[From Brown's Directory, 1881/2]

[Historical Chapter]

[Movement of Courts and Tynwald to Douglas]

Among other changes of importance which had been agitating the Insular mind for many years was the question of the removal of the various government offices and judicial courts from Castletown to Douglas.

Under the old order of things, when intercourse with the neighbouring countries was officially forbidden and discouraged, the seat of the government was fixed at Castletown, where was situated the strong fortress of Castle Rushen. Around the official residence of the King, and of his representative the Governor, the several governmental departments naturally grouped themselves :—The Sessions of the Legislature, both when it sat as two distinct houses, and as one united court; the Full Court of Common Law; the Court of General Gaol Delivery; the Chancery Court; the Court of Exchequer; the Staff of Government; the Rolls Office—all were held in Castletown, and added not a little to the prosperity and importance of the quaint old town. But its situation was unsuitable in the highest degree to such an official centralisation. Situated at the southern extremity of the Island, its selection as the seat of the government and of its official action was most inconvenient to the northern districts; and suitors and others, obliged to attend the various courts, were compelled to make a journey of 20, or 30, or even 40 miles, in a very difficult country and along very indifferent roads, and to spend several days upon the expedition, in all kinds of weather. The inevitable result was that, except in seasons of intense political excitement, little or no interest was taken in the general conduct of the government, and the debates of the Legislature were carried on unchecked by the wholesome sense of publicity; while the courts of law and justice were equally neglected by all but those whom urgent necessity forced to attend. But with the rise of the modern town of Douglas, a broader spirit of citizenship began to dawn. Mixing more with the people of other countries, and especially with the people of England, and Scotland, and Ireland, among whom the political spirit exists in its full strength, the inhabitants of Douglas have for long been the leaders in the struggles of the Manx for liberty and progress. The political spirit is still torpid and inactive among Manxmen to a degree difficult of comprehension to an Englishman, and an appeal to self interest is still far more powerful than an appeal to patriotism; but a better and more generous spirit has dawned, and though slow and halting in its growth, it is progressing and making itself felt. In this growth of the civic spirit, Douglas has played and is still playing a prominent part. More closely associated with the rest of Britain, and better acquainted with current events in the rest of the world, and with the feelings and habits of other people, of a freer and more liberal spirit, and ready to adopt change when change is for the best or necessary, and to make personal sacrifices for the general good, the inhabitants of Douglas have been the most active in their efforts to improve the condition of the country, and to develop its resources. Douglas centres in itself the political life of the community; it attracts to its markets the products of every part of the country, and the necessities of its numerous population stimulate the energies and reward the industry of the dwellers in the remotest corners of the Island. Its marts, for variety of commodity, for excellence of quality, and for cheapness in price, will compare favourably with those of the largest English towns; and through its port passes nine-tenths of the entire trade of the Island. Its press guides the public thought, and influences the action of the government; in its circles may be discerned the first signs of those measures which will ultimately regulate the life and modify the circumstances of the people; and it is not too much to say that in modern times almost every movement for the political, the social, and the commercial improvement of the country has originated in this town, and received its strongest support from its inhabitants. It is this which makes the story of this town and its doings so important in modern Manx history, and causes it to occupy so large, and apparently, disproportioned a place in the recital of the events of recent times. The career of this important town is full of interest. A hundred and fifty years ago it was a small fishing village, almost unknown to the outside world ; but, with the development of that great smuggling trade which made the story of the Isle of Man during the 18th century so chequered and eventful, it rapidly grew in population and importance. In 1726, it had already outgrown the ancient capital of the Island, its population being 810, while that of Castletown was only 786. The downfall of the pernicious commerce which first gave it importance failed to prevent its persistent growth. Its admirable situation upon a noble bay in the centre of the eastern coast, and at a most convenient point for oommunicatiOn with the great ports of north-western England, and its equally admirable position with respect to the other parts of the Island—half-way between its two extremities, and easily accessible from all directions, gave it such advantages over the other towns of the Island that, notwithstanding, the unfavourable political circumstances of the times, it continued to increase in population and wealth; and now its population is fully eighteen times what it was in 1726, while that of Castletown has only increased about three times. Such being the case, it was only to be expected that a keen rivalry would arise between the youthful and energetic town of Douglas and the aged and less vigorous town of Castletown; it could not but be that, as the one surpassed the other, and grew steadily in populationS in wealth, and in importance, while the other, with all its exertions, scarcely more than maintained its position, it would begin to claim for itself the position which its importance demanded. In modern times political power will, as by a law of nature, attach itself to the greater number and to the greater energy; and thus, with the growth of Douglas, Castletown sank into obscurity and political insignificance, while Douglas gradually attracted to itself the name and authority of capital. An important step in this direction was given by the Duke of Atholl fixing his residence in the immediate neighbourhood of Douglas, first at Port-e-chee, and next at Castle Mona. But changes are disliked by the native Manx, and after the departure of the Duke in 1829, the official residence of the Governor was again transferred to Castletown; and, notwithstanding the recognised inconveniences attending this step, and the injustice thus done to the claims of a town like Douglas, it is probable that but for the proceedings of the owner of Government House, who, desiring to re-enter upon the possession of his property, noticed Governor Hope, in 1859, t.o give up possession of the house, and the refusal of the Home Office to devote a portion of the surplus revenue (£3,000 to £4,000, was the sum asked for) to the building of a suitable residence for the Governor, the official residence of the Governor would have remained at Castletown to this day. Obliged, however, to give up possession of Lorn House, and unable to obtain another suitable in Castletown, and the Home Secretary distinctly refusing to provide funds for the erection of a Government House, the Governor was compelled to go to Douglas, where he could easily find a convenient house among the numerous handsome villas in the neighbourhood of the town. It was directly owing to these circumstances that, on his accession to office in 1860, Governor Pigott fixed his residence at Douglas, in the beautiful Villa Marina., on the margin of Douglas Bay. Having thus removed the seat of the government to Douglas, and his health being also in a very unsatisfactory state, Governor Pigott naturally wished to transact as much of the public. business as possible in the immediate neighbourhood of his own house; and hence, he openly announced his intention of transferring the various law courts, &c., to Douglas. This opened the eyes of the people of the South to the threatened evil about to befall them, and roused them to action. A memorial to the Governor was drawn up insisting upon the claims of Castletown as the ancient capital of the Island; but he persisted in carrying out his avowed intention, and in April, 1862, several courts were actually held in Douglas. This rebuff did not discourage the Southern party; on the contrary, their resistance to the projected changes was intensified, and so great was the influence brought to bear upon the Governor, that he subsequently, in part, abandoned his intention, and his failing health necessitating his frequent absence from the Island, the matter practically remained in abeyance during the remainder of his short tenure of office. On his sudden death in January, 1863, the Clerk of the Rolls (a "Southside" official of strongly pronounced Southern proclivities) was appointed Deputy Governor, pending the appointment of a new Governor, and one of his first official acts was to transfer all the government offices and the various public courts back to Castletown. This arbitrary act, which, considering the circumstances of the case and the temporary character of the Deputy Governor’s tenure of office, was openly partisan and unbecoming, excited great indignation and alarm in Douglas and the Northern districts; and steps were immediately taken to bring the matter before the newly appointed Governor upon his arrival. In Douglas, the centre of the movement, an important public meeting was held in the Court House, and an influential committee appointed to draw up and present to the Governor an address setting forth the reasons in favour of the removal of the seat of Government and the public courts to Douglas. This address was presented to his Excellency Governor Loch, on his first visit to the Island in February, 1863, and was received by him with the promise carefully to consider the arguments laid before him. One of the first acts of Mr. Loch was to engage as his residence Bemahague, a commodious mansion in the outskirts of Douglas, a step which was hailed throughout the North and Centre as a favourable omen of his ultimate decision, although it was probably in part dictated by the difficulty experienced by his predecessors in finding suitable premises in Castletown, and in part only caused by his recognition of the superiority of Douglas as a site for the modern capital of Man. With this hope before them the inhabitants of Douglas were especially demonstrative in their welcome to Mr. Loch on his return to the Island on the 7th April; and on every public appearance he was uniformly greeted with respect and admiration, especially as they began to recognise his earnest efforts to benefit the Island, and to develope for their advantage its long-dormant resources. From the commencement of his administration he showed plainly his sense of the importance of fostering the municipal spirit among the Manx, and cordially supported the demands of Douglas for an extension of its powers of self-government and for freedom from the iniquitous and oppressive highway tax; while he as powerfully promoted those great schemes for the drainage and improvement of the town, which have made his administration of Manx affairs so famous and so completely changed the appearance and condition of the town. In January, 1864, he declared his decision with respect to a portion of the great question of the rival claims of the two towns. That part of it which referred to the removal )f the seat of Government had been practically settled for some time by us fixing his residence near Douglas, and he now announced his intention of holding the Common Law Courts alternately in Douglas and Castletown. During the next three years, the Governor gradually adopted the practice of summoning the Legislature occasionally to Douglas; but the meetings of both Houses were usually held at Castle-town, and some expense had been recently incurred in making the rooms in which they met, more comfortable. During this time the feeling in favour of holding the sessions of the Legislature and of the different courts in Douglas had been steadily growing; and on the 29th October, 1867, a resolution was adopted by the House of Keys appointing a deputation to the Governor, consisting of Messrs. Dumbell and W. F. Moore, to request him to take the necessary steps for the removal of the Tynwald and other courts to Douglas. At the next Tynwald Court, held on the 15th November, the Governor announced his intention to issue a Commission to take evidence as to the desirability of removing the meetings of the Legislature and the various courts to Douglas. In the early part of December the Commissioners thus appointed sat at the different towns to receive evidence; and several large public meetings were held to discuss the question. The evidence thus taken was almost uniformly in favour of the proposed changes, except in Castletown, where, as might have been expected, the most determined opposition was made to the proposal; and it is only justice to say that the advocates of the claims of the Southern capital made the best of a weak case, and fought their position well. But the balance of convenience to the public was so overwhelmingly in favour of Douglas that the opposition of the South, though it might embitter the question and seriously delay its final settlement, could not ultimately avert the change. On the 6th July, 1868, at the annual Tynwald Court at St. John’s, it was resolved, after a long debate, to transfer the ordinary meetings of the Legislature and the public courts and offices to Douglas; and the Governor was authorised to procure plans and estimates of the necessary buildings. On the 25th September, his Excellency informed the Court that the Home Secretary, Mr. Hardy, had refused to sanction for the present the proposed removal of the courts to Douglas. This unexpected interference of the English Government with the internal affairs of the Island excited great indignation in the country; so great indeed was the discontent thus caused that it was judged prudent, on October 20th, to give some re-assuring explanations, and to appoint a new committee to consider the question, and to take further evidence as to the necessity of the proposed changes. On the 8th December, this committee made its report, and on the 11th February, 1869, the Court again decided, by a majority of six, to remove the courts, &c., to Douglas. To overcome the opposition raised by the Home Office, the Court further resolved, on the motion of Deemster Drinkwater, to apply to her Majesty’s Government for their sanction to the removal of the Tynwald Court and the courts of justice from Castletown to Douglas, and to express the readiness of the Court to provide for the expenses of such removal. It was also resolved to offer prizes for plans of the necessary buildings to be erected in Douglas. On the 8th July the report of the committee respecting the plans for the new House of Assembly was presented to the Tynwald Court, and considered. This report stated that the Governor and the committee had met and decided upon the amount of accommodation required for the House of Assembly, a Court House, and the different Government offices; that they had forwarded particulars of the accommodation required to eight architects, and requested them to compete for the building; that they had received replies from five of the architects thus anulied to and that. after carefully considering the plans and estimates sent in, they bad awarded the first prize of £150 to the plans furnished by Mr. Burnett, of Glasgow, and the second prize of £75 to those sent in by Mr. Hamilton, of Liverpool. They further reported that they recommended the purchase of the piece of ground adjoining the Congregational Chapel, Buck’s-road, as a site upon which to erect the new House of Assembly. A lengthy and animated debate arose upon this report, the Southern party strenuously objecting to the recommendations of the report, but, ultimately the Court agreed, by a majority of 13 to 10, to purchase the site recommended by the committee. The Court then adjourned to the fol lowing day, when the several plans for the new House of Assembly came before it for consideration. The plans, which were six in number, were ranged round the Court House for the inspection of the members of the Legislature, and the public generally. They consisted of one plan from Mr. Burnett, of Glasgow, the estimated cost of which was £17,080; one from Mr. G. W. Hamilton, of Liverpool, to cost £14,000; two from Messrs. Christian and Cockerell, one to cost £13,000, and the other £11,690; and two from Mr. Ellison, of Liverpool, one to cost £16,100, and the other £13,663. The result of the debate upon these plans was, that the Court considered them all too expensive, and remitted them back to the committee, with instructions to request Mr. Burnett to so modify his plan as to reduce its cost very considerably. With regard to the relative merits of the different plans, public opinion was strongly divided. All were agreed that the elevations and exterior appearances of Mr. Burnett’s plan were the finest of the series; but his interior arrangements were considered, by practical men, to be very defective. Upon this point, there seems to have been a strong opinion that the plans submitted by Mr. Ellison, one of the unsuccessful competitors, were decidedly the best of the whole series. The committee were also much blamed for having, without consulting the Court., entered into an engagement with the competing architects that, even if all the plans were rejected, the person who might obtain the first prize should have a right, notwithstanding the rejection of his plan, to carry out any buildings that might be erected. In several other points also they were considered to have exceeded their powers, and a strong feeling was roused against Mr. Burnett’s plan, and in favour of Mr. Ellison’s plan, which was considered to be not only the better plan but cheaper by £3,500. This feeling was forcibly expressed in the Insular press, and even found utterance in the Liverpool journals, in which the award of the committee was reviewed in a very caustic manner. At a Tynwald Court, also held in the Court House, Douglas, on the 14th July, an attempt was made by Mr. Dalrymple to procure a reconsideration of the plans by the committee; but it appeared that the committee had already communicated with Mr. Burnett and asked him to prepare reduced plans and estimates, and the Governor consequently ruled that it would be out of order to ask the committee to take the plans into consideration again. Mr. Ellison made several attempts to procure a re-examination of the various plans, but in vain; and ultimately the Court voted him a sum of fort.y guineas as compensation for the professional labour expended upon his plans, and also a further sum of £40 to Mr. Cockerell for the same object. On the 20th November, the committee presented its report upon Mr. Burnett’s revised pla.ns, showing that he had modified his first plan so as to reduce the estimated cost to £13,567; and a long debate ensued, after which it was resolved to photograph the revised plans, and adjourn their further discussion. On 22nd February, 1870, the matter came up again before the Tynwald Court for a final decision, his Excellency the Governor urgently requesting the Court to agree to some definite conclusion as the prolonged delays which had arisen in the settlement of the question were productive of great inconvenience to the public service. During the discussion which followed, Mr. Sherwood presented a petition from Mr. Ellison, asking again for a reconsideration of the different plans on certain technical grounds, and moved that the prayer of the petition be granted, and that the petitioner be permitted to appear by counsel. This was ruled out of order by the Governor. Mr. Stevenson, on behalf of the Southern party—continuing their obstructive policy—then moved that, as this question was now peculiarly a question of finance, its further consideration be held over until the Financial Committee just nominated had made their report. Capt. M. W. Goldie seconded this motion. To this an amendment was moved by Mr. Dumbell, and seconded by Mr. Callister, that Mr. Burnett’s plans, as revised, be adopted; and that the sum of £14,000 be voted for the purpose of carrying them out. A long debate followed, in the course of which several other proposals were placed before the Court, especially one by Deemster Stephen, to refer the plans to a professional surveyor, and another by Mr. Sherwood, to recon sider the plans with a view to a further reduction of the estimated cost of the buildings; ultimately, on the recommendation of the Governor, Mr. Dalrymple moved that all the plans before the Court, including Mr. Burnett’s original and revised plans, be rejected. This amendment was seconded by Mr. Sherwood, and carried by a majority of 17 to 4—the minority being Messrs. Callister, Rowe, Stevenson, and T. Moore. On the suggestion of the Governor, Mr. Sherwood then moved that a committee, consisting of the Vicar-General, the Water-Bailiff, Captain Goldie, Mr. Sherwood, and Mr. Dalrymple, be appointed to confer with his Excellency with regard to the amount of accommodation required for the new Law Courts, &c. This motion was seconded by Mr. Dalrymple, and carried. With this committee the old committee was afterward associated, in order to facilitate arrange ments with Mr. Burnett for compensating him for his rejected plans, &o. This was, practically, a victory for the friends of Mr. Ellison, and as such was considered by them, and by others professionally interested. On the 12th May this committee laid its report before the Tynwald Court, and on the 28th June, the older committee laid before the Legislature the result of its communications with Mr. Burnett, from which it appeared that that gentleman claimed the sum of £63 2s l0d for his professional services in preparing revised plans and estimates, with the special proviso that, if the Court erected new buildings, he was to have the superintendence of their erection in lieu of this additional payment. The debate which followed the reading of this report was characteristic of the condition of parties in the Manx Legislature, and of the local and even personal motives which too often influenced their public action. The Southern members were bound to resist the proposed change to the last extremity, while the Northern members, equally notorious for their devotion to local interests, were as determined to secure some special advantages out of the difficulty, and thus a coalition of the parties arose, and a majority secured against the present accomplishment of the scheme. The pretext made use of to oppose the scheme during this debate was the assumed embarrassed state of the Insular finances. Member after member rose, and after lugubriously bewailing this fact, declared for a postponement of the scheme; while, to add weight to this conclusion, the Southern party declared in favour of "a building which they could be proud of, and not of such a one as could be erected for £7,000 or £8,000." The formal debate was opened by Mr. Dumbell, who, to put the question in a practical shape before the Court, moved "that plans for the erection of buildings for the accommodation of the Court House and Rolls Office be obtained, the cost not to exceed £14,000." This was seconded by Mr. Dalrymple. Mr. Farrant moved, and Mr. Jeflcott seconded (ominous conjunction of North and South!) "that the sum, reported by the committee to be due to Mr. Burnett, be paid; and that the further consideration of the removal of the Courts question be postponed." Capt. Goldie supported the amendment. He would have been glad to have been able to support the removal of the Courts and the proposal for the new Pier at Ramsey if he thought they could have afforded it; but he thought it had better stand over until the finances of the Island were in a more satisfactory state. Mr. W. F. Moore, apparently alarmed by the positive manner in which the obstructionists asserted the embarrassed condition of the Insular revenue, also supported the amendment in favour of delay. The Governor, anxious for the Court to arrive at a useful decision, again interposed to allay this unnecessary alarm, and to explain that it was scarcely necessary that the removal of the Courts question should be postponed; and in this effort he was supported by Deemster Drinkwater, who also said that there was nothing in the way of the Court taking the matter into consideration at once. Ultimately, the Minute of the Government upon the,financial condition of the Island was read by the Governor, after which a long con versation took place respecting the financial position of the Island, and the possible necessity of having to levy tolls upon vessels entering the Insular harbours and passengers using the new Landing Pier—in which Deemeter Drinkwater took a principal part. After a short recess, the debate upon the question of the removal of the Courts was resumed by the Clerk of the Rolls, and continued at great length by Messrs. Sher wood, W. F. Moore, Callister, Dumbell, and others, when the Court divided on Mr. Farrant’s amendment, with the result that it was lost in the Keys and carried in the Council. Capt. Goldie then moved a further amendment, which was seconded by Mr. Stevenson, that the further consideration of the question should be deferred until the question of harbour dues and tolls had been settled. After a tedious discus sion, this proposal also was rejected by the Court. Mr. Sherwood, in hope of bringing about a coalition between those in favour of removing the courts at any cost, and those who wished them removed economically, next moved a new amendment, that the Court vote £12,000 for the purpose, that sum to include the fittings. This was seconded by Deemster Drinkwater, and, after another long debate, was carried in the Keys but lost in the Council. After several other attempts had been made to come to a decision, it was at last resolved by a majority of 16 to 6 in the Keys, on the motion of Messrs. Callister and Christian (both Northside members) that the further consideration of the matter be adjourned until 31st March—the end of the financial year. Thus, once more, by a disgraceful coalition of the two obstructionist parties, this much-needed and long-delayed measure was, notwithstanding the repeated and urgent representations of the President of the Court, again shelved. At the close of the debate the Governor informed the Court that he would, in a few days, lay before the Court a proposal which he hoped would have the effect of postponing for a few days only the final decisions of the Court.

On July 6th, the Governor, in fulfillment of his promise, made an elaborate statement respecting the condition of the revenue. In this statement he estimated the cost of the most pressing works to be—for the Court Houses and House of Assembly, including site, £14,191; for the Ramsey Harbour Works, £30,300; for Peel Harbour Works, £6,000; and for Castletown Harbour Work, £7,950; making a total of £58,441; and then proceeded to show how this sum could be raised, and met by the Insular revenue. The financial difficulties standing in the way of the proposed works having been thus cleared away, and a sop being thus judiciously held out to each section of the malcontents, the resistance of the Northern members to the Government proposals at once collapsed, and votes were made of £28,800 for harbour works for Ramsey; £6,340 for Castletown; and £14,200 "for the purpose of paying for the land already purchased, and erecting the proposed Court Houses, Court of Tynwald, and Record Offices at Douglas, including fitting up and furnishing the same, and that his Excellency the Governor be requested to lay before this Court such plans as he will be prepared to give his assent to." the claims of Peel to additional harbour accommodation were also brought before the Court by Messrs Sherwood and H. J. Moore, but, owing to the lateness of the hour, the further consideration of this vote was adjourned. Thus, through the skilful management of the Governor, all the difficulties in the way of this important measure were apparently removed; and it now seemed as if the long-talked of erection of suitable buildings in Douglas and the removal of the Legislature and the Courts of Law into them, would speedily become accomplished facts.

On the 26th July the discussion on the Peel grant was resumed, when a report from Mr. Powell, the resident engineer, was read, stating that the quays in Peel harbour were in a dangerous state, and that it would require £4,500 to put them in proper repair. A petition against this proposed expenditure and in favour of outer harbour works upon Mr. Cregeen’s plan, signed by 200 boat owners and fishermen, was presented by Mr. Sherwood, who strongly supported the prayer of the petitioners. The Governor opposed it, and after a short discussion a grant of £4,500 for the repair of the quay was moved by Mr. Dumbell, seconded by Mr. Stevenson, and carried with only two dissentients—Messrs. Sherwood and J. S. Moore. This vote led to a strange "scene" between the Governor and Mr. Sherwood, one of the the members for Glanfaba, the sheading (or county) in which Peel is situated. The western members had strongly objected to the vote just made, on the ground that the port required outer works more than inner repairs; and two of them had voted against it. Immediately after the vote had been taken, Mr. R. J. Moore, one of the Peel members, rose and, in association with Mr. Sherwood, moved that a committee be appointed to report upon the additional harbour accommodation required at Peel. 1 his was seconded by Deemster Stephen, but opposed by the Governor, who said that at present the revenue could not provide works which, according to Mr. Powell, would cost at least £25,000, and that if the Court made any such vote he should feel compelled to veto it. This announcement was received by Mr. Sherwood with a spirited protest as unconstitutional and calculated to prevent discussion, and he asserted that the Governor sitting as a member of that Court had no right to threaten to veto a subject before hand. The Governor to this attack replied that the hon. member misapprehended his position in that Court, that he was not a member of it, but the head of the Insular Government, and that in acting as he had done he was acting for the best interests of his government. Mr. Sherwood disputed the Governor’s statement that he was not a member of the Tynwald Court, and reminded him that he had voted as such that very day, but he was not allowed to proceed, being unsupported by the Court, and called to order by the Governor. The fracas terminated by the motion being referred to the Harbour Commissioners, who were directed to prepare plans and estimates for the Peel works.

At a subsequent Tynwald Court, held at Douglas on the 10th August, the Governor, in reply to a question from Mr. Christian, stated he was in correspondence with Mr. Burnett with regard to fresh plans for the proposed public works at Douglas, and that these plans would soon be laid on the table for approval. He further stated that several memorials had been sent from the Island to the Imperial Government praying that the resolution of the Court might not be complied with. The Government had communicated with him with regard to these memorials, and in reply he had said that the Tynwald Court had not come to the resolution to remove the Courts without consideration, the question having been under discussion for some years; that the public convenience demanded their removal; and that he had recommended that no attention should be paid to the prayer of the memorials. Commenting upon the reckless and selfish spirit which had caused this attempt to defeat the intention of the Legislature, he added that "he considered it wrong that, in a free Legislature, the minority had not bowed to the decision of the majority in this matter. Such a course as the minority had adopted was calculated to check the action of the Legislature. If anything should arise from the memorials, or if they were pressed, he would at once bring in a bill for the immediate removal of the courts without waiting for the completion of the buildings." It is impossible to condemn too strongly these unprincipled proceedings of the defeated faction. Rather than make any sacrifice of self-interest they had thus shown themselves willing to wreck the independence of their ancient Legislature; and though the magisterial tone of the Governor and the implied threat conveyed in his remarks were equally unconstitutional and opposed to the real independence of the country, yet being adopted in the interests of Manx freedom, they possessed a show of disinterested generosity which was received by the Court with repeated cheers, and by the general public with enthusiastic acclamations. No action having been taken upon these votes, the general feeling of anxiety at length found expression. On the 15th March, 1871, Mr. E. C. Farrant asked the Governor if he could inform the Court, and, through it, the country, why no steps had yet been taken to carry out the contemplated works. In reply, the Governor said that immediately after the money had been voted, the several votes were brought before the Home Government. The Board of Trade approved the works, but the doubt expressed by some of the members of the Tynwald Court of the ability of the Insular revenue to bear the proposed burdens had been brought under the notice of the Treasury, and that doubt, it was thought, required a searching inquiry before permission was granted for the proposed expenditure. The subject was still under consideration, and when it was completed he would lay the correspondence which bad taken place before the Court.

On the same day the House of Keys read a second time and passed by a final majority of 15 to 4, notwithstanding the persistent opposition of the Southern members, a bill entitled "An Act to Regulate the place of holding the Courts of General Gaol Delivery, of Chancery, of Exchequer, and of the Staff of Government," to enable the Governor to hold these courts at Castletown, Douglas, or elsewhere, as he should order. On the question of adjournment the meeting concluded with a lively debate as to where the House should next assemble, at Douglas or Castletown, highly characteristic of the pertinacity of the Southside members. On a division, 12 voted for Douglas and 7 for Castletown. This move of the Keys, in fixing for themselves the place of their meeting, was met, when they assembled on the 29th, by the Governor with a covert rebuke. Though wishful to transfer the meetings of the Legislature to Douglas, he did not wish to be hurried in his movements by their independent action, or to have the direction of the movement taken out of his hands. On 31st March, a Tynwald Court was held in Douglas, at which only 15 members of the House of Keys were present—the Castletown faction obstructively remaining away. The Governor laid before the Court "The Courts Removal Bill" for signature, remarking that the Royal assent would be recommended by him only on the understanding that suitable buildings were provided in Douglas for the courts to be held there. This statement brought out in a curious way the strangely confused condition of parties in the Legislature. Almost every member seemed to have his own special scheme for the settlement of this question, and none seemed willing to yield his opinion to his neighbour’s. Some wanted to convert the Douglas Court House into a House of Assembly; others wanted new buildings; and each had a cut-and-dried plan for them in his pocket, and would agree to no other; others again wanted to make the whole scheme of buildings and removal of the courts dependent upon some other pet scheme of his own being first provided for. Upon one point only did all unite, and that was in objecting to sign the bill before them lest it should pledge them to any cause but their own. In vain the Governor reminded them that the Court had already pledged itself to an expenditure up to £14,000; they seemed ashamed of that act and would listen to nothing, and at last the Court rose without having done anything, leaving the "Courts Removal Bill" unsigned, and the Governor to pay for the site purchased for the courts on his own responsibility. These proceedings were at once undignified and unwise, and as such are to be regretted. They gave a further advantage to the Southern party, which it would be sure to lay hold of for its own purposes; they lowered the dignity of the Legislature, and lessened its influence, and they threw into the way of the Governor occasions for exercising that personal authority which his energy and . decision made so dangerous to the constitutional Government of the Island, and which his liberal and enlightened character alone rendered less hurtful than it otherwise might have been. After a long delay, on the 18th October, 1871, the Governor stated to the Tynwald Court that circumstances bad arisen which rendered it advisable to postpone the promised publication of the correspondence between himself and the Home Government upon this subject until later. The matter was still, he said, unsettled, but he had reason to anticipate a satisfactory solution of the difficulties which had grown up in reference to the votes for the Pier at Ramsey, and the public buildings at Douglas. With respect to the first of these objects, his Excellency’s expectation proved correct, the Lords of the Treasury shortly afterwards signifying their approval of the proposed work, but with regard to the second—the vote for the erection of a Legislative Hall and Law Courts in Douglas—the obstacles in the way were not so easily removed. The question had become so complicated with side issues, and so many difficulties had been placed in its way, that it appeared impossible to propose any practical scheme which would, in existing circumstances, satisfy a majority of the members. Consequently, the question was allowed, by the Insular Government, to lie dormant; and for more than two years no further parliamentary action was taken respecting it. But though thus defeated by the irreconcilable opposition of the Legislature, the Governor did not lose sight of the public advantages involved in the desired changes; and, as far as was possible, he, by the exercise of his personal authority, gradually accomplished the greater part of one of the proposed changes—the removal of the Legislature to Douglas. Its meetings, both when held separately as distinct chambers and as one united court, were now generally held in Douglas. The other part of the scheme —the removal of the Courts of Law and of the Rolls Office—it was not in his power to effect. The "Removal of the Courts Bill" had never been signed by the Court or received the Royal assent, and for this the whole Legislature were alike responsible; North and South, Country and Town, alike had combined t.o prevent the carrying out of any practical scheme. But though the Legislature thus usually held its meetings in Douglas, it possessed no legal House of Assembly in that town; and the use of the Court House when it assembled was only granted as an act of courtesy. And further, the Court House, not having been intended for such a use, was very inconvenient in its arrangement, and the accommodation it afforded was very insufficient. These deficiencies became felt more and more, and led, in the winter of 1873, to a revival of the subject, the first notes of which were sounded in the columns of The Isle of Man Times, of November 8th, in an article called "Local Notes," proposing that the premises adjoining the Court House should be purchased, and that the whole should be converted into suitable chambers for the meetings of the Legislature, and into offices for the government officials, at an estimated cost of £3,000. This proposal was warmly approved in a short leader in the same journal the following week; and on 6th December the same writer again urged the suggestion upon the Legislature in anticipation of their coming meeting on the 10th of the same month. But months again passed away, and once more, on the 9th May,. 1874, he called attention to his suggested scheme for utilizing the existing Court House. At a Tynwald Court held in Douglas on 19th June, 1874, Mr. LaMothe, one of the members for Garif Sheading, gave notice that at the next Tynwald Court he would move that his Excellency the Governor be requested to procure plans and estimates for a House of Assembly and Government Offices in the town of Douglas; and, in accordance with this notice, at the annual Tynwald at St. John’s, he proposed a motion to that effect, but, on the recommendation of the Governor, he withdrew it again. Upon this Mr. E. C. Farrant stated that if Mr. LaMothe’s motion had been pressed, he would have moved an amendment to the effect that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests be requested to consent to such alterations and additions to the Court House, Douglas, as would make it suitable for the public purposes of the Island, and afford accommodation for the Tynwald Court. The subject then dropped, but later in the day Mr. Brooke, another Northern member, gave notice that at the next Court he would move that a committee be appointed to consider the question. Soon after the holding of this Court directions were given by the Insular Government to put the old house in which the Keys had been accustomed to meet at Castletown in repair; and, much to the surprise and indignation of the majority of the members, they were summoned to meet at Castletown. The first meeting passed off quietly, but when, on the 26th November, they were called together a second time at Castletown, several members expressed their dissatisfaction, declaring that they had no desire to hold their meetings at Castletown, and that their doing so interfered with the proper discharge of their public duties, and that the alterations and repairs which had been carried out in the Castletown House of Assembly had been ordered without their sanction and knowledge. Ultimately, a deputation was sent to the Governor to ask for the use of the Douglas Court House for their next meeting, a request which he granted with apparent reluctance. Accordingly, the House assembled on the following day (Friday, the 27th) in the Court House, Douglas, and, after disposing of some formal business, Mr. Brooke, in accordance with his notice, moved a resolution to this effect— That in the opinion of the House no further delay should take place in carrying out the plans formerly agreed upon by the Tynwald Court, and that a deputation of the House wait upon the Governor with a copy of this resolution, and to express the earnest desire of the Keys that he would take immediate steps to carry out the improvements referred to.

This motion was seconded by Mr. Craine (a Northern member). Mr. Sherwood would have supported the motion if it did not bind the House to the site in Buck’s-road, which he strongly disapproved of. Mr. Jeffcott (Castletown) objected to the motion as exceeding the terms of the notice given. Mr. E. C. Farrant objected because there was not money to complete the Ramsey Pier, and moved an amendment— That in the opinion of this House proper accommodation for the meetings of the Tynwald Court could be secured at a moderate cost by an adaptation of the present Court House in Douglas. Resolved, therefore, that the Governor be requested to obtain estimates of the cost of such an arrangement of the building as may be necessary for this purpose, and to obtain the sanction of the Government to this expenditure.

Mr. Teare (Northern member) objected on the same ground as Mr. Farrant, and seconded his amendment. Mr. Dumbell supported the motion, because it was impossible to get the necessary accommodation in the existing Court House at Douglas. Mr. W. F. Moore would support the motion if it would not prevent the Court House being utilised if it was thought desirable. Mr. LaMothe would not support the motion because it would bind them to the erection of buildings for the Law Courts and the Records as well as a House of Assembly. The Secretary (Mr. R. J. Moore, Peel) cordially supported the motion. On a division, 9 voted for the amendment and 11 against it. The House then divided on the motion, when 12 voted for it and 8 against it. The minority against the motion was composed of four Northern members—Messrs Farrant, Gell, Teare, and LaMothe; one Douglas member—Mr. W. F. Moore; and three Southern members—Messrs J. Quayle, M. T. Quayle, and Jeffcott. Early in January, 1875, a message in reply to this resolution was sent by the Governor to the members of the House of Keys, in which, after reviewing the successive phases of the question, he pointed out that its present position was this :—In 1870 the Tynwald Court voted a sum of £11,490 for the erection of public buildings in Douglas; but the Treasury refused to sanction this expenditure on the ground of other existing claims upon the revenue. Under these circumstances, before he could again press the Treasury to sanction this vote, it would be necessary for the House of Keys to decide whether, in the event of the Treasury continuing to withhold its sanction on this ground, it would be prepared to pledge itself to such measures as might be necessary to increase and supplement the revenue, if such a course should prove to be necessary. When the House had come to a conclusion upon this point, and also with respect to the site selected, he woul4 be ready to give every assistance in his power in carrying out the wishes of the Legislature. This message, which in effect offered the Legislature the accommodation required, but coupled it with the promise to bear, if necessary, additional taxation, created considerable alarm in the country, and seemed calculated to postpone once more the settlement of this long-drawn-out question. On the 9th March, the House again assembled - and, proceeding to discuss the Governor’s Message, soon showed that the members hoped to evade the unwelcome- alternat.ive by a dexterous use of words. Of the two questions proposed to the House by the Governor, it was decided on a division to take up the one which required a guarantee from the House to meet the cost of the proposed buildings by additional taxation if required. Upon this point Mr. LaMothe hoped the House would not sanction any increase of taxation, and moved, "That the House was not prepared to pledge itself to any special taxation for the erection of public buildings in Douglas." This was seconded by Mr. Leece. Mr. Dumbell pointed out that the effect of this motion, should it pass, would be to postpone indefinitely the removal of the Courts to Douglas, and moved an amendment, "That the House assured his Excellency that it is ready to support any necessary application of the revenue that may be required for the purpose of carrying out the erection of the Court House and public buildings referred to." This was seconded by Mr. Dalrymple, and after further debate, was carried by a majority of 12 to 6—the minority being equally divided between the North and the South—Messrs. Teare, Gell, and Farrant; amd Messrs J. Quayle, M. T. Quayle, and Jeffcott. This division was also remarkable from the fact that both the mover and seconder of the adverse motion (Messrs. LaMothe and Leece) voted with the majority. The question of the site was next taken into consideration, and, on the motion of Mr. Dalrymple, a committee was appointed to report on the question of a site. This was seconded by Mr. LaMothe, and carried unanimously. The Secretary and Mr. Farrant then reported progress to the Governor, and on their return stated that his Excellency had expressed dissatisfaction with the state of business, and that he had expected a more "straightforward" answer to the questions put before the House in his Message. On 5th May the House assembled at Douglas, and received the report of the committee appointed on the 9th March. The committee stated that they had examined a number of sites, including the Douglas Court House, and concluded by unanimously reporting in favour of the site already purchased by the Insular Government for the purpose, in Buck’s-road. On the 12th May the House took this report into consideration, and after a long and heated debate, a motion was carried, by a coalition of the various malcontents, that the question be adjourned for six months. On the 30th November the House again assembled in the Douglas Court House, and Mr. Brooke again moved, and Mr Rowe seconded his motion, that the report of the Committee be adopted. To this Mr. Corrin moved an amendment, seconded by Mr. J. Quayle, that the consideration of the subject be again adjourned for six months.. After a long debate this amendment was carried by a majority of two. The six months having again expired, the subject was brought up on 20th June, 1876, by the Secretary (Mr. H. J. Moore, Peel); and Mr. LaMothe moved, and Mr. Brooke seconded, that the report of the committee be adopted. Mr. Sherwood moved that the subject be adjourned to the next sitting of the House. Mr. Jeffcott seconded this amendment, and on a division it was carried by a majority of six. On the 22nd June, Mr. Sherwood moved that the consideration of the question be again adjourned for six months. This was seconded by Mr. J. Quayle, and ultimately carried by a majority of four. At a Tynwald Court in the Court House, Douglas, on the 6th March, 1877, a sum of £350 (in addition to a previous sum of £200 already expended) was voted, on the motion of Messrs Dumbell and R. J. Moore, to defray the expenses incurred by the Insular Qovernment in altering the Douglas Court House buildings to provide the necessary accommodation for the House of Keys and the Tynwald Court. This question had now reached its goal. It had wearied alike its friends and its foes, and reluctantly it was allowed to sink into the limbo of unaccomplished schemes. The removal of the Legislature to the central capital was now an accomplished fact, its meetings being regularly held in the Douglas Court House, which, together with two premises adjacent, had been extensively altered and improved to supply the necessary accommodation, and the removal of the Law Courts and the Rolls Office was, perforce, abandoned; but, on the 7th of November, 1879, the Bank of Mona premises were bought by the Insular Government for public purposes, and in course of time no doubt several, if not all, of the public offices will be removed these.


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