[Petition of Alexander Black and partners for a starch manufactory]

To his grace her majesty's high commissioner and the right honourable the estates of parliament, the humble petition of Alexander Black, William Henderson and James Wood, merchants in Edinburgh.

That where it is the constant care of all lawgivers to encourage industry within their several countries, in which her majesty and her royal predecessors and the parliament of this kingdom have shown marks of their great wisdom and care, and especially for encouraging the manufacture of the native product the petitioners do therefore most humbly presume to represent to your grace and the high and honourable the estates of parliament that the starch manufactories lately set up within this kingdom do not only make starch equal to any foreign starch imported, but even better, which they have shown by comparing the different samples of foreign and home starch to many members of the honourable court of parliament. And starch being made only of wheat, the manufacture being duly encouraged, several thousand bolls yearly may be consumed that way, which will contribute to the encouragement of the labourer, and fixing, if not improving, the rents paid in that grain. And besides the encouragement and maintenance of those concerned in the manufacture, it will also greatly relieve the poor and neighbours to such manufactories, the husks and gross of the wheat, which is a wholesome and substantial food, being sold to the poor at 4d per pint.

On the other hand, foreign starch being imported, it does not only deprive the nation of these advantages, but also it exports the value in money, being imported from places which need little of our manufacture. Beside that, the starch for the most part is imported without payment of duty by the seamen, who carry their small stocks in specie out of the kingdom, and bring it home with them in starch in small quantities, which they easily conceal and run; and the people of this nation, being fond of foreign goods, prefer it to their own, though better.

For remedy of these and encouragement of manufactories so lately set up, we do humbly address ourselves to your grace and the honourable the estates of parliament, that in your wisdom you would provide some expedient, and, if none better occur, we presume with all submission to beg that all foreign starch at importation be charged with the duty of £12 Scots upon each hundred weight, to be collected without fraud or abatement under the following penalties, namely: £60 Scots to be paid by the importer who shall obtain abatement, for every hundred weight on every occasion, and £60 Scots to be paid by the customs house officer or officers at the port where the said starch shall happen to be imported and duty abated, for the first offence, £120 Scots for the second offence, and for the third offence depravation of his or their offices and incapacity for the space of a year to serve or be concerned in the customs of foreign excise. And further, that the penalties aforesaid shall be divided equally between the fiscal and informer; and where there is a concourse of more informers, that any master or partner of a starch manufacture be preferred to any other informer; and that the fiscal and all informers do truly and effectually exact the penalties above-mentioned, certifying such fiscals or informers as shall upon any pretext or in any manner whatsoever either connive with the importers or officers of the customs house for obtaining absolvitors from persons, or who shall abate in the least from the penalties imposed, that they shall be liable to pay for their respective proportions to the first informer, being a master or partner of a starch manufacture, the penalties above-mentioned.

And for as much as we have had the charge and expense of the first experiment in bringing the starch works to any kind of perfection, which probably may with due encouragement manufacture and consume a fourth part of the victual rent of the kingdom, and save a greater value of money yearly exported for that commodity, besides the advantage of employing such as are concerned in the manufactories and ease to the poor in their neighbourhoods, we humbly hope that your grace and the high and honourable estates of parliament will think our three works worthy to be erected in manufactories, with the ordinary privileges in the like cases, for such number of years as your grace and the right honourable estates of parliament shall think fit.

May it therefore please your grace and the right honourable the estates of parliament to take the premises into your consideration, and, if no better expedient occur, to pass an act in the terms of our most humble desire above-mentioned, for the better encouragement of our native product, and of us and our work-houses, that others may be encouraged to manufacture the native product of this kingdom in all its branches.

2Edinburgh, 24 March 1707

Her majesty's high commissioner and the estates of parliament, having heard this bill, they grant the desire thereof as to the preference of the petitioners to other informers for the informer's shares of penalties, and also as to the penalties demanded to be imposed on the officers of the customs giving abatement of the duties upon imported foreign starch, but ordain these duties to be such as are imposed thereon by the English book of rates; and refuse the other demands of this petition, and ordain this decision to be published at the market cross of Edinburgh and other places needful, that none pretend ignorance thereof.

[James Ogilvy, earl of] Seafield, chancellor, in the presence of the lords of parliament

  1. NAS. PA6/35, 'March 24 1707'. Printed copy.
  2. Written on rear.