The History of Leith

October 18, 2012

Unfreemen

It has always been believed that the long-standing
11-feeling between the Leithers and their neighbours of
Edinburgh had its origin in the fact of Leith being Edinburgh’s
vassal and in the restricted freedom which vassal-
,:e entailed. Now this is entirely to misunderstand the
: vlationship that once existed between the two towns,
for friction and ill-feeling would still have arisen between
them even if Edinburgh had never had any feudal
superiority or charter rights over the lands of Leith.
The beginning of the unfriendly feeling was not owing
to the fact of Leith being the vassal of Edinburgh, but
to that system of trading in the Middle Ages under which
Leith was Edinburgh’s port.
Their disagreement had to do with ” this liberty,
the donation of ancient kings,” which Edinburgh had
so long enjoyed at the expense of Leith, and from any
share in which the latter was entirely shut out. Leith
had on this account a decided grievance against the
burgesses of old-time Edinburgh, just a bit puffed up
and overbearing through the many special privileges
they enjoyed, and from which they jealously excluded
Leithers and all other ” unfreemen.” These privileges
enjoyed by Edinburgh, but denied to Leith, were in
accordance with the spirit of the age, when fair rivalry
in trade was not only unknown, but altogether undesired,
and a thing to be put, down with the utmost rigour of
the law.

source-The story of Leith

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