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prices” on everything pertaining to the crafts
At a later date we have the same accusation of rapacity brought against the craftsmen by James VI. in his book of counsels to his son Henry—the Basilicon Doron. “The Craftes-men think,” he writes, "we should be content with their worke, how bad and dear soever it be, and, if they in anything be controlled, up goeth the blew blanket."19
The great economic question of the reign of Mary, therefore, was—What authority should possess the power of fixing the prices at once of raw products and of manufactured goods? It was a question of primary importance not only for the towns, but for the entire nation, seeing it touched the first natural wants of man-bread for his mouth and raiment for his body. But from the conditions of the time, it was only in the towns that the issue could be raised, and among the towns only in the royal burghs—where alone crafts were privileged to exist. It is by this fact we must explain why the conflict between the crafts and the merchants does not fill a larger place in the history of the time. As has already been more than once said, there was but little intercourse of any kind between the different burghs. Each left its neighbour to live its own life and fight it own battles, and raised its hand only when it deemed its own interests at stake. Thus it was that though in every royal burgh the same battle raged, there was little common action
between the contending parties in the different towns. The issue at stake, therefore, could not give rise to a collective struggle in which the whole nation would be involved and in which it would be cleft in twain by divided sympathies as in the case of the religious revolution. Yet, if common action had been possible between the different burghs, the passions evoked by the conflict between the crafts and the merchants were sufficiently violent to have kindled a general civil war. The records of the burghs themselves leave us in little doubt that the question of prices agitated the townsmen more profoundly than the question of religion. In the case of most of the towns the change of religion was attended by little commotion—the majority of all classes being of one mind as to the desirability of the change.
The controversy between the crafts and the merchants, which reached its acutest stage in the reign of Mary, had lasted for more than a century and was to be protracted to a period long after her day. It was a controversy which the simplest could understand; and which directly roused the elemental instincts by which humanity is ultimately governed. Fortunately for the country, the conditions of society were precisely such as to supply the necessary check on passions which might otherwise have issued in a national conflict more violent and widespread than the conflict which arose out of religion. The question at issue between the crafts and the merchants could not be settled in Mary's day, when men's minds were still dominated by the economic theories of the Middle Age, but in other countries, and notably in England, new economical conceptions had arisen which involved a new departure alike in the industrial and commercial development of the nations. In what relation Scotland stood to these new conceptions we shall afterwards see.
Hitherto we have been mainly engaged with the more serious concerns of the people. Let us now try to see them when relieved from the pressure of duty and when they looked about for such pleasures and enjoyments as the conditions of life offered to them.
In town and country the daily round of duty and pleasure may be said to have been determined by the circle of the sun. Between sunrise and sunset, equally in summer and winter, duty was done and pleasure enjoyed. The call of the watchman, at hours determined by the authorities, sent burgher and villager to rest at night, and summoned him to his labours in the morning. Such was the rule of life among the respectable members of all classes, but in town and village there was a considerable number of the population who were not content to pass their days in this decorous fashion. Taverns were everywhere the frequent and crowded places of resort. In spite of all the efforts of the legislature these haunts were the nightly scenes of gambling, roystering, and all manner of disorderly
ongoings. Sundays, even during time of divine service, were the days when the taverners drove their best trade, equally before and after the Reformation. We must not think, however, that these habits were peculiar to Scotland alone. Here, for example, is a description by a contemporary of the way in which the same class spent their Sundays in France: “These people pass the holy day in the tavern. There they congregate at sunrise, and often remain till midnight. There they swear,
, perjure themselves, blaspheme God and all the saints, shout, dispute, sing, make all kinds of riot and din, and behave like frantic madmen. They also do business there, buying, selling, making bargains . . . and accompanying each transaction with copious draughts of wine.”
Though the respectable citizen might not take his pleasure in this ungodly fashion, his life was by no means without frequent and cheerful alleviations. By the prescription of the mediæval Church, there were, besides the Sundays, about fifty saints' days on which it was unlawful to work, and which were sacred to pleasure and devotion. At the Reformation the majority of these holidays were proscribed both on the ground of religion and political economy, but it was long before the mass of the people were persuaded to abandon their observance Thus, as late as 1641, it was found necessary to pass Act compelling colliers and others to work six days a week—the penalty for every
idle day being 20s., besides damages to the employers. *3
It has to be noted, however, that long before the Reformation there was everywhere a growing distaste for the amusements which had been consecrated by the Church throughout the Middle Ages. This change of feeling was due, in the first place, to the sterner views of life that had resulted from the development of trade and commerce-involving a new estimate of the value of time and money. “On the whole,” says an English historian, speaking of English town life in the fifteenth century, “it is evident that long before the Reformation, and even when as yet no Puritan principles had been imported into the matter, the gaiety of the towns was already sobered by the pressure of business and the increase of the class of distressed workers." 24 What is here said of English, equally applies to Scottish towns. In Scotland, as in all other Christian countries, it was incumbent on every craft, either of itself or in conjunction with another, to produce an annual play in honour of its patron saint. But the preparation of these plays involved a considerable expenditure of time and money. The parts had to be conned, the dresses of the different characters to be procured, minstrels to be fe'ed, and the whole apparatus requisite for the production of the performance to be erected and afterwards to be removed. Even by the close of the fifteenth century the crafts began to find these