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Porteous riots

Porteous riots, 1736. In Edinburgh on 14 April 1736 the hanging of a smuggler sparked an angry reaction from the watching crowd, and as the body was cut down stones were thrown at the town guard. The troops then opened fire, though Captain John Porteous always denied that he gave the order. Six were killed and about a dozen more injured. The provost feared the mood of the populace and had Porteous arrested; he was tried by the Court of Judiciary and sentenced to be executed. But the government, concerned that the partiality of these proceedings had compromised its authority in the city, granted Porteous a temporary reprieve. Resentment was widespread, and on 7 September a mob of 4,000 stormed the Tolbooth prison, seized the captain, and hanged him. A parliamentary inquiry in 1737 resulted in punitive measures against the city, but the episode cost Walpole much Scottish support in Parliament, which played an important part in his downfall in 1742.

Andrew Hanham

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