So, in some respects, they become more interested in Scotland because they’re able to promote land reform, social reform, in a much more broad way than they’re able to in Ireland but they also, then, kind of get out of criticising Parnell directly cos they know they wouldn’t get away with that. The press would of course highlight divisions within the Irish movement straightaway. And in their private correspondence, they’re very much against Parnell often and Henry George himself looks forward to the day when men like Michael Davitt are the vanguard of the Irish movement, rather than small ‘c’ conservatives like Charles Stewart Parnell. And I think Henry George is persuaded in 1882 that Ireland is not necessarily interested in root and branch land reform and his kind of argument of land nationalisation. The Irish Land Act of 1881 in many respects dampens the land reform agitation and again the focus switches to the constitutional question. My feeling is that Scotland, more than Ireland, has an urban proletariat, if you want to put it in those terms, that Henry George and Michael Davitt can appeal to. Their experience in Ireland though has shown them that you can get a hearing amongst the peasantry in the rural areas. So I think Henry George comes to Scotland in 1884. He does do a Highland tour but he also goes to urban areas. He speaks to mining communities. He goes to the East Coast, like Peterhead I think he goes to and Aberdeen. He certainly comes here. He gets a mixed reception at best but amongst the crofters he is very frustrated. He thinks the peasantry is archly conservative, that as long as they’re not being oppressed, they’re quite happy to have landlords. And this is the problem they also identified in Ireland, that once you start actually having guarantees against landlord tyranny, that’s fine. And of course in the Highlands the problem is also that, for them, there’s this long tradition of clan chiefs and that kind of loyalty and mutual relations between the landlord, often would’ve been the clan chief, and the people so there’s still this residual loyalty. Even in places like Sutherlandshire, you get reports of people tearfully waving bye bye to the Duchess of Sutherland when she leaves after her two weeks annual trip to Golspey and things like this.

  • Andrew Newby
Thursday 29th April 2010