But most of all, what could induce the black man’s advocate, the tender abolitionist pen, the Yankee lover of freedom at other people’s cost, the fair authoress of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the lioness of a season, Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe, for a little ducal bread and butter and politeness, to select as one of her “Sunny Memories” the removal,—shall we say the destruction?—of 15,000 souls from the soil and the sod of their fathers?
–Feltham Burghley, “Mrs Beecher Stowe’s Notion of Landed Property and the Clearances” (MacPhail’s Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Journal, Vol. 20, No. 176, September, 1860).

Having departed Scotland, Harriet Beecher Stowe found herself in London by early May of 1853. Here she was entertained by the Duke of Duchess of Sutherland, commencing a long friendship with the Duchess, who shared Stowe’s abolitionist views. Many of those familiar with the history of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s most famous and influential work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, also know that there was an intense reaction to her book. Many anti-Uncle Tom novels, also called “Plantation Literature,” were published in the 1850s, such as the best-selling Aunt Phillis’s Cabin; or, Southern Life As It Is, by Mary Henderson Eastman. Interestingly, Stowe’s European travel narrative, Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands, also produced an anti-Sunny Memories book.

Donald McLeod’s Gloomy Memories in the Highlands of Scotland: versus Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Sunny Memories in (England) a foreign Land, or, A Faithful Picture of the Extirpation of the Celtic Race from the Highlands of Scotland was first published in Toronto, Canada in 1857.

This book was written in reaction to Stowe’s spirited defense of the Sutherland family for their role in the Highland Clearances. The Clearances were the forced displacement of significant numbers of people in the Scottish Highlands, largely carried out by hereditary aristocratic landowners (like the Sutherlands), who were transitioning their lands from having a large tenant population to having enclosures dedicated to the more profitable practice sheep-farming. Many of the Clearances were carried out brutally and at short notice. Stowe devotes all of Letter XVII of Volume I of her travel memoir, Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands, to a detailed discussion of the issue, giving her response to what she calls “those ridiculous stories about the Duchess of Sutherland, which have found their way into many of the prints in America.” Stowe’s conclusion on the Clearances is that

To my view it is an almost sublime instance of the benevolent employment of superior wealth and power in shortening the struggles of advancing civilization, and elevating in a few years a whole community to a point of education and material prosperity, which, unassisted, they might never have obtained.

In Gloomy Memories, Donald McLeod writes:

From the year 1812 to 1820, the whole interior of the county of Sutherland—whose inhabitants were advancing rapidly in the science of agriculture and education, who by nature and exemplary training were the bravest, the most moral and patriotic people that ever existed—even admitting a few of them did violate the excise laws, the only sin which Mr. Loch and all the rest of their avowed enemies could bring against them—where a body of men could be raised on the shortest possible notice that kings and emperors might and would be proud of; and where the whole fertile valleys and straths which gave them birth were in due season waving with corn; their mountains and hill-sides studded with sheep and cattle; where rejoicing, felicity, happiness, and true piety prevailed ; where the martial notes of the bagpipes sounded and reverberated from mountain to glen, from glen to mountain. I say, marvellous! in eight years converted to a solitary wilderness, where the voice of man praising God is not to be heard, nor the image of God upon man to be seen ; where you can set a compass with twenty miles of a radius upon it, and go round with it full stretched, and not find one acre of land within the circumference which has come under the plough for the last thirty years, except a few in the parishes of Lairg and Tongue,—all under mute brute animals. This is the advancement of civilization, is it not, madam?

Stowe dismisses negative stories about the Duchess, writing that “one has only to be here, moving in society, to see how excessively absurd they are.” Stowe praises the Duchess for her liberal views, but McLeod writes:

I agree with you that the Duchess of Sutherland is a beautiful, accomplished lady, who would shudder at the idea of taking a faggot or a burning torch in her hand to set fire to the cottages of her tenants, and so would her predecessor, the first Duchess of Sutherland, her good mother ; likewise would the late and present Dukes of Sutherland, at least I am willing to believe that they would. Yet it was done in their name, under their authority, to their knowledge, and with their sanction. The dukes and duchesses of Sutherland, and those of their depopulating order, had not, nor have they any call to defile their pure hands in milder work than to burn people’s houses; no, no, they had, and have plenty of willing tools at their beck to perform their dirty work. Whatever amount of humanity and purity of heart the late or the present Duke and Duchess may possess or be ascribed to them, we know the class of men from whom they selected their commissioners, factors, and underlings.

Any discussion of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s relationship with Scotland must take into account her relationship with the Duchess of Sutherland and the controversial issue of the Highland Clearances. As quoted from the Caledonian Mercury of Edinburgh by Feltham Burghley in “Mrs Beecher Stowe’s Notion of Landed Property and the Clearances” (MacPhail’s Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Journal, Vol. 20, No. 176, September, 1860):

Of late years, a good deal has been written—in the columns of the Times and elsewhere—in reprobation of the ruthless conversion of some of the finest mountain districts of Scotland into immense deer forests, for the pastime of noble proprietors, to the exclusion of the native pastoral inhabitants. On the other hand, a popular American authoress has essayed to persuade the British as well as the American public, that the celebrated Sutherland Clearances, in particular, are mere myths, or something worse—the false and malicious stories of political agitators. According to Mrs Beecher Stowe’s version of these alleged cruelties, as she condescendingly unveils them in her ‘Sunny Memoirs‘ [Memories], our great Highland proprietors have been grossly calumniated. From the opportunities she notoriously enjoyed, during her visits to this country, of receiving aristocratic information on such topics—while, probably, the time she could afford to devote to popular inquiry was not so very extensive—the illustrious author of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin‘ has naturally taken a partial view of the whole matter. So much so, that, as Byron said of Moore, that ‘little Tommy dearly loved a Lord,’ so some troublesome people, here in Scotland —who entertain no more doubt of the atrocities which have marked the true history of Highland Clearances, than Mrs Stowe has of those which have attached to American Slavery—are rather too fond, perhaps, of fitting Byron’s allusion to a more capacious figure, and saying of Mrs Stowe, that when, despite her Anti-slavery and Republican principles, she gratuitously set herself to white-wash, on very one-sided testimony, those dark transactions—she too dearly loved a Duchess. In truth, it was not quite modest of Mrs Stowe to come out so very strong, as the patroness of her Ducal English entertainers