Imatges de pàgina

if I had considered them as unworthy of their attention. The avidity with which the Statistical Histories of many counties, towns, corporations, and public institutions, in the united kingdom, have been lately received by the British public, affords convincing evidence that the present age is well qualified to appreciate the importance of local narrative. Such narratives are evidently calculated to gratify the laudable curiosity of the Antiquary, and to furnish materials for the general Historian. They enable the latter to mark, with greater precision than he could otherwise do, the manners and customs of different ages; the peculiar effects of civil, religious, and municipal institutions, upon the characters, the opulence, and happiness of the people; to trace their influence in retarding or promoting the spirit of liberty and independence, the progress of the liberal arts, and the general diffusion of knowledge. Without the light derived from such sources, it is not easy to conceive how he could refer the various changes and events which he records, to their true causes, or exhibit them in their proper colours, and in their just combinations. If erroneous or defective in these respects, history might serve to mislead rather than to guide the statesman, who, conceiving human nature to be the same in all ages, would regulate his political measures, not by abstract and visionary theory, but by the actual experience of former times.

Among merely local narratives, none can be of more importance in this country than those which describe the various institutions which have existed in our royal boroughs, the changes which have occurred in them, the prosperous or adverse events that have befallen them, and the effects of their influence in the state. Those boroughs may justly be viewed as forming an integral part of the British constitution, and as possessing considerable power in the administration of national affairs. As incorporated bodies in general, they derive their origin from the bounty of the sovereigns, who, impelled by gratitude for some signal service, or actuated by political motives, first bestowed upon them their respective constitutions; and afterwards confirmed, and, in many instances, extended their ancient rights and privileges. Depending entirely upon the will of the monarch for the security of the powers which they had thus acquired, and for a voice, by their representatives, in the general councils of the nation, they steadily supported, in their turn, the royal prerogative. Thus, in the more rude and barbarous ages, they became, in the hands of the crown, an useful and powerful counterpoise to the bold and ambitious usurpations of the restless Nobles and great Barons of the kingdom. Nor does their political importance in the earliest periods of their history arise only from their influence in enabling the sovereign to preserve the internal peace of the country and the steady operation of the law, by checking the insolence of a turbulent aristocracy. It was to them that manufactures and commerce owed their origin and their increase ;---in them that literature, and the arts and sciences, were first cultivated and cherished ;---and from them that the spirit of freedom, the blessings of order, civilization, and opulence, were gradually diffused among a servile, ignorant, and unruly people. By the accession of the Scottish kings to the throne of England, the regal power at last acquired that predominance in the state which enabled it effectually to overawe and controul the haughty chieftains of the land, even though it had been deprived of the aid of the royal boroughs. Still, however, their rights and privileges depended chiefly upon the pleasure of the sovereign, and, of course, their influence was still in no small degree subservient to his prerogative.

By the union of the two kingdoms, in the year 1707, the sets or constitutions of the boroughs, and all the royal grants in their favour, were ratified, and declared inviolable, unless by legal forfeiture. This measure, whilst it served at once to diminish their dependence on the crown, and to engraft them more securely than ever into the state, as a distinct branch of the British constitution, gave a new direction to their political influence, and adapted it to the great changes which, with the progress of civilization, were gradually taking place in the circumstances of the nation. The agricultural interest stil retains its proportional influence in the legislative body; but it is by the burgesses only that the manufacturing and commercial branches of the community, the great sources of the influx of wealth into the kingdom, and consequently of its grandeur and power, are properly represented in our imperial senate. While manufactures, navigation, and trade continue to flourish---and while they contribute by far the greatest share of the public revenue, the importance of these boroughs must be felt: their influence, with every wise administration, must be considerable; and they must command from government that protection and encouragement which are indispensable to their prosperity.

If such be the importance of royal boroughs, surely the History of ABERDEEN, which, in population, rank, and opulence, is the third in the ancient kingdom of Scotland, cannot fail, if well authenticated and distinctly stated, to attract its due share of the public attention.

The task, however, of compiling a history of this borough, I should most willingly have left to any man of better abilities than mine, if peculiar circumstances had not occurred which incidentally brought under my view many facts of essential importance in that history---facts which none ever had an equal opportunity of investigating, and to the labour of investigating which, few, I believe, would be disposed to submit.

About six years ago, I was employed, by the town council of Aberdeen, at the recommendation of their present clerk, to compile an alphabetical index of the very voluminous records of the borough, which, by permission of the late town clerk, I had, many years before, cursorily perused at a leisure hour. That work, which compelled me to read by far the greater part of these records, I completed in the spring of the year 1815. While the details scattered through these registers were yet fresh in my memory, I formed the resolution of commencing the work which I now present to the public. It was then my intention to write on a very limited scale, and to state, as concisely as possible, in the form of Annals, the facts and circumstances only, which I had collected in the course of my researches into the antiquities of the town. These, 1 imagined, might be regarded by many as curious, and not unworthy of notice. But, in the progress

of my labours, I found it impossible to make the narrative distinct, interesting, or satisfactory to myself, without intermingling it, in some degree, with the general history of the country. This naturally induced me to undertake new investigations, in the course of which, I was led to the discovery of various materials which tended to illustrate the ancient state of the Borough, and to throw light upon the manners and customs of its inhabitants, and of the people of Scotland, in former times. These I have accordingly arranged to the best of my judgment, carefully endeavouring to state no more of our national history than what seemed indispensably necessary to bring into the form of a connected narrative, and to render intelligible, the occurrences in which the town of Aberdeen had a considerable share. *

With regard to those political dissensions which have occurred in modern times, and which, I regret to say, are not yet extinguished,

Many detached incidents of a domestie nature, imperfect accounts of which I found seattered through the records of the town, though they could not, with propriety, be introduced in connected narration, are yet of such importance that they could not be entirely overlooked. The short and incomplete notices of these which I have been able to collect I have placed at the end of the difa ferent sections, and arranged in chronological order.

I have derived my information chiefly from the Scots Magazine, and the various publications of the day. This part of the work I have been solicitous to execute, with as much candour and impartiality as a matter of so deep importance to the citizens in general required.

Considering the close vicinity of New and Old Aberdeen, and the intimate connexion that subsisted between them with respect to their religious institutions, and also in many political transactions, I found that my work would be very incomplete, even as a local history, if it did not embrace whatever might deserve attention, in the ancient and modern state of that city. It has thus ultimately assumed the form which induces me to entitle it ANNALS OF NEW AND OLD ABERDEEN,

Conceiving Mr. Arnot's History of Edinburgh to be an excellent model of local narrative, I have endeavoured, in this work, as far as circumstances will admit, to follow his arrangement; and even when the similarity of incidents is striking, to adopt his manner of viewing them. Conscious of my inferiority to him in acuteness of remark, and in correctness, beauty, and elegance of style, I cannot presume to be his equal; but in the integrity of my

intentions--in the impartiality of my narrations---and in the care with which I have attended to the evidence of facts, I will yield to none. Of that evidence every attentive reader may be fully competent to judge, because I have correctly quoted my authorities in the margin, and inserted at large, in the Appendix, many of the charters, and most curious and important documents. Though, therefore, it may be thought that I have failed in my undertaking, my efforts cannot be entirely lost; for they must serve at least to suggest abundant materials to any future and more able historian of Aberdeen, to lead him to many excellent sources of information; and, of course, to facilitate and abridge his labour in investigating facts. As to the

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