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Scotland in the Middle Ages
Chapter V - Scotch Burghs


Roman Institutions remaining after the overthrow of the Roman power — Municipal Institutions — Spanish Fueros — German free cities — Hanse Towns — English burghs — Scotch burghs — The Scotch laws of the burghs founded on old customs of English and Scotch burghs — Election of Magistrates — Who were the electors? — Scotch burghs more ancient than any charters — Berwick — St. Andrews — Edinburgh — Rutherglen — Perth — Perth burgh charter — Aberdeen — Inverness — Ayr — Churchmen's burghs — Glasgow — Court of the four burghs — Beauty of Scotch towns — Burgesses.

There is no more important mistake in history than when we speak of the extermination of a people by an invading enemy. Such extermination, probably, never takes place, certainly not where the conquered people is the civilised, the invaders the barbarians. I do not mean to controvert the slow retreat and gradual disappearance of an inferior race before a more energetic one. That is passing under our own eyes, wherever the white man of Europe comes into lengthened opposition to the red man of America, or the aborigines, I may say, of any other clime. But the intentional and total extermination of a powerful and civilised people is contrary to all reason, and the nearer each alleged instance comes to our own examination, the more easy do we find it to disprove it. Undoubtedly no such general and violent destruction took place when the Roman empire fell before the invading barbarians. Neither the old people nor their institutions were altogether rooted out. The provincial cities of Europe were already ground down with intolerable taxes to Rome. The barbarians could get no more. They could not reconcile themselves to a town life, and they left the inhabitants to live according to their old customs, only transferring the payment of taxes to their new masters. The result was, that in most of the great cities of France and Germany, the institutions for town police and local management remained on the old footing. They had their curia or council, chosen by the citizens, which administered the affairs of the community. Such of the cities as enjoyed the jus Italicum had magistrates, with civil and criminal jurisdiction, also chosen by themselves. I would not have you to believe that there was a real independence in those old Roman cities. They had never known it under the Roman sway, and still less could they expect to enjoy it under new masters, regardless of their laws. The magistrates were apparently controlled and thwarted by the state government, and subjected to all indignities. But still the germ remained of self-government, and throve not the worse, that in most of the conquering tribes it met a similar principle. By it, peace was promoted and union, and some degree of security ensured for person and property. The convenience of the system caused it to spread among the new towns, which rose round bishops' cathedrals and the castles of princes; and when, at a later time, it became a state policy to defend the people and an infant commerce against an insolent nobility, the framework was there ready, and the community, long bound together by such ties, and confiding in its chosen leaders, required nothing but the protection of the Prince and the law to make it capable of defending itself. Accordingly, when we get at what are called the charters of erection or incorporation of any of the more ancient towns, we find them to indicate a pre-existing body, enjoying some definite constitution or government.

The first country of modern Europe, in which the old municipal institutions were called into new life and activity, was Spain; but there, the revival of privileged towns was for a peculiar purpose, and the cities were invested with freedom and property, on condition of defending their country against the Moorish enemy. The Fuero, or original charter of a Spanish community, was properly a compact, by which the king or lord granted a town and adjacent district to the burgesses, with various privileges, and especially that of choosing magistrates and a common council.

Of this kind, Leon had a charter in 1020, and Barcelona in 1025. In both of these, there is evidence of a municipal constitution and council already in use.

Henry V., Emperor of Germany, was the first emancipator of the German cities from the tyranny of their bishops and princes. With a more questionable policy, he encouraged and incorporated bodies of men, of the same craft and occupation, as we should say, the trades of the towns—thus sanctioning their separation from the mercantile or high burgher class, with whom they ought to have been rather encouraged to unite. We do not find in his charters, nor those of his successors, any grant of the right of electing counsellors and magistrates ; but in fifty years after his time, all the cities of Germany had counsellors of their own choice, and before the end of the thirteenth century, the free cities of Germany were acknowledged sovereign and independent, and sent deputies to the national diet, along with the electors and princes.

About the middle of the thirteenth century, the free towns of Lubeck and Hamburgh entered into a league for mutual defence and protection of trade. Other towns soon joined their confederacy, and in a short time, eighty of the most considerable cities, along the shores of the Baltic, from the mouth of the Rhine to the gulf of Finland, had united into that famous confederacy, which is still remembered by the name of the Hanse league. Like many burghal usages, such combinations must have been floating over Europe for centuries before. We find a similar fellowship, on a small scale, in our own country, known by the same name of Hanse, in the reign of David I., one hundred years before the great Baltic association came into being. The great Hanse was divided into four classes, of which Lubeck, Cologne, Brunswick, and Dantzick, were the heads, and Lubeck was the centre of the association. It had four foreign staples, London, Bruges, Novogorod and Bergen, in Norway. The Hanse league, so powerful for good or evil, exercised the lawyers in discussions upon its legality, but went on, nevertheless, in prosperity and power, while bound together by its delegates, meeting for its proper and legitimate purposes of trade. It was only when its vast influence seemed to offer an inducement to scheming princes to use it for political power, that the Hanseatic cities gradually fell asunder, and, after the sixteenth century, left only the name of their mighty union.

When Mr. Hallam wrote his history of the middle ages, he was inclined to deny that the burghs of England had any municipal administration by magistrates of their own choice; but he admits that the possession of corporate property implies an elective government for its administration, and there is now abundant evidence collected, of burghal property in England before the Conquest. Mr. Hallam himself, indeed, has been shaken in his opinion, by the express terms of numerous charters which he had overlooked. I am sure that a fair examination of the subject will convince any student that such towns as London, York, Lincoln, and Winchester, full as they were of wealth and enterprise, managed their common affairs, their police and internal economy, before the Conquest. It is only to my mind difficult to fix a time at which they did not do so.

Those centuries I have chosen to illustrate, seem to me peculiarly interesting for Scotland, not merely full of remarkable events, but big with promise and foreshadowing of mighty change. It is as if the elements of society, bound up in the frost of ages, had been at once relaxed and set in motion. There is great clashing and confusion, but as the tide subsides, you may observe rising through it the rude shapes of institutions now familiar and endeared to us.

Whilst David I. was introducing a new and chivalrous aristocracy, and reforming and extending the Church, he did not neglect the third class of society. The rise of free towns, with privilege of trade, and the ascertained right to govern themselves by their own laws, is perhaps always and everywhere the most important step in national advancement. But it requires us to imagine a country like Scotland in the beginning of the twelfth century, only recovering from an age of anarchy, to appreciate the effect of that statute of the laws of the burghs, which declares that "Gif ony mannis thryll, barounis or knychtis, cummys to burgh and byis a borowage, and dwellis in his borowage a twelfmoneth and a day, foroutyn challenge of his lorde or of his bailye, he sail be ever mare fre as a burges within that kingis burgh, and joyse the fredome of that burgh." [Cap. 15.] This code of Scotch burghal regulations, though collected in the reign of David, and sanctioned by him, was the result of experience of the towns of England and Scotland. I lately found, in the Record Office of the Tower at London, a memorandum of the laws and burgh usages of Newcastle in the time of Henry I., written in a hand as old as the reign of Henry II. It consists of eighteen chapters, almost consecutively, of the well-known burgh laws of Scotland. There was indeed a sufficient connection between Scotland and Northumberland, whilst both were under the rule of David, to render it very probable that the framer of a body of Scotch burgh laws should adopt the customs used at Newcastle; and there are even traces of a more extensive correspondence between the Anglo-Saxon and Scotch burghs. The charters of Winchester, granted by Henry I., which soon became the favourite models of burgh charters of England, were themselves only the embodying in special grants, of privileges and liberties enjoyed before by the city itself, or known and enjoyed before and time out of mind by the towns of England, though defeated and thwarted by adverse circumstances. It is curious how close a resemblance those charters of Winchester bear to the privileges of Scotch burghs, conferred by king David. Everything shows us that there was at that time a general movement in favour of the privileges of towns; and no feelings of hostility yet interfered to prevent the inhabitants of lowland Scotland and of England, kindred in blood, language, and manners, from adopting together the steps of a system, which opposed to the oppressive power of the armed feudal lords the union of numbers in each town, and the combination and mutual support of the trading communities of the whole island.

The important, indeed the vital, point of the Scotch burgh laws, was that regarding the election of their magistrates. In other countries this was long withheld or grudgingly bestowed—

"At the fyrst mute, next eftir the feste of St. Mychael, the aldirman and the bailyeis sal be chosyn, thruch the consaile of the gud men of the toune, the quhilk aw to be lele and of gud fame. And thei sal suer fewte till the lord the king, and to the burges of the toune. And thai sal suer to keep the customys of the toune, and at they sal nocht halde lauch on ony man or woman, for wrath, na for haterit, na for drede, or for luve of ony man, bot thruch ordinans, consaile and dome of gud men of the toune. Alswa, thai sal suer that nother for radnes, na for luve, na for haterit, na for cosynage, na for tynsale of their silver, thai sal nocht spare to do richt till all men." [Cap. 70]

The election of councillors of Berwick is prescribed in the code of Statutes of the Gild, showing at least the custom of the thirteenth century. There were to be twenty-four good men, of the best and discreetest and most trustworthy of the town, elected for this purpose, along with the mayor and four bailies. [Constitucio facta de Gubernacione communitatis Berwici.]

Who the electors of magistrates truly were — the "probi homines villae, fideles et bonae famae" —  has been made a subject of controversy; but, as it cannot be imagined that a right or franchise of this nature could possibly depend on any other than plain or tangible criteria, there seems to be no good reason for supposing that the epithets in question had any other meaning or effect than as descriptive of the class of proper burgesses, in contradistinction to the unprivileged inhabitants of the district. Such appears, accordingly, to be the import of the oldest record of a burgh election now extant, that of Aberdeen for the year 1398:— "Die lunae proximo post festum beati Michaelis archangeli, anno domini milesimo tricentesimo nonagesimo octavo. Quo die Willelmus de Camera pater, cum consensu et assensu totius communitatis dicti burgi electus est in officum Aldermanni, et Robertus filius David Simon de Benyn Johannes Scherar ac magister Willielmus Dicson electi sunt in officium ballivorum." To the term "the whole community," here used, no other sense can well be assigned than that of the entire body of regular burgesses; any other interpretation would seem to be entirely arbitrary.

Satisfied with having sanctioned these invaluable privileges to the whole, David does not seem to have granted what we should call charters of incorporation or erection, to the individual burghs. Lawyers choose to presume, that what are now called "corporations by prescription," must have had royal charters, now lost or destroyed. But the facts seem to run against that presumption of law. It is scarcely credible that all the charters of erection should have been destroyed or lost, while so many closely following them in antiquity have been preserved. In one instance, that of Ayr, we still have what appears to have been the first charter that was granted to it; and yet it is nothing of the nature of a deed of incorporation or erection. It would appear then, that towns and trading communities existed among us as early as we can pretend to speculate upon our history — carrying on the little commerce of the country, through the impediments of lawlessness and insecurity of property, and the oppressions and exactions of the government that ought to have protected them; and that the burghal reformation of David consisted in throwing around these the protection of the law, and encouraging them to elect for themselves managers of their common affair; and magistrates to administer justice among them and to lead them in defending themselves against aggression.

Berwick was the seat of the principal trade on the coast of Scotland, and its burgesses were particularly active and zealous in establishing their privileges. When Bishop John of St. Andrews was desirous of erecting a burgh at his episcopal see, the king granted him the site, and transferred to the new burgh the services of Mainard, as its provost, a Fleming and a burgess of Berwick, where he had learned the burgh usages and the duties of his office. Such was the beginning of the city of St. Andrews as a trading burgh.

Our own ancient city, or rather its castle (deriving its name, from being the burg or fortress of Edwin of Northumbria), very early became a frequent and favourite residence of our kings, when Lothian had been ceded to Scotland. St. Margaret resided there, during the fatal expedition of her husband Malcolm into England, and died there. Her son David had a dwelling on the rock, and a garden on the bank, between it and the church of St. Cuthbert. The town which grew up under the protection of the castle, in the midst of the royal demesne, was naturally an object of royal favour, and David I. granted to its burgesses, not only exemptions and freedoms within their walls, but an exclusive right of trade and manufacture over a district extending from Colbrandspeth or Edgebucklin brae on the east, to the water of Avon on the west, corresponding to what was afterwards the Sheriffdom of "Edinburgh principal." So considerable was the trade of Edinburgh, after Berwick was lost to Scotland, that in the middle of the fourteenth century, the customs paid from it, were about one half of the sum raised from the whole customs of Scotland.

Other burghs of David's erection were not destined to take so high a position. He erected his demesne village of Rutherglen into a royal burgh, with the exclusive privilege of trade over an extensive district, the limits of which cannot now be fixed with certainty. It certainly included Glasgow, however; and when soon afterwards, the bishop obtained the privilege of trade for his little city, this gave Rutherglen, the king's burgh, an opportunity of tyrannizing over it, which it exercised in levying toll and petty custom up to the gates of Glasgow.

The oldest charter of Rutherglen preserved is one of William the Lion, which confirms all the customs and rights the burgh had from David; but is chiefly remarkable for specifying the boundaries of its extensive jurisdiction. It denounces any who shall withhold the tolls or other customs, which belonged to the town in the time of David; and the king concludes in these words, "I strictly command, that no one bring anything to sell within these bounds, except it have been first at the burgh of Rutherglen." You must not imagine Rutherglen always so insignificant as it is now. Its ferme or rent paid to the Crown was considerable. After some pretty large assignations, made from them by successive kings, for various purposes in the Cathedral of Glasgow, the burgh still paid of ferme to the Crown in 1331, £15, while Linlithgow paid £10, Edinburgh £32, and Berwick £46. Rutherglen might have decayed at any rate; but we find a sufficient cause of its dwindling into its original state of a rural village, in the overshadowing of the neighbouring city of Glasgow.

The beautiful situation of Perth must have early attracted attention. Its fertile soil, its central position at the opening of so many passes into the inland and upland country, and at the highest navigable point of its noble river — with its fishings, which were of great value before we had learnt to decoy fish out of the Firth and the open sea — were such as our ancestors ever chose for a town. It may have been, as it is very confidently asserted by antiquaries, one of the Roman cities of Britain ; and we may indulge in the imagination of the Roman soldiers comparing the Tay to the Tiber (which from them was a compliment!) and fixing their dwellings on its banks. It is certainly a place of very high antiquity. No record or chronicler alludes to its origin. It is probably, in some shape, as old as any sort of civilized society among us. The commencement of its trading privileges dates from David L, who had a house in the town, and called it his burgh; and who seems to have granted to it the exclusive privilege of trade within the whole county of Perth.

The earliest charter of Perth preserved, is one of William the Lion, which I notice more particularly, because it appears to have served for a style and copy in later burgh constitutions. It commences with a prohibition against any stranger merchant (mercator exlraneus), buying or selling anywhere within the sheriffdom, except at the burgh — "but," says the king, "let the stranger merchant come with his wares to my burgh of Perth, and there sell them and invest his money." The foreign merchant is also prohibited from cutting his cloth for retail in the burgh, except from Ascension Day to the feast of St. Peter and Vincula; between which terms they were allowed to cut their cloths for sale, and buy and sell their cloths and wares as freely as the burgesses. This long period, from ten days after Easter to the 1st of August, allowed for strangers retailing, was a great relaxation of the privileges of exclusive trade. A singular privilege follows. No tavern (taberna) is to be allowed in any place within the sheriffdom of Perth, except where a person of knightly degree is lord of that place, and lives in it; and then only one tavern. This was plainly to secure for the burgesses the monopoly of retailing drink over the whole county, if that could be effected by a royal charter. The king grants to the burgesses the right of having their merchant guild, excluding fullers and weavers (fullones et telarii). This curious exclusion of artizans, not generally ranked as merchants, I do not pretend to explain.

We may conjecture that the trades employed in the making of cloths had risen to greater wealth than the other craftsmen, and had pretended to an equality and participation of the privileges of the merchant guild, which it required the royal authority to repress. The charter next prohibits any one from making cloth, dyed or shorn, within the sheriffdom, except a burgess and gild brother, paying his share of the town burdens and royal aids; and any cloth found contrary to that prohibition, is to be dealt with according to the custom that existed in the time of king David. The king prohibits strangers from buying or selling hides or wool, anywhere but in the burgh.

We learn from this charter both the favourite monopolies which formed the distinction of those early burghs, and something of the trade and manufactures that were then carried on among us. I shall have occasion to speak of these last more fully hereafter.

Aberdeen owed its origin to the Church, but the village which grew up at the mouth of the Don round the bishop's cathedral, was soon overtopped by the offset which had been attracted by the better harbour and the fishings of the river Dee. The first of the extant charters of Aberdeen informs us of the existence of that league among the northern burghs of Scotland, taking its name from the German Hanse, and, like its great namesake in after times, doubtless a combination for mutual defence and counsel. The charter is very short:— "William, by the grace of God, king of Scots, to all good men of his whole land, greeting: Be it known that I have granted, and by this charter, confirm to my burgesses of Aberdeen, and to all my burgesses of Moray, and all my burgesses dwelling on the north part of the Munth, their free Anse, to be held where they choose, and when they choose, as freely as their ancestors had their Anse in the time of my grandfather king David. Wherefore I prohibit any from vexing or disturbing them while holding the same, under pain of my full forfeiture." This document, while it serves to indicate that the individuals in whose favour it was conceived could not have been united into a single burghal community in the present meaning of the terms, may be regarded as proving, that among the traders of the country, there had been formed a federal connection, and that to the north of the Grampian mountains there existed a set of hanse towns, whose alliance, and whose common privileges and immunities had been recognised and protected at least as early as the reign of king David I. The only other charter of William, preserved in the city archives, grants to the burgesses of Aberdeen in terms, the privileges granted to Perth by William.

Aberdeen benefited, no doubt, by being the port of the bishop's see. But its harbour, on an inhospitable coast, and the produce of its mountain pastures and its river, drew to it, at a very early period, an extensive foreign trade, which placed it immediately after Edinburgh and Berwick in the scale of commerce.

The archives of the burgh of Inverness are rich in burghal history. In them is preserved a charter of William the Lion, granting to "his burgesses of Moray," the common privilege against suffering distraint for the debts of others. The same king granted to the burgesses of Inverness specifically, exemption from toll and custom over all Scotland; the exclusive privilege of trade in the burgh and county; and conferred upon them, in property, the Burgh Haugh. The burgesses were taken bound, on the other hand, to construct and maintain constantly in good repair, a fosse and palisade, which the king was to make round the town.

The next charter to this burgh, also by king William, is more remarkable. It grants to the burgesses exemption from wager of battle. They were no longer to be obliged to do battle at the appeal of any one, but might support their cause by oath. This, however, was not the oath of witnesses knowing the truth, but the oath of compurgators, swearing their belief that the cause was good. The charter, as a farther boon, reduced the necessary number of compurgators for the burgesses of Moray by one half, and the amount of their forfeit, that is apparrently of the king's amercement, to the half of that of other burgesses.

The remaining charter of William, to Inverness, gives a right of a weekly market, and assures the "king's peace" to those frequenting it. It grants to the burgesses all the laws and customs which the burgesses of the other burghs possess, and concedes in terms, the privileges of exclusive trade within the county I have already mentioned as granted to Perth.

I fear to exhaust your patience with these details of charters, but I must still direct your attention to one of considerable interest locally, and also to the legal antiquary. In the year 1197, King William had built a castle on the river Ayr, and had encouraged the settlement of a town or burgh, where probably a village had long existed. About ten years after, he granted a charter to Ayr. In it the king sets forth that he has made a burgh (burgum fecisse) at his new castle upon Are, and has granted to the burgh and its burgesses all the liberties and free consuetudes which his other burghs and burgesses through his kingdom enjoy. He then grants to the resident burgesses exemption from toll or petty custom everywhere, as in other burgh charters. He grants a territory by named boundaries now not easy to ascertain. Each burgess holding a full toft, is to have a right to six acres, which he may clear of wood, the reddendo for the toft and six acres, twelve pence. Toll and other customs due to the burgh are to be levied at certain places named, apparently on the outward boundaries of the territory granted.

Upon this charter, which is evidently the first charter of the burgh, the most learned of our constitutional lawyers has remarked, That in it, as in all others of the same early date, there are evidently no words of incorporation — such, at least, as would now be deemed requisite; and the obvious inference seems to be, either that the mere denomination of burgus in a royal grant was held sufficiently to import the immediate creation of a corporate character in the inhabitants, or, as seems more probable, that such artificial unions, instead of being the sudden product of royal prerogative, were the slow and natural growth of circumstances and situation. It is in accordance with this supposition, that the original right and character of burgess appear to have depended on the actual possession of real property within the burgh. In this charter the meaning seems to be, that all those are to be burgesses of Ayr, and entitled to the peculiar privileges thereby conferred, "who shall come to inhabit the burgh and shall be there abiding." And in some of the earliest charters to other burghs royal, similar declarations are contained, from which it seems just to infer, not merely that a freeman was bound to acquire property within the burgh, but that such acquisition constituted the prime, if not the sole qualification, and entitled him to those privileges and immunities, which constituted the peculiar advantages of burghership. [Thomas Thomson, lnirod. to Scotch Burgh Reports, p. 11.]

While the sovereign was raising the third estate by the security and privileges of his burghs, the great lords of the Church, desirous to participate in the advantages of trade which attended them, obtained privileges of the same nature for the towns and villages that sprung up round their cathedrals and abbeys.

I have already mentioned the origin of St. Andrews. Each of the episcopal sees, and many of the great monasteries, in like manner obtained foundations and rights of trading for their dependent villages. Some of these never rose much beyond their original condition. Dunkeld, Dumblane, Rosmarkie, Dornoch, continued the dependent rural villages which their old masters had made them. Arbroath and Paisley, the one by a small foreign trade, the other by manufacture, rose a little in importance. But amongst these, Glasgow stands the chief. The charter of King William, which gave to the Bishop the privilege of having a burgh at Glasgow, with a market on Thursday, was granted between the years 1175 and 1178. We smile at the present day to think of the oppression which the bishop's burgh of barony long suffered from the royal burgh of Rutherglen. Even after 1450, when the bishop had obtained a jurisdiction of regality, and Glasgow rose a step in the scale, it had to maintain a struggle against the king's burghs of Renfrew and Dumbarton, which sought to monopolise the trade of the river, as Rutherglen did to circumscribe the city to landward. Though represented in Parliament so early as 1576, and emancipated at the Reformation from subjection to the bishop, who formerly controlled the election of its magistrates, the city did not become legally a royal burgh, till the charter of Charles I., confirmed in parliament 1636. It was not even for some time after that Glasgow began to put forth its hidden strength and capacity for improvement. Since the beginning of last century, its progress in manufacture and trade, in wealth and splendour, has been rapid beyond any parallel.

Unity of interest naturally produced union among the burghs of Scotland. We have already seen a hanse or league established among those north of the Grampians, including Aberdeen, as early as the reign of David I. The southern burghs had a yet more definite and solemn combination. As early almost as we have any knowledge of the constitution of burghs, the greater burghs of the south seem to have held assemblies in which the great Chamberlain of the kingdom presided. From thence is supposed to have emanated the collection of the laws of the burghs in the time of David. In the thirteenth century they were called the court or parliament of the four burghs, Edinburgh, Berwick, Roxburgh and Stirling. In 1368, when Berwick and Roxburgh had fallen into the power of the English, Lanark and Linlithgow were substituted for them. This burgher parliament acted as councillors to the Chamberlain in judging of burgh causes appealed from his air or circuit, and also made laws and regulations for trade and burgh affairs. Haddington appears to have been their established place of meeting, but it necessarily varied; and in 1454 it was fixed by royal charter at Edinburgh. Before that time "the court of the four burghs" had extended its constitution, and summoned to its meetings commissioners from all the burghs royal south of Spey. In the course of the following century the ancient burgher court or parliament had merged in the Convention of Burghs, of which it is not necessary to speak. I believe it still exists.

Besides this parliamentary process for consultation, the burghs of Scotland advised with each other upon any question or difficulty that occurred in their administration; and, having ascertained the prevailing custom in the several towns, they unhesitatingly adopted that as law. Some of these evidences of fraternity appear to me of singular interest. At a very early period it appears that a doubt arose as to the right of alienating real property on deathbed. The burgesses of Perth, Lanark, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen, took an interest in the question, and reported the custom of their burghs to be against such alienation, whether the lands were of inheritance or of "conquest," and the customary law being thus ascertained, it forthwith appears upon the statute book, running, " consuetudo burgorum est."

[The consultation, queries, and answers, are preserved in the old law MSS. The law, as founded on their usage, runs thus:-

A seke Burges may nochtanaly

It is for to wyt that the custom of the Burgh is that na man lyande in bedde of dedde ony landis the quhilk he has heritably in burgh na yhete other the quhilk he purchest in his hele fra the verray ayre may analy or till ony other geyff or sell but gif it war sua that he war sua gretly constreignit throu nede that it behovit hym algatis do for nede has na law And that his ayre walde nocht or for poverte is nocht of pouer his faderis nede to stanche or his dett to pay redyly.—Leges Burgorum, c. 101.]

In other cases of difficulty the Scotch burghs wished to learn the practice of the burghs of England ; and in two of these the response of the burgh of Newcastle appears to have settled the doubt, for the precise words of that answer form the law as it stands recorded among the laws of the burghs of Scotland.

[Of ane Burges ejected furth of his Possession.

This is the assise of the New Castell that gif ony man of ony burgh war in the possession of ony land quhether it be rycht-wysely or wrangwisly & sua cummys ane othir in sayand that he is veray ayre of that ilk lande and hym out puttis that was in possession of his awn authoritie and withouten dome. Quharfor it is askit at us Burges of the New Castell quhether he that was first in possession sal recover his sesing befor that he answer till him that put him out. To that than ansuer we that he that was first in possession rychtwisly or unrychtwisly sall all tym first recouer his possession, and efter that gif he tyn his possession in forme of law & dome that he is halden to doo. And he that puttis him out be his awn proper authority and will sall remayne in the kingis amerciament.—Leg. Burg.,c. 99.]

Travellers have been so occupied with the natural beauties of Scotland that they have paid too little attention to the beauty of our towns. Their sites are generally surprisingly fine; I do not speak only of those most known and celebrated — Perth, Edinburgh, Inverness — but of all our rural capitals. The excellence of their building materials has, I suppose, induced the citizens to lay them out on a spacious plan. There is at once an airiness and a solidity, and in many of them an approach to grandeur, which we seek in vain in the provincial towns of other countries. Our old burgesses loved to copy the steep roofs and tall gables of their Flemish allies in trade; and the towns they have built in imitation of them, stand better on the banks of our rivers and firths, and backed by our mountains, than even the fine old cities of decayed splendour on the shores of the Zuyder Zee, or the Great Canal. Setting aside Glasgow as something too large to deal with as one of a class, our Scotch burghs seems to me the natural, healthy and happy growth of an industrious and steadily progressive country. The privileges, necessary at first perhaps for their existence, and so beneficial to the country, they have gradually abandoned, as they appeared to obstruct an extending commerce. Their citizens have always worthily filled the important place and functions of a third estate. In early times, I mean when the old Church was no longer efficient, they were the zealous supporters and encouragers of a liberal education. When there was less mixture of ranks than at present, and more gross immorality they were free from many of the temptations and many of the vices of the rural gentry. Not extremely given to busy themselves in public affairs, they yet took a reasonable interest, a patriotic concern in the affairs of the country, so far as the perversion of their ancient free constitution (now restored) gave them power. Above all, their steady industry and active enterprise— quite removed from the mad speculations that now surround us — their honest frugality, and simple primitive manners, not rarely united with some accomplishment and learning [Many of the old citizen-merchants of Edinburgh had studied at the University, and appear in the lists of graduates.] — formed a class of men that I should be sorry to think was altogether extinct.


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