and sometimes of the general amount 
only of all those taxes.[31] 
But how servile soever may have been originally 
the condition of the inhabitants of the 
towns, it appears evidently, that they arrived 
at liberty and independency much earlier than 
the occupiers of land in the country. That 
part of the king's revenue which arose from 
such poll-taxes in any particular town, used 
commonly to be let in farm, during a term of 
years, for a rent certain, sometimes to the sheriff 
of the county, and sometimes to other persons
The burghers themselves frequently 
got credit enough to be admitted to farm the 
revenues of this sort which arose out of their 
own town, they becoming jointly and severally 
answerable for the whole rent.[32] To let a 
farm in this manner, was quite agreeable to 
the usual economy of, I believe, the sovereigns 
of all the different countries of Europe, who 
used frequently to let whole manors to all the 
tenants of those manors, they becoming jointly 
and severally answerable for the whole rent
but in return being allowed to collect it in 
their own way, and to pay it into the king's 
exchequer by the hands of their own bailiff
and being thus altogether freed from the insolence 
of the king's officers; a circumstance 
in those days regarded as of the greatest importance. 
At first, the farm of the town was probably 
let to the burghers, in the same manner as it 
had been to other farmers, for a term of years 
only. In process of time, however, it seems 
to have become the general practice to grant 
it to them in fee, that is for ever, reserving
rent certain, never afterwards to be augmented. 
The payment having thus became perpetual, 
the exemptions, in return, for which 
it was made, naturally became perpetual too. 
Those exemptions, therefore, ceased to be personal
and could not afterwards be considered 
as belonging to individuals, as individuals
but as burghers of a particular burgh, which, 
upon this account, was called a free burgh
for the same reason that they had been called 
free burghers or free traders. 
Along with this grant, the important privileges
above mentioned, that they might give 
away their own daughters in marriage, that 
their children should succeed to them, and 
that they might dispose of their own effects by 
will, were generally bestowed upon the burghers 
of the town to whom it was given. Whether 
such privileges had before been usually 
granted, along with the freedom of trade, to 
particular burghers, as individuals, I know not. 
I reckon it not improbable that they were, 
though I cannot produce any direct evidence 
of it. But however this may have been, the 
principal attributes of villanage and slavery 
being thus taken away from them, they now 
at least became really free, in our present 
sense of the word freedom
Nor was this all. They were generally at 
the same time erected into a commonalty or 
corporation, with the privilege of having magistrates 
and a town-council of their own, of 
making bye-laws for their own government
of building walls for their own defence, and 
of reducing all their inhabitants under a sort 
of military discipline, by obliging them to 
watch and ward; that is, as anciently understood
to guard and defend those walls against 
all attacks and surprises, by night as well as 
by day. In England they were generally 
exempted from suit to the hundred and county 
courts; and all such pleas as should arise 
among them, the pleas of the crown excepted, 
were left to the decision of their own magistrates
In other countries, much greater 
and more extensive jurisdictions were frequently 
granted to them.[33] 
It might, probably, be necessary to grant to 
such towns as were admitted to farm their 
own revenues, some sort of compulsive jurisdiction 
to oblige their own citizens to make 
payment. In those disorderly times, it might 
have been extremely inconvenient to have left 
them to seek this sort of justice from any 
other tribunal. But it must seem extraordinary, 
that the sovereigns of all the different 
countries of Europe should have exchanged 
in this manner for a rent certain, never more 
to be augmented, that branch of their revenue, 
which was, perhaps, of all others, the most 
likely to be improved by the natural course of 
things, without either expense or attention of 
their own; and that they should, besides, have 
in this manner voluntarily erected a sort of 
independent republics in the heart of their 
own dominions
In order to understand this, it must be remembered
that, in those days, the sovereign 
of perhaps no country in Europe was able to 
protect, through the whole extent of his dominions
the weaker part of his subjects from 
the oppression of the great lords. Those whom 
the law could not protect, and who were not 
strong enough to defend themselves, were obliged 
either to have recourse to the protection 
of some great lord, and in order to obtain it, 
to become either his slaves or vassals; or to 
enter into a league of mutual defence for the 
common protection of one another. The inhabitants 
of cities and burghs, considered as 
single individuals, had no power to defend 
themselves; but by entering into a league of 
mutual defence with their neighbours, they 
were capable of making no contemptible resistance. 
The lords despised the burghers
whom they considered not only as a different 
order, but as a parcel of emancipated slaves