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the burgh itself or by the Privy Council, the system of fixed prices was virtually as uniform and unbroken in the time of Mary as at any period in the Middle Ages. Let us examine more closely how the somewhat complicated machinery worked.
On the appointed market days, the dweller in the country (the upland or outland man, as he was called) proceeded to the burgh with his commodities on his shoulders, or in his barrow, or in his wain. These commodities, it is to be noted, were limited to raw products, for, as we shall afterwards see, none but freemen of the burgh were allowed to practise any handicraft. He arrives at the town gate, and there pays his toll according to the nature and quantity of his goods. His toll paid, he next deposits his wares at the town cross, where officials are waiting to fix the prices at which he is to be allowed to sell them. He is now at liberty to take his place in the market—the hours and precise locality of which are strictly defined by the laws of the burgh. Nowhere else except in the market is he permitted to dispose of his goods, for publicity of sale and purchase is the only guarantee that the buyer will get what he wants at the regulation price."
Such was the procedure imposed on the dealer from the country, and equally stringent regulations bound the inhabitant of the burgh. He must buy and sell in open booth or market with only the cope of heaven above his head, and he must retail
his wares at rates rigidly fixed at stated intervals by the officials appointed for the purpose. And not
. only the prices of goods were precisely determined : the quality of them was under equally careful supervision. For this object officials were annually chosen whose duty it was periodically to scrutinise the various commodities offered for sale. Thus, there were ale-tasters, and wine-tasters, appraisers of bread and flesh, and of every product of the various handicrafts. If the quality of the goods did not come up to the necessary standard, they were either destroyed, or, as in the case of bad butcher meat, allocated to the lepers who always abounded in the community.
Did all this rigorous supervision ensure honest dealing on the part of buyer and seller? Human nature being what it is, it was found impossible to exact strict obedience to regulations, which were yet universally recognised as essential in the interests of the community. Everywhere — in England and the continental countries alike—these regulations were promulgated, and everywhere the experience was the same. Burghs and Parliaments passed endless laws to enforce their application, but legislation was futile against what was denounced as the inhuman conduct of self-seeking knaves. The countryman would avoid the town gates, make his way through some breach in the town dyke, and dispose of his produce at forbidden hours and in forbidden places. The town dealer would slink
out of the burgh, waylay the countryman coming to market, purchase his goods at a profitable price, and secretly dispose of them to equally dishonest buyers." To these offences were given the terrible names of regrating and forestalling which are written so large, and denounced with such variety and abundance of epithet in burgh laws and Privy Council and Parliamentary records. Contravention of the regulations regarding the quality of goods was equally frequent. The producers cajoled or bribed the official inspectors, who were constantly taken to task for the perfunctory or dishonest discharge of their office. For example, it was a charge against ale-tasters that, instead of having the ale brought out into the middle of the street and there tasting it, as was their duty, they entered the ale-house and filled their own bellies. 13
In conneetion with home trade the great part played by markets and fairs is one of the most striking characteristics of the time. Only the king could grant liberty of holding markets, though certain towns enjoyed the privilege by long prescription. As with all the trade arrangements of the time, markets were the objects of minute and stringent regulation. In the larger burghs every commodity was assigned a fixed place within the bounds of which they alone could be bought and sold. The hours within which the market could be held were rigidly determined—the ringing of a bell announcing when business might begin ; and as a check on dishonest dealers, the great and little beam or tron was at hand, where goods could be weighed according as they were coarse or fine.
More remarkable institutions than the markets were the great annual fairs which were held in every town of any consequence. As the name (derived from feria, a holiday) implies, the fairs were religious in their origin, and were usually associated with the anniversary of some saint. With their religious and commercial significance, the fairs were the most striking spectacles that the time could afford of all that was most picturesque and characteristic in their life. Take, for example, the preliminaries that attend the opening of the fair of St Denis, near Paris. On the day of its opening the entire university of Paris, with its rector at its head, proceeded in a body to St Denis, a distance of some four miles from Paris. The entire company, in full academical costume, were mounted on horseback, and marched two abreast, with ensigns flying and tabours sounding all the way. Arrived at the scene of the fair, the rector, as representative of the university, formally bought a quantity of parchment, and only when this transaction was completed might the business of the fair begin."
Through the isolated position of Scotland its fairs did not attain the international importance of certain of the fairs of England and the Continent ; yet even in Scotland the fairs were attended by great economic and social results. They were the only
occasions, we have seen, when unrestricted trade prevailed. It was only then, also, when the whole industrial products of the country could be brought together, in this respect fulfilling the same purpose as the modern exhibition. Equally important must have been their influence in creating the common interests and obligations that are necessary before a people can become a united nation. As has been more than once said, the towns of the period, from the very conditions under which they existed, were isolated societies, regarding each other with indifference or antagonism, and with few interests beyond their petty bounds. At the annual fairs, where men gathered from all corners of the kingdom, it was brought home to them that they were members of a larger community, in the well-being of which they all had a stake, and of which their own little world was an organic part.
In the case of foreign trade the same general considerations regulated legislation as in the case of trade at home. The regulations must be such as to ensure, on the one hand, that the king should not be deprived of his customs, and on the other, that the royal burghs should not be defrauded of their monopoly.
The arrangements for the levying of the great or foreign customs were different from those adopted in the case of the petty customs. For the latter, we have seen, the town itself was responsible; but in the levying of the great customs the Crown