Study Guide

Kidnapped Patriotism

By Robert Louis Stevenson

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"Ye would make a fool's bargain," said [Alan to Captain Hoseason]. "My chief, let me tell you, sir, is forfeited, like every honest man in Scotland. His estate is in the hands of the man they call King George; and it is his officers that collect the rents, or try to collect them." (9.29)

The important question in Kidnapped is not whether or not you are patriotic, but which concept of Scotland you're loyal to. For Alan, his Scotland is not the one ruled by English King George II.

At that period (so soon after the forty-five) there were many exiled gentlemen coming back at the peril of their lives, either to see their friends or to collect a little money; and as for the Highland chiefs that had been forfeited, it was a common matter of talk how their tenants would stint themselves to send them money, and their clansmen outface the soldiery to get it in, and run the gauntlet of our great navy to carry it across. All this I had, of course, heard tell of; and now I had a man under my eyes whose life was forfeit on all these counts and upon one more, for he was not only a rebel and a smuggler of rents, but had taken service with King Louis of France. And as if all this were not enough, he had a belt full of golden guineas round his loins. Whatever my opinions, I could not look on such a man without a lively interest. (9.35)

Even before hearing confirmation from Alan, Davie has heard tales that "tenants would stint themselves" to send money to their Highland chiefs. In other words, for these tenants, the best form of patriotism for Scotland is to support their lairds in exile.

"Ah!" says he, falling again to smiling, "I got my wastefulness from the same man I got the buttons from; and that was my poor father, Duncan Stewart, grace be to him! He was the prettiest man of his kindred; and the best swordsman in the Hielands, David, and that is the same as to say, in all the world, I should ken, for it was him that taught me. He was in the Black Watch, when first it was mustered; and, like other gentlemen privates, had a gillie at his back to carry his firelock for him on the march. Well, the King, it appears, was wishful to see Hieland swordsmanship; and my father and three more were chosen out and sent to London town, to let him see it at the best. " (12.10)

So Alan doesn't come from a long line of Jacobites! Despite the fact that he believes the King of England was not the rightful king at the time, Alan still takes pride in the fact that his father performed feats of fencing in front of him. So there's some status accorded to the fact of being king, even if this isn't (according to Alan) the real king.

What," cried I, "were you in the English army?"

"That was I," said Alan. "But I deserted to the right side at Prestonpans–and that's some comfort."

I could scarcely share this view: holding desertion under arms for an unpardonable fault in honour. But for all I was so young, I was wiser than say my thought. "Dear, dear," says I, "the punishment is death." (12.13-15)

It's totally counterintuitive to think of desertion as a form of patriotism. After all, deserting the army is a crime against the state. But Alan lost confidence in the state for which he was fighting. For him, the only honorable thing to do was to go AWOL from the English army. Davie's notions of patriotism are more sympathetic to the English, so he cannot approve of Alan's choices.

"Ay, but Ardshiel is the captain of the clan," said he, which scarcely cleared my mind. "Ye see, David, he that was all his life so great a man, and come of the blood and bearing the name of kings, is now brought down to live in a French town like a poor and private person. He that had four hundred swords at his whistle, I have seen, with these eyes of mine, buying butter in the market-place, and taking it home in a kale-leaf. This is not only a pain but a disgrace to us of his family and clan. There are the bairns forby, the children and the hope of Appin, that must be learned their letters and how to hold a sword, in that far country. Now, the tenants of Appin have to pay a rent to King George; but their hearts are staunch, they are true to their chief; and what with love and a bit of pressure, and maybe a threat or two, the poor folk scrape up a second rent for Ardshiel. Well, David, I'm the hand that carries it." And he struck the belt about his body, so that the guineas rang. (12.24)

There are a couple things about this passage that we like. First, Alan mentions that Ardshiel's poverty is a disgrace to the Stewarts as "his family and clan." Here we see that distinction being made between Lowland and Highland conceptions of the Scottish state, with Alan confirming his allegiance to his clan. Second, we like that little hint about "what with love and a bit of pressure, and maybe a threat or two." So this whole business about the tenants donating a second rent is not quite as spontaneous as Alan is making it sound. He and his guys are forcing them into this act of patriotic support for Ardshiel in exile.

"Na," said Mr. Henderland, "but there's love too, and self-denial that should put the like of you and me to shame. There's something fine about it; no perhaps Christian, but humanly fine. [. . .] Ay, ay, we might take a lesson by them.–Ye'll perhaps think I've been too long in the Hielands?" he added, smiling to me. (16.28)

Why does Henderland make a distinction between what the tenants are doing for Ardshiel and Christianity? How might these donations go against Henderland's politics as a Protestant missionary? And what's up with Henderland's tone as he describes these Highlanders? He appears to admire them despite the politics, much as Davie and Alan like each other in spite of their many differences.

This was but one of Cluny's hiding-places; he had caves, besides, and underground chambers in several parts of his country; and following the reports of his scouts, he moved from one to another as the soldiers drew near or moved away. By this manner of living, and thanks to the affection of his clan, he had not only stayed all this time in safety, while so many others had fled or been taken and slain: but stayed four or five years longer, and only went to France at last by the express command of his master. There he soon died; and it is strange to reflect that he may have regretted his Cage upon Ben Alder. (23.6)

While he lives in Scotland, Cluny depends on "reports of his scouts" and "the affection of his clan" to stay alive. Their commitment to him as the head of the Macpherson clan sustains him for many years longer than other Highland clan leaders. Yet once he's removed from that support network, even though he's safe in France, he dies. Is there a lesson in this about ideology keeping you alive? We're not quite sure what to make of Stevenson's little meditation on Cluny missing his Cage at Ben Alder.

"Step in by, the both of ye, gentlemen," says Cluny. "I make ye welcome to my house, which is a queer, rude place for certain, but one where I have entertained a royal personage, Mr. Stewart–ye doubtless ken the personage I have in my eye. We'll take a dram for luck, and as soon as this handless man of mine has the collops ready, we'll dine and take a hand at the cartes as gentlemen should. My life is a bit driegh," says he, pouring out the brandy; "I see little company, and sit and twirl my thumbs, and mind upon a great day that is gone by, and weary for another great day that we all hope will be upon the road. And so here's a toast to ye: The Restoration!" (23.11)

Not to get too repetitive, but Cluny and Alan represent a kind of state of their own making, one ruled by a descendant of the Stuart line (also now living in exile). This state has no practical meaning at this point in British history. It is only kept alive as an idea by patriotic gestures like Cluny's toast to "The Restoration" – the return of Charles Edward Stuart to the throne of England and Scotland.

Thereupon we all touched glasses and drank. I am sure I wished no ill to King George; and if he had been there himself in proper person, it's like he would have done as I did. No sooner had I taken out the drain than I felt hugely better, and could look on and listen, still a little mistily perhaps, but no longer with the same groundless horror and distress of mind. (23. 12)

Davie is pretty willing to compromise his loyalty to King George for the sake of staying alive. Perhaps his loyalties are less important or less in question because he supports the ruling state in power, while the Highlanders continually have to reassure one another of their faith in an ideal?

"Well," said I, "it's to his door that I am bound, so you may judge by that if I am an ill-doer; and I will tell you more, that though I am indeed, by a dreadful error, in some peril of my life, King George has no truer friend in all Scotland than myself."

Her face cleared up mightily at this, although Alan's darkened. (26.84)

Davie mentions his loyalty to King George to the maid who rows him and Alan across to Queensferry. Alan's face "darkened" at this reference to Davie's loyalties. But he already knows that Davie is a Whig, a Royalist, a supporter of the English throne. So is his face darkening simply at the mention of King George? How does Alan manage to get over his political feelings enough to stay friends with a Whig like Davie?

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