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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

All vagabonds and sturdy beggars


statute was ratified and confirmed in the 12th parliament of James VI, cap. 147, 5th June, 1592, wherein the incorrigible Gipsies are again referred to: "And for the better trial of common _sorners_ (forcible obtruders,) vagabonds, and masterful beggars, fancied fools, and counterfeit Egyptians, and to the effect that they may be still preserved till they be compelled to settle at some certain dwelling, or be expelled forth of the country, &c." The next law in which the Gipsies are mentioned, with other vagabonds, was passed in the 15th parliament of the same reign, 19th December, 1597, entitled, "Strong beggars, vagabonds, and Egyptians should be punished." The statute itself reads as follows: "Our sovereign lord and estates of parliament ratify and approve the acts of parliament made before, against strong and idle beggars, vagabonds, and Egyptians," with this addition: "That strong beggars and their children be employed in common works, and their service mentioned in the said act of parliament, in the year of God, 1579, to be prorogate in during their life times, &c."[71]

[71] By the above, and subsequent statutes, in the reign of James VI, "Coal and salt-masters might apprehend, and put to labour, all vagabonds and sturdy beggars." The truth is, these kidnapped individuals and their children were made slaves of to these masters. The colliers were emancipated only within these fifty years. It has been stated to me that

some of the colliers in the Lothians are of Gipsy extraction. [Our author might have said _Gipsies_; for being "of Gipsy extraction," and "Gipsies," are expressions quite synonymous, notwithstanding the application by the public of the latter term to the more original kind of Gipsies only.--ED.]

All the foregoing laws were again ratified and enforced by another act, in the same reign, 15th November, 1600. The following extract will serve to give some explanation how these statutes were neglected, and seldom put in force: "And how the said acts have received little or no effect or execution, by the oversight and negligence of the persons who were nominated justices and commissioners, for putting of the said acts to full and due execution, so that the strong and idle beggars, being for the most part thieves, _bairds_, (strolling rhymers,) and counterfeit _limmers_, (scoundrels,) living most insolently and ungodly, without marriage or baptism, are suffered to _vaig_ and wander throughout the whole country."[72] "But," says Baron Hume, "all ordinary means having proved insufficient to restrain so numerous and so sturdy a crew, the privy council at length, in June, 1603, were induced to venture on the more effectual expedient, (recommended by the example of some other realm,) of at once ordering the whole race to leave the kingdom by a certain day, and never to return under the pain of death.[73] A few years after, this proclamation was converted into perpetual law, by statute 1609, cap. 13, with this farther convenient, but very severe, provision toward the more effectual execution of the order, that it should be lawful to condemn and execute them to the death, upon proof made of the single fact 'that they are called, known, repute and holden Egyptians'!" As this is the only statute exclusively relating to, and denouncing, the Gipsies, I shall give it at length.

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