[From Brown's Directory, 1881/2]

[Historical Chapter]


Meanwhile, the smaller currents of events flowed on with rapid but uneven motion. In August, 1871, great alarm was excited among the agricultural population by a serious outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. The disorder, which was believed to have been imported from Ireland, first showed itself on the Nunnery estate, near Douglas, and from thence steadily extended itself over nearly the whole Island. So serious was the outbreak, and so great was the alarm it excited, that the Farmers’ Club petitioned the Governor to prohibit the holding of the Agricultural Show, and of the various fairs, in order to limit the spread of the disease. The Governor refusing to interfere, the show was held at Ramsey ; but proved a comparative failure, scarcely an animal being exhibited from the centre and South, and many of the largest stockholders in the North also declined to run the risk. The disease still continued to spread, attacking not only cattle but also sheep and pigs, - and at the end of August the number of cases known to exist was over 300 beasts, besides a large number of other animals. The disease thus introduced, continued to linger in the country for several years, partly, it was asserted, through the apathy of the Government in not enforcing the provisions of the Cattle Diseases Prevention Act, and partly from the refusal of the farmers to tax themselves towards the cost of enforcing the Act. In September, 1872, the disease was complicated by the appearance of the lung disease among the cattle; but in consequence of preventive measures being more stringently enforced by the Government, the disease gradually died out.

In the spring of 1872, the movement in favour of increased wages manifested itself in the Island, and in May a general demand was made for an advance, which most employers of labour were obliged to concede. This movement extended itself to the mining population and, an advance of wages being refused by the directors, the underground workmen at the Great Laxey Mines, to the number of about 400, struck work on the 8th June. This was a very serious blow to the trade of the Island, as the amount of wages paid to the men monthly amounted to about £2,000. On the 15th October the strike ended in a mutual compromise ; but feelings and wishes had been engendered on both sides which led to repeated disputes, occasionally accompanied by disorders, which injuriously affected the working of the mines.

The process of assimilating the Manx system of jurisprudence with that of England was steadily and successfully carried on under the energetic guidance of the Governor, and in the period 1870-1879, a large number of measures were considered by the Insular Legislature. Into the character and object of these our limits will not permit us to enter; but their general scope was to abolish ancient practices unsuited to the spirit of the age, to facilitate the improvement of the Island, and to foster and develop its resources, and to bring its legal usages into harmony with those of the rest of the kingdom. On several occasions attempts were made by liberal members to extend the franchise in accordance with the English precedent, and to abolish the property qualification for members of the House of Keys ; but without success. ‘ihe moat exciting episode of this branch of our subject occurred in connection with the debate upon the Tynwald Court Procedure Bill (" the Gagging Bill"—as it was indignantly called). As our readers cannot but have noticed, the constitution of the house of Keys, despite its elective character, is decidedly conservative. Most of its members are large landed proprietors, and represent and support the interests of property. During the period before us a few members of more decidedly liberal tendencies found their way into the House, mainly as representatives of the Western district; but their numbers were too few to effect any material modification of the general policy of the House. From this arose many anomalies which we cannot now pause to notice, and frequent contests between the House and public opinion which occasion-ally caused the Insular press, as guardians of the public interests, to administer severe rebukes to the conservative majority. These free criticisms upon their proceedings appear to have been highly displeasing to them, and accordingly certain clauses were introduced into the Bill just named, br the put-pose of restricting such remarks upon their doings, and inflicting condign purdshment upon offending critics. On the 10th November, 1874, the Bill was read a first time, and on the 26th, it was considered clause by clause and passed, except the schedule, which was held over for a conference with the Governor and Council. It appeared that the character of the objectionable clauses was not discovered until after they had been passed by the House. When the consideration of the Bill was renewed, on the 31st May, 1875, an attempt was made to have these clauses reconsidered; but the attempt was defeated on a technical point. In consequence the whole Bill was rejected by a large majority. Mr. Clucas then gave notice of his intention to bring in an amended Bill. This Bill was brought in on the 30th November, the " amended " penalty being fixed in it at a fine of £300 and imprisonment for six months. This Bill was received with some opposition in the House, but outside it was greeted with a howl of indignant reprobation; nevertheless, it was passed by the Keys at one sitting with a few amendments, the principal being a reduction of the fine to £100. The passing of this obnoxious measure produced a storm of indignant surprise throughout the country. On the 0th December a great meeting of the inhabitants of Douglas was held in the Victoria Hall, at which from 1,200 to 1,500 were present, and at which resolutions condemning the Bill and the conduct of the Keys in passing it, were passed with enthusiastic cheers. Similar meetings were also held at Castlelown on the 10th ; at Peel on the 14th ; at Ramsey on the same day ; and at Port St. Mary on the 20th. During the recess less important meetings were held in most of the other electoral districts—the Press Bill being uniformly condemned. A strongly-worded protest against the Bill was also sent to the Home Secretary by the Manx Newspaper Proprietors. In short, a more unanimous or energetic resistance was never made against any public measure. One curious feature in this opposition was that the determination of The Isle of Man Times and other local newspapers, to treat the Legislature "with silent contempt " by refusing to report their proceedings. On the 7th March, 1876, the Bill was returned to the House from the Council, and the amendments introduced into it by the Council considered. These, and further modifications introduced during its present consideration, slightly lessening the stringency of the penalties, were adopted, and the Bill again passed. On the 23rd it was again returned from the Council, and at its suggestion the stringency of the penalties was increased. On the following day, it was signed by the members of the Court, and sent to London for the Royal Assent. After some delay the Bill was returned by the Imperial Government to be amended in clauses 6 and 7. The alterations proposed by the Crown were considered by the Keys on October 31st, and agreed to. On the 7th November it was signed by the Court, and after another long delay it was returned with the Royal Assent appended, and formally promulgated on Tynwald Day, 1877.


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