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Commercial Relations of England and Scotland 1603 - 1707

After the King's death, Scotland felt the direct effects of the Civil War more heavily than during the years before. The absence of many of her population with the army in England, and the heavy taxation for their support, had doubtless interrupted industry, and the privateers upon the coasts had greatly hindered trade. But Montrose's campaigns had, for the most part, only affected the northern part of the kingdom, and it was Cromwell's invading army and the Scots resisting force which, in 1650 and 1651, effectually laid waste the country, and caused the dislocation of all industry and trade. In July 1650 Cromwell entered Scotland, and remained there, subduing all the country south of the Forth, until July 1651, when he followed Charles II and the Scottish army south to Worcester. Scotland was then practically conquered, and a body of English commissioners were sent to administer affairs. Steps toward an entire union were taken, and in 1654 the Council of State passed the "Ordinance of Union," which made provision for England and Scotland becoming one Commonwealth, with one Parliament, to which Scotland was to send thirty members. Parliamentary union was accompanied by commercial union. Trade between the two countries was freed from all restrictions, as James had endeavoured to secure, and further, all restraints of exports or imports, all tariffs and customs were made the same for both countries. The countries were therefore united for six years as closely as they were after the final Union of 1707. The conditions were, however, very different. Scotland in 1654 was a conquered country, and the union was proposed by England, and its terms drawn up and enforced by an English government. On these grounds it was resented by Scottish national feeling, but it was also economically unsuccessful. A devastated and wasted country, weighed down by heavy taxation, could not within the short space of six years adapt itself to new trade regulations and tariffs. The old courses were blocked, there was not sufficient recuperative power nor encouragement to turn into new channels, and so Scotland remained inactive and poverty stricken.

The country in the south was laid waste by the Scots before the battle of Dunbar, and all the Lowlands by the English forces after their victory. Nicoll, a diarist of the period, writes: "so, to end this yeir of God 1650, this Kingdome was for the moist pairte spoyled and overrun with the enymie, evin from Berwik to the toun of Air, their being Inglische garisounes in all quarteris of these boundis, and land murning, languisching and fading, and left desolat." In the next year, he says: "this pure land. was brocht to oppin confusioun and schame, the Inglische airmey ramping throw the king-dome without oppositioun destroying our cornes, and raising money quhairevir they went for maintenance of thair airmy and garisoune." Glencairne's rising and Monk's expedition against him still further laid waste the land. Monk said that the people were 200,000 poorer by this rebellion, "because of the greate destruction and waste made by the Enemy, and of what wee found necessary to destroy that they might be deprived of sustenance." Complaints regarding the poverty of the country continue throughout this period. Baillie, a well-known Presbyterian minister in Glasgow, wrote in 1656: "deep poverty keeps all ranks exceedingly under; the taxes of all kinds are so great, and trade so little, that it is a marvel if extreme scarcity of money end not, ere long, in some mischief." Later it was said that: "povertie and skaircetie of money daylie increst be ressoun of the great burdingis and chargis imposit upone the pepill, quhilk...constraynit thame to sell...evin their household geirs, insicht and plenisching, and sum thair cloathes." Cromwell himself bore witness to the condition of the country: " I do think the Scotch nation have been under as great a suffering, in point of livelihood and subsistence outwardly as any people I have yet named to you. I do think truly they are a very ruined nation." There are many more accounts of a like nature, continuing until the Restoration and also for some time after it. The country took many years to recover from the effects of this period of civil war and Cromwellian rule.

The burden which pressed most severely upon the country was the very heavy taxation imposed to support the English government and garrison, far heavier than had ever been raised before. In 1652 a general assessment of 10,000 a month was levied on Scotland, from which abatements of 2000 or under might be made in districts which had suffered by the war. This was to be based on valuations made in 1629, 1644-5 and 1649. In ascertaining the assessment, Scotland was to be considered " as well in its integrity and intrinsic value before the late wars, as in its present poverty through devastation and spoil by the wars." It never seems to have been possible to raise the whole of the sum, and after Glencairne's rising Monk declared that he could not raise more than 7300 a month. The assessment was not fairly made, for Scotland, in proportion to her resources, was more heavily taxed than England. Of this Monk complained, writing to Secretary Thurloe in 1657 about a new assessment to be levied on the three kingdoms: "I must desire you will consider this poore country which truely I can make itt appeare that one way or other they pay one hundred pounds out of fower for their assessment.. .and unlesse there be some course taken, that they may come in equality with England, itt will goe hard with this people....And since wee have united them into one Commonwealth, I thinke itt will bee most equall to bring them into an equality." As a result of this and other remonstrances from Monk, the assessment in Scotland was fixed at 6000 in 1657, and this amount continued to be levied till the Restoration. This was also much heavier than had ever before been raised in Scotland, and there were numerous complaints against it.

In spite of this heavy taxation, Scotland was far from being self-supporting. In 1654, the total expenses of the troops and garrisons in Scotland were 41,235 monthly. At that time only 4000 monthly could be raised because of the "broken condition of the country," so that 37,000 had to be supplied from the English Exchequer. In 1659 a statement was made to Parliament by a Committee for inspecting the Treasuries. This shews not only the national bankruptcy which contributed to the ruin of the Protectorate government, but also the share of Scotland in creating the deficit. The debt to the forces in Scotland was 93,827. 135. 0|d, and to the citadel at Leith 1800. The annual issue for the pay of the same forces was 270,643. 45. 2d, and Scotland only contributed 135,835 to the income of the three kingdoms. The annual deficit therefore amounted to 134,808. 4s. 2d, without reckoning the debt, or contributing anything towards the navy or civil list expenses. The deficit in the total revenues of the three kingdoms was 1,468,098. 12s. 2d Scotland's incorporation was certainly of no financial value to England, and this knowledge was probably a principal reason on the English side for the separation of the two countries in all but name after the Restoration.

The remainder of the revenue was raised from the Excise and Customs. These were not made to conform to the English rates until 1655. Monk anticipated that there would be some trouble in raising the new excise. "I intreate your Lordship to spaire us another regiment of Horse...for the Excise being to bee set on foote here, people may be a little troublesome Uppon that occasion." The excise was farmed at 2481 monthly for the first four months of its existence, but afterwards increased, and in 1659 amounted to 47,444. 135. 4d The method of collecting both excise and customs was reformed, not, apparently, without need. Thomas Tucker, an English revenue official, who visited Scotland in 1656 and drew up an interesting report as to the state of the trade, etc., said that "untill of late...there was nothing either of method or forme discovered in any of them" (i.e. in either the customs or the excise). "The Collectors received very uncertainly....The masters of ships, neither Inwards nor Outwards, were called upon to declare any contents of theyr vessells...noe goods were ever weighed at landing, little notice was taken of what was shipped out." Each collector "pursued his owne way," a way which produced more for himself than for the State. This branch of the revenue seems to have increased somewhat during this period, which was partly no doubt to be attributed to the better method of collection, and partly also to the increase in the customs rates, due to the adoption of English tariffs. This was complained of by the Convention of the Royal Burghs, who sent a copy of the old book of rates to London to be compared with the new, in order that "the vast difference betwixt the two being sein and considderit...the great prejudice the estait of burrowis with this natione may susteine thairthrow may be represented to his Hienis the Lord Protector."

Another grievance of the same nature was the prohibition of the export of certain raw materials, especially wool, hides and skins. These restraints were made in the interests of English industries. They were able to use their own raw materials in manufactures, and so prohibited their export. But the Scots manufactures had never been able to use all the raw material of the country. At this time too, their industries had been interrupted and sometimes ruined by the wars, and there was no money in the country with which to set up new manufactures. The export of wool, hides, etc. had also been a great part of their foreign trade. England was at last able to make use of the Scottish wool supply, as she had tried to do under James VI. The government in Scotland were often urged by the English authorities to encourage and establish manufactures. As the Burghs pointed out, however, this could not be done without money; money came by trade, and there could be little trade as long as the export of their principal commodities was prohibited. The Commissioners "considderit ane act .. .discharging the exportatione of skin wooll hyd and utheris suche commodities...and ordaining the samyne to be maid use of at home in manufactories to be erected for that effect...and withall considdering the low conditione of this natione...and that the exportatione of thes commodities wes the onlie means quhairby their tread subsisted in the natione and forrane commodities and money imported without the which they ar altogether unable for erecting of the manufactories." The difficulty was that if the two countries were to be completely united, there could not be different restraints for each. Scottish industries were not as well developed as English, and her principal exports were raw materials, whereas English exports were chiefly manufactures. Therefore, as the regulations for export were made in English interests, they pressed hardly upon the Scots. Nor was this the time when Scotland could be forced to become a manufacturing country, for she was a conquered country with exhausted resources. It was not until after the Restoration that she began to encourage and develop manufactures, and not until these had made some progress was she really convinced of the necessity for an incorporating union with England.

By freedom of trade with England in one commodity, salt, the Scots were the gainers. There had for some time been an import of Scottish salt into England. About 1637 it was agreed that the import of Scots salt into England should be restricted to 8000 wey yearly, but this restriction does not seem to have lasted very long. The duty on Scots salt was higher than that on English, but not so much as that on foreign salt. The manufacturers complained of the Scottish competition, and in 1647 the duty on English salt was removed altogether. The manufacturers, however, were not satisfied, and in 1649 Scots salt was made to pay as much as foreign salt, i.e. three half-pence per gallon. But at the same time, an excise of one half-penny per gallon was levied on English salt. The result was that "the Scottish salt undermined the English," and a hundred and sixty saltworks had to be given up. The salt-workers, we are told, hoped for some relief when the Rump Parliament was dissolved by Cromwell, but "met with the quite contrary," for by the Union of 1654 Scots salt could pass into England without paying any duty at all. The salt-makers in the north of England at once declared that their industry would be totally ruined. Salt, they said, could be made much more cheaply in Scotland, as the people there could be paid in kind instead of in money. In a debate in Parliament on the Union in 1656, it was urged that some extra excise should be placed on Scots salt, to save the Newcastle salt-works from ruin. But no tax was imposed, for three reasons. Firstly, that for three years already there had been free trade in salt, and the English works had not suffered. Secondly, for the statesmanlike reason that "if you make an union you must allow them as much priviledge as your selves, and be as much concerned for their good and advantage as your selves." And also because salt from Scotland might make Newcastle salt cheaper, which would be "a generall good to the Nation and a generall good is to be preferred before a particular," an interesting assertion for the period from the point of view of economic theory. The import of cheap Scots salt did as a matter of fact injure the English makers, for about this time some eighty salt-works in the north had to be shut down. A little later, it was the turn of the Scots to complain. Their troubles arose from the connection of the salt manufacture with the coal-works. These produced two kinds of coal, great and small. The former were as a rule exported, and the latter employed in the salt-works. But if anything hindered the sale of the great coals, no small were produced, and the salt manufacture was then at a standstill. Now in 1656, a duty of 4s. per ton was imposed on great coal exported in British ships, and 8s. on coal exported in foreign ships. Both coal and salt owners complained, declaring that" the trade of Coales and Salt (the best staple commodityes of this Nation) must be utterly ruined." The "intrinsick value" of the coal, they said, was only 4s. per ton. English coal could more easily bear the tax than Scottish, as a great deal of the Newcastle coal was used in England, and was therefore not liable to the tax. Also the Dutch found English coal indispensable in their iron-works, but Scottish coal was only used in the Netherlands for soap-works and brewing, and was not absolutely necessary. Indeed coal from Luyck was already being substituted for it. It was to the Netherlands, too, that most of the Scottish coal was sent. Twenty thousand people were said to be affected by a decline in the prosperity of the coal- and salt-works, while the revenue would suffer greatly from the loss of the customs on these two commodities. After these remonstrances, the duty was temporarily reduced in 1658 to 2s. 6d. and 5s. per ton, but seems to have been increased again, for in 1660 the Burghs asked that the "extraordinarie imposition upon coall and salt may be moderated." The advantage of the Scottish over the English salt-works was therefore only temporary.

There does not seem to have been much increase in the amount of trade with England, in spite of freedom from restraint. The principal commodities brought from Scotland were, as before, coal, salt, plaiding, linen, hides and some wool. In addition, efforts were made to secure supplies of masts from the north of Scotland, because the trade with the Baltic had been interrupted by the Navigation Act. Several persons were sent north at different times to get masts, and to examine the state of the forests, but the timber was probably not sufficiently well-grown, and Scotland did not become a source of supply. During the Dutch and Spanish wars, the trade increased. While the war with Spain (1656-8) was going on, nearly all Scots ships confined their trade to English ports, finding it unsafe to venture further.

Little trade to the plantations in America was carried on as yet. Tucker, in his Report, says that some from Glasgow had ventured as far as Barbadoes, but they sustained such losses from coming back late in the year that the trade had been given up.

Foreign trade did not, on the whole, prosper under Commonwealth and Protectorate government. The poverty of the country, decay of manufactures, and prohibition of the chief exports doubtless partly accounted for this. Import trade was also affected by the enforcement of English regulations and restraints, especially by the Navigation Act of 1651, which forbade the import of goods into any of the Commonwealth dominions except in native ships, or in ships belonging to the country whence the goods were brought. The Scots had lost a number of ships, and could not carry on their trade without the help of foreigners. They begged for permission to transport their coal and salt to "whatsomever places within or without this Island in what boddomes the merchant may be best served with for their advantage." They also desired to import goods from France and Spain in foreign ships. Foreign salt was necessary for the fish-curing, and they had some difficulty in securing a sufficient supply in their own ships. There were, too, some prohibitions of import of goods which "wee cannot subsist without." French wines were amongst these goods, and they had long been a principal import into Scotland, in exchange for Scots salmon, herring and plaiding.

During the war, the Scots lost a number of ships, especially in 1650 and 1651. In June 1650, the Scottish Parliament wrote to Lord Fairfax and to Sir Arthur Hazelrigge complaining of the seizure of Scots ships by English vessels. Two months later Admiral Deane commissioned Captain Penn to seize all the Scottish ships he should meet with, and to deliver them into the hands of the collectors of prize goods. After the Dunbar defeat, orders were given that all the boats of the ports round Edinburgh should be seized, "for serving the Inglisches thair demandis." A number of ships belonging to Dundee and the Fife ports were taken too, as the English army gradually established its hold over the south of Scotland. These vessels do not seem to have been restored after the declaration of union, for after the Restoration many complaints were made as to the seizure of ships during the "late Usurpation." Privateers and other enemies had also reduced the number of Scots ships, so altogether there can have been but few left with which to prosecute trade. The Scots had never built many of their own ships, they generally got them from the Dutch. Now difficulties were put in the way of their buying ships, by a duty levied on all such purchases. The Burghs complained that "the commissioners for the customs excys doe exact the 20 peny of custome and the 20 peny of excys of all schippis bocht from straingeris and brocht home for the necessarie service of the natioun and increas of tread which exactionis doe much frustrat and hinder the restoring of the decayed and lost schipping of this cuntrie." Together with English shipping, but probably more in comparison with its value, Scottish trade suffered from the disturbed and unsafe state of the seas at this time. The Channel, the Straits and in fact all the coasts were infested with numerous enemies, Royalist privateers, Dutch and Spanish men of war, and pirates. Some efforts were made to guard the Scottish coasts, but with little effect. In 1656 Lord Broghill wrote to Thurloe: "Indeed, sir, it is a sad thing that all Scotland should be without one man of warr to guard the cost, when our next neighbours are our open ennemies, and take our ships dayley, and within this ten dayse a rich vessell of Aberdeene, which has almost broake that toune, which began to trade. 'Tis not here as in England, wher a loss does at most ruin a person: heire it does the whole trade. We have often complayned of this. I beseech you, Sir get us som speedy redress." An appeal for convoys was one of the demands of the Royal Burghs, which, with demands for the free export of wool, etc., permission to use foreign ships, the maintenance of the staple port at Campvere, the lightening of the burden of taxation, were reiterated to the Parliament in London almost every year until 1660. There was so little trade that many sailors were out of work. In 1656 " many skipperis and maryneris wer takin to sea to serve the Inglisches. Mony of thame without compulsioun wer content to tak on and serve, thair being lytill or no imployment for thame utherwayes in tred or merchandice, the seas being foull with pirattis and robberis."

There were also special hindrances to particular branches of Scottish commerce. She had had more trade with Holland than with any other country, and the Commonwealth wars with that country damaged their connection there very much, and also hindered their correspondence with other countries. It was suggested that the staple port at Campvere should be given up, partly no doubt in pursuance of the Cromwellian policy of freedom from regulation. The suggestion was not, however, carried out. The English authorities were also jealous of the Scottish trade with Holland, their great rival. The Council of State wrote to the Lord General on the subject: "We are informed of the great inconveniences and mischiefs upon this Commonwealth by the freedom of Trade driven into Scotland by the Dutch...they get the main trade into their own hands, and beat out the English ...their commodities may as well be furnished by the people of this nation from hence...we judge it would be advisable to forbid the importation of any goods into Scotland Jby the Dutch." The Council were struck by the ingratitude of the Scots in allowing this trade; "their malignancy is such, notwithstanding all the favours they have received from you...that they will buy nothing of the English if they can have it from the Dutch."

Some Scots merchants seem to have joined in the trade from England to the Baltic. The English Eastland merchants at Dantzig petitioned the Council of State in 1651 to " Debarr all Scots Malignants and Forraigners any Trade from England to this place." "Divers of ye Scottish Nation," they say, are "great Traders for London."

The war with Spain also hindered trade. "The Spanish warre has wracked many of our merchants." The privateers from Dunkirk were especially dreaded, so much so that the Scots chiefly traded with England during the war. When they ventured further afield, it was "under the covert and pretext of being Dutch, in whose ports they enter theyr shippis, and sayle with Dutch passes and marineris, or else bring home theyr goods in Dutch bottomes which are made over by bill of sale, and soe become the shipps of the nation when they arrive there, but once unladen they depart, and are then Dutch bottomes againe." This close Scottish connection with the Dutch, and the evasion of the Navigation Act, must both have been most distasteful to the English authorities.

The complete union of England and Scotland at this time was of but short duration, and it is therefore difficult to justify or condemn the project. But the elements of failure, in circumstances rather than in the actual scheme, are so obvious that one can hardly imagine ultimate success attending the experiment. Scotland was a conquered country, she was poverty stricken and desolate, she was far behind England in economic development, her chief commercial connections were with the Protectorate's greatest rivals. The union was forced upon her by England, again her national enemy. It had to be maintained by a garrison and an army of occupation; and for their support Scotland was heavily taxed. English commercial regulations were disastrous to Scottish commerce, and she had neither wealth nor time enough to reconstruct and reconstitute her industrial system. From the English point of view Scotland was a great financial burden, and a source of danger to her commercial system by her connection with the Dutch, and her infringement of English commercial legislation. Therefore it is not surprising that after the Restoration separation was desired by both countries. Nor it is hardly to be wondered at that nearly fifty years should elapse before a union was finally established.

Cromwell's Scotch Campaigns 1650-51
By W. S. Douglas (1898)

Oliver Cromwell
By John Buchan (1941)

Life of Oliver Cromwell
Lord-Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1743)

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