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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

By one assize only to be tried


[72] If Fletcher of Saltoun be correct, when he states that, in his time, which was about the end of the 17th century, there were two hundred thousand people, (about one-fifth of the whole population,) begging from door to door in Scotland, it would be a task of no little difficulty, for those in power, to put in force the laws against the Gipsies, and vagabonds generally. The editor of Dr. Pennicuick's history of Tweed-dale, thinks Fletcher's is an over-charged picture. Some are of opinion that, when he made his statement, he included the greater part of the inhabitants of the Scottish Border, and also those in the north of Scotland; for, he said, the Highlands "was an inexhaustible source of beggars," and wished these banditti transplanted to the low country, and to people the Highlands from hence.

[73] The records in which this order is contained are lost.

"13. Act anent the Egyptians. Our sovereign lord and estates of parliament ratify, approve, and perpetually confirm the act of secret council, made in the month of June or thereby, 1603 years, and proclamation following thereupon, commanding the vagabonds, _sorners_ (forcible obtruders), and common thieves, commonly called Egyptians, to pass forth of this kingdom, and remain perpetually forth thereof, and never to return within the same, under pain of death; and that the same have force and execution after the first day of August

next to come. After the which time, if any of the said vagabonds, called Egyptians, as well women as men, shall be found within this kingdom, or any part thereof, it shall be lawful to all his majesty's good subjects, or any one of them, to cause take, apprehend, imprison, and execute to death the said Egyptians, either men or women, as common, notorious, and condemned thieves, by one assize only to be tried, that they are called, known, repute and holden Egyptians: In the which cause, whosoever of the assize happen to _clenge_ (exculpate) any of the aforesaid Egyptians pannelled, as said is, shall be pursued, handled and censured as committers of wilful error: And whoever shall, any time thereafter, reset, receive, supply, or entertain any of the said Egyptians, either men or women, shall lose their escheat, and be warded at the judge's will: And that the sheriffs and magistrates, in whose bounds they shall publicly and avowedly resort and remain, be called before the lords of his highness' secret council, and severely censured and punished for their negligence in execution of this act: Discharging all letters, protections, and warrants whatsoever, purchased by the said Egyptians, or any of them, from his majesty or lords of secret council, for their remaining within this realm, as surreptitiously and deceitfully obtained by their knowledge: Annulling also all warrants purchased, or hereafter to be purchased, by any subject of whatsoever rank within this kingdom, for their reset, entertaining, or doing any manner of favour to the said Egyptians, at any time after the said first day of August next to come, for now and ever."[74] In a subsequent enactment, in 1617, appointing justices of the peace and constables, the destruction of the proscribed Egyptians is particularly enjoined, in defining the different duties of the magistrates and their peace officers.[75]


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