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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XVI - The Shawfield Riot

A SPIRIT of enterprise and activity was clearly evident in the atmosphere of Glasgow in the second decade of the eighteenth century. In 1718 the magistrates found it possible to set about the building of a sixth church for the city, necessitated by the increase in the number of inhabitants "since the late happy Revolution." The project had been in view for some time, but had been delayed for lack of means. The new church was intended for the inhabitants of the north-west quarter of the city, and was planted in that quarter. It still stands at the head of Candleriggs, and is the well-known St. David's or Ramshorn Church. To begin with, the building was somewhat unfortunate. Within two years several rents appeared in the west wall of the church, and had to be "casten with lime," while the steeple was so unsafe that it had to be taken down and rebuilt. [Burgh Records, 23rd Sept., 27th Oct., 1718; 5th May, 1720.]

A church was also built in Port-Glasgow, of which the feuars there paid one-half the cost and the Town Council of Glasgow the other half. [Ibid. 28th March, 17-18.] Further, by way of restoring the appearance of the city, the Council exercised certain powers they possessed in connection with a ruinous tenement at the corner of Gallowgate and High Street. The tenement had been burned in the great fire which consumed the centre of the city in 1677, and, as the owners did not possess means to rebuild, it had remained a reproach in full view of the Tolbooth opposite for more than forty years. It was now rebuilt at the town's cost, "with peatches before the shops, and three storeys high above the shops, beside garrets above." [Burgh Records, 25th Jan. 1718. Peatches=piazzas.]

At the same time the surgeons and "pharmacians" of Glasgow had reached a position of prosperity and professional attainment which warranted them in making a definite break with the barbers. Accordingly they brought the quarrel to a head by retiring in a body from the craft. [Ibid. 23rd Jan. 1720.] The Town Council gave its final judgment on the subject on 22nd September, 1722, dividing the property of the craft equitably between the two parties, and from that time the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons and the Incorporation of Barbers have been entirely separate bodies.

There were, however, in many minds the workings from outside of a sinister influence seeking to wreck the rising fortunes of the city. The burgesses had not yet forgotten the disaster of Darien, and how it was brought about by the selfish jealousy of the English merchants and colonists. More recently the tobacco trade of Glasgow had been attacked in similar insidious fashion. It had, as a matter of fact, been almost strangled by vexatious restrictions and inquisitions imposed by the House of Commons at the instance of the traders of White-haven, Bristol, and London.

About the same time there appeared on the scene a menace to another important industry. The spinning and weaving of linen had for many years been a staple trade in Scotland. Checks, linen, and linen and cotton were manufactured in Glasgow as early, at least, as 1702. [Gibson's History, p. 239.] Defoe, in his Tour, published in 1727, says of the city: "Here is also a Linen Manufacture; but as that is in common with all parts of Scotland ... I will not insist upon it as a Peculiar here, though they make a very great quantity of it, and send it to the Plantations as their principal merchandise."

In this linen-making industry the manufacturers of London and other English towns seem to have seen a rival to their own woollen industry, and to have presented a petition to the House of Commons to place some embargo upon it. So serious to the fortunes of Glasgow were the possibilities of any such action that the magistrates and Town Council drew up a petition, to be presented to the House of Commons " for themselves and in name and behalf of many thousands employed in the manufacturing of linen cloth." In this they pointed out, first, that the suggestion of the English weavers was directly contrary to the sixth article of the Union, which declared that all parts of the United Kingdom should for ever have the same allowances, encouragements, and drawbacks, and be under the same regulations, restrictions, and prohibitions of trade. Secondly, any Act of Parliament directed against the wearing of printed or stained linen must unavoidably reduce many thousands of workpeople to extreme want and beggary, and take away the means by which the people of Scotland bought the woollen and silk manufactures of England. Finally, the petitioners asked the House of Commons to take the linen trade of Scotland under its protection, and not only keep it safe from the proposed attack, but also free it from certain hardships and inconveniences to which it was already subject. [Burgh Records, 11th Dec. 1719.]

This appeal appears to have had little effect, for a duty of threepence per yard, which was about thirty per cent, of the value, was levied on all linen "printed, stained, or painted" in Great Britain, while a high duty was also placed on the soap used in whitening the cloth. These taxes struck directly against the industry carried on in Scotland, which supplied one of the chief exports by means of which the trade of Glasgow with the American colonies, and especially the tobacco trade, was carried on. Two years later, therefore, the Town Council petitioned Parliament again. It pointed out the unfairness of the tax, in view of the fact that vast quantities of foreign linen were admitted to the country, and received a rebate on being exported again by the English traders to the plantations. The memorial urged that linen was the ancient staple manufacture of North Britain, and should have the same public regard and protection as the woollen manufacture, which was the staple of South Britain. Since the Union, the petitioners declared, the other staple manufactures of Scotland had been entirely ruined by the greatness and perfection of those of England. The manufacture of linen was the only industry left by which the people could be employed and the poor supported. To this the new duties had now given the finishing stroke, and the disastrous effect was being felt in every parish in the country. [Burgh Records, 18th Nov. 1721.]

Blow after blow of this invidious kind, which Scotland, and especially Glasgow, had suffered at the hands of the House of Commons in London, had excited no little resentment in the minds of the citizens. That resentment needed only a little further provocation to produce alarming results, and before long the provocation came.

Though much care had been taken, at the time of the Union, to arrange for an equitable share of taxation to be borne by Scotland, some difficulties of adjustment afterwards arose, and in 1724, when money was urgently required by Government, it was resolved to make a call upon North Britain. The sum of 20,000 was required, and the Government proposed to raise this by a tax of sixpence per barrel upon ale. At the same time, according to Lockhart, who gives a very full account of the whole trouble, it was proposed to deprive Scotland of the bounty on exported grain, which was still to be enjoyed by England. So great a furore, however, was raised in Scotland against the measure, especially by the country gentlemen and the Jacobites, that the Government dropped the suggestion, and turned to a proposal which seemed less open to question. [Lockhart Papers, ii. 134 et seq.] It proceeded to place a tax on malt. Already, as a matter of fact, the country was subject to the same tax as England, viz. 6d. per bushel; but the duty had never been levied. It was part of this duty which was now to be put in force. The tax was to be threepence per bushel, and it was over this impost that serious trouble arose.

Hitherto Scotland had been entirely free from any duty or tax upon the material for brewing "the puir man's wine,"

[Yet humbly kind in time o' need,
The puir man's wine,
His wee drap pan-itch or his bread,
Thou kitchens fine!
- Burns, Scotch Drink. ]

and full advantage had been taken of the fact. Malt-kilns and malt-barns were to be seen everywhere, and along the highway running westward out of Glasgow, the old St. Theneu's Gate, now Argyll Street, they were specially numerous. It was true that since the Revolution a tax of 2d. Scots (one-sixth of a penny sterling) had been levied on every pint of ale sold in the country; but in Glasgow the product of this tax had been devoted to the common good of the city itself, and perhaps for that reason had excited no hostility. Now, however, the country was about to be subjected to a levy which meant that a solid sum of £20,000 per annum would be carried across the Border into England. The Act was passed in 1725, and the levying of the tax was to begin on 23rd June.

As the day approached a meeting of the brewers of the chief towns took place in Edinburgh, and arranged for resistance to the tax. [Hill Burton, viii. 354.] The whole country was roused, and it seems probable that the Jacobites were using the occasion to stir up indignation against the Hanoverian Government. Curiously enough, however, it was in Glasgow, a city of undoubted Hanoverian sentiment, that the actual outbreak of violence occurred.

The personage whose name figures chiefly in connection with the occurrence was Daniel Campbell of Shawfield, M.P. for the Glasgow group of burghs. The son of John Campbell, an eminent notary who plied his profession in the then fashionable quarter of the Goosedubs, and who had amassed considerable wealth, and was proprietor of the lands of Shaw-field, near Rutherglen, was himself one of the most prosperous of the Glasgow merchants. [Senex, Glasgow Past and Present, i. 455.] As already mentioned, he built for himself in 1711 the famous Shawfield Mansion at the West Port of the burgh, facing the Stockwellgate. [A woodcut of the mansion is given in Gordon's Glasghu Facies, page 606, and the most complete description of it in the same work, page 955. The orchard, shrubbery, and ornamental gardens behind extended as far north as the present Ingram Street, while in front a massive iron-studded gate of oak between lofty stone portals gave admission to carriages, and there was a parapet with curiously sculptured columns surmounted by sphinxes. It was certainly not surpassed in grandeur by the Spreull mansion still standing on the adjoining site on the east, by the Dreghorn mansion, now part of a warehouse in Great Clyde Street, or by the Lainshaw mansion, now embedded in the Queen Street end of the Royal Exchange.] Some idea of his means may be gathered from the fact that, when the magistrates purchased the Barrowfield estate in 1724, the largest of John Walkinshaw's creditors with whom they had to settle was Daniel Campbell of Shawfield, to whom the Jacobite laird was owing no less a sum than £59,000 Scots (£4916 6s. 8d. sterling). [Burgh Records, 28th May, 1724. 4 Ibid. 1st May, 1719.] From the first he appears to have enjoyed the confidence of the city fathers. When the Government agreed to pay £736 13s. 5d. sterling for the expense to which the town had been put for the maintenance of the Jacobite prisoners in the Bishop's Castle in 1715-16, the Town Council entrusted him with a power of attorney to uplift the money in London. At the same time, for "the considerable personal charge and expenses" he had been at in securing the payment, and also in getting an Act passed through Parliament for renewing the town's grant of two pennies on the pint of ale, he was paid by the magistrates the rather astonishing sum of £348 1s. 3¾d. sterling, or nearly half the amount recovered by his efforts from the Government. [Ibid. 7th Nov. 1719. As a matter of fact, the town itself appears to have received very little of this belated repayment by the Exchequer, the fees to the various officials in London amounting to £51 18s. 8d. The charges for securing the renewal of the grant of 2d. on the pint of ale were no less extravagant—Expenses of Provost Aird and the Town Clerk in London, £111 16s. sterling; dues to officials, £129; two hogsheads Obryan wine to Daniel Campbell "for the use of some friends of the town," £73 125. 5d.; and to Daniel Campbell himself, as mentioned above, £348 1s. 3d. (Burgh Records, 11th. Dec. 1719). Altogether, one gets the impression from some of these items that Daniel Campbell was very capable of looking after his own interest.]

While this was done, among certain of the townspeople, there was a tide of animosity rising against their member of Parliament. He was believed to have given information to the Government which contributed to bring about the obstructions to Glasgow's tobacco trade which had of late harassed the fortunes of the burgh, and in the previous November he had received some intimation of the public feeling against him by the smashing of some of the windows of his mansion. He was further known to have given his vote in the House of Commons in favour of the execrated tax on malt.

Before the day on which the new tax was to come into operation Campbell seems to have received further warning of his danger, for he removed his family, and also, his enemies said, some of his valuables, to Woodhall, his country seat eight miles out of town, and asked the Government to send a military force to keep down disorder. [A Letter from a Gentleman in Glasgow concerning the late Tumult. Printed in 1725.—Glasghu Facies, p. 968 (Original in National Library).] Rumours of these doings seem to have reached the citizens and to have fired their wrath to the explosion point. Their member of Parliament had not only voted for the hated malt tax which was to transfer so much of Scotland's wealth to England, but had arranged to bring English troops into the city to massacre the inhabitants if they ventured to protest.

On 23rd June, the day when the Malt Tax came into force, the excise officers were forced to flee out of most of the towns in the western counties. In Glasgow crowds of idle persons, mostly women and boys, gathered in the outskirts, where the malt-barns were situated, and the officers did not venture to enter the barns to levy the duty, out of fear of the mob growing to proportions which might be dangerous. [Lockhart's account.] On the following day the same thing happened, but so far the magistrates found no difficulty in dispersing the crowd. It was not till the evening of the 24th, when Captain Bushell, with two companies of foot, marched into the town that anything alarming happened. Word was then brought to Provost Miller that the persons he had ordered to prepare the guard-room in Trongate for the reception of the soldiers had been thrust out by a mob, who locked the doors and carried off the keys. When he sent the town officers to open the doors they were attacked and beaten off, and when he set out to see to the matter in person he was told that if he approached the spot he would be torn in pieces by the mob. [The guardhouse, a handsome building with a piazza, stood at the foot of Candleriggs on the west side. In its lower part were two apartments, one for officers and one for privates, while above were lofts for ammunition, etc. (Gibson's History, p. 150).] He was advised that the disorder would be quieted if the soldiers were dispersed to billets, and after consulting Captain Bushell he ordered this to be done. He then waited in the town-house with the Dean of Guild and Mr. Campbell of Blythswood, the only other justice of the peace in the place, till nine o'clock, when, as no further trouble was reported, they retired, as was customary, to a tavern hard by. ["A True and Faithful Account" sent by the Town Council to the King.—Burgh Records, 31st July, 1725.]

Shortly after ten o'clock, however, word was brought that the mob had risen again, and were attacking Shawfield's house. The party hurried to the spot, where they found a more formidable mob than before, mostly young fellows armed with clubs and other weapons, and carrying hammers and house-breaking tools. None of these young men were known to the Provost or his companions, but after considerable debate he persuaded them to retire, and they were moving away when they were met by another band of rioters, who beat down the town officers and threatened to cut the Provost and his company to pieces. The latter had to flee for their lives, and only escaped with difficulty.

The town guard, which usually went on duty between ten and eleven, was of no use in the circumstances, as it consisted, not of the burgesses themselves, but of "the poorer sort of people," hired by them for that service. It was proposed to call out the military, and Captain Bushell sent an offer to do this. But as the soldiers were tired with their long march, and could only be summoned from their quarters by beat of drum, and in ones and twos, when they would be liable to be destroyed singly by the mob, it was thought inadvisable to call them out.

The rioters were now absolute masters of the situation, and they used their opportunity to wreck the Shawfield Mansion completely. Nothing was left but the walls, floors, and roof, which they could not easily destroy.

So far the disturbance had proceeded without bloodshed. The tragic part was to follow.

Next day, 25th June, the Provost secured the passages to the plundered mansion, put the soldiers in possession of the guard-house, and gave orders for two hundred of the inhabitants to assemble at the Tolbooth at three o'clock, to receive orders for patrolling the town. Before that hour, however, affairs took a more serious turn. As the Provost and his friends were walking in front of the town-house the rioters suddenly reappeared, led by an old woman beating a drum. By some afterwards it was said that the old woman was really a man disguised. Without waiting for other help the Provost broke up the mob and drove it off the street, but it merely gathered in the wynds and back ways, and presently appeared again before the guard-house, and began to throw stones at the soldiers. At that, Captain Bushell, who appears to have been hot-tempered and impulsive, drew out his men and formed them in a hollow square at the cross, commanding the four main streets. There the mob began stoning him again, and, the situation threatening to become worse, he, without waiting for a proclamation by the civil authority, ordered his men to fire. By that volley several persons were killed and more were wounded, and the occurrence merely increased the fury of the rioters. The mob then broke into the magazine in the Tolbooth, carried off the arms stored there, and rang the fire bell to alarm the townsfolk.

Finding himself powerless to resist, the Provost sent a message to Captain Bushell, desiring him to save further tumult by retiring from the city. This Bushell did, and marched his men to Dunbarton. The riot then died down, but nine persons had been killed and sixteen or seventeen wounded.

News of the disturbance having reached Edinburgh, an account of it appeared in the Edinburgh Evening Courant, which represented both the magistrates and the military as having done their best to preserve the peace. This did not please two individuals, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, who was Campbell of Shawfield's brother, and M.P. for that city, and George Drummond, one of the Commissioners of Excise, and next Lord Provost of the capital. At the instigation of Drummond the Caledonian Mercury four days later published an account of what had happened, which represented the conduct of the magistrates and inhabitants of Glasgow in an unfavourable light, and insinuated that the magistrates were accessory to the disorders. As a result, and believing the city to be in a state of rebellion, General WVade, the officer commanding in Scotland, marched upon Glasgow on 9th July with a considerable body of troops. These comprised Lord Deloraine's regiment of foot, six troops of the Royal Scots Dragoons, as many of the Earl of Stair's Dragoons, and one of the Independent Companies of Highlanders commanded by Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochnell, with a train of artillery and ammunition. Wade marched this force into the city, rather surprised that there was no rebellion to quell. With him, however, came the Lord-Advocate, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, afterwards to become famous by the part he played at the time of the later Jacobite rebellion. Forbes instituted a strict enquiry, which included the magistrates themselves, and as a result a considerable number of persons were imprisoned in the guard-house. On Friday, 16th July, these persons were carried to Edinburgh under military escort, and on the same day the provost, three bailies, the dean of guild, and the deacon-convener were arrested, and charged with having encouraged the rioters. On learning what was taking place a great concourse of the citizens gathered at the cross, and probably only the presence of the military prevented another riotous outbreak.

After spending a night in their own Tolbooth the magistrates were carried, under a guard of the Royal Scots Dragoons, first to Falkirk, where they rested on the Sunday, and then to Edinburgh, where they were lodged in the Tolbooth. It is interesting to know that some forty or fifty of their own i erchants came from Glasgow to accompany them ; also that when they were allowed bail and two of them returned to Glasgow on the Wednesday, they were met, some five or six miles out, by several hundreds of the inhabitants, and welcomed with the ringing of bells and other demonstrations of joy. ["Letter from a Gentleman," preserved in the National Library, and reprinted in Gordon's Glasghu Facies, p. 958. See also Wodrow's Analecta, and Glasgow Burgh Records, 7th July, 31st July, 14th Aug. 1725.]

In the upshot no further action appears to have been taken against Provost Miller and the magistrates of Glasgow. Lockhart, indeed, suggests that the chief reason for their being troubled at all was that at the previous Michaelmas election they had ousted Provost Aird and his party, who were friends of Campbell of Shawfield, and that the riot was thought a proper occasion to "squeeze them," and perhaps to replace "Campbell's set."

Of the actual rioters, what Lockhart calls "a hot trial" took place in the Justiciary Court, the Earl of Islay and Lord Royston pressing for a death sentence. Of the first ten who were tried a man and a woman were condemned to perpetual banishment. The others were acquitted.

In the case of Captain Bushell a criminal process was raised in the Court of Justiciary by the Glasgow magistrates themselves, and, seeing that he had acted without authority from a magistrate a verdict was found against him. He, however, received a royal pardon, and shortly afterwards, having retired from Scotland, was promoted to the command of a troop of dragoons. [Lockhart Papers.] There is reason to believe that this leniency had an effect twelve years later, when the mob of Edinburgh, determined to prevent the escape in similar circumstances of Captain Porteous, took matters into its own hands and hanged the object of their wrath in the Grassmarket. [Hill Burton, viii. 356.]

Of the personage whose conduct gave rise to the popular ferment, Daniel Campbell of Shawfield himself, something remains to be said. Lockhart's suggestion that he bore some grudge against Provost Miller and the Glasgow magistrates receives some support from the fact that immediately after the riot he called upon these gentlemen to pay down the £4500 they were still owing him out of the price of the Barrowfield estate. To raise the money the members of the Town Council had to become security "severally and conjunctly" to the bank in Edinburgh, a fact which probably gave him the satisfaction he may have wished. [Burgh Records, 28th July, 1725.] By way of compensation for the damage done to his house, the Government paid Campbell £6080, with £2600 more for other details. As the actual loss can hardly have amounted to anything like £8680, the award looks not unlike part of the huge system of bribery which was a notorious feature of Walpole's administration. In this case the solatium cost the Government nothing, for it recouped itself by confiscating for a period of years the excise duty of twopence per pint on ale consumed within the burgh, the grant of which had only recently been renewed to the Glasgow magistrates for other purposes. [Ibid. 26th May, 1726.]

With the money thus obtained, Shawfield bought the islands of Islay and Jura from the Campbells of Cawdor, who had possessed them since the days of James VI. The sum he paid for the two islands was £12,000, and he presently sold Jura to the ancestor of the Campbell lairds of Jura of the present day. [Senex, Glasgow Past and Present, ii. 239. Senex states that, when a hundred and fifty years later, Islay was sold to Mr. Morrison by the Royal Bank of Scotland, the price was £400,000.]

Two years after the riot, Campbell sold the Shawfield Mansion to Colonel William Macdowall of Castle Semple, formerly of St. Kitt's in the West Indies, with whose coming another chapter of Glasgow's history may be said to have begun. Shawfield himself, nevertheless, still remained member of Parliament for Glasgow and the neighbouring burghs. [Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays, p. 20.]

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