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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

When the famine had but just subsided


gentleman, Sir Archibald Grant,

of Monymusk, is deservedly distinguished for the interest he took in road-making about the time of the Hanoverian accession. Some years later statute labor did a little--a very little--towards improving the public roads, but it was not until after the rebellion of 1745, when the Government took the matter in hand, that anything really efficient was done. A number of good roads were then made, chiefly by military labor, and received in popular language the special title of the King's highways. But in the early part of the century there was little use for carts, even of the clumsiest kind. Such carriage as was necessary was accomplished by strings of horses tethered in Indian file, like the lines of camels in the East, and laden with sacks or baskets. The cultivation of the soil was poor; "the surface was generally unenclosed; oats and barley the chief grain products; wheat little cultivated; little hay made for winter; the horses then feeding chiefly on straw and oats." "The arable land ran in narrow slips," with "stony wastes between, like the moraines of a glacier." The hay meadow was an undrained marsh, where rank grasses, mingled with rushes and other aquatic plants, yielded a coarse fodder. About the time when George the First became King of England, Lord Haddington introduced the sowing of clover and other grass seeds. Some ten years earlier an Englishwoman, Elizabeth Mordaunt, daughter of the Earl of Peterborough, and wife of the Duke of Gordon, introduced into her
husband's estates English ploughs, English ploughmen, the system of fallowing up to that time {89} unknown in Scotland, planted moors, sowed foreign grasses, and showed the Morayshire farmers how to make hay.

[Sidenote: 1714--Famines in Scotland]

As a natural result of the primitive and incomplete agriculture, dearth of food was frequent, and even severe famine, in all its horrors of starvation and death, not uncommon. When George the First came to the throne the century was not old enough for the living generation of Scotchmen to forget the ghastly seven years that had brought the seventeenth century to its close--seven empty ears blasted with east-wind. So many died of hunger that, in the grim words of one who lived through that time, "the living were wearied with the burying of the dead." The plague of hunger took away all natural and relative affections, "so that husbands had not sympathy for their wives, nor wives for their husbands; parents for their children, nor children for their parents." The saddest proof of the extent of the suffering is shown in the irreligious despair which seized upon the sufferers. Scotland then, as now, was strongly marked for its piety, but want made men defiant of heaven, prepared, like her who counselled the man of Uz, to curse God and die by the roadside. Warned by no dream of thin and ill-favored kine, the Pharaohs of Westminster had passed an Act, enforced while the famine was well begun, against the importation of meal into Scotland. At the sorest of the famine, the importation of meal from Ireland was permitted, and exportation of grain from Scotland prohibited. But, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the famine had but just subsided, a Government commission ordered that all loads of grain brought from Ireland into the West of Scotland should be staved and sunk.


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