Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/417

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1329 A.D.]

Death of Robert de Brus.


security for a debt of £2197, 8s, due by Alexander III. for corn and wine. It is true, indeed, that the debt had not been liquidated when that king died. Upon Berwick fell the most grievous affliction of the War of Independence, for the first act of that war was its sack by Edward I. when the inhabitants were slaughtered and the streets ran with blood for two days. No similar instance of severity happened to any other city.

The Scottish burghs derived great benefit from the wise policy of the Scottish kings, who, when Henry II. drove all foreigners out of England, encouraged these industrious traders and mechanics, especially the Flemings, to settle in their dominions.

It is owing to a change in the relations of royal burghs to the Crown which, if not introduced by King Robert, received his sanction and was made universal, that we are able to compare the relative size and importance of the towns as they stood after the cloud of war had rolled away for a time. Under the old system, such burgher paid a fixed yearly rent to the Crown in respect of his separate toft or tenement, and these rents were periodically collected and accounted for by Government officials, together with the fines imposed in the municipal courts and the parva costuma or town duties, all of which formed part of the royal revenue. Under the new system, each municipality received from the chamberlain a lease for a fixed term of years of its rents, fines, and customs, paying a rent adjusted so as to leave an income sufficient to meet the expenses of local self-government. Sometimes a feudal lord interposed