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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


TALLY-STICK, BEARING DATE OF 1692. discovery was made in one of our churches. Some years ago a chest, without any address, but of enormous weight, was removed from the Old Weigh House at Leith, and lodged in the outer aisle of the old church (a portion of St. Giles?s). This box had lain for upwards of thirty years at Leith, and several years in Edinburgh, without a clainiznt, and, what is still more extraordinary, without any one ever having had the curiosity to examine it. On Tuesday, however, some gentlemen connected with the town caused the mysterious box to be opened, and, to their surprise and gratification, they found it contained a the power which the chamberlain had of regulating matters in his Court of the Four Burghs respecting the common welfare was transferred to the general Convention of Royal Burghs. This Court was constituted in the reign of James III., and appointed to be held yearly at Inverkeithing. By a statute of James VI., the Convention was appointed to meet four times in each year, wherever the members chose; and to avoid confusion, only one was to appear for each burgh, except the capital, which was to have two. By a subsequent statute, a majority of the burghs, came, by whom it was made, or to whom it belongs, this cannot remain long a secret. We trust, however, that it will remain as an ornament in some public place in this city.? More concerning it was never known, and ultimately it was placed in its present position, without its being publicly acknowledged to be a representation of the unfortunate prince. In this Council chamber there meets yearly that little Scottish Parliament, the ancient Convention of Royal Burghs. Their foundation in Scotland is as old, if not older, than the days of David I., who, in his charter to the monks of Holyrood, describes Edinburgh as a burgh holding of the king, paying him certain revenues, beautiful statute of his majesty (?), about the size of life, cast in bronze. . . . . Although it is at present unknown from whence this admirable piece of workmanship ?and having the privilege of free markets. The judgments of the ( F Y O ~ Scoftish ~ntiq7rurirm -w7?scunr.) magistrates of burghs were liable TALLY-STICK, BEARING DATE OF 1692. to the review of the Lord Great Chamberlain of Scotland (the first of whom was Herbert, in IIZS), and his Court of the Four Burghs. He kept the accounts of the royal revenue and expenses, and held his circuits or chamberlainayres, for the better regulation of all towns. But even his decrees were liable to revision by the Court of the Four Burghs, composed of certain burgesses of Edinburgh, Stirling, Roxburgh, and Berwick, who met ahiiually, at Haddington. to decide, as a court of last resort, the appeals from the chamberlain-ayres, and determine upon all matters affecting the welfare of the royal burghs. Upon the suppression of the office of chamberlain (the last of whom was Charles Duke of Lennox, in 1685), the power of controlling magistrates? accounts was vested in the Exchequer, and the reviewd of their sentences in the courts of law ; while . . or the capital with any other six, were empowered to call a Convention as often as they deemed it necessary, and all the other burghs were obliged to attend it under a. penalty. The Convention, consisting of two deputies from each burgh, now meets ancually at Edinburgh in the Council Chzmber, and it is somewhat singular that the Lord Provost, although only a meniber, is the perpetuai president, and the city clerks are clerks to the Convention, during the sittings of which the magistrates are supposed to keep open table for the members. The powers of this Convention chiefly respect the establishment of regulations concerning the trade and commerce of Scotland ; and with this end it has renewed, from time to time, articles of staple contract with the town of Campvere, in Holland, of old the seat of the conservator of Scottish privileges. As the royal burghs pay a sixth part of the sum imposed as a land-tax upon the counties in Scotland, the Convention is empowered to consider the state of trade, and the revenues of individual burghs, and to assess their respective portions The Convention has also been iii use to examine the administrative conduct of magistrates in the matter of burgh revenue (though this comes more properly under the Court of Exchequer), and to give sanction upon particular occasions to the Common Council of burghs to alienate a part of the burgh estate. The Convention likewise considers and arranges the political seffs or constitutions of the different burghs, and regulates matters concerning elections that may be brought before it. Before the use of the Council Chamber was assigned to the Convention it was wont to meet in an aisle of St. Giles?s church. Writers? Court-so named from the circumstance of the Signet Library being once there-adjoins the Royal Exchange, and a gloomy little cuZ de sac it
Volume 1 Page 186
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