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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Campbell of Shawfield and Malt-Tax riot in Glasgow


DANIEL CAMPBELL of Shawfield, member of Parliament for the Glasgow district of burghs, voted for the modified tax of threepence per barrel of beer brewed, and the 23rd June, 1725, was the day fixed for its taking effect. The tax was highly unpopular, and in Glasgow the excise officers were prevented from executing their duties by the action of crowds of people strongly opposed to the measure. The excitement was greatly increased by the arrival in the evening of two companies of Lord Deloraine’s Regiment of Foot under the command of Captain Bushell.

The magistrates gave orders to prepare the guard-house, then situated at the western corner of the Candleriggs and Trongate for the accommodation of the troops. But the populace made an attack on the town’s-officers, turned them out of the guard-house, locked it up, and carried away the keys. Campbell of Shawfield had his Glasgow house in the Trongate, facing to Stockwell, on ground afterwards taken to form Glassford Street. A rumour spread that he had sent for the troops, and a large crowd, armed with hatchets and weapons of various kinds, made a sudden attack on his city house. Provost Miller and the magistrates tried to persuade the rioters to desist, but the cry of Down with Shawfield’s house! No malt-tax!" put the mob into such a frenzy that the mansion was completely gutted.

The provost and magistrates met about midnight to deliberate, and Captain Bushell sent to ask if he should parade his men, but this was not thought advisable. Next day the troops took possession of the guard-house, but crowds assembled and threw stones at the sentinels. Captain Bushell, annoyed at this, ordered his men to form into a hollow square in the centre of the street, in which position they faced Trongate east, Trongate west, Candleriggs, and New or King Street. The crowd continued their stone-throwing, and the troops had orders to fire, which they did with fatal effbct, without the sanction of the civil authority, and just as the magistrates were advancing in a body to assist the captain with their advice. They protested, but he replied that he and those under his command could not submit quietly to be knocked down with stones.

The fury of the populace at the slaughter got beyond all bounds; they broke open the doors of the town magazine, armed themselves, and rang the fire-bell to alarm the city. Provost Miller, seeing the troops threatened with annihilation, advised Captain Bushell to withdraw, which he did, retreating to Dumbarton Castle, pursued by the enraged people, upon whom the troops fired again with further fatal effect. In these conflicts nine were killed and seventeen were wounded. Two soldiers were captured, but one made his escape, and the other was rescued from abuse by the better disposed citizens.

The Government became alarmed, and on the 9th of July, General Wade marched on Glasgow with Deloraine’s Regiment of Foot, six troops of the Royal Dragoons, a troop of the Earl of Stair’s Dragoons, and a company of Highlanders. He had also with him one piece of artillery, and a large quantity of ammunition and stores. The Lord-Advocate, Duncan Forbes, accompanied this force. Nineteen persons were apprehended and lodged in prison, and on the 16th July they were sent to Edinburgh under military escort. The Lord-Advocate also thought proper to issue warrants for the arrest of Provost Miller, Bailies John Stirling, Jas. Johnston, and James Mitchell, Dean of Guild John Stark, and Deacon Convener John Armour, all for alleged complicity in the riots. They were imprisoned in the Tolbooth, bail being refused; and they were on Saturday, 17th July, sent to Edinburgh under a guard of the Royal Dragoons; and both sets of prisoners were placed under the custody of the governor of Edinburgh Castle, on Monday, 19th July.

Next day (20th) the Lords of Justiciary unanimously granted the application of the magistrates to be admitted to bail, and on Wednesday, the 21st, two of them returned to Glasgow. About six miles from the city they were met by two hundred citizens on horseback, who formed themselves into a guard of honour, and the return to St. Mungo’s freedom was triumphal in its character, bells being rung and every other demonstration of joy shown. At the subsequent trial of the rioters, a man and a woman were sentenced to perpetual banishment, eight were liberated, and some were whipped through the streets of Glasgow. Captain Bushell was charged with murder at the instance of the city magistrates, but the Solicitor-General, in the absence of the Lord-Advocate, refused his concurrence, and the case fell through. Campbell of Shawfield applied to Parliament for compensation, and received a grant of £6080, with which he purchased the Island of Islay, and so became Campbell of Islay. The money was raised by a tax on the ale and beer sold in the city, and the whole cost of the riot to the city was about £10,000.


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