Now, there's a question that cannot be answered in a couple of lines.
Technically after the 1784 Duty Act all Scottish provincial marking became illegal and they should have sent all their work that was liable for assay to Edinburgh. The new law was adhered to by the silversmiths of Edinburgh, Canongate and Glasgow and some silversmiths further afield, such as John Leslie and James Erskine, both of Aberdeen, did pay lip service to the new law by sending some of their output for assay. A vast majority, however did not comply with the new act for a whole host of reasons.
Some of the reasons include: Dislike of laws issued by London, the increased cost of the end product, the fact that most silver produced by provincial silversmiths was below standard and would fail the assay, delays of saleable goods caused by the sending of work to Edinburgh, danger of loss of the work due to highway robbery, the payment of Duty to the English Crown and not least that their work would be struck with the image of a disliked monarch (it should be remembered that it was less than 40 years since the last great uprising).
It was not until 1836 that most silversmiths fell into line, and probably not until 1850 was there almost total enforcement of the law. The Plate (Scotland) Act of 1836 toughened everything up, although in reality it was one of those laws that was in many ways unnecessary and pretty much everything was covered by earlier acts. Section 18 of the 1836 Act is shown below:
The Plate (Scotland) Act, 1836. An Act to fix the Standard Qualities of Gold and Silver Plate in Scotland, and to provide for the assaying and marking thereof. [13th August 1836.]
18. Penalty For Selling Or Exporting Plate Not Duly Marked.–If any goldsmith, silversmith, or worker or dealer in plate, or other person, shall knowingly sell, exchange, or keep or expose for sale, or export or attempt to export out of Scotland, any gold or silver plate or ware (except as herein is excepted) made or wrought after the said first day of October one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, which shall not respectively be marked with the proper marks herein-before required to be stamped on the kind and standard quality of which such respective plate or ware shall be, every person so offending shall for each piece of gold or silver plate so sold, exchanged, or kept or exposed for sale, or exported or attempted to be exported as aforesaid, forfeit and pay a sum not exceeding one hundred pounds, and shall also forfeit all such plate and ware not duly marked as aforesaid, which shall be so sold, exchanged, or exposed or kept for sale, exported or attempted to be exported; such penalties and forfeitures to be levied, recovered, and applied in manner herein-after mentioned.
There was a Parliamentry Inquiry in 1819, some detail of it is shown below:
Memorials of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of Edinburgh to the Lords of the Treasury and to the Commissioners of Revenue Inquiry, on the subject of the Evasion of Duty on Plate, dated 16th November 1819.
Unto the Right honourable the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury. Duty on Plate. The MEMORIAL of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of the City of Edinburgh;–
Humbly Showeth,–THAT the Assay Office of this City, established for the purpose of assaying and stamping gold and silver plate, is under the exclusive management of your Memorialists, and it is provided by various Acts of Parliament, that all plate made in Scotland shall be of a certain fineness, and shall be regularly stamped, and pay certain duties.
Your Memorialists have had long cause to complain, that while they were observing the enactments of the legislature by stamping their plate and paying the duties, manufacturers in different parts of the kingdom were committing breaches of the law, by not only making plate without paying the duties appointed to be levied thereon, but were making and selling plate of an inferior quality than what the law directs, thereby defrauding the Revenue, imposing on the buyer, and injuring the fair trader.
In virtue of an act passed last session of Parliament, an Assay office has been established in Glasgow, and it is ordained by that Act, that all gold and silver plate made or wrought. there, or within forty miles to the west and south thereof, shall be stamped at the Assay, office of that city. But it is clear, that there must be considerable quantities of plate manufactured in other towns in Scotland which do not come within the purview of that Act, and it is accordingly notorious, that plate to a very large amount is wrought and sold in the city of Aberdeen, which does not pay the duties, and is below the standard required by law.
Your Memorialists have had frequently occasion of demonstrating this fact, and in particular upon a late occasion, by an assay having been taken by their Assay masters of some silver table spoons, which there is good reason for believing were made at Aberdeen, which are not stamped according to law, and are twelve grains below the legal standard, as will appear from the certificate of the Assay Masters subjoined to this memorial.
Your Memorialists have brought this subject under the review of your Lordships, that you may take under your consideration what measures ought to be adopted, in order to correct an evil which threatens a serious injury to the Revenue, is attended with incalculable detriment to the fair trader, and is an imposition upon the public at large.
Your Memorialists are aware of the hardship under which the manufacturers in remote parts of the kingdom would labour, by being obliged to send their plate to Edinburgh to be stamped. In order, therefore, to alleviate this hardship as much as is practicable, your Memorialists would humbly suggest, that a moderate deduction should be given to these manufacturers in proportion to their distance from the capital, or that an Assay office should be established at Aberdeen at the expense of Government.
Your Memorialists have reason to believe, that an erroneous opinion prevails among these manufacturers, that plate which is under the standard fineness is not contemplated in any of the Acts of Parliament as falling under a breach of the law; and, therefore, in order to remove what appears to be a misconstruction of these Acts, it humbly occurs to your Memorialists, that the law should be clearly explained, or that if the existing Acts are found not to be sufficiently comprehensive, in any subsequent Act that may be passed on this subject, an explicit clause should be introduced in order to do away with all ambiguity.
May it therefore, please your Lordships to take the above subject under your serious consideration, and to adopt such measures as may place the Manufacturers of Gold and silver Plate in Scotland upon an equal footing, giving no undue advantage to those residing in one part of the kingdom over those in another, and by that means equalize the provisions in the Acts of Parliament imposing the duties, and afford a proper security to the public, that the articles of their purchase are of the legal standard, and are not inferior in quality to those sold in the capital, where all the plate wrought is there stamped at the Assay office of your Memorialists, and the duties payable to Government levied thereon ; and, if upon due consideration it shall be deemed necessary, that your Lordships will be pleased to adopt such measures as will confer on your Memorialists such additional powers as will enable them to enforce the existing Acts of the legislature, and also what is humbly deemed to be the intention of the Acts of Parliament, although evaded in the manner before mentioned. According to justice, &c.
WE, William Auld and John Ziegler, Assay Masters, appointed by the incorporation of goldsmiths of Edinburgh, do hereby certify, That we have made an assay of twelve silver table spoons, bearing to be made at Aberdeen, and marked with the letters W. J ., and we have found the same to be of the fineness of ten deniers twelve grains, which is twelve grains below the legal standard; and that the said table spoons do not bear the Government Stamps, which are appointed by Act of Parliament to be made on all silver plate made or wrought in Scotland This we do upon the 16th day of November, in the year 1819.
(signed) William Auld. John Ziegler.
Letter from George Harrison Esquire.
Treasury Chambers, 4th December 1819.
Sir, – Having laid before the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury the Memorial of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, Edinburgh, respecting the evasion of the duties of gold and silver plate manufactured at Aberdeen,– I am commanded to acquaint you, that provided any bill shall be brought into Parliament for the establishment of an Assay office at Aberdeen, their Lordships will recommend the Crown's consent to be given thereto.
' I am, &c.
(Addressed to the Clerk of the Incorporation.)
Stamp Office, Edinburgh, 17th July 1819.
Honoured Sirs, – I Beg leave to request your permission for my absence for three or four weeks, to go north, to take the benefit of Pitkaithley Wells for the preservation of my health, and relaxation from public business, after such long and close attendance and application to the duties of my department. I propose going about the end of this month, after the quarterly accounts are prepared for transmission ; and I have no doubt my first clerk will attend to the duty of the office with fidelity, and to your satisfaction.
I hope your Honours will transmit the new Plate Act respecting Glasgow, and any instructions that may be necessary ; and I propose, if permitted, and the Act admits it, to collect the duty immediately from the assay masters at Edinburgh, without passing through the Stamp office at Glasgow ; but that as your Honours may direct.
I have the honour to be,
The Hon. Commissioners of Stamp duties. (signed) Thomas Pender.
[No answer to Mr. Pender, but the following to Mr. Hepburne.]
Stamp Office, London, 22d July 1819.
Sir, – I Am directed by the Commissioners to acquaint you, that as they have waited some time for an opportunity of sending the new plate duty marks for the Assay office in Glasgow, in your first parcel of Stamps, without being yet able to send them, they have thought it advisable to forward these marks by the mail coach this evening, in order that no inconvenience may arise from their being longer delayed. You will therefore immediately forward them to the assay master at Glasgow, who is to give a receipt for the same, and account for and pay the duty to the Sub-Distributor at Glasgow.
I am, Sir, &c. Robert Hepburne, Esq. &c. &c. (signed) Wm. Kappen.
Stamp Office, London, 8th November 1819.
Gentlemen, – I Am directed by the Board to return the inclosed memorial, with the request that you address it to the Lords of His Majesty's Treasury, to whom alone it belongs to adopt (as you require) such measures as may equalize the provisions of the Act of Parliament imposing the duties on plate; when it shall be forwarded, as it will then be, by their Lordships to the Board, the Commissioners will then report in the usual course their opinion thereon.
I am, Gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant, The Incorporation of Goldsmiths, Edinburgh. (signed) Wm. Kappen, Secretary.
To the Honourable Commissioners of Stamps, London.
Stamp Office, Edinburgh, 23d October 1819.
Honoured Sirs, – On the 14th instant, I had an interview with a Committee of the Corporation of Goldsmiths in Edinburgh, in consequence of one of their number having accidentally met with a silver table spoon, (one of twelve,) apparently of the manufacture of William Jamieson, at Aberdeen ; which, besides being unstamped, had upon trial proved to be below standard, as such unstamped plate usually is. I at first thought of consulting the Lord Advocate; but upon recollecting that the subject of the duties upon silver plate had been particularly under the consideration of your honourable Chairman in spring 1818, I deemed it improper to take any step without instructions from your Honours ; and, as the idea of troubling you with a memorial had occurred to the Committee, I requested that this might be prepared. I also suggested, that they might in the meantime endeavour to obtain possession of the whole twelve spoons, with such precautions as to insure the identifying thereof, and eventually their being traced to the manufacturer, if your Honours should think fit to order a judicial investigation.
From the inclosed Memorial of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, dated on the 20th instant, and handed to me yesterday's afternoon, it appears, that all the twelve spoons have been secured; and, although no farther information has been communicated, I presume that suitable precautions have been observed.
It remains for your Honours to consider the subject, and give your instructions, which will be punctually attended to. I need only now add, that notwithstanding the impression which has heretofore obtained, of the penal provisions in the Stamp Act not reaching plate below standard, this point has never, so far as I am aware, been subjected to the decision of a competent judicature.
I am, honoured Sirs, your most obedient and very humble servant,
(signed) James Bremner.
MEMORIAL from the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of Edinburgh to the Commissioners of Revenue Inquiry, on the subject of the Evasion of Duty on Plate ; dated 5th November 1824.
Unto the Honourable the Commissioners of Revenue Inquiry.
The Memorial of the Incorporation of Goldsmiths of Edinburgh. Duty on Plate.
In consequence of the communication addressed by the direction of your Honours to the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, on 25th October last, the following Memorial is respectfully submitted for your consideration.
Your memorialists beg leave to state, that considerable laxity seems to prevail in enforcing the duties payable on silver plate, for articles manufactured in towns north of the Forth.
In Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Elgin, Banff, and Inverness, a considerable quantity of plate is manufactured without paying duty, and which is, moreover, not of the standard quality.
The 24th of his late Majesty enacts, That all silver and gold plate manufactured in Scotland be sent to the Goldsmiths' Hall of Edinburgh to be assayed, and there to pay the duties.
For sometime the manufacturers of plate in the above-mentioned towns complied with the enactment, but for many years this has been discontinued ; and several thousand ounces of plate are manufactured annually, especially in Aberdeen and Dundee, which are not standard, and which have not paid any duty. The plate so manufactured is sold in these towns and in their neighbourhood, and is even brought by hawkers and sold in Edinburgh.
An idea prevails among many of the manufacturers, especially those in the small towns, that if articles be manufactured below the standard fineness, they are not liable to the duty ; a practice founded upon this idea not having been repressed there, the same practice is creeping into the capital, where articles are made and sold by some dealers in silver plate, below standard, and which have not paid the duties.
Your memorialists have frequently represented this, what they deem infringement of the law, to the Solicitor of Stamps for Scotland ; but owing to doubts being entertained by him and the officers of the Crown, of there being any law existing in Scotland (although there isin England) that standard silver only shall be manufactured, the practice referred to has been allowed to proceed for years without interruption ; to the injury of the community, who may be and are imposed on by base silver, to the Revenue, by no duty being paid, and to the fair dealer, who is thereby undersold.
The difficulty with the officers of the Revenue seems to be, that although for England there is an express Act of Parliament, that all articles manufactured of silver shall be made of the standard of eleven ounces two pennyweights of pure silver to the pound Troy, that that does not extend to Scotland ; and that a verdict could not be obtained for the duties and penalties as the law now stands, the Act requiring that only standard silver shall pay the duties, while there is no law in force in Scotland which enacts that only standard silver shall be manufactured. On inquiring at the Solicitor of Stamps, your honourable Board will find, that the case stands as here represented by your memorialists; and they humbly suggest, that no time should be lost in obtaining a New Act to amend this defect in the law, if it shall appear to you also to be necessary.
(signed) In the name of the Incorporation, by Murd. Cunningham, Deacon
Hope all the above sheds a little more light on the subject.