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fact is that the recruits to these levies had to be bought at a heavy price
(£30 a man in solid cash was not uncommon when the competition of
rival recruiters became acute), had to be gentled with promises of leases
or extended holdings, and sometimes had to be forced into the ranks under
a variety of pressures. An extremely instructive letter on the difficulty
of getting men to join was written by the Rev. Robert Macpherson,
parish minister of Aberarder, and is now preserved at Gordon Castle.
Invited to co-operate with the 4th Duke of Gordon in recruiting for the
Northern Fencibles of 1778-83, he boldly fell back on a policy of im-
pressment on the ground that
neither the honour of the country, nor attachment to the Duke of Gordon can procure
a decent number of volunteers. . . . The spirit of clanship has absolutely ceased as to its
more important consequences all over the Highlands, and more especially in this country. . . .
Volunteers need hardly be expected. The danger is too remote to raise any apprehensions in
the common people of the country's being attacked by a foreign enemy.
Letter after letter, in the same strain, was received by the Duke from
his factors and agents ; so that we may well wonder why he was not
completely discouraged, as well as impoverished. But when it came
to getting officers he was heartened again, for the applications outran
the opportunities. The sons of the better-to-do classes leaped to arms,
as if the instinct for soldiering, which had been in enforced abeyance
since the Forty-Five, must have vent once more. Here again the
letters preserved at Gordon Castle were just as encouraging as the efforts
to enlist the rank and file were depressing. The following petition to
the Duke for a post in the same regiment of Fencibles is typical of many
applications by Gordons and young men of other surnames : —
That your memorialist [Robert Gordon] has been for some years a Preacher of the
Gospel and for many years schoolmaster in Rhynie, a laborious and painful occupation, of
which he feels himself very weary.
That he wou'd be extreamly happy to accept of the honom of any employment under
your Grace in the Regiment now raising, and of which your Grace has the command, as he has
but a very remote prospect of any provision in the line of life in which he was educated.
That if your Grace cou'd honour him with a Lieutenancy in that regiment, he wou'd be
anxious by every honest method in his power to promote the interest of the service with the
utmost zeal ; and, tho' he cou'd not promise on raising the number of men usually given for
that in consequence of his acquaintance and connection in this Corner, he cou'd be of some
service, the rather as a brother of his has had some success in that way here and has still a
prospect of doing something more effectual.
Your Memorialist begs leave to add that his father and firiends have been from time
immemorial tenants to your Grace's family in this Corner.

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