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A History of the Scotch Poor Law
Condition of Scotland in the middle ages


Condition of Scotland in the middle ages — Desire of English sovereigns for a union—Clanship and feudalism — Legislation on the subjects of mendicancy and vagrancy down to the abdication of Mary — Laws of James VI.: Act of 1579, the basis of the Scottish poor-law — First notice of gipsies or Egyptians — Parochial chargeability — Acts for promoting Bible-reading and psalmody — Acts against beggars and vagrants — Divergence of English and Scotch laws — Powers of kirk sessions and presbytery — Acts of 1617, 'anent the Justices' and 'anent the Poor' — Acts against 'Egyptians'— Highland clans — State of clanship — Population.

THE relative position of England and Scotland as parts of the same Island, the identity of origin language and character of at least a large portion of the people, and the general similarity of their habits and religion, would seem to lead to the establishment of a single government as naturally, and almost as necessarily, as in the case of the Heptarchy in the Saxon period. If not thus combined, feuds jealousies and strifes would be certain to prevail between the two countries, impoverishing each, retarding improvement, and giving an undue ascendancy to the military element, and to the influence of daring adventurers and ambitious chieftains. The Border Wars which so long prevailed, and with such injury to both countries, were the natural fruits of the want of such an union, as were likewise the struggles for ascendancy in the direction of Scottish affairs between the French and the English parties—each mindful of its own particular interests, and little regarding the welfare of Scotland. The portion of the British Island thus named, was not sufficiently powerful to take an independent part in the contests perpetually occurring between the greater kingdoms of France and England, but its alliance was courted by each. If it sided with France, the action of the English was embarrassed by the existence of an adversary in their rear, prepared to take advantage of every failure, and to carry havoc and devastation across the Border whenever the English crossed the Channel. If on the contrary Scotland sided with its neighbour, or became pledged to take no part against it, the English embarked on their foreign wars with confidence, feeling that their home was secure from invasion.

We accordingly find that all the more politic rulers of England, evinced the greatest solicitude for a close and entire union with Scotland. Our first and third Edwards laboured throughout their reigns to accomplish this object by force, but their efforts were frustrated by the energetic resistance of the Scottish people. The two last Henrys and Elizabeth aimed at effecting the same object by a less violent and more circuitous policy; but whether by force or by political combinations, the results sought to be attained were the same, that is—to establish a unity of action for England and Scotland, to bring the whole of the Island under one system, and by thus consolidating to increase the power and influence of the entire people. The greater part of Scottish history consists of incidents and events referable to these struggles—on the one side for establishing a unity, and on the other for maintaining a separate and independent action.

It is not necessary for our present purpose to trace the progress of these struggles, or to attempt to describe the incidents appertaining to the troubled period of Bruce, Baliol, and Wallace, or of the tame which intervened between that and the reign of James the First, whose superior education and training during his long residence in England, joined to his high natural qualifications, peculiarly fitted him for introducing order and a desire for improvement into his distracted country, and constituted him perhaps the most eminent of Scottish sovereigns. He was however unhappily assassinated in 1437, from which time, throughout the reigns of his five successors, James the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth, and. Queen 1lary,a and down to the assumption of the government in 1577-8 by James the Sixth (then only in his thirteenth year), Scotland exhibited a nearly unbroken series of violence and confusion, of perpetual strifes and party contentions, in which law was nearly powerless, right was little regarded, and the country was subjected to the rude and selfish dictation of rival factions.

The general condition of the Scottish people was, on the whole, very similar to what prevailed in England at the same periods, excepting that Scotland was more backward, the impediments to improvement being there greater, and its progress consequently more slow. The state of England during the Wars of the Roses, may perhaps be taken as nearly representing the condition of Scotland during a great part of the period prior to the accession of James the Sixth to the English crown in 1603. Rapine and murder prevailed to a fearful extent, and to apprehend and punish a criminal sometimes required the united efforts of half the kingdom. The nobles rose to be independent of the law, as the sovereign failed in the power to enforce it; and in Scotland the proper balance between the power of the nobility and that of the Crown was almost entirely destroyed. The great halls of the barons were often more crowded than the court of the Sovereign, and the strong castles in which they resided were the retreats of rebellion and the harbours of crime, their revenues being spent upon a multitude of retainers, who followed them in peace and defended them in war. The usual retinue of one of the Earls of Douglas consisted of two thousand horse, and other nobles were similarly attended in proportion to their means.

The want of towns contributed to increase the power of the nobility, and to depress the mass of the people. Where numbers are assembled, as in towns and cities, their power is concentrated and forms an equipoise to that of the nobles — order can he more readily established, the laws enforced, and individual liberty maintained; but in Scotland there were at that period few towns.

The division of the people into clans, likewise tended to increase the power of the superior class; for the members of the clan regarded its chief in a kind of patriarchal light, as the head of their family or tribe, in all whose alliances and quarrels they were necessarily included, and whom they were ever ready to follow and defend. Feudalism, in its simple state, and distinct from clanship, likewise existed in Scotland as absolutely as it had done in England or in any part of Europe; and it continued to prevail there in full vigour after it had disappeared or been greatly modified in other countries. The feudal serf, villein, or slave, was there, as elsewhere, an article of property, as completely as the land on which he was bred, and to which he was bound, and with which he might be transferred at the will of the owner. He had no rights, individual or social. Himself, his children, and his children's children for ever, were the property of another, who might sell and dispose of them when, where, and as he thought fit. But there was one means of emancipation from this feudal thraldom in Scotland, as well as in England; for a vassal or slave who escaped from his piaster, and resided a year and a day in a town, could not be reclaimed, and was afterwards a free man.

The state of Scotland, and the general conformation of society there, being thus so nearly similar to what prevailed in England, added to the proximity of the two countries, and the constant intercourse between them, would naturally lead us to expect a similarity in their laws and institutions; and making allowance for the less advanced state of civilisation in Scotland, there can be no doubt that such similarity did exist in a remarkable degree. We may therefore, without further introduction, proceed at once to consider the enactments having reference to the poor in Scotland, whether as vagrants or mendicants, or as infirm and impotent persons suffering from destitution; and for illustration of the general circumstances and state of society at the period of the several enactments, the reader may refer to what existed in England at a like or somewhat earlier period, as shown in the `History of the English Poor Law,' which may for this purpose be regarded as forming a portion of the present work.

In the preface to the volume of Acts of the early Scotch Parliaments, printed by command of her Majesty in 1844, it is said that the constitutional history of Scotland commenced with the disputed succession and war of independence at the close of the thirteenth century, and extended to the return of James the First from England in 1424. In the same preface it is likewise stated, that in the year 1507 the art of printing was introduced into Scotland under the auspices of James the Fourth, for the purpose of "imprenting within our Realme the Bukis of our Lawes, &c.," and exclusive privileges were conferred on the first printers for their encouragement and support in the execution of these national works; but it was not until the year 1541 that any of the statutes were actually printed. Previous to the publication of the above-mentioned volume of the early statutes however, `The Acts of the Parliament of Scotland' had been published between the years 1814 and 1844, under direction of Commissioners appointed for the purpose, in ten volumes folio, commencing with the reign of James the First, and ending at the Union in 1707; and from these volumes such of the Acts as bear upon our subject are hereafter quoted. [This collection of the statutes differs in some respects from the collection made by Sir Thomas 'Murray, of Glendock, clerk to the council, and printed at Edinburgh in 1682, in 3 vols. 12mo., by Joshua Solingen, for D. Lindsay and his co-partners, under the title of 'The Laws and Acts of Parliament made by King James the First and his Royal Successors, Kings and Queens of Scotland.' In the folio edition, the Acts are not chaptered consecutively. In the smaller edition they are so, and this collection is in consequence generally used by the Scotch I3ar. I have therefore in most cases given the date and the marginal number of the statute from the folio edition, together with the number of the chapter from. the smaller edition, so that reference may be made to either at the option of the reader.]

The seventh enactment of the 'Statute of Perth,' in 1424. the first year of James the First, directs that companies of people shall not be permitted to traverse the country begging and harbouring on kirkmen or husbandmen, and if any complaint be made of such trespassers to the sheriff, he is to arrest such folk, and challenge them as breakers of the king's peace; and if they be convicted of such trespass, they are to be punished, and find security to the satisfaction of the king and the party complaining; and if such trespassers suffer any harm in the arresting of them, it is to be imputed to themselves, ' In case no complaint be made to the sheriff, he is nevertheless to inquire at every head court that he holds, whether any faltours be within his sheriffdom, and if any be found they are to be punished as is before written. It was also in the same year ordained, that no thiggar (beggar) be thoiled to beg, either in town or country, between the ages of 14 and 70, nor unless they may not win their living otherways, in which case they are to be furnished with a certain token or badge, by the sheriff in landward places, and by the aldermen and bailies in boroughs; and persons having no such token are to be charged by open proclamation to labour for winning their own living, under pain of burning on the cheek, and being banished the country. In the year following it was further ordained by the king, with consent of parliament, that the sheriffs within their respective jurisdictions shall diligently inquire after idle men that have no visible means of living, and shall arrest and confine all such idle men, that the country may be unscaithed of them, until it be ascertained where they reside or belong to; whereupon the sheriff shall assign forty days to such idle men to get them masters, or to betake themselves to some lawful craft; and after such forty days, if they be found idle, the sheriff shall arrest them again and commit them to prison, there to abide and be punished at the king's will ; and this is to be done in boroughs, as well as in landward places throughout the realm. And two years afterwards it was ordained by the king, "with the consent of his whole parliament," in addition to the statute of beggars previously made, that the chamberlain in boroughs shall inquire whether the aldermen and burgesses have kept the said statute; and if they have failed in so doing, they are subjected to a fine of forty shillings to the king, as are likewise the sheriffs for a like failure on their part.

These enactments respecting the poor, having been passed so immediately after the return of James the First from his protracted residence of twenty years in England, warrants the supposition that they were of English origin. This accords with the view taken by Tytler, who, in adverting to these and certain other statutes enacted about the same time, observes that "they are with a few changes to be found amongst the statutes of Richard the Second, and the Fourth and Fifth Henries, and prove that the king during his long detention in England, had made himself intimately acquainted with the legislative policy of that kingdom." The species of semi-captivity in which James from the age of fourteen was held in England, did not prevent his receiving all the instruction which the English Court could then impart; and he is represented as profiting largely by the opportunities thus afforded him of gaining knowledge, and as being highly esteemed for his qualifications both natural and acquired; so that on his return to Scotland he would most likely be far in advance of the generality of his countrymen in point of intelligence, as well as fully informed on all matters of English policy general and social. England then stood high, perhaps the highest, among the powers of Europe, and James would naturally be desirous of introducing into his own country such of the English institutions as his observation of their working showed to be beneficial; and hence arose, we may presume, the enactment of the above statutes regarding the poor, with others on various matters fiscal, commercial, and ecclesiastical, which followed immediately after his return and taking upon himself the government.

These laws of James the First did not however prove sufficient, and as was the case in England, further coercive measures were found to be necessary for putting down mendicancy and vagabondage in Scotland. A quarter of a century afterwards, and in the following reign, by a parliament held at Edinburgh in 1449, it was ordained "for the away putting of sornares, overlyars, and masterful beggars," that all sheriffs, barons, aldermen, and bailies, as well within burgh as without, shall take inquisitions of such persons at each court that they hold, and if any such be found, that they shall be imprisoned at the king's will, and their horses hounds and other goods be escheated. And also, that the sheriffs and other officers inquire at each court if there be any that follow the profession of "fools, that are not bardis, or sick like rinners about." And if any such be found, they are to be imprisoned or put in irons for their trespass, "as long as they have any goods of their own to live upon." And if they Have nothing to live upon, "their ears are to be nailed to the trone, or to any other tree, and then cut off, and themselves banished the country." And if they return again, they are to be hanged.

If severity would deter people from pursuing a vagrant course of life, or prevent the increase of beggars, the above statute might be expected to prove sufficient for the purpose; but it did. not prove sufficient, and further legislation was still found to be necessary. Another Act was therefore passed in 1455, directing that wherever Sornares are overtaken in time to come, they shall be delivered to the sheriff, and that forthwith the king's justice shall "do law upon them as upon a thief or a reffar "—(i. e. robber). Two years afterwards (1457) the statute of the first year of James the First,directing that no beggar should be thoiled to beg between the ages of 14 and 70, unless unable to win his living by other ways, and that transgressors of the statute in this respect should be burnt on the check and banished the country, was re-enacted in nearly the same words. In the same session it was declared "speedful," that at the holding of justice ayres the king's justice shall take inquisition of all sornares, masterful beggars, or feigned fools, and banish them the country, or send them to the king's prison. These enactments were intended, we must presume, to enforce and give additional impulse to the execution of the previous statutes against this description of persons, whose number apparently continued to increase, and had become oppressive and a public nuisance.

Twenty years afterwards another effort was made for the "staincheing of masterful beggars and that daily oppress and heryis the king's puir lieges;" and it was ordained that the statutes of James the First should be put into sharp execution, and the Act passed in the last reign, directing that where any common sornares are overtaken in time to come they shall be arrested and delivered to the sheriff, and that the king's justice shall execute the law upon them as upon a common thief or reffar, was re-enacted, as was also the provision directing that such offenders should be inquired after and punished at all justice ayres.

The next statute "anent beggars" was enacted in 1503, when it was directed, in a somewhat milder tone than had been manifested in the later Acts, that the statute of King James the First made upon "stark beggars" be observed and kept, and that the sheriffs, provosts, and bailies see to the same, and thoil none to beg within their boroughs "except cruilied folk, blind folk, impotent folk, and weak folk," under pain of paying one mark for every other beggar that shall be found therein. This statute is in some respects similar to that of the 11th Henry 7th passed a few years previously. 9 It subjects the borough authorities to a penalty for permitting other than infirm persons to beg, and the Act of Henry the Seventh subjects persons to penalty for relieving disorderly beggars when they are set in the stocks. There is nothing revolting in either of these statutes, as regards the punishment of the beggar class; and the declaration in the English Act, that the king desireth above all things the prosperity and rest of the land, and for his subjects to live quietly and surefully, and that he is always willing and intending to reduce them thereunto by softer means than are provided in the earlier statutes, might be applied to James the Fourth and this statute of the Scottish parliament. The similarity of the two statutes in this respect, shows that the two countries were influenced by similar circumstances; and that they were acting and reacting upon each other, and moving onward concurrently in the race of improvement. The amity between them had been cemented, and their intercourse increased, by the marriage of James in the year preceding the present Act with the Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry the Seventh--an event fraught with most important consequences to both countries at a subsequent period, and which at the time secured their friendly alliance for several years, until it was put an end to by the events which led to the fatal battle of Flodden, in 1513, in which James the Fourth lost his life.

In 1535, a little more than thirty years after the Act last quoted, another statute "for the stanching of maisterful beggares, was passed. It approves and ratifies the Acts of James the First, and other of the king's predecessors, "for the refreyning of the multitude of maisterful and strang beggaris," and ordains that they be observed and kept, and put to sharp execution in all punctuality, with this addition—that no beggars be thoiled to beg in any parish who are not born therein, and that the head men of each parish make takings (collections) and give to the beggars thereof, and that they be sustained within the bounds of that parish, and that none others be permitted to receive alms therein; and the justice-clerk is directed to make inquisition, and take dittay hereupon at every justice ayre. It is also ordained, that letters be directed to command and charge the provost and bailies of Edinburgh, and all other provosts bailies sheriffs and other king's officers, to put this Act in execution in all punctuality, and that the same be published at all places needful, "so that none shall pretend ignorance, or allege they know not the same in time to come."

The distinction between the aged and the adult or able-bodied poor, was recognised by the statute of James the First in 1424, and a further distinction in favour of the blind weak and impotent poor, was made by the statute of James the Fourth in 1503. We now find that these classes, namely the aged and the infirm poor, are to be sustained by collections made in the parishes in which they were severally born, to which they are considered to belong, and beyond the limits of which they are no longer permitted to wander for the purpose of gathering alms. Every parish is now, therefore, made liable for the support of its own aged and infirm poor, who alone are permitted to beg within it, and the head men of the parish are likewise required to make collections for the purpose. This was a great advance towards an organised system of relief; and as regards the description of persons permitted to beg, and the fixing a limit within which they might so do, it is very similar to the 22nd Henry 8th, cap. 12, passed four years previously; but the English Act does not authorise or require collections to be made. This was delayed until 1535, the year in which the present Scottish Act was passed, when the deficiency was supplied by the 27th Henry 8th, cap. 25,' which directs the lead officers and others of every parish to take such convenient order by gathering voluntary alms, as that the poor impotent sick and diseased people may be provided holden and relieved. The alms are however to be voluntary. The collectors are indicated, but there is no power given to enforce contribution, although the latter Act does direct that every parson vicar and curate, shall from time to time exhort the people to make charitable contributions for this object, with which, moreover, it couples the setting to work all such as are able to labour, "whereby every one of them may get their living with their own hands," a principle that was, whether wisely or unwisely, continually kept in view throughout the whole range of legislation for the relief of the poor in England.

The next enactment immediately bearing upon our subject took place in the reign of Queen Mary, who, when an infant of eight days old, succeeded to the crown in 1542, on the death of her father James the Fifth.

In 1551 an Act was passed commencing thus: "Forasmuch as there has been divers Acts made before, and especially by King James the Fifth, for staunching of beggars, yet notwithstanding, in default of due execution of the said Act, beggars daily and continually multiply and resort in all places where my Lord Governor' and other nobility are convened, so that none of them may pass through the streitis for raining and crying upon them, contrary to the tenour of the said Acts"—for preventing which, it is ordained that the said Act be put in due execution in all respects, and that open proclamation be made at the market-cross, charging all officers named therein to do the same, under the penalties named in the Act—after which the statute of James the Fifth is recited at length, and re-enacted. We must presume that this re-enactment, and the admonition set forth in the preamble, failed in putting an end to the "raming and crying" complained of; for four years afterwards another statute was passed, ordaining "that the Act of Parliament made by King James the First, and afterwards enlarged by King James the Fifth, for stanching of maisterful beggars, be observed and kept in all time coming; and that they be of new published at the market-cross of every shire within the realm. And that every sheriff, steward, bailie, as well of regalitie as rialte, and their deputies, and the provosts, aldermen, and bailies of boroughs, shall each one of them put the same to due execution within the bounds of their offices, under the pains contained in the said Acts."

The Reformation in Scotland may be said to have been coeval with -Mary's reign. Several executions for what the Romish Church deemed heresy had previously taken place, but it was in 1545 that the pious reformer Wishart was burnt, and in revenge for whose death Cardinal Beaton was assassinated, from which time the reformed doctrines spread more rapidly than before. The first Covenant, binding the Reformers in one great association, was framed in 1557; and in 1560 "The Confession of Faith professed by the Protestants within the realm of Scotland, vas published approved and ratified in parliament, as wholesome and sound, and grounded upon the infallible truth of God's word" — immediately after which, three Acts were passed, abolishing the authority of the Bishop of Rome, declaring all Acts made in times past contrary to "The Confession of Faith" to be of no force, and prohibiting idolatry and the service of the mass. The Reformation may therefore be considered as then complete. This great religious revolution was not only similar, but it was also nearly simultaneous in England and in Scotland—awakening the people to a higher sense of their own duties and responsibilities, individually and socially, and leading them to take an active part in whatever concerned their own or the public interest. There was however this difference in the circumstances of the two countries—in England the sovereigns Henry the Eighth, Edward the Sixth, and Elizabeth, supported and helped forward the Reformation, but in Scotland the sovereign was opposed to it; and hence perhaps chiefly the Reformation there assumed a more stern unbending character, its professors having more opposition and greater difficulties to overcome than was the case in England. Mary's reign terminated with her enforced resignation, and the transference of the crown to her infant son, James the Sixth, in 1567, followed by her flight into England the year following.

The first enactment connected with our subject after Mary's abdication, took place in 1574, when an Act was passed commencing with this preamble: "Forasmuch as sundry loveable Acts have been made for the stanching of maisterful idle beggars, away putting of sornares, and provision of the poor"—the several Acts noticed in the preceding pages are then recited at length—which Acts are declared not to have been put in due execution through the iniquity of the times by-past, and also by reason that there was not heretofore any order of punishment so specially devised as need required. Therefore, for avoiding the confusion of sundry laws, and that some certain execution and good order may follow thereanent, to the pleasure of God, and common weal of the realm—it was ordained, as well for the utter suppression of the said strong and idle beggars, as for the charitable relieving of the aged and impotent poor people, that the order and form following be observed until the next Parliament or Convention General of the Estates. The Act then proceeds at great length to prescribe regulations for effecting these objects. But as the subject came again under consideration at the end of five years, and was then more fully dealt with, although in the same spirit and for the most part in the express terms of the present Act, it would involve much useless repetition to give its several provisions here, as they will all be found, with many additions, in the following Act of 1579.

The statute passed in 1579, to which reference has just been made, and on which the Scottish system of Poor Laws mainly rests, is headed I For punishment of the strong and idle beggars, and relief of the poore and impotent.' The preamble is the same as in the preceding Act of 1574, except that an additional reason is assigned for its being passed, namely, "that the said beggars, besides the other inconveniences which they daily produce to the common wealth, procure the wrath and displeasure of God for the wicked and ungodlie form of living used among them, without marriage or the baptising of their children;" [This addition may be attributed to the more strict principles of religion and morality inculcated at the Reformation, which had now become firmly established.] wherefore, for avoiding these and other inconveniences, and for the charitable relief of aged and impotent poor people, it is ordained-

1st. That all strong and idle beggars above the age of fourteen, and under the age of seventy, found wandering and misordering themselves, shall be apprehended and brought before the provost and bailies within burghs, and justices in landward parishes, and by the same be committed to prison the stocks or irons, there to be kept until adjudged, which shall be done within six days thereafter; and if they be convicted, they are to be scourged and burnt through the ear with a hot iron, unless some honest and responsible man will of his charity take and keep the offender in his service for one whole year next following; and if the offender leave such service within the year, on being again apprehended he is to be scourged and burnt through the ear as is before directed; after which he is not to be again punished in like manner for the space of sixty days. But if at the end of sixty days he be found again in his idle and vagabond trade of life, then being apprehended anew, "he shall be adjudged to suffer death as a thief." And that it may be known what persons are meant to be idle beggars and vagabonds, and worthy of the punishment here specified, it is declared that —all idle persons going about, using subtle crafts and unlawful plays, as juglerie, fast and loose, and such others; the idle people calling themselves Egyptians, or any feigning themselves to have knowledge of prophecy, charming, or other abused sciences, by which they persuade people that they can tell their fortunes, and such other fantastical imaginations; all persons being whole and stark in body, and able to work, alleging themselves to have been herryit or burnt in some far part of the realm, or alleging themselves to be banished on account of other's wicked deeds; and others having neither land nor master, nor using any lawful merchandise craft or occupation whereby they may win their livings, and can give no account how they live; and all minstrels, songsters, and tale-tellers, not in the special service of some lord of parliament or great baron; all common labourers, being persons able in body, living idly, and fleeing labour ; all counterfeiters of licences to beg, or using the same knowing them to be counterfeit; all vagabond scholars of the universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, not licensed by the rector and dean of faculty to ask alms; all shipmen and mariners alleging themselves to be shipbroken, without they have sufficient testimonials—shall be taken adjudged and punished as strong beggars and vagabonds.

2nd. It is further enacted, that any person who shall after the 1st day of January next coming, give money, harbour, or lodging, or any other relief to any vagabon d or strong beggar, " marked or unmarked, -wanting a licence of the provost and bailies within burgh, or judge within that parish," the same being duly proved, shall pay for the use of the poor of the parish such sum (not exceeding 51. Scotch) as the judge shall decide. And if any person or persons shall disturb or prevent the execution of this Act, or make impediment against the judge or ordinary officers, or other persons travelling for the due execution thereof, "they shall incur the same penalty which the vagabond would have incurred in case he had been convicted".—provided that shipmen and soldiers landing in this realm, having licence of the provost or bailie of the town, or judge in the parish where they were shipbroken or first entered the realm, shall pass according to the tenure of their licences to that place where they intend to remain, so that, if the person have further journey, he procure the like licence of the judge of the next parish or town through which he must pass, and so from parish to parish until he be at his resting-place.

3rd. It is also ordered that certain persons, one or more, be nominated in every parish and burgh to be officers and judge thereof, for searching after receiving and conveying the vagabonds to the common prison, irons, or stocks, at the common charge of the parish; which persons so elected, shall be bound to do their duty diligently, as they will answer thereupon.

4th. "And since charity would, that the poor aged and impotent persons should be as necessarilie provided for, as the vagabonds and strong beggars repressed, and that the aged and impotent poor people should have lodging and abyding places throughout the realm to settle themselves into"—it is therefore ordained that the lord chancellor, according to the direction of sundry good Acts of Parliament heretofore made, shall call for the "erections" of all hospitals to be produced before him, and inquire into and consider the present state thereof, restoring them as far as possible to their first institution, as may best serve for the help and relief of the said aged impotent and poor people. And also that the provost and bailies in each burgh and town, and the justice constituted by the king's commission in every landward parish, shall take inquisition of all aged poor impotent and decayed persons born within the parish, or dwelling or having their most common resort therein the last seven years, and who of necessity must live by alms; and upon the said inquisition shall make a register-book containing their names and surnames, to remain with the provost and bailies in burghs, and with the justice in every landward parish.

5th. And in order that the number of the poor people in every parish may be known, it is further ordered—that within eleven days after the proclamation of this Act at the Market Cross of Edinburgh, all poor people do repair to the parish where they were born, or had their most common resort or residence the last seven years, and there settle themselves, under pain of being punished as vagabonds and contraveners of this Act. And the said space of eleven days being passed, that then the provost and bailies within burghs, and the judges constituted by the king's commission (i. e. justices) in each landward parish, make a catalogue of the names of the said poor people, inquire of the men and the women where they were born, whether married or unmarried, when and by whom they were married, what children they have, and whether their children were baptised, and to what trade or form of life they and their children address themselves, and if they be diseased or whole and able in body, and what they get commonly on the day by begging; and such as must necessarily be sustained by alms, to see what they may be made content of their own consent to accept daily to live on without begging, and to provide for their being lodged in a house by themselves, or with others of the parishioners, so that the said poor people may best abyde; and thereupon, according to their number, to consider what their needful sustentation will amount to, and then, according to the good discretion of the said provosts bailies and judges, and such as they shall call to assist them in that respect, "to tax and stent the whole inhabitants within the parish according to the estimation of their substance, Without exception of persons, to such weekly charge and contribution as shall be thought expedient and sufficient to sustain the said poor people," the names of the inhabitants so stented, together with their taxation, to be duly registered.

6th. The said provosts bailies and judges, are moreover directed to appoint overseers and collectors in every burgle, town, and parish, for collecting the said weekly portions, who are to receive the same, and deliver so much thereof to the said poor people, and in such manner, as the said provost, bailies, and judges respectively shall ordain and command. And the overseers of the said poor people, being so appointed, are to continue for a year, and at the end of the year the taxation and stent-roll is to be always made anew, on account of the alterations which may have taken place through death, or by the increase or diminution of men's goods and substance.

7th. The provost and bailies in towns, and the fudges in landward parishes, are required to give a testimonial to such poor folk as they find not born in their own parish, or residing therein the last seven years, directing them to the next parish, and so from parish to parish until they be at the place where they were born, or had their most common resort and residence for the seven years preceding, there to be put in certain abyding places, and sustained upon common alms and weekly contributions, as is before ordained—except leprous people and bedridden people, who may not be removed. But it is provided that the poor people so sent to their own abyding places with testimonials, may ask alms in their passage, so as they pass the direct way, not resting two nights in anyone place, without occasion of sickness or storm impeding them. And if any of the poor people refuse to pass and abyde in the places appointed, or after the appointment be found begging, they are then to be punished by scourging, imprisonment, or burning through the ear, as vagabonds and strong beggars; and for the second offence they are to be punished as thieves, "as is before appointed."

8th. If the persons chosen as collectors refuse the office, or having accepted the same be found negligent therein, or refuse to make their account every half-year at the least to the provost and bailies in burghs, and the judges in landward parishes, and to deliver the surplus of that which remains in their hands at the end of the year, or half-year, to such as shall be chosen collectors anew—then each one of the collectors so offending shall be imprisoned during the king's pleasure, and be subject to a no of 201. Scotch, to the use of the poor of that parish, for which penalty the said provost, bailies, and judges are empowered to distrain.

9th. If any person, being able to further this charitable work, shall obstinately refuse to contribute to the relief of the poor, or discourage others from so doing, such obstinate and wilful person, being called before the provost and bailies -within burgh, or the judges in landward parishes, and convicted thereof by testimony of two honest witnesses his neighbours, shall upon application of the provost and bailies, or the judge, as the case may be, be imprisoned in such place as the king and council shall appoint, and there remain until he be content to obey the order of his said parish.

10th. If the aged and impotent poor persons, not being so diseased, lame, or impotent but that they may work in some manner of work, shall by the overseers in any burgh or parish be appointed to work, and yet refuse the same—"then first the refuser is to be scourged and put in the stocks, and for a second fault is to be punished as a vagabond."

11th. If any beggar's bairns (male or female), being above the age of five years and under fourteen, shall be liked of by any subject of the realm of honest estate—such person may have the bairn by direction of the provost and bailies within burgh, or the judge in landward parishes, if he be a man-child to the age of 24 years, and if a woman-child to the age of 28 years. And if they depart or be taken or enticed from their master's or mistress's service, the master or mistress shall have the like action and remedy as for their "feit" servant or apprentice, as well against the bairn as against the taker or enticer thereof.

12th. In cases where the collecting of money cannot be had, and that it would be overgreat a burthen to the collectors to gather victuals, meat and drink, or other things for relief of the poor, the provost and bailies in burghs, and the judges in landward parishes, by advice of certain of the most honest parishioners, may give licence under their hands to so many of the said poor people, or such others as they shall think good, to ask and gather the charitable alms of the parishioners at their own houses, "so as always it be specially appointed and agreed how the poor of that parish shall be sustained within the same, and not to be chargeable to others nor troublesome to strangers."

13th. And seeing that by reason of the present Act, the prisons irons and stocks of every head burgh of the shire and other towns, are like to be filled with a greater number of prisoners than before has been accustomed, in so far as the said vagabonds and other offenders are to be committed to the common prison of the shire or town where they are taken, the same prisons being in towns where there is great number of poor people, more than they are well able to sustain and relieve, and so the prisoners are like to perish in default of sustenance,—It is therefore directed that the expenses of the prisoners shall be paid out of, and be a part of, the common distribution and weekly alms of the parish where he or she was apprehended, allowing to each person daily one pound of oat-bread and water to drink, for payment whereof the committer of him or her to prison shall give security or make present payment.

14th. And finally, the sheriffs stewards and bailies, and the lords of regalities and their bailies throughout the realm, are charged and enjoined to see the present Act put into due execution in all points within their jurisdictions, as they will answer to God and the king.

This comprehensive Act seems to have been prepared with all the care and precision which the subject demanded, and when contrasted with the previous Iegislation, enables us to judge of the large use which was made of the 14th Elizabeth, cap. 5, in the framing of it, and it may be added, also of the previous Act of 1574. The Acts prior to these are brief and general in their provisions, but these two are full and precise, and in their spirit and general import are indeed almost identical with the English Act, allowance being made for certain shades of difference in the circumstances of the two countries, and for the fact that the progress of legislation, including that having reference to the poor, was in England considerably in advance of that which existed in Scotland. The present Act however brought the legislation of the two countries nearly on a par with respect to our immediate subject, and may be taken as a proof of the intercourse and sympathy subsisting between them, as well as of the readiness with which the Scottish parliament availed itself of the example and experience of its southern neighbour. In this Act the Gipsies, or Egyptians, are first mentioned. They had been long known in England, and severe enactments were passed against them in the reigns of Henry the Eighth, Mary, and Elizabeth, but this is the first notice taken of them by the Scottish legislature.

The general approximation of this Act of 1579 to the English statutes, and its close similarity to The 14th Elizabeth, (which Act has been commented on in the History of the English Poor Law,') renders lengthened comment upon it here unnecessary, notwithstanding the interest attached to it as constituting the basis of the Scottish Poor Law. Its importance with reference to our present object consists in the comprehensiveness of its provisions, which go so much beyond anything that had been enacted before. It directs inquiry to be made into the number and circumstances of the poor, both in towns and rural parishes, and it empowers the magistrates to "tax and stent the inhabitants" for their support. It fixes seven years 's the term of residence for establishing parochial or burghal chargeability. It provides for the appointment of overseers and collectors, and for punishing poor persons who, being able, refuse to work—thereby implying that they are to be set at work. It also imposes a penalty on persons for relieving unlicensed beggars, and it provides for the putting out of pauper children to service. These are all important provisions, going far towards the formation of a practical system of relief. They are indeed, as is before observed, nearly identical with the 14th Elizabeth; but there is one material distinction between the two Acts—that of Elizabeth more distinctly inculcates the policy of as far as possible coupling employment with relief, and this not for the infirm and partially disabled poor alone, but it directs if any surplus money should remain after the impotent poor are provided for, "that the justices shall place and settle to work the rogues and vagabonds that shall be able (that is, the idle and able-bodied poor), there to be holden to work by the oversight of the overseers, to get their livings and to live and be sustained only upon their labour and travail."

If the "labour and travail" thus to be provided were of a repulsive or penal nature, and if it were enforced upon convicted rogues and vagabonds only, there could be no objection in principle to such a provision. So likewise with regard to the employment of the infirm poor directed by Elizabeth's Act, if these were so far disabled by age, disease, or other infirmity, as to be unable to support themselves, but were still able to do work of some kind, there could be no objection to their being employed in such a way as they are fitted for in easement of the charge for their maintenance. The real danger in both cases, whether as regards the able-bodied or the partially disabled is, lest the employment conjoined with maintenance which is thus provided, should induce an unhealthy feeling of dependence in the persons occupied in the one and partaking of the other, and that the repulsiveness of the labour would not counteract the attractiveness of the subsistence. There is obviously less of such danger to be apprehended in the case of the infirm poor, although there is some even with them. But with the able-bodied the danger is imminent, as has been shown by the whole tenour of our English experience. The results in England have proved beyond a possibility of doubt, that eleemosynary aid of any kind or in any form, if unaccompanied by some sufficient test for establishing the fact of necessity, invariably leads to an increase of the evil it was intended to remedy. Against this danger however, the Scottish legislators appear to have been always sufficiently on their guard.

About the same time with the preceding Act, two others were passed closely connected with the feelings and habits of the people, and therefore requiring to be noticed. The reading of the Bible in a Scotch or English translation had been authoritatively permitted in 1543, in despite of the opposition of the Romish clergy.  But now an Act was passed, directing "that all gentlemen householders and others worth 300 marks of yearly rent, and all substantial yeomen or burgesses being householders, and esteemed worth 500l. in lands or goods, shall have a Bible and a Psalm-book in the vulgar language in their houses, for the better instruction of themselves and their families in the knowledge of God, under a penalty of 10l." And the provost and bailies in boroughs, and persons holding the king's commission in landward parishes, are required to search for and try whosoever have failed in this respect, and on their conviction to enforce the penalty, one-third of which is "to go to themselves for their pains, and the other two-thirds to the help and relief of the poor of the parish." Shortly afterwards another Act was passed (No. 50),' For the Instruction of the Youth in the Art of Music and Singing,' which is declared to be almost decayed, and will soon be altogether lost, unless timely remedy be provided. Wherefore the king, with advice of his three estates of parliament, requests the provosts bailies council and community of the chief boroughs of the realm, and the patrons and provosts of the colleges, " to erect and set up one song-school, with a master sufficient and able for instruction of the youth in the said science of music, as they will answer to his Highness upon the peril of their foundations." Both these Acts were evidently fruits of the Reformation, which may now be said to be established, although Episcopacy was not yet abolished. John Knox, the great Reformer, had died in 1572, but not before the form of worship he loved, and which lie had laboured so strenuously to establish, had been generally adopted by his countrymen; and the reading of the scriptures and psalmody constituted so important a part of this primitive and simple ritual, that in the then state of Scotland, legislative interference was found to be necessary for compelling the people to furnish themselves with the one, and for providing them with the means of acquiring the other.

Another Act 'for Punishment of Masterful Beggars, and Relief of the Poor,' was passed in 1592. It expresses approbation of the Act of 1579, and ordains that it shall be put in execution in all parts of the realm, as it has been in Edinburgh. But "because some of the sheriffdoms are of wide and long boundaries, throughout which it will be difficult to convey vagabonds and persons offending 'to, the prisons of the head boroughs of the shires"—it is further ordained that all sheriffs, stewards, bailies, lords, bailies of regalities and their deputies, and provosts and bailies within boroughs, shall provide prisons stocks and irons, not only at the head boroughs, but also at the principal thoroughfare towns and parish kirks within the bounds of the shire, as well to burgh as to landward ; and they are also to constitute one or two persons of good repute to be sheriff deputies for putting the Act in execution. If the sheriffs or other ordinary judges be found remiss or negligent, authority is given to the ministers elders and deacons of a parish, or of so many parishes as shall concur together for the purpose, to nominate and elect one, two, three, or more persons of the best ability zeal and discretion within the same, "whom his Highness makes and constitutes justices and commissioners in that part, and gives them jointly and severally full power and authority to execute the said Act concerning the punishment of strong and idle beggars and vagabonds, and provision for relief of the poor and impotent;" and for that purpose to hold courts, appoint officers, summon an assize, levy fines, and. if need be to impound distrain and apply the same to the uses of the Act. In case the ordinary judges or their deputies, or the persons nominated and elected as above said, should refuse or delay to accept and use the said commission, or having accepted should be found remiss or negligent in execution thereof, they will incur the penalties appointed by the Act against judges and magistrates so acting. And for the better trial of common sornares, vagabonds, and masterful beggars, feigned fools, and counterfeit Egyptians, and that they may be pursued until they be compelled to settle at some certain dwelling, "or be expelled forth the country," the sheriffs, ordinary judges, and their deputies, and the other justices and commissioners above specified, are directed to take inquisition at the head courts yearly of the names and " takynis " (tokens) of them, and make denunciation of them to the neighbouring judges and parishes, and also to the king and his council.

This Act was evidently intended to facilitate and enforce the carrying out of that of 1579, especially in the suppression of vagrancy, for which purpose it makes provision for increasing the number of prisons, stocks, and irons, creates a new description of officer in the deputy or assistant sheriff; and in case of negligence on the part of the constituted authorities, it empowers the kirk session to elect one or more persons of zeal and discretion, who are thereupon to be created justices and commissioners, and are to hold courts and do all that is necessary for carrying the Act into execution, as well in punishing strong beggars as in relieving the poor and impotent. And further, in order to ensure the due fulfilment of the law, the judges and other officers, both ordinary and those newly created, are subjected to heavy penalties for remissness or negligence in performance of the duties required of them. 'These provisions manifest an earnestness of purpose in the framers of the statute admitting no doubt of their sincerity, and likewise indicating the magnitude of the evil against which it was directed.

In the following year another Act was passed 'anent Beggars.' It recites that the king and his estates remembering the many good and loveable Acts made for the punishment of strong and idle beggars, and relief of the poor and impotent, and how through the negligent execution of these Acts by some of the judges, and also by sundry of the sheriffdoms being of wide extent, whereby it was difficult to convey persons offending to the common prisons, for which cause, it is said, the Acts of 1579 and 1592 were passed (the Acts are then recited), which, containing as large commission as necessarily can be required, have notwithstanding proved ineffectual, it being testified by noblemen and others of the estates, that lymmers and sornares are so multiplied, and grown to such boldness, that they spare not to pass and wander over all parts of the realm singly and in companies, armed with swords hacquebuts pistols and other weapons, sometimes alleging themselves to be banished for slaughter or burnt or berried in the Borders and Highlands, sometimes disguised with false beards, or in linen clothes, or in fool's garments, bagging and extorting not only meat drink and victuals, but money, and in case of refusal awaiting privately until they may steal and rob the same in the night, compelling both gentlemen and yeomen after their daily labours to stand on their feet all night for safety of their own gear. In which kind of trade are sundry feigning themselves passing in pilgrimage to chapels and .wells, and the counterfeit idle lymmers and harlots falsely calling themselves Egyptians, being nothing else- but thieves, witches, and abusers of the people. For remedy whereof it is ordained, that letters be directed charging all judges as well to burgh as in landward, and in case of their negligence the justices or commissioners nominated or to be nominated in the parishes and presbyteries, to put the said Acts into due execution in all points. And that inquisition be taken of the names of all common sornares, vagabonds, masterless beggars, feigned fools, and counterfeit Egyptians, -within twelve days after the charge, under the pain of rebellion in case they fail. Power is then given to the judges justices and commissioners, to proceed against the said strong idle beggars vagabonds thieves and sornares, or the partakers in their "thiefteous" and wicked deeds, and on conviction to punish them to the death, or otherwise as they shall find cause. All wandering beggars are likewise charged to resort to the parish where they were born, or where they dwelt the last seven years, and in no wise to remove therefrom in begging, nor to visit convents or markets, under penalty of being punished as vagabonds and thieves as by law is appointed.

These Acts of 1592 and 1593, especially the latter, are full and explanatory as to the nature and extent of the evils against which they were directed, and which are very similar to those existing in England sixty years previously, as described in the 22nd Henry 8th, cap. 12. The punishment of the offenders likewise is not very dissimilar. But there is this striking difference between the legislation of the two counties, that whilst in the English Act vagabonds and other offenders are directed to be punished with a severity or rather a. cruelty nearly equal to that directed by the Act of James, there is not in this latter Act the same degree of care manifested for the really poor which appears in the Act of Henry; indeed they are never mentioned, and seem hardly to come within the purview of the statute. Another difference appears in the time required for conferring a right of residence in a parish. The English Act names three years, the Scotch Act seven; but both concur in naming birth as conferring a right of residence.

At the end of four years legislation was again resorted to, in order, as the title of the Act expresses it, "that strong beggars, vagabonds, and Egyptians should be punished." The Act commences by declaring that the king and estates of parliament ratify and approve the statute of 1579, against strong and idle beggars, vagabonds, and Ebyptians, with this addition—"that strong beggars and their bairns be employed in common work during their life times; and in place of the several commissions in landward places to be granted 1y the king for the execution of that statute, the power thereof is now granted to the particular session of the kirk." This is the whole of the Act. It is very short,, but also very important. It directs that strong beggars and their bairns (that is, the able-bodied poor of every class, sex, and age) shall be employed at common labour, and therefore of course be prevented from begging; and it likewise transfers to the kirk session itself, the execution of the duties which we have seen by the Act of 1592 they were empowered to nominate certain commissioners to perform. 'Thenceforward therefore the kirk sessionr became the sole administrators of the law for relief of the aged and infirm poor, and in great measure also the administrators of the law affecting the idle and vagabond classes. This was a great change, and it led to important results, not as respects the employment of "strong beggars and their bairns," for it does not appear that this provision was ever acted upon to any material extent, if acted upon at all, but as respects the poor generally, and the disabled and necessitous poor in particular—each and all of whom were now subjected to the supervision of the kirk session, to which the needy would look for relief, and which the idle and dissolute would view with apprehension.

This Act of 1597 was cotemporaneous with the 3 9t1i Elizabeth, caps 3 and 4, and it is worthy of remark how exceedingly different were the proceedings of the English and Scottish legislatures in their attempts to remedy evils precisely similar, and which were common alike to both countries. The parliament of England framed two carefully devised Acts, embodying and systematising the previous legislation -- one providing for the effectual relief of the destitute poor, the other for the punishment of vagabonds and sturdy beggars; and each with a minuteness and precision manifesting the fullest information on the subjects treated of. The Scottish parliament, on the contrary, wearied it would seem by the ill success and disappointments attending their previous efforts, enter into no details, prescribe no conditions, give no particular directions, but briefly and without limitation or exception commit the administration of the existing law to the kirk sessions, to be interpreted and applied according to their discretion. There can hardly be a greater contrast than was exhibited on this occasion, and henceforward the proceedings of the two countries in reference to the relief of the poor, assumed a character distinct and divergent--in one sternly repelling the indigent, in the other ministering to poverty with perhaps an unwise profusion.

The kirk sessions seem however to have succeeded little better than preceding authorities, for three years after the above Act, another was passed 'Anent strong and idle Beggars,' which, after ratifying the last Act, recites that the king and lords of secret council, remembering how there have been divers good and loveable Acts made heretofore for punishment of strong and idle beggars, and relief of the poor and impotent, and how the said Acts have produced little or no effect, by reason of the oversight and negligence of the persons who were nominated justices and commissioners for putting them into execution, and that there was not some special penalty appointed to those who should be remiss or negligent therein, so that the said strong and idle beggars, being for the most part "thieves, bairdis, and counterfeit, lymmers, living most insolently and ungodly, without marriage or baptism of a great number of their bairns," are suffered to vaigt and wander throughout the whole country, and the poor and impotent persons are neglected, and no care had nor provision made for their entertainment and sustentation. For remedy of this state of things, and in furtherance of the said loveable Acts, and especially of the Act of 1597, whereby the execution of the said Acts is committed to the particular sessions of the kirk—It is now ordained that the kirk sessions, whenever need is, shall be assisted by one or two of the presbyters, and, that they shall put the said Acts into full and due execution in all points within their respective bounds, under the penalty of twenty pounds to be exacted of them so often as they shall be found to be remiss or negligent herein. And in order that the king may be the better assured of the care and diligence of the kirk sessions in due execution of the said Acts, the whole of the presbyteries in the whole land are commanded to take diligent tryal of the obedience of the said sessions hereanent, and to report their certificate and testimonial thereupon to his Majesty's ministers, so that proceedings may be taken accordingly against such as shall be negligent. Letters thereanent are moreover to be directed to every kirk session that they may not pretend ignorance, commanding them to put the said Acts against strong and idle beggars, whereof the execution is committed to them by the said Act of 1597, to due and full execution in all points, " under the said penalty of 201. to be exacted of them as often as they shall be found remiss, after the said certifying them that the said penalty will be uplifted of them with all rigour; and in like manner to command and charge the said presbyteries to take tryal of the said sessions hereanent, and to report their testimonial thereupon, as they will answer to his Majesty upon their obedience."

We here see that the entire execution of the law, as regards the infirm poor and the vagabond classes, is in the first place consigned to the kirk session, and secondarily to the presbyteries. On the ability of these bodies for performing the duties assigned them, the administration of the law, and its efficiency for the objects intended, must therefore in great measure depend. Both the kirk session and the presbytery are ecclesiastical institutions, specially created for the government of the Scottish church. The former is composed of the minister of the parish and certain lay elders chosen by the session, and who may therefore be considered as self-elected, although a right of objecting in any particular case rests with the parishioners at large. The presbytery consists of all the ministers of the parishes comprised -within its limits, and of a lay elder from each. There is no prescribed number of parishes for constituting a presbytery, and they vary in amount from five or six to thirty and upwards, according to circumstances. The kirk session is in its constitution not very dissimilar to the English parish vestry, and seems well suited for dealing with the aged infirm and impotent poor; but notwithstanding that it was armed with all the powers of control and punishment conferred by the Act of 1579, it does not appear well adapted for dealing with the strong rogues and masterful idle beggars complained of in all the preceding .Acts, and against whom their most stringent provisions were directed.

The supervision of the proceedings of the kirk session conferred upon the presbytery by the present statute, constituted as both the bodies were, could hardly have been effective, and the right of interference vested in the latter would we may presume be rarely used. It seems intended that the presbytery should interfere somewhat in the way that justices of peace interfered with the parish authorities in England; but there is so little analogy between the presbytery of the kirk and the English magistracy, that it is difficult to believe there could be any real similarity in the action of the two. The presbytery would naturally have a fellow-feeling with the inferior body, each of its members being likewise a member of some one of the kirk sessions within its boundaries, and all necessarily acting under similar influences.

We have seen that by the Act of 1592 justices and commissioners were appointed, with authority "for the punishment of strong and idle beggars and vagabonds, and for relief of the poor and impotent." We have also just seen, that by the Acts of 1597 and 1000 like powers were conferred upon the kirk session and the presbytery. It may be presumed that these powers did not in either case prove sufficient for the purpose intended, as in 1617 another statute was passed under the title of an 'Act anent the Justices for keeping the King's Peace and their Constables,' conferring large powers upon these functionaries, and minutely defining their several duties. James had then been seated on the English throne upwards of thirteen years, and must therefore have been acquainted with the state of social organisation in England, of which the justice of peace and the parish constable had long formed important portions, binding and cementing the various and sometimes discordant materials into one harmonious whole; and these authorities lie would naturally be desirous of establishing in Scotland, then in a less forward and orderly state. The elaborate Act of 1617, the title of which is given above, was accordingly framed for this purpose, apparently with great care, and keeping the example of England closely in view; and to this Act we will now direct our attention.

The Act begins by declaring that the king, with advice and consent of parliament, having considered the articles and instructions before given by his Majesty to the justices and commissioners appointed for keeping the peace, and the said justices and commissioners being desirous that the same should be authorised by decree of parliament, they were accordingly confirmed in every point to the purport following :—The commissioners and justices at their first admission to the bench, are to be sworn to do equal right to rich and poor, according to their knowledge wit and power, and to conform to the laws and customs of the land. Their powers are then minutely defined, and their duties pointed out. 'They are directed to put the law into " due and full execution against wilful beggars and vagabonds, solitary and idle men and women without calling or trade, lurking in alehouses, tied to no certain service, reputed and holden as vagabonds, and against those persons who are commonly called Egyptians." And they are to punish and fine their receivers, and the setters of houses to them, "by such competent paines as is proper to them to enjoine." They are to hold a session quarterly, for attending at which they are to be allowed forty shillings Scots daily, not exceeding three days; and any justice having the benefit of that allowance, who shall be absent from the ordinary session or otherways when required, "not being lawfully excused, and the excuse allowed by the rest of the justices there assembled," will incur the penalty of forty pounds Scotch. But earls, bishops, and privy councillors are not to be allowed anything for their attendance.

The commissioners and justices are at their quarter sessions to appoint constables to every parish, two or more according to its greatness; but in boroughs and royal free cities the constables are to be appointed by the magistrates. Any one appointed a constable who shall refuse to accept the charge, and give his oath for due execution thereof, is to be "imprisoned and fined at the discretion of the justices at their next sitting." The constables are to "arrest all vagabonds, sturdy beggars, and Egyptians, and carry them before the next commissioners of peace, who shall take order for their commitment or punishment." The constables are also directed to arrest "all idle persons whom they know to have no means to live upon, and will not take themselves to any labour trade or occupation, and carry them before the commissioner of peace, who after examination shall either commit them, or take surety of them for their appearance at the next session." A constable may apprehend any suspected person "who for the most part sleepeth all day and walketh at night," and carry him to the next justice of peace to find surety for his good behaviour, or otherwise to be committed to prison —"and if he be a man of quality, the justice shall go with the constable and do it." Upon the appearance of a fray, the constable is authorised to require the aid of his neighbours for sundering the parties, and he may also require the assistance of all persons in apprehending a thief, murderer, or other capital offender, and conveying him to the next commissioner for examination and commitment; "and any of his Majesty's subjects who shall refuse or delay to aid the constable in the execution of his office, shall be imprisoned and punished by the commissioners and justices."

The commissioners and justices are armed with large powers for preserving the peace and enforcing their decisions. Their duties in regard to beggars and vagabonds, &c., are already described, but many others are required from them. They are to give order "as they shall think most convenient, and with least grief to the subjects," for mending all highways, which are to be twenty feet wide at the least. They arc to put the law in execution against destroyers of plantings orchards and gardens, and against the stealers of bees and beehives, users of unlawful games, &c. &c. They are not to permit hostlers to receive any masterless men, rebels, vagabonds, or other persons guilty of known crimes. They are to make order for the governance of the country in time of plague, and are to punish severely the disobeyers of such order, according to the quality of the offence. At their quarter sessions in August and February, they are to appoint the ordinary hire and wages of labourers, workmen, and servants; " and whoever shall refuse to serve upon the prices fixed by them, shall be imprisoned and further punished at their discretion." And that servants may be the more willing to obey the ordinance, the justices are likewise empowered to compel masters to make the payments appointed.

The commissioners and justices are also empowered to rate every parish for a weekly portion, not exceeding the sum of five shillings Scots, for the maintenance of poor prisoners, who might "otherwise famish and starve before they can come to their trial." They are, on being lawfully required, to command their constables to apprehend any person who has contemptuously disobeyed the censure of the church. They are "to set down Acts against notorious and common drunkards, and to impose fines upon contraveners according to the quality of their deserts." And they are moreover "to cause sufficient single and double ale to be brewed in every shire, and appoint visitors y to that effect, with consent of the baron and over lord of the ground." This last provision seems out of keeping with the rest of the Act, but it was probably introduced with the view of checking the excessive use of ardent spirits then common in Scotland, and leading the people to adopt the less exciting and more wholesome beverage of beer.

The establishment of such a combination of authorities as is created by the present Act for the preservation of the peace, the repression of disorder, and the punishment of crime, extending into every shire and parish throughout the country, could hardly fail of producing important benefits; even if, as was not unlikely at first to have been the case, the justices and constables should prove inefficient through ignorance, apathy, or unwillingness to act, or should be over meddling and oppressive through misapprehension of their duties and position. Such drawbacks would however gradually be overcome, and the authority thus intrusted to certain of the people, to be exercised for the general security and benefit of all, could hardly fail of becoming both popular and effective in Scotland, as a similarly organised authority had long proved to be in England. Its popularity and its efficiency would doubtless be impeded by the prevalence of clanship, and by the species of feudalism still existing in Scotland; but these counteracting influences would become less and less, as the law acquired force and got to be more certainly and universally applied, which would be the case as soon as the justices attained to a right apprehension of their duties, and when the constables could feel assured of being supported in the fulfilment of theirs.

The kirk sessions and the presbyteries had failed in putting down mendicancy and vagabondage. The creation of justices of peace and constables,, and the duties assigned to them by the preceding Act, would no doubt materially assist in effecting this object: but these were not solely relied upon, for immediately afterwards another Act was passed "anent the poor," commencing .with the usual preamble, that notwithstanding divers worthy laws have been made for restraining idle and masterful beggars, their number bath daily increased more and more; and then declaring that his Majesty and estates consider the cause of the multiplying of the said beggars to proceed from the circumstance "that no order bath been taken in by-gone time with the children and orphans born of poor and indigent parents, who being tolerated or neglected at their first entry to begging, doth contract such a custom and habit that hardly they can be drawn thereafter to any other calling;, whereas, if the said poor children were in their tender years put to any work, and employed and trained up in any commendable labour, they might thereafter not only relieve the country of their charge, but also prove profitable to the common wealth; which might be easily performed if the children were taken off the hands of their parents by some well-affected persons, or by any of the incorporations and burghs within the kingdom, and employed in some calling or vocation that might tend to the good of the realm." Wherefore the king, with the advice and consent of the states, " doth in the most earnest manner recommend to all his loving subjects, requesting them as they tender the good and honour of the realm, to receive within their houses and families, and to take upon them the care, entertainment, and education of some of the said poor and indigent children, one or more to every person according to his power and faculty." And it is declared to be lawful for the said persons, to take such poor children to be educated and brought up either in their own houses, or to put them out to such crafts callings or vocations as they please.

After this apparently judicious and benevolent exordium, the description of the poor children, and the conditions on which they are to be so received or put out, are set forth and prescribed as follows:-

The children are to be such as shall by the declaration of the provost and bailies or the kirk session within burghs, or by the kirk session in landward parishes, be certified to be poor and indigent, and to have no means of living. When the said children are under the age of fourteen, they are with the consent of their parents if they have any, and if above the ace of fourteen with their own consent, and by advice of the said magistrates or kirk sessions, to be delivered to their masters, with a testimonial in writing of such delivery, and of the condition of the said poor children--which testimonial is declared a sufficient warrant for receiving the children, and for the receivers partaking of the benefits of the statute. The Act then proceeds—"And to the effect that his Majesty's subjects may be moved hereto by the expectation of commoditie and advantage which they may reap by the labours and service of the said poor children," it is ordained that the children received upon testimonial as above specified "shall be bound and restricted to their masters, their heirs and assignes, in all hind of service which shall be enjoined them, until they are past the age of thirty; and that they shall be under discipline to their said masters, and subject to their corrections and chastisements according to the merits of their offences, in all manner and sort of punishments, life and torture excepted." It is likewise declared, that whatsoever the said servants may gain shall belong to their masters, and if they absent themselves without the master's licence they shall refund to him the whole damage and loss which he may declare to be sustained through their absence, and suffer such bodily punishment as in his discretion he may inflict. And if any other person shall receive any of the said servants, he is to restore `them again within twelve hours after being required, failing in which he is to pay ten shillings after every requisition daily, until they be restored.

We find a considerable change in this Act, as compared with the Act of 1579,2 in regard to poor children. A strong desire is now expressed for the education and training of the children, which did not appear in the previous Act, and greater care is shown in providing for the putting out of the children ; but the length of their servitude, or modified slavery as it may not unaptly be called, was extended from twenty-four for a man-child and twenty-eight for a woman-child, to the age of thirty without any distinction as to sex. By the intermediate statute of 1597, "strong beggars and their bairns "are required to be employed at common work during their lifetimes, but by whom and for whose benefit they are to be so employed does not appear; and we may therefore infer that the employment was intended to be of the ordinary kind, and that it was to be paid for in the way of remuneration to the individuals themselves, either in money or in articles of subsistence in lieu of money, by which the necessity for eleemosynary relief would be obviated. But according to the present Act, and that of 1579, the children are to be taken separately and treated as apprentices, and are to be deprived of their freedom for a specified time, in order to their being taught, trained, and fitted for earning their own living afterwards. We cannot fail to recognise in these Acts the spirit of the 43rd of Elizabeth, somewhat more harsh and severe in their provisions, it is true, but still aiming at the same result, that is, to rescue poor children from a state of idleness and mendicancy, and to place them in situations where they will be cared for and trained in some useful occupation.

Such enforced apprenticeships, have doubtless led to evils of no inconsiderable magnitude; but in the then condition of England and Scotland, it may be questioned whether it was not the best as well as the readiest course that could be adopted. It checked the growth of vagrancy by arresting one main source of supply, and it at the same time promoted the increase of industrial power; and these were operations assuredly tending to the general weal. As wealth and civilization extended however, and when the principle of supply and demand came into general operation, such enforced apprenticeships would not only be no longer necessary, but would be a positive evil, by interfering with the free appropriation of labour and the natural development of industry. In this we may perceive another instance, added to the many which observation and experience are continually presenting to us, of a particular act or course of procedure being suitable and beneficial at one time, and injurious at another, according to the circumstances or the state of society under which it is applied.

The above Act has been noticed something out of its regular order for the purpose of keeping the general subject of the poor as much together as possible; but there is a previous Act, "anent the Egyptians," requiring attention, and to this we will now return. In the Act of 1579 we find the gipsies designated as "idle people calling themselves Egyptians," and in the Acts of 1592 and 1593 they are named as "counterfeit Egyptians;" but in all the Acts they are classed with idle vagabonds, masterful beggars, and such like offenders, and are to be dealt with and punished accordingly. At length however the gipsies, whether simulated or real, became so numerous, and were moreover so burthensome to the community, that they were placed in a distinct class of offenders, and had a separate law specially directed against them.

In 1609 an Act was passed, which after referring to proclamation by the secret council in 1603, commanding the vagabonds, sornares, and common thiefs, commonly called Egyptians, to pass forth the kingdom, and remain perpetually forth thereof, and never to return within the same under pain of death "—ordains that the same shall have force and execution, and that after the 1st of August next coming, if any of the said vagabonds called Egyptians shall be found within the kingdom, it shall be lawful for all or any of his Majesty's good subjects " to cause take, apprehend, imprison, and execute to death the said Egyptians, either men or women, as common notorious and condemned thieves," who, it is further ordained, are to be tried only as to their being "called known reputed and holden for Egyptians." And at such trial whosoever shall "clenge" (exculpate) any of the said Egyptians, panelled as aforesaid, shall be pursued handled and censured as committers of wilful errour, and whoever shall thereafter receive supply or entertain any of the said Egyptians, either men or women, shall forfeit their escheat, and be awarded at the judge's will. Sheriffs and magistrates within whose bounds Egyptians shall resort and remain, are to be called before the lords of the secret council, and severely censured and punished for their negligence in execution of this Act. All letters of protection or warrants for their remaining within the realm or for entertaining or doing any manner of favour to the said Egyptians, which may have been or which shall be purchased by any of them, or by any other person of whatsoever rank, from the lords of the secret council, are declared to be annulled, as having been surreptitiously and deceitfully obtained.

There was a close similarity in the legislation of the Scotch and the English parliaments with respect to the gipsies, or Egyptians, as they were indifferently called. The first Act respecting them in England was the 22nd Henry VIII. in 1530, which describes them as "divers outlandish people, calling themselves Egyptians," and orders them to quit the country under penalty of imprisonment. The last notice of them is in the 5th Elizabeth in 1562, by which they were not only adjudged to suffer death whenever found, but every person convicted of associating with them for a month was subjected to a like punishment. The first notice of them in Scotland was, as is above stated, in the Act of 1579, and the last in the present Act of 1609 ; the Scottish Acts being thus in each case, it will be observed, about half a century behind the English; but the enactments are identical in spirit and intention, and nearly so in the punishments which they inflict. [Sir Samuel Romilly, in his 'Observations on the Criminal Law of England,' published in 1810, says that the sanguinary Act (5th Elizabeth, c. 20), which made it a capital offence for any person above the age of fourteen to associate for a month with gipsies, was executed in the reign of Charles the First; and Lord Hale mentions thirteen persons having suffered death under it at one assize, in his time.—See 'Edinburgh Review' for February 1812, p. 391.]

The gipsies seem however to have enjoyed a degree of consideration in Scotland, much beyond what they ever attained in England; for one of them, named John .Pau, who is styled Lord and Earl of Little Egypt, was by writ of Privy Seal in 1594, supported in the execution of justice on his company and folk "conformably to the laws of Egypt;" and for the punishment of certain persons therein named who had rebelled against him, robbed him, and absconded, James's good subjects are commanded to assist and to apprehend the fugitives. There had been a writ previously granted: in Faw's favour by Mary in 1553, and he obtained a pardon for a murder in 1554, so that he must have been a person of importance and notoriety. From him this kind of strolling people received the name of "The Faw gang," which they still commonly retain. [This account of John raw is abstracted from the `Encyclopaedia Britannica,' 7th edition, under the head `Gipsies.'] It was against such writs, warrants, and letters of protection, that the latter portion of the above Act seems to have been directed. That they were obtained surreptitiously is highly probable, considering the character of the times, and the contributions levied throughout the country by these wandering gangs, which would enable them to pay handsomely for the protection of persons in power. The gipsies seem to have gathered into their company or gang, all the riotous and disorderly spirits of the day, and they must have proved (as we are indeed assured that they were) a great evil and source of oppression to the country wheresoever they appeared, and hence the severity of the laws against them.

The gipsies, or the vagabond and mendicant class generally, with whom the gipsies were identified, and of whom they formed no inconsiderable part, continued notwithstanding to maintain their ground in Scotland; for Fletcher, of Saltoun, in his second Discourse, written in 1698, says, "There are at this day in Scotland (besides a great many poor families very meanly provided for by the church boxes, with others who by living upon bad food fall into various diseases)) two hundred thousand people begging from door to door—and though the number of them be perhaps double to what it was formerly, by reason of the present great distress, yet in all times there have been about one hundred thousand of those vagabonds, who have lived without any regard or subjection either to the laws of the land, or even those of God and nature; fathers incestuously accompanying with their own daughters, the son with the mother, and the brother with the sister. No magistrate could ever discover or be informed which way one in a hundred of these wretches died, or that ever they were baptised. Many murders have been discovered among them, and they are not only a most unspeakable oppression to the poor tenants (who if they give not bread or some kind of provision to perhaps forty such .villains in one day are sure to be insulted by them), but they rob many poor people who live in houses distant from any neighbourhood. In years of plenty many thousands of thorn meet together in the mountains, where they feast and riot for many days; and at country weddings, markets, burials, and other the like public occasions, they are to be seen both men and women perpetually drunk, cursing blaspheming and fighting together." [See `The Political Works of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun,' printed at Glasgow in 1749, P. 100. The reader can hardly fail of being here reminded of Meg Merrilies, and Scott's description of the gipsies in 'Guy Mannering.' The great novelist, like our own Shakespeare, drew from the life; and the pictures of each may be taken as true representations of the manners, customs, and state of society at the periods to which they refer. Scott likewise quotes the paragraph above extracted from Fletcher's work; but we could not dispense with its insertion here, it being so well calculated to throw Iight upon the circumstances of the country at that time.]

There may be some exaggeration in this statement, for it is difficult to believe that there could have been so many as two hundred thousand vagrants and beggars in 1698, when the entire population of Scotland was probably under a million. But the writer was an highly honourable, as well as able man : he would not intentionally misrepresent a fact; and we may I think safely conclude that at the time Fletcher wrote there were, as he says, many poor families very meanly provided for by the church boxes, and also that a very large number of vagabonds and beggars were continually preying upon and oppressing the poor tenants —a state of things calculated to endanger property, prevent improvement, and depress the general condition of the country. If such was the state of things in 1698, the date of Fletcher's Discourse, we can hardly doubt that it was no better, or perhaps even worse, at the passing of the `Act anent the Egyptians' in 1609. Unmistakable proofs of the' disorganisation which prevailed previous to and throughout the reign of James VI. are to be found in the legislation of the period ; and one instance of this disorganisation, although not immediately appertaining to our subject, it may not be altogether irrelevant to adduce.

An Act was passed in 1594, the preamble of which declares, that notwithstanding the sundry Acts made for punishment of the authors of thefts, reif, oppression, and sorning, and the masters and sustainers of thieves—yet such has been and presently is the barbarous cruelties and daily heirschippis devastations of the wicked thieves and lymmers of the clans inhabiting the Highlands and Isles (that is to say, Clangregor, Clanfarlane, and seventeen others specially named; also many broken men of the surnames of Stewart in Athol, Lorne, and Balquhidder; Campbells and Grahams in Monteith; Buchanans, M'Cawles, and eleven others named, inhabiting the sheriffdoms of Argyle, Bute, Dumbarton, Stirling, Perth, &c., and the Stewartries of Stuthern and Menteith; and likewise a great number of wicked thieves, oppressors, peacebreakers, and receivers (" reset-tans)" of theft, of the surnames of Armstrong, Elliot, Graham, and thirteen others specially mentioned, "inhabiting the Borders foreanent England"), that all these clans are therefore declared guilty of the murder, heirschip, and daily oppression of the peaceable and good subjects in the whole country adjacent to the Highlands and Borders, to the displeasure of God, contempt and dishonour of the king, and to the wasting and desolation of a good part of the plentiful ground of the country. The king and parliament understanding moreover that this mischief and shameful disorder increases, and is nourished by the encouraging, receiving, maintenance, and nonpunishment of the thieves limmers and vagabonds, partly by the landlords masters and bailies of the lands where they dwell and resort, and partly through the counsel direction receiving and partaking of the chieftains, principals of the branches and householders of the said surnames and clans, who bear quarrel and seek revenge for the least hurting or slaughter of any one of their unhappy race, although it were by order of justice, or in rescue and following of true men's gear stolen or reft; so that the said chieftains, principals of the branches and householders, worthily may be esteemed the very authors fosterers and maintainers of the wicked deeds of the vagabonds of their clans and surnames—for remedy whereof, and that there may be a perfect distinction by names and surnames betwixt them that are desirous to be esteemed honest and true men, and them that are not ashamed to be esteemed thieves, reifers, sornares, and receivers and sustainers of theft and thieves in their wicked and odious crimes and deeds, it is ordained that a roll or catalogue shall be made of all persons of the surnames aforesaid, suspected of slaughter, theft, reif, ressett of theft or thieves, or sornings, within the said sheriffdoms and stewartries, in what towns and parishes, and under what landlords, masters, or bailies they dwell, &c. The landlords, masters, and bailies are then respectively made answerable for the acts of all such persons, and others living under them; and it is further declared that " the Act shall extend not only against the inhabitants of the said sheriffdoms and stewartries, but against the landlords, masters, and bailies of all persons that are or shall be suspected of theft, reif, oppression, and sorning, over all parts of the realm." And finally, "that as thieves and sornares concur assist and maintain others in wicked deeds against true men, without fear of God the king or the laws, so it shall be lawful for true and honest men to concur and join in counsel and action for defence of the lives and goods of themselves  and their tenants against thieves and sornares, and to follow and pursue them and all their races clans and names, and to take and apprehend their persons and goods, and keep them in prison or execute them to death." And in case any of the said thieves and sornares or their assistants happen to be hurt, slayne, or mutilated, their goods to be taken, their houses burnt or destroyed, it is further declared "that the same shall not be imputed as any crime or offence in the true men the authors or executors thereof."

Although this Act applies specially to the Highland and Border districts, its provisions are not limited to them, but extend to the whole kingdom. The preamble is sufficiently indicative of the disorganised state of the country at that period, and it shows how strong a hold clanship still maintained in parts of Scotland, although it had been for a century extinct in England. Clanship as it existed in the Highlands, although differing from feudalism in principle and origin, may practically be said to have amounted to a species of feudalism in its most effective form, governing the wills and affections, as well as exacting the obedience of its vassals. The clansmen were in all things dependent on their chief. They received their lands from him, were of the same tribe or family, bore the same name, used the same arms. The safety and almost the very existence of the clan at times depended on its union and entire subserviency to its chief, and men willingly followed a leader whom they regarded as their natural protector and the head of their race, and served him with more than the fidelity of vassals. With such a variety of separate allegiances existing in the country, it can hardly excite surprise that justice should be imperfectly administered, and that individual will often superseded the general law of the land. The government was in fact too feeble to enforce the law or establish its own supremacy, and was continually driven to resort to intrigue, partisanship, and compromise for even the partial accomplishment of its objects. After James's accession to the crown of England on the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, the Scottish executive partook of the increased influence he thereby acquired; but the country still continued in a backward and disordered state, its general condition being perhaps nearly a century behind that of England, down to the period of the Union in 1707; after which, its progress in all that tends to improve and elevate tae condition of a people was remarkably rapid, and has ever since continued fully to equal if it has not surpassed that which has taken place in England.

The amount of population in Scotland, like its amount in England, was extremely uncertain in the earlier periods, and was subject to great fluctuations through the effects of war, insurrection, famine and pestilence. At the time of the Union in 1707, the population of Scotland was estimated at 1,050,000. [See M'Culloch's 'Account of the British Empire,' vol. i. p. 427. The population of England at that time was about 5,750,000. See 'History of the English Poor Law,' vol. i. p. 374.] There had been great dearths in 1635 and 1688, and from 1693 to 1700, emphatically termed "the seven ill years," the distress was so great and so general that many parishes were nearly depopulated, and farms remained unoccupied for several years afterwards ; so that we shall perhaps not be far wrong in reckoning the population to have been about a million at the time of James's accession to the English throne in 1603, as the frequent recurrence of famine, and the other circumstances above adverted to, would necessarily tend to keep it at about the same level by preventing any material increase.


 


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