HC Deb 13 February 1818 vol 37 cc423-38
Lord Archibald Hamilton

rose to make his promised motion, relative to the late transactions in the burgh of Montrose, which were likely to have so material an influence on the future situation and destiny of Scotch burghs. He said, he should commence by declaring what his intended motion was not, and then proceed to state what it was. It was not any disguised motion for parliamentary reform, nor had it any necessary connexion with that unwelcome topic. His motion would be for the production to this House of those proceedings of the privy council, which were technically called, the Act or Warrant, by which a new election of magistrates had been granted by government to the burgh of Montrose, and a radical and important alteration had been made in the old constitution of that burgh. The learned lord advocate had declared, last session, when he (lord A. H.) had supported the prayer of some Scotch petitions for parliamentary reform, that the people of Scotland were satisfied with things as they were.* Such a declaration would surely not be made now. They who had observed what had passed in that country for the last six months—who had noticed how many public meetings had been held for the sole purpose of considering the abuses and mismanagement in their burghs—who had seen how all the newspapers in that country had teemed with resolutions from the different burghs, stating the grievances * See Vol. 35, p. 923. which they actually suffered, and the helpless and cruel condition of distress and insolvency to which they were approaching—would find some difficulty in believing the learned lord's assertion of last year, that the people of Scotland were satisfied with these matters as they were.

He was convinced, that neither the noble lord opposite, nor any other member of his majesty's government, if he could be made perfectly acquainted with what had passed, and was passing, and likely to continue in the Scotch burghs, would voluntarily continue that system of fraud which wasted the resources, and of self-election in the magistrates, which eluded and defied all responsibility. He need state only one fact to show the state of things in those burghs—it was this: that the inhabitants of a burgh in Scotland, who had no voice in the appointment of the magistrates of that burgh, and no control over their conduct, were nevertheless, according to the best information he had been able to obtain, and according to the highest legal opinions, liable for whatever debts they might, in their magisterial capacity, contract. Indeed, it had been solemnly decided, within the last fifty years, both in the court of Exchequer and court of Session, that they, the said courts, had no jurisdiction against the magistrates of a burgh in questions of general account. This abuse was founded upon another still greater; namely, self-election in the magistrates—a practice contrary to all reason, sense, and justice, and to every principle of the British constitution. Indeed, it was an abuse of such a nature, when applied to a corporate body which had duties to perform, that the wit of man could not contrive a mode better calculated to produce the most domineering arrogance in these municipal governors, and, in the helpless governed, the most abject state of subjection and servility. In several burghs in Scotland, the magistrates, if they chose, were, year after year, self-elected in perpetuity. In most, the matter of election was so managed, that it amounted to the same thing. In other burghs, the magistrates were not bound to reside, and, in fact, did not reside, and were rarely seen in the burghs, whose concerns they pretended to manage, except once a year, to be reelected. All these were abuses of the most discreditable and injurious nature. It was not his wish or intention, upon the present occasion, to excite any unpleasant feelings on the subject. He by no means meant any hostility to the learned lord, or the hon. gentlemen opposite. He should be very sorry if any thing he 6aid or did, should be injurious to that cause which he was anxious to serve.— It was the cause of Scotland; and, in his conscience, he believed, that in no way could he more effectually promote the best and permanent interests of that country, than by using his humble efforts to effect the destruction of this odious system of burgh-management—to annul that abominable abuse, the self-election of magistrates, and to establish the liability of those entrusted with the funds and possessions of burghs, to have their management brought to the test of strict and accurate accounts.

He would now proceed to detail the particulars of the case which had occasioned his motion. What had occurred was this:—In the course of last year, an irregular election of the magistrates took place at Montrose—it was deemed, indeed, wholly void—and thus the burgh, in its corporate capacity, had lapsed and become dormant. There existing no power within itself to revive itself, application was made, through the lord advocate, to the king in council, to re-establish the functions of the burgh, by granting what is called, a poll-election; that is, an. election of the magistrates and council by a general vote or poll of the burgesses. Thus far he had nothing to object to. But besides this poll election, the Act and Warrant of his majesty in council had taken to itself the privilege of also granting a change in the set or constitution or the burgh; and this, he contended, was an usurpation of an illegal power—and although he was ready to admit, that the alteration was an improvement, and a benefit to the burgh, yet he must object even to a benefit, if it was conferred through the medium of an usurped and unconstitutional power in the Crown. He would illustrate his meaning by reference to what cook place last session, in regard, Sir, to your predecessor in the chair. A message from the Crown was brought down to that House, soliciting the means of making provision for lord Colchester. Now, although the sense of the House was in favour of the thing to be done, there existed a very general and very just resistance to the manner of doing it; because the House of Commons thought that any pecuniary remuneration to their Speaker, ought to emanate and originate from themselves. So he said with regard to Montrose. The Crown was right in reviving the dormant power of election; but if any change was to be made in the burgh itself, it ought to be made by parliament, and not by the mere will of the Crown; that is, by ministers. He would not pretend to set up his opinion in opposition to the opinion of the lord advocate, the attorney and solicitor general, and the privy council—nor did he. But he had endeavoured to avail himself of legal authority in Scotland by every means in his power; and he could find no authority, dead or living, which would sanction this extraordinary power in the Crown. Would the privy council do the same thing in other burghs under similar circumstances? What had been done, amounted to nothing more nor less than this—that the Crown took on itself to alter the constitution of a burgh in such a way, as materially to affect the representation in that House. It constituted new offices, to which the right of voting for a member of parliament was attached. Was the noble lord of opinion, that, as often as any burgh in Scotland fell into a situation similar to that in which Montrose had been placed, that such burgh might not only be revived by the Crown— to which, indeed, there was no objection— but might also be new modelled according to its pleasure? It was no argument in favour of the proceedings to say, that the new set granted to Montrose was superior to the old one. If the Crown, on its own specific authority, could give a constitution better and more enlarged than that which originally existed, it might, if it chose, under the same power, or assumption of power, give one worse and more contracted. Nay, farther, if the Crown could change the set in September last, as it had done, it could change it again in January—and again in June—and thus the form, if not the existence, of all the Scotch burghs, were dependent upon the mere will of the Crown—or rather upon the will or caprice of its ministers.

He wished to have this preliminary point settled, previous to calling the attention of the House to a more extensive consideration of the subject after Easter. What he called in question, was, the power of the Crown to alter the constitution of these burghs, and not the power of reviving their lapsed or dormant exist- ence. Supposing that parliament should take into consideration the grievous mismanagement and decayed state of the Scotch burghs, and should effect an amelioration of their situation, what cause would Scotland have to rejoice in such a just and beneficial measure, if, the moment afterwards, his majesty's ministers might abrogate all that had been done, by granting a new set, and making what alterations in it they pleased? There was another point to which he wished to advert. The learned lord knew very well that there was a society in Scotland called the Convention of Burghs. This convention, he believed, claimed the power by law, but certainly had in fact exercised the power of altering the constitution of several burghs. Now, if this convention had such right, and if his majesty's government had also the same right, he begged to know to which of these authorities the burghs must submit? He would ask the learned lord which of these conflicting powers were supreme, and which subordinate? Or whether they had both concurrent jurisdiction? And in the last case, if their edicts in these matters should not agree, who was to decide between them, and what was the legal remedy or appeal? Many of the burghs of Scotland were so overwhelmed with debt at this moment, that little or no revenue remained for their current expenses, and the burgesses felt considerable alarm for their own individual and private property. He believed, that according to the best authority on this point, the burgesses were liable for the debts of the burgh. And it was notorious throughout Scotland, that many of the burghs were involved in the greatest financial difficulties, and were threatened with dissolution. It had already happened in one, that no person could be persuaded to undertake the office of magistrate. Several individuals had refused to act when elected. If no political interests were concerned, he was sure that the state of long-continued abuse they had suffered, and of degradation into which they were fallen, would excite the sympathy of all parties in the House. But he would not now enlarge on that subject. He would rather say too little than too much on these collateral points. His object was, to procure a fair and candid consideration of the immediate subject before the House. He must repeat that his objection was not to the thing done, but to the manner of doing it—not to the alteration of the set, but to its being done by the Crown, which he could not but think as illegal in fact, as in spirit it was unconstitutional. The noble lord concluded with moving, "That there be laid before this House, a Copy of the Actor Warrant of his Majesty in Council, dated in the month of September, 1817, authorizing the guild brethren and inhabitant burgesses in the burgh of Montrose to elect fit persons to be magistrates and town councillors of the same, and authorizing and ordering an alteration in the former set or constitution of the said burgh in all time coming."

Lord Castlereagh

said, that the speech of the noble lord had been marked with every degree of candour; and he was very anxious as candidly to state the grounds on which he saw objections to producing the document for which the noble lord had moved. It was very true the noble lord had stated, that it was not his wish to connect the particular reform which he wished, with any general reform in the representation—that he had rather in view an improvement in the administrative than the representative character of the burghs; but though the noble lord had not opened the general question of parliamentary reform, he could not separate the subject from it. The reform which the noble lord wished, would lead to an extensive change in the burgh elections of Scotland, and, therefore, would cany reform into the representation of that part of the country. But he would contend, that there were not very strong grounds for the production of the document, even on the more limited ground of approvement in the administration of the Scots burghs. There might be defects in that administration, as there were defects in every institution; but in so far as his majesty's ministers, from being charged with the peace of the country, were acquainted with the state of the country, he could say that there was no part of the country where the population was in a sounder state than in the burghs of Scotland. Order and decorum marked the national character of Scotchmen, and no where was that order and decorum more conspicuous than in the royal burghs. There seemed, however, a defect in the law of Scotland with respect to the burghs—they had no power at present to take cognizance of the pecuniary concerns, and to enter into the subject of the administration of the funds of these burghs. But this evil would be obviated by the bill, of which notice had been given by his learned friend, the lord advocate. With respect to assuming a right of taxation, he really could not conceive, that in any of the burghs the magistrates and town council would think of setting up any such arbitrary right of assessing their fellow-citizens; or that there could be any difficulty in resisting an attempt of such a nature. It was vain to think of separating the question of reform, from giving to the burgesses the faculty of electing their magistrates—the noble lord could not state any practical utility in the projected change, except with a view to a reform in the representation. The document moved for could throw no light on the general question of reform. As to the question of the legality of what had been done, he thought the House were not likely to be good judges on such a subject. Whether the charter was or was not legal according to the law of Scotland, was rather a question for the decision of a court of law, than for the decision of that House. Now, there was no individual of Montrose affected by the change who had not his legal remedy, and who might not, in a court of law, question the legality of the election of magistrates under the new charter. The question might also be brought forward in the convention of burghs-—that convention might refuse admission to the delegates from Montrose, and then the question whether that delegate had a right of admission or not, might be agitated. But the noble lord had argued, that, though the present arrangement for the burgh of Montrose was good in itself, ministers might afterwards make other arrangements of a very different character, to favour particular political views. But here, it appeared, that the act had grown out of the circumstance of the suspension of all the powers of the burgh. The relief was generally solicited—there was not one complaining party; and therefore it was unfair to consider an act called for under such circumstances, the beginning of an arbitrary system of interference with the constitutions of the burghs. It was enough to show, that in the present case the Crown had not wantonly invaded the corporate rights of the burgh. As to the question whether the Crown was authorized to act in this manner, it might come before the House in a much more suitable way than by the present motion. It was not im- possible that the election of the member for the class of burghs to which Montrose belonged, might be questioned by the unsuccessful candidate, and a committee of the House, acting on their oaths, under the Grenville act, might have to dispose of it. If this motion was granted, it would go far to give countenance to the question of parliamentary reform, a question which the House ought not to entertain, without ascertaining what was specifically proposed to be done. Upon these grounds, he considered it his duty to dissent from the motion.

Mr. Abercromby

said, that the subject brought forward by his noble friend had no connexion with that of parliamentary reform. The state of the Scotch burghs, however, was such as, in the opinion of those who were most competent to form an opinion on the subject, called imperiously for inquiry. He could not, indeed, see any connexion between such an inquiry and the subject of parliamentary reform, excepting in as far as any regulations respecting those who had a right to vote in the election of a member of parliament was connected with that subject. It was said, that it was only when the rights of the burgh were suspended, that the Crown interfered to re-animate them. But, in the case alluded to, it went farther; it altered the set altogether. If this was wrong, it was an usurpation on the part of the Crown; and though in the present instance it might have been exercised beneficially, yet it went to establish a precedent which, in the hands of bad ministers, might be made use of to justify the worst encroachments. He thought no subject more suitable for parliamentary inquiry. He thought that copies of the old and new set should be produced, that they might be able to see the alteration to find whether the Crown had improperly interfered, or whether they had interfered in such a manner as demanded parliamentary inquiry. If the Crown had improperly interfered, and no notice was taken of it, the measure would be acquiesced in and be established as a precedent. He thought the course adopted by his noble friend a proper one. It was not connected with any wild theories of parliamentary reform. If it had been he should have remained silent; but being of a different opinion, and finding that in the course of this year five or six other burghs were likely to be placed in a similar situation to that in which Montrose lately stood, he thought it of very great importance that the subject should be fully discussed. He thought the circumstances of the case completely relieved his noble friend from any suspicions of being desirous of agitating the question of parliamentary reform: his noble friend wished only to resist a precedent which, though now beneficial, might be improperly applied. Having some connexion with Scotland, he was glad to hear from the noble lord a language respecting that country so different from that which he had heard from him last year—all was now tranquil, there were no secret committees, and it was all owing to the excellent magistracies of the burghs of Scotland that things went on so smoothly!

The Lord Advocate

contended, that no person in that House had ever charged Scotland with being generally disaffected —it was only Glasgow and its neighbourhood to which the charge of taking illegal oaths applied. The noble mover had said, that the magistrates and counsel of the burghs possessed an unlimited power of taxing the property of persons residing in the burgh. The noble lord had forgotten, that in the Declaration of Grievances at the Revolution, to levy money without the consent of parliament was declared contrary to law. He would ask the noble lord, if in any of these burghs which he declared to be in a state of utter insolvency, a single suit had ever been brought forward against any one of the inhabitants for payment of the debts of the community? From the Revolution downwards, with one single exception in appearance, which he should explain, no case had occurred of burgesses being liable for debts contracted by their magistrates. He knew that opinions had been given by counsel that the inhabitants were liable for the debts of the burgh; but though these opinions had been given years ago, no suit had ever been commenced on them. He could tell the noble lord, that the magistrates of some burghs had attempted to levy petty customs for the defrayment of the public debt; in Aberdeen, for instance; but the question was ultimately decided, on appeal to the House of Lords that the magistrates of burghs had no such power to levy customs. The noble lord had referred to a case decided by the barons of exchequer; but he mistook it. By an old Scotch statute, it was alleged that the barons of the exchequer were empowered to audit the accounts of royal burghs; but in the case in question, the barons refused to sustain their jurisdiction. This was, however, merely a question of audit. There was hardly a year in which applications were not made to the legislature by burghs, for a power of levying money to pay debts. Surely, if an act of the town council was a sufficient authority, they would not have been so ill advised as to apply to parliament. The noble lord had stated, that the inhabitants of the Scots burghs were placed in a state of the greatest servility; but the power in magistrates and other office-bearers of appointing their successors, was not worse than the power of holding their places for life. In a great many parts of England the magistrates of boroughs were appointed for life. The noble lord would find the power exercised by the Crown in the case of the burgh of Montrose, was virtually recognized in the Declaration of Grievances. The complaint in that declaration against king James was, not for altering the constitution of burghs, but for having done so of his own authority, "without judgment, surrender, or consent." In the case of the burgh of Stirling in 1782, a similar warrant had been granted. Counsel had been heard in that case before the new constitution was granted; and afterwards, though the affairs of that burgh came before the court of session three times, and before five of six committees of election in the House of Commons, it had never been objected, that the warrant in the case of that burgh was void and null. In 1789 or 1790, there was a motion respecting the state of the Scots burghs, and in the report of a committee the modes were discussed in which alterations could be legally made by course of time, by the burghs themselves, and by the act of the Crown. The case of Stirling was referred to, and the right of altering the set, as was done in 1781 or 1782, was not questioned. That alteration in Stirling was precisely the same as that in the burgh of Montrose. There was, therefore, no ground for the allegation, that this exertion of the prerogative of the Crown was illegal. He had been asked by the noble lord, whether he intended to propose the same alteration in every burgh, which, by neglect, might be disfranchised? He should answer no. Every case must stand on its own merits. The same constitution could not possibly be applied to all the burghs, because electors, with the same qualifications, could not be had in all of them, unless all the exclusive privileges, which had existed for ages, should be abolished. It was said that the question did not touch on parliamentary reform. This was true, if the question was confined to the consideration of the particular case; but if, in defiance of the act of Union, it was intended to introduce a new system of election in all the burghs, it would have the same effect as a sweeping measure of parliamentary reform [Hear! from the Opposition]. The gentlemen opposite imagined there was an inconsistency in this argument; but he contended, that the power which the Crown had enjoyed before the Union, was continued to it by that act. His assertion in the last session, that the people of Scotland were satisfied with the constitution of their burghs, he would repeat. He did not mean that they were unanimous. The Scotch were not famous for unanimity, as it was always supposed that an argument was a favourite amusement with that people. But he had no doubt the majority were satisfied, though great pains had been taken to excite a ferment. In four-fifths of the burghs there had been no meetings, and in the others the meetings had taken place among those subordinate corporate bodies, who wished to have the privilege of choosing their own deacons. He was convinced there would be a general feeling of alarm, if a general change were apprehended, and should therefore oppose the motion.

Sir James Mackintosh

said, he should not enter into the question of parliamentary reform, nor that of dry law, which was connected with the present motion, because the present was an unfit time to discuss the one, and the House of Commons was an improper tribunal to decide on the other. He thought the motion of his noble friend had been hardly dealt with, in being considered a motion sub-6ervient to parliamentary reform. It was strange that a motion, which called in question the legality of a change in any one burgh, should be viewed as leading to universal change. This seemed a paradox, which the learned lord had chosen for the purpose of displaying his ingenuity; but in supporting it he had forgotten his arguments. The learned lord had used an argument, connected with the question of parliamentary reform, which he could not help noticing. He had said, that it was strange that those who should blame the Scots burghs, did not blame the close boroughs in England. There were some close boroughs, and some in which there were rights of popular election; but in Scotland there were none of the latter description; so that, whoever supported the English constitution could not like the constitution of Scotland. In England, though the system might be, in some respects, improved, there was a variety of modes of election, which had been falsely blamed, as producing an inadequate representation; but which, on the whole, produced a representation more complete than any mode which should proceed on the basis of uniformity [Hear!]. But in Scotland there was the most perfect uniformity on an oligarchical principle. He contended, that any uniform representation was bad. Universal suffrage was, indeed, the worst of all [Hear!], if not a monstrous inconsistency with all forms of human society [Hear!]. It never existed in this country, and if it had, he should have thought its abolition the best plan of reform [Hear!]. But in Scotland there was an uniformity of the opposite kind. There was no popular election, or pretence of popular election. So that Scotland, though by the Union it enjoyed the protection of the free constitution of England, did not, in the nobler sense, participate in it. It was a gross fallacy, therefore, to compare the state of the representation in Scotland to that of England-He did not wish to speak to the dry legal question, but legal questions affecting the constitution, and particularly the rights of election, were peculiarly subjects for the consideration of that House. The question now was, whether the Crown possessed, not the power of reviving a burgh, the charter of which had been lost by intermission of elections, but whether it possessed the power of altering the constitution of it? This was a question over which "rent doubt hung. He did not mean to give an opinion on it. The right rested on a single case, that of Stirling, which had never been decided on in a court of law, or in parliament. In such a case it was the duty of the House to require information, and he should therefore vote for the motion.

Mr. J. P. Grant

said, he should not give any opinion on the points of law discussed by the learned lord, but if the Crown had by law the power, in case of the suspension of the functions of a cov- poration by accident, which might frequently happen, would it not be proper to suggest some regulations on that subject? He thought the ministers, if they saw that such cases were likely to be frequent, would themselves be apt to come to parliament to request its opinion on such a subject. The motion only went to the production of a document, and as to be knew not what horror, which the noble lord entertained, of he knew not what plan, which was connected with the motion, it was altogether unfounded. As to the quietness of the people under the present system, he had very different information from that of the learned lord. Numerous applications had been made by the court of Session to set aside the late elections, with a view to obtain disfranchisement, or to get poll elections. As to the alteration of the constitution of the burgh of Montrose, no one complained of it as it affected the inhabitants of the burgh; but if such a power came frequently to be exercised by the Crown, it should be exercised according to some general rule. He thought the question should be brought before parliament, as he did not see how it could properly be taken cognizance of in a court of law.

Sir R Fergusson

supported the motion. No one who looked at the deplorable State of the representation in Scotland, could agree in the eulogies which had been pronounced on it. The people were not in a state of fermentation, but of great anxiety for a better system, of which they had a good example in the new constitution of Montrose. He then read the parting address of the late magistrates of Aberdeen, who declared their decided opinion, that a new constitution was necessary, for the sake both of the magistrates and people. This address was written by gentlemen who had been in the uniform habit of supporting his majesty's ministers. The hope of a change in the constitution of the burghs had been fostered by the commissioners at Montrose, one of whom, the sheriff of Perthshire, praised the liberal constitution which the paternal government of the country had given them, and adduced it as a proof that the ministers were willing to effect reform when reform was necessary. He hoped his majesty's ministers would act up to the liberal ideas which were thus praised by their warmest adherents.

Lord Archibald Hamilton

rose to reply.—He observed, that the learned lord had not met the question fairly, but had justified what was now done at Montrose by what had been done at Stirling in 1781; and by the same rule, what had now been done at Montrose, would form a precedent for any similar transaction next year, in any other burgh. The question, however, still returned—whether the Crown had legally the power to alter by its own authority the constitution of a burgh—how it pleased—when it pleased—and, as often as it pleased? The question was certainly worthy of being settled, and if the Crown had any such legal power, even under circumstances similar to those of Montrose, he meant, when an alteration was requested by the burgh itself; the consequence must be fatal to the stability of the burghs even under any improvement they might receive; for, if such change might be made, the influence of the Crown was so great, throughout Scotland, that it might easily procure an application to be made for alteration in almost every one of the Scotch burghs, at such times as its ministers conceived to be convenient. The learned lord had maintained very positively that the burgesses were not liable for the debts contracted by the magistrates. He had heard the opposite opinion affirmed by legal authority, quite as good as that of the lord advocate. He did not wish now to argue that point any farther. He apprehended, however, that the declaration of the learned lord's opinion this night, would alarm the creditors of some burghs; and bring these claims and their other municipal concerns to a speedy crisis. One thing, however, he must pointedly remark; it was this, that although the learned lord had denied that the burgesses at large were liable for the debts of the burgh, he had taken care to avoid stating who were liable. Surely, the creditors were not wholly without remedy or redress. The learned lord, too, had disputed the fact of the dilapidation and ruin of the burgh funds. Here his lordship read a statement of the condition of Aberdeen, to prove the mismanagement of the burgh funds; which he said he had received from unquestionable authority: "Aberdeen had once been one of the richest corporations in Scotland; its funds were now dissipated, and its corporate managers had farther contracted a debt of 230,000l. They had, during a few years past, borrowed 57,000l. to pay the interest of their debt. The magistrates were ex-officio managers of the charities in the neighbourhood, and they had borrowed these funds, and thus involved these charitable institutions in the general wreck. They had taken up money of every Kirk session that would lend them. At the last election only two persons could be found to accept the office of councillors; there exists now only six, instead of nineteen, that is, four under a quorum qualified to act. The citizens have now an action before the court of session, by which they hope to disfranchise the burgh, with the view of obtaining a new set."He appealed to an hon. member present (Mr. Forbes) if this was not substantially correct. Similar facts, to a greater or less extent, might be adduced in the case of all the royal burghs in Scotland, as he could prove before a committee of the House. Well as he was acquainted with the gross abuses existing in Scotch burghs, and their general prevalence, still he had been surprised, since the time he had given notice of this motion, by the numerous representations he had received of facts new to him, offered to be substantiated by proofs, and of complaints of grievous injury', and impending ruin, all tending to establish the same point; the cruel, ruinous, and oppressive mismanagement of the burghs. The general subject, however, was not now before the House, and though he foresaw, plainly, that his present motion was to be negatived, he would take an opportunity after Easter of bringing this very questionable power of the Crown to alter the set of a burgh again, under the consideration of the House, along with a more extended view of this important subject.

Mr. Forbes

stated, that the burgh was involved in some difficulties by the purchase of a large quantity of ground which for some years they could not let out on building leases, but even under their difficulties they were only 1,400l. short of the whole interest on the sum due. There were generally two sides to a question, and he believed the noble lord had only got hold of one. For the last few years the affairs of the burgh had been in a progressive state of improvement.

Mr. W. Smith

said, that the revenues of the town of Aberdeen were 1,400l. short of the sum necessary to pay the interest of their debt.

Mr. Douglas

said, that the embarrassments of the burgh were so far removed as to leave a sinking fund of 300l. a year after the payment of its debts.

The motion was negatived without a division.