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to the highest bidder. This might seem a convenient arrangement, as the town official had only to receive the stipulated rent from the lease-holder. In point of fact, however, the mills were a source of endless squabbling among the townsmen and of vexation to the officials. In the mills every neighbour had his “rowm” or space allotted to him, but the rowms were overcrowded, and wranglings ensued which called for the intervention of the authorities. Dishonest indwellers would surreptitiously have their victual ground without being measured, and so escape the prescribed multure ; or, still more heinous offence, they would have recourse to unlicensed “out-mills," which, in spite of the law, seem
to have existed everywhere. Above all, the farmers of the mills would exact more than the legal charges, or, to make the most of their lease, would not, as was incumbent on them, maintain the mills in good repair. Such were some of the troubles that arose in connection with the leasing of the mills, and continually exercised the vigilance of those responsible for the common good.
Besides the mills there were various other subjects belonging to the town which were similarly leased to the highest bidders. Such were the fishings, ferries, bridges, revenues of the fairs, rabbit-warrens, booths, street-sweepings—and, in short, everything capable of making some return to the town exchequer. But this system of farming out whatever contributed to the common good
had a still wider application, which reveals to us another aspect of the economic life of the community
Besides the rentals from the town territory and its adjuncts, the superior, whoever he might be, claimed a further contribution from its occupiers. In return for certain privileges of trade which he conferred on the town he exacted an impost on all commodities that went in and out of the town gates. In the case of the royal burghs these privileges were especially valuable, which implied that the imposts were proportionally high. To the royal burghs belonged the privilege of trading in all parts of the kingdom free of other exactions except those which were due to the Crown. Another privilege they possessed, and one that came to be keenly resented by the less favoured burghs, was the virtual monopoly of foreign tradea monopoly of which they were not definitively deprived till the beginning of the eighteenth century. But whether the town were a royal burgh or not, for such privileges of trade as it enjoyed, it had to make good to its superior the equivalent for which these privileges had been granted. Let us see how this claim was met — taking a royal burgh in illustration as exhibiting the procedure in its fullest extent.
In the earliest period of the history of the towns, it had been the function of the chamberlain and his subordinate officials to levy directly the customs due to the Crown. But when the town received the perpetual feu of its territory and adjuncts, a new arrangement was made both in the case of the petty customs which were levied at the town gates and in the market, and of the great customs levied on commodities shipped for foreign countries. And, first, let us take the case of petty customs, the collection of which illustrates under what conditions the home trade of the country was conducted.
The royal burghs, we have seen, had the privilege of trading in every part of the kingdom free of all imposts except those exacted by the Crown, but, in point of fact, even in the time of Mary, there was little communication of any
kind, commercial or other, between the various towns of the kingdom. Each municipality was in large degree an isolated society which regarded every other with indifference or actual hostility.? Of this mutual jealousy between the Scottish burghs we have an excellent illustration in an entry in the Aberdeen Records under date 1557. “The Council,” this entry runs, “ordains a writing to be made and sent to the town of Dundee that they come not here with their creamery and merchandise at St Nicolas' day, because it is not fair but against the privilege and infeftment of the town.” On one occasion only, the entry proceeds to say, would the merchants of Dundee (and the injunction, of course, applied to every other burgh) be permitted to do business in Aberdeen-on the occasion namely of the town fair. And in passing it may be noted that the exception in the case of the fair was the universal practice in the towns of every country; it was only while the fair lasted that the town gave open welcome to all and sundry, and the universal system of exclusive dealing gave place to unlimited free trade.
Such being the relations between the different burghs, the home trade of the country was in great degree necessarily restricted to commercial dealings between the dwellers in each burgh and between the burgh and its rural precinct. This rural precinct, as has already been said, was a peculiarity which distinguished Scottish from English burghs, and in some cases comprised a considerable extent of territory. The bounds of Edinburgh, for example, extended on the east as far as Edgbucklin Brae near Pinkie, and on the west to the Almond, Water. By the terms of their charters the bt us had absolute commercial control over these districts, whose inhabitants were prohibited from selling their commodities in any other markets except those of the burghs of which they were the adjuncts. Thus the rural district and the town were mutually complementary, each supplying the needs of the other.
In the regulation of this home traffic there were two conditions that necessitated a system of fiscal arrangements, to which it was at all times found
difficult to give effect, and which finally broke down under the expansion of trade—though in Scotland at a considerably later date than in England. The one condition was the necessity under which the town lay of levying the petty customs — equivalent of which must annually be paid to the Royal Exchequer. In levying these customs the same method was adopted by the burghs as in the case of the town tenements, mills, fishings, and other accessories. They farmed the petty customs to the highest bidders, who, we may be sure, made the best of their bargain throughout the term of their lease. This was one condition of home trade, therefore—that all commodities had to pay a fixed tariff to the farmers of the petty customs, either in the market or on leaving or entering the town.
The other condition which affected all business transactions was that fixed idea of the Middle Ages that every
article had an intrinsic just price, which was not to be altered either at the car lica of the individual or by competition in the arket. Originally it had been the privilege of each burgh to fix the prices of all commodities that changed hands within its own precinct, but by the reign of Mary, as we shall see, the privilege had been to a certain degree curtailed, though not to the same degree as in England. To the indignation of the Scottish burghs the Privy Council claimed the right of fixing prices, in contravention, it was maintained, of all existing statutes." But whether imposed by