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The Social and Industrial history of Scotland, from the Union to the present time
Eighteenth Century: 3. The Progress of Industry and Commerce


The Union was at first a dismal disappointment from the material point of view and the disappointment lasted till the fourth decade of the century. Scotland expected a burst of prosperity from freedom of trade with England and its colonies which did not come. Instead of it came increased taxation, with loss of her French trade and no appreciable expansion of trade with England and the colonies in return. The politicians who had carried the Union against bitter opposition seemed to have sold their country for a mess of pottage. The revenue did not by a long way balance the expenditure of Government. Customs and Excise produced very much less than before the Union and the decrease was greatly helped by the smuggling of wine, brandy, and tea. Coin was very scarce and paper money almost the only currency. Lack of capital, which the Union failed to produce, lamed every effort at economic development. Monopoly and privilege were still jealously guarded by the royal burghs against the non-royal, and the old narrow and selfish spirit still dominated the guilds, especially the merchant guilds in their attitude towards the craft guilds. The 2,000 annually granted for seven years by the terms of the Treaty of Union, for the purpose of developing manufactures and fisheries, were allowed to accumulate without practical application to this object. Internal trade was hampered by bad roads and primitive means of transport.

Even in the dreary years succeeding the Union there were, however, signs of the approach of the prosperity which it made possible. In 1727 Parliament appointed a Commission, subsequently known as the Board of Manufactures, to administer the fund for the encouragement of industry, particularly the linen industry, offered premiums for the cultivation of lint and hemp and prizes to housewives who made the best piece of linen cloth, and established spinning schools for teaching the children to spin. The effect of this legislation ere long appeared in a notable advance of the linen manufacture, for the improvement of which ten skilled Frenchmen with their families were brought from France and settled on what subsequently became known as Picardy Place, Edinburgh. The spinning and also the weaving of linen yarn were begun or developed all over the country, and this ancient industry entered on its career of growing prosperity throughout the rest of the century. Already in the first decade after the passing of the Act the number of yards of linen cloth manufactured had risen from about two to over four and a half millions and the value from 103,000 to 185,000. Ten years later, in 1748, the figures were well on to seven and a half millions, valued at fully 424,000. Part of the credit of its further development was due to the British Linen Company, incorporated in 1746, which provided the manufacturers with capital and material and carried on an extensive linen trade until it restricted its business to that of banking, as the British Linen Company Bank.

Progress in the woollen industry, to which the Commissioners assigned a much smaller proportion of the available fund, was much less rapid. In 1733, while fairly thriving at Edinburgh, Kilmarnock, and Stirling, it was still in a backward state at places like Hawick and Galashiels, where it subsequently became the staple industry. English competition after the Union also tended to retard its progress. The fishing industry, to which the Commissioners gave substantial financial aid, was also but slowly developed. Compared with the previous century it had, in fact, greatly declined, and owing to this decline, partly due to the increase of the salt duties after the Union, which made fish curing unprofitable, the enterprising Dutch reaped by far the greater part of the harvest of Scottish waters. Despite the inducement of herring bounties and the institution of " The Society of Free British Fishery," from the middle of the century onwards progress was very slow, and, with the exception of Wick, was confined to the West Coast, where Campbelltown and Stornoway prospered into thriving centres of the industry.

Commerce, like industry, derived little immediate advantage from the Union. What the Union was capable of accomplishing in the way of commercial expansion is, however, shown by the rising prosperity of Glasgow and Greenock, which it favourably affected before its beneficial influence was felt in the general trade of the country. The Treaty threw open to the merchants on the Clyde the trade with the colonies, from which they had previously benefitted only by illicit trading in evasion of the Navigation Laws. Greenock had prepared the way for this development by constructing a spacious harbour between 1707 and 1710, and in 1719 its first ship sailed for the West. A year earlier Glasgow, which had carried on what little oversea trade it possessed in vessels chartered from Whitehaven, had preceded it in the dispatch of its first vessel across the Atlantic. In less than twenty years the number of its ships had risen to sixty-seven. The establishment of the linen manufacture in 1725 added to the limited variety of exported goods, and the import of colonial products, especially tobacco, greatly increased its wealth in spite of the competition and hostility of western English ports. Glasgow ere long, in fact, ranked next to London as a centre of the tobacco trade.

In the second half of the century came at last the industrial and commercial expansion of which these beginnings were the modest anticipation. In 1772 there were two hundred and fifty-two lint mills in Scotland. Ten years later the linen manufacture was carried on in every county except Peebles and Clackmannan. Forfarshire led by a long way; Fife, Perth, Renfrew, and Lanark coming next, the total number of yards for the whole country being nearly fifteen and a half millions, valued at 775,000. In 1798 the number of yards had swelled to about twenty-one and a quarter millions, with a value of 850,000. In certain parts of the country, however, the industry had declined before the end of the century. In the northern counties, for instance, at Edinburgh, long famous for its damasks, which in quality and price stood very high, and at Glasgow where, by the end of it, the cotton manufacture had largely displaced that of linen. The tendency was ultimately in the following century towards the concentration of the industry in the counties of Fife, Perth, and Forfar, where the introduction of improved machinery and steam propulsion enormously increased the output. The making of linen thread was also prosecuted at various places, such as Inverness, Banff, Aberdeen, and especially at Paisley, where it was introduced in 1725 from Holland, and became, and has ever since remained, a distinctive industry. The process of bleaching was improved by Dr Home by the application of a mixture of water and sulphuric acid. Chlorine, which was applied by the French chemist Berthollet in 1785, was introduced at Aberdeen in 1787. About ten years later chloride of lime was substituted by Mr Tennant of Glasgow.

In 1733 Patrick Lindsay, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, had emphasised in his book The Interest of Scotland Considered the deficiencies that hampered the woollen industry. Forty-three years later Mr Lock in his " Essays on Trade " was able to chronicle considerable progress in the spinning and weaving of woollen yarn which was carried on at Edinburgh, Dalkeith, Musselburgh, Tranent, Haddington, Dunbar, Linton, Linlithgow, Galashiels, Hawick, Melrose, Kelso, Jedburgh, Peebles, Selkirk, Moffat, Dumfries, Sanquhar, Ayr, Kilmarnock, Glasgow, Stirling, Alloa, Perth, Montrose, Aberdeen, Peterhead, Elgin, Inverness. Weaving was also carried on in every village from the yarn spun in the homes of the people. Besides cloth, blankets, carpets, stockings, and flannels were manufactured. In the making of carpets Kilmarnock ultimately took the lead, the value of its production being estimated at 21,000 in 1791. Aberdeenshire was preeminent in the stocking industry, which represented an annual value of 120,000, until it was displaced by Hawick, where the stocking frame was first introduced in 1771, and other southern towns The application of improved machinery in the carding, spinning, and weaving of wool, as in the case of the linen manufacture, greatly increased production, though the full effect of this departure was felt only in the next century. Whilst the invention of this machinery was first brought into exercise in connection with the cotton industry in England, it was easily adapted to the manufacture of woollen and linen stuffs. Hargreaves' invention of the spinning jenny in 1767, which worked several spindles at once, multiplied the number of cotton threads spun at the same time by a single spinner. His invention was improved by Arkwright and Comp-ton (the spinning frame and the spinning mule) during the next dozen years. Arkwright also produced an improved carding machine, and soon after (1785) Cartwright invented the power loom to take the place of the handloom, which similarly facilitated the weaving of the thread into cotton cloth. These improvements had to run the gauntlet of popular prejudice and ill-will which found expression in riots in Lancashire. Increased production by machinery was regarded as tending to lessen employment and lower wages, and time was needed to show that the improving and cheapening of manufacture would inevitably increase the demand for the goods manufactured and thus increase the number of hands employed. Some years later (1794) Mr Bell of Glasgow also constructed a machine to supersede the hand loom, which was improved by Mr Miller of the same city, and was brought into practical use in 1810 in a factory at Pollockshaws. The application of steam and water power to the driving of this machinery further prepared the way for the textile development of the next century.

The cotton industry, which these inventions were devised to improve, was introduced into Scotland in 1778 by an English company, which built a small cotton mill at Rothesay. Ten years later about a score, driven by water power, had been established, eight of them in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, three in Perthshire, and two in Midlothian, and a number of factories were set up on the Solway in the south-west, which were, however, shortlived. Lanarkshire ere long took the lead, that at New Lanark being founded by David Dale, whose manager and son-in-law, Robert Owen, was not only one of the pioneers of the cotton industry, but a social reformer who evinced a rare practical interest in the workpeople and made New Lanark a model village. Glasgow and the Clyde district became the centre of the industry. Calico garments ere long vied with woollen, and the expanding trade in cotton goods was favoured by the heavy duties imposed on Indian calicos and muslins and by an abundant supply of all too cheap labour.

Relative progress is observable in a number of other industries. At Edinburgh and Glasgow the tanning and manufacture of leather were carried on, and Edinburgh in particular became famous for its production of leather goods. It supplied the army with large quantities of boots during and after the American War as well as maintained a large export trade with the West Indies. Snuff boxes, writing cases, drinking mugs, etc., were made of this material which, in virtue of a special process, acquired the appearance of tortoise shell and made it capable of a high polish. Edinburgh also took the lead in coach-building, whose development was due to John Home, who in 1738 went to London to perfect his knowledge of the trade and, on his return, introduced new tools and trained a number of workmen to become experts in constructing the various parts of a coach. The result was a rapid development of the industry and a large export trade to the Continent. Paper making also found its chief seat in the Edinburgh district, the oldest mill being at Valleyfield, Penicuick, which was started in 1709. Whilst in 1763 there were only three mills in the district, which produced 6400 reams annually, the number had grown to twelve ten years later, with a production of 100,000 reams. Printing advanced with the advance in paper making from four printing offices in Edinburgh about the middle of the century to twenty-seven in 1779. Glasgow, however, surpassed Edinburgh in the excellence if not the quantity of its printed books, and the brothers Foulis of that city brought out between 1744 and 1770 a series of classical works whose typography challenges comparison with that of any other country. Newspaper enterprise had also started on its prosperous career in Edinburgh and Glasgow and in some other towns. The Glasgow Journal, which flourished for over a century, dates from 1729. The Glasgow Herald was begun in 1783, though it then, and for twenty years after,- bore the name of The Advertiser; The Glasgow Courier in 1791. The establishment of The Edinburgh Advertiser in 1764 was due to the enterprise first of Alexander Donaldson, and afterwards his son, James Donaldson, who made a large fortune as printer and publisher, which he bequeathed for the endowment of Donaldson's Hospital. The Edinburgh Gazette was begun in 1699, though the official publication under this name was not started till near the close of the eighteenth century. The Evening Courant, which survived till 1886, followed in 1718; The Caledonian Mercury, incorporated in 1867 with The Scotsman, two years later; The Edinburgh Weekly Journal in 1744; and The Aberdeen Journal, which still survives, in 1748. Other provincial papers established within the century were The Kelso Mail (1797), and The Greenock Advertiser (1799). The Scots Magazine first appeared in 1789, to be followed by The Weekly Magazine, started by Walter Ruddiman at Edinburgh in 1768.

Leith and, later, Edinburgh led the way in the manufacture of glass; Glasgow, where the first pottery was founded in 1748, in that of earthenware; Greenock in sugar refining, though it was anticipated by Edinburgh and Leith in attempts, which were not very successful, to develop this industry. Edinburgh further gained supremacy in the brewing industry in spite of the malt tax which was extended to Scotland in 1725, and produced a serious riot at Glasgow, whilst the distilling of whisky, licit and illicit, was supreme in the Highlands and its consumption, which was favoured by smuggling, gained materially in the course of the century on that of beer. Edinburgh also maintained the preeminence in the making of plate and jewellery which it had inherited from an earlier time, of which the Hospital endowed by George Heriot, the enterprising goldsmith of James VI, who left part of his large fortune for this purpose, I is the fitting memorial.

Coal had long been used as fuel on a limited scale in Scotland. As early as the twelfth century power was granted to the monks of Holyrood to work coal in the lands of Carriden, near Bo'ness, and in the beginning of the thirteenth the coal in the estate of Tranent was made over by charter to the monks of Newbattle. At the end of it that on the estate of Pittencrief was granted to the monks of Dunfermline. It seems to have been used largely in connection with salt works, but the growing scarcity of wood led to its more general use and by the end of the sixteenth century it was bumed in hall and kitchen as well as forge. Its value as fuel had become so generally recognised that Acts were passed in this century by the Scottish Parliament prohibiting its export. In the seventeenth century an export duty was substituted for this prohibition.

At first the supply seems to have been obtained from the out-croppings of seams on river banks or in valleys. Later a primitive form of mining was adopted by driving tunnels into the seams. This method was superseded by the more effective one of sinking shafts from the surface down to the seams and raising the coal and pumping out the water by various contrivances. For this purpose a steam engine was first applied in Scotland in 1762. Means were devised for ventilating the workings as the shafts were deepened, and the expedient consisted at first of causing a rush of air from the surface down the shaft by means of a furnace at the mouth of the workings. Under these conditions the life of the miner was a most laborious and dangerous one and the labour was intolerable and demoralising in the case in which women and children were employed to carry the coal from the workings to the surface. His lot was aggravated by an old law of 1606 which made him in many mines virtually a serf, and which was extended in 1661 to all other colliery workers. He was "thirled" for life to the mine in which he worked and sold along with the land to the proprietor who bought it. If he ran away or entered the service of another mine owner, he was liable to be punished as a thief who had " stolen " himself and his service from his master. To assist detection a collar was rivetted on his neck with the name of the owner on it. The same restriction applied to the workers in salt pans. In return the master was bound to maintain his serfs in sickness and old age and provide for their burial. Their wages were relatively high compared with those of the free miners—2s. 6d. a day in 1763, or about three times that of a day labourer of the same period. Their existence and that of their women and children was, however, little above that of the brutes and there certainly was ample reason for the passing, in 1775, of the Act which abolished such servile conditions for those who after this date should "begin to work as colliers and salters," and emancipated those under a given age who were already engaged in these occupations. The act was not inspired by humanitarian motives, but by the necessity of attracting more workers to the developing industry, and it was not till 1799 that an additional act absolutely abolished the baneful system.

Progress in the mining, smelting, and manufacture of iron ore is connected with the establishment of the Carron Iron Works in 1760. The smelting of iron ore was an ancient Scottish industry, as the remains of the numerous bloomeries show. These were mostly situated in the Highlands where the necessary wood for making the charcoal used in the process was obtainable. The ore was transported to these forests for the reason that it was more compact and portable than the timber. The establishment of the Carron Works led to a great change both in the method and the locality of the iron industry. Their founder was Dr Roebuck who was born at Sheffield in 1718, had studied medicine at Edinburgh University, practised as a physician at Birmingham, ultimately devoted himself to chemistry, and established a manufactory of sulphuric acid at Prestonpans. He then turned his attention to the smelting of iron ore and found on the Carron, near Falkirk, a spot well suited by the combination in the district of ironstone, coal, and water power for the realisation of his plan of establishing an iron foundry. He found that coal in the form of coke could be used more effectively in smelting than charcoal, and from the English engineer Smeaton he obtained valuable assistance in the provision of more powerful blast cylinders, which the substitution of coke for charcoal in the furnaces rendered necessary. I These blowing engines were worked by means of water wheels, but the extension of the works rendered the supply of water, inadequate. To make good this defect James Watt erected a steam engine for pumping the water back into a reservoir and thus procuring the additional power. The works ordinarily employed about 1000, besides miners and other workmen, and the iron produced was wrought into cannon cast solid and bored I by drills not only for the British, but every European Government, pipes, cylinders, sugar boilers, anchors, stoves, and grates. The variety of ore used was the "clayband," the superior "blackband" not being discovered till the beginning of the next century. The construction of the Forth and Clyde Canal from Grangemouth to Bowling, near Glasgow, begun in 1768, and completed in 1790, greatly aided the development I of the foundry, which by the end of the century had become the largest in Europe. New furnaces were erected in the shires of | Lanark, Ayr, and Fife, and in 1796 the number had risen to seventeen, producing 18,640 tons of pig-iron annually. ' Industrial expansion by encouraging home and foreign trade had a marked effect on the increase of shipbuilding on the Clyde and in some of the eastern ports. Leith, which had only 2,285 tons of shipping in 1744, had .increased its tonnage to 18,000 in 1792, which was engaged mainly in the Baltic trade. In 1779

it launched its first ship of war for the Navy—the Fury of 16 guns—since, it is said, the reign of James VI. The shipping of the Fife ports, long decadent, revived in the second half of the century and at the end of it Dysart and Kirkcaldy had each 4000 tons. By this time Grangemouth was a busy port with a large coasting and Baltic trade. About twenty-five ships belonged to its neighbour Bo'ness, while there was some shipbuilding at Kincardine-on-Forth. Further north Dundee, Montrose, and Aberdeen were also becoming thriving ports, the tonnage belonging to Aberdeen being in 1800 23,236, that of Dundee 8,741, of Montrose 6,555. Whilst Glasgow had only 5,600 tons in 1735, it was credited with fully ten times this number in 1771—an evident exaggeration. By the deepening of the Clyde by means of dredging, which was carried out by the engineer Golborne and completed in 1773, vessels drawing not more than from 7 to 8 feet of water were enabled to reach the Broomielaw. But the larger vessels discharged at Port-Glasgow, which belonged to the Glasgow Corporation, and an extensive traffic was carried on between it and the Broomielaw by a fleet of flat-bottomed boats called garbarts, which gave employment to a large number of bargemen. The lead in shipbuilding and in the number of its registered ships was held by Greenock, which in 1800 possessed 35,057 tons. Shipbuilding was also carried on at Ayr, and Irvine had 5,783 tons of shipping. The total for the whole country shows a substantial increase during the second half of the century, though the increase seems to have fluctuated according as the country was at peace or war. In 1763 it owned 1,062 vessels of about 60,000 tons, in 1770 1,509 with a tonnage of 88,849. In 1792 it had risen to 2,143 with a total tonnage of 162,274, manned by 18,491 seamen. There was a decline till the end of the century, due apparently to the war with France, the figures in 1799 being 2,031 with a tonnage of 148,110.

The increase in shipping was paralleled by the increase in imports and exports. In 1760 the imports were valued at 850,792, the exports at 1,086,205. In 1774, before the outbreak of the American War, they had increased by 202,276 and 372,142 respectively. There was a falling off in the trade with

America during the war and in 1782 the balance of import over export was against Scotland to the extent of fully 155,000. But in 1800 the imports had more than doubled the figures reached in 1774 and the exports were close on millions, the balance being well in favour of Scotland. The excise revenue of 30,000 in 1707 had swelled in 1797 to 1,293,084.

In addition to the business capacity and energy of merchants and manufacturers, finance played an important part in developing the rising prosperity of the country. The three principal banks that had been established in Edinburgh before the middle of the century—the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank, and the British Linen Company—and banking firms such as Coutts & Co., extended their activity to the provincial towns. Others such as the Perth Banking Company, the Glasgow Arms Bank, and the Ayr Bank, were founded in these towns, in spite of the efforts of the older companies to crush them. Banking, which had long been pursued by merchants as part of their miscellaneous business, became a separate profession, and the indiscriminate issue of paper money to make good the lack of bullion was decisively checked by Act of Parliament in 1765 in the interest of an improved and reliable currency.


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