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when the calls for watching and warding were exacting, that the “out-burgher,” as he was called, became the special object of distrust and dislike. Stringent laws would then be passed to the effect that all out-burgesses should at once take “stob and stake” in the town, and that thenceforward no person
should be admitted to its freedom who did not undertake to discharge every obligation which that freedom involved. The very emphasis with which the out-burgher was denounced is, indeed, the strongest proof of the burdensome conditions of citizenship. Yet, in spite of legislation, the outburgher continued to exist, perhaps because his fee was a welcome addition to the town treasury, or because persons of substance who would make creditable citizens were not so numerous in the community.
But besides this deep cleavage between burgesses and non-burgesses, there was a further subdivision in the ranks of the burgesses themselves. The freedom of the town was shared by two classes of persons, who in Scotland were in bitter and chronic antagonism. The one was the class of merchants, the other the class made up of the more or less numerous crafts that were to be found in the free burghs. In the sixteenth century the term "merchant" had the same wide application which it still possesses in Scotland. It was equally applied to small shopkeepers, and to persons engaged in foreign trade. In the earlier
history of the Scottish towns, as in the case of those of other countries, the class of merchants had formed an oligarchy which mainly controlled the business of the burgh. By the beginning of the fifteenth century, however, a new power had appeared within the Scottish burghs, which was thenceforward to be countercheck to
to the ascendency of the merchant class. By that period the various artisan crafts had attained such numbers and influence that the merchants were unable to maintain undisputed influence in the affairs of the burgh. But though the merchants had lost their former commanding position, their wealth and solidarity still enabled them to hold a preponderating influence in the community.
As in the case of all associations formed in preReformation times, the interests of religion were nominally the primary object of these merchant guilds, but, in point of fact, their main concern was the jealous guardianship of the interests of the class which composed them. The powers which they possessed were certainly ample enough for this
purpose. It was the brethren of the guild who put in force all those restrictions on trade and commerce which have already been described. It was the guild officials who determined the prices of all commodities, who superintended the freighting of foreign-bound ships, who mulcted all unauthorised persons who ventured to infringe the ordinances regulating the trade of the burgh. To become a
guild-brother it was necessary to be a burgess, but there was a further condition which virtually made the guild a close body of merchants. A craftsman could not be admitted before he abandoned the calling by which he made his living. Thus, in Edinburgh, in 1576, we find a tailor and a surgeon both denied admission to the Guildry, till they had “refused their crafts,” and “bore burden with the merchants.". Such were the exclusive privileges still tenaciously claimed by the merchant class in Scottish burghs even into the latter half of the sixteenth century. But, as we have seen, there was a rival class opposed to them which was not content to accept an oligarchy which reduced them to the condition of hewers of wood and drawers of water. The long and bitter controversy between the merchants and craftsmen was not confined to the reign of Mary, but it was then that it assumed the acute form, which forced both parties to see the necessity of a compromise, and eventually resulted in the definitive“ Decreit Arbitral” of James VI. in 1583.3 The controversy is thus a distinctive chapter of Mary's reign, second in importance only to the religious revolution itself, with which, indeed, it is closely connected as an economic side of that breach with the national continuity.
As has just been said, it was in the fifteenth century that the crafts began to play a noticeable part in the national life. Crafts had, of course, existed in the towns from the beginning, but by that period they had multiplied and specialised to such a degree that they had become an important and even formidable section of the community. In Scotland, as in England, they had already in the fifteenth century begun to excite the attention of the executive by their restless activity and by what were deemed their revolutionary tendencies. The conflicting legislation regarding them vividly shows the embarrassment of the authorities in presence of this new power in the State. In the extremity of its bewilderment Parliament within the space of three years did and undid all its legislation regarding the troublesome bodies. In 1425 it was enacted that in every craft in every burgh a " wise man" of the craft should be chosen, who, as deacon or master, should “
govern and assay" all its handiwork, and see to it that no scamped goods should be foisted on the buyers by "untrue men of the crafts.". It was speedily discovered that this arrangement had been a mistake—that it led to mischief by placing too much power in the hands of the deacons. In 1426, therefore, it was decreed that the deacons should possess no jurisdiction over a craft beyond a fortnightly inquiry into the skill of its members and the quality of the work which was turned out. The wages of the workmen, the price of the materials he used, and of the final article produced, were all to be fixed, not by the deacon, but by the alderman and Council of each town. But even this limitation
of the powers of the deacons was found to be inadequate. The assemblies of the crafts over which they presided were declared to of conspiracy,” and the office of deacon was summarily abolished. But some order had to be taken for the control of the unruly societies and for the protection of the lieges against exorbitant prices and shoddy goods. This, therefore, was the arrangement now adopted. An official, known as the Warden, was to be chosen by the Council of the burgh for every craft, his function being restricted to appraising materials and workmanship and fixing prices, with the power of imposing fines where they were necessary. As far as legislation could avail, seditious meetings of the crafts were thus decisively suppressed, but it is a speaking commentary on the powers of the executive that the law appears to have been little more than a dead letter. From a statute of 1493 we learn that the crafts were still in the habit of electing deacons and holding seditious assemblies. The words in which this statute denounces these proceedings show that it was not only the feudal barons who were the disturbers of the king's peace.
« Because it is clearly understood by the King's Highness and his Three Estates," the statute begins, “that the using of deacons of men of craft in burghs is right dangerous, and, as they use the same, may be the cause of great trouble in burghs and convocation to raising of the King's lieges, etc.”