Puslapio vaizdai


Johne hathewie tua rude thomas puntoun tua rude Thomas parkie ane rude

Johnne blair tua rude
Johnne dowglas tua rude

Item of ilk hous of ye Nungait yat ye reik cummis out of

v d in ye zeir.

Item of ilk rude in ye Giffertgaitt

v d in ye zeir

A Tenement of land provest (sic) be ye bailleis of hadingtoun lyand on ye north syde of ye tolbuyt betuix a land of Johnne halyburtoun on ye eist pt and a land of umqle dauid greinlawis on the west to george sinclair of blanss for ane mk of @nuell zeirlie out of ye said tenement the zeir of god jaj vc and sevin zeiris.

Ane vthir tenement of land provest (sic) be ye baillieis of hadingtoun lyand on ye southsyde of ye tolbuyt gait betuix a land of williame sinclare on ye west pt and a land of Richard crumby on the eist pt To george sinclare of blanss for for schillingis @nuell jaj vc and sevin zeiris.

The Origin of the Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland

With a Note on

The Connection of the Chamberlain with the Burghs


ENGTH of days cannot be said to be a characteristic of Scottish institutions, for few have been able to survive the union with England, and of those which have not disappeared the Court of Session and the General Assembly only date from the sixteenth century. The most venerable survivor is the Convention of the Burghs which, under some form and name, seems to have existed from earlier times. The history of the Scottish royal burghs as a whole presents some unique features, and this assembly, which exercised large powers of control and of regulation of burghal affairs, is not the least interesting of these. Charters and legislation granted to the royal burghs rights of self-government and exclusive trading privileges, and during the middle ages they seem to have pursued the development of their commerce and industry with the encouragement of parliament and of the crown, unhampered by interference from the nobles. During the thirteenth century they were flourishing communities, and, though the war with England put an end to their prosperity for a time, they seem to have begun to recover by the middle of the fourteenth century and during the fifteenth their trade and industry developed and increased. This economic growth was not unaccompanied by constitutional development for from a very early period mention is made and accounts are given of the proceedings of burghal assemblies-of the Four Burghs, the Court of the Four Burghs, the Parliament of the Court of the Four Burghs-while the commissioners of burghs gave decisions in judicial cases, became responsible for the payment of ransoms, recommended legislation and convened together for various purposes, independently of parliament, before the end of the fifteenth century. In the sixteenth century economic affairs

were even more important; it became more necessary to defend the privileges of the royal and free burghs against encroachments, and their meetings became more frequent. From the middle of the century full records of the proceedings of the convention of the burghs were preserved and soon after that the meetings were held every year.

It is the purpose of this paper to trace the connection of the earlier burghal assemblies with the fully developed convention, and at the same time to describe the changes in their constitution and the growth of their functions. By the beginning of the seventeenth century the convention was exercising many powers. It assessed the share, a sixth part, of national taxation which was paid by the burghs. It guarded the privileges of the royal and free burghs, maintaining their exclusive right of engaging in foreign trade, and it helped individual burghs to resist encroachments by neighbouring gentry. It made many regulations as to trade and industry, weights and measures and burghal administration, and also made some attempts to develop manufactures and fishing. The king and the council often consulted the convention, and it made representations to them and to parliament about matters affecting the burghs. Appeal was made to it in cases of quarrels between burghs, and the convention exercised certain considerable though undefined powers in altering or authorising alterations in the setts of burghs and of ratifying alienations of their common good. The convention consisted of representatives of all the royal and free burghs, presided over by an elected president, generally the provost of the burgh where the commissioners met.

This assembly is said to have been a development of the court of the four burghs, an institution whose history is difficult to trace, as its records have entirely disappeared and there are but few references to the court, its constitution, procedure or business in other documents. The four burghs were originally Edinburgh, Roxburgh, Berwick and Stirling, the most important in the south of Scotland. How and when the court originated cannot be told. The earliest reference to the Four Burghs' is in the name of the burghal code 'Leges Quatuor Burgorum.' The earlier chapters of the laws are almost identical with the customs of Newcastleon-Tyne, which claim to date from Henry I.'s time, and probably only these chapters come from David I., to whom the whole code is attributed. These form a nucleus of laws deriving from the first half of the twelfth century' which has gathered to it other laws of many dates.' The earliest transcript, the Berne MS., was


probably written about 1270, and therefore the laws must have been codified before that date. They were probably the custom in different burghs both in Scotland and in England and the code may have received the name of the four burghs because they existed as an association to which application could be made by other burghs as to existing customs. Apart from the name of the laws the first mention of the four burghs is in a decision referred in 1292 super legem et consuetudinem Burgorum per quatuor Burgos,' in a plea held at Edinburgh before the Custodians of the kingdom of Scotland. Margery Moyne sued Roger Bertilmeu, executor of her late husband William, for two hundred marks which the said William had given her. Roger's defence was that William had not left enough to pay his debts and that the creditors should be satisfied first. Margery then asserted that hers was the principal debt and ought to be paid first according to the custom of the burghs. Roger demanded an appeal to the law of the burghs, to which Margery agreed, and the four burghs declared that the law of the burghs was that the claim of the dower was the principal debt and ought to be paid before other debts, and sentence was given accordingly. The appeal may have been made to the court of the four burghs.

In the next reference the burgesses of the four burghs are found making an ordinance or declaring a custom. In 1295 'It was decretid and ordanit be the worthy and noble burges of Berewyk Edinburghe (Roxburgh) and Stirling . . . at the abbay of the haly cros of Edinburghe' that ships, etc., and horses did not pertain to the heir heritably, but nevertheless the best palfrey went to the heir, if it was not given to the church or to some religious man, in which case the heir could have the next best. Also, a burgess might leave his armour and utensils where he wished only the heir should have the principal armour and utensils. This is an addition to the law in the code, 'Of thyngis pertenand to the burges ayre,' concerning the household geir and plenishing." The burgesses of the four burghs therefore

1 Mary Bateson, Borough Customs (Selden Society), i. 1.

Ancient Laws and Customs of the Burghs of Scotland (Scottish Burgh Records Society), i. 48, 49, 55.

8 Rotuli Parliament, i. 107-8.

• Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, i. 724.

5 Ancient Laws, i. 56. Cp. Acts, Scotland, ii. 107. Item anent the aiersschipe of movabill gudis that the aieris of baronis gentilmen ande frehaldaris sall haue It is statute and ordanit that the saide aieris sall haif the best of Ilke thing and efter the statute of the burow lawis and as is contenyt in the samyn.

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declared customs and made ordinances, which may often have meant putting an official seal on custom or giving a wider sphere to local usage. These two entries concern an assembly of burgesses, which may have been the same as the court referred to in 1345 when Edward III. was told by the community of Berwick that it had for long been the custom in Scotland that appeals by pursuer or defender from sentences in burgh courts could be heard at Haddington by the chamberlain and sixteen good men from the four burghs of Berwick, Stirling, Roxburgh, and Edinburgh. And as the men of the three latter places adhered to the king's enemies they could not meet with the burgesses of Berwick, and so pleas remained undetermined to the great hurt of many. The king granted that these pleas might come before the guardian and mayor and twelve burgesses of Berwick. The Scottish king had also to make provision for the dislocation caused by the war, and in 1368 it was decreed that, as Berwick and Roxburgh, which were two of the burghs which of old had made the court of the chamberlain held once a year at Haddington to hear judgments contradicted before him in his ayres, were held by the English, Linlithgow and Lanark should be substituted for them. The four burghs therefore had another, a judicial capacity, in which they attended at a court presided over by the king's chamberlain, where sentences given in burgh courts and in the ayres of the chamberlain were revised.

A law of Robert III. asserted that all dooms falsed or gainsaid in burgh courts should be determined in Haddington before the chamberlain and four burgesses of each of the four burghs. It also gives the 'manere of dome falsing'-Gif ony party uill fals a dome he aucht to say thus This dome is fals stynkand and rottin in the self and tharto I streik a borch and that I will preiff.'s One of James I.'s acts declared further that he who would false a doom 'sal nocht remufe oute of the place that he standis in quhen the dome is gevin na zit be avisit na spek with na man quhil the dome be agayn callit ande that salbe w'in the tyme that a man may gang esily XL payses.' This Stair characterises as a 'very rude and peremptor way.' The court consisted of three or four of the 'maist discret' burgesses of the four burghs, with sufficient commission summoned by letter to Haddington to appear before the chamberlain, and all judgments again said in burgh courts

1 Rotuli Scotiae, i. 660.

2 Records of the Convention of the Royal Burghs of Scotland, i. 541-2.

3 Acts, Scotland, i. 742.

4 Ibid. ii. 18.

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