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Scots in Eastern and Western Prussia
Part I – The Scottish Trader (1)

The fact of a large emigration of Scotsmen to Prussia and Poland during the XVIth and XVIIth centuries has hitherto either escaped the notice of the Scottish historian altogether, or been deemed by him too unimportant an item to be registerd in his pages. He has not forgotten the fame of the Scottish warriors in the armies of France or Sweden, whose heroic deeds commanded the admiration of the world; but where the Scot lived out a quiet life of suffering, hardships, countless struggles bravely met, and final successes tenaciously secured, his claim to be remembered by the future historian has been brushed aside; his tombstone and his name have been forgotten.

This neglect would have been, and would be, excusable if the Scot abroad, rapidly and entirely losing his individuality, had at once become amalgamated with the new hosts among whom he lived. But so little has this been the case, that a learned German writer of to-day says: "A very characteristic element of the population of German towns in Eastern and Western Prussia is formed by the descendants of former Scotsmen. They being exposed to many dangers and persecutions as pedlars, gradually settled in the towns and married daughters of the citizens. The increase in strength and industrial capacity which this Scottish admixture instilled into the German was of the very highest importance and it can scarcely be doubted that the peculiar compound of stubbornness and shrewdness which characterises the inhabitants of the small towns of Eastern Prussia has its root in the natural disposition of the Scot." [Dr F. Schmidt, Geschichte de Deutsch Kroner Kreises, History of the district of Deutsch Krone (Western Prussia), p. 145.]

The proof of this assertion can be found in innumerable instances, which, though not written largely in the annals of political history, nor proclaimed loudly by the blare of military trumpets, are still interesting and dear to those students of history that see in it more than an illimitable ghastly stretch of battlefields or the hopelessly tangled web of political intrigue.

It is this "vie intime" of the Scot in Germany that is to form the main substance of the present volume. The facts of the Scottish settlements have been stated; it now remains to fill up the sketch and to present to the reader as complete a picture as possible of how the Scot lived in those remote regions that they had chosen as the scene of their enterprise.

Before entering upon our task let us clear up two misconceptions that might arise out of our former statements. We have almost exclusively spoken of the Scottish immigration of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries. We are now compelled to admit the existence of the Scottish pedlar, in German called "Schotte," in the XIVth Century, though not without hesitation. The word "Schotte" unmistakably occurs in this sense in the Krämerrolle of Anclam, i.e. the constitution of the guild of grocers or small merchants in the Pomeranian town of Anclam, dating as far back as 1330. [The original document has since been lost; it was first printed by Stavenhagen in 1773.]

Now as it is difficult from Scotch sources to prove an emigration of Scotsmen to Germany at that early date sufficiently large to warrant the expression "Schotte" for the swarms of vagrant pedlars all over Germany, one is almost tempted to inquire whether this name at the period we speak of might not have a derivation altogether independent of nationality. But no other derivation has been put forward, and all our lexicographers headed by the successors of Grimm in the recent volume of the great German Dictionary adhere to the old meaning. There are, moreover, other laws and constitutions nearly as old as that of Anclam, which leave no doubt as to the meaning of "Schotte."

Among the oldest rules of the cloth merchants at Stralsund, and dating back to about 1370, we find this:

"Vortmer so schal nen Schotte edder Engelsman varen in de lant, he sy we he sy"; [Cp. Scots in Germany] and a little later, about the year 1412: "Nyn borger de nicht hefft de werdicheit der cumpanien des wantsnedes, Schotten edder Engelsman schal nicht varen yn de landen edder hyr bynnen der stadt sniden he sy we he sy ane he hebbe de werdicheit der kumpanien des wantsnedes," i.e. No citizen who has not obtained the dignity of a guild-brother of the cloth rnerchant’s guild, no Scot or Englishman shall travel about the country or cut (cloth) within this town, let him be who he may be, without his being a member of the guild. Both these passages prove by the addition of "edder Engelsman" that "Schotte" cannot be taken in any other sense than that of Scotsman, a native of Scotland. We must therefore assume a much earlier date for the itinerant Scot in Germany, unless we suppose that the word Schotte, Scotus, in those earlier centuries referred to the Irish. There seems to be some show of reason in this, as the expression "Schotte" for a vagrant pedlar is also common in Bavaria and the south of Germany, where the Irish had established the so-called "Schottenkioster" [See Schmeller, Bairisches Worterbuch. The Police Regulations of Nurnberg prohibit the harbouring or housing of any vagrant Scotsman or Scotswoman in the town or within a mile around it without permission of the magistrates (XV Century).] We are told as early as the VIIIth Century that vagrant priests, called Scotti, passed themselves off as bishops Be this as it may, of wide-spread Scotch settlements properly so-called we hear nothing till eight or nine centuries later.

A second misconception may arise from passages [The Scots in Germany, p. 50] where it was stated that the situation of the Scot in Germany was tolerable, that his lot was not worse than that of the pedlar at home, that he suffered no religious persecution and obtained many privileges These statements are rather too favourable The obstacles put in the way of the Scot, particularly of the travelling tradesman, were innumerable. Only when he had succeeded in obtaining the rights of citizenship in the smaller or larger towns of Prussia did his difficulties diminish; and to obtain these rights was for many a hopeless task. Religious persecutions in the old cruel sense, it is true, did not obtain, but nevertheless, the Calvinistic Scot was not looked upon with favour by his proud Lutheran brother of Germany; in his eye he was an Arian, worse than an unbeliever and an anabaptist. This was a weapon that was used with virulence and success by the hostile trades. Only the unwearied and indomitable energy of the Scot, combined with physical endurance as great as his skill and his shrewdness as merchant and banker, made him succeed in many cases and obtain the highest honours in the country of his adoption.


Whilst we hear but little of Scottish settlements in Germany at this time, notices are not wanting of the brisk commercial intercourse between Scotland and Danzig and between Scotland and the Teutonic Order, which from a religious Society of Knights for the defence and the spreading of Christianity had rapidly grown not only into a territorial Power, but also into a huge commercial trading society. Thus King Henry IV. of England requests the Hochmeister von Jungingen to grant the Scottish shipmasters who were then sailing to Prussia in order to bring home cargoes of food-stuffs, neither favour nor protection (Dec. 7, 1401). Königsberg writes to the Gubernator of Scotland, Rupert, "duci Albaniae et comiti de Fiff," with the request to order the restoration of goods confiscated from some Konigsberg merchants (July 23, 1418); whilst the magistrates of Edinburgh petition the Hochmeister to make the city of Danzig raise the arrest put upon the goods of various Scottish merchants in Danske, notably of James Lawdre, Jacob King and Robert Young, "for Scotland had been altogether innocent of the alleged spoliation of Danzig merchants." [The undated letter is to be found in the Koniglichen Staats Archiv at Konigsberg. On account of Jac. Lawdre Queen Mary also writes to the Hochmeister in 1448.] In a similar case King James I. writes two letters to the Hochmeister blaming a Prussian merchant called Claus Zarn or Czarn for the arrestment of Scottish goods (10th of March and 26th of 142?].

The dreaded Earl of March appears again in the records of Danzig writing about the liberation of a Danzig citizen called Johann Lange, and charging a Scot, Ricardus de Camera, with the conclusion of a commercial treaty. [Letter written 26th August, N.D., in the Kgl. Staats Archiv, Danzig.]

Under the date of April 13th, 1438, there exists the rough draught of a letter of the Hochmeister to the King of Scotland and the Guild of Merchants in Edinburgh, praying them to hand over the goods which the merchant Heinrich Holthusen left behind him at his death in Leith, to the Danzig merchant Johann Fischmeister. [Kgl. St. Archiv, Konigsberg.]

Mayor and Bailies of "St Johann" in Scocia (Perth) announce in a letter that by a decision of the law-courts the claim of the Danzig skipper, Hanneke How, must be disallowed (Jan. 20, 1439). Somewhat later King James recommends the Edinburgh merchant, John Foulis, who with some business friends is travelling to Danzig, to the notice of the magistrates there (March 28, 1475); "quatenus auxilio Dei et vestro salve redeant." A letter of recommendation is also given by the magistrates of Edinburgh to Jacob Crag, who is going to Danzig on law business (1480). Similarly, Queen Margaret and King James intercede on behalf of the Scottish merchants, Thomas Halkerston, Thomas Lewis, and Robert Paisley (April 8, 1482). In every way the interest of the Scottish trader seems to have been well taken care of. Instances of this are found in two other letters addressed to Danzig. In one of them Edinburgh declares that Stephen Lawson, a citizen of Haddington, had honestly paid for all goods which he had brought from Danzig to Leith about four years ago (June 5, 1483). Interesting is a letter from the magistrates of Aberdeen to Danzig in which they express themselves grieved at the fact that ships from that city for some time past sail to more remote ports of Scotland instead of to Aberdeen; and they declare themselves willing to indemnify the cloth merchant of Danzig who had suffered loss at Aberdeen on account of spurious money being given to him in payment, if he would personally appear before them. They pray that the old commercial intercourse should be restored. [Letter dated Aberdeen, May 1st, 1487, Kgl. Staats Archiv., Danzig.] About the same time Aberdeen further proves her goodwill by explaining to the Danzig magistrates that all assistance would be given to the Danzig citizens, Vasolt and Conrad (or Connert), on their arrival in Scotland, to obtain payment for goods sold; and in a later letter she explains to Danzig the measures taken for this purpose, adding the testimony of merchants from Stralsund, Greipwald and Stettin. [Letters dated Aug. 6, 1487, and July 18th, 1489, Kgl. Staats Archiv, Danzig.]

The brothers John and Francis Tulane are appointed to take care of the commissioner sent by Conrad to Aberdeen.

Besides Aberdeen and Leith, Dundee is again mentioned in 1492 as trading with Danzig, and the name of Thomas Spalding occurs in this connection.

How important the trade between the Baltic ports and Scotland was, is also seen from a notice in Weinreich’s Prussian Chronicle, where it is stated that between the years 1474 and 1476 twenty-four Scottish ships entered the harbour of Danzig. [Dr Theod. Hirsch, Weinreich’s Chronik., p. xi.]

Thus the names of the great Baltic ports were well known to the trading communities of Scotland, and the way was prepared for the Scottish emigrant.

What attracted them to Danzig besides the shipping facilities was a tradition that there they would be the recipients of numerous privileges granted—perhaps in grateful recollection of military assistance—by the Hochmeister to the English and Scots. Frequently they refer to these privileges in their petitions—chiefly to a free retail trade throughout the country—but, as their adversaries tauntingly said, they "could never produce them." They remained merely traditional, though the names of the Hochmeisters, Paul von Russdorf—about 1426—is mentioned in connection with the matter. At any rate, if they ever possessed these privileges, every trace of them was lost in the XVIth Century, as indeed it was much more in the spirit of the times to disfranchise people than to grant them trading liberties.

However this may be, the Scots are present in Danzig, though not in great numbers, early in the XVth Century. [English cloth is mentioned in Danzig in 1388.]

They are not unfrequently met with in the minutes of the courts of justice (Schoppenbucher) there. Walter, a Scot and a dyer by trade, owns to certain debts in 1447; in 1453, on the 23rd of March, the Magistrates compose a quarrel between a citizen and a Scottish merchant; another Scot, called Thomas, sues a citizen for the debt of twenty-six marks in 1469. More serious is the following entry: "A settlement has been arranged between Claus Wugerson, on the one part, and Peter Black, a Scot, on the other, on account of manslaughter committed by the aforesaid Peter Black against Reemer Wugerson, brother of the aforesaid Claus." Peter consents to pay certain sums of money, and to undertake a "Sühn-reise," i.e. a journey of expiation "to the holy Blood at Aken (Aix la Chapelle), to Einsiedelen, a famous place of pilgrimage in Switzerland, to St Jacob of Compostella, and to St Adrian, and to bring good proofs of his having visited these places" (1471). [Kgl. St. Archiv, Danzig]

A similar compromise is entered upon four years later in 1475 between Wylm (William) Watson and Zander (Alexander) Gustis (?) "on account of a wound given by Zander to the aforesaid Wylm." [Kgl. St. Archiv, Danzig.] They decided that the culprit should bear all expenses, and undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Blood, and, moreover, give to the Altar of the Scots in the Church of the Black Monks at Danzig two marks, and likewise two marks to Our Lady’s Church at Dundee in Scotland. Therewith all dispute should be ended for ever ("geendet unde gelendet ").

That the Scots had their own Altar at the Schwarzmönchenkirche, as it is called, is an additional proof of the importance of their commercial intercourse with Danzig.

The names of other Scotsmen, together with their debts, are entered in the Schoppenbuch; e.g., John Wylinck, curiously enough called "de swartte Schotte," the black Scotsman; William Simpson, Robert Lofftus and Richard, in 1427; also Will. Patrick in 1429, and Fenton and Grant in 1430.

In consequence of the many acts of piracy in Scottish waters Heinrick Vorrath, the Burgomaster of Danzig, advises the Prussian and German ships to carry arms and ammunition (March 12th, 1437). [Hanserecesse, 2nd Series, ii. 49.]

Another curious light is shed on the political state of Great Britain and the neutral attitude of the Teutonic Order, by a complaint of the English merchants in the year 1439. They tell the woeful tale of a ship from Hull to Prussia called Peter and carrying a rich cargo. "When we came to the Baltic, we came upon three ships from Scotland by which we were in warlike manner attacked during the night. But by the Grace of God the English held their own, and took the Scottish ships together with their goods. Then the Scottish said to the English: "We know that we have done you great harm; therefore we ask you from a full heart to make known to us the estimate of the damage." And it was estimated then at two hundred and forty pounds sterling. And the Scottish placed five of their number as hostages on board of the English ship whilst the others were allowed to sail away unhurt. Now when the English brought these five with them into Prussia, they were compelled by the Hochmeister to set them free and release their goods, and it was done. After this the Komptur of Danczke sent for the skippers and the merchants of the said ship, and ordered thirteen of them to be cast into prison, where they were nearly suffocated and scarcely got out alive. Still they had to pay to the Komptur twenty-four mark in Prussian coin, and a piece of cloth to the value of twenty mark in order to be liberated.

On the whole, the information to be gathered regarding the Scots in Prussia during this century is but small. It is only in the next century that light is thrown upon the difficulties and hardships of their life.

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