Acts of the parliament of James III begun and held at Edinburgh on 20 November 1469

Firstly, it is decreed and ordained that the freedom of the holy church be observed and kept in all immunity, privilege and freedom in such manner as it has been during the times of most noble princes, predecessors and progenitors to our sovereign lord of whole mind, whom God absolves.

Item, as to the article of sheriffs and other judges ordinary who do not execute their office and administer justice to the poor people, it is decreed and ordained that the party complaining in any part of the realm shall first go to his judge ordinary of temporal lands, [such] as the justice, sheriff, steward, bailie, baron, provost or bailies of burghs, and make his complaint and seek the administration of justice. And if he obtains justice duly executed and administered to him, he must remain content, and if the judge ordinary fails him and does not administer justice to him, he shall go to the king and his council, bring letters and summon his party. And his judge ordinary shall do likewise, whoever he be of temporal lands. And if the judge is found guilty and did not administer justice, he shall be punished and expelled from his office for a specific time according to the discretion of our sovereign lord and his council, and pay the expenses of the complaining party. And our sovereign lord shall cause justice to be administered to the said complaining party in that case, and if the judge ordinary administers him partial justice and does him wrong in the administration of justice, in similar manner the complaining party shall summon him before the king and his council. And if he is found guilty or partial before them in the administration of justice, be it a sheriff, bailie or other officer of fee, he shall be expelled from his office for three years. And if he is a sheriff or any other judge ordinary for a time, he shall be expelled perpetually from his office and pay the expenses of the party and his person shall be punished at the king's will; and in similar manner the officers of fee. And if the party complaining about his judge ordinary be found in the wrong by the king and his council, he shall pay the expenses of the said judge ordinary for his troubles and his person shall similarly be punished at the king's will. And if any person has any proper action against the sheriff or any judge ordinary, it shall be lawful for him to go to the king and either summon his party before the king or make another officer in that part administer justice to him. And that each judge ordinary, sheriff or any others shall be held to answer for their depute as themselves; nevertheless it shall be lawful for the king's highness to take the decision of any action that comes before him at his pleasure as it used to be in the past, etc.

Item, as touching the new inventions of selling lands by charter and sasine and taking them back by reversions, and the buyer happens to sell the same land again to another person, it is now seen expedient in this present parliament, and according to law and conscience, that the seller shall have recourse to the same lands sold by him under letter of reversion regardless to whom whose hands the said letter has come, paying the money and showing the reversion, and [shall] have such privilege and freedom against the persons who hold the said lands as he should have against the principal first buyer. And because such reversions may, in some cases, be lost, our sovereign lord shall cause the said reversions to be registered in his register, if it be required, at their expense, that is to say half a merk for each one. Which register shall have the same force as [if] the principal reversion were to be shown at the time.

Item, as concerning obligations that shall be followed in the future, except those that were pending in the law before the making of this act, it is advised that the party to whom the obligation is made, or that has interests therein, shall pursue the said obligation within the space of 40 years and take document thereupon, and if he does not, it shall elapse and be of no value, the said 40 years having run and [the obligation having been] unpursued by the law.

Item, as touching the election of aldermen, bailies and other officers of burghs, because of the great disturbance and contention each year for the choosing of the same through the multitude and clamour of common simple persons, it is thought expedient that neither officers nor council be continued according to the king's laws of burghs for more than a year, and that the choosing of the new officers occur in this manner: that is to say, that the old town council shall choose the new council in such number as is suits the town, and the new council and the old one of the previous year shall choose all officers pertaining to the town, such as aldermen, bailies, dean of guild and other officers, and that each craft shall choose a person of the same craft who shall have a voice in the said election of officers for that time and similarly year to year. And further, it is thought expedient that neither captain nor constable of the king's castles, whatever town they are in, shall bear office within the said town as to be alderman, bailie, dean of guild, treasurer or any other officer that may be chosen by the town from the time of the next choosing onwards etc.

Item, it is thought expedient that, since our sovereign lord has full jurisdiction and free empire within his realm, that his highness may make notaries and tabellions, whose instruments shall be held in full faith in all civil contracts within the realm. And in time to come no existing or future notary made by the emperor's authority is to have faith in civil contracts within the realm unless he is examined by the ordinary and approved by the king's highness. And that full faith be given to the papal notaries created in the past and in the future in all their instruments. And also that full faith be given to all instruments given previously by the imperial notaries, just as they are now in force. And further, that the notaries to be made by our sovereign lord be examined before their bishops' ordinaries and gain certification from them that they are of faith, good reputation, knowledge and loyalty fitting for the said office.

Item, to eschew the deceit and the harm that our sovereign lord's lieges sustain daily and at all times by the measuring of woollen cloth by the selvage, it is thought expedient that in the future all woollen cloth be measured by the rig and not by the selvage etc.

Item, as touching the endorsement of the king's brieves and letters, in order that full faith may be given to them, it is seen expedient in this present parliament that sheriffs, bailies or any other officers either of fee or in that part that execute the said brieves and letters, set their seals or signets before a witness (and procure [a seal] if they have none) to all execution and endorsement of the said brieves and letters in order that confidence may be given to them. And otherwise their endorsement is to have no faith, etc.

Item, because there is deception found in the keeping of fairs, parliament times and general councils, that the great constables of castles, sheriffs or bailies of burghs take great extortion from the king's poor lieges which they call their duties and fees that are not owed to them, such as each load of flesh, fish, victuals, meal or malt, or such similar burdens of fowl on men's backs, and other things borne in men's hands for which they have no reason, it is seen expedient and decreed in this present parliament that all such things be refrained from in time to come, and no such extortions be taken from the king's lieges under the pain of punishment of their persons at the king's will, and to be put from the execution of their office for a year, etc.

Item, because of the keeping of the holy day and divine service, which are greatly broken and namely for poinding of mails and annuals, [and] taking in and casting out of tenants, which causes great dissension and often causes great gatherings and discord on the solemn days of Whitsunday [May/June] and Martinmas [11 November], for the eschewing of which it is thought expedient in this present parliament that the said poinding of mails and annuals, [and] taking in and casting out of tenants be deferred to the third day after Whitsunday or Martinmas without prejudice of any persons, and in similar manner that there be no fairs held on holy days, but on the following morning.

Item, because of the eschewing of great slaughters, which have been very common among the king's lieges now and of late, both of forethought felony and of suddante, and because many persons commit slaughter upon forethought felony in the trust that they shall be defended through the immunity of the holy church and girth, and pass and remain in sanctuaries, it is now thought right expedient in this present parliament for the staunching of the said slaughter in time coming where slaughter is committed by forethought felony and the committer of the said felony puts him in girth for the safety of his person, the sheriff shall go to the ordinary in places under their jurisdiction, and in places exempt to the lord's masters of the girth and let him know that such a man has committed such a crime of forethought felony 'as a person who walks the roads and by industry', for which the law does not grant nor levy such persons to enjoy the immunity of the kirk. And the sheriff shall require the ordinary to allow testimony to be taken by an assise on 15 days whether it is a forethought felony or not. And if it is found to be forethought felony, it is to be punished according to the king's laws. And if it be found suddante, it is to be restored again to the freedom and immunity of the holy church and girth, and thereupon to set good surety to the ordinary. And that surety being found, the said ordinary and master of sanctuary shall ensure the person is detained for the said testimony. And that the sheriff shall execute those acts on slaughter and fugitives from the law made by King James I which bear in effect that, whenever any sheriff is certified of any slaughter either by the party or any other way, he shall immediately raise the king's horn and his lieges within the bounds of his office, shall go and seek that person and administer justice to him according to the laws of the realm. And if he is a fugitive and escapes from his sheriffdom, he shall send an officer to the sheriff in whose sheriffdom he enters and denounce and alert him that this man is guilty of such a trespass and felony against the king within the bounds of his shire and has escaped from the same and come into the bounds of his office, and charge him in the king's name and by the virtue of this act to raise the king's lieges and his horn in like manner and pursue that trespasser until he is caught or expelled from his shire. And in similar manner, send his officers to the next sheriff in whose shire the said trespasser enters in order to pursue him until he is caught or else expelled from the realm. And further, that each sheriff of the shire where the said fugitive is sought and not caught shall pass to the main burgh of his shire and proclaim upon the king's behalf that this man has committed this slaughter and felony, and is a fugitive from the law and charge all the king's lieges that no man take it upon himself to house, harbour, reset or help the said trespasser in any manner of ways under the pain of forfeiture of life and goods. And hereupon the king's dittay to be taken in his justice ayre and to be punished as is written above. And if any sheriff be found guilty of this in the execution of his office, the said sheriff shall be punished at the king's will and be removed from his office for three years. And if the sheriff be found diligent in the execution of his office, or any other person who works for the taking of the said trespasser, shall be rewarded and thanked therefore by the king as a matter of course etc.

Item, to eschew the great hardship and destruction of the king's common mailers and inhabitants of lords' lands through the power of the brieve of distress, that where any sums are obtained by virtue of the said brieve for the lord owner of the ground, so that the goods and cattle of the poor men inhabitants are taken and distrenzied for the lord's debts where the mails do not extend to the [full] value of the debt, it is advised and ordained in this present parliament that, from now on, the poor tenants shall not be distrenzied for the lord's debts further than his term's mail extend. And if the sum obtained by the brieve of distress exceeds the term's mail, the officer shall, at the instance of the party who obtains the debt, go to any other proper goods of the debtor and pay the remnant of his debt, if he has enough within the shire. And if he has not enough goods or lands within the said shire, the creditor shall go to the king and bring certification from the sheriff of how much of the sum recovered by the brieve of distress he wants and may not get [from] his own goods within that shire, and the king shall give him his letters to any other sheriffs where the debtor has any goods or mails within the realm and cause them to be priced and pay the said creditor within 15 days according to the form of the law. And where the debtor has no moveable goods apart from his land, the sheriff before whom the said sum is recovered by the brieve of distress shall cause the lands to be sold to the value of the debt and pay the creditor so that the inhabitants of the said lands are not hurt or grieved due to their lord's debts. Nevertheless it shall be lawful for the person who first owned the land to redeem and quit the same again within seven years, paying the money for which it was sold for to the buyer and the expenses made on the overlord for charter, sasine and infeftment, and the redemption and setting free to be made within seven years as said, or not. And if the creditor takes the term's mail by virtue of the brieve of distress it shall not be lawful for the lord to take it again. And if there cannot be found a buyer for the said lands, the sheriff of that shire or any other where he has lands shall choose the best and worthiest of the shire and least suspect to any of the parties to the number of 13 persons and appraise the said lands and assign his creditor the value of the said sum within six months after the said sum is recovered before the sheriff. And also the overlord shall receive the creditor or any other buyer that is a tenant of his, they paying to the overlord a year's mail as the land is set for the time. And failing thereof, that he takes the land for himself and undergo the debt etc.

Item, for the multiplication of fish, salmon, grilse and trout which are destroyed by coups,14 narrow mesh nets and preens set in to rivers that have course to the sea or set within the flood mark of the sea, it is advised in this instant parliament that all such cowps and preens be destroyed and put away for three years. And whosoever holds them up shall be indicted and punished by the king's justice in his justice ayre as destroyers of red fish according to the tenor of the act of slaughter of red fish most recently made of before. And in similar manner, all millers who slay smolts with creels or any other manner of way shall be punished by the king's laws according to the tenor of the aforementioned act made on red fish. And that each sheriff within his shire shall destroy and cast down the said instruments, cowps, preens, narrow mesh nets, creels or any such similar [thing] etc.

Item, it is seen expedient that the court of parliament, justice ayre, chamberlain ayre or such courts that have continuation need not be continued on a day to day basis but that they be of the same strength and force as if they had been continued from day to day until the time that they are dissolved, the parliament by the king, the justice ayre by the justice, the chamberlain ayre by the chamberlain, and other similar courts. And that no exceptions to the contrary are to be proposed by any persons and admitted etc.

Item, for so much as the Saturday and other vigils are not holy days required by law except from evensong to evensong, that therefore masons, wrights and other craftsmen who are set for long times or short times for work shall work on Saturday and other festival evenings until four hours after noon under the pain of forfeiture of a week's fee, and that they keep no more holy days than are required by the holy church of great solemn feasts, and if anyone acts to the contrary that the ordinary initiate a process of cursing upon them etc.

Item, because in the last parliament there was a notable act made on the reduction of hospitals to their first foundations and no execution has been made hereto, it is thought expedient in this present parliament that the said act made previously for the reduction of the said hospitals of the realm be put to execution, and that the three estates of the realm require the king's highness and the ordinaries to make the said act be executed, observed and kept; and that Master Richard Guthrie be principal confessor to the king and general almoner, and that he be empowered with the king's authority and the ordinaries for the reformation of the same etc.

Item, in like manner the decreet made upon the ferries for bridges to be made for the safety of horses [is] to be put to execution and the persons who have been negligent in the keeping of the same to be punished etc.

Item, it is thought expedient that the king's rolls and his register be put in books and have the same strength as the rolls had of before etc.

Item, it is decreed and ordained that there be no deniers of France, mailzes, corts, mites or any other counterfeits of black money taken in payment in this realm except our sovereign lord's own black money struck and printed by his coiner. And that no manner of persons bring any foreign black money from other realms into this land or counterfeit the king's money under pain of death. And further, that no man in the future take nor offer in payment any black money except our sovereign lord's own coin, for anyone that they be found with shall be debtor of them, etc.

  1. NAS, PA2/1, f.61r.
  2. NAS, PA2/1, f.61r.
  3. NAS, PA2/1, f.61r-v.
  4. NAS, PA2/1, f.61v.
  5. NAS, PA2/1, f.61v.
  6. NAS, PA2/1, f.62r.
  7. NAS, PA2/1, f.62r.
  8. NAS, PA2/1, f.62r.
  9. NAS, PA2/1, f.62r.
  10. NAS, PA2/1, f.62v.
  11. NAS, PA2/1, f.62v-63r.
  12. NAS, PA2/1, f.63r-v.
  13. NAS, PA2/1, f.63v.
  14. 'A basket used for catching salmon' [DSL].
  15. NAS, PA2/1, f.64r.
  16. NAS, PA2/1, f.64r.
  17. NAS, PA2/1, f.64r.
  18. NAS, PA2/1, f.64r.
  19. NAS, PA2/1, f.64r.
  20. NAS, PA2/1, f.64v.