Act concerning beggars and vagabonds

Our sovereign lord, considering the many laudable acts of parliament made by his majesty's royal predecessors for relief of the poor, and for constraining of beggars, vagabonds and idle persons, to take themselves to lawful callings that they might not be burdensome and disgraceful to the kingdom, especially the 74th act of the sixth parliament of his majesty's royal grandfather King James VI, of happy memory, ordaining the names of the poor of each parish, and such as must be necessarily sustained by alms, to be taken up, and to tax and stent the persons within the parish, according to the estimation of their substance, without exception of persons, to such weekly charges and contributions as should be thought sufficient to sustain the said poor people; and the 268th act of the fifteenth parliament of King James VI, ratifying the former act with this addition, that strong beggars with their bairns are to be employed in common works, and that they shall continue servants therein during their lifetime; and considering the tenth act of the second and twentieth parliament of his said royal grandfather King James VI, recommending to all his good subjects to take into their service poor and indigent children, declaring that they shall be subject to their said masters, their heirs and assignees in all kinds of service that shall be enjoined to them, until they pass their age of thirty years complete, and that they shall be subject to their master's correction and chastisement in all manner of punishment (life and torture excepted); and that if it shall happen the said persons absent themselves from their master's service, without their licence, not only to be liable to bodily punishment at their master's discretion, but that all receptors of them shall be obliged to restore them to their masters within twenty-four hours after they are required, otherwise to pay to their said masters 10s Scots for each day's absence until they are restored; and his majesty, considering that the chief cause whereby the foresaid acts have proven ineffectual, and that vagabonds and idle persons do yet so much abound, has been that there were few or no common works then erected in the kingdom which might take and employ the said idle persons in their service, and that now, by his majesty's princely care, common works for manufactories of diverse sorts are setting up in this kingdom; therefore his majesty, with advice and consent of his estates in parliament, ratifies and approves the foresaid acts of parliament, with this addition, that it shall be rightful to all persons or societies who have or shall set up any manufactories within this kingdom to seize upon and apprehend the persons of any vagabonds who shall be found begging or, who being masterless and out of service, have not wherewith to maintain themselves by their own means or work, and to employ them for their service as they shall see fit, the same being done with the advice of the respective magistrates of the place where they shall be seized upon; and ordains the parishes where such vagabonds or idle persons as shall be found begging, were born or, in case the place of their nativity is not known, the parishes where they have any residence, haunt, or most resort for the space of three years immediately preceding their being so apprehended, who thereby are relieved of the burden of them, to make payment to the persons or societies that shall happen to employ them 2s Scots money per day for the first year after they are apprehended, and 1s Scots per day for the next three years thereafter, the one half thereof to be paid by the heritors of the several parishes respectively and the other half thereof to be paid by the possessors and inhabitants dwelling upon the ground of each heritor respectively. Likewise, his majesty, with advice and consent foresaid, ordains the heritors of each parish, or as many of them as shall happen to meet upon public intimation made at the parish kirk upon any Sabbath at the dissolving of the church from the first sermon, by any of the heritors of the parish or by the employers of the poor, to make up a stent roll for maintenance of the poor in their parish, who shall be employed, as said is, at the rate aforesaid, the one half thereof to be paid by the heritors, either conforming to the old extent of their lands within the parish, or conforming to the valuation by which they last paid assessment, or otherwise as the major part of the heritors so meeting shall agree, liferenters and wadsetters always being liable during their rights as heritors, and the other half thereof to be laid upon the tenants and possessors according to their means and substance; and in case the said inheritors being required by any person or society employing the poor, as said is, shall fail to make up and deliver a stent roll in manner foresaid, with power to the persons, society or others entrusted by them to charge the heritors of each parish for the sum of 2s Scots per day for each one of their poor, whereof they shall be relieved in manner foresaid, conforming to the old extent or valuation foresaid at the option of the person or society employing, or those entrusted by them; which stent roll shall continue and stand for one year after the making up thereof, either by the heritors or in case of failure by the persons or societies employing the poor, as said is, and shall then be renewed from year to year during the years above-written, providing also that the heritors, in case they fail to make a stent roll, as said is, and are charged conforming to the old extent or valuation of their lands, that they shall have relief off the tenants and possessors of their lands for the one half of what they shall be distressed for. And his majesty, with consent foresaid, ordains letters of horning to be directed hereupon at the instance of the persons or societies employers of the poor, or persons entrusted by them, against the heritors and others for payment of the said daily allowance for the poor, or against the receptors of them being so employed for 10s Scots money per day upon fifteen days only, providing always that after examination of the case the lords of the privy council shall find cause for directing such letters. And ordains all sheriffs, stewarts, bailies of regality, principality, magistrates of burghs or justices of peace and their constables, to assist in the apprehending of the said vagabonds or in the bringing of them back to their service after they shall be employed; and strictly prohibits and discharges all persons whosoever to oppose or hinder the taking or bringing back of them in manner foresaid respectively, under the pain of deforcement. Likewise, it is hereby declared that the poor so employed shall continue in the service of the employers and under their direction and correction in manner foresaid, not only during the space of the maintenance to be paid for them by their parishes in manner above-written, but also for the space of seven years thereafter for meat and cloth only, declaring always, likewise it is hereby expressly declared, that the burgh of Ayr, or their inhabitants, shall in no way be comprehended herein, but are excepted herefrom in all points; and recommend and to the lords of the privy council to see this act and all former acts of parliament made against sturdy beggars and vagabonds put to execution, with power to them to supply by their order what shall be deficient as to the execution of the said acts.

  1. NAS. PA2/28, f.115-116v.