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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Externalities Part 2

Externalities part 2

There may be no internal contradictions, but there are some external Absolutes up against which we are bumping. They are the finite nature of geological reserves of oil, coal and natural gas, and the chemical and thermodynamic consequences of the emission of greenhouse gases and the impact on climate.

Which is as far as I had got with part 1 before hitting a 'can't save' problem so had to copy and paste to blog.

I had been speculating that Hegel's Science of Logic was an early version of an artificial intelligence program, one which resolved the problems with such projects George Dyson had explored in Darwin Amongst the Machines. Indeed, Hegel moves beyond artificial intelligence to show how, through time as history, the mechanical interaction of binary opposites (Being and Nothing, 1 and 0) can give rise to a self-aware/ self-conscious intelligence. What Dyson achieves is to show how various attempts to create artificial intelligence and artificial life can help us to realise that natural processes possess similar 'intelligence', that there is an evolutionary intelligence which operates not through design, but through countless sequences of trial and error.

I then suggested that if Debord's Spectacle rather than Marx's Capitalism was a more accurate description of social reality then it was effectively an evolutionary dead end, lacking the internal contradictions which Marx (following Hegel's logic) argued would inevitably push the system beyond its limits, thus triggering a crisis which could only be resolved by the proletariat fulfilling its historic destiny....

I also suggested that industrialisation rather than capitalism was the revolution which happened between 1750 and 1850, capitalism being a by-product of industrialisation (the opposite of Marxist theory). And I threw in a section on Alan Turing and the evolution of the Colossus computer in WW2 as a form of collective artificial intelligence.

This last example is relevant here. It was the external threat posed by Nazi Germany which pushed the British state to mobilise its resources as efficiently as possible – a necessity driven by survival.

One outcome was the rapid evolution of an artificial intelligence system in which electro-mechanical, mathematical and human resources were combined into a single system. One significant output was that Alan Turing's mathematical and theoretical model for a computer was actualised.

The nuclear bomb was another such outcome.

The challenge posed by these externalities is undisputed (even the climate change sceptics now accept its reality, even if they believe it is a natural rather than human created problem). But what should be the response? UK prime minster Gordon Brown has suggested 1000 nuclear power stations will be needed to combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependency on oil. The use of genetically modified crops and other similar technical fixes is also proposed.

Yet if it was the process of industrialisation which has got us into this mess, can even more of the same get us out of it ? What we have hit are the limits of that process, limits which are external yet reveal a set of internal contradictions which the Spectacular reconfiguration of Marx's capitalism has until now homogenised. One such contradiction is between the Enlightenment belief in the perfectability of nature ( which includes traditional human societies as being in a state of nature) and the somewhat imperfect results – results which have been incredibly destructive and disruptive.

What if, to follow Dyson's line of thought, there is a 'natural' intelligence having a structural similarity to 'artificial' intelligence, and which is embedded/ embodied in the physical world? If so, then is it not possible that traditional (pre-Enlightenment) human societies, which had demonstrated their sustainable credentials by surviving within the external limits imposed by local or regional ecosystems, exhibited collective intelligence rather than the stupidity alleged by enlightened improvers? Suggesting a dialectical process – natural intelligence > enlightened intelligence > ecological intelligence.

Since enlightened / industrial intelligence emerged out of 'natural' intelligence, this would also be a process of re-integration. A synthesis. To add a science fictional or Dysonesque element, some inclusion of artificial intelligence (as itself an output of enlightened/ industrial intelligence) may be necessary to manage the constantly fluctuating electrical output of wind, wave and solar energy sources...

Could a synthesis between Hegel's Absolute and Lovelock's Gaia thus emerge?


Inevitablising the Eschaton or how to Immanentise the Absolute

Working to finish off the first draft of my Galloway Levellers research project I have been turning over some questions posed by Noisy Sphinx.1 I have also been trying to work out what, if anything, I can conclude from the research project. This is quite important since one possible output from the project is a book. If it is to become a book, it would be useful to find a contemporary theme or themes since an academic study of an obscure period in the the history of an obscure region of Scotland is unlikely to appeal to many readers. Richard Oram has written a fascinating and detailed study of medieval Galloway 2 but it is a wee bit intimidating for most folk.

What I would like to do is write something which is more accessible. One possibility is to make a link to Robert Burns. In July 1793, Burns and his friend John Syme did a tour of Galloway, or at least the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and I have found that they visited in several places with Galloway Leveller associations and met people with family links to the Levellers – Gordon of Kenmure, Murray of Cally, Heron of Kirroughtrie and the Earl of Selkirk ( Basil Hamilton's grandson.) Syme claimed that Burns was inspired to wrote Scots wha hae whilst walking over the hills from Airds of Kells/ Boat of Rhone to Gatehouse of Fleet. This claim is disputed. It is more likely that Burns got the idea for Scots wha hae in July, but wrote the finished text in Dumfries in August 1793.3 Although looking backwards to Robert the Bruce and Bannockburn, Scots wha hae
was no less inspired by the French Revolution. One of Burns' close friends was Dr William Maxwell who had been closely involved in the events and been present at the execution of Louis XVI.

From a different angle, Burns can be connected to the Galloway Levellers as the 'improving' tenant farmer of Ellisland farm near Dumfries. Most significantly, after trying and failing to improve Ellisland as an arable farm, Burns introduced Ayrshire cattle and, with the help of his wife, tried to run it as a dairy farm. This attempt also failed, but it was a revolutionary innovation. In the 19th century, the Ayrshire style of dairy farming replaced arable farming as the main type of farming in lowland Dumfries and Galloway – as it remains to this day.

At the same time that Burns was struggling to make a go of improved farming at Ellisland, the son of a Galloway hill farmer was having more success as a cotton manufacturer in Manchester. This was John Kennedy who came from Knocknalling farm on the edge of the Rhinns of Kells ( a range of hills rising to 2600 feet on the Stewartry/ Ayrshire border). In 1778, Kennedy had moved south to Chowbent ( or Atherton) near Preston to work for William Cannan (or Cannon) who himself was from Galloway and was a millwright/ carpenter. 4 By 1791, Kennedy had moved to Manchester and in that year established the first successful steam powered cotton mill there. Kennedy went on to help create the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and was one of the judges at the Rainhill Trials, won by George and Robert Stephenson's Rocket. Kennedy was a friend of both James Watt and George Stephenson. The Murray brothers, who also came from the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, were contemporary Manchester cotton manufacturers. In Liverpool, Wellwood Maxwell, again from the Stewartry (and whose grandfather John Maxwell was an eye-witness to the Levellers actions), was a cotton trader and an early supporter of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

The steam powered industrialisation of Manchester and Liverpool overwhelmed attempts to create the water powered industrialisation of Galloway by James Murray of Gatehouse of Fleet, William Douglas of Castle Douglas and others. By the 1840s, when the New Statistical Account of Scotland was being written, it had become clear that the enthusiasm for improvement through manufacturing industry noted in the Old (1790s) Statistical Accounts for parishes in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright had passed. It had become clear that the region's future lay with agriculture rather than manufacturing.

Was this an inevitable outcome?

This is the critical question. It is a question which is of acute contemporary and practical importance. A question which gets to the heart of 'progress is the enemy'...

When John Kennedy succeeded in 1791 where Richard Arkwright had failed 5 in 1780 and harnessed the power of fossil fuel powered technology( a steam engine) to the spinning of cotton, an industrial revolution was born.6 This revolution had been gestating since 1750 when Abraham Darby III of Coalbrookdale had begun the large scale smelting of iron using coke rather than charcoal – an innovation first perfected in 1706 by his grandfather. Other innovations, like James Watts' development of a thermally efficient steam engine, of the mechanisation of cotton spinning, the application of steam power to land and sea transport and the civil engineering skills of canal and road builders laid the foundations for this revolution, but it was the meteoric rise of the cotton industry which lit the touch paper.

But what lay behind this meteoric growth, behind the huge plumes of smoke and carbon dioxide which first began rising up from John Kennedy's Manchester factory in 1791?

In 1765 the British government purchased the fiscal rights of the Isle of Man from the Duke of Atholl, ostensibly to end the smuggling trade but in reality reacting to pressure from influential members of the English East India Company which was suffering competition with Dutch East India Company goods which were available on the island. The Liverpool Guinea trade had benefited greatly from its proximity to the Isle of Man – one of the main reasons why Liverpool became the principal slave trading port in Europe. After 1765 the Guinea merchants were forced to purchase their cargoes in London. This provided an incentive to develop British versions of the East Indian cloths that composed a high percentage of the Guinea cargoes. By the end of the eighteenth century Manchester and other places in the north-west of England were producing cotton and other cloths for the slave trade.7

Europe's insatiable demand for sugar and tobacco drove the slave trade, which in turn stimulated Britain's industrial development through the production of trade goods and supplies for the slave plantations. When the Isle of Man was no longer a source of cheap (because tax free / smuggled) Indian cottons, a market for cheap UK produced substitutes emerged. However, as Hobsbawm8 noted, the existing UK woollen and linen could not be expanded rapidly enough to meet this demand. The UK farming industry was still 'traditional', was only beginning to under go its agricultural revolution. The situation in America was very different. There cotton production could be rapidly increased using slave labour on land from which the indigenous inhabitants could easily be removed. The result was a viciously explosive cycle of exploitation. The more slaves that were needed to produce the cheap cotton, the more cheap cotton that was needed to trade for and cloth the slaves. As the cost of production went down, the cheap cottons were then exported to India whilst imports of Indian cotton were hit by huge tariffs,leading to the collapse of the India cotton industry which fed the demand for more slave produced cotton.9

The weak point in this cycle was the manufacturing process. The existing small scale home cotton industry, which had developed out of the linen industry, could not keep up with the huge volumes of cotton arriving in Liverpool. This stimulated technological improvement and the development of the factory system. Spinning was the first process to be industrialised, then weaving. The time lag led to the impoverishment of the hand-loom weavers whose numbers and prosperity had grown whilst spinning alone had been industrialised, but who then could not compete once factory based mechanical weaving became possible.

Once set in motion, this juggernaut proved unstoppable. Although the Bridgewater canal was built to carry coal to Manchester in 1761, as explained above, the coal was not yet used to power cotton mills. The first cotton mills were water powered. The canal system was later extended to carry cotton from Liverpool to Manchester (other canals were also built, especially around Birmingham), but once the steam powered cotton factories began to dominate, the need to create a more efficient transport system led to the building of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Railways had been developed in coal mining areas like north east England as a cheaper alternative to canals. The development of railways stimulated the iron industry, as did the development of steam powered iron ships. The cotton the railways and steam ships carried was still being produced by slaves in the southern USA until the 1860s.


There was only one Weltanschauung of major significance...the triumphant rationalist, humanist, 'Enlightenment' of the eighteenth century. Its champions believed firmly (and correctly) that human history was an ascent, rather than a decline or an undulating movement about a level trend. They could observe that man's scientific knowledge and technical control over nature increased daily. They believed that human society and individual man could be perfected by the same application of reason, and were destined to be so perfected by history. On these points bourgeois liberals and revolutionary proletarian socialists were at one.10

As this 'ideology of progress' was developed after 1789, the paths of bourgeois liberals and revolutionary proletarian socialists diverged. As Hobsbawm continues, a further step was taken by Karl Marx “who transferred the centre of gravity of the argument for socialism from its rationality or desirability to its historical inevitability”. Marx saw in history a series of 'inevitables' as each stage of social evolution lost its progressive edge as its internal contradictions became impossible to contain. Inevitably resistance to change created opposition which no less inevitably triumphed, eventually in turn collapsing itself into a crisis ... capitalism being the latest in this sequence of progress. But after the inevitable final crisis of capitalism, a stage of perfection would be reached, one containing no internal contradictions. Thus the driving force of history would end with the eternally inevitable triumph of socialism. But not just yet. Capitalism itself had to become fully fledged.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. 11

The Communist Manifesto was written 160 years ago. The inevitable has been delayed. Capitalism may yet collapse beneath the weight of its internal contradictions, but it seems more likely it will grind to a halt or rather seize up before then through the external contradictions of peak oil plus global warming. Or is this confusing industrialisation with capitalism? Not if the bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the means of production. Without industrialisation there would have been no capitalist revolution. The capitalist revolution was the industrial revolution. Slavery was a necessary starting condition for industrialisation, but it was the exploitation of coal and then oil which secured the revolution. Georgian Britain emulated the classical splendour of ancient Rome and achieved a similar level of development. Victorian Britain was like no other human society, was something new and without parallel.
But was the change from the Britain of 1750 to that of 1850 an inevitable process, an inevitable progress? How contingent was the change? What if there had been no break with the north American colonies in 1776? No break, no war of independence. No war of independence, no need for the French state to nearly bankrupt itself supporting the Americans and so no need to try and raise the taxes which triggered the French Revolution...

There is no inevitability about history. No historical absolutes. It is relativity all the way down. So where did Marx get the idea from? The notion of 'historical inevitability' came from Hegel. But Hegel's ideas about history had been influenced by the French Revolution and the rise to power of a world-historical individual- Napoleon. Hegel was also influenced by the gnosticism of the hermetic tradition.
We can now already glimpse the end of Hegelian philosophy in its beginning. In Absolute Knowledge the drive to totally grasp the object, and to annul the subject-object distinction, will be realised. Absolute Knowledge will be the total grasp of an individual in its uniqueness. In fact it will be be the total grasp of the only true, unique individual there is: the Absolute...in Hegel's thought substance has become subject: “what seems to happen outside of [the self], to be an activity directed against it, is really its own doing, and substance shows itself to be essentially Subject.” Knowledge of this individual is simultaneously self-knowledge.12

Marx is supposed to have removed all such mystical speculations before applying Hegelian theory to revolutionary practice, but if Hegel's system is occult in its origin and in its totality, how practical was this? Could Marxism be a type of advanced mystification and not revolutionary at all? An Enlightenment version of a millenarian / apocalyptic cult, a secular version of the contemporary protestant sectarians and expansionist Islam Hobsbawm talks about.13 Which would make Marxism an attempt ' inevitablise the eschaton' rather than immantetise it. But the end days are both always with us and ever delayed.
At this point I could, perhaps should, elaborate on the 'Hegel was an occult philosopher/ punk magician' theme before moving on to Neil Davidson's defence of inevitability as applied to 18th century Scotland. I will cheat a bit by sampling Magee's text at page 93.
Hegel's system is a complete conceptual speech about the whole, but it is not merely a network of abstract concepts. Instead it takes the form of a concrete totality...Hegel defines philosophy as the “actual knowledge of what truly is”... it is the totality of the system that gives us this reality. Every “provisional definition of the Absolute” within the system, that is every category, must fall short because no one category can express all of what the Absolute is. Thus, the system does not describe the absolute, it gives form to the Absolute itself. Hegel's philosophy does not tell us what Substance or the Absolute is (in the manner, for instance, of Aristotle), it brings the Absolute into being. Why? Because it is through speculation that the Idea becomes for-itself, that “God” achieves self-awareness and thus completion. This complete or actualised divine is the Absolute.
Every individual is a blind link in the chain of absolute necessity, along which the world develops. Every individual can raise himself to domination over a great length of this chain only if he realises the goal of this great necessity and, by virtue of this knowledge, learns to speak the magic words which evoke its shape. The knowledge of how to simultaneously absorb and elevate oneself beyond the total energy of suffering and antithesis that has dominated the world and all forms of its development for thousands of years – this knowledge can be developed from philosophy alone.
The magic words are the categories of Hegelian philosophy. The magic power is dialectic guided by recollection....access to this power is through a form of imagination.14

Hegel's system brings the Absolute into being through magic words which evoke its shape. Eat your heart out Kenneth Grant!15 Was Crowley a very Young (unborn) Hegelian? Or did Hegel anticipate Thelema? Or perhaps a better analogy is with chaos magic – not what it has become, but what it had the potential to be before it was reduced to sigilisation. And Magee shows that Hegel was familiar with Kabbalistic thought.16

But back to the inevitability of progress through capitalism.
The notion that capitalism was unnecessary for development has enjoyed a degree of popularity among radicals, but it is important to understand the implications of this position. The theory of uneven and combined development has certain political implications in the imperialist epoch of capitalist development which began in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Broadly these are that states in the underdeveloped world can, given certain conditions, overleap the stages of capitalist development to that of socialism. Two of these conditions were that a world capitalist economy already existed and that, through participation in this economy, a working class had been brought into being in the underdeveloped world which could act as the agent of revolutionary change. This is not what the aforementioned radicals are proposing. Far from the dominance of the capitalist mode of production being a necessary precondition of socialism at the international level, the entire capitalist system, from its genesis in Europe during the sixteenth century, is said to have acted as what Immanuel Wallerstein calls a 'virus' infecting other- presumably healthy- societies and preventing them developing in alternative ways. I regard this veiw as being profoundly mistaken, but for the purpose of this argument, th point is that it is impossible for Marxists to accept.
The expansion of the productive forces brought about by capitalism has been a necessary but insufficient condition for the ultimate goal of human liberation. Necessary, because without it there will be neither a working class to seize power from the capitalists, not a sufficient level of material resources with which to feed, clothe, house or educate the world's population. Insufficient because unless the working class is conscious and organised it will not succeed in achieving its revolutionary potential.17

The reason Davidson is so keen to stress the necessity of progress through capitalism (how ever bloody and barbaric) was that in the 1990s some Scottish socialists had tried to chart just such an alternative (Scottish) path to socialism. Marxist orthodoxy held that the Union of Scotland and England in 1707 was a necessary (and inevitable) development. Thus the bourgeoisie revolution had to be imposed from above on an underdeveloped Scotland. Marx himself had used the Highland Clearances in Capital Volume 1 as an example of how capitalism forced rural labourers people off the land and into cities where they became the urban proletariat. Some Scottish socialists objected to this argument. Davidson agreed, arguing that by the time the Highland Clearances, capitalism was already fully fledged and so the Clearances were not an inevitable necessity. Unlike Culloden.

Davidson argues that the battle of Culloden was a necessary part of a 'bourgeoisie revolution from above' which had to be imposed on the Scots since they were incapable of eliminating feudalism on their own. There could not have been an alternative 17th century Scottish 'revolution from below' since the historical forces necessary did not exist then. Only after 1707 could the Scottish 'revolution from above' happen. Emancipation and Liberation, the journal of the Scottish Republican Communist platform of the Scottish Socialist Party (pre Tommy Sheridan sex scandal) gave extensive coverage to this debate.18 There is also a connection to the Galloway Levellers, since Allan Armstrong (one of the 'radicals' Davidson has to correct for deviation from Marxist orthodoxy) invoked them as an example of Scotland's radical tradition and Davidson includes them in Discovering the Scottish Revolution19 - but as an example of a 'peasant insurrection'.

Were the Galloway Levellers 'peasants' ? From my research, I have concluded they were not. There were no peasants in Galloway and there hadn't been since 1455, when the Douglas Lordship of Galloway was forfeited to the Scottish Crown. What there were in 1724 were several hundred owner-occupier farmers who worked their farms in partnership ('half-manner' 20 ) with several hundred tenant farmers, supported by 3 or 4000 cottars and crofters who were also trade or craft workers – smiths, masons, tailors, weavers, dysters, cobblers, millwrights and the like. There were also about 50 'heritors' who owned estates of half a dozen or more farms and one or two who owned more than 20 farms. These farms were bought, sold, mortgaged and leased back. Although some farms stayed with the same family for several generations, others changed hands with bewildering rapidity. Tenants and cottars were also used to moving from farm to farm. They were not fixed or tied to any particular plot of land, nor did they have a 'feudal' relationship with the land holders.

I am still working on the pattern of land holding, having provisionally identified 593 individuals claiming to be landowners (out of 2887 named individuals ) between 1659-1674 and 696 (out of 3770 named individuals) for the period 1675 -1700 in Volumes I and II of the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds.
Back to Hegel

I am not quite sure how he does it, but in Chapter One of Science of Logic21 manages to show that Being is in fact Nothing and that Nothing is altogether the same as pure Being. I wonder if the same or similar logic can equate Absolute with Relative? It would be a rather neat way of not answering Noisy Sphinx. How could it be done? What if Absolute has the qualities of being fixed and unmoving. And Relative has the qualities of being fluid and in motion. Thinking in pictures – which Hegel frowned on – I see the Galloway river Dee flowing down from its source at Loch Dee below the granite of the Dungeon Hills to Solway Firth beyond Kirkcudbright. Which is the fixed and which is the fluid in this landscape?

The river would seem the more fluid and the rocks the fixed, yet through time the river remains the constant, the Absolute whilst the rocks are worn away or fractured by ice and so are Relative. To think with more pictures, the Absolute must be a totality, the totality. The picture is of the entire universe as a single flawless crystal, timeless, eternal. The counter image would be of a sea of indeterminacy, the quantum foam or ocean, a shimmering mist where (if I have grasped the physics correctly) virtual sub-atomic particles flicker in and out of existence. The synthesis would be that what appears from outside as the single flawless (undivided) eternal crystal is the shimmering mist when viewed from inside. But this picture-image itself breaks down since there can be no position outside of the Absolute, outside of space/time from which to observe its external appearance. Any such observation must be that of an observer ( a spectator?) existing within the Absolute and so must be Relative, that is partial and provisional, subjective rather than objective.

This brings us back to Hegel:
Every “provisional definition of the Absolute” within the system, that is every category, must fall short because no one category can express all of what the Absolute is. Thus, the system does not describe the absolute, it gives form to the Absolute itself. Hegel's philosophy does not tell us what Substance or the Absolute is (in the manner, for instance, of Aristotle), it brings the Absolute into being. Why? Because it is through speculation that the Idea becomes for-itself, that “God” achieves self-awareness and thus completion.22

Compare this with Descartes, who said
. - Archimedes, that he might transport the entire globe from the place it occupied to another, demanded only a point that was firm and immovable; so, also, I shall be entitled to entertain the highest expectations, if I am fortunate enough to discover only one thing that is certain and indubitable.23
which originally came from Plutarch:
Archimedes, however, in writing to King Hiero, whose friend and near relation he was, had stated that given the force, any given weight might be moved, and even boasted, we are told, relying on the strength of demonstration, that if there were another earth, by going into it he could remove this.

Without a firm and immovable point, there can be no leverage. A Galloway Leveller standing in a boggy spot would be unable to throw down a dyke, would just sink into the bog no matter how big a lever she or he was using. (The dyke itself would sink into the bog though.) Now back to Descartes. Descartes, and all other philosophers up until Hegel, believed that a fixed point, a solid foundation for their speculations must exist, requiring only to be discovered through hard thinking. Once the solid ground was found, all else would logically follow and reason would drain the swamp of superstition and irrationality so it would become fertile ground. The Honourable Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture (discussed previously in my Galloway Levellers texts) were very keen on draining bogs to create fertile fields, although the ultimate solution had to await the creation of tile drains.24

As Magee shows, Hegel rejected this approach. There was no Absolute firm and fixed point 'out there' waiting to be discovered and described, rather the Absolute was an emergent property of the process or system itself. This is very interesting. Although I have wrestled with Hegel's texts, I am taking Magee on trust for this point. Assuming Magee is correct, this gives a convergence with George Dyson's Darwin Amongst the Machines25 which is a study of artificial intelligence in computers. This is a very fraught area, full of bold claims which have yet to be substantiated. Dyson gets around the problem by suggesting that rather than compare computer generated intelligence with human intelligence (which shows up the computers as pretty dumb) the comparison should be made between the 'intelligence' of computers and the 'intelligence' of natural/ evolutionary systems through the emergence of complexity out of simplicity. Computers are very good at number crunching, running through billions of simple binary (0,1) equations to reach a stable result through trial and error. The output of evolution is similar, running through billions of minor mutations to reach a stable result.
Hegel's Science of Logic starts with a piece of binary code – Being (1) and Nothing (0) then runs the program through 800 pages of variations on this theme to conclude with 'self-comprehension'. Unfortunately Dyson does not consider Hegel in his text, but I suggest Hegel could be read within Dyson's context as showing how 'intelligence' as self- comprehension (self-awareness, self-consciousness) can emerge out of a a mechanical/biological system.

Pause for thought. Could this mean that Hegel's Absolute is equivalent to an artificial intelligence? To William Gibson's 'Wintermute'?26 And what about Marx?Where does he fit in? To continue with the computer/ artificial intelligence metaphor, then with his Science of Logic Hegel achieved the equivalent of Alan Turing's 1936 paper On computable numbers which led to the construction of actual computers during WW2.27 But the actual computer (called Colossus ) was only part of a massive organisation employing 10 000 mainly female workers. It was this organisation, which in turn relied on the British state's mobilisation of the resources of the whole country and empire, that was the artificial intelligence which successfully decoded and made sense of the German codes. But capitalism is not such a coherent entity. It is more like Debord's Spectacle. The Spectacle is not controlled and directed by Spectaclists, there is no Spectaclism, there is no Spectacular class. There is no equivalent to Marx's proletariat. The Spectacle a swamp of Relativity in which there are no fixed or Absolute points, no internal contradictions to provide the leverage which would overturn it, bring about its antithesis.

There may be no internal contradictions, but there are some external Absolutes up against which we are bumping. They are the finite nature of geological reserves of oil, coal and natural gas, and the chemical and thermodynamic consequences of the emission of greenhouse gases and the impact on climate.

1See previous blog entries
2Oram : The Lordship of Galloway : 2000
3Snyder: The Life of Robert Burns : 1932, McIntyre: Dirt and Deity, A life of Robert Burns : 1995
4 www.ancoatsbpt.co.uk/docs/AJwinter05.pdf ,www.electricscotland.com/hiStory/other/fairbairn_william.htm and Trotter : East Galloway Sketches:1902: 333-342
6Hobsbawm: The Age Of Revolution, Europe 1789-1848: 1962
7Wilkins : Dumfries & Galloway and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: 2007 : 33
8Hobsbawm: Age of Revolutions :1962
9Williams : Capitalism and Slavery : 1944, Blackburn: The Making of New World Slavery : 1997
10Hobsbawm: Age of Revolutions: 1962, - 1973 edition: 286
11Marx : Communist Manifesto :1848
12Magee: Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition : 2001 : 141
13Hobsbawm: 1962/ 1973 : Ch. 12. Ideology: Religion
14Magee: 2001: 93, including central quote from Rosenktanz: G.F.W. Hegels Leben :1944: 141
15Kenneth Grant former Outer Head of the Typhonian OrdoTempli Orientis , disciple of E.A. 'Aleister' Crowley and author of the seven part 'Typhonian trilogy'.
16Magee: 2001 :167
17Davidson: Discovering the Scottish Revolution 1692-1746 : 2003: 299
19Davidson: 2003 : 216- 220
20http://www.dsl.ac.uk/ as 'half-manure'
21Miller (trans) : Hegel's Science of Logic : 1969 : 82
22Magee: 2001: 93
24See http://www.genevahistoricalsociety.com/Johnston.htm
25Dyson: Darwin Amongst the Machines: 1997
26Gibson :Neuromancer :1984

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Last 2000 words on Galloway Levellers

At least until I revise the whole 40 000...

James Murray and Gatehouse of Fleet

It was from James Murray (1727- 1799) that Richard Oswald bought Auchincruive in 1764. Although Murray lacked Oswald‘s huge resources, he rather than Oswald was the most successful of Galloway’s improving landowners. Uniquely amongst Galloway’s many improving landowners, Murray managed to combine the agricultural improvement of his estates with the successful development of a planned industrial settlement - Gatehouse of Fleet. With the benefit of hindsight, the 19th century, the application of steam power to the cotton mills of north west England and west central Scotland fossilised the water powered cotton mills of Gatehouse of Fleet as part of industrial archaeology. But this should not detract from the achievements of James Murray and his enlightened attempt to combine agricultural and industrial development.

The careful consideration of James Murray’s development of Gatehouse of Fleet1 is also valuable since it brings together several of the themes previously discussed. Most immediately, James’ father Alexander had an enclosure able to contain 1000 head of cattle near Gatehouse which was levelled in 1724. The Birtwhistle family who built the second cotton mill in Gatehouse in 1787 were Yorkshire based cattle traders. The Murray family’s interest in the cattle trade can be traced back to the Plantation of Ulster. In 1608, George Murray, Alexander Cunningham, Alexander Dunbar, James McCulloch, William Stewart, Patrick Vans and Robert McLellan were granted lands in the Boylagh district of Donegal.2 With the exception of McLellan (later the first Lord Kirkcudbright) all were landowners in the neighbouring parishes of Sorbie, Glasserton and Whithorn in the Machars of Wigtownshire. The lands in Donegal were mainly cattle grazing pasture lands. Of these Wigtownshire landowners, George Murray of Broughton took the most active interest in the Irish lands and died at Lifford in Ireland in 1613. John Murray of Cockpool (later Earl of Annandale) then acted as guardian to George’s son John. In 1627, Murray of Cockpool “obtained from the Privy Council permission to land at Portpatrick and take to England cattle belonging to his Irish tenants, to enable them to pay their rents.” Permission was necessary since the Privy Council had attempted to prevent the export of cattle from Nithsdale and Annandale to England in 1625.3 Through marriage alliances John Murray II of Broughton extended his landholdings in Galloway and Ireland, including the Cally estate in Girthon parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. This was gained by his son Alexander through marriage in 1658. Alexander inherited Broughton in 1665 and after a lengthy legal dispute gained 65 000 acres of land around Killibegs in Donegal. Alexander was based in Donegal for several years and became Sheriff of Donegal in 1672. In 1676 he was given a Scottish Privy Council commission to prevent the import of goods - including cattle- from Ireland. In 1677 the Privy Council further commissioned Alexander Murray to assist in the suppression of illegal conventicles in the Sheriffdom of Wigtown and the Stewatry of Kirkcudbright.4

Although Alexander Murray of Broughton and Cally is not amongst the Wigtownshire landowners Symson mentions as having constructed large cattle parks it is noteworthy that he shared the Episcopalian and pro-Stuart sympathies of Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon, Sir William Maxwell of Monreith, Sir Godfrey McCulloch of Myreton and the Earl of Galloway who all had cattle parks in the Machars and that Sir David Dunbar was accused of importing Irish cattle.

Alexander Murray died in 1690 and after his son John died unmarried in 1704, John’s younger brother Alexander inherited. Alexander had a cattle park at Cally which was levelled in 1724. In 1726 he married Lady Euphemia Stewart, daughter of the 5th earl of Galloway. Alexander was the Member of Parliament for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright between 1715 and 1727 and before his death in 1751 had added to the family landholdings. The farm of Beoch in Tongland parish, where Galloway Levellers Thomas Moire and Grizel Grierson had lived in 1724, was amongst those he acquired. James Murray followed in his father’s footsteps. As well as becoming MP for Wigtown from 1762 to 1768 and for the Stewartry from 1768 to 1774, he married a daughter of the Earl of Galloway - his cousin Lady Catherine Stewart, daughter of the 6th Earl of Galloway. And, as Russell puts it:

James Murray evidently learnt much from his father on the techniques of managing the financial side of the estates, raising money by wadset or mortgage to finance improvement, the profit of which paid off the money borrowed…Between 1781 and his death in 1799 there were at least sixty five sasines to his name. Typically he got [wadsets on 17 farms owned by his father] on resignation by John Symes W.S…who had probably held these as security to raise money.. Almost immediately he was life-renting these to local gentry who perhaps let them to tenant farmers … so as to maintain his income from these properties. James Murray’s financial expertise in financial management resulted in his being elected a director of the Douglas Heron [Ayr} Bank, although wisely he was not a guarantor and so was not affected when this bank went bankrupt.5

When James Murray drew up his will in 1797, as well as his Irish estates, he owned 112 farms in Galloway in the parishes of Whithorn and Wigtown in Wigtownshire and in the parishes of Girthon (where he owned the whole parish), Anwoth, Twynholm, Borgue, Tongland, Rerrick and Borgue in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. In addition to his farms, James Murray also owned the industrial settlement of Gatehouse of Fleet.

The very first ‘industrial’ development at Gatehouse took place in the 1730s when a bleachfield was laid out on the east (Girthon parish) side of the river Fleet, close to the site of a wooden bridge over the Fleet. Russell suggests that this development was probably related to the construction of a lint mill by Colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness on the site of an older grain mill on the Skyreburn (2km from Gatehouse) and indicates local expansion of the linen industry.6 However, evidence from the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds reveals the existence of a ‘walk’ mill at Skyreburn in 1668, with Alexander Makewin as the ‘walker’.7 Twenty years later, Alexander Carsan was the miller at Skyreburn who received 39 stones of wool from John Mckie of Craig farm and in 1691 Patrick McKie was ‘dyer at the walk milne of Skyerburn‘.8 This evidence for the manufacture of woollen cloth in 17th century Galloway is confirmed by Symson in his Description of Galloway when he comments that two of the four annual fairs in Wigtown were dedicated to the sale of cloth and that these were “frequented by merchants from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Air and other places who here buy great quantities of raw broad cloth and transport part of it overseas”. 9

It seems to have been the construction in 1763/4 of a military road from Gretna to Portpatrick which inspired James Murray to develop the hamlet of Gatehouse of Fleet into an industrial settlement. 10 However, the first action James Murray took was to have a coaching inn built in the centre of what was to become the new town of Gatehouse of Fleet. The first industry James Murray established in Gatehouse was that of tanning in 1768, followed by brewing in 1769. Sometime in the 1770s, a lint mill was built near the bleach fields, but was not until 1788 that the first of Gatehouse’s four cotton mills was established. Before this mill was built, miners from Wales were employed to cut a 500 metre tunnel from Loch Whinyeon in the hills above Gatehouse to supply a complex system of lades and mill ponds which in turn fed the mill. Finally, a soap works was established. By 1792, the parish of Girthon had a population of 1730, a 371% increase in population since Webster’s survey of 1755. The majority lived in the new town of Gatehouse of Fleet which had a population of 1150, of whom 500 were employed in the cotton works. The only parish in Galloway which came near to matching this growth rate was Stranraer, which grew by 150% between 1755 and 1791. The next largest increase was in the parish of Kelton, which had a population increase of 97.3%. As with Girthon, this increase was due to the creation of a new town - Castle Douglas, as the village of Carlingwark was renamed in 1791. Kirkcudbright grew by 51.7%

Parish (out of 27)

Population 1755

Population 1790/2


K.P Durham (4)




Terregles (5)




Kirkpatrick (6)




Kirkbean (7)




Balmaghie (8)




Twynholm (9)




Minnigaff (10)




Of the parishes listed above, Kirkpatrick Durham contained a new village actively promoted by the Dr. Lamont, the parish minister which contained 14 masons, 13 weavers, 8 tailors, 7 inn-keepers, 5 shoe-makers,3 coopers, 3 shop keepers, a butcher, a baker and a dancing master. According to Dr. Lamont, the village contained a ‘society for carrying a cotton manufactory’ which had six members and a working capital of £120 as well as a similar society for woollen making which had five members and capital of £100.11

The Old Statistical Account for the parish of Rerrick (which experienced zero population growth between 1755 and 1794) reveals a similar enthusiasm for industrial development.

What now gives a prospect of comfort, affluence and importance to the lower class, is a spirit of cotton manufacturing got in amongst us; which we hope in time will lead to woollens. Here we have two small villages; one at the old Abbey [Dundrennan], and another at the head of Heston Bay [Auchencairn]. At the former ,a few spirited young men commenced business last summer. At the latter a company of farmers…have subscribed a capital of £1200 for that purpose. The machinery of the last mentioned place is to go with water.12

Whilst the spirit of cotton manufacturing was sustained, the substance was lacking. The Auchencairn cotton mill, which was 50 feet long, 19 feet wide and three storeys high and contained 5 carding machines and 6 spinning jennies, was put up for sale in March 1800. In 1815, the building was in use as a paper mill, in 1843 as a cotton mill again, in 1852 as a woollen mill, then as a saw mill and finally as a washing and crushing plant for the Barlocco bayrtes mine before being demolished by the end of the century.13 Cotton was still being manufactured in Gatehouse of Fleet in 1847, but “the Gatehouse mills finally closed about mid-century”.14

Ultimately, it was the policy of ‘improvement through agriculture’ pursued by John Maxwell, Richard Oswald and William Craik in Kirkbean parish which prevailed over James Murray’s attempt to industrialise Girthon and William Douglas’ similar attempts in Kelton parish. Gatehouse of Fleet, which had grown so dramatically, became a quiet backwater, a piece of industrial archaeology within a farmed landscape. A farmed landscape which in essence remains that created by improvement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. But it is not a fossilised landscape. Successive changes in agricultural techniques and technology have had their impact, most noticeably the 19th century shift to dairy farming across the lowland zone of Galloway. In the upland zone, vast plantations of Sitka spruce and other fast growing soft woods have replaced sheep and cattle farms. Only in the intermediate areas of unimproved land does something of the pre-improvement landscape survive - including the black cattle of Galloway grazing the rough pasture.

Towards a conclusion

If the uprising of the Galloway Levellers in 1724 was a unique event, was a ‘one-off’, why was this so? What was different about Galloway at that time?

One possibility, which is reflected in the ‘internal structure’ of the events of 1724 when the outbreak of levelling which occurred in Wigtownshire is compared to that which occurred in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright is that of landownership. More evidence needs to be gathered through analysis of McKerlie’s History of the Lands and their Owners and the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds, but it does seem that the fragmentation of landownership in Galloway was greatest in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.

If this class of ‘owner-occupier’ farmers was greatest in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and if, as certainly became the case, their ownership of land was threatened by the expansion through consolidation of landownership, then this would help explain why the uprising of 1724 happened and why it took the form it did.

Taking Leopold’s 1980 study as the most detailed analysis of the Galloway Levellers, then his conclusion :- that it was an uprising of ‘peasants’, of cottars and crofters threatened by mass evictions, given leadership by a remnant of the suffering remnant, I.e. by a few parish ministers who still adhered to the radical heritage of the Covenanters and Conventiclers - is mistaken.

Although the majority of those who were active dyke-breakers were cottars and crofters and at least one outbreak of levelling was preceded by a rousing speech by a minister (Hugh Clanny) there was little that was spontaneous about the events of 1724. Only the attacks on Neilson of Barncaillie and Maxwell of Munches dykes seem to have been unplanned and were most likely an expression of anti-Catholic sentiments.

It is also important to recognise that the relationship between landowner and tenant is very different when the landowner is an owner-occupier with an estate amounting to no more than a handful of small farms and who works those farms in the ‘half-manner’ I.e. in co-operation with a tenant who is socially and economically indistinguishable from the farm-owner.

The recent history of Galloway would also be a factor. Whilst in Wigtownshire, many of the larger landowners had been pro-Stuart/ Episcopalian supporters e.g. William Maxwell of Monreith, Alexander Murray of Broughton, the Dunbars of Baldoon, this was not the case in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. Here a key figure was Colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness, himself ‘one of King William’s men’ and his father a Covenant supporting minister. Others, like Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie and Robert Johnston of Kelton had been active anti-Jacobites in 1715, as had been Thomas Gordon of Earlston.

The threat to Dumfries posed by the Jacobites in 1715 revived local memories of the struggles of the 1660-1688 era and from the Stewartry and over 1000 volunteers were raised by Robert Johnston of Kelton, Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie and Thomas Gordon of Earlston, as well as John Hepburn of Urr’s 320 armed Hebronites. It is probable that the Jacobite challenge to the Revolution Settlement and the Hanoverian succession had the effect of strengthening the sense of political solidarity in the Stewartry. So that when a former Jacobite -Sir Basil Hamilton of Baldoon - took up the strongest anti-Leveller position, then the economic division between larger landowners and owners-occupiers/ tenant farmers which would otherwise have prevailed was neutralised by political and social solidarity.

Finally, whereas Leopold and most others consider the Levellers Uprising as a doomed struggle against the rising tide of improvement and economic rationalisation of traditional farming practices, an alternative position can be argued.

If the Galloway Levellers uprising was organised and led by owner-occupier and their tenant farmers t is possible that the negotiations which took place between the Levellers and Maxwell of Cardoness and Heron of Kirroughtrie influenced their later demands. If as a consequence of these negotiations it was recognised and accepted that the consolidation of landownership was necessary and inevitable this may explain the Levellers subsequent advocacy of ‘improvement through enclosure’ -

The Gentlemen should enclose their grounds in such parcels that each may be sufficient for a good tenant and that the Heritors lay as much rent on each of these enclosures as will give him double the interest of the money laid out on the enclosures. If he cannot get this enclosure set to a tenant whom he may judge sufficient, he may then lawfully keep that ground in his own hand till he finds a sufficient tenant , taking care that the tenants house be kept up and that it may be let with the first opportunity and that a lease of twenty-one years be offered. This will considerably augment the yearly rent of the lands and the tenant will hereby be capable and encouraged to improve the breed of sheep and black cattle and the ground, which without enclosures is impossible.

So that the Levellers legacy was not one of failure but of success, illustrated by John Maxwell’s policy of pursing improvement through co-operation on Richard Oswald’s Kirkbean estate and which even Sir Basil Hamilton’s son Dunbar Hamilton, the 4th Earl of Selkirk, and his grandson Lord Daer (another) Basil Hamilton pursued.

1 The following is based on Russell : Gatehouse and District: Dumfries and Galloway Council: 2003

3 Haldane : The Drove Roads of Scotland: 1973 : 161 and 163, quoting R.P.C. 2nd Series I, 138 and 591.

4 Russell: 2003 Vol I : 88

5 Russell: 2003 : Vol. I. : 91

6 Russell: 2003 : Vol. I :187

7 KSCD: 0586i, Bond dated 20 April 1688 ‘at the Walk millne of Skyreburn’ and 0725i, Obligation by Andrew Makewin, walker at the mill of Skyreburne, dated 9 October 1668

8 KSCD: 1871ii, Bond dated 26 July 1688 at Skyrburn mill, KSCD: 2080ii, Bond dated 14 March 1691

9 Symson: 1682, in McKenzie: 1841

10 As well as passing through Gatehouse, the road also passed through the hamlet of Carlingwark in Kelton parish. In 1765, Sir Alexander Gordon of Greenlaw had a short canal cut from Carlingwark to the river Dee. This canal was used to transport marl from Carlingwark Loch upstream as far as New Galloway 15 miles away. The marl was used as a fertiliser on farms adjacent to the river Dee and Loch Ken. In 1791, Carlingwark became the planned town of Castle Douglas.

11 OSA: 1983 : 243

12 OSA:1983:312

13 Fortune: The Story of Bengairn: 2005

14 Donnachie : The Industrial Archaeology of Galloway : 1971: 98

Friday, June 06, 2008

Eight thousands words on galloway Levellers

Responses to the Galloway Levellers

In the absence of a police force, the maintenance of law and order in rural Scotland in the eighteenth century rested with the heritors (land owners) most of whom also served as Justices of the Peace. Only when the heritors were unable to contain unrest would the army be used to restore order. Yet, according to a letter dated 2 May 1724 written by James Stewart 5th Earl of Galloway to his brother in law Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, Sir Basil Hamilton of Baldoon and Thomas Gordon of Earlston had already travelled to Edinburgh to request that troops be sent to Galloway and that the gentlemen of Galloway had made a similar request to the lord Justice Clerk when he was in Dumfries a few days earlier.1 It was not until the 16 May that a group of about 50 heritors and Justices of the Peace confronted a much larger group of armed Levellers at the Steps of Tarff in Tongland parish. This was four days after the first of Stair’s dragoons had arrived in Kirkcudbright.

The implication is that the meeting of the Levellers held in Tongland parish in early April, and which was summoned and addressed by the Reverend Hugh Clanny, attracted sufficient numbers to overawe the heritors and JPs. The immediate recourse to external aid by the heritors and JPs in their response to the Galloway Levellers may have been influenced by recent experiences. In 1724, the Reverend John McMillan had been in illegal possession of Balmaghie kirk and manse for twenty years, despite the best efforts of the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright and General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to remove him. Several attempts were made to physically evict McMillan, but even a combined force of 80 heritors and JPs were unable to prevail against 300 of McMillan’s supporters who occupied Balmaghie Kirkyard. At least some of these supporters were armed - either Hebronite followers of John Hepburn of Urr or Cameronians from Ayrshire and Lannarkshire.2 With the Galloway Levellers able to muster a force in the central Stewartry of between 1000 and 2000, of whom 300 to 400 were armed, it is hardly surprising that it was only after the deployment of Stair’s dragoons that the heritors and JPs felt emboldened to confront the Levellers at the Steps of Tarff on the 12th May and again on the 2nd June 1724. James Clerk gave an account of this first confrontation in a letter to his brother Sir John dated 6th May Old Style (i.e. 17 May New Style). In this encounter, a party of 50 ‘ well-armed’ heritors and JPs were faced with a group of 1000 Levellers, of whom 300 were armed with flintlocks. After a stand off lasting four or five hours, Patrick Heron, elder, of Kirroughtrie approached the Levellers and made an offer that if the Levellers agreed to cease their activities and re-build any dykes already demolished, the gentlemen would agree to build no more park dykes. James Clerk adds a postscript that “Laird Heron has given it under his hand to let out a great deal of land next week to appease them, but this is what I canna confirm and do not believe.”. 3 This would seem to be the incident referred to by the Levellers in their Letter to Major Du Cary when they agreed with Laird Heron and Colonel Maxwell of Cardoness “that we should live peaceably and throw down no man’s dykes.”. From this same source, the Levellers believed that a formal acceptance of this agreement would be made by the Commissioners of Supply when they met in Kirkcudbright on ‘the seventh of May’. Unless there had been a previous meeting between the Levellers and Patrick Heron and William Maxwell, this date must be Old Style and thus 18th May New Style. Any such dating confusion aside, no such agreement was ever formally confirmed and dykes continued to be thrown down despite the presence of four troops of foot and two of horse in Kirkcudbright.

The practical difficulty was that when the troops were deployed to confront the Levellers (e.g. at the Boat of Rhone on the 2nd June as discussed above), the Levellers simply dispersed across the countryside in smaller groups. What the presence of the troops did achieve, especially the more mobile troops of horse, was to contain the unrest to the central parishes of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and prevented the Stewartry Levellers supporting the Wigtownshire Levellers. The difficulties involved in bringing the troops to bear on the Stewartry Levellers raises questions about the ‘last stand’ of the Levellers which took place at Little Duchrae4 in Balmghie parish in October 1724. Little Duchrae is 2 km (1.25 miles) from the Boat of Rhone which it took the troops five hours to reach from Kirkcudbright on 2nd June - and where the Levellers had had ample time to choose not to confront the troops. If the Levellers had managed to avoid any large scale confrontation with the troops since their arrival in Kirkcudbright in early May, why did they choose to stand and fight in October? And, once they had chosen to stand and fight at Little Duchrae, why did they put up so little resistance? Especially since the troops had been ordered not to use their arms except as a last resort in in self-defence and to behave leniently towards the Levellers? Is it significant that out of the 200 Levellers captured all but 20 or so were ‘allowed to escape’ whilst being marched back to Kirkcudbright?5

Part of the answer to these questions may lie in the character of the commander of the troops involved. Following the death of Major Du Cary in the summer of 1724, Major James Gardiner replaced Du Cary as commander of the Earl of Stair’s regiment (which may have been either the Scots Greys or the Inniskillen dragoons) on 20th July 1724. By 1745 Gardiner had been promoted to Colonel. In that year he was killed whilst leading a counter-attack against the Jacobites at the battle of Prestonpans. Gardiner features in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Waverly as the commander of Edward Waverley’s regiment. In a historical note to the novel, Scott quotes from a biography of Colonel Gardiner published by Doddridge in 1747. This source reveals that Gardiner became a soldier at the age of 14 in 1702, fighting with Marlborough’s army against the French in Holland. In 1714 he was made coronet in the Scots Grey Dragoons commanded by John Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair. In 1715 Gardiner became aide-de-camp to Dalrymple who was actively involved in anti-Jacobite diplomacy at the French court. Later in 1715, Gardiner returned to active service, fighting at the battle of Preston where he led a small group of 12 soldiers ( 8 of whom were killed) against one of the barricades erected by the Jacobites - who included amongst their numbers the Levellers bete noir Sir Basil Hamilton. In 1719, Gardiner experienced a transformative religious experience after which he became a deeply Christian soldier. 6 Writing his journal of May 1725, Wodrow commented on Gardiner’s ‘conversion’:

profane swearing was the first thing he refrained from, and then other vices, and still as he refrained from them, he bore testimony against them in others, in the army, at court, and every where, and reproved them in great and small with the utmost boldness. At length he is thoroughly reformed, and walks most closely in ordinances, and while with his troops in Galloway, he haunts mostly at the houses of the ministers; and has made a sensible reformation among the troops he commands, and nothing like vice is to be seen among them.7

The houses of the ministers in Galloway haunted by Gardiner which Wodrow mentions may have included those of the more evangelical ministers - McKie of Balmaghie (where the manse and church were still illegally possessed by John McMillan in 1724), Falconer of Kelton, Telfair of Rerrick, and Monteith of Borgue (who joined the defenders of London/Derry in 1689 8 ) - identified by Leopold as sympathetic to the Levellers.9 If one of the ministers Major Gardiner met was Andrew Maitland, minister of Tongland parish, he could also have met Maitland’s uncle Hugh Clanny - former minister of Kirkbean parish. Clanny, as discussed above was a leader of the Levellers and the most likely author of their various manifestos.

A person Major Gardiner must have met would have been Colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness. Aside from his official status as a senior magistrate (Maxwell presided over at least one trial of the Levellers in January 1725) and his attempts with Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie to negotiate a settlement with the Levellers, Maxwell was a fellow Christian soldier. From the surviving extracts of his diary 10 it is clear that Colonel Maxwell was a deeply religious man whose Covenant supporting father had been minister of Minnigaff parish until his dismissal in 1662. When the national political background to Major Gardiner’s appointment to Galloway is considered, it is possible to speculate that Maxwell and Gardiner between them arranged the peaceful end to the Stewartry Levellers uprising.

In late May/ early June 1724 two anonymous pro- Leveller pamphlets were published - An Account of the Reasons of Some People in Galloway, their meetings anent Public Grievances through Enclosure and News from Galloway, or the Poor Mans Plea against his landlord in a letter to a friend 11 . These explain that the Levellers actions were directed purely against de-populating cattle enclosures and stress that the Levellers were not opposed to ‘improving’ enclosures. Both documents also raise the spectre of Jacobitism :

And lately the said Mr Basil Hamilton hath cast out thirteen families upon the 22nd day of May instant who are lying by the dykesides. Neither will he suffer them to erect any shelter or covering to preserve their little ones from the injury of the cold, which cruelty is very like the accomplishment of that threatening of the Jacobites at the late rebellion, that they would make Galloway a hunting field, because of our public appearance for his majesty King George at Drumfries, and our opposition against them at that time.12

News from Galloway goes further in its anti- Jacobite rhetoric, suggesting that the threat made by the local Jacobites in 1715 to “make Galloway a hunting field” was part of a “Jacobitish plot” first proposed by Mary of Modena, James VII second wife, who is quoted in News from Galloway as declaring that “ Scotland would never be at peace till the southern parts were made a hunting park.”. ( James VII interest in hunting was “an obsession, almost amounting to a vice.13 ) The anonymous author of News from Galloway continues “for what King Charles II and King James VII could not accomplish by iniquitous laws and force of arms the landlords do it effectually by turning out their tenants.” 14 Copies of these documents must have reached Edinburgh, since a twenty page pamphlet Opinion of Sir Thomas More, Lord High Chancellor of England concerning enclosures, in an answer to a letter from Galloway by Philadelphus’was published in Edinburgh on 1st July.

This document, whilst condemning the Levellers for taking the law into their own hands, provided detailed and learned support for their arguments against de-populating enclosures advanced in News from Galloway , stating that:

The necessity of the common weal hath such power over the actions and estates of man that no one must abuse or misemploy the talents of his means, that no man must do that in his own property or possessions as may hurt another man.

As well as supporting this limitation of property rights with the opinion of Sir Thomas More against the enclosure of arable land for the rearing of sheep, the author quotes from Depopulation Arraigned, Convicted and Condemned by The Laws of God and Man. published in 1636 by English barrister Robert Powell. The suggestion that property rights may be conditional rather than absolute deeply disturbed Lord Advocate Robert Dundas, who personally visited bookseller to demand name of author and attempted to suppress pamphlet.15

At the same time, the Levellers’ claims that they were loyal subjects of the Crown attempting to defeat a ’Jacobitish plot’ provoked a more sympathetic response in London. On 2nd July, King George discussed their plight with the John Ker, 1st Duke of Roxburghe and Secretary of State for Scotland. The King asked Roxburghe what legal right those concerned had to eject so many Tenants at once as to render them, and the Country desolate and what provision the law has to make for the Tenants so ejected.”.16 Presumably as a consequence of King George’s sympathetic intervention on behalf of the Levellers Roxburghe wrote to Dundas in ordering him to set up a Public Inquiry into their grievances. As Steward Principal of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, James Johnstone, 2nd Marquis of Annandale, was in overall charge of this Inquiry. The day to day running of the Inquiry was to be carried out in Kirkcudbright by John McDowall, Steward Depute. McDowall’s method was to take evidence in open court from eight or ten men from each parish who had been certified by a Minister or Magistrate. The Inquiry must have been underway by 17th August, when Annandale wrote to McDowall asking him to give details of his procedures.17 Annandale was responding to concerns raised by Sir Basil Hamilton, who was convinced that the process was biased towards the Levellers and complained frequently and furiously to Annandale on this score. As well as casting doubt on McDowall‘s impartiality (and that of the ministers responsible for certifying the witnesses) Hamilton complained to Annandale that the scope of the inquiry had been widened. Instead of considering the impact of enclosures constructed since 1720, evidence was taken on parks made 12, 20 or even 40 years ago. Furthermore, tenants (described as ‘rabblers‘) who had been legitimately evicted by Hamilton for failure to pay rent were interviewed by McDowall. Annandale passed these and other allegations made to him by Hamilton on to McDowall in a letter dated 7th September 1724.18 Since this letter followed one dated 1st September from Annandale to Hamilton, advising Hamilton that McDowall was preparing to report his findings to the Lords of Session, Hamilton was no doubt attempting to undermine McDowall’s report in advance.

Unfortunately, as Leopold notes “Details of the final report do not seem to exist”.19 Since McDowall’s Report would have been passed to Robert Dundas as Lord Advocate, its disappearance may not have been accidental. Given Sir Basil Hamilton’s determined efforts to undermine it, McDowall’s Report is likely to have been sympathetic to the Levellers’ complaints against de-populating enclosures. Since Dundas had been outraged by Philadephus’ reply to News from Galloway, ( see above) he would therefore have been unlikely to accept a report sympathetic to the Levellers grievances and which in any way condoned their attempts to restrict the property rights of landowners. Alternatively ( assuming Dundas did bury McDowall’s Report), political expediency may have been a factor. Dundas had been elected to Parliament for Midlothian in 1722. To ensure his election, Dundas had made a private agreement with George Lockhart of Carnwath who was a Jacobite. Lockhart agreed not to stand against Dundas in Midlothian in return for Dundas showing leniency to some of Lockhart’s friends who had been implicated in the rebellion of 1715.20 Dundas may therefore have wished to prevent the Levellers ‘Jacobite conspiracy’ theory from receiving the oxygen of publicity.

If the hope had been that McDowall’s Public Inquiry would produce a resolution to the crisis, then clearly it failed to do so. The situation in September 1724 was one of stalemate. The troops commanded by Major Gardiner were able to prevent large scale levelling, and were occasionally able to capture small groups of Levellers (Morton describes one such incident), but they had not defeated the Levellers. Faced with a similar situation in the previous century, Graham of Claverhouse and Grierson of Lag had adopted aggressive ‘policing’ tactics, scouring Galloway for suspected conventiclers. A reversion to such tactics by the inheritors of the Revolution of 1688/9 was inconceivable. The only advocate of an aggressive policy towards the Levellers in the Stewartry was Sir Basil Hamilton the Jacobite. Furthermore, as Dickinson points out, popular disturbances in the 18th century were usually resolved pragmatically

In seeking to suppress riots the forces of order were generally outnumbered and so it was impossible to arrest all the participants. Even reading the Riot Act might only encourage the rioters to disperse; it did not facilitate their arrest. Moreover magistrates were sometimes reluctant to arrest rioters because to do so could provoke even greater violence or lead to attempts to rescue those placed under arrest. In some election, religious or political riots magistrates so sympathised with the rioters that they did not contemplate making arrests. When arrests were made in any kind of popular disturbance only a small proportion of those involved could be apprehended… In many instances the authorities were lenient because they were anxious to restore good relations within their community and they were conscious of the bitterness and tensions that criminal prosecutions could produce.21

The danger of pursuing a more aggressive approach to civil disorder was shown in Glasgow in June 1725 when soldiers under the command of Lord Deloraine opened fire on a crowd protesting against the Malt Tax. Eight protestors were killed. It took General Wade and seven troops of dragoons plus foot soldiers two weeks to restore order in a situation “not far short of a national insurrection.” 22 The situation in Galloway in the autumn of 1724 was potentially no less threatening. As many as 300 of the Levellers in the Stewartry were armed with flintlocks 23 and had been given basic training in military drill according to eye-witnesses like James Clerk. Assembled en mass, the Levellers could mobilise a force of at least 1000 and possibly as many as 2000. Beyond this hard core of support, the Levellers careful public presentation of their case attracted wide-spread sympathy. Politically, the Levellers stress on their loyalty to King George in 1715 and their claim that the de-populating enclosures were part of a ‘Jacobitish plot’ (thus drawing attention to Sir Basil Hamilton’s Jacobite past) was highly effective, ultimately evoking sympathy for their cause from King George himself. Economically, their position was one of opposing de-populating cattle parks whilst proposing that :

The Gentlemen should enclose their grounds in such parcels that each may be sufficient for a good tenant and that the Heritors lay as much rent on each of these enclosures as will give him double the interest of the money laid out on the enclosures. If he cannot get this enclosure set to a tenant whom he may judge sufficient, he may then lawfully keep that ground in his own hand till he finds a sufficient tenant , taking care that the tenants house be kept up and that it may be let with the first opportunity and that a lease of twenty-one years be offered. This will considerably augment the yearly rent of the lands and the tenant will hereby be capable and encouraged to improve the breed of sheep and black cattle and the ground, which without enclosures is impossible.24

By advancing such a reasonable and progressive economic case in their defence the Levellers were able to mobilise enlightened support outwith Galloway, such as that provided by ‘Philadelphus’ in Edinburgh and which so infuriated Lord Advocate Robert Dundas. At a more popular level, what Morton describes as ‘a doggerel ballad’ was composed by James Charters, Kirkland of Dalry.25 This Lamentation of the People of Galloway by the Pairking Lairds was originally circulated in manuscript form but was later printed in Glasgow, implying distribution across the west of Scotland. Copies must have continued in circulation since Daniel Murdoch of Dalry was jailed in Kirkcudbright in August 1726 for possessing a copy, which he had bought from James Duncan in Glasgow.26 Concerning the ballad’s author, James Charters, McKerlie27 gives Kirkland of Dalry amongst an extensive list of lands claimed by the Gordons of Earlston. In which case James Charters was a tenant of Thomas Gordon of Earlston, whose wadset of Airds of Kells to Thomas Murdoch of Cumloden in 1719 had helped trigger the events of 1724. Leopold notes that “A John Charters of Drumglass in Balmaghie was one of the defendants in the case “Laird Murdoch against Debtors for damages caused by levelling on the land of Airds in Kells parish” and speculates that this could have been same John Charters of Balmaghie who was a Cameronian married by John McMillan in 1736.28

This may, as Leopold suggests, imply Cameronian involvement in the actions of the Levellers. Such involvement would have been a further deterrent to the forcible suppression of the Levellers, since it would have risked drawing Cameronians from Upper Nithsdale, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire into the Levellers struggle. However, the Cameronians would have taken issue with the Levellers over their loyalty to an uncovenanted king, as George I was. It is more likely that, as with Gizel Greirson, John and James Charters resented the loss of their family’s lands. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Charters (or Charteris) family had owned lands in Balmaghie, including Drumglass, stretching 6km 3.75 miles) upstream along the river Dee from Duchrae to Loch Stroan . On 31 May 1675, Alexander Charters, heritable proprietor of Duchrae disponed [conveyed] his lands of Stroan to John Carmont, writer in Edinburgh for £600, being the sum which Alexander Charters owed John Carmont.29 On the 11th June 1675, as security for a bond of 11 000 merks, Alexander Charteris of Duchray granted ‘heritable and irredeemable right of his £10 land of Duchray…to William Craik, merchant and present provost of Drumfries.’30

The ‘lands of Stroan’ - a township with several houses, yards and a kiln surrounded by irregular pre-improvement enclosures containing traces of rig and furrow on a hill overlooking Loch Stroan - may have been abandoned soon after 1675, to be replaced by Stroan farm which itself was abandoned in the early nineteenth century.31 The more valuable estate of Duchrae was secured in 1681 by William Craik when he received ratification of a charter from Charles II dated 8 July 1676. The same ratification also secured William Craik’s charter of the estate of Arbigland in Kirkbean parish dated 26 October 1678.32 William Craik died in 1696 and his elder son Adam inherited Arbigland whilst his younger son William inherited Duchrae.33 From a Commission dated 1 April 1698, it seems that William’s main source of income was a merchant trading business in Dumfries. This was a partnership ( established by his father) with Robert Johnston of Kelton who was also William’s brother in law.34 In 1721 William Craik of Duchrae became provost of Dumfries, as his father and brother in law had been several times before him.35

As discussed previously, Robert Johnston of Kelton had been able to save his march dyke from the attentions of the Levellers. Like his business partner, William Craik’s main source of income came from his trading activities rather than from farming. Although John Charters, Craik’s tenant in Drumglass on the Duchrae estate may have held otherwise, William Craik is likely to have shared his brother in law’s sympathy for the plight of the Levellers. William’s family background -his Presbyterian father having been elected the first ‘Revolutionary’ provost of Dumfries in December 1688 - would also have placed him within the local Williamite / Hanoverian and Presbyterian establishment centred around the senior figure of Colonel William Maxwell of Cardoness. So when the deeply religious Major Gardiner led the Earl of Stair’s dragoons against the 200 Levellers gathered at Little Duchrae on William Craik’s estate in October 1724, the lack of bloodshed was not solely due to Gardiner’s direction to his troops to use minimal force. Rather it is probable that the Levellers had also agreed to put up only a token resistance. That all but 20 of the 200 Levellers captured by Gardiner’s troops were “allowed to escape” 36 en route to Kirkcudbright further suggests that the conflict at Little Duchrae was not a spontaneous confrontation, but had been negotiated in advance.

Apart from James Clerk’s April 1725 report that “Since the departure of the forces from the town [Kirkcudbright] the Levellers have thrown down another 60 roods of dyke to Mr. Hamilton.”37, no further levelling took place in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright after October 1724. There was an outbreak of levelling in the Machars of Wigtownshire in November 1724, but as discussed previously, this was on a much smaller scale than in the Stewartry and was rapidly quashed by landowners and tenant farmers combining against the Wigtownshire Levellers.

Subsequent responses to the Galloway Levellers

One of the most immediate and unexpected responses to the Galloway Levellers came from the former Jacobite William Mackintosh of Borlum. In 1715, Mackintosh had led a force of 2000 Highlanders in support of the south of Scotland Jacobites led by William Gordon, Viscount Kenmure. Mackintosh was captured on 14th November 1715 at Preston along with Kenmure and Sir Basil Hamilton of Baldoon.38 Yet rather than support the anti- Leveller position of Sir Basil Hamilton, when considering the Levellers in 1729 Mackintosh expressed sympathy for them, going so far as to say :

The commons of Scotland have as much right to live in Scotland and pay rent as any landlord has to live there and receive it: and as God Almighty has destin’d them to earn their bread with the sweat of their brow, he gave them Scotland for their theatre to act their toilsome part of. They are certainly as heritable tenants as we are landlords.39

Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk was less sympathetic, keeping a copy of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly’s denunciation of the the Levellers actions “in case he needed anything similar”.40 Grant had been made factor of the Monymusk Estate by his father in 1716. In 1719, when Grant was 23, his father passed the whole estate on to him and Grant began improving the estate, a process which was continue until his death in 1778. Four marriages to four wealthy heiresses helped defray the costs of his improvements.41 Grant was also a member of the Honourable Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture in Scotland which was founded in Edinburgh in June 1723.

The Secretary to the Society of Improvers was Robert Maxwell who had recently taken a 19 year lease of a 130 acre arable farm at Cliftonhall near Edinburgh. Although the Select Transactions of the Society42 makes no reference to the activities of the Galloway Levellers, Society members Sir George Dunbar of Mochrum, Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie, Andrew Heron of Bargallie, Sir John Clerk of Penicuik and John Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair as well as Robert Maxwell were all familiar with their activities. In particular, Patrick Heron of Kirroughtrie had directly negotiated with the Levellers, Sir John Clerk had been kept informed of their activities, the Earl of Stair’s dragoons had been sent to suppress them. Robert Maxwell was born at Arkland farm in Kirkpatrick Durham. His mother, Margaret Nielson, came from Barncaillie farm in the same parish and which had its dykes levelled in 1724. Outwith Galloway, Society member Sir George Lockhart of Carnwath had to deal with a fence-breaking incident in 1723 43 and it is clear from Mackintosh’s Essay that similar instances of resistance to enclosure were widespread. Is it possible then, as Smout speculates in his discussion of the Galloway Levellers, that the Levellers “may even have slowed the agricultural revolution itself for a time” ?44

Smout seems doubtful, noting that “little of the agrarian change in the Lowlands had the same ‘depopulating’ and impoverishing character of that first phase in Galloway” and that outside of Galloway “the peasants lacked both leaders and an ideology.” 45 That the process of agricultural improvement was slowed or delayed for a generation after the foundation of the Society of Improvers is supported by Devine. Critically assessing the period 1700-1750, he notes that the 6th earl of Strathmore, who was a member of the Society of Improvers, began an attempt to improve his estate in 1737. “However, this early dawn of improvement in Angus was an entirely false one. The 1730s experiment was exceptional and ephemeral..” It was not until the 1760s that the process of improvement properly took hold on the Strathmore estate.46

But if the spectre of the Galloway Levellers did not haunt the Society of Improvers, what did delay the progress of improvement? An obvious reason might be the early improvers lack of economic success. Robert Maxwell was unable to profit from his improvements to Cliftonhall, having to surrender the lease in 1746. In 1749 his debts were such that he had to sell Arkland farm on 9th January 1750 for £10 304 Scots.47 John Cockburn of Ormiston and Archibald Grant of Monymusk 48 had similar struggles to recover the cost of improvements. Grant eventually succeeded but in 1748 Cockburn had to sell his estate to the Earl of Hopetoun.49 It is not that the Society of Improvers knowledge of agriculture was deficient. Maxwell described the importance of “the nitrous Particles of Air” and the “Nitre of the Air” as contributing to the “small and minute particles which are the chief Food of Plants” in the Select Transactions 50 although nitrogen itself was not discovered until 1772 by Daniel Rutherford of Edinburgh.51 The problem was rather one of market forces. Whilst cattle and sheep could be sold to meet demand -mainly from London, but also Edinburgh- there was no equivalent demand for grain. Grain prices remained stable up until after 175052, so there was no economic incentive (or justification) for large scale improvements which would increase cereal crop production. Even with the cattle trade of south west Scotland, the gradual transition of the Scottish Highland economy from subsistence to the export of surplus livestock had a constraining impact. It is possible that the actions of the Galloway Levellers checked the further construction of very large, un-subdivided cattle parks, but it is more likely that competition from the Highlands was the main factor. Certainly they did not become an enduring feature of the Galloway landscape, so that although Sir David Dunbar’s great cattle park of Baldoon is still visible on the Military Survey of 1750, by the Ordnance Survey of 1850 the ‘Baldoon Parks‘ had been subdivided into fields.

The cattle trade, as the Old Statistical Accounts for Galloway’s 45 parishes shows, remained a cornerstone of the regional economy circa 1790. The average number of cattle per parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright was 1693. The average number of cattle per parish in Wigtownshire was 1342. The type of cattle was described in 23 Stewartry parishes - 16 used the description ‘Galloway cattle’ and 7 ‘black cattle’. In Wigtownshire, 10 parishes define the cattle type - 5 give ’Galloway’, 4 ’black cattle and 1 - Portpatrick - gave ‘Irish’, noting an average of 11 000 Irish cattle imported per year between 1785 and 1790. Six parish accounts mention that the Galloway breed is polled or hornless. Attempts to improve the Galloway breed were noted in Kirkbean, where William Craik experimented with Bakewell cattle; in Kirgunzeon where John Dalzeil of Barncrosh (Tongland parish) ’bestowed great pains on improving the breed’ and in Sorbie where the Earl of Galloway ’improved the size and shape of the original breed by introducing Westmorland bulls’.53

The fact that a distinctive breed of Galloway cattle existed by the 1790s and that attempts had been made to improve the breed reveals a move away from the late 17th/ early 18th century cattle parks. Selective breeding requires the ability to keep cows and bulls separate. This could not happen where herds of 400 to 1000 cattle were kept in large parks and so implies the use of smaller and well fenced or dyked fields for a period long enough for a distinctive hornless Galloway type of cattle to emerge. These Galloway cattle were bred to be small boned beef cattle which could gain weight even on rough grazing.54 Faced with competition in quantity from the Highland cattle trade and the lifting of the ban on the import of Irish cattle in 1758, landowners in Galloway responded by improving the quality of their cattle. A parallel but later development occurred in north-east Scotland with the emergence of the Aberdeen Angus breed in the early 19th century.55 Since the improvement of black cattle, sheep and land were advocated by the Galloway Levellers in 1724, it would seem that they were also a ‘Society of Improvers’.

The Transformation of Galloway 1760 - 1840

If the Galloway Levellers had an influence on the sweeping changes which transformed Galloway in the later 18th century, it was through the fears their actions created rather than any improvements they had advocated. In the case of one influential figure, John Maxwell of Terraughty and Munches, a direct link exists. In other cases, those of James Murray of Cally and William Craik of Arbigland, the evidence is more circumstantial.

John Maxwell of Terraughty and Munches.

John Maxwell was born at Buittle tower house on 7th February 1720. He was, through a complex set of family connections, related to the Maxwell earls of Nithsdale and to the interconnected Herries family.56 His father, John Maxwell of Breckonside and Terraughty died 12th May 1724. Since the family were Roman Catholics, the funeral service would have been held in the Roman Catholic Chapel at Munches close to Buittle. In a letter written to William Herries in February 181157, John Maxwell described witnessing the levelling of dykes at Munches and those of Barncaillie in Kirkpatrick Durham parish. This seems unlikely in the case of Barncaillie, but quite possible in the case of Munches, although there was a family connection to Barncaillie. This owned by fellow Roman Catholic Robert Nielson (died 1732) whose son Robert had married John’s aunt Catherine. The Barncaillie connection was strengthen (or confused) by a family link which made Robert Maxwell of the Society of Improvers uncle to John Maxwell. The elder Robert Neilson’s daughter Margaret married James Maxwell of Arkland. Their daughter Elizabeth was John’s mother and their son Robert became Secretary to the Honourable Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture.58

John’s brother William (by his father’s first marriage) inherited the family farms but lost the lands through debt. John therefore became a cabinet maker in Dumfries before becoming Chamberlain to the Duke of Queensberry, a position he held for 15 years whilst living at Drumlanrig. It was presumably through John’s connection to the Duke of Queensberry that he became in involved with Richard Oswald.

Born in 1705, Richard Oswald’s father George Oswald was the strongly Presbyterian minister of Dunnet in Caithness. In contrast Richard’s uncle James was a strongly Episcopalian minister. James had two sons, Richard and Alexander, who became wealthy ship owners and tobacco traders in Glasgow. 59 In 1725, Oswald moved to Glasgow and began working for his cousins, acting as their agent in America for many years. In 1741, he became a partner in their firm, In 1746 he moved to London and began trading in his own right, gradually building up a circle of trading partners which included fellow Scot William Herries. Oswald‘s trading activities extended from tobacco to the slave trade and sugar trade. He also owned a large sugar plantation in Jamaica and land in Florida, for which in May 1764 he developed an ambitious plan of settlement and agricultural improvement. This project failed -the land in Florida turned out to be a swamp.60 More successful and profitable was Richard’s involvement as a government contractor in the Seven Years War of 1756 - 63. He established a network of grain depots and bakeries across Germany to supply the British forces and their Allies. Oswald supplied 5 935 426 loaves of bread for which he charged the army £191 088, but which had cost him only £79 000 to make, thus making him a profit of £112 088.61

In July 1674, Oswald bought the Ayrshire estate of Auchincruive from Galloway landowner James Murray of Broughton and Cally. James Murray’s cousin, also called James Murray was a North Carolina based business associate of Richard’s62. In 1765, Oswald bought the estate of Cavens in Kirkbean parish in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. It was at this point that John Maxwell became Richard Oswald’s factor, a position he was to hold until Oswald‘s death in 1784. The extensive correspondence between John Maxwell and Richard Oswald regarding Cavens has been preserved. 63 From his analysis of this correspondence, Hancock concluded:

If Oswald succeeded in his improvements, it was because he proceeded cautiously, experimenting with new techniques and treating his workers leniently by the standards of his time. Although it is not the image of the improver passed down by contemporary or subsequent commentators, a picture of Oswald as a landlord fiercely intent on establishing close, long-term relations with his workers and tenants emerges from his estate correspondence…The respect and love of one’s labourers, he knew from his treatises and actual experiences, was a mark of polite status….By politely beating his neighbours at their own game with a regimen of industry, competence, and control in farming, Oswald could join the ranks of gentlemen.64

For Cavens at least, this image of Oswald politely outdoing his more genteel neighbours does not match the reality. Richard’s immediate neighbour was William Craik of Arbigland. Craik was a noted improver and Oswald to him turned for advice on farming matters. Craik’s father and grandfather had been Dumfries merchant traders. Rather than inherit Arbigland, Craik’s grandfather had used the profits from his trading activities to buy the estate in 1678. Comparing William Craik with Robert Maxwell, Shirley comments “Of the two, Craik was the practical farmer. He made his experiments pay.”.65 He was not, however, uneducated. Born in 1703, according to his daughter Helen, William Craik “understood several languages well and grammatically, viz.,Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French and Italian.” He was “originally intended for the law” but renounced the profession “ after having made no inconsiderable progress” when his maternal grandfather, Sir Colin Campbell of Ardkinlass refused to let him study at Leyden. During his legal studies, he met Henry Home, later Lord Kames “and their friendship continued through life.”. 66 The life-long friendship with Lord Kames, who shared Craik’s interest in agricultural improvement, is significant since Kames was also a friend of Richard Oswald and a leading figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. Hancock suggests that it was partly through Kames influence that Richard Oswald and others of his circle (including William Herries who also bought an estate in Galloway) decided to becoming improving landowners.67

Yet however cultivated and improved members of the merchant class became through their ownership of land, they still lacked the innate ‘nobility’ of the landed aristocracy. John Maxwell although having to buy his way back into landownership through the purchase of the Portrack estate in Nithsdale had, if somewhat diluted, noble blood. In 1776, William Maxwell, son of William Maxwell the Jacobite 5th earl of Nithsdale, died, leaving a daughter as his only heir. On 4th June 1778 John Maxwell “expeded a service as heir male to Robert Maxwell, 4th Earl of Nithsdale”. 68 Since the earldom and its estates had been forfeit since 1715 and since there were other claimants69 the claim was of little practical significance, although Robert Burns did proclaim him as “Maxwell’s veteran Chief” in 1791.70

Of more consequence to Richard Oswald’s cautious approach to the improvement of Cavens may have been John Maxwell’s childhood memories of the Galloway Levellers. From his detailed study of the Maxwell/ Oswald correspondence, Devine suggests that the adoption of a strategy based on a ‘cautious approach’ to improvement “through encouraging participation by discussion and negotiation” in fact came from Maxwell, although Oswald’s wealth “may well have helped insulate the Cavens economy to some extent from the impact of external fluctuations in the prices of both grain and stock”.71 The most revealing instance occurred in 1782 when Oswald bought six farms adjacent to Cavens in the neighbouring parish of Colvend and Southwick.72 These were occupied by 18 families, paying a total rent of £66 :

Maxwell estimated that if let to three tenants [they] would be worth £90- £100 in rental. He was not willing however, to countenance the mass clearance involved. Instead he was willing to settle for an increase to £80 divided amongst the existing possessors.73

Since the events of 1724 could still be vividly recalled by Maxwell in his letter of 1811 to Richard Oswald’s business partner William Herries, memories of the fear evoked by the Galloway Levellers may explain Maxwell’s reluctance to countenance mass clearance in 1782. Certainly Devine contrasts John Maxwell’s ‘softly softly’ approach to the more aggressive policies adopted by Robert Ainslie on the estates of the Duke of Douglas in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire. Yet even Ainslie was “fundamentally opposed to mass clearance.” .74 But even if there were no mass evictions, the progressive rationalisation of the farmed landscape required the mass displacement of cottars and crofters. The improvers’ objective, as John Maxwell put in 1767, was “ to determine the limits of each farm, then cause measure each farm, exactly distinguishing the quality of each kind of land in each farm, then adopt the most simple and proper form of husbandry considering the convenience and set a rent…”75 The results of this process of measuring and distinguishing can be seen in the regular, rectangular grid of hedges, dykes and ditches which march across Galloway’s farmed lands. The small, irregular, fields of the cots and crofts along with cottars and crofters which once existed on every farm were all tidied away. One survival, which may have been due to John Maxwell’s unwillingness to countenance mass clearance in Colvend, has been preserved by later afforestation.

Amongst the farms in Colvend for which Richard Oswald had sasine on 7th August 1782 was Barnhourie. The farm no longer exists, but gave its name to the Barnhourie Burn and the Barnhourie sandbank just off the Colvend coast. In 1697, Barnhourie belonged to Charles Murray who worked the farm “in the half-manner” with James Lindsay in Corsock farm.76 This method of working was only found in Galloway according to the online Dictionary of the Scots Language77 and was a partnership between the owner -occupier of a farm and another, usually tenant, farmer. This particular tack is more detailed than most at nearly 1000 words long and gives a comprehensive list of all seven cots and crofts on Barnhourie. Only one -Tarlylian croft -can still be traced as Tarlillyan, surrounded by traces of an irregular field system. Charles Murray’s farm house survives near Newbarns Loch as :

a typical late 17th to early 18th century two -storey laird's house at NX 8856 5523. The walls, 0.7m thick, are of random rubble bonded with lime mortar and enclose an area 11.4m by 4.8m. The SE gable is almost intact and the other walls stand to roof height. There are opposing doorways in the NE and SW walls. On the lintel of the latter is the inscription 'CM' M .....3'.78

There were eight changes of ownership of Barnhourie between the end of Charles Murray’s ownership in 1705 and Oswald’s purchase of the farm in 1782. In 1878, when McKerlie was writing, Barnhourie and the other five Colvend farms were owned by Richard Alexander Oswald, a descendent of Richard Oswald’s brother James.79 This late 18th century process of consolidation and stability of landownership, with its continuation into the 19th century, facilitated a process of progressive improvements. There may have been no dramatic mass evictions of the kind which triggered the revolt of the Galloway Levellers, but the cottars and crofters vanished none the less. Most, however, did not travel far. The new village of Southerness, built by Richard Oswald, was but one of many. Between 1730 and 1855, 81 planned towns and villages were built in Dumfries and Galloway.80 As the widely dispersed rural population of the region’s old ferm-touns shrank, so the populations of these new towns and villages grew.

The Old Statistical Accounts provide a snapshot of this process in its early stages. Even where, as with Colvend and Southwick which did not to gain a village until the creation of Kippford in 1821 ( which became a boat building centre) the OSA can be very revealing;

Occupations - It is impossible to class the above [898] inhabitants by their respective occupations. About 52 are sailors. The farms being numerous and small, many husbandmen are occasionally also masons, wrights, shoemakers, weavers and tailors and one man possess sometimes two or three of these different mechanic trades.81

This diversity of occupation amongst the ‘husbandmen’ of Colvend and Southwick was not a new phenomenon in 1794 when the Account was written. Analysis of the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds which mainly cover the period 1660-1700 when the Stewartry of Kitkcudbright had a population of approximately 16 000, shows a similar diversity of occupations amongst witnesses to the Deeds. As well as the 1000 (approximately) owner-occupying farmers, the Deeds list 56 different occupations. The law, religion and education - writers and notaries (118), ministers (79) and schoolmasters ( 61) are the most frequently recorded occupations - reflecting the semi-legal status of the Deeds. However the next most frequently recorded occupations reveal more about the local economy :

Smith - 60

Tailor - 54

Miller - 49

Weaver - 41

Shoemaker - 33

Wright - 30

Dyster - 28

Glover - 20

Sailor - 19

Chapman- 13

Flesher- 13

The remaining 42 recorded occupations, which range from gardener (9) to procurator fiscal (2), have 10 or fewer entries. The biggest occupational change brought about by agricultural improvement was that of specialisation. The new farms required a comparatively smaller but more exclusively dedicated workforce of agricultural labourers. The part-time workforce, those cottars and crofters who had also been smiths, masons, wrights, shoemakers, tailors and weavers were still required, but pursued their occupations as ‘off-farm’ specialists in the new towns and villages.

A similar process of specialisation occurred in what were to become the industrial districts of England. At Coalbrookdale in East Shropshire

The pattern of landholding in the Severn gorge and the unsuitability of the steep slopes for agricultural uses encouraged the growth of a population of cottage-miners, potters, tobacco-pipe makers, bargemen and others, not unlike the weavers of the West riding or the hardware manufacturers of Sheffield or the Black Country. Many of these people lived in cottages surrounded by small crofts.82

Like Richard Oswald, Abraham Darby also profited from the Seven Years War. Darby, also like Oswald, invested his profits in the land. But unlike Oswald, Darby was an industrialist rather than a merchant. Rather than improve an agricultural estate, Darby built four iron furnaces in Coalbrookdale between 1755 and 1759, whilst another five were built by other iron founders. The Darby family having perfected the use of coke to smelt iron in 1709, thse new iron-furnaces created a huge demand for coal - provided by the ‘cottage-miners’. As a result :

The Coalbrookdale coalfield became in a short space of time the leading iron-producing area of Great Britain - and its landscape was totally transformed. Areas which had been fields or woodlands were dotted with horse-gins at the heads of mineshafts, from which coal and ore were brought up…Arojnd the furnaces was flat land where the iron-ore was calcined in open heaps, and coal was converted by the same process into coke, both processes producing vast quantities of sulphur-laden smoke.83

Perhaps fortunately, although Richard Oswald and William Craik made a search for coal in Kirkbean, this was without success. So that “the village of Salterness [Southerness] which was built by the late Richard Oswald Esq of Acuhincruive, with a view, it is said, of a coal trade…is now chiefly inhabited by persons who keep furnished rooms, to accommodate, such as, during the season, come to it for the benefit of sea-bathing.”.84

James Murray and Gatehouse of Fleet

1 Clerk of Penicuik Muniments : GD 18 5246/I/142 in Prevost: 1967

2 Reid: A Cameronian Apostle : 1896

3 Clerk of Pencuik Muniments GD 18 5288/45 in Prevost: 1967

4 RCAHMS : Little Duchrae Earthwork : NMRS Number: NX66NE 1 : Map reference: NX 6630 6956

5 Morton: 1936 : 258

6 Doddridge: Some Remarkable Passages in the Life of Colonel James Gardiner: London: 1747

7 http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/gardiner_james.htm accessed on 21 May 2008

8 Reid: 1898

9 Leopold : 1980 : 19 - Ewart Library transcript

10 Reid: One of King William’s Men: 1898

11 Edinburgh University Library :

12 Morton: 1936 : 244, quoting An Account of the Reasons…

13 Turner: 1948 : 63

14 Morton: 1936: 245

15 Morton: 1936: 247

16 Dundas of Arniston MSS: Vol 32: Letters II: Duke of Roxburghe to Lord Advocate 2 July 1724 , 13 August 1724 - in Whatley: 2000: 202

17 Morton : 1936 : 255

18 Nicholson’s Notebook - Hornel Library, NTS Broughton House Kirkcudbright

19 Leopold: 1980: 20 (Ewart Library transcript)

20 Szechi: 2002: 114, Fry: 1992: 7

21 Dickinson: The Politics of the People in 18th Century Britain: 1994 : 151

22 Whatley : Scottish Society 1707- 1830 : 2000 : 163/4

23 Probably the same weapons carried by the Hebronites when they offered to help Dumfries against the Jacobites in 1715.

24 Letter to Major Du Cary : NLS Woodrow MS X L 94

25 Morton: 1935: 253, also in McKenzie: 1841: Vol II: 395

26 Nicholson’s Notebook : Hornel Library : NTS Broughton House : Kirkcudbright

27 McKerlie: 1878: Vol III: Dalry parish

28 Leopold : 1980: 15, Ewart Library transcript

29 KSCD : 3410ii

30 KSCD : 3415ii

31 Dixon, in Foster and Smout : The History of Soils and Field Systems 1994 : 46

32 Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707, K.M. Brown et al eds (St Andrews, 2007), 1681/7/163. Date accessed: 28 May 2008

33 McKerlie states that Adam was the only son, but Shirley: TDGNHAS:1926:145 notes that William Craik married Grizzel Wallace of Duchrae and died February 1727.

34 KSCD : 2986ii

35 Edgar: History of Dumfries: ed. Reid : 1915: 51

36 Morton: 1935 : 251

37 Clerk of Penicuik GD 18/ 5288/ 54, quoted by Leopold: 1980: 6, Ewart Library transcript

38 Szechi: 2006: 180

39 Mackintosh : An Essay on Ways and Means for Inclosing: 1729 : 160-3, in Smout : 1969 [1998 edition : 306]

40 Smout : 1969 [1998: 305]

42 Originally published in 1743, re-published by Grimsay Press: 2003

43 Szechi: George Lockhart of Carnwath : 2002 :43

44 Smout : 1969 [1998: 306]

45 Smout : 1969 [1998: 306-7]

46 Devine :The Transformation of Rural Scotland : 1994 [1999 edition : 30]

47 Shirley: TDGNHAS: 1926 : 141, 143

48 Devine: 1994 {1999 :32]

50 Maxwell: Select Transactions: 1743 [2003 edition] : 18, 35 and 40

52 Devine: 1994 [1998: 32]

53 Old Statistical Account : Volume V : Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and Wigtownshire: 1983

56 http://www.buittle.org.uk/maxwells.htm accessed at 4 June 2008, transcript of original document by Wellwood Maxwell, Ewart Library archives

57 GD 1/1681/1 in Hancock: Citizens of the World: 1995, also in New Statistical Account Buittle parishhttp://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/link/1834-45/Kirkcudbright/Buittle/4/206/ accessed 4 June 2008

58 Shirley: TDGNHAS: 1926 134, McKerlie: 1878: Kirkpatrick Durham parish

60 Hancock : 1995 : 157

61 Hancock: 1995: 237

62 Hancock: 1995: 191

63 GD213/53, Oswald Papers, Maxwell-Oswald Correspondence 1765-1784

64 Hancock: 1995: 300

65 Shirley :TDGNHAS : 1926 : 130

66 Shirley: TDGNHAS: 1926 : 149

67 Hancock: 1995 : 295

68 McKerlie: 1878: Troqueer parish

70 Epistle to John Maxwell,Esq of Terraughty on his birthday, http://www.robertburns.org/works/348.shtml accessed 4 June 2008

71 Devine : 1994 [1998 :81]

72 McKerlie: 1878 : Colvend and Southwick

73 Devine: 1994 [1998 : 82]

74 Devine : 1994 [1998 : 86]

75 Devine : 1994 [1998 :80]

76 KSCD: 2742ii

77 http://www.dsl.ac.uk/ accessed 4 June 2008

78 NMRS Number: NX85NE 5

79 McKerlie: 1878 : Colvend and Southwick parish

80 Philip: Planned Villages in Dumfriesshire and Galloway : TDGNHAS :2006

81Statistical Account of Scotland : Vol V : Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and Wigtownshire: 1983 :88

82 Trinder: The making of the Industrial Landscape : 1982 : 33

83 Trinder : 1982 : 69

84 Statistical Account of Scotland : Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and Wigtownshire : 1983 : 180