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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The Gipsies became ordinary citizens


Gipsies are British subjects,

as much as either Highland or Lowland Scots; their being of foreign origin does not alter the case; and they are entitled to have that justice meted out to them that has been accorded to the ordinary natives. They are not a heaven-born race, but they certainly found their way into the country, as if they had dropped into it out of the clouds. As a race, they have that much mystery, originality, and antiquity about them, and that inextinguishable sensation of being a branch of the same tribe everywhere, that ought to cover a multitude of failings connected with their past history. Indeed, what we do know of their earliest history is not nearly so barbarous as that of our own; for we must contemplate our own ancestors, at one time, as painted and skin-clad barbarians. What we do know, for certainty, of the earliest history of the Scottish Gipsies, is contained, more particularly, in the Act of 1540; and we would naturally say, that, for a people in a barbarous state, such is the dignity and majesty, with all the roguishness, displayed in the conduct of the Gipsies of that period, one could hardly have a better, certainly not a more romantic, descent; provided the person whose descent it is is to be found amid the ranks of Scots, with talents, a character, and a position equal to those of others around him. For this reason, it must be said of the race, that whenever it shakes itself clear of objectionable habits, and follows any kind of ordinary industry, the cause of every prejudice
against it is gone, or ought to disappear; for then, as I have already said, the Gipsies became ordinary citizens, of the Gipsy clan. It then follows, that in passing a fair judgment upon the Gipsy race, we ought to establish a principle of progression, and set our minds upon the best specimens of it, as well as the worst, and not judge of it, solely, from the poorest, the most ignorant, or the most barbarous part of it.[307]

[307] Tacitus gives the following glowing account of the destruction of the Druids, in the island of Anglesey: "On the opposite shore stood the Britons, closely embodied, and prepared for action. Women were seen rushing through the ranks in wild disorder; their apparel funereal; their hair loose to the wind, in their hands flaming torches, and their whole appearance resembling the frantic rage of the Furies. The Druids were ranged in order, with hands uplifted, invoking the gods, and pouring forth horrible imprecations. The novelty of the sight struck the Romans with awe and terror. They stood in stupid amazement, as if their limbs were benumbed, riveted to one spot, a mark for the enemy. The exhortation of the general diffused new vigour through the ranks, and the men, by mutual reproaches, inflamed each other to deeds of valour. They felt the disgrace of yielding to a troop of women, and a band of fanatic priests; they advanced their standards, and rushed on to the attack with impetuous fury. The Britons perished in the flames which they themselves had kindled. The island fell, and a garrison was established to retain it in subjection. _The religious groves, dedicated to superstition and barbarous rites, were levelled to the ground. In those recesses, the natives imbrued their altars with the blood of their prisoners, and, in the entrails of men, explored the will of the gods._"--_Murphy's Translation._


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