Adam Smith: Part III

Living in Scotland, one is conscious of the Holyrood Parliament and its significance in this 21st century.  Devolution has been a long time coming.

For example:

Crown Estates, Scotland

Devolution

The Crown Estate is working closely with both the Scottish and UK Governments to enable the transfer of The Crown Estate’s management duties in Scotland to Scottish Government, as recommended by the Smith Commission and reflected in the Scotland Act 2016. We will work to inform the process to ensure a swift and smooth transfer. We have a clear commitment to protect the interests of our staff, tenants, customers and the communities with whom we work throughout the process.

 
But looking back at how laws were made in Britain since the Roman occupation, it certainly has been a top down process. I’ve picked out some key historical precedents which the population had placed upon them by those ‘who must be obeyed’. These laws were often allowed to be applied even long after their relevance should have consigned them to a historical waste basket.

Ref:
http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/originsofparliament/birthofparliament/keydates/1215to1399


Magna Carta (1215) to Henry IV (1399)

1215 

King John agreed to Magna Carta which stated the right of the barons to consult with and advise the king in his Great Council


1236

Earliest use of the term Parliament, referring to the Great Council


1254 

Sheriffs were instructed to send elected representatives of the counties (knights of the shire) to consult with the king on taxation


1258 

At a Parliament at Oxford, the nobles drafted the “Provisions of Oxford” which calls for regular Parliaments with representatives from the counties


1265 

Simon de Montfort, in rebellion against Henry III, summoned a Parliament which included for the first time representatives of both the counties and towns


1278 

The Clerk of the Parliaments began to compile the Rolls of Parliament, the records of proceedings, particularly the petitions and acts passed


1295 

Model Parliament was made up of nobles and bishops, and two representatives for each county and for each town – the model for future Parliaments


1327 

From this date representatives of the counties (knights of the shire) and of the towns (burgesses) were always summoned together to Parliament


1332 

Knights of the shire and burgesses met together and were called the Commons


1341 

The Commons met separately from the Upper House for the first time


1352 

The Commons began to meet in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey


1362 

A statute established that Parliament must approve of all taxation

1376 

In the Good Parliament the Commons, led for the first time by an elected Speaker, prosecuted, or impeached, before the lords some of the king’s advisors


1397 

Commons moved from Chapter House of Westminster Abbey to its Refectory


1399 

Parliament deposed Richard II and Henry IV’s reign started

To

Reformation Parliament

Henry VIII’s Reformation Parliament, which sat from 1529 to 1536, fundamentally changed the nature of Parliament and of English government. The King summoned it in order to settle what was called his ‘great matter’, his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, which the Papacy in Rome was blocking.

Power shift 

In only a few short years, Parliament – under the direction and impetus of the King – made laws affecting all aspects of national life, especially in religious practice and doctrine, which had previously been under the authority of the Church alone. With the ground-breaking statutes of the 1530s Parliament became omnicompetent, that is, no area involved in the government of the realm was outside its authority.

Pope to the English Crown

It passed laws which transferred religious authority from the Pope to the English Crown, gave the Crown control over the wealth and buildings of the old Church, settled official religious doctrine, altered the succession by declaring various of the King’s children illegitimate, and inaugurated a wider programme of social, religious and economic reform. Henry VIII’s successors all equally used Parliament to pass their own legislation changing the nature, doctrine and authority of the Church in England.

Constitutional change

The Reformation Parliament thus asserted the supreme authority, or sovereignty, of Parliament in making statute, or more precisely the sovereignty of Crown-in-Parliament, the royal authority embodied in law passed by the monarch, Lords and Commons. As Henry VIII himself told the Parliament: “We be informed by our judges that we at no time stand so highly in our estate royal as in the time of parliament”. He realised that royal power was at its strongest when it was expressed through parliamentary statute.

Crown and Parliament

Parliament still existed only by the monarch’s will, but Henry VIII and his immediate successors knew that they could best effect their will through the assent of Parliament in statute. A century later the country was thrown into turmoil when the co-operation between the King and the other two parts of Parliament catastrophically broke down.

To

Elizabethan Parliaments

There are several ways of approaching our understanding of Parliament during its development in the 16th century, and there have been many debates between historians, especially concerning the Parliaments of Elizabeth I.

Free discussions

Peter Wentworth became a famous Member of Parliament in the reign of Elizabeth I after he was arrested on three separate occasions for arguing that the Commons should have the freedom to discuss whatever it wished, especially on the controversial topic of religion, without fear of reprisal from the Queen.

Some historians have been fascinated by characters such as Wentworth and see in them an indication of a rise in importance of the House of Commons which was maturing, becoming more self-confident and developing an organised oppositional stance to the Crown.

Interpretations and debates

Other historians have detected in this view of the 16th century Parliament a tendency to read history backwards from the 17th century conflict between King and Parliament, an outcome already known but still with murky origins. These historians have looked more carefully at the daily business of Parliament and do not see it full of opposition, organisation or ideology. Parliament, even under Elizabeth I, was summoned by the monarch and was a branch of royal government, and it would have been failing in its duty if there were constant disagreement with the monarch.

The high road to civil war?

While it is certainly incorrect to ignore Wentworth and the oppositional voices he and others like him represented, it needs to be remembered that throughout the 16th century and for most of the following century, Members of Parliament saw themselves as the monarch’s servants and Parliament as a place to deal with local matters and to pass necessary legislation.

It was not primarily a debating chamber where great issues of politics and ideology were to be talked over. Nor were the 16th and early 17th century Parliaments on a “high road to Civil War”. That cataclysmic event had its own more immediate causes, largely depending on the character and actions of the King, Charles I, and on extreme religious elements among members.

 Press Gangs :  Navy and Army

Press gangs were well known for the physical force they used in recruiting men into the Royal Navy during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was, however, a practice which Parliament had first sanctioned several centuries earlier.  

In time of war impressment – as the practice was known – was also a tactic employed by the Army to acquire extra men, usually when the non-violent methods of the recruiting sergeants failed to enlist sufficient numbers.   

Naval impressment

The Crown claimed a permanent right to seize men of seafaring experience for the Royal Navy, and the practice was at various times given parliamentary authority. Impressment was vigorously enforced during the naval wars of the 18th century by Acts passed in 1703, 1705, 1740 and 1779.  

The men pressed into service were usually sailors in the merchant fleets, but might just as often be ordinary apprentices and labourers. During the wars with France from 1793 to 1815, an impress service operated in British coastal towns. 

Although further laws passed in 1835 upheld the power to impress, in practice it fell into disuse after 1815.  

Army recruiting

During the 18th century, public perception of standing armies as instruments of despotic government obliged Parliament to keep Britain’s peacetime forces as small as possible.  

There were times, however, when involvement in continental and colonial wars made it necessary for Parliament to legislate hastily for the speedy recruitment of vast additional forces. 

These extra men were raised either through voluntary enlistment or by compulsion. Recruiting Acts were passed annually during the periods 1703-11, 1743-44, 1756-57, 1778-79, and in 1783, while the British army was engaged in major wars in Europe and elsewhere.  

The Acts offered a financial bounty or reward to men who enlisted for limited periods – in 1757 the sum was £3. They also gave powers to magistrates to press unemployed, but otherwise able-bodied men.

 Taxes the 18th Century Way

Today income tax is a ‘direct’ tax paid by almost every working adult in the UK. There are also ‘indirect’ taxes on a wide range of commodities and consumables.

The Land Tax

In the 18th century, however, the structure of taxation was quite different. Direct tax was only paid by the owners of land or property according to the size of their landholdings.

This tax – the ‘Land Tax’ – was paid by the more prosperous sections of society, from the wealthiest duke to the owners of business premises such as tradesmen, shopkeepers and innkeepers. The rate of tax was set by Parliament each year in a ‘Land Tax Act’ and was usually between two and four shillings in the pound, based on the value of each individual’s land or property.

An unusual feature of the tax was that it was administered not by government officials, but by unpaid local ‘commissioners’, gentry who were nominated by Parliament and whose names were included in the annual Land Tax Acts. Those who collected the tax were usually local men of modest means, such as farmers or tradesmen.

Indirect tax

The commonest indirect taxes paid by most people in the 18th century were excise duties. These were levied by Parliament on basic commodities – household essentials such as salt, candles, leather, beer, soap, and starch.

Duties on ‘luxury’ items, such as wine, silks, gold and silver thread, silver plate, horses, coaches and hats were aimed at wealthier consumers. Parliament raised or lowered duties, as well as adding new items or dropping others, depending on the needs of the time. In practice, however, consumers were largely unaware of these impositions as it was the traders who actually paid.

There were also ‘Assessed Taxes’, of which the best known is the Window Duty. This was first levied by Parliament in 1696 in support of William III’s war with France. House owners paid two shillings on properties with up to ten windows, and four shillings for between 10 and 20 windows. From 1778 the rate was made a variable one depending on the value of the property.

16 years before Adam was born, The Acts of Union took effect in 1707, uniting the separate Parliaments and crowns of England and Scotland and forming the single Kingdom of Great Britain. Queen Anne (already Queen of both England and Scotland) became formally the first occupant of the unified British throne, with Scotland sending forty-five Members to join all existing Members from the parliament of England in the new House of Commons of Great Britain, as well as 16 representative peers to join all existing peers from the parliament of England in the new House of Lords.

The year Adam Smith was born, attempts were made to increase wealth through agricultural reform:

After the union with England in 1707, there was a conscious attempt among the gentry and nobility to improve agriculture in Scotland. The Society of Improvers was founded in 1723, including in its 300 members dukes, earls, lairds and landlords.[5]In the first half of the century these changes were limited to tenanted farms in East Lothian and the estates of a few enthusiasts, such as John Cockburn and Archibald Grant. Not all were successful, with Cockburn driving himself into bankruptcy, but the ethos of improvement spread among the landed classes.[6]

Scottish Education in the 18th Century

In the Scottish Highlands, popular education was challenged by problems of distance and physical isolation, as well as teachers’ and ministers’ limited knowledge of Scottish Gaelic, the primary local language. Here the Kirk’s parish schools were supplemented by those established from 1709 by the Scottish Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Its aim in the Highlands was to teach English language and end the attachment to Roman Catholicism associated with rebellious Jacobitism. Though the SSPCK schools eventually taught in Gaelic, the overall effect contributed to the erosion of Highland culture.[11] Literacy rates were lower in the Highlands than in comparable Lowland rural society, and despite these efforts illiteracy remained prevalent into the nineteenth century.[12]

In the eighteenth century Scotland’s universities went from being small and parochial institutions, largely for the training of clergy and lawyers, to major intellectual centres at the forefront of Scottish identity and life, seen as fundamental to democratic principles and the opportunity for social advancement for the talented.[16] Chairs of medicine were founded at Marsichial College (1700), Glasgow (1713), St. Andrews (1722) and a chair of chemistry and medicine at Edinburgh (1713). It was Edinburgh’s medical school, founded in 1732 that came to dominate. By the 1740s it had displaced Leiden as the major centre of medicine in Europe and was a leading centre in the Atlantic world.[17] The universities still had their difficulties. The economic down turn in the mid-century forced the closure of St Leonard’s College in St Andrews, whose properties and staff were merged into St Salvator’s College to form the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard.[18]

In the eighteenth century Scotland’s universities went from being small and parochial institutions, largely for the training of clergy and lawyers, to major intellectual centres at the forefront of Scottish identity and life, seen as fundamental to democratic principles and the opportunity for social advancement for the talented.[16] Chairs of medicine were founded at Marsichial College (1700), Glasgow (1713), St. Andrews (1722) and a chair of chemistry and medicine at Edinburgh (1713). It was Edinburgh’s medical school, founded in 1732 that came to dominate. By the 1740s it had displaced Leiden as the major centre of medicine in Europe and was a leading centre in the Atlantic world.[17] The universities still had their difficulties. The economic down turn in the mid-century forced the closure of St Leonard’s College in St Andrews, whose properties and staff were merged into St Salvator’s College to form the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard.[18]

Access

Access to Scottish universities was probably more open than in contemporary England, Germany or France. Attendance was less expensive and the student body more representative of society as a whole.[19] Humbler students were aided by a system of bursaries established to aid in the training of the clergy. In this period residence became divorced from the colleges and students were able to live much more cheaply and largely unsupervised, at home, with friends or in lodgings the university towns. The system was flexible and the curriculum became a modern philosophical and scientific one, in keeping with contemporary needs for improvement and progress.[16] Scotland reaped the intellectual benefits of this system in its contribution to the European Enlightenment.[20

Achievements

Hugh Blair, Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at the University of Edinburgh

Many of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment were university professors, who developed their ideas in university lectures.[16] The first major philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment was Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746), who held the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Glasgowfrom 1729 to 1746. A moral philosopher who produced alternatives to the ideas of Thomas Hobbes, one of his major contributions to world thought was the utilitarian and consequentialistprinciple that virtue is that which provides, in his words, “the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers”. Much of what is incorporated in the scientific method (the nature of knowledge, evidence, experience, and causation) and some modern attitudes towards the relationship between science and religion were developed by his protégés David Hume (1711–76) and Adam Smith (1723–90).[21] Hugh Blair (1718–1800) was a minister of the Church of Scotland and held the Chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at the University of Edinburgh. He produced an edition of the works of Shakespeare and is best known for Sermons (1777–1801), a five-volume endorsement of practical Christian morality, and Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1783), an essay on literary composition, which was to have a major impact on the work of Adam Smith. He was also one of the figures who first drew attention to the Ossian cycle of James Macpherson to public attention.[22]

Hume became a major figure in the sceptical philosophical and empiricist traditions of philosophy. His scepticism prevented him from obtaining chairs at Glasgow and Edinburgh. He and other Scottish Enlightenment thinkers developed what he called a ‘science of man’,[23] which was expressed historically in works by authors including James Burnett, Adam Ferguson, John Millar and William Robertson, all of whom merged a scientific study of how humans behave in ancient and primitive cultures with a strong awareness of the determining forces of modernity. Indeed, modern sociology largely originated from this movement.[24] Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776) is considered to be the first work of modern economics. It had an immediate impact on British economic policy and still frames twenty-first century discussions on globalisation and tariffs.[25] The focus of the Scottish Enlightenment ranged from intellectual and economic matters to the specifically scientific as in the work of William Cullen, physician and chemist, James Anderson, an agronomist, Joseph Black, physicist and chemist, and James Hutton, the first modern geologist.[21][26]

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About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers.
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