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The Borderland: Its Keeps and Castles page 2

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The more formal machinery for righting wrongs was, however, by means of what was known as a Day of Truce, when a deliberate effort was made to substitute the methods of law for those of rough-and-ready justice. On a Day of Truce all forms of hostility, whether between the neighbouring nations or private individuals, were by mutual consent suspended, all persons being alike bound in honour to observe this agreement, a violation of which (as in the case of Kinmont Willie) was liable to produce the most serious results.

Unfortunately these elaborate regulations, which read so well, fell far short in the working, where much depended on the character of the individual warden, and where the enforcement of penalties was generally difficult. A treaty of the year 1563 provided for the holding of a monthly Day of Truce in every march. But its provisions were not observed, and often, indeed, very flagrantly disregarded, with the result that, even as late as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the condition of the Borders was becoming steadily worse. Nay, the march-meetings themselves had become a source of danger, as is shown by the battles which took place at two such meetings held, respectively, at the Reidswire above Jedburgh in July 1575, and on the Windy Gyle at the head of Bowmont Water in July 1585, in both of which affrays many dead and wounded were left upon the field.

In 1603 the two kingdoms were united under one Crown, and the Border ceased in effect to be a border any longer. But the lawlessness of its inhabitants, the result of three centuries of licence, was far from ceasing at the same time. James I did his best to stamp it out. Yet until late in the eighteenth century frequent traces of it might still be detected.

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