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Art. IV. Prize Esays and Tranfa&ions of the Highland Society of
Scotland. To which is prefixed, an Account of the Principal Proceedings of the Society, since 1999. By Henry M.Kenzie Esquire, one of the Directors. Vol. II. Edinburgh, Creech, Hill, and
Constable.' 1803. 8vo. Pp. 556. In the account prefixed to the first volume of these TransacI tions, we are informed, that the objects of the Society are, 1. An inquiry into the present state of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and the condition of their inhabitants : 2. An inquiry into the means of their improvement: and, 3. An attention to the preferyation of the language, poetry, and music of the Highlands. Before we proceed to particularize and to examine the papers which are contained in this fecond volume, it may not be improper to premise a few observations on each of these objects.
It is evident, that no regular and systematic plan of improvement can be laid down or pursued, until the present situation of the Highlaods, and of their inhabitants, is fairly and fully alcertained. Those particular plans, indeed, which have been found to answer, in carrying on the improvement of other coun. tries, may afford some general principles, which must be ser. viceable even in the Highlands; but this district of the empire differs in fo many material points from every other, that the in. formation which may be derived from the systems of improvement pursued in other countries, will either be too general, and consequently in a great degree useless, or, if adopted experirentally, will be found in many particulars inapplicable, if not prejudicial. We are therefore surprised that, in the two volumes which the Highland Society have published, there is only one very short and unsatisfactory paper on the obstacles to improvements in the Highlands. As we can entertain no doubt of the Gncerity and zeal of the Society, we certainly expected, before this time, to have received, at their hands, a full, clear, and impartial account, not merely of the soil, climate, and produe of the Highlands, but also of those obstacles to their improvement, which are known to exist in the prejudices and incolence of the peasantry, and in the state of dependence or vaffalage in which they are generally held by their tacksmen. It is abfurd to expect, that the Highland peasantry will be inclined to take the trouble, and to run the risk of introducing the culture of wheat, rye, cabbages, &c. all of which are recommended in these Transactions, unless it be previously ascertains ed, from a fair representation of the soil and climate of their Ceunity, not only that they can be raised, but that shey will be
from the her be todopted ea noc
productive of more advantage than can be derived from any other mode of employing their ground.
With regard to the second "object of the Society-an inquiry into the means of improving the Highlands, we apprehend, that they ought, at the very commencement of their proceedings, to have applied themselves to the determination of a few general questions, and to have been guided, in their particular inquiries, by the results of such investigations. In this way, it appears to us, that they ought, first of all, to have ascertained, whether it would be better to extend the culture of grain, or to keep the Highland districts entirely in pasture; and if the propriety and utility of the latter measure had been determined, to have then discussed, whether the Highlands ought to be stocked with black cattle or with peep. In the Appendix to the second volume, a premium is offered for the best essay on the introduction of sheep farming. If this question had been previously discuffed with ability and fairness, with the allistance of full information respecting the produce and population resulting from the present agriculture of the Highlands, the pages now occupied with essays on arable husbandry, would have been more usefully filled with important practical observations on the proper breeds of sheep, and their management. It would not be difficult to prove, that by the introduction of the sheep husbandry, a much greater quantity of food would be raised at much less expence, and with much less labour or risk. The objection is strong, merely when it appeals to our feelings, or to our national partiality: ic will not bear to be examined cooly and fairly. Even if we grant that the necessary consequence of the introduction of the sheep husbandry would be, that many of the Highlauders would be obliged to leaye their mountainous districts, and seek employ. ment in the low country, it may very well be doubred, whether this Itep would not be productive of great national benefit, even without the sacrifice of any real individual happiness. At present, the Highlands atford a scanty and precarious subsistence to a thin population. The Highlanders themselves are indolent, because they perceive that no exertion or labour can secure them a sublistence from their own soil. Under the sheep husbandry, the Highlands would produce subfistence for at least four times as many human beings as they now maintain, while their present inhabitants, if they could not be employed in their native country, might find an ample and much more useful field for their exertions in a climate and foil that would more gratefully repay them. There is great reason, to believe, however, that there benefits might be obtained, without the expatriation of those Individuals who fill cling to their mountains with so affectionate
ofes, and sound inch'a fyftem Wprefent, femre, ittle expres of the emort entirely i Tuited for
in Enem of the auch a ryharters, of peat, ante
a partiality: if the sheep husbandry were introduced, and the fisheries properly managed, there would be employment for many more people than the Highlands now contain. The introduction of sheep would supply the raw material for the woollen manufactures; and the immenfe quantities of peat, and the powerful waterfals that abound in all quarters, would support machinery at little expence. Such a system would also be of service to the other parts of the empire. At present, some of the finest counties in England are almoft entirely in pasture, though no doubt can be entertained that they are well suited for railng grain, and that, if thus employed, they would afford subostence to a much greater number of inhabitants than they now do. If, therefore, the Highlands produced that quantity of animal food which these counties do at present, the latter might, by becoming chiefly arable, increase the population of the country. It is necessary, no doubt, that there should be a certain proportion of every farm devoted to the feeding of catile, in order that manure may be supplied for the arable part; but, perhaps, it would be for the advantage of the kingdom, if those districts which are suited to the railing of grain, should have no more than that proportion set apart for the feeding of cattle. and if those which, from their soil, situation, or climate, were unfavourable to grain, should be principally set apart for the purposes of pasture. Another regulation, not unconnected with our present subject, may be suggested ; that manufactures, in order that they might interfere as little as possible with agriculcure, should, in general, be established in grazing districts, where few hands are required by the farmer. We apprehend that none of our readers will consider these remarks as foreign to the present subject, whatever opinion they may entertain of their juitness ; as, certainly, in every attempt to improve the Highlands, it ought to be recollected that they form but a part of the empire ; and every plan or suggestion ought to have reference to them, not as a separate whole, but as a dependent and connected part.
The third obje&t of the Society-an attention to the preferva. tion of the language, poetry, and music of the Highlands, we con Gjer as in a great degree incompatible with the introduction of improvement. A difference of language not only presents a formidable barrier to the introduction of useful knowledge, but must also tend to perpetuate those prejudices which it is absoJulely necesary to destroy, before any general or permanent improvement can take place. Every method, on the contrary, ought to be taken to identify the Highlander, in language and manners, with the oiler inhabitants of ihe empire; and his
VOL. IV. NO
prejudices, already very strong, ought not by any means to be cherished and continued. As the most effectual plans of improvement must, in the first instance at least, depend in a great measure upon strangers, every obítacle which is presented by a difference of language and manners, and by the powerful prejudices which the Highlanders entertain, ought to be done away as speedily and completely as poitible. . We have been induced to offer these preliminary remarks from a firm conviction of the importance of the ultimate object which the Society has in view, and from a with that they may, in all their proceedings, clearly perceive it, and pursue it by the most direct and effectual means. We shall now proceed to examine the several papers which compose the second volume.
The first paper is entitled ' An Esay on Peat, by the [late] Rev. Dr Walker, Professor of Natural History in Edinburgh.' This essay, consisting of 136 pages, contains much useful and curious information, conveyed in a very loose and defultory manner. That part of it which relates to the chemical analysis of peat, is very inaccurate and incomplete. The reverend author appears to have been well aequainted with chemistry as it existed in the middle of the last century; but either to have entirely neglected, or to have learned very imperfectly, the important discoveries that have been made in that science by the labours of the last twenty years. It is evident, however, that whoever attempts to ascertain the chemical principles of vegetables, ought to have made himself perfecily acquainted with the pneumatic chemistry, and the analysis of volatile products. At the same time, it must be confeffed, that the following observations of Dr Black, contained in a letter to Dr Walker, and given by him in a note to this paper, are perfectly just and correct.
i The process hitherto named the chemical analysis of vegetables, cannot be confidered as an analysis now, ffince the discoveries in pneumatic chemistry). It is to be viewed as a diftin&ion, by which the natural combination of their principles is undone, and these principles enter into new combinations, very different from those that took place in the vegetable matter. In the uncorrupted vegetable matter, these principles are united together with an arrangement and comexion, of which we have not the smallest knowledge. We only know, that it is easily destroyed by heat and by putrefaction, which produce new arrangements and combinations of these principles, and thus form compounds cndued with particular qualities, which did not exist in the vegetable matter before.' p. 29.
Among the inaccuracies into which the learned Doctor is betrayed, by his inattention to these particulars, we need only Specify the following. At p. 24. he says, that' calcareous earth
is known to promote the putrefaction of animal and vegetable substances; and that the peat of Lismore is very putrid, in consequence of its mixture with the limestone of the island. Now if, by calcareous earth, the Doctor means carbonate of lime, he is mistaken in afferring that it promotes the putrefaction of vegetable and animal matter. If he means quicklime, the instance he adduces is not to the point, as the limestone in the idand of Lismore is certainly the carbonate of lime. Besides, in p. 55, he afferts, not very confiftently, that no degree of putrefaction in peat earth could be discovered from the mixture of either mild or caustic lime.
The Doctor alks (p. 31.) why we should omit azote as one of the effential elements of plants, as they all afford volatile alkali on putrefaction. The fact is, that no vegetable substances, except the gramineous and cruciform plants ( tetradynamia ) afford ammonia on putrefaction,
After having enumerated and explained the properties of peat as a foil, the Doctor proceeds to consider what plants ought to be cultivated in it. We have already given it as our opinion, that the arable husbandry is not suited to the Highlands; and we think that the peat, there, would be most advantageously employe ed as fuel for manufactures or for lime-kilns : the Doctor's obfervations, however, may be useful to those Lowland proprietors or tenants who possess peat, though even by them, in most cases, peat would be more profitably employed as a manure than as a loil. Where it can be advantageously used as a soil, we would recommend the red oat, in preference to the Friesland, or indeed any other kind. The Doctor seems inclined to think, that 'bean crops would answer on mofly foils, as the root of this plant goes deep, and requires a soft soil: but it is well known, that in a soft foil, the bean, though luxuriant in straw, is by no means pro. ductive in seed, and would be found a very improper crop for mofly soils.
In the fourth division of the Doctor's essay, and in the second paper in this volume, by Lord Meadowbank, · On making compoft dunghills from peat moss,' very clear and full directions are given for this application of peat; and from the results obtained by Lord Meadowbank, in particular, after repeated and careful experiments with this compost, we think no farmer will hefitate to employ his peat rather as a manure than as a foil.
The third paper, On burning lime with peat, by Mr Jonarhan Radcliff, presents a very clear detail of a process, by which peat may be used to supply the want, or to prevent the consumprien of coals in lime-kilns.