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with greater strictness than formerly. It was then appointed that “all quha comes not in tymeouslie without lawfull reasone shall pay sax shillings, to be immediatlie put in the poores box.”
GLASGOW CHAMBER OF COMMERCE.
UNDER the somewhat unpromising title of “Curiosities," a contribution of great and permanent interest to local literature has just (1881) been made by Mr. George Stewart, librarian of the Chamber of Commerce, now within a short time of completing the hundredth year of its useful existence. “Curiosities of Citizenship" is not only apt by itself to convey an erroneous notion of Mr. Stewart's labours, but the phrase falls much short of doing justice to the contents of his book. It is in only a very remote sense a collection of “Curiosities” at all, whether the word is taken as applicable to individuals or to the manner in which they become vested with citizenship. Our early Buchanans, Glassfords, Stirlings, Monteiths, and Finlays were nothing of the nature of “Curiosities," and might rather have been inclined to resent the application to themselves of such a term. “Bob Dragon" was certainly a typical Glasgow “Curiosity” in person as well as in habits, but to run the risk of including such a character in a history devoted to men like David Dale, or the Tennants, or Orrs, besides those already mentioned, is apt to lead to serious misapprehension. It can only now be hoped that Mr. Stewart's work will not be judged by its title-page exclusively. Our early merchants, no less than the Chamber they had the far-seeing wisdom to establish, well deserved such a full, accurate, and appreciative record as has been put together by Mr. Stewart concerning them. If their rise was not curious in the sense of being odd, it must always remain wonderful; and yet, apart from their exceptionally humble beginnings, their enterprise, thrift, and industry only secured the reward still daily reaped in the shape of affluence, position, and power. Mr. Stewart has arranged his book on the most simple and obvious lines, admirably fitted to carry out the design contemplated in publication. Some time ago, he writes, the directors of the Chamber of Commerce suggested the preparation of a few notes descriptive of the circumstances giving rise to the Chamber, and of the early transactions forming subjects of deliberation and discussion. Mr. Stewart readily acted upon the suggestion, and confesses that he found the study one of great interest. It occurred to him, however, that many curious and complicated details might be rendered more attractive and interesting if, instead of being presented in a dry historical or statistical form, they could in some way be associated with the lives and labours of the most notable of those men who were the early directors and members of the Charnber, and to whom, it is no exaggeration to say, modern Glasgow owes a debt of honour and gratitude she can never pay. Preceded by a chapter on the condition of Glasgow at the Union of the Parliaments, there falls to be noticed in this way at considerable length the Buchanans of Drumpeller and Mount Vernon in connection with the great Virginia trade, Charles Tennant of St. Rollox, with the Macraes of Ayrshire, and bleaching chemicals; David Dale of Rosebank, and the rise of the cotton industry ; George Macintosh of Dunchattan, and his cudbear works at the Craigs Park, Ark Lane; John Monteith of Anderston, and early weaving; the Stirlings of Cordale and Dalquhurn, famous for their calico printing and dyeing; Henry Riddell, Virginia merchant, deeply concerned in the extension of the City westwards to George Square. J. C. Campbell of Clathick, John Robertson of Plantation, and Robert Carrick may be confidently accepted in illustration of such commercial enterprises as were represented in their day by the Thistle Bank, the Glasgow Arms Bank, and the Ship Bank. Following these, Mr. Stewart presents a facsimile list of the original subscribers to the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, and a historical sketch, which might have been much enlarged to the advantage of the reader, concerning the origin and objects of the Chamber, followed up by a notice more or less minute of almost every merchant connected with it in early days
resident in Glasgow, Greenock, or Paisley. Mr. Stewart describes the commercial prospects of Glasgow at the close of the American War in 1782 as of the most gloomy kind. The great Virginia trade, he writes, which for a long series of years employed the largest share of the city capital, was then lost. Cotton-spinning, with its accompanying industries, was yet unknown; in fact, except a growing traffic with the West Indies and the manufacture of a few domestic fabrics, the trade of the town was extremely limited. It therefore became apparent that a means of combined action for opening up new sources of trade and commerce, and of organising a method whereby direct and efficient communication between the trade of the West and the Government and Legislature could be established, was a pressing necessity. The result of much eager discussion was the formation of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, the first institution of its kind in the kingdom, the Edinburgh Chamber, not being established till nearly three years later (December, 1785).
Guided by strictly official records, Mr. Stewart is no doubt correct in mentioning that the first formal meeting of the Chamber was held early in January (most likely Thursday the 2nd), 1783 ; but, as appears from the newspapers of the day, the scheme had been wrought into practical shape a month or two earlier. In November, 1782, intimation was made that a plan for establishing a Chamber of Commerce and Manufactures in Glasgow, comprehending the towns of Paisley, Greenock, Port-Glasgow, and places adjacent, had been submitted by the Lord Provost to the consideration of the merchants, traders, and manufacturers in these towns. In November, 1782, many merchants had concurred in what came to be the real, practical objects of the Chamber as more minutely defined at a later date-viz., to promote such branches of trade as are more peculiar to this country; to establish local rules for the convenience and assistance of foreign and inland traders and manufacturers; to discuss all memorials and representations from members of the Chamber in matters regarding trade; to afford them assistance and relief in negotiating public business; to assist in procuring redress of any grievance, hardship, or oppression affecting any particular branch of trade or manufacture; to consider all matters affecting the Corn Laws in this part of the United Kingdom, for the purpose of supporting the industrious poor ; and, in general, to take cognisance of every matter and thing in the least degree connected with the interests of commerce or manufactures. It was agreed at this preliminary meeting in November, 1782, that the care of the Chamber should be committed to the thirty Directors, chosen from the most intelligent class of merchants and manufacturers. The names of those selected at the first formal ineeting in January following may recall some of the then important Glasgow houses to our older readers :-Patrick Colquhoun, Lord Provost (afterwards the wellknown London Magistrate), chairman; James M'Gregor, deputy-chairman; John Glassford, James Dennistoun, sen., Wm. Cunningham, J. Campbell (Clathick), Wm. French, James Somervill, Henry Riddell, Robert Dunmore, John Robertson, Wm. Coates, John Lawrie, George Bogle, Robert Cowan, Gilbert Hamilton, Archibald Graham, James Gemmell, Hugh Moody, John Stirling, John Brown, jun., Walter Stirling, James Finlay, William Lang, David Dale, Dugald Bannatyne, Alex. M‘Alpine-nearly all of Glasgow; Robert Fulton, John Wilson (father of “Christopher North ”), and William Carlile, Paisley. At an adjourned meeting held on the 8th January in the Assembly Room, Gilbert Hamilton, merchant, was appointed secretary, and John Maxwell of Dargavel, writer, clerk of submissions to the Chamber. Early in August members held their first meeting under the Royal Charter obtained 31st July, when a vote of thanks and presentation of plate was resolved on to Lord Provost Colquhoun, LL.D., "for the uncommon attention and pains bestowed by him upon the business of the society.” Dr. Colquhoun, engaged from youth in the Virginia trade, purchased part of the estate of Woodcroft, now Kelvingrove, but removed in 1792 to London, where, as police magistrate, he wrought out a variety of important reforms in the police systern of the Metropolis. At present (1881) the oldest living members of the Chamber are Mr. Walter Buchanan, ex-M.P. (chairman in 1836), with W. F. Burnley and W. H. Dobbie—the latter now of Edinburgh.
The Chamber was not long in setting to the serious work before it in connection with the shipping, manufacturing, and general commercial enterprise of the time. In 1668, with the view of overcoming the difficulties of the river, then in a state of nature, the Magistrates of the City purchased sixty acres of ground at Newark for the purpose of building New, or, as it afterwards came to be called, Port, Glasgow. As certain traders sought systematically to evade the dues levied at that port by landing their goods at other places on the Clyde, the Merchants' House in 1705 went as far as it could in passing a resolution ordaining, under severe penalties, that all vessels bound for that river should land the cargo at Port-Glasgow, except in cases of necessity. At the second annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce held in the Town Hall, January, 1784, it was resolved to apply to the Commissioners of Customs and Exchequer for an establishment in Glasgow for “proving" merchandise, as in London, whereby the necessity of opening debenture and bounty goods at the ports of exportation might be rendered unnecessary in future. The Chamber naturally contended that if their desire was carried out many existing abuses would be prevented, while it would tend at the same time to remove the prejudices against local manufactures, “which, by being opened, exposed to the weather, and improperly repacked, often occasioned them to be found in bad order when landed at a foreign market.” Another serious matter engaged the attention of the same meeting, representations being then made that certain traders between Greenock and America, had been in the habit of plundering the revenue and defrauding the underwriters, by first landing their goods surreptitiously and then wilfully destroying their vessels. The Chamber therefore resolved to use every effort for the purpose of bringing such persons to justice, and in addition pressed upon shipowners the necessity of exercising increased precaution in the engagement of seamen. That the action of the Chamber in this grave question was not premature, may be inferred with certainty from criminal proceedings which took place at Edinburgh on the 23rd April following. On that day, and at the instance of Robert Hunter and others, underwriters in London, James