Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 185 No. ccxxxv. CAPTAIN JAMES BURNET, THE LAST CAPTAIN OF THE CITY GUARD. THE formation of the City Guard of Edinburgh, about the year 1696, is generally believed to have been a political measure, devised for the purpose of controlling the Jacobites, and protecting the city from any sudden tumult.’ The Guard consisted of about one hundred and twenty men,’ divided into three companies, armed and equipped in a style peculiar to the times. The Arnot, in his “History of Edinburgh”-published in 1788-gives the following account of the origin of the Guard :-“Of old, the citizens performed a species of personal service for defence of the town, called watching and wrding. By this, the trading part of the inhabitants were bound, in person, to keep watch alternately during the night, to prevent or suppress occasional disturbances. In the progress of manners, this personal attendance was found extremely inconvenient ; and the citizens were convinced that their own ease would be promoted, and the city more effectually protected, by a commutation of their services into money, to be paid by them for maintaining a regular Guard. “Conform to this idea, the Town Council, in A.D. 1648, appointed a body of sixty men to be raised, whereof the captain to have a monthly pay of fll : 2 : 3 sterling ; two lieutenants of 22 each ; two sergeants of El : 5s. ; three corporals of El ; and the private men of 15s. each per month. No regular fund being provided to defray this expense, the old method of watching and warding was quickly resumed ; but those on whom this seiice was incumbent, were become so relaxed in their discipline, that the Privy Council informed the Magistrates, if they did not provide a sufficient guard for preserving order in the city, the King’s troops mould be quartered in it. Upon this, forty men were again (1679) raised as a Town Guard. This body was, in the year 1682, augmented to one hundred and eight men, at the instigation of the Duke of York. The appointment of the officers was vested in the King, who was also declared to have a power of marching this corps wherever he thought proper. To defray the expense of this company, the Council imposed a tax upon the citizens ; and the imposition was ratified by the King. ‘‘ Upon the Revolution, the Town Council represented to the estates of Parliament that they had been imposed upon to eatablish a Town Guard, and complained of it as a grievance which they wished to have removed. Their request was granted, and the citizens had recourse once more tu watching and warding. So speedily, however, did they repent themselves of the change, that the very next year they applied for the authority of Parliament to raise, for the defence of the city, a corps of no fewer than one hundred and twenty-six men, and to assess the inhabitants for discharging the expense. “Since that period, the number of this corps, which is called the Town Guard, has been very fluctuating. For about these thirty years it has consisted of only seventy-five private men ; and, considering the enlarged extent of the city, and the increased number of inhabitants, it ought undoubtedly to be augmented. This, however, cannot be the case, unless new means are devised for defraying the expense, since the cost of maintaining the present Guard exceeds the sum :llowed by Parliament to be levied from the citizens for that purpose. The men are properly disciplined, and fire remarkably well. Within these two yean, some disorderly soldiers, in one of the marching regiments, having conceived an umbrage at the Town Guard, attacked them. They were double in number to the party of the Town Guard, who, in the scuffle, severely wounded some of their asuailant.q, and made the whole of them prisoners.’’ “ The Lord Provost of Edinburgh is Commander of this useful Corp. During the disturbances of 1715 and 1745, the number way considerably augmented. VOL. IL 2 B
Volume 9 Page 249
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print