EXTRACT from a Letter of Rev. J. G. MACNEILL.
FREE CHURCH MANSE, PORTNAHAVEN,
ISLAY, November 30, 1883.
Will you kindly allow me to make a few remarks with reference to Mrs Baker's letter which I read before your Commission in Glasgow on the 20th ult. It seems to be inferred from your Lordship's remarks with respect to this letter, that they imply a censure on me for having read it. Now I beg to say that I am not one of this lady's correspondents. I never wrote her except on two occasions—first a few years ago, in reply to an intimation of her husband's death ; and again this public letter, asking a promise that no action would be taken against the delegates from her estate for any evidence they might give before Her Majesty's Royal Commissioners. Ever since my settlement here in 1875 I studiously avoided ever interfering with this lady's estate affairs. Some of her tenants often wished me to lay their grievances before her, but I never did it. I never attended the meetings held by the crofters and fishermen when arranging to appear before you until they had unanimously elected me as one of their delegates, and appointed a deputation to wait upon me to ask me to help them, else their efforts to make known their complaints would collapse. I sympathised with the people, and promised, as now our gracious Sovereign the Queen encouraged them to state their case, I would co-operate with them in endeavouring to bring it in an intelligible form before the Commission. One of the conditions on which I agreed to help them was, that at all our meetings for eliciting the needed information, grievances were to be stated and discussed, entirely apart from personal attacks on proprietors, factors, and ground-officers. At all the meetings at which I presided this understanding was absolutely adhered to. My co-delegates thought it advisable that in their behalf I should write the superiors to ask an assurance that no action would be taken against them for giving evidence. I then wrote a public business letter to Mr Morrison's factor, and a letter in similar terms to Mrs Baker. The former courteously sent me a businesslike repty, granting the assurance craved for, and along with it a note personally addressed to myself; but the latter sent me the letter which has now become historical. Whether the replies to my letter had been favourable or unfavourable, I was under a promise to make their contents publicly known to my co-delegates.
JOHN GEORGE MACNEILL.