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as distinct from the burghs of regality and barony; and it was concerned not only in the development of the interests of its members, but also in the maintenance of their privileges, of which the monopoly of foreign trade was the most important, against encroachments of unfree burghs and unfree persons. Then, too, as its members were merchants, their interests were more regarded than those of the craftsmen. The convention made regulations and enforced restrictions in economic matters which are now left to the control of the individual producer. In the Dutch trade it forced the merchants to trade with the staple goods only at the staple port, and made many regulations for their conduct there.
But from the standpoint of the sixteenth century the convention occupies a different position. It represented only the royal burghs, it is true, but they were the most important and thriving sections of the community. A body composed of their members was a national authority, and its regulation of trade and supervision of industry made for uniformity and the predominance of national over local interests. Also all merchants of royal burghs were allowed to trade, and the only restriction as to places was in the Dutch trade; in other trades any merchant could go where he wished. Therefore the restrictions on the merchants in Scotland were fewer than those imposed by the great trading companies in England. As Archdeacon Cunningham says: "The combined trading in regulated companies, which was such a characteristic feature of English commerce, had never become an established Scots practice; Scotland moved from medieval to modern trade organization without passing through this transitional form.'1
The convention was not only concerned with economic affairs. It regulated the relation of the burghs to each other, had much to do with their internal affairs, their municipal constitutions and the maintenance of their public works, and was also interested in some miscellaneous business, such as the choice of a Latin grammar to be used in schools, and the reform of women's heid attyre.'
Íts attitude towards economic affairs and its relative importance as compared with the council and parliament, change in the three periods into which this epoch naturally falls-the reigns of the earlier Stewarts, the interregnum, and the years between the restoration and the union. It is in the first of these three that its influence was greatest, for it was then most in touch with the
1 Archdeacon Cunningham's preface to Commercial Relations of England and Scot land, 1603-1707, T. Keith, p. xi.
economic life of the people. James VI. and Charles I. took great interest in and did much to promote the economic interests of their ancient kingdom. They acted through the privy council, and parliament, where the burghs were represented, had little influence during this period. Therefore the convention, as representing the commercial and industrial part of the community, was important, and it was consulted on every economic question which came before the council; while it exerted its powers independently to secure uniformity, maintain quality, regulate trade and negotiate for commercial privileges, and to some extent to develop industry. It seems impossible to draw a line between the powers of the convention, the council, and the parliament in regulating and developing trade and industry beyond the very general one that the burghs did not as a rule pass acts restricting or allowing export or import of commodities from abroad. The convention was seldom interfered with, but in 1598 it was forced to rescind an act which it had passed declaring that all burghs were to punish their citizens who, in defiance of acts of parliament and of the burghs, for thair particular gain, without respect of the lawis of the realm, dewtie to thair native cuntrey, and of thair awin consciences,'1 purchased licenses for transporting wool. But the Lords Auditors of the Exchequer had licensed the export of wool, and so on complaint to the council this 'pretendit' act of the burghs was not allowed. In the matter of the appointment of the Conservator in Holland both burghs and king claimed the nomination, so there were frequent disagreements between them, generally ending in a compromise.3
In industry the convention had considerable powers in making regulations about weights and measures. These powers dated from an early period, for James II. in 1454 gave the Court of the Four Burghs authority to give weights and measures to the lieges.* The convention also prescribed the size and shape of barrels for fish, the method of salting and packing fish, and the length and quality of cloth. The burghs were anxious to encourage manufactures, if the profit was reaped by their own members, but the variety of their interests and the difficulty of raising capital made it difficult for them to take any initiative; and their anxiety that all their members should obviously profit and profit alike made them oppose
1 Convention Records, ii. 26-27.
2 Register of the Scottish Privy Council, First Series, v. 477.
3 See Scottish Staple at Veere, Davidson and Gray, pp. 167-210.
individual efforts which generally took the form of a monopoly. The convention was more able to enforce its regulations than the parliament or the council, for it had its agent and its own machinery for reaching and fining delinquent magistrates who did not put the laws into execution as they were required, and at every convention the commissioners of the burghs could be reminded of their magistrates' duties. The dealings of the commissioners on the subject of the export of 'burnecoill give an example of their methods. As this was transported against acts of parliament to the great hurt of the lieges, the coal decayand and growand skant daylie' and the cuntrey apperand to be destitute of fewall in schort spaice,' provosts and baillies were ordered in 1594 to put acts of parliament against this export into execution within their bounds under pain of an unlaw of £20, and each commissioner was instructed to report the diligence of his burgh at the next convention. The next year the act was ratified and ordained to be put to further execution, and every burgh was to report their diligence under pain of £100.2 This Dysart and Culross failed to do, so in 1596 they were fined £100, to be paid to the agent of the burghs, and again in 1599 Dysart was reprimanded, and in 1600 was required to raise letters against their neighbours who transported coal.5
As has been said, one very useful function of the convention was its attempt to secure uniformity. In one of the earliest conventions of which we have a full record, the commissioners decreed that all burghs must receive and use the stone weight of Lanark, the pint stoup of Stirling, the firlot of Linlithgow, and the ell of Edinburgh. In 1592 those who had not satisfied the act were ordered to produce an attestation from the clerk of Linlithgow that they had received their just measures; and in 1599 each burgh was ordered to 'controll ane other heirvpoun.' Linlithgow was told to make a reasonable price in 1612, as there had been many complaints of the exorbitant prices they asked, and in 1618 the prices of all the measures were fixed by the convention. At almost every convention in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries this matter received attention, and parliament several times re-enacted earlier legislation on the same subject. In the interests of national uniformity also it was decreed in 1552 that because of the 'grete mvrmour risin vpoun the hale borrowis of this realme in rasing of nouationis and exactionis of thair pitte3 Ibid. i. 477-8.
2 Ibid. i. 464.
1 Convention Records, i. 445-6.
6 Ibid. i. 2 (1552). 9 Ibid. iii. 71.
customes of the burch, and for stanching thairof,' every burgh should use the table of the petty customs of Edinburgh.1
The burghs also endeavoured to secure that the barrels for salmon, herring, and white fish should be the same size throughout the country, the salmon barrel to contain twelve gallons and the others ten, and these regulations were many times re-enacted. All these provisions were made in order to enable trade at home and abroad to be carried on more easily, and with the same object many regulations were made for the maintenance of the quality of goods, to avoid the 'evill brute and sclander rasitt on the haill merchantis of this realme in France, Flanderis, and vtheris partis bezond the see,' as was said in regulations about the export of skins. As fish was a very important export, much attention was paid to its curing and packing. In 1580, for eschewing the 'greit inconveniencis and intolerabill skaith' that has happynit to the merchandis and traffecquaris of this realme, of the new inventit craft and falset committit and done dailie be the cowparis, pakkaris of salmound, throuche pakking of roustie and insufficient salmound fische, quhairthrowch thair is greit hurt and dampnage nocht onlie sustenit be the byeris thairof but alsua be the selleris of the samyn, and no less sclander sustenit be the haill natioun throuch defalt of the said salmon pakkeris,' regulations were made that all packers should be sworn to use their office 'lelelie and trewlie,' and to set caution and surety in the town's books to pack only good and sufficient fish, to burn and mark each barrel after packing with their own mark, and then to have it burnt with the town's mark. If they failed they were to pay £10 for the damage which the merchant sustained and 10 penalty to the town, and to be for ever discharged from packing. In 1609 gaugers were appointed in all burghs to see that the regulations were carried out and that all barrels were of the measure of
Edinburgh. This apparently was not satisfactory, for in 1616 it was ordained that Edinburgh should make another form of barrel and send it to all the burghs. The privy council was asked to 'interpone thair authoritie thairto,' and they therefore passed an act confirming that of the convention. The care of the fishing industry occupied much of the time of the convention, and it would be wearisome to trace the exact regulations for size of barrels, manner of packing herring, provision of salt, etc., which 2 Ibid. i. 21 (1570).
5 Ibid. iii. 32-3.
1 Ibid. i. 2, 11-12.
3 Ibid. i. 100-1.
4 Ibid. ii. 284-5-
were laid down for the coopers, packers, and slayers of salmon, herring, and white fish, all to remedy abuses committed to the 'gritt detriment of the merchand tredders thairin and infamie of the natioun abroard in forraine parts.'
Cloth was another important export, and in 1622 the council, becoming anxious about its quality, appealed to the burghs for advice. The commissioners considered that the Galloway' cairsayis' had always been insufficient and unloyal merchandise, and they could not devise any means for reforming the trade. But plaiding should be sealed before being presented at market, and visitors and sealers should be appointed by the burghs nearest to the markets to examine the goods. But in 1628 further complaints were made of the 'grit falsett that hes croppin in of late among the workers of the said plaiding,' and also of the length of the reel of yarn. The remedy was said to be that the plaiding should be sold in folds, not in rolls, as then it could be properly examined, and the burghs presented a petition to parliament in 1634 about selling the plaiding in hard rolls. This was referred to the council, there was much discussion, the council being afraid of the damage from the weather if it was presented in folds, but an ordinance enforcing the burghs' wishes was finally made in 1635.5
The convention did more for the regulation of old manufactures than for the promotion of new. The king and council were much interested in and anxious for the development of industry, and frequently tried to stir up the burghs to a like enthusiasm. At the end of the sixteenth century great efforts were made to improve the cloth manufacture, which, owing to the unskilfulness of our awin people' and their 'unwillingness to suffer ony strangeris to cum amangis thame,' was not sufficiently followed in the country. The burghs promised to bring in twenty of the hundred families for whom liberty of settlement was given by the council, and sent to Norwich, the Low Countries, and France to search for workers. Those whom they brought in 1601 were, however, 'separatit and hardle enterteynzit,' the matter was not so 'cairfulle and dewtiefulle haldin hand to as we hoipit for,' and the burghs were requested to 'se this mater of the claith put to ane point.'
1 Privy Council Register, First Series, xii. 639-40.
3 Ibid. iii. 272.
2 Convention Records, iii. 136-7.
Acts, Scotland, v. 49. 5 Privy Council Register, Second Series, v. 526-7. Ibid. First Series, vi. 123-4. 7 Convention Records, ii. 107-9.
8 Ibid. ii. 123.