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Record number: WCP5007

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
Thomas Sellar
29 October 1882

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming to Thomas Sellar [none given] on 29 October 1882.

Record created:
06 February 2013 by Catchpole, Caroline


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Sellar, Thomas. (1883). The Sutherland Evictions of 1814: Former and Recent Statements Respecting them Examined. London: Longmans, Green, and Co.. [p. lxxix-lxxx]

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[[1]]1 [p. lxxix]

Frith Hill, Godalming: October 29, 1882.

Dear Sir,--Thanks for your letter and enclosure. If I were satisfied of the general incorrectness of McLeod's narrative, of course I would not reprint any part of it; but the evidence that seems so clear to you against it does not have the same weight with me.

In the first place, a report of the trial issued by the defendant's counsel, from his own notes, is only ex parte evidence. It would be his duty to make it as favourable as possible to his client; and we all know how the force and meaning of evidence may be altered by very slight modifications or suppressions. If you can refer me to any independent and unbiased report, as in an Edinburgh newspaper, for example, I will gladly examine it, and endeavour to arrive at the truth.

Again, I know too much of the blundering of lawyers, and the cowardice of witnesses when, as in this case, to give evidence of the truth might be ruin to them, to consider that the trial necessarily gives a complete and accurate account of what occurred.

[[2]] [p. lxxx] However improbable the cruelties to the Highlanders related by McLeod may seem, we have a mass of independent evidence of similar events happening again and again in Scotland and Ireland.

I must also remark that it is altogether the fault of your family that these allegations are now reproduced. They appeared first, not in any obscure way, but in a series of letters in an Edinburgh newspaper extending over several months. If these had been objected to as untrue, or stopped as libels, at the time, no more would have been heard of them. But they were, apparently, allowed to appear without protest, and were afterwards republished in a pamphlet form, under the authority of independent persons at Greenock. It is owing to this re-issue that they have become so widely known, and are so frequently quoted as authority; and certainly this double appearance, notwithstanding the result of the trial, is primâ facie evidence of their general truth, or at all events of the bona fides of the writer, who, after so many years, could have nothing to gain by telling deliberate falsehoods known to be so by other witnesses.

I cannot therefore but think that, however little blame may attach to Mr. Sellar, yet the main character of the events which happened is fairly given in McLeod's narrative, though, of course, many details may be inaccurate.

I remain, yours faithfully,

Alfred R. Wallace.


1. Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Second of six letters from Wallace to Thomas Sellar, concerning Wallace's evaluation of the 1814 Sutherland evictions given in the first edition of Land Nationalisation. All letters originally printed in Sellar's 1883 book The Sutherland Evictions of 1814, all but the first as part of "Appendix VII. Correspondence With Mr. A. R. Wallace." The aggressiveness of Mr. Sellar's pursuit of the issue at hand may be gathered from Wallace's increasingly terse responses.


This transcript originates from Charles H. Smith’s The Alfred Russel Wallace Page website (http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/index1.htm): See http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S368B.htm

Please note that work on this transcript is not yet complete. Users are advised to study electronic image(s) of this document, if available.