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space of forty years " has been continually exercised and occupied in the common affairs and service of this good town, in the which service he has not only spent his time, but also therethrough has lost the greatest part of his substance, gear and heritage, by loss of which things he is not able to sustain such burden in the common charges of the good town as he was wont to do.” “In respect of his good and long service,” therefore, he craves that he may be exempted from “all watching, warding, wappinschawing and raids and arms. aware that he might legally obtain exemption from the “higher powers,” but, as a good burgher, he refrained from making such an appeal and threw himself on the consideration of the Council. The Council granted the exemption, but carefully guarded itself by the statement that it was only
so far as they have power,” and that the exemption held only with reference to his "own person.' Such petitions for exemption from the services required by the town were not infrequent, and in some cases the petitions went even a degree further, as, for example, when Nicholas Udart, a distinguished Edinburgh citizen of his day, craved that he might be permitted to resign his burghership on the ground that he was unable to sustain his burdens.3
If further proof were needed that security was still the anxious concern of the burghs, it is to be found in the fact already noted—that at no previous time were they so zealous in their attempts to protect their bounds with effectual lines of defence. In the time of Mary, in short, the Scottish towns were still essentially what they had been throughout the Middle Age-communities in which the obligation on every citizen was to be a good manat-arms in the first place, and, next, a good merchant, or trader, or craftsman.
But besides security from open violence, there was that other security which has just been notedand which was also considered essential to the existence and prosperity of the burgh-security, namely, from the injurious rivalry of other communities. But the consideration of this point brings us face to face with the fundamental conditions under which the town dwellers had roofs over their heads, found food for their mouths, and raiment for their bodies.
Originally, it is to be remembered, the territory on which the town arose formed part of the domain of some great superior—king, or baron or ecclesiastic. For the tenements and other erections on the town territory, therefore, dues had to be paid to the superior, whoever he might be. At first each holder had paid his own fee directly to the superior from whom he held his allotment, but as the town grew in extent and population, this was found to be an inconvenient arrangement; and by the close of the fourteenth century most of the Scottish burghs and their superiors had entered into a new agreement which had long been adopted in England and
other countries. The superiors granted a perpetual feu (firma burgi) to the burgh on condition that they should receive a stipulated annual sum as the collective rent of all the town territory and the
subjects” that pertained to it. In the case of the king's or royal burghs this sum was directly paid to the Exchequer, and this was one of the marks of their privileged superiority. To pay this collective annual rent was thus the first and all-important consideration of every burgh; and it was indeed this consideration that determined the manner in which the community should be organised and governed. From one point of view, therefore, the town was simply a collective unit which existed to pay dues to its superior.
How, then, was the annual rent raised, and from what sources was it derived ? By the conditions under which the town held its tenure, there could, of course, be no private property. All its territory and its adjuncts belonged to the superior, and were feued to the community only as a collective body. There was thus but one method open for raising the annual contribution for which the town was responsible. The Town Council, or the representative bodies that existed before Town Councils, let the town territory and its subjects to the highest bidders, who retained them on condition of paying the stipulated rent to the common purse. this system of letting, therefore, that in large degree determined the scope and aim of the con
stitution of the burgh. It prescribed the functions of the various officials, regulated trade and commerce, conditioned the life of the individual townsman, and determined the relations of each burgh to its neighbours. Let us consider how this system worked, for only by so doing can we enter into the spirit and aims of any Scottish burgh of the period.
Suppose an indweller wished to have a roof over his head, he must, first, have a guarantee that he was entitled to the privilege. If he was not a freeman of the town, a freeman at least must be sponsor for him. This condition satisfied, he might present himself to the proper town official and signify his desire to become a householder. It might be that some house happened to be vacant, and then it would be allocated to him on condition of his finding a pledge that the prescribed rent would be forthcoming. It might happen, however, that others had an eye on the house in question, and, in that case, he must be prepared to bid his highest against them. If he wished to eke out his living by renting a booth to trade in, or a piece of ground to cultivate, or any other town subject, the same process must be gone through. Moreover, whatever the nature of the subject which he rented, he must be responsible for its proper maintenance during the whole term of his lease, which might vary from a year to a lifetime. By this arrangement it might appear that the town gained two important advantages: it ensured responsible and loyal citizens, and it ensured the satisfactory condition of land and buildings alike. Rigidly definite as the law may seem, however, there is ample evidence that, like other equally stringent regulations of the time, it could be evaded with an impunity that encouraged evil-doers.
From the rents of houses and booths the town drew a considerable proportion of its revenue, but there were various other sources which further augmented it. One important item was the rent of the public mills with which almost every burgh was provided. The origin of these public mills belongs to a period prior to the existence of organised town communities—to a period when there was only an open territory directly under the authority of a single superior. On such a territory mills for grinding corn were indispensable, but the privilege of erecting them belonged to the superior alone. Only at his mills could corn be ground—the condition of using them being a fixed proportion of the material brought to the mill. When the burghs took over their territory in perpetual feu, the same arrangement was maintained—the municipality taking the place of the single superior. The mills remained public property, and nowhere else and by no other means (as, for example, by hand-mills) was any indweller in the town allowed to grind his corn. To utilise the mills as a source of revenue there was but one method open to the authorities—to let them