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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XII - The Rise of Industry and Trade


THE menace of the Jacobite rising having been removed, Glasgow began to gather its resources for the wonderful advance it was to make in commerce and industry in the eighteenth century. The adoption of English or sterling coinage and of English weights and measures, following the Union, helped this movement substantially. The Scottish coinage, which was about one-twelfth of the value of sterling, did not cease to be used, but as time went on payments came to be made more and more frequently in the more valuable form. The absolute necessity, at that time, of making certain under which denomination a payment was to be made is to be seen in the fact that all sums of money were definitely stated in the public and other accounts to be either "sterling" or "Scots," and an inclination lingers in Scotland till the present day, to make quite certain, in writing a cheque, that the payment is to be made in "sterling."

In the matter of weights and measures, as might be expected, there was some confusion, and there would no doubt be individuals willing to profit by the doubt as to whether a bargain was concluded for Scots or English measure. In Glasgow a memorial was presented to the Dean of Guild by a number of merchants, drawing attention to the discouragement of trade brought about by this dubiety. Country people, it was pointed out, were being ensnared by reason of their lack of foresight, in making bargains, to have it specified by what weight they were to receive the goods they bought. In consequence the magistrates and Town Council ordained that the new English weight and none other be used in the burgh in buying and selling all English and foreign goods. [Burgh Records, 27th May, 1712.] Custom, in these matters, is notoriously difficult to change, and many of the ancient Scots measures remain in local use to the present day, but there can be no doubt that the adoption of standard English measures and weights for the purposes of general trade made the dealings of the Glasgow merchants much more simple and successful.

One of the first evidences of prosperity on the larger scale was the building of his famous mansion at the west port in Trongate, facing down the Stockwellgate, by Daniel Campbell of Shawfield, Member of Parliament for the Glasgow burghs. [Campbell was a leading Glasgow merchant. He took £1000 of stock in the Darien Company.] The Shawfield Mansion, as it was called, was finished in 1711, and was the finest residence that Glasgow had yet seen. For his purpose, Campbell had bought a number of the maltkiln crofts and yards which were scattered over the region, and his mansion had a wide gravelled court on its Trongate front, and a great garden behind, stretching as far as the Back Cow Loan, which is now Ingram Street. [Mitchell's Old Glasgow Essays, p. 18.] It was to be the home of a succession of very notable Glasgow citizens and the scene of a number of remarkable events, which will be recounted later. Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that this noble mansion was built at the outpost of civilisation, so far as Glasgow was concerned. Shortly after it was built its owner called the attention of the magistrates to the fact that the "strand," "syre," or gutter of the road in front of his mansion was not acting properly to carry the storm water westward to St. Tennoch's Burn. [In this entry in the Council minutes may be seen the transition in progress of the ancient "St. Theneu's" to the modern St. Enoch's in the place-names of the neighbourhood.] The request of a great man like the owner of the Shawfield Mansion was not to be treated lightly. An important committee was therefore appointed at once to enquire into the fault of the gutter, and forthwith at a cost of £100 Scots a substantial drain was laid, thirty ells long and one ell wide, pavemented in the bottom and covered above, "foregainst Shawfield's lodging." [Burgh Records, 7th Aug. 1712; 4th Jan. 1714.] The Shawfield Mansion stood a short distance to the west of the fine Hutchesons' Hospital, which also had a garden stretching behind it to the Back Cow Loan.

As if conscious of its coming prosperity and rise in the world, the city was becoming more particular in matters of hygiene and taste. In 1715, in the midst of its preparations against the Earl of Mar's rising, it appointed John Black, at a salary of 400 merks yearly, to be keeper of the water wells within and without the "ports." These wells numbered ten, and included a group called the Four Sisters, the Lady Well, the Broomielaw Well, and the two wells in the New Green. Black was to furnish them with chains, buckets, sheaves, ladles, and other necessary graith, as well as with locks and iron bands. He was to "cleanse, muck, and keep them clean," and to lock and open them in due time, evening and morning. In case of failure he was liable to a penalty of £100 Scots. [Ibid. 3rd Sept. 1715.] This was the first attempt made, on a comprehensive scale, to safeguard the water supply of the growing city.

Shortly afterwards the council published by tuck of drum a final ordinance against the making of middens in the city streets or lanes. Public taste was improving, and frequent complaints were being made against the habit of certain of the citizens in actually gathering and manufacturing the most

primitive form of fertiliser on the roadway in front of their houses. The middens were evidently of some value, for part of the penalty for allowing them to remain above forty-eight hours on the public thoroughfare was that the offender should "forfeit, ammitt, and lose the said dung." If anyone, the proprietor, for instance, attempted to hinder the removal of "the said dung," he was to be fined £5 Scots, and imprisoned for forty-eight hours. At the same time the council forbade the casting out of windows upon the public streets, lanes, or closes, of "any jawings, filth, or dirt." It was in fact an end, so far as Glasgow was concerned, to the fearsome "gardyloo" fashion of disposing of various liquid and other abominations which prevailed in Edinburgh for another sixty years. [Ibid. 12th Oct. 1717. From one of the incidents included in Hogarth's well-known picture, "Night," it is evident that the "gardyloo" custom was not peculiar to our Scottish cities, but was the rule also in London in the middle of the eighteenth century.]

Aware that its future must largely depend upon overseas commerce, the city jealously guarded the rights of the ocean gateway it had built at the mouth of the Clyde. Though Sir John Shaw succeeded in 1694 in procuring an order from the Lords of Treasury to transfer the customhouse from Port-Glasgow to his own burgh of Greenock, which he was taking such pains to foster, the magistrates and council exerted themselves with such promptitude and vigour that the order was recalled, and the customhouse returned to its original location in less than a month. [Ibid. 14th Feb., 13th March, 26th March, 1694.] When, again, the Synod of Argyll was making an effort to have certain parishes in the Presbytery of Paisley, including Port-Glasgow, transferred to itself, the magistrates effectively opposed the project. The inconvenience of attending church courts at Inveraray, instead of Paisley, would, they conceived, make it difficult for them to secure a minister for the Port-Glasgow kirk. [Ibid. 8th March, 1711.] And yet again, when the Earl of Glencairn, as patron of the original parish in which the new harbour town was planted, claimed the right of presenting a minister to the church there, the city fathers brought an action before the Lords of Session, and secured a decree by which, for payment of six hundred merks, the Earl gave up all right of patronage in the church at Port-Glasgow, "with the haill emoluments, profits, or duties of the same." [Burgh Records, 5th March, 1717.]

A distinct sign of the awakening spirit of enterprise may be read in the appearance of the first Glasgow newspaper. The Glasgow Courant published its first number on 14th November, 1715, the day after the battle of Sheriffmuir. Hitherto the city had been content with "news-letters" written in London, and payments had been made by the Town Council from time to time to the persons who supplied this written intelligence. The Courant set out to supply a demand for something more regular and comprehensive, and it was to be issued three times a week. The period, however, was not yet ripe for the venture. Perhaps the necessary experience and equipment were lacking. At its fourth number the name was changed to West Country Intelligence, and the venture came to an end in May 1716. It had made its bid, nevertheless, and must be taken as a token of development. A second newspaper, The Glasgow Journal, did not appear till 1741. [Graham, Early Glasgow Press, pp. 9-12.]

Alike in the matter of news and of business correspondence Glasgow was considerably handicapped by the postal arrangements of the time. All letters from London and the south went first to Edinburgh, and suffered long delays, as much at one time as twelve hours, before being despatched to the western city. It was not till 1788, when Palmer's mail coaches were established, that letters went direct to Glasgow. [Chambers's Domestic Annals, iii. 125. The progress of Glasgow was very clearly reflected in the development of the city's postal arrangements. In 1694 a request was put forward to have three foot posts a week to Edinburgh. In 1709 the magistrates asked Lord Godolphin to establish a horse post between the two cities. As all the correspondence with London went through Edinburgh, it will be seen to have been very limited indeed. At the Union the entire postage revenue of Scotland was no more than Ii94. In 1781 the revenue from Glasgow alone had risen to £4341. The Glasgow post-office itself, to accommodate the city's growing needs, was moved successively from a small shop in Gibson's Wynd, now Princes Street, to St. Andrew's Street, Post-Office Court in Trongate in 1803, and Nelson Street in 1810. In 1840 it was removed to Glassford Street, and in 1879 to George Square.—Glasgow and its Clubs, p. 439.]

Meanwhile several of the most enterprising merchants were establishing industries. In some cases they had peculiar difficulties to contend with. Robert- -Luke and William Harvey, for instance, set up a factory for the making of tapes, knittings, laces, belts, bindings, and the like, but after carrying it on for a few years were threatened with a stoppage of the undertaking by the Incorporation of Weavers, who declared the work to be an infringement of their rights as a burgess craft. The difficulty was of much the same nature as that raised by trade unions in the twentieth century, when objection is made to the men of one trade in a factory doing some piece of work for which the men of some other trade claim they should be called in. In the eighteenth century case both parties appealed to the magistrates and Town Council, who first referred the question to a committee and afterwards to the Trades House. As nothing more is heard of the dispute, it is probable that an amicable settlement was reached. [Burgh Records, 5th March and 12th April, 1717.]

In 1718, the year following this appeal, an industry was introduced which could not be held to infringe the privileges of any of the existing burgh crafts. James Duncan, a Glasgow printer, started a foundry for the making of type. It was Duncan who in 1736 printed the first History of Glasgow, by John McUre. The typography of that often-quoted work is by no means of the first class, but Duncan's enterprise set the example for the type-founding business of Alexander Wilson, begun in Glasgow in 1742, which provided the setting for the famous publications of the brothers Foulis, and helped to make Glasgow renowned for literary taste and fine scholarship throughout Europe.

But the main developments of Glasgow enterprise in those years following the Union were upon the sea. Chiefly by means of that enterprise, and the care and shrewdness with which it was carried on, the city became within a few years rich and prosperous, and Scotland within three-quarters of a century, from being one of the poorest countries in Europe, became one of the wealthiest.

The earliest ventures of the Glasgow merchants to Maryland and Virginia—those of Provost Walter Gibson and his partners —had been made in vessels chartered from Whitehaven. It was not till the year 1716 that the first vessel was built on the Clyde for the American trade. It was only of 60 tons, but already the trade in tobacco was growing to great importance. The method of the merchants was to freight the ship with goods likely to be in demand in the colonies. The master of the vessel, or, afterwards, when the trade seemed to warrant it, a supercargo, was instructed to sell the goods in America and load the ship with tobacco. There was thus a double profit on the voyage, and so thriftily was the business managed that wealth accumulated rapidly in the traders' hands.

Previously Bristol, Liverpool, and Whitehaven had been the chief entrepots of the tobacco trade, but the Glasgow merchants by reason of their economical methods were able to undersell the merchants of these places. At first the English merchants were merely surprised to learn what Glasgow was doing. But presently, when they found the Glasgow importers underselling them even among their own retail customers, they became first alarmed, then indignant, and by and by, driven by jealous fear, they laid charges before the Commissioners of Customs at London against the honesty of the Glasgow traders. The accusation was that the merchants of Glasgow were importing much larger quantities of tobacco than they paid duty for. To these charges, brought in the year 1717, the merchants of Glasgow sent such answers that the Commissioners declared the complaints of the English merchants to be entirely without foundation, and to be entirely due to jealousy of the growing tobacco trade of the city on the Clyde.

Four years later the tobacco merchants of Liverpool, \Vhitehaven, and London returned to the attack, and laid an accusation before the Lords of the Treasury arraigning the merchants of Glasgow as guilty of fraud in submitting their accounts for the purpose of taxation. Again the accusation was met and rebutted, and after a full and impartial hearing was declared to be groundless, and to have arisen "from a spirit of envy, and not from a regard to the interest of trade, or of the King's revenue."

But the resources of the English merchants were not yet at an end. In a spirit which was anything but sporting they had a complaint brought before the House of Commons by their members. As a result commissioners were sent to Glasgow in 1722, who made a report to the House in the following year. To the new charges the Glasgow merchants sent up distinct and explicit answers, but the English merchants were able to exert so much influence that the answers were disregarded. New customs officers were appointed at the ports of Greenock and Port-Glasgow, who seem to have received private instructions to do all in their power to ruin the Glasgow trade. These officers put all manner of obstructions in the way, exhibiting bills of equity against the merchants at the Court of Exchequer for no fewer than thirty-three cargoes. Vexatious lawsuits of all kinds were brought against the traders, and every kind of malicious persecution which wealth could devise was practised in order to destroy the enterprise of the Scottish city.

These selfish and spiteful efforts proved only too successful. The tobacco trade of Glasgow languished under the persecution for more than a decade. It was not till 1735 that it began to revive, and even then it could not be said to prosper for a considerable time. [Gibson's History of Glasgow, 206-209. One of the charges brought against the Glasgow merchants was that the whole amount of the tobacco duty paid by them to Government between August 1716 and March 1722 was no more than £2702. Against this accusation the Glasgow merchants brought evidence to show that the amount paid was £38,047 17s. 0¾d.—Ellin. Evening Courant, 2ist Jan. 1723.]


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