A tax official, Francis Philipson, describes in a letter his impressions of Scotland after taking up his new job. He comments on the people, standard of living and politics. July 15 1708 (SP 54/3/31).
Excise Office Edingburgh [Edinburgh]
July 15th 1708
I am yet but ill qualified to make you a suitable Returne to your Obligations which I acknowledge, of the Publick Prints I had the favour of in your two last which I communicated to some friends and the Barons of the Exchequer were pleased with them particularly the last; I mean Baron Smith & Scroope.
I came down into a strange place and amongst a strange sort of People yet I find them much civiller [respectful] and- regular [normal] than I expected and much better living than our comon [common] notions [ideas] of the place for indeed here are some pleasant walks in which we take the present Opportunity for according to an old proverb we have 9 months winter and 3 cold weather. But things are dearer than I thought of or could imagine nay dearer than London particularly Lodging & Provisions [food], Beef being now 5d [pennies] per pound & Indeed Malt drink [Scotch whisky] is the only cheep thing I find which is 1d [penny] per chopping [measure] or English Quart [1litre nearly] , on the other hand Wine is very Deare being 2s [shillings] per bottle and not that good neither so that unless a man turne meer Dutchman [becomes a Dutchman] he cannot be fudled [get drunk] which is very rare in these parts.
As for the Women they may appeare as Angells [angels] in sheeps clothing for they are covered all over with their Plaids [tartan clothing] like the Morocco’s and if an English man should offer to speake to any of them he lys [lies] under the Censure [criticism] of the Kirk [Scottish Church] Treasurer. The Lord keep me from his hands. For On the last Sabath [Sunday] day I saw three women on the stool of Repentance [chair for punishment, a known as a cucking stool for women which could be used with or without water, unlike the ducking stool where a person was dipped in water] for the sin of Fornication [sleeping with someone outside marriage] and a man & his wife for committing the fact before Matrimony.
Now as to the News in these parts.
The Differences of the late Elections has perfectly divided the whole Nation and they say here they know not what side to be off. The Squadroni [an independent political group in the Scottish Parliament] as they call them went very high and talked of nothing but Turning out my Lord Treasurer and the Duke of M……gh [Marlborough] for his management but they are a little calmer since the Glorious news from Flanders.
They exposed my Lord Sunderlands’ Letters about here very strangely and pretended their Interest was very strong but the Generality [majority] of people here are against them they say they only mind their own Interest and have cheated all thoughts they have had to doe with and I believe now their Interest is very low.
I am very incapable [not able] of giving Judgm[ent] in these things and have enclosed you a Printed Paper which makes a great noise [big influence] here and great Endeavours [efforts] are used to find out the Author but I do not hear they have been able to effect it [find out]. I am yrs,
Your most obedient Servant,
Ffra.[ Francis] Philipson