“The history of the wealth of the Sutherland family is the history of the ruin and of the expropriation of the Scotch-Gaelic population from its native soil”

Reading in today’s papers that Francis Egerton, the 7th Duke of Sutherland, wants the Great British public to cough up £100m to keep the Bridgewater Collection of old masters on public display in Scotland reminded me of what Karl Marx wrote in a newspaper article in 1853, “The Duchess of Sutherland and Slavery“, about his great-great-great-great aunt Lady Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana Howard.

(That duchess was the grand-daughter of The Duchess who features in the film, currently on the nation’s cinema screens, and played by Keira Knightley, apparently.)

Anyway: do read the Marx piece: it’s great fun.

7 thoughts on ““The history of the wealth of the Sutherland family is the history of the ruin and of the expropriation of the Scotch-Gaelic population from its native soil””

  1. It’s also worth checking out Thomas Johnston’s incendiary little book, ‘Our Noble Families’ (Forward Publishing Co. 7th edition, Glasgow 1917). This is what he says of Sutherland’s infamous clearances of 1814 (p. 56):

    “It has been offered in defence of the Sutherlands that £3000 was ‘given in loan to these poor people who lost their cattle’. This statement has been vehemently denied by the Crofters, who declare that they never saw a penny of that money; and as for the much-belauded ‘charity’ given to the dispossessed in the shape of meal, no greater fraud was ever practised on the Highlanders. The people had been robbed of their all and driven from their homes, and they were given meal in charity! Charity, forsooth! The charity was charged for at the next Martinmas term at the rate of 50/- per boll, and payment was rigorously extorted, those having cattle being obliged to give them up to liquidate the debt.

  2. Worth getting a copy Chris if you don’t already have one. It’s one of the great tracts of 20th century British socialism (up there with ‘Guilty Men’ and ‘Why not Trust the Tories’). Rumour has it that when (a much mellowed) Johnston became Minister for Scotland during the second world war he went round all of Edinburgh’s second-hand book shops collecting copies to burn. The trouble was by then the book had run to 10 or so editions and sold several hundred thousand copies. Maxton said it had permanently entered the consciousness of the Scottish working class.

  3. OK – I’ve ordered one – thanks for the tip.

    It looks as if the reprint has been popular — I’ve seen references to 1999, 2001 and 2008 printings of the new Argyll edition.

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