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The Municipal Institutions of Scotland
An Historical Survey by James D. Marwick from the Scottish Historical Review of 1904.


THERE seems to be no reason to doubt that, at a time anterior to any existing Scottish legislation, the little village communities which grew around Royal and Baronial Castles and Religious Houses, or on sites otherwise suitable, cultivated ówith the sanction and largely for the benefit of their lordsó such scanty trade as was then practicable. But their position was precarious. They were probably in a position of absolute villenage, and had no rights or privileges save such as the policy or caprice of their lords allowed. The protection they enjoyed was also burdened with heavy impositions. But in process of time the Sovereign and the more powerful nobles came to recognise it to be their interest to encourage the development of the little trading communities which had sprung up around them, and this they did by the concession of privileges in the form largely of monopolies and exclusive dealing. In the communities thus formed societies known as hanses or guilds were instituted, and the privileged members of these communities, in process of time, claimed the right to administer the affairs of the burgh in which they existed, to the exclusion of the humbler classes of craftsmen. But before this stage of development had been reached, it became obvious to the Sovereign and to the lords, lay and ecclesiastical, that the prosperity of the trading communities, established on their respective territories, conduced to their own advantage, and so it became customary for these communities to obtain farther concessions of privilege. In grants of these the Crown took the lead. The burghal communities established on the royal domains were specially privileged, and, in return for the advantages which they thus secured, the Crown received, in the shape of ferms or rents, tolls and customs, important financial advantages, and accessions of strength through the increase of an industrial vassalage. The baronial superiors, lay and ecclesiastical, of the burghal communities established on their territory, seem to have followed the royal example, but the burghs of Regality and Barony which were formed under their authority, were subordinate, in rank, position, and privilege, to those burghs which held directly of the Crown.

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