« AnteriorContinuar »
prosperity of many burghs if their ships were idle. And, in conclusion, the Council earnestly besought Charles not to set his face against that “mutual freedom of trade" which his father had maintained with "princely care."29
An experienced English traveller who visited Scotland at the close of the sixteenth century gives the following compendious survey of the foreign trade of Scotland at that period, and his testimony applies to times long antecedent to those of Mary. “The inhabitants of the western parts of Scotland,” says this observer, “carry into Ireland and neighbouring places red and pickled herrings, sea-coal and aqua vita, with like commodities, and bring out of Ireland yarn, and cows' hides or silver. The eastern Scots carry into France coarse cloths, both linen and woollen, which be narrow and shrink in the wetting. They also carry thither wool, skins of goats, wethers, and of conies, and divers kinds of fishes, taken in the Scottish sea and near other northern islands, and after smoked, or otherwise dried and salted. And they bring from thence salt and wines; but the chief traffic of the Scots is in four places, namely, at Campvere in Zealand, whither they carry salt, the skins of wethers, otters, badgers and martens, and bring from thence corn. And at Bordeaux in France, whither they carry cloths and the same skins, and bring from thence wines, prunes, walnuts, and chestnuts. Thirdly, within the Baltic Sea, whither they carry the said
cloths and skins, and bring thence flax, hemp, iron, pitch, and tar. And, lastly, in England, whither they carry linen cloths, yarn, and salt, and bring thence wheat, oats, beans, and like things.”
THE INHABITANTS OF THE TOWNS
AVING described the appearance of a town
the time of Mary, and the general conditions under which its life and business were conducted, let us now glance at the community that was gathered within its precincts. In the first place it is to be remembered that, with the exception of Edinburgh, the number of indwellers, even in the more populous burghs, amounted only to a few thousands. In such a society everyone was more or less familiar with his fellow-townsman, and as he had scarcely any interests beyond the community of which he was a member, his feelings were proportionally keen regarding all that concerned it. By the conditions of town life, as they have just been described, he was saved from the vacuity of a modern villager. The complexity of the burghal arrangements necessarily give rise to a plentiful amount of friction, while the close personal supervision, to which everyone in his own place was officially subjected, continually reminded him that he was part of a machine for the smooth working of
a which he had his own responsibility. If the records
of the burghs are to be trusted, we must conclude that a sixteenth-century Scottish town was a sufficiently lively place, and could on occasion be the scene of humorous and dramatic incidents which the march of civilisation has made impossible with so many other things.
In the town community there was a deep line of cleavage which divided its inhabitants into what were virtually two hostile camps. On the one hand, there were the burgesses or freemen, and, on the other, the non-burgesses or unfreemen. It was with genuine feudal class feeling that the privileged burgess regarded his less favoured fellow-townsman, and he had good reason to cherish the sentiment. According to the laws of the burgh, though they were not infrequently broken, the unfreeman could not follow
any handicraft, could not engage in any form of trade or merchandise, could not be taken into partnership by any freeman, nor be employed by him in any business capacity either at home or abroad. Shops and stalls were closed against him ; in the market he could only buy within prescribed hours; and it was invidiously enacted in Edinburgh that on market-days he must take his position on the opposite side of the street from the freeman. Thus excluded from all these privileges, the unfreeman could hardly regard his favoured neighbours with fraternal feelings, and, in point of fact, the relations between the two sections of the community suggest a certain parallel to the relations which existed between the plebeians and the patricians in ancient Rome.
But if the freeman had valuable privileges, he had also weighty responsibilities — so weighty,
, indeed, that he often became convinced that he had made a bad bargain in acquiring them. He had first of all to pay a considerable sum for admission, which he might not be well able to spare—though, on occasion, for special services or some other reason, the fee was not exacted. Once admitted a full burgess, all the burdens of his new position devolved upon him. He had to take his share in watching and warding-everywhere rigorously enforced; and, hardest duty of all, he had to be ready at any moment to don his jack and take up his halbert and hagbut, and march with his fellowburghers wherever the king might require his services. The privileged burgess had, in fact, to combine as best he could the duties of a feudal retainer with the special occupations by which he gained his bread.
There was an ingenious method, indeed, by which all the privileges could be acquired without the responsibilities. The enfranchised burgess might take up his residence beyond the limits of the burgh, and thus escape the round of duties that were the co-relative of his privileges. But though burgesses of this type were to be found in connection with all the towns, they were universally regarded as equivocal citizens who had no just right to exist. It was in times of crisis,