Petition: decreet and recommendation concerning tacksmen

Then the parliament, having considered George MacKenzie's petition, they discern and ordain the sums in the hands of Thomas Beaton of Tarvit and William Bernard, two subcollectors of that excise, to be paid in to him in the terms of the deliverance of parliament upon his petition, and the said George MacKenzie further recommended to her majesty for his surplus losses mentioned in his petition, which decreet and recommendation follows.

Decreet for George MacKenzie against Beaton of Tarbert and William Bernard and recommendation to the treasury in favour of the said George MacKenzie

Her majesty's high commissioner and the estates of parliament, having heard the petition of George MacKenzie, subtacksman of the excise of the northern shires, humbly showing to them that where the petitioner, having unhappily engaged himself in a tack of the excise of 5d per pint from 1 September 1695 to 1 March 1697, and after his great expenses and fatigue by the reason of the extreme famine that then appeared and suddenly ensued, he could get no town, shire or parish set as formerly, nor so much as could reach the one half of his tack duty, and seeing he found, by the express terms of his tack, that in case of famine the same was to be void and null, he immediately returned to Edinburgh and renounced in the hands of [John Hamilton], lord Belhaven and others, principal tacksmen, protesting he would have no further dealings in the tack, but be answerable conforming to his intromissions. And having made also application to the lords of treasury they, in regard of his timely diligence and the well known truth of the calamitous condition of the northern countries, as was attested by the subscriptions of the noblemen, barons and magistrates, gave him a suspension in the interim for one half of his tack duty, whereupon and upon orders given to manage the said shires to the best value, which he performed with all the application was possible for him, nevertheless the famine daily increasing in his district was not known in the south until the north countries, being wasted, the droves of the poor over charged the south countries. Then it was that the said George his representations got credit and became a handle to the rest of the tacksmen for obtaining an abatement. And it is to be observed that most of the tacksmen were made capable to support the burden when they had entered in cheap tacks, and that the tack was very near expired before they were made aware of the famine, so that the petitioner's case is no way parallel to the rest, when it is evident he had the double burden of the first and last of the raging famine, and of a heavy double tack. Nevertheless, the principal tacksmen did harass the said George and cautioners with all the violent methods of quartering whole companies at his house in the country and chamber when at Edinburgh, whereby he was constrained by these and like methods to raise all the money his private stock and credit with others could afford, so that, albeit it is evident by the reports of the committee that he only collected £8,807 sterling, yet he was compelled to pay up to the said principal tacksmen, in payment as per receipt, £10,417 19s sterling, and that before the act of parliament was made for relief of the tacksmen, which, with upwards of £700 sterling the said George expended as per a particular account in now these ten years bygone, makes his loss evidently to be no less than £2,309 sterling. Wherefore upon the whole, it will be a very great hardship if the petitioner shall be only ruined in that tack after his expenses and endeavours have been the occasion merely of procuring them an abatement of the tack duty and, thereafter, of turning the tack into a collection and so the abatement ought, in justice, to be applied not in proportion to the quotas and tack duty but according to the measure of the calamities which was the cause for which both abatement was granted and thereafter the tack opened. And there being upon report of the commission of parliament a small balance of that excise yet in the hands of the principal and subtacksmen which, albeit but about a third part of the petitioner's sum, yet it is humbly presumed it will be thought highly reasonable the petitioner be refunded out of this proper fund and from this2 who extorted his money. Therefore, craving his grace and the honourable estates of parliament to ordain payment to be made to the petitioner of the said balance in the principal's and subtacksmen's hands, the same being but a part of his own money, and that what remains may be remitted to be summarily discussed before any competent judicatory, seeing the petitioner demands nothing for his loss of ten years' time and fatigue, as the said petition bears. And, having likewise heard that part of the report of the commission of parliament appointed for stating and examining the public accounts to which the said petition refers, bearing that it being remitted to them to inquire into the arrears of the tack duty of the Lord Belhaven's tack of excise, in the terms of the deliverance of parliament in his favour thereupon, they, before acquainting the parliament of the enquiry they made into that affair, judged it proper to lay before them the foresaid deliverance of parliament in the Lord Belhaven's favour to the end they may see how far it agrees with what they were to report by the parliament of 1698. It was ordered that of what was paid by the Lord Belhaven and his partners of their tack duty to his majesty nothing should be given back, that what more should be found to be uplifted from the country than was paid, either in bonds or money, should be given to his majesty and that the tacksmen should be liable for the same, whether it had been uplifted by them, their subtacksmen or collectors, and the tacksmen are declared no further liable, and that what shall be abated after this manner shall be proportioned amongst the subtacksmen at the sight of the lords of the treasury. That the commission might satisfy the remit of parliament in the terms of this deliverance, all imaginable enquiry has been made and particularly they called the Lord Belhaven's partners, subtacksmen and collectors before them and examined them upon oath as to the extent of their tack duty and collections, and of the payments made by them, either in money or by bonds, and whether there were any promises made or gratifications given for concealments. All these depositions, with all the other instructions and documents relative to this matter, the commission laid before his grace and their lordships wherein they will find: firstly, that the extent of the Lord Belhaven's tack duty of excise for eighteen months amounts to £8,800 sterling. Secondly, that his lordship has paid to the treasury the sum of £58,029 8s 10d sterling. Thirdly, that by several acts of exchequer his lordship had allowed him £4,862 13s 4d sterling as an abatement upon the account of guards, garrisons and manufactories, as is ordinarily given to other tacksmen of the excise. These two last sums, being added together, make £62,892 13s 4d sterling, so that there remains £18,007 17s 10d sterling. If this £18,007 17s 10d sterling had never been uplifted by his lordship, his subtacksmen or collectors, nor any part thereof from the country, then by the foresaid deliverance of parliament in his lordship's favour the whole ought to be allowed. But, by the enquiry the commission have made, they found: firstly, that the tacksmen have intromitted with the sum of £526 11s 10d sterling not as yet accounted for. Secondly, that Thomas Beaton, subtacksman for Fife, has collected the sum of one £159 2s 6d sterling, which he retains in his hands. Thirdly, that William Bernard, subtacksman for East Lothian, retains in his hands £140 11s 11d sterling. Upon the whole, the said commission were of opinion that when these three last sums are paid up there will remain £17,181 11s 7d sterling which, having never been collected or uplifted from the country, ought to be allowed to the Lord Belhaven and partners according to the foresaid deliverance of parliament, together also with a full discharge of their tack duty, as the said report also bears. And her majesty's high commissioner and the said estates of parliament, having fully considered the foresaid petition, with the foresaid report of the commission for public accounts to which it refers, and being therewith well and ripely advised, they discerned and ordained and hereby discern and ordain the £159 2s sterling money in the hands of Thomas Beaton, subtacksman for the shire of Fife, and the £140 11s 11s sterling money in the hands of William Bernard, subtacksman for East Lothian, conforming to the said report, to be paid to the petitioner by the said respective subtacksmen who have them, for refunding so much of the loss and damage represented by the said petition, and recommended and hereby recommend the said petitioner to her majesty's royal bounty for the surplus of the said loss, extending to £2,009 6s 1d sterling money, and ordains letters of horning and all other needful execution to pass upon this decreet in usual form, as appropriate. Extract.

  1. NAS. PA2/39, f.77-78v.
  2. Sic. 'those'.