Converting the Uncouth Savage

  • Peter Womack
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


As soon as the Forty-five was over, the Scottish Highlands became the target of a legislative programme designed to efface their historical distinctiveness. The military challenge had been destroyed at Culloden; now the aim was to pre-empt any possible revival by making the area as much as possible like the rest of Britain. In 1746 the Disarming Act outlawed not only the carrying of weapons but also, no less severely, the wearing of Highland dress. In 1747 heritable jurisdictions were abolished, thus ‘rendering the Union more complete’ by imposing on Scotland the state monopoly in the administration of justice which already obtained in England. The estates of the rebels were forfeited to the Crown, and in 1752 the Annexing Act arranged for the management of these lands on enlightened capitalist principles which would, it was hoped, diffuse an ethos of rational self-interest in place of what the House of Lords agreed in calling an ‘enthusiastical clannish spirit’.2 Education was to be centralised too: the Disarming Act tried to license Highland schools in such a way as to place children everywhere under the influence of the established Kirk, whose presbyterianism made it solidly anti-Jacobite, and whose language of instruction was English.3 The whole thrust of the legislation was neatly summarised in the brief of the Commissioners appointed under the 1752 Act: revenues from the annexed estates were to be devoted


Hunting Stage Philosophical History Pecuniary Interest Rent Arrear Legislative Programme 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    William Cobbett, The Parliamentary History of England, 36 vols. (1806–20), vol. XIV (1813), p. 50.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    In practice, the dominant force in Highland and Island education was the SSPCK, whose directors were consistently opposed to Gaelic from the Society’s incorporation in 1709 until a change of policy in 1766. See V. E. Durkacz, The Decline of the Celtic Languages (Edinburgh, 1983), pp. 47–69.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    This paragraph is abstracted from Duncan Forbes, ‘Some Thoughts Concerning the State of the Highlands of Scotland’, (1746), Culloden Papers (1815), pp. 297–301; Andrew Fletcher, ‘Proposals for Civilising the Highlands’, (1747), C.S. Terry (ed.), Albermarle Papers, 2 vols. (Aberdeen, 1902), vol. II, pp. 480–91; ‘Extracts from a MS in the possession of the Gartmore Family’, (1747), in Edward Burt, Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland, 5th edn, ed. R. Jamieson, 2 vols. (1818), vol.II, pp. 338–70; A Second Letter to a Noble Lord, Containing a Plan for effectually uniting and sincerely attaching the Highlanders to the British Constitution (1748); Andrew Lang (ed.), The Highlands of Scotland in 1750 (1898); speeches in support of the Annexing Act, Parliamentary History, vol. XIV, pp. 1249ff.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    See H.T. Dickinson, Liberty and Property: Political Ideology in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1977).Google Scholar
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  6. 16.
    Tobias Smollett, Miscellaneous Works, ed. R. Anderson, 3rd edn, 6 vols. (Edinburgh, 1806), vol. III, p. 460.Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    See W. Donaldson, ‘Bonny Highland Laddie: the Making of a Myth’, Scottish Literary Journal, vol. 3 (2), (1976), pp. 30–50.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    C. C. Grant, ‘Highland-English as Found in Books’, Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, vol. 15 (1888–9), pp. 172–88.Google Scholar
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  11. 24.
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  12. 25.
    T. C. Smout, A History of the Scottish People, 1560–1830, paperback edn (1972), pp. 321–3.Google Scholar
  13. 26.
    J. Kinsley (ed.), The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1968), no. 580. Future references to Burns’s poems will identify them simply by their ‘Kinsley numbers’.Google Scholar
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    James Ray, A Compleat History of the Rebellion, 2nd edn (1760), p. 347.Google Scholar
  15. 43.
    Background in G. Nobbe, The North Briton: A Study in Political Propaganda (New York, 1939); see also John Brewer, ‘The Earl of Bute’, in H. Van Thal (ed.), The Prime Ministers, 2 vols. (1974), vol. I, pp. 103–13; and Bruce Lenman, Integration, Enlightenment and Industrialisation: Scotland, 1746–1832 (1981), pp. 39–42.Google Scholar
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    John Pinkerton, An Enquiry into the History of Scotland, 2 vols. (1790), vol. I, p. 340.Google Scholar
  17. 56.
    William Robertson, A Sermon preached before the Society in Scotland for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Monday January 6, 1755, 3rd edn (Edinburgh, 1759), p. 39.Google Scholar
  18. 57.
    See R. L. Meek, Social Science and the Ignoble Savage (Cambridge, 1976), pp. 107ff.Google Scholar
  19. 59.
    James Steuart, An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy, ed. A. S. Skinner (1966), p. 106.Google Scholar
  20. 61.
    Hugh Blair, ‘A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of Ossian, the Son of Fingal’, in James Macpherson, The Works of Ossian, 3rd edn, 2 vols. (1765), vol. II, pp. 313–443 (p. 350).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter Womack 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Womack
    • 1
  1. 1.University of East AngliaUK

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