Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

his hands, and in these circumstances he naturally desired that his profits should be such as would compensate him for his risks. But even at the best these profits were inconsiderable, and it seemed to him that they would not be enhanced if all and sundry were permitted to do business at their will in the matter of foreign trade. Moreover, in spite of all the hard-and-fast regulations, illicit trade was carried on to an extent that in various ways brought evil repute on the country. But should unrestricted trade be made the law, these evils would be increased tenfold. Commodities would be exported which were needed at home, or might be of such inferior quality that they would ruin the credit of the nation. And, finally, if foreign trade were thrown open to all who might wish to engage in it, it would be impossible, with the machinery at the disposal of the burgh authorities, to direct and control it in their own interests and the interests of the kingdom. It was for such reasons as these that the royal burghs, with the approval of the legislature, insisted on their monopoly and were so chary of admitting to it even privileged members of their own community. Nor, it is to be remembered, were these restrictions peculiar to Scotland : in other countries the same conditions prevailed; though in them, as in some degree also in Scotland, there was a growing tendency to modify them in favour of a larger freedom.

What, we can hardly avoid asking, were the natural and artificial products, what the commodities imported and exported, which were the object of these complicated regulations with regard to foreign trade? A definite answer to the question is to be found in a paper in the charter chest of the Earl of Mar and Kellie, and about to be published by the Historical Manuscripts Commission. In this document we have a precise enumeration of all exports and imports with the respective values of each, and thus obtain a complete view at once of the industries and of the foreign trade of the country. This report belongs to a somewhat later date than the reign of Mary, but the lists and the relative values of the commodities specified may be safely used for our present purpose.

In the first list of exports we have what are designated as "the commodities that the land yields yearly.” The list is as follows :-wheat, barley and malt, oats, flour, bread, “called baikis,” beef, and aqua vitæ. The value of the total amount of these various commodities is set down at £37,653 Scots, of which by far the largest proportion is covered by . oats and barley—the value of these amounting to £25,536. Next in the catalogue of exports come hides, of which only two kinds are named_"salt hyddis” and “hairt hyddis ” (deer skins). The value of these items of export was in round numbers £67,000-nearly twice the amount realised from all

the agricultural products taken together. From the earliest times one of the chief sources of the national income had been derived from the export of the skins of animals, and in the report before us we have the following list of these :skins of sheep, shorlings, lambs, fut-falls (lambs that die as soon as they are dropped), goats, calves, roes, foxes, kids, otters, and rabbits. The total return from this class of exports was £172,000, of which £143,000 came from sheepskins. The next list of exports comprises what are called “the commodities of the land,” which are enumerated as follows :-wool, feathers, Orkney butter, lead, coals; return £99,000, of which sum one-half was obtained from wool. Another source of national income was the riches of the sea. According to Pedro de Ayala piscinata Scotia was an "ancient proverb,” and the same writer tells us with some exaggeration that the fish exported from Scotland sufficed for the needs of Italy, Flanders, France, and England. Under the head of “commodities of the sea,” the following items are specified :—salmon, herring, barrelled fish, fish in peale, and fish oil, the return from the whole being £153,000, of which £100,000 came from herring

But the list to which we turn with the greatest interest is that entitled "commodities that are made and wrought in the country." Thirteen industries in all—this is the sum-total given of the manufactures that occupied the Scottish people in the time of Mary. The list is as follows : salt, cloth, plaiding, linen cloth, coarse cloth, linen yarn, knitted hose, dressed leather, gloves, leather points, sewed cushions, ticking for beds, and shoes. An analysis of the list brings out some interesting results. The annual return from the export of all these manufactures was £169,000. Cloth and plaiding brought in €59,000; salt,

£ £ 39,000; linen yarn, £33,000; gloves, £12,00; and knitted hose, £11,000; bed-ticking brought £20; cushions, £172, and forty pairs of shoes at 135. 4d. a pair, £27. It will be noted, therefore, that the three chief industries of Mary's reign, as they had been for centuries before, were the manufacture of cloth and plaiding, linen yarn, and salt.

With regard to salt, one of the sights which surprised our visitors was the multitude of salt-pans which they passed on their way to the capital. Salt was truly a national industry, equally from the number of persons it employed and from the amount of wealth it brought into the country. The principal seats of the industry were the shores of the Firth of Forth, where the juxtaposition of the coal and the sea supplied the necessary conditions for its manufacture. “ All along the shore of [the] Firth,” writes one visitor in somewhat broken English, “are placed, even almost to Stirling from beyond Musselburgh, salt-pans wherein a mighty proportion of salt is boiled, which cannot be estimated and guessed, because the works are not easily to [be] numbered, which are placed all along the shore, at least thirty English miles. "23 To the national importance of the manufacture of salt we have a signal testimony in the opening years of the reign of Charles I., and the testimony equally applies to the reign of Mary. A proposal was submitted to Charles that the export of Scotch salt should be limited “to a small quantity saleable only to a few persons.” The magistrates of Edinburgh, in the name of their own burgh and every other burgh in the country, pointed out to the Privy Council the disastrous results that would follow the adoption of such a policy, and the Council took

up the matter with a due sense of its importance. In a letter to the king it reminded him that the coal and salt industries were inseparable. At that moment 10,000 persons were engaged in the working of both. Should the production of salt be largely diminished, the result must be a proportionate decrease in the output of coal. “Without the benefit of the salt,” the Council wrote, “these sumptuous water-works and mines required for maintenance and winning of the coal cannot be upheld, and which being forsaken but for a month, the coal must perish never in any age to be regained.” But not only the coal and salt industries would suffer; the carrying trade would be equally stricken. Half the shipping of the kingdom was employed in the export of these commodities, and it would be a deadly blow to the

« AnteriorContinuar »