Lesson Plan Overview
The Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions This Lesson is one of Several that Use the
Scarborough Immigrant Experience as a Learning Resource
(Copyright D. B. McCowan, P.Eng.)
Agenda: Feb. 14 2005
8:45 to 8:50 -- Introduction
8:50 to 9:15 -- Class Discussion of the "Raw Curves"
9:15 to 9:30: Groups plan their short enactment of the scenario
9:30 to 9:55: Group enactment of their scenarios and class discussion (app. 5 min. each)
Handout 1A -- Keywords
Agricultural Revolution (1750-1830 app)
Burns, Robert (1759-1796)
Cause and Effect --
Enable / Enabler --
Great Reform Bill (1832)
Implement / Implementor --
McCowan, David (1826-1908)
McCowan, James (1773-1834)
Owen, Robert (1771-1858)
Regulate / Regulator --
Repeal of the Corn Law (1846)
Somerville, Mary Fairfax (1780-1872)
Upset Condition --
Watt, James (1736-1819)
Handout Two -- In-Role Scenarios
1 -- Agricultural Improvement:
Place: Dumfries Estate, Old Cumnock Parish, Ayrshire
Lord Dumfries and Ferguson ask why McOwan wants to rent both of these adjacent farms
William McOwan will describe to Lord Dumfries and his Factor some of the improvements that he plans to make to his now larger consolidated farm: enclose his cattle with fences; put lime on the fields as fertilizer; spread cattle manure on all of the land, let some fields rest for a few years; reinforce his plough with an iron shear. He states what he'd heard about his ancestor, John McCowan.
John Vallance will state that he is better off being paid in cash by William McOwan than as a cottar on his own small plot of Netherhouse eating what he raised himself.
The consolidation of small farms into larger holdings was a fundamentally important element in the game-plan of landlords as the agricultural revolution "took off" in the Lowlands in the last half of the 18th century. There is evidence that it may have actually been some of the more progressive tenants themselves who first "discovered" the inherent efficiencies of larger farms. This should not come as a surprise, for...
Of course, once the landlords caught onto the notion of consolidating farms into larger units (and the benefits of evicting tenants) so that overall income would increase, they were only too happy to promote the process more widely -- so began the Lowland Clearances.
McCowans leasing adjacent farms include:
The landlord-generated "consolidation" of farms did not begin in earnest in Cumnock until after 1750. Could these five tenants have been part of an earlier tenant-driven consolidation process? Did some aspects of local agricultural improvement begin, not with the Laird, but with his progressive tenants?
In 1614, 150 years before sheep began to displace people, John McCowan had about seven times as many sheep as he should have had, had he been in the "business" of displacing people during the tenant clearance period.
John McCowan was renting two farms about a mile and a half apart directly from the landlord. He owed cash wages of £11 to five people -- for harvest fees and for herding. This, at a time when one would have expected cottars to simply perform herd and field work in simple exchange for the use of a small plot of ground beside their cottage.
It could very well have been that John McCowans numerous sheep had displaced cottars and their gardens from his pasture land fully 150 years before Lord Dumfries started to do the same. Perhaps John had recognized that the old feudal arrangement between tenant and cottar was not sustainable, that some farms in the Parish were simply over-populated and that crops were sub-standard because of it and that a larger farmer could be more prosperous in a part-cash local economy.
2 -- Options and Responses to Change -- 1800
Date: Dec. 6 1800, the day that David McCowan emigrates
Place: Port Glasgow, beside a sailing ship
Characters: Four ambitious young men born near Cumnock, Ayrshire. The fifth is happy to be a well-paid weaver.
Pleased that they have found solid options to farming, they will discuss why they are taking the career paths that they are on. William recalls story about how his father lost the lease on the farm that had been tenanted by his ancestors for at least 200 years. The 31 year old Hugh is rather smug about earning quite a good wage as a weaver under his Glasgow "agent". They lament the plight of their old aunt Jean.
What happened to the people who were evicted from their small plots of land? Some became farm labourers on the larger consolidated farms. Others became "weavers in the village", that is cottage hand-loom weavers. A significant number went to work in the large power mills in Glasgow, Paisley and other centres. A great many, however, were deprived of gainful employment and suffered into old age.
3 -- The Courts:
Place: Stockbriggs Estate, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire
Lawson praises the Court of Session for supporting his decision to re-invest in the farms on the estate. He claims that Britain's unwritten constitution gives priority to the land and agriculture over mercantile and industrial activity.
Robertson is an angry creditor of the Estate of Stockbriggs. He cannot understand why the payments for improvement and repairs to the farms should take precedence over his own claim on the estate's revenue.
McCowan argues that he should be getting some funds for repairs too.
Pait points out that this litigation has been very troublesome for all of the tenants.
The Court of Session supported the actions taken by the Judicial Factor of Stockbriggs Estate between June 1817 and May 31 1820. Consequently, the Factor continued his work with the Estate: 130 pounds from the estate income were given to the tenants for improvements and repairs between May 31 1820 and May 31 1821.While recognizing the rights of the other two owners of the estate, Kerr and Balfour, the Court encouraged improvements and repairs to the estates farms. Only through reinvestment in the land and buildings would it be possible for all creditors to eventually get their money back. We should indeed give Mr. Lawson, the Judicial Factor, some credit for his vision. However, it is very probable that he had little choice but to make legally binding promises to invest in the land and buildings: otherwise he may have been unable to obtain good tenants at adequate rents. The leases signed in 1818 evidently stated that at least the following sums be allowed the new tenants for repairs and improvements to farms: William Johnston, Cleughbrae, 5 pounds; John Greenshields, Todlaw, 19 pounds; James Wilson, Whitesidehill, 9 pounds, John Fleming, Upper Stockbriggs, 12 pounds. On average, two months' rent was thus intended to go directly back to the farms. In spite of the long-term benefits of reinvesting in the estate's farms, at least one creditor (David Robertson) was openly critical of allowing such expences to take precedence over his own interest.
4 -- Implementor Of Change:
Date: Aug. 28 1834 at the funeral of James McCowan, born 1773
Place: Scarborough, Canada
Characters: James' wife, Margaret Porteous, and their eldest children Robert (20), James (20) and Margaret (18)
They reminisce about James' career and stories that they had heard about him. They resolve that he had left them an important legacy -- a new life in Canada and a value system that would help them succeed profoundly. They are looking at his library of books -- the many religious texts are balanced by books on history, mathematics and other cultures such as Hindooism. Margaret remarks on how articulate he was on so many subjects.
Reference Information -- Some Snapshots of James McCowans Life:
This is the story of an ambitious and industrious man of very humble rank who took risks that even the landed gentry would not take. At the dawn of the modern market economy, the story of this collier, coalmaster, grocer, general contractor, lime merchant, farmer and cattle breeder is the story of hundreds of lowland Scots who came, oh so close, to great success. Perhaps James McCowan did not become a successful industrialist because the cartel of big coal owners down the Clyde prevented him. This cartel had enormous political and financial clout.
The Lowland Clearances were somewhat of a silent land-use revolution during which thousands were displaced -- including James McCowan. At the same time, displaced common people were instrumental in another silent revolution that permeated every weave of the socio-economic fabric. This is my one criticism of the BBC series -- there should have been more emphasis on how common lowland Scots led the Scottish enlightenment. The wealthy may have endorsed these efforts in literature, science, industry, democracy and other socio-economic endeavours -- but it was ordinary folk who took much of the risk and did a huge percentage of the actual work. James McCowan was one of those people, at least in industry.
5 -- Regulator of Change: David McCowan
Characters: Four prominent business men: John Stewart; Henry Brown; David Smith; Thomas McCrone
These four men are nominating David McCowan (born 1826) for a special award in appreciation of his generous philanthropy and his tireless volunteer work on behalf of many charitable institutions. They will explain why people like David McCowan were so important in the great economic changes of the past century.
A risk manager by profession (marine insurance), David McCowan fully understood that socio-economic change also entailed risks. His own grandfather and other relatives had lost their place on the land due to a massive re-organization of the economy. Some were thrust into poverty, a risk that late 18th century leaders deemed acceptable. The clearances in the Lowlands were now being applied more forcefully in the highlands. The urbanization of Scotland had some horrific health and welfare consequences. What Glasgow society needed were people capable and energetic enough to manage the risks of socio-economic change. David McCowan was one of those who held -- and financed -- the social safety net.
Mr. McCowan's name has been synonymous for all that was liberal in action and lofty and pure in motive. Outside his business he was ever on the alert how he might best benefit his fellowman, and if ever a man "did good by stealth, and blushed to find it fame", it was Mr. McCowan, for his great aim was to do the action for the action's sake, and not that the breath of popular applause might waft his name and his good deeds abroad. But it is well known that his donations to the great public charities and other excellent institutions of the city were princely and that his more private gifts were as frequent as they were unstinted and frankly given. Many were the honours which the city which he had benefited so much wished to heap upon him, but these he all refused. Until at last, he was induced to receive that of Doctor of Laws from the University.
Mr. McCowan belonged to a rare class of men of whom the world holds but few. To a splendid faculty for business he joined a large-hearted generosity, which won for him distinction not only in the commercial, but in the philanthropic circles of the city. If we were asked to describe him in a word we would say that he was a philanthropist and would use that word not in any narrow or limited sense, but in its noblest and broadest meaning. Mr. McCowan was a rich man, and he acquired his wealth by diligence and by business ability. That he derived great pleasure in it's acquirement may not be doubted, but he had even greater pleasure in giving expression to the philanthropic impulses which were forever actuating his heart and mind. Of him it might truly be said that although one of the most modest and most unobtrusive of men, yet he had at all times the courage to avow his sentiments with a tongue which was really the herald of his heart. Truth and honour were his consistent guides and rule of life, and a kindly benevolence had its home in his bosom.
With a month's notice, Bruce
The Scarboro Heights Record V13 #2