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Sloan Rare Books

that had worked for seven hundred years was ended, replaced by the English legal system. Even-

tually the chiefs “sold them out,” McPhee explains, to absentee owners who held the land. The

new owners saw that sheep were more profitable than tenants and cleared the land of crofts in

favor of larger pastures. The Scottish Highland cattle raisers were evicted by the landowners in

what has become known as the Highland Clearances. People were forced out of their homes, the

houses torched, the livestock slaughtered or run off. It was an era of terrorism and what many

call genocide; the impoverished, homeless Scots had no place to go. McPhee plaintively notes,

“The people leaving sometimes had to drain blood from their cattle and drink it in order to sur-



But with the development of the power loom, England’s factories required ample sup-

plies of wool. Sheep were brought in by the hundreds of thousands to stock the pastures.The era

of cattle and clans was over.

In the United States, the response to the Clearances was negligible. Many felt the Scottish

landowners had done the right thing by putting the land into more profitable production. Iron-

ically, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who by that time had made her reputation with

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

and its heartbreaking portrayal of Southern slavery, felt no empathy for the Scots. In her


Memories of Foreign Lands

, she put a positive spin on the landowners’ actions. Clearing out the

primitive herding families and putting the land to optimal use made sense to many proponents

of scientific agriculture and industrialism.

“Second sight,” the ability to foresee events, was highly esteemed in the Highlands. A famous

seer, Kenneth Mackenzie, is supposed to have foretold events of significance. His ability at sec-

ond sight was highly regarded. A hundred years before the Culloden battle and the end of the

clans’ power, he was said to have warned that “the clans will flee their native country before an

army of sheep.”


By mid-1800 it had happened just as Mackenzie had predicted. Entire villages

were evicted and shipped by boat to North America.

The cattle-raising people of the British Isles were pushed to America in droves, so to speak.

Scots and Irish were shipped to Barbados and mainland colonies in the seventeenth and eigh-

teenth centuries as bonded labor or transported as criminals—some for crimes as innocuous as

“stealing bread and cheese.”


Cheaper than slaves, indentured servants cost half as much and

were obligated for four to five years of labor—criminals much longer—and if one died, no fi-

nancial loss ensued. Scots andWelsh were deemed the best servants; Irish the worst, largely be-

cause they were Catholics, which placed their religious beliefs and loyalties in doubt. Maryland

and South Carolina placed a duty on imported Catholics, and the Barbados Assembly required

Irish servants to carry passes. Buying and selling indentured servants became a brisk business

between the British Isles and the colonies. People resorted to selling themselves into servitude,

and selling children was commonplace in the northeast of Scotland; the term “kidnapping” de-

rived from the seventeenth century practice of stealing children and shipping them to the col-

onies for sale. Scottish newspapers carried advertisements luring potential recruits with the

promise that after four short years of service they could go into business for themselves or gain

their own land.


Scots, with a legacy of clan battles and war with the English, were well suited

to frontier fighting, and many had been purchased as indentured servants to man frontier forts

in South Carolina and Georgia. Another reason for recruiting Scots was their rural background.

Henry Laurens, a landowner in Florida, wrote instructions to his recruiter in 1766 to find Scots

who were “simple & unacquainted with the tricks & vices of the Town.”


Many recruiters hit the

country fair circuit in Great Britain, where they found willing and able rural folk who signed up

for transport to the colonies.

Women too were frequently indentured servants. One political writer even suggested that fe-

male convicts be transported and given in marriage to Indians in order to cement Britain’s alli-

ance with the natives of the NewWorld. But most were bought to perform labor, women being

put into fieldwork only if they were “nasty, beastly, and not fit” for other duties. “Dissolute or

lewd” women were also sent to the colonies in a steady stream.

Regardless of how men and women arrived in North America, they had no other choice but

to come. One eighteenth-century writer noted, “He hath no alternative, but to starve, or emi-