The Scottish Clans, as we know them today, developed in the reign of King David 1 (1124-1153) who brought the feudal system to Scotland. King David had been brought up in England and admired the efficient English government. Western Scotland, ruled by the Irish Tribes, was a wild and savage land. Kind David began a policy of reorganizing the tribes, who were loyal to the Crown, by granting charters of land to large tribes which were often joined by smaller tribes, called SEPTS, to form a large group called a clan. The word CLAN is a Gaelic word that means 'children' and denotes a small tribe or nation descended from a common ancestor, at least in theory. The chief of the clan is representative of the ancestor that is common to all members of that clan. The tie of blood was always insisted upon for the clan chief. He held the charter for the land from King David 1 that the clan occupied. He was their leader in war and responsible for their welfare and conduct in times of peace. Legally, he held the right from the King to administer justice, which included the power of life and death. The phrase used for this power was the right of 'PIT AND GALLOWS'.
Criminals convicted of capital crimes were hung on the gallows or beheaded in the pit. The chief's jurisdiction was only over his own tenants who were free to move to other territories, so the 'PIT AND GALLOWS' was not frequently used. No tenant would stay on land ruled by a chief who abused his power.
Under the feudal system all the land belonged to the king who gave his barons (landholders) title and legal jurisdiction over the land in the barony in return for the promise of military service and support in times of war.
The CLANS passed this jurisdiction from one generation to another by inheritance from father to child. The oldest son was the heir to his father's lands and rights. Sometimes the oldest daughter became the heir to her father's estates, if there were no sons in the clan chief's family. This rule was known as the rule of primogeniture. This right of hereditary jurisdiction was taken away after the Jacobites Uprising of 1745. The Jacobites were the supporters of the Catholic King James Stuart 11, who tried to gain the British Throne by a number of unsuccessful rebellions. They were called Jacobites because the Latin name of James was Jacobus. In 1745 the Highlanders rose up in support of Charles Stuart, James Stuart's son, whom they called 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'. They overwhelmed the English troops in Scotland and marched into England. The Highlanders supported 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' because the Stuart family had been very tolerant of their religious beliefs and practices and civil rights.