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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXX - Alexander Burnet's Second Archbishopric

THE failure of Leighton's efforts at conciliating the Covenanters of the south-western counties made it quite clear to the Privy Council that it had to deal with people whose real purpose was the overthrow of the Government itself. At the conventicles, which became more and more desperate in character, the preachers did not hesitate to declare that they considered themselves free from allegiance to a perjured king, and they quoted Scripture to justify the most violent measures against that king and his agents, as malignant persecutors of the true religion. To the conventicles the audiences came armed and in ever greater numbers, and it seemed that only a spark was required to set the whole west country aflame in open rebellion. In these circumstances, a firm hand being obviously required, Alexander Burnet was reinstated in the Archbishopric of Glasgow. It is unfortunate that in the histories of that time, written from the Covenanting side, a constant endeavour is made to belittle and besmirch the personal character of political opponents, and to represent them either as monsters of cruelty, or as profligates or miserable time-servers. Thus VVodrow gravely records a rumour that Burnet secured his return to office by sacrificing the claims of his daughter to her jointure as widow of the heir of Elphinstone, in favour of Lauderdale's niece, who was to marry the next heir.' The statement is not supported anywhere. [1 Woodrow, ii. 144.]

The forefront of Burnet's offending was the firmness with which he at once proceeded to deal with the situation in his archbishopric. On 6th October, 1674, when Glasgow Town Council met for the annual election of a provost and magistrates, it was presented with a letter from the new archbishop, nominating John Bell to be chief magistrate. Bell had held the office before, so was evidently a competent person, but Burnet did not wait for his name to be presented in the usual leet, and at once the new provost proceeded to show the purpose of his appointment by ordering six persons to be sent for to fill the places of six councillors, including the Deacon-Convener, who had not taken the Declaration of allegiance, and were therefore by law excluded from holding office. Several councillors pointed out that the provost could not do this without advice and consent of the Council itself, but Bell answered that the Council had done wrong in allowing so many men to sit without taking the Declaration, and that for this reason his nominations must stand. For the same reason he excluded the former provost, William Anderson, from taking part in nominating the new Council. This action resulted in what would now be called a "scene " in the Council, most of the members leaving in a body. But the provost himself and James Colquhoun, bailie, the only two left, went on to call in a quorum of citizens, and forthwith elected a Council for the following year. [Burgh Records, iii. 186-8.]

Under this new Council the town's affairs were vigorously attended to. Glasgow was evidently developing rapidly in many ways. In October, 1673, the first coffee-house in the city was established by Colonel Walter Whiteford on a monopoly of nineteen years, [Ibid. 172. The first coffee-house in London was established in 1654, and the second in Scotland at Edinburgh in 1677 (Chambers, Domestic Annals, ii. 359-60).] and at the same time the Town Council granted permission for the building of a "soparie," or soapwork, in Candleriggs. M'Ure describes this as "a great work, consisting of four lodgings, cellars, houses of store, and other conveniences for trade, being a pretty square court." He states that the company was formed in 1667 by "nine persons of distinction," who each contributed £1,500 sterling of capital. It built a fleet of four ships, including one, the Lion, of 700 tons burden, carrying forty pieces of ordnance, for the Straits and Greenland fishing. [Burgh Records, 173. Hist. Glasg. 1830, p. 227.]

In April, 1675, arrangements were made for the start of still another industry in Candleriggs, when the Town Council deputed the provost, bailies, and Deacon-Convener to measure off and grant in feu, as much of the town's land there as would serve John Cauldwall and his partners for the building of a "suggarie," or sugar refinery. The actual rates of feu-duty were not settled till 1679, when they were arranged to be 3s. Scots (3d. Stg.) per ell of frontage on the west side of the street and 4s. per ell on the east side. [Ibid. iii. 197, 265.] Meanwhile, by way of giving better access to the "suggarie," "soparie," and candle-houses "at the back of the flesh-market," the city fathers bought ground in High Street above the Cross from James Bell of Provosthaugh and others, and formed the passage known as Bell's Wynd, now widened into Bell Street. [Ibid. iii. 213, 216, 223.] M'Ure, writing in 1736, says of this passage, " Bell's Wynd hath a noble gate and entry of curious workmanship that excells all others in the city. The Wynd stretches from the Kirk Street, and is of length 220 ells and 10 ells wide. In it is the mutton market." This appears to have been the first Glasgow thoroughfare to be named after an individual.

The Council also paid zealous attention to the educational needs of the community, taking care that the Grammar School, for instance, was kept supplied with competent teachers, or "doctours," as they were called. The stipend paid these "doctours" appears modest in the extreme. In 1674 John Wingate, who by his title of " Mr." was a university graduate, represented to the Town Council that his salary of £100 per annum (£5 sterling) was not enough to maintain himself and his family, and the Council granted an augmentation of £20. The salaries of the city ministers at that time were from £900 to £1,000 (£45 to £50 sterling). But the Grammar School doctors could probably count on substantial additions to their income from certain feu-duties, scholars' fees and Candlemas gifts, the daily peats brought in for firing, and "fugies," or beaten cocks from the cock-fights.

Apart from the classical teaching of the Grammar School, which was the stepping-stone to the University, adequate provision was made for the teaching of writing, reading, and arithmetic. French and navigation were subsidized; music, dancing, and fencing were provided ; and the Council even paid a mistress of manners a hundred merks yearly in order that the young women of the town might have the means of acquiring good breeding. [Burgh Records, iii. 24, III, 120, 180, 308, 475.]

Sport and physical culture, as well, received encouragement. In 1665 the provost was directed to make arrangements for a Glasgow race-meeting, and payments were made to a goldsmith for the making of prize cups for the occasion. And in April, 1675, the Council organized and provided a prize of 20s. sterling for a foot-race to be run thrice round the New Green. At the same time a town piper was appointed to regale the citizens every morning and evening, at a wage of 100 merks per annum; a year later a town's trumpeter was appointed with the same remuneration; and free burgess-ship and exemption from billeting were granted to a "common cook," or restaurateur, to induce him to set up "ane guid hous for serving the Leidges." [Burgh Records, iii. 51, 54, 196, 204.]

In 1678 an agreement was made with William Hume for the running of the first stage-coach between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Hume obtained from the Privy Council a monopoly for seven years, and an exemption from the pressing of his horses for any public service. The coach was to carry six persons, to have six able horses, and to make the journey at least once a week, going on Monday and returning on Saturday. Each passenger was to have liberty to take with him a bag or portmanteau, and the fare was to be £4 16s. Scots, or eight shillings sterling, in the summer months, and £5 8s. Scots in winter. Glasgow subsidized the service with a payment of 200 merks per annum. [Chambers, Doniestic Annals, ii. 392.]

Particularly notable was the care taken to provide for the poor of the city. So far there was no " town's hospital " or poorhouse. Though several private foundations, like St. Nicholas Hospital and Hutchesons' Hospital, lodged and provided for a limited number of decayed citizens, and the Merchants' House and Trades' Incorporations supported members who had fallen on evil days, the civic assistance was meanwhile given only in the shape of a dole. Notwithstanding the efforts made from time to time to expel strangers who had no claim on the city, the burden was already heavy enough for the small community. When the roll of indigent persons was made up by a special committee in 1675, the cost of maintaining the town's poor was settled at £469 4s. Scots per month. At the same time, by way of relieving the public purse as far as possible, a number of the poor were provided with badges allowing them to beg publicly in the town. This appears to have been the earliest effort to deal with paupers in a comprehensive and definite fashion. [Burgh Records, iii. 195, 196, 197.]

But though the number of the city's poor seems to have increased to an alarming extent at that time, Glasgow did not neglect the unfortunate elsewhere. Thus on 30th October, 1675, the Town Council deputed two persons to go through each of the four quarters of the city to collect money for the ransom of Walter Gibson, skipper at Inverkeithing, and John Reid his mate, from slavery with the Turks. [Burgh Records, 195, 211.] It also gave Walter Whyte the sum of £6 sterling to pay his passage to "the wasterne islandis of Birbados."

In the light of modern practice the trading restrictions of that time appear curious and interesting, and entailed much jealous supervision upon the Town Council. Upon a ship entering the river with certain classes of cargo, such as wine, salt, and timber, it was obligatory upon the owner to offer the cargo to the magistrates and Council of the burgh. If the magistrates thought the price too high, and refused to purchase, they might make stipulations that were somewhat awkward for the owner. Thus in January, 1674, two ships entered the Clyde, one loaded with wine, the other with tobacco. The owners asked a price which the magistrates could not see their way to pay. They thereupon gave the merchants permission to sell to anyone else, but coupled the licence with the shrewd stipulation that the cargoes must only be disposed of to a burgess of the city, "in haill saill" (i.e. wholesale), and at a price not less than had been asked from the magistrates themselves. [Ibid. iii. 174.]

In curious contradiction of these conditions were the various enactments of the magistrates against "forstalling of mercatis," or arrangement for the purchase of goods wholesale by one, two, or three persons, before these goods had been offered for sale in open market. In October, 1675, for example, an outstanding case was brought before the Council. Three merchants had made a contract with all the fleshers of the city for the purchase of the hides of all the animals slaughtered up till the following Candlemas. This contract the cordiners, or leather workers, of the burgh regarded as a grievance, a clear case of "forstalling," against which several Acts of Parliament and the use and wont of the kingdom could be cited. After considering the complaint the Council ordered that, after a fortnight, to allow the merchants to recoup themselves for money advanced, the contract should be null and void, and that thenceforth the fleshers must make no forward contract of the kind, but must offer the hides for sale in the open market from day to day, for purchase either by merchants or tradesmen. [Burgh Records, iii. 209.]

Still another stipulation which must have meant considerable inconvenience to the citizens was brought about by the need for preserving a valuable source of the town's revenue. Complaint was made to the magistrates, probably by the renter of the dues of the tron or weigh-house, that several of the inhabitants were buying commodities, such as woollen yarn, butter, tallow, cheese, linen, and tow, and carrying these home to their shops and houses without having them weighed at the tron and paying the dues for that service. The bellman was accordingly sent through the town ordering that all such goods must be weighed and the dues paid to the troner. At that time the tron was farmed to a contractor for 800 merks per annum. [Ibid. iii. 199, 202.]

While the city fathers thus exercised very arbitrary powers over the actions of traders within their gates, they strongly resented any restrictions or interference imposed by anyone else. The chief trouble of this kind at that time was in connection with the city's darling enterprise of establishing a harbour at Port-Glasgow. That enterprise had been costly both in effort and in money, and mention constantly occurs in the records of the Town Council of improvements effected upon the harbour works and town. Thus in June, 1674, a contract was made with a mason to set up three perches on the "lawes," or sand-banks between Newport and Greenock, and in February, 1576, another contract was arranged for the construction of a bulwark, or sea-wall, at a cost of 17,000 merks. [Burgh Records, iii. 180, 215.] Then in August, 1677, an official was appointed to enter in a book at Port-Glasgow the names of all ships coming into the river, and to charge the owners certain dues. Every ship of a hundred tons and over belonging to Glasgow or Dunbarton was to pay a rex dollar, and every ship under a hundred tons 30s. Scots, while for each hundredweight of French salt the dues were to be 13s. 4d. Vessels belonging to any other place were to pay twice as much. [Ibid. iii. 239.]

After all this care, labour, and expense it can be understood that any action likely to damage the prospects of the new harbour town would be regarded with objection and alarm. The magistrates took action, for instance, against Thomas Craufurd for putting up a yair at or near Craufurdsdyke, and obliged him to remove the obstruction. [Ibid. iii. 260.]

Much more serious, however, was the action of certain unfree persons in Greenock. Without the privilege belonging to freemen of royal burgles, these persons had dared to engage in a contraband shipping trade. Greenock was only a burgh of barony, and therefore only allowed to deal in staple commodities in retail. Notwithstanding this disability certain defiant attempts had been made. On one particular occasion, in 1675, the lairds, Shaw of Greenock, Bannatyne of Kelly, and others, had ventured to bring a vessel into the Clyde laden with wine, brandy, and salt, which were staple commodities. While she lay in the roads opposite Ardmore, the magistrates of Glasgow, Renfrew, and Dunbarton seized and carried her into the harbour of Port-Glasgow, where, being tender of everyone's interest, especially the king's and their own, they called in three tide waiters, and had the hatches sealed up. During the following night the indignant owners came with an armed force of zoo or 150 men, in six or seven boats, and attempted to carry off the vessel, wounding several of those on board in the proceeding. The attempt, however, was defeated, and the ship carried for safety under the guns of Dunbarton Castle. The three royal burghs then brought an action against the owners in the Court of Session, and secured a decreet in which it was declared that only royal burghs possessed the privilege of importing "staple commodities," which included wine, brandy, and salt, and that the penalty for contravention of the law was confiscation of the goods or their value. Glasgow, therefore, with the help of the other two royal burghs on the river, won its case, and vindicated the claim of its pendicle, Port-Glasgow, as against the neighbouring and older community of Greenock, to deal in "staple commodities." [Burgh Records, iii. 210, 203, 228, 239, 261. Morrison's Dictionary of Decisions, pp. 1908-1916.]

Sir John Shaw of Greenock was at that time engaged in building up the fortunes of his own little harbour town. Greenock had been disjoined from Inverkip in 1594, and constituted a parish in 1636, while in 1635 it had been made a burgh of barony. Sir John Shaw had built a harbour from which the post and packet boats sailed for Ireland, and in 1670, faced with the rivalry of Port-Glasgow, he secured from Charles II. a charter granting the town the right to trade in "staple commodities," wine, wax, salt, and brandy, as well as other goods and merchandise. The charter, however, was not confirmed by Parliament till 1681, and though it saved Greenock from any penalties in the action brought by the royal burghs, the town was forced to pay an "unfree trade cess" for liberty to carry on its foreign trade. The cess was only eight shillings Scots to begin with, but as the number and tonnage of ships increased it rose till, in 1879, just before it was abolished, it amounted to some £75. Meanwhile the ultimate result of the rival efforts of Charles II.'s time was that Port-Glasgow was made the principal customs station on the Clyde, with Greenock as one of its "creeks," an arrangement which was not reversed till a much later day, when its existence had become a glaring anomaly. [Weir's History of Greenock. CampbelI's Historical Sketches of the Town and Harbours of Greenock.]

It is interesting to note that in this action the counsel employed by Glasgow were Sir George Lockhart and Sir George Mackenzie, at fees of £20 and £10 respectively, the former afterwards Lord President of the Court of Session, shot by Chiesly of Dairy, the latter one of the most cultured Scotsmen of his time, founder of the Advocates' Library, and stigmatized as "the Bluidy Mackenzie" in Covenanting literature. [Burgh Records, iii. 282.]

While these various enterprises and developments were going on, the Town Council used a businesslike acumen in turning its resources to account. In August, 1674, the attention of the burgesses was called to certain former acts by which the occupiers of lands in the city could commute their feu-duties and rents for a single payment at seventeen years' purchase. [Ibid. iii. 181.] In November, 1675, attention was drawn to the fact that for many years owners of houses and lands within the burgh who did not themselves reside there had not been asked to bear any part of the town's burdens, either in cash or in giving quarters to the troops billeted on the citizens. It was accordingly ordered that each non-resident owner should pay twelve merks yearly on every hundred merks of free rental for the six preceding years, and the same sum yearly in all time coming. This was the first approach in Glasgow to a systematic levying of rates on the rental value of property. At the same time the Merchants' House and the Trades' House were asked to consider the Government's Act for levying a duty of four shillings Scots per pint on all brandy "topped and vented" within the burgh. In the end the Town Council improved on the Act of Parliament by ordaining that brandy imported by strangers and retailed in the burgh should pay six shillings per pint, while brandy sold to persons outside the city should be free of the tax. [Burgh Records, iii. 211, 220, 221.] The Town Council had hit upon the rule which governs our excise law at the present day—that exports must be free of tax in order to encourage trade. The method, however, was adopted of farming out the excise to a tacksman.

Similarly with the Town Council the trades' incorporations of the burgh had begun to feel the pressure of their expenses. One after another, beginning with the Hammermen, they approached the city fathers, pointed out the unfairness of admitting outsiders to burgess-ship on the same small payment as was made by those who had served an apprenticeship in the burgh, and secured an ordinance that strangers should thenceforth only be admitted on payment of £100 Scots. [Ibid. 213, 233.] With this modest charge of some five or six pounds sterling began the raising of the cost of burgess-ship, till to-day, in some of the incorporations, the "fine" for entry is as much as three or four hundred pounds.

Considerable sums of ready money for the town's use were secured by the further feuing of the burgh lands. In 1676 the Limehouse Bog was disposed of by auction for the sum of £940 and five merks annual feu-duty; Cowlairs and Seggieholm in the Easter Common, with their pertinents, were sold for three thousand merks and ten merks feu-duty; and certain holdings in the Wester Common were parted with for 2050 merks and ten merks feu-duty. [Ibid. 215, 218.] Among other efforts to raise funds it was remitted to the Dean of Guild and the Deacon-Convener to let "the town's house in the Drygate " for the purpose of a manufactory. This was the old manse of the prebend of Cambuslang, on the south side of the street, which, after being acquired by the Earl of Glencairn, had been sold by him to the magistrates in 1635, and used as a house of correction for dissolute characters. [Ibid. 219, 246. Cleland's Annals, i. 15.]

In the midst of these endeavours to set its affairs in order the city suddenly encountered a series of misfortunes. To begin with, among the prisoners in the Tolbooth was a certain Thomas Blackwell, committed for the holding of conventicles and the entertaining of nonconformist ministers in his house. "One night," according to Wodrow, "the door being open .. he and William Stirling, a gentleman in prison with him, got out." [Church History, 1829 ed. ii. 359.] For this occurrence, and as a deterrent against any similar connivance at law-breaking in future, the Privy Council fined the magistrates ten thousand merks. By the terms of the sentence the magistrates were allowed to reimburse themselves out of the estates of the escaped prisoners and the effects of Mungo Mathie, the careless or conniving jailer. With considerable astuteness the provost made a bargain with the Privy Council to pay immediately two thousand merks, and to assign to the Council itself the decreet for the whole ten thousand against Blackwell and Stirling, along with the bond of security given by the jailer Mathie on his appointment to the post. The occurrence nevertheless cost the town not only the two thousand merks thus paid, but 40o Scots for advocates' and other fees at court. [Burgh Records, iii. 232.]

But a still greater misfortune was impending. On 2nd November, 1677, a second great fire broke out, and consumed a large part of the town. One hundred and thirty houses and shops on both sides of the Saltmarket were destroyed, and between six and seven hundred families were made homeless and destitute. The fire was started by a smith's apprentice, who had been beaten by his master, and out of revenge set his workshop ablaze. It set alight the clock of the Tolbooth, and, on the pretext of danger to life, a mob broke open the doors and set free a large number of prisoners, many of whom, such as the Laird of Kersland, were persons charged with disaffection to the Government. [Cleland's Annals, i. 20. Burgh Records, iii. 243, 244. Fri;. Coun. Reg.]

To meet this disaster the Town Council took immediate and energetic measures. There had been some difficulty about securing payment of rent from the tenants of the Provand estate, several of whom had been committed to the Tolbooth for their debt. It was therefore resolved to dispose of that estate to anyone who would hold it as a feu from the town. [Burgh Records, 243.] The Privy Council also was appealed to, and gave authority for a collection to be taken throughout the country. Nor did the Town Council in this case merely wait for contributions to be sent in, but at once appointed a collector and organized a systematic appeal. [Ibid. 246.] The town further took possession of a sum of £300 sterling which had been gifted by Archbishop Leighton to the College for the support of a bursar and two poor men. The money had been lent out, after the fashion of the time, to a substantial citizen, but the town now itself took the capital sum on loan, and undertook to pay the interest for the purposes of the endowment. [Ibid. iii. 247.] Thus was begun the system by which the city has since borrowed vast sums of money on more or less permanent loan to defray the cost of works of public utility.

Following the fire the Town Council made a strict order that no more houses should be built of wood, but that stone should be used exclusively for front, back, and gables. [Ibid. 244.] Indirectly some benefit was derived from the disaster. On the petition of the burgesses in Saltmarket, the Town Council acquired one of the burnt tenements in that street, and formed a new lane to the Trongate. The purpose of this lane was to afford access in case of another fire. Gibson's Wynd, as the lane was called, afterwards became Princes Street, and was later embodied in Parnie Street. [Burgh Records, iii. 276, 277, and note.]

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