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Napier Commission

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The Napier Commission, officially the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands was a royal commission and public inquiry into the condition of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

The commission was appointed in 1883, with Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier, as its chairman, under William Gladstone's Liberal government of the United Kingdom. The Royal Commission had five other members and published its report, the Report of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Inquiry Into the Condition of the Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, in 1884. The other members were:

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Royal commission

Royal commission

A royal commission is a major ad-hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue in some monarchies. They have been held in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Malaysia, Mauritius and Saudi Arabia. A royal commission is similar in function to a commission of inquiry found in other countries such as Ireland, South Africa, and Hong Kong. It has considerable powers, generally greater even than those of a judge but restricted to the terms of reference of the commission. These powers include subpoenaing witnesses, taking evidence under oath and requesting documents.

Public inquiry

Public inquiry

A tribunal of inquiry is an official review of events or actions ordered by a government body. In many common law countries, such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and Canada, such a public inquiry differs from a royal commission in that a public inquiry accepts evidence and conducts its hearings in a more public forum and focuses on a more specific occurrence. Interested members of the public and organisations may make (written) evidential submissions, as is the case with most inquiries, and also listen to oral evidence given by other parties.

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a 96-mile (154-kilometre) border with England to the southeast and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast and east, and the Irish Sea to the south. It also contains more than 790 islands, principally in the archipelagos of the Hebrides and the Northern Isles. Most of the population, including the capital Edinburgh, is concentrated in the Central Belt—the plain between the Scottish Highlands and the Southern Uplands—in the Scottish Lowlands.

Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier

Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier

Francis Napier, 10th Lord Napier and 1st Baron Ettrick, was a Scottish polyglot, diplomat and colonial administrator. He served as the British Minister to the United States from 1857 to 1859, Netherlands from 1859 to 1860, Russia from 1861 to 1864, Prussia from 1864 to 1866 and as the Governor of Madras from 1866 to 1872. He also acted as the Governor-General of India from February to May 1872.

William Ewart Gladstone

William Ewart Gladstone

William Ewart Gladstone was a British statesman and Liberal politician. In a career lasting over 60 years, he served for 12 years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, spread over four non-consecutive terms beginning in 1868 and ending in 1894. He also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer four times, for over 12 years.

Liberal Party (UK)

Liberal Party (UK)

The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties in the United Kingdom, along with the Conservative Party, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Beginning as an alliance of Whigs, free trade–supporting Peelites and reformist Radicals in the 1850s, by the end of the 19th century it had formed four governments under William Gladstone. Despite being divided over the issue of Irish Home Rule, the party returned to government in 1905 and won a landslide victory in the 1906 general election.

Government

Government

A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state.

Historical context

The Commission was a response to crofter and cottar agitation in the Highlands of Scotland. The agitation was about excessively high rents, lack of security of tenure and deprivation of de facto rights of access to land. It took the form of rent strikes (withholding rent payments) and what came to be known as land raids (crofter occupation of land which landlords had given over to sheep farming and to hunting parks called deer forests). Crofters' War has been used since as a name for this agitation.

In the 1870s there had been sporadic short-lived agitations in Wester Ross and Lewis (then both in the county of Ross). In the early 1880s agitation began in Skye (then in the county of Inverness) and there it became persistent and threatened to spread throughout the Hebrides and the Highlands. Police forces attempted to enforce what landlords believed to be their rights, but the police were severely overstretched, especially in Inverness-shire, where William Ivory was Sheriff Principal. Agitation became therefore an issue needing the attention of central government and, eventually, Gladstone's government appointed the Napier Commission.

About three years after the Commission's appointment the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1886 would be on the statute book. The Act was not based on the recommendations of the Commission, but the process by which the Commission collected evidence, and the Commission's report, did foster and inform the public, Parliamentary and Cabinet debate which led, eventually to the legislation. The legislation was based on principles accepted in the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Act 1870 and Land Law (Ireland) Act 1881, principles which Napier had implicitly rejected in 1884.

According to Scottish nationalist, biographer, and historian John Lorne Campbell, the Crofter's Holdings Act was nothing less than "the Magna Carta of the Highlands and Islands, which conferred on the small tenants there something which the peasantry of Scandinavian countries had known for generations, security of tenure and the right to the principle of compensation for their own improvements at the termination of tenancies. Nothing was suggested in the report, or contained in the Act, to restrict absentee landlordism or limit the amount of land any one individual might own in Scotland, but for the moment a great advantage has been secured."[1].

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Scotland

Scotland

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a 96-mile (154-kilometre) border with England to the southeast and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast and east, and the Irish Sea to the south. It also contains more than 790 islands, principally in the archipelagos of the Hebrides and the Northern Isles. Most of the population, including the capital Edinburgh, is concentrated in the Central Belt—the plain between the Scottish Highlands and the Southern Uplands—in the Scottish Lowlands.

Renting

Renting

Renting, also known as hiring or letting, is an agreement where a payment is made for the temporary use of a good, service or property owned by another. A gross lease is when the tenant pays a flat rental amount and the landlord pays for all property charges regularly incurred by the ownership. An example of renting is equipment rental. Renting can be an example of the sharing economy.

De facto

De facto

De facto describes practices that exist in reality, whether or not they are officially recognized by laws or other formal norms. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with de jure, which refers to things that happen according to official law, regardless of whether the practice exists in reality.

Rent strike

Rent strike

A rent strike is a method of protest commonly employed against large landlords. In a rent strike, a group of tenants come together and agree to refuse to pay their rent en masse until a specific list of demands is met by the landlord. This can be a useful tactic of final resort for use against intransigent landlords, but carries the obvious risk of eviction and bad credit history in some cases.

Landlord

Landlord

A landlord is the owner of a house, apartment, condominium, land, or real estate which is rented or leased to an individual or business, who is called a tenant. When a juristic person is in this position, the term landlord is used. Other terms include lessor and owner. The term landlady may be used for the female owners. The manager of a pub in the United Kingdom, strictly speaking a licensed victualler, is referred to as the landlord/landlady. In political economy it refers to the owner of natural resources alone from which an economic rent, a form of passive income, is the income received.

Park

Park

A park is an area of natural, semi-natural or planted space set aside for human enjoyment and recreation or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. Urban parks are green spaces set aside for recreation inside towns and cities. National parks and country parks are green spaces used for recreation in the countryside. State parks and provincial parks are administered by sub-national government states and agencies. Parks may consist of grassy areas, rocks, soil and trees, but may also contain buildings and other artifacts such as monuments, fountains or playground structures. Many parks have fields for playing sports such as baseball and football, and paved areas for games such as basketball. Many parks have trails for walking, biking and other activities. Some parks are built adjacent to bodies of water or watercourses and may comprise a beach or boat dock area. Urban parks often have benches for sitting and may contain picnic tables and barbecue grills.

Deer

Deer

Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including muntjac, elk (wapiti), red deer, and fallow deer; and the Capreolinae, including reindeer (caribou), white-tailed deer, roe deer, and moose. Male deer of all species, as well as female reindeer, grow and shed new antlers each year. In this, they differ from permanently horned antelope, which are part of a different family (Bovidae) within the same order of even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla).

Isle of Lewis

Isle of Lewis

The Isle of Lewis or simply Lewis is the northern part of Lewis and Harris, the largest island of the Western Isles or Outer Hebrides archipelago in Scotland. The two parts are frequently referred to as if they were separate islands. The total area of Lewis is 683 square miles (1,770 km2).

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye, or simply Skye, is the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. The island's peninsulas radiate from a mountainous hub dominated by the Cuillin, the rocky slopes of which provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the country. Although Sgitheanach has been suggested to describe a winged shape, no definitive agreement exists as to the name's origins.

Hebrides

Hebrides

The Hebrides are an archipelago off the west coast of the Scottish mainland. The islands fall into two main groups, based on their proximity to the mainland: the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

Police

Police

The police are a constituted body of persons empowered by a state, with the aim to enforce the law, to ensure the safety, health, and possessions of citizens, and to prevent crime and civil disorder. Their lawful powers include arrest and the use of force legitimized by the state via the monopoly on violence. The term is most commonly associated with the police forces of a sovereign state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility. Police forces are often defined as being separate from the military and other organizations involved in the defense of the state against foreign aggressors; however, gendarmerie are military units charged with civil policing. Police forces are usually public sector services, funded through taxes.

Government

Government

A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state.

The Commission

Appointments to the Commission were made by the Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt. In Napier himself the Commission had an amateur historian and anthropologist. In Nicolson and Mackinnon it had two members with good knowledge of Gaelic. Cameron and MacKenzie were obviously landlords,[2] and Frazer-Mackintosh was an antiquarian who, as an MP, had made himself known as someone who was sympathetic to the crofters' cause.

The terms crofter, cottar and Highlands and Islands all lacked clear definition, and the Commission was left to use its own judgement as when, where and from whom to take evidence. Napier was reluctant to include Caithness, which he regarded as '"not inhabited by the Celtic race".[3] The Commission was aware however that the government wanted a fairly early report, rather than an exhaustive inquiry, in the hope that this itself would help to quell crofter agitation.

The Commission began its work in the Hebrides, where rent strikes and land raids were most prevalent. It took evidence from crofters, landlords and others, and it moved on to tour much of what is now regarded as the Highlands and Islands area. Evidence from crofters exhibited remarkably consistent rhetoric, and there were accusations of coaching from the Highland Land League. Equally there were accusations that any crofter daring to give evidence risked being singled out for reprisals from landlords.

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Home Secretary

Home Secretary

The secretary of state for the Home Department is a secretary of state in the Government of the United Kingdom, with responsibility for the Home Office As a Great Office of State, the home secretary is one of the most senior and influential ministers in the government. The incumbent is a statutory member of the British Cabinet and National Security Council.

Amateur

Amateur

An amateur is generally considered a person who pursues an avocation independent from their source of income. Amateurs and their pursuits are also described as popular, informal, self-taught, user-generated, DIY, and hobbyist.

History

History

History is the systematic study and documentation of human activity. The time period of events before the invention of writing systems is considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term comprising past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of these events. Historians seek knowledge of the past using historical sources such as written documents, oral accounts, art and material artifacts, and ecological markers. History is not complete and still has debatable mysteries.

Anthropology

Anthropology

Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, societies, and linguistics, in both the present and past, including past human species. Social anthropology studies patterns of behavior, while cultural anthropology studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. A portmanteau term sociocultural anthropology is commonly used today. Linguistic anthropology studies how language influences social life. Biological or physical anthropology studies the biological development of humans.

Antiquarian

Antiquarian

An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts. The essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, and is perhaps best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory."

Caithness

Caithness

Caithness is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area of Scotland.

Highland Land League

Highland Land League

The first Highland Land League emerged as a distinct political force in Scotland during the 1880s, with its power base in the country's Highlands and Islands. It was known also as the Highland Land Law Reform Association and the Crofters' Party. It was consciously modelled on the Irish Land League.

Napier's report

The Commission was far from unanimous in its report. Many of the recommendations were those of Napier alone. For tenants whose holdings had rental values of more than £6 a year he proposed security of tenure in 30-year improving leases and township organisation. For tenants whose holdings fell below the £6-a-year threshold he recommended voluntary assisted emigration. Improving lease means a lease which includes a programme of improvement for the holding. Townships were conceived as re-establishing communal management of grazing land.

Publication of the report did bring some calm to the situation in the Highlands, but this was very short lived.

Source: "Napier Commission", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 16th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napier_Commission.

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Footnotes
  1. ^ Frederick G. Rea (1997), A School in South Uist: Reminiscences of a Hebridean Scoolmaster, 1890-1913, edited and with an introduction by John Lorne Campbell, Birlinn Limited. Page xviii.
  2. ^ It seems probable that all members of the Commission (not least Napier) were either landlords or heirs to landlords, within the Highlands or elsewhere.
  3. ^ The rhetoric of the Highland Land League relied on a perception of the behaviour of landlords as an assault on a Gaelic or Celtic way of life, with clear parallels with events in Ireland. Caithness has no real history of Gaelic-speaking landlords or clan chieftains, but in the 1880s many croft tenants were still Gaelic-speaking, in the western parishes. (The 3rd volume of William Forbes Skene's Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban had been published in 1880. Alexander MacKenzie's History of the Highland Clearances was published in 1883.)
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