Procedure: commissioners' report to the estates; objections to instructions; reply to objections
[William Graham], earl of Menteith's report of the commissioners for the fishing their proceedings

The which day William, earl of Menteith, the president of his majesty's council, reported to the nobility, council and estates presently convened the proceedings of the commissioners appointed for the treaty of the common fishing, and therewithal he produced instructions sent down by his majesty concerning the fishing, with the commissioners' observations made thereupon and reply made by the English commissioners thereto; which being read, the estates ordain a copy of the answers and reply to be given to every estate to be considered of by them and they to report to the public meeting their opinion and judgement concerning the same upon Monday next in the forenoon at 10 o'clock. The estates present warned in the acts.

Follows the observations upon the general instructions by way of objection:

Whereas by the instructions sent by his majesty to [Sir William Alexander of Menstrie], his secretary of Scotland, concerning the erection of a general fishing, it would appear that the said general fishing to be erected is understood of those fishings whereof the benefit is only reaped by strangers and does in no way touch those fishings which are enjoyed by the natives of any of the kingdoms. It is necessary that the particular fishings within every kingdom which are only enjoyed by the natives be made known, that the laws and freedoms of every kingdom may be preserved, as is contained in the said instructions.

It is desired that it may be cleared what these fishings are which are called common benefits and cannot dividedly be enjoyed.

To understand what several undertakings will be for this general fishing in England and in Ireland.

It is desired that the Scottish adventurers of the society be naturalised in England, seeing the naturalisation which the English are to have in Scotland is equivalent to naturalisation in England.

It would be considered in what manner the return for the fishes exported out of each kingdom shall be made to the kingdom wherein they are taken.

As to the government of the association it is fit before it be treated of that the preceding articles be cleared and the several undertakings agreed, that all the undertakers may join together for perfecting thereof.

As to that article for building one or more free burghs in the Isle of Lewis, there can be no answer given thereto until the next meeting of the estates, in regard it is against the standing right of regal burghs already erected and of others having interest, who in reason must be heard before any opinion be given therein.

It is thus subscribed, W[illiam] Alexander

Follows the answers of the English commissioners to the preceding objections:

For the first and second articles, his majesty's royal and just intention is (as we conceive) most clear in his instructions not to take away or derogate from the particular and personal grants and rights of any of his subjects, whose laws and liberties he proposes to maintain, but in all his kingdoms, in places near and remote, where common fishing is or may be used by any of his people, that every brother of this company made capable according to the respective laws of each kingdom may freely fish there. This mutual participation being the bond of union and sole means to recover his majesty's right and power at sea, and to enrich all his subjects and those chiefly where the greatest fishings are.

For the third, we understand his majesty's gracious favour to that kingdom to have so large extent that howsoever he desires for their advantage their proportion may be considerable, yet he will not press them above their own measure, not doubting but it will be answerable to the estimation he has of them, and assuring that in England and Ireland the proportion shall be answerable to the abilities of either kingdoms and the greatness of the work, which must be overcome by degrees and cannot at first be rated to the full otherwise than is in the instructions generally set down.

The difference between naturalising and free endenizing is not important in the matter of fishing, which is the only use the company will make of them. And when a parliament shall be called, the brothers of this company will probably find no difficulty to obtain what they desire.

Touching the returns to be made for the fishes exported, his majesty will provide according to his wisdom for his own indemnity and interest; and for the public profit it cannot be doubted that according to the increase of trade by the fishing in each kingdom the benefit of their returns will respectively increase.

The government of all companies in these kingdoms can have no reference to a popular agreement of all the undertakers, their liberties and powers depending wholly upon the king's grace and gift, which in this is the more to be respected for that in his instructions he has expressed his gracious purpose with admission of advice from his council in each kingdom in any thing that may require further consideration, and we doubt not but the lords and states in Scotland will concur with such a government as shall be most conformable to the crown we live under and obey.

For the last additional article concerning the king's interest in erecting free and regal burghs, though we are persuaded that his majesty will not strain his prerogative royal nor exercise other power in this than the laws of that kingdom have put into his hands, yet we will not take upon us to answer you in this point but refer you to his majesty for more full satisfaction, only wishing that his majesty's most royal, just and clear intentions, as they have conducted ours, so may prevail with yours not to question, but unanimously to advance and settle so worthy, so profitable and so important a work to the empire of these kingdoms as we are confident you will endeavour.

Subscribed, W[illiam] Alexander

  1. NAS, PC1/34, f.19r-20r.