The Long History of Resistance to the Annuity Tax in Scotland

Just one last post (don’t hold me to that; I’m on a roll) about resistance to taxes that propped up the state church of Scotland.

In our last episode we’d gone back to the 17th century to see presbyterians resisting taxes that went to support the official government church and repress any competitors. Shortly after, the presbyterians gained the upper hand and wasted no time in making themselves the official government church and taking those taxes as their own prize.

Fast forward to the 19th century, and you see a new class of dissenters, like John Brown (see The Picket Line for and ) refusing to pony up to fund the salaries of ministers of a church not their own. The annuity tax was the one John Brown was resisting — a tax on certain Edinburgh property that was designated to support the official Church of Scotland, to which John Brown’s own ministry was a competitor.

Fellow dissident Duncan MacLaren wrote a History of the Resistance to the Annuity Tax under each of the four church establishments under which it has been levied () to remind folks that this tax resistance wasn’t some novelty, but had been practiced by dissenter Christians throughout the ages, as the title of “official” church changed hands.

After going over the legal history of the Annuity Tax, and before going into an accounting of how much money had been collected over the years and how little there was to show for it, MacLaren recounts the history of resistance, as follows:

Resistance to the Annuity Tax

It has been asserted, with great confidence, that the resistance to the payment of the Annuity Tax is of recent origin, and that it has arisen solely from the agitation of the Voluntary question. There never was a more unfounded statement hazarded on any subject. The resistance began with the imposition of the Tax, and continued under all the changes took which place in the form of Church Government.

Resistance during the establishment of modified episcopacy, , when it was abolished

It appears by a Minute of the Town Council, of date , that Edward Littell was appointed Collector of the Annuity, with a salary of £27, 15s. 5d., being rather more than 4 per cent. on the sum authorised to be levied. Resistance to the collection of the Tax, appears to have been anticipated, if it had not actually commenced at this early period, for Littell and his two sureties are taken bound to account for the “particular sums contained in the said rolls, either by payment of the sums contained in the said rolls, or by production of poynding of the goods of the disobedients, or wairding [imprisoning] of their persons.”

Here, a footnote: “The power of imprisonment does not appear to have been employed until after the Ministers had established their right to the whole produce of the Tax. The first cases occurred in and .”

Resistance during the presbyterian establishment, , when it was abolished

When Presbytery flourished in all its glory, as the Established Church under the Protectorate of Cromwell, the resistance to the payment of the Annuity Tax on the part of those who did not belong to the dominant sect, for whose Ministers it was collected, was very great. We have the authority of the Kirk-sessions, as quoted by the Burgh Commission, for saying that, at this time, “very many” refused to pay the tax, “Except they were compelled by the authority of the Magistrates,” and the following extracts from the Records of the Town Council, furnish ample evidence that the resistance continued during the whole period of the existence of the Presbyterian Established Church.

It appears from the following Minute of Council, of , that in consequence of the Annuity Tax being so difficult to collect, the Treasurer of the Kirk Sessions was directed to take out letters of horning against “the Deacons of the Kirk,” in order to quicken their diligence, and also against the inhabitants who refuse to pay. — “Ordains Thos. Fairholm, Treasurer of the Kirk Sessions of this burgh, to raise new letters of horning against the Deacons of the Kirk Sessions and sic-like [also] to raise new letters at the instance of the Deacons, against the inhabitants of this burgh, and to put the same into execution, if need be, for payment of the Annuities to the effect, — the ministers shall be paid of their stipends, whereanent these presents shall be their warrand.”

. — Appoints a committee “to meet with those who were elders [it will be remembered that at this period, the sessions were appointed by annual elections] of the Kirk-sessions, , and to find out a way to get in the bygone Annuities of those two years, for the better payment of the Ministers’ stipends, whereanent these presents shall be their warrand.”

The difficulties attending the collection having continued to increase, on , the Town Council “appointed John Straiton collector of the Annuity,” and as a stimulus to him to exert himself in recovering the outstanding arrears, which amounted to a considerable sum, they agreed to “allow to him ten of ilk hundred, [10 per cent.,] that he sall collect of the bygaine restis [arrears] due resting, and unpayit at Martinmas last, and six of ilk hundredth [6 per cent.; this is considerably more than the per centage which the salary of the present collector amounts to, on the sum collected by him] that he sall collect of the succeeding years and terms during his service.”

 — Forsameikle as all fair and calm means has been used hitherto for payment of the bygane and present Annuities due by the neighbours, and nothing has succeeded answerable to expectation and commands, so that the Ministers are unjustly disappointed of their bygane stipends, through the unwillingness of the neighbours, and seeing necessity requires obedience, for the exoneration of the Council, and the Ministers’ better payment, the Council ordains John Straiton, their collector, to give lawful intimation to the neighbours, by three severall warnings, especially to such as are not as yet so lawfully warned, to pay their Anuitie; and in case of their failure or refusal, after such lawful warning, to use the last remedy, in quartering of soldiers upon them, aye and untill all bygane and present Anuities be payed, whereanent these presents shall be their warrand.” There is nothing on the record showing that this act was ever carried into effect.

In , it was found so difficult to raise a sufficient sum for the stipends of the ministers, which were greatly in arrear, that several members of the Town Council, on , agreed to advance money out of their own pockets, to pay the stipends then resting; taking their chance of afterwards receiving payment from the city. This act of Voluntary liberality met with the approbation of the Council, and the records show the names of the different lenders, with the sums which each of them advanced, and the ministers to whom each of the sums was paid.

 — “Ordains the officers of the burgh, ordinary and extraordinary, to give assistance to Andrew Mitchell, or to any other the collector of the Annuitie shall think fit to appoint for poynding of such who are yet deficient for paying their bygane or present years Annuitie; and also to arrest in the tenants hands, the rent of such heritors who are hitherto obstinate and will not pay till the same [arrears] be satisfied, whereanent these presents shall be their warrand.” This quotation throws considerable light on the status of the parties who at this time resisted the tax, and it is also of importance in several other respects.

  1. It proves that some of the defaulters were persons of considerable substance — heritors of the burgh — owners of other properties than those in which they resided and for which they were assessed. The Annuity Tax was never payable by the heritors as such but by the occupiers. Hence the heritors referred to must have refused to pay the Annuity Tax exigible on those houses which they inhabited, and therefore, in order to secure payment, the Council directed the collector to arrest the rents of other properties belonging to them in the hands of the tenants to whom they were let.
  2. It proves that at this period arrestment was employed as an easy and effectual mode of recovering payment from those who refused to pay the tax.
  3. It proves that the persons referred to, did not object to pay the tax on the plea of poverty, or from any temporary deficiency of funds; their resistance was of the most determined kind. The description of “heritors who are hitherto obstinate and will not pay,” could only apply to persons who objected to the principle of the tax, and who resisted it, conceiving it to be “persecution for conscience sake.”

Resistance during the episcopalian establishment, , when it was abolished

After the restoration of Charles Ⅱ., Episcopacy became “the Church by law established,” and from that period, to the Revolution of , the resistance to the payment of the tax on the part of the members of the present Established Church, who were then Dissenters, was greater than at any period, either before or since that time, not even excepting the last ten years. Like the Dissenters of the present day, they supported their own Ministers at their own expence, on the Voluntary principle, and they naturally objected to being compelled to pay for the support of the Ministers of a Church to which they did not belong, and which they believed to be an anti-Christian Establishment. They did not, like the Dissenters of the present day, object to all Civil Establishments of religion, but in common with them, they considered it “persecution for conscience sake,” to be compelled to support any sect but their own. The poinding and rouping of their goods for payment of stipend was carried on to a great extent, but this did not produce the desired effect. They suffered “the spoiling of their goods” without being intimidated into compliance with demands which they believed to be essentially unjust. In this state of matters, the Town Council, adopting the fashionable expedient of the day, ordered soldiers to be quartered on all those who refused to pay the tax. This most iniquitous resolution was instantly carried into effect, but the “still small voice” of conscience was not to be subdued. Proceeding from one degree of wickedness to another, the Town Council ordered the soldiers to be paid by the parties on whom they were quartered, and their goods to be rouped to provide the necessary funds; but notwithstanding all their ingenuity and all their iniquitous contrivances for enforcing payment of this hated tax, there was one discovery which they did not make, but which the superior light and civilization of the nineteenth century has enabled “the friends of the Church” to make, — that the imprisonment of the persons of those who resist the Tax, is the most effectual method of enforcing payment.

To the members of that Church, which is at present, “by law Established,” the inhabitants of this City are deeply indebted for the first determined and continued resistance to the payment of the Annuity Tax, and for the vindication of the rights of conscience under the severest trials, and amidst the greatest dangers. By their resistance they had reason to believe they would incur the displeasure of the most arbitrary government which had ever existed in Scotland — of such men as Middleton, Lauderdale, Sharpe, Rothes, Dalzell, Perth, and the Duke of York — under whose direction every species of cruelty and oppression was perpetrated. In other cases of resistance for conscience’ sake, they were in the practice of employing torture as freely as ever the agents of the Inquisition did; and not satisfied with the instruments employed by them, by a refinement in cruelty, they invented new instruments of torture, of a more dreadful kind. These they frequently ordered to be applied in their presence, before the Privy Council, in torturing those who were prisoners “for conscience’ sake.” They fined, and imprisoned, and banished, without law, and without mercy. They caused hundreds to be put to death by military execution, without even the forms of justice; and others, after a mock trial, were ordered to be executed with every refinement in cruelty which the most fiendish ingenuity could suggest. They spared neither age nor sex. The barbarities which they committed cannot be read without exciting the most intense feeling of horror. Yet all these enormities were perpetrated in the name of religion, for the professed object of supporting the Established Church, and, consequently, for promoting the glory of God, and spreading the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! To such lengths did these supporters of Church Establishments carry their love of compulsory principles!

Notwithstanding the dangers to which they were subjected from the character and conduct of their rulers, the Presbyterian Dissenters resisted the Tax in the most determined manner. Each of these practical Voluntaries declared with respect to the Episcopalian ministers — “I think my religion better than theirs; and, therefore, I never will pay them one shilling — no, not one farthing. They may seize my cattle, my corn, my furniture — they may distrain my tenants — they may sell, carry away, or destroy — I never will pay one penny; it is an unjust demand — I will not pay. I will not resist the law, because, like so many other monstrous iniquities, there is law for this also; but I repeat I never will pay them one shilling — to them, or to their use, not one farthing. Come what may, I never will pay them one single farthing.” [Letter from Daniel O’Connel, Esq. M.P., to the People of Britain, .] These conscientious and consistent apostles of the doctrine of passive resistance, were not to be deterred from performing what they believed to be their duty by the fear of personal danger, much less by the clamour that the Ministers of the Established Church were not adequately supported, and that they had an indisputable right, by the existing law of the land, to the proceeds of the Annuity Tax. Believing that a tax for the support of a Church to which they did not belong was unjust in principle, they acted in the way which their own consciences approved, resisting all attempts to compel them to do what they considered evil, in order that what others considered good might come, and disregarding the consequences which might follow from their resistance.

The Ministers were reduced to the greatest distress. Their stipends were small in amount, and very irregularly paid. On , the Town Council resolved to apply to the inhabitants to know what they would lend for Ministers’ stipend. Shortly afterwards, they resolved to consult the city assessors, to know what security they could give the inhabitants for any advances they might be inclined to make for this purpose. On , they resolved that the stipends of six of the Ministers should be £138, and that the stipends of the other six, who were to be allowed for house rents, should be £83. Nearly one-half of the Records of the Town Council, about this period, are filled with matters concerning the Ministers and their stipends, and Churches and Sessions. Judging from the Records, the support of the Church appears to have been a source of constant annoyance, and an intolerable burden on the inhabitants of Edinburgh, for the last two hundred years. The fruits which have been produced by these expensive and troublesome Establishments will be afterwards adverted to; in the meantime, it may be proper, shortly, to explain the mode in which the business of poinding and rouping, for the support of the Church, was transacted.

It appears that the collector was in the habit of going to the houses of those in arrear, and carrying off to “the Anuity Office,” such articles as would sell by public auction, for a sum equal to the amount of the assessment. These articles were called “poynds for Anuitie,” and were entered in a book, with the names of the parties from whom they were taken, in the same manner as is done by pawnbrokers at the present day. They were redeemable at pleasure on payment of the arrears, until they had accumulated to an inconvenient extent, when the collector applied to the Council for an order to tell “the poynds for Anuitie,” which was granted as a matter of course, but generally with an intimation that public notice was to be given to “the neighbours to redeem their poynds within a fortnight,” otherwise they would be sold to the highest bidder for payment of the Ministers’ Stipends. The “Anuitie Office” appears to have been a sort of general pawn-broking establishment and “Auction Mart” for the support of whatever Church was established by law for the time being, and consequently was one of the means employed for the promotion of the gospel! How unlike the means employed by the Founder of Christianity and his Apostles!

The following extracts will show the nature and extent of the resistance made to the Annuity Tax by the Presbyterians of the present Established Church, in the palmy days of Episcopacy.

 — “Compeared William Brown, collector of the Annuitie, and gave the overtures underwritten.” “In respect, there are many poynds taken that are suffered to lie unrelieved, till the persons employed by those intrusted for collecting the Annuitie are gone [have left the town,] and then the poynds are challenged and called for, and oftentimes that sought [claimed] that was never taken from them; in respect whereof, the Council would ordain and declare all such poynds so taken, if not relieved by payment of the Annuitie, and satisfaction given to the persons employed thereanent, within ___ days after the poynding thereof, to be forefaulted, and the persons [to be] still liable for the Annuitie.” [Although Episcopacy was substantially restored at the date of this act of Council, it was not until , that the Presbyterian Ministers of Edinburgh, were formally expelled from their offices. Some of them were afterwards obliged to leave the kingdom.] The Council approved of the same, and enacted accordingly.

. “The Council appoints the hail poynds taken for Annuitie to be disposed of according as the Bailies shall think fitt, provyding the owners doe not redeem them betwixt and this day fortnight.”

The following extract shows that within 15 years after the passing of the act of , the resistance was so great, that the Council adopted the extraordinary expedient of enforcing payment, by quartering soldiers on all those in arrear, until the tax was paid! :— “The Council considering that there is many poynds lying in the hands of the collector of the Anuitie, which are exceedingly troublesome to him,” empowers him “to sell and dispose of the hail poynds in his custody preceding the date hereof, to the best advantage, for the use of the Ministers’ Stipends, and that withall convenient dilligence, as likewise considering that the taking of poynds makes the inhabitants slack in payment of their Anuitie, and is not such an effectual way for inbringing thereof, as was expected; therefore ordains the said John Kinnear to quarter soldiers upon the deficients [defaulters] of the said Anuitie; and that they remove not from their houses, till they pay the said Anuitie.”

. — There is a long act of Council of this date, setting forth, generally, that the means hitherto employed for the collection of the Annuity, had not been found effective, and requiring the inhabitants instantly to pay up the arrears due by them; and, as usual, ordering the poynds to be sold. It appears from the concluding part of the minute, that the inhabitants who had soldiers quartered on them as a punishment for refusing to pay the Tax, were obliged to pay for the soldiers as well as for the Ministers, and that when their “poynds” were rouped, the expenses of the soldiers were to be deducted from the proceeds of the sale, and the surplus to be paid over to the parties from whom the goods were taken. The following part of this Act deserves to be quoted, to show the means employed at this period for the propagation of the gospel: “And what poynds are already in the custody of the said collector or shall be poynded from the said deficients, betwixt and the 1st of May next, the said day being come and bygane, in case the owners do not relieve the said poynds, the same shall then be apprised [sold] and the collector shall only be accountable for the superplus of the value more nor is due to the soldiers who [were] quartered upon the persons poynded [for] the same.”

. — “The Council appoints a proclamation to pass through this city, intimating to the hail inhabitants that are defective in payment of their Annuitie, from whom John Kinnear, collector, has poynded severall poynds, that they come to the said collector and relieve their poynds by payment of their bygaine Annuitie, betwixt and Martinmas next, certifying these that shall not relieve them, they shall be disposed upon by the collector, and they shall pay their Annuitie notwithstanding thereof.”

. — “The Council appoints a proclamation to pass by tuck of drum through the citie, intimating to the whole inhabitants from whom the collector of the Anuitie has taken poynds, upon the amount of their deficiency in payment of their bygane Annuity, that they repair to the collector’s office, within eight days after the said intimation, certifying such as shall fail in relieving of their poynds, within the said space, by payment of their bygane Annuity, the collector is to dispose upon the said poynds by rouping the same.”

Resistance to the annuity tax after the establishment of presbytery, at the revolution of

No sooner had the Presbyterians become the dominant sect, and their Ministers the persons legally entitled to receive stipends from the produce of the Annuity Tax, than the Episcopalians, whose Ministers did not participate, refused to comply with the demands of the Tax-gatherer. {The following quotation from Maitland, shows that the Episcopalians resisted the interference of the Clergy and Elders of the Established Church, in matters of much less importance than the payment of the Annuity Tax. The Elders of the Church were in the practice of taking a census of the population every year, and on these occasions, the Episcopalians refused to give them any information, on the ground that they were not subject to the control and examination of the Ministers of the Church. This fact contrasts in a striking manner, with the modern doctrine advocated by the High Church party, namely, that all the Dissenters are under the pastoral superintendence of the Minister of the parish in which they happen to reside. “But the greatest defect [in the census] is owing to the Episcopalian inhabitants, who, being of a different communion from the Established Church, are not subject to the control and examination of its Ministers; wherefore many of them refuse to give accounts either of the names or numbers of persons in their families.” — Maitland’s History of Edinburgh, page 218.} The goods of the defaulters were immediately taken to the Annuity Office as “poynds,” but it was not until 1693, that they had increased to such an inconvenient extent, as to require from the Council a peremptory order for their immediate redemption, or sale by public roup. The resistance continued, and the poinding and rouping for the support of the Church, followed as a matter of course, with great regularity for upwards of half a century. It appears somewhat extraordinary, that when each of the parties who, by turns, ceased to be the dominant, sect objected to pay for the Ministers of the other sect, it did not occur to them that all compulsory assessments for the support of Civil Establishments of religion, were unjust in principle, and injurious to the great cause which both were anxious to promote — the diffusion of the gospel.

It may be proper here to notice the amount of the Ministers’ Stipends during this period. The Stipends which in had been fixed at £138 for each of the six senior, and £83 for each of the six junior ministers, were afterwards equalized, and fixed at £111. In , they were all advanced to £138, but from the resistance to the Annuity Tax, the whole ecclesiastical revenues of the city did not produce a sufficient sum for this purpose; and, therefore, on , an act of Council was passed, fixing the stipends of all the Ministers to be afterwards appointed at £111, including the allowance for house-rent. On , the stipends of three of the Ministers who had been appointed since the passing of this act, were advanced to £138, on condition that they were to officiate alternately at a preaching station in the city, where it was proposed to erect a parish Church. Against this increase, the city-treasurer entered a protest on the records, of which Maitland gives the following quaint and graphic account:

The Common Council having at this time seemingly partially augmented the stipends of three of the town’s Ministers, to two thousand five hundred merks each; which Dundass, the town treasurer, regarding as a grievance, and great injury done the citizens, solemnly protested against the said augmentation for the following reasons: — 

  1. That this resolution was contrary to an act of Council, still in force, which expressly forbids augmenting the Ministers’ Stipends; and this at a time when the town was in much better circumstances than at present.
  2. That when the said three Ministers were chosen, the said act for fixing the Ministers’ stipends at 2,000 merks yearly, being notified to them, it was the condition on which they accepted their respective charges.
  3. The town’s debts being greatly increased since the commencement of the said act; instead of adding to the public burden, it was highly necessary to think of all ways and means to reduce the town’s expenses


His remarks are curious, “The reasons in this protest are so laudable, just, and nervous, that they richly deserve, not only a place in the cabinets of all good and virtuous men, but to be stored up in the hearts and minds of all persons intrusted with the government and direction of public affairs, to remind them of their duty to the people whom they represent. And in like manner it should be a caution to all those who assume the title of God’s ministers, to prevent their dishonouring their great and good Master, by iniquitously inriching themselves at the expence of their injured flocks.”

Notwithstanding the protest of Treasurer Dundass, on , another act of Council was passed, by which all the stipends were advanced to £138, at which rate they appear to have remained stationary until . The following extracts show the progress of the resistance to the Annuity during this period.

. — “Ordains intimation to be made by tuck of drum to all the inhabitants to relieve their poynds lying in the Annuity Office, betwixt and the first day of June next, with certification; if they fail, the same will be set to sale by one public roup.

It appears from the following act of Council, that persons who were “spoiled of their goods,” for conscience sake, were occasionally relieved from the disagreeable situation in which they found themselves placed: — . — “The Council, upon supplication given in by Mr. Simon Gyles, French Minister, do appoint the treasurer to cause redeliver his poynds, which was taken from him for his Annuity, and exeems [relieves] him from any payment of his bygone Annuities, and in time coming; and from payment of his proportion of street and poor’s money during the Council’s pleasure, providing his house-rent does not exceed £11, 2s. 2d. sterling.” [It will be observed that the relief from the Annuity was altogether independent of the rent of his house, and that the condition about house-rent attached merely to the other taxes.]

, “The which day the Council appoints the poynds lying in the hands of the collector of the Annuity and seat-rents, poynded for payment of the same,” — “to be rouped within ten days,” and [“]appoints intimation hereof to be published through this city by tuck of drum, that none may pretend ignorance.”

, “The Council recommends to the former committee, annent the Annuity, to dispose of the poynds which were uplifted from several poor people, conform to a list given in, extending to the sum of £9, 1s. 0812, and to do therein as they shall think just.”

, “Appoints the Annuity poynds,” — “to be rouped this day eight-days, and intimation to be made to the neighbours this day.”

, “Allowed the collector of the Annutie, to cause make intimation to the neighbourhood, to relieve their poinds for Annutie within 14 days after publication, with certification if they fail, their poynds shall be rouped.”

, “Grants warrant to the collector of the Annuity, to roup the poynds in his bands taken from the deficients [defaulters] in payment thereof,” — “unless these poynds be relieved by payment betwixt and this day eight-days.”

, “Grant warrant to roup the poynds for Annuitie.”

 — “The Council appointed the following proclamation to be intimated in the usual manner, advertising all the inhabitants of this city, who have poynds in the Annuity Office for their Annuity, &c., due at , that the said poynds are to be exposed to public roup, , in the said office, if not relieved by payment before that day.”

 — “Upon a petition by Mark Sprot, Skinner, in respect of his poverty, did ordain John Fergus, collector of the Annuity, to deliver back to the said Mark Sprot the goods poynded from him in payment of sixteen shillings sterling, due by him, .”

The following interesting report appears in the proper revenue accounts of the City for . It shows that nearly 100 years ago the Town Council conceived that they had such an undoubted right to levy seat-rents, that they were in the practice of summoning parties, who occupied seats without paying for them, before the Bailie Court, in order to recover payment. “By the Committee’s report, approven of by the Council, the , the desperate arrears were to be discontinued in Mr. Fergus’ next account. Doubtful, 8 per cent. arrears [the rate allowed for recovery of old arrears] were to be poyned for betwixt and Martinmas, 1740, and the good before ; and the arrears of seat-rents, both good and doubtful, without distinction, were to be pursued for presently before the Bailie Court [The Kirk Sessions who have brought an action of declarator to have it found that the Town Council have no legal right to levy seat-rents, will find some difficulty in getting over facts of this kind, showing that the Council were in the practice of enforcing their right to let seats nearly a century ago.]; and public intimation was to be made of the roup of all poynds in Mr. Fergus’ hands, that they might be either returned, if the owners were unable to relieve them, or disposed of as the Magistrates should see cause, — and in time coming no person obtaining an Act of Council for a seat, is to be allowed possession till one year’s rent thereof is paid per advance, and intimation is to be made annually from the pulpits of the several churches, that such as are in arrear for more than one year, their seats will be disposed of to others.”

 — “Bailie Mansfield, from the Committee on the poor, reported that they having perused a list of the poinds for Annuity and poors’ money, in the hands of John Fergus, collector, were of opinion that these poinds ought to be rouped, and sold upon ; and that Mr. Fergus ought previously to advertise the respective persons concerned, so as they may be at liberty to redeem their poinds by paying their arrears. A few of the poinds, in the foresaid list, the Committee ordered to be redelivered to the persons concerned, in respect of their mean circumstances, as the report under the hands of the Committee bears,” which report was approved of. This is the last order for rouping the goods of the inhabitants for Ministers’ stipends, which appears in the Records of the Town Council; but the collectors afterwards proceeded to such extremities of their own accord, without considering it necessary to apply to the Council for authority, as appears from the following entry in the proper revenue accounts of the City.

 — Cash received for Silver Plate, poynded by John Fergus, Collector, [of the Annuity] sold to Messrs. Ker and Dempster, for £22, 14s. 10612

This extract is important in several respects;

  1. It proves, beyond the possibility of cavil or dispute, that the resistance to the Tax was not confined to the poorer classes.
  2. It proves that the resistance, like that of the French minister in , was not from inability to pay, but from conscientious objections to the principle of the Tax. Parties who were in circumstances to be possessed of silver plate, would have had so much repugnance to its being known that their plate was carried off, and sold by public roup for payment of any ordinary Tax, that they would have arranged to borrow the necessary sum on the security of their plate, in order to avoid a public exposure of their real poverty amidst their apparent splendour. But their objection to the principle of the Tax, affords a satisfactory explanation of the startling fact, that a quantity of silver plate was sold for payment of Ministers’ stipend.
  3. It proves that the number of those whose goods were rouped, bore a considerable proportion to the total number of rate payers, because the sum collected during this year, was only £670, of which £22, 14s. 10⅙, or one-thirtieth part, was produced from the sale of poinded plate. It is probable that these “poynds” did not all belong to the year on which they were sold, but were the accumulation of the four years which had elapsed since the date of the last general order of sale; but on the other hand, it must be remembered that this sum was produced from the sale of only one description of “poynds,” and that the produce of all the other articles which were rouped, would be included in the amount of the collectors accounts for the year in which the sales took place.
  4. It proves that at this period, the Collector of Annuity had adopted the practice followed in England at the present time, in enforcing payment of Church-rates from the Members of the Society of Friends; it being usual to carry off silver plate from them in preference to any other article, because it can be more easily converted into money. This may furnish a useful hint to the present collector, whose situation, in consequence of the recent imprisonments, will be no sinecure.

It appears from Maitland, that at this time, the Episcopalians were a numerous body in Edinburgh. In the Tron Church Parish alone, according to him, “in , there were one English Chapel, and six other Episcopal meeting-houses, with an independent meeting-place;” and in , there were twelve Established Churches in the city and suburbs, and “seventeen meeting-houses, viz., twelve Episcopal, an Independent, a Seceder’s, a Quaker’s, a French, and one Popish.”