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Scottish Burghs

David and his son and successor, William the Lion, introduced a stable middle and urban class by fostering, confirming, and regulating the rights, privileges, and duties of the already existing free towns. These became burghs, royal, seignorial, or ecclesiastical. In origin the towns may have been settlements that grew up under the shelter of a military castle. Their fairs, markets, rights of trading, internal organisation, and primitive police, were now, mainly under William the Lion, David’s successor, regulated by charters; the burghers obtained the right to elect their own magistrates, and held their own burgh-courts; all was done after the English model. As the State had its “good men” (probi homines), who formed its recognised “community,” so had the borough. Not by any means all dwellers in a burgh were free burghers; these free burghers had to do service in guarding the royal castle, later this was commuted for a payment in money. Though with power to elect their own chief magistrate, the burghers commonly took as Provost the head of some friendly local noble family, in which the office was apt to become practically hereditary. The noble was the leader and protector of the town. As to police, the burghers, each in his turn, provided men to keep watch and ward from curfew bell to cock-crow. Each ward in the town had its own elected Bailie. Each burgh had exclusive rights of trading in its area, and of taking toll on merchants coming within its Octroi. An association of four burghs, Berwick, Roxburgh, Edinburgh, and Stirling, was the root of the existing “Convention of Burghs.”

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