[From Cannell's Guide, 1843]
THE position of the Island will be better understood by reference to a map of Great Britain, than by any description we can give. It is in the middle of the Irish sea, and nearly at an equal distance from the English, Scotch, and Irish coasts. It is about 30 miles in length, and above 11 in breadth, in the widest part and diminishes almost to a point at both extremities Its supefficies has been calculated to upwards of 130,000 square acres, more than two-thirds of which are under cultivation. Its etymology is a matter of mere conjecture. It has been called Mona, Monaeda, Monabia, Eubonia, Menaw, and Mannin which latter is retained by the natives to, the present day; and by the English it is called mann but its ancient name, Mona, is frequently used; still, from however its name may he derived, there is nothing but conjecture to guide us.
Of the time the Island was first inhabited there is no recorded history, and its external affairs seem to have been regulated by whatever nation gained the ascendancy in the surrounding seas. Hence the changes in the executive government have been as numerous as the vacillations of power amongst the surrounding nations; yet by means of passive obedience, the inhabitants have always preserved their original laws and primitive forms of government, without any essential alteration.
From the number of druidical relies still existing in the country, it is almost certain that the inhabitants were of the stock of ancient Britons; but as the history of those periods have been written merely from hearsay, and not from positive information, and are known to contain errors and inconsistencies, we shall not swell out this little volume with statements which are only entitled to that degree of belief which tradition and oral report generally deserve.
Scarcely any thing certain is known of the Island until the tenth century, when it was taken possession of by Orry, a son of the King of Denmark and Norway. who, having subdued the Oreades and Hebrides, fixed his residence in the Isle of Mann, and enjoyed for many years a reign of uninterrupted tranquillity. From this time it is certain there were Kings of Mann.
Guttred his son built Castle Rushen in 947, as appears by an inscription bearing that date on a beam discovered by some workmen, when repairing the Castle in 1816. His remains were interred in the Castle.
From the death of Guttred until the year 1094, the Island was in a very unsettled state, and exposed to the attacks of neighbouring powers, when Olave, the next in succession, being in his minority, the inhabitants entrusted the regency to Mac Marus a very pious man, of great prudence, moderation, and justice, who, in 1088, laid the foundation of Rushen Abbey, and continued for a time to preserve the peace and promote the prosperity of the Island; but a conspiracy being formed against him, internal dissensions were created, and he was killed in battle, and the Island became an easy prey to Magnus, King of Norway, who governed it six years and made wars in Anglesea and Ireland, in which latter country he was slain, and all with him.
Olave II. then assumed the purple, having the King of England, Henry 1. for his patron. He had forty years of a peaceful reign, founded Rushen Abbey, arranged the tithes and the affairs of the church, and was treacherously slain near Ramsey, by Reginald,- one of the sons of his rebellious brother Harrold, :when a sanguinary conflict ensued, and many fell on both sides. , This Insidious act of treachery did not long remain unpunished, as the three sons of Harrold were delivered up to condign punishment, when Reginald was executed, and his two brothers deprived of their eyes.
From this period, several attempts were made to usurp the government, and intestine war raged with great fury; the defenceless inhabitants were massacred, their houses plundered of every thing valuable, the churches wore burnt, the southern part of the Island laid waste, and the shipping at anchor under Peel Castle, set fire to.
In 1212, Magnus, the third son of Olave III. was crowned by the universal consent of the people, and went over to Norway, where, after two years' attendance, he was declared King of the Isles, and had his title confirmed to him and his successors. Notwithstanding which, Mary, the daughter of Reginald, who was a minor, set up a claim for the kingdom, and did homage for it to Edward 1. Magnus consecrated the Abbey Church of Rushen, which had been founded 130 years before. In 1256 he visited England, in order to secure the protection and assistance of Henry II. by whom he was hospitably entertained, and from whom he received the honour of knighthood. In 1265 he died without issue, and was buried in the Abbey Church in Rushen.
In 1263 the Island was deprived of that protection which it had long received from Norway, and after the death of Magnus, Alexander, King of Scotland, having subdued all the outisles, invaded Mann with a powerful army under Alexander of Paysley, and John Comyn, and after numerous battles fought with varied success, at length achieved the conquest of it in 1270, at Ronaldsway, near Derbyhaven, in which upwards of 500 of the flower of the Manx army, with Ivar their leader, were slain, and the Island was annexed to the Scottish dominions.
Having completely conquered the Island, Alexander governed it by his Thanes, who used their power so tyrannically and oppressively that they provoked the people to rebellion, and they were resolved, if possible to throw off the Scottish yoke. In order to prevent bloodshed, the Bishop of the Island interfered and prevailed upon them to end their differences by a species of single combat of thirty men selected from each party, and a spot was accordingly fixed upon for the combat; much valour was displayed on both sides, and the battle terminated in favour of the Scots, who killed every one of their antagonists, whilst twenty-five of their warriors shared the same fate, After this the King of Scotland sent over governors of greater moderation.
During the dispute between Bruce and Baliol for the Scottish Crown, the Island was, for a time, again under the protection of Edward 1. having been surrendered by Scottish Commissioners to that Monarch in 1289, who restored it the following year to John Baliol. On the death of Edward in 1307, Edward II. seized it, who granted it in one year to three favourites, Piers de Gaveston, Gilbert de Mac and Henricus de Bellemonte. In the sixth year of this King's reign, it was claimed by Simon do Monte Acuto Milition the strength of a deed of gift by "Aufrica de Connaght, heres terra de Mann ;" but with little success, for it appears that King Robert Bruce sat down before Rushen with a large army in 1318, and in the course of six months reduced it and the whole Island.
In 1316 it was granted to Thomas Randolph Earl of Moray, during whose government the Island was over-run for a month by Richard Mandeville , and a numerous horde of Irish.
In the reign of Edward III. Sir Wm. Montacute, an English Knight, who had married Mary, the daughter of Reginald, being assisted by that king with ships and men, attacked the Scots, gained possession of the Island, and was crowned King of Mann in the year 1344; and, to the great joy of the natives, restored the ancient government in its right line.
In prosecuting his claim to the Island, Sir Wm. Montacute had contracted so large a debt that he was obliged to mortgage it to Anthony Beck, Bishop of Durham, for seven years. It subsequently reverted to William de Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, who sold it in 1395 to Sir William Scrope, who became afterwards Earl of Wiltshire, and was beheaded by King Henry IV., who conferred the Island upon Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, who rebelling against his Sovereign, it was seized for the King's use by Sir Wm. and Sir John Stanley, to the latter of whom, it was granted for one year, and subsequently to him and his heirs for ever, in as ful and ample a manner as it ever had been granted, to be held of the Crown of England, "per homagium legem," paying to the king, his heirs and successors, a cast of falcons at the coronation. Hence John became king of Mann, and soon after married the heiress of Latham and Knowsley, and was made Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He died in 1413, and was succeeded by his son, Sir John Stanley. From some records which appear to have been kept about this time, the House of Stanley began their sovereignty by taking measures calculated to settle the laws and the executive government, and to grant the deserted lands under favourable copy-hold tenures, to tenants, so as to induce them to cultivate and improve them; the country being in a deserted and desolate state from the civil discord, frequent wars, and changes of masters it had undergone since the downfall of the Norwegian power; at this period fishing, and predatory warfare, appear to have been the principal pursuits of the inhabitants.
Previous to this period the laws were not a written letter, but dispensed by the Lord and the Deemsters, or Judges, of the Island, and by the House of Keys or Parliament, then called " Taxiaxe," by a law of hereditary equity, denominated "Breast Law," which was doubtless the Druidical form of dispensing justice. The Lords and Kings of the Island of the Stanley family, made frequent visits to the Island, but chiefly governed it by Lieutenants, who occupied Castle Rushen and Peel Castle with garrisons. From their accession the Island enjoyed an uninterrupted succession of peace under the protection of England, until that country itself became involved in civil war. The second Sir John Stanley died in 1443, and was succeeded by Thomas, his son, who was created a Baron, and died in 1460. Thomas, his son, succeeded him, and was created Earl of Derby the same year, for having joined Henry VII. with his forces at Bosworth Field. Thomas, the second Earl of Derby, resigned the regal title of Mann, and contented himself with that of Lord only, he died in 1522.
Edward, his son, the third. Earl, was a favourite with King Henry the Eighth. He was wealthy and munificent, but does not appear to have done anything calculated to confer a lasting benefit on the country. He died in 1572.
Henry, his son, the fourth Earl, was a man of learning and genius, beyond which we have nothing to record. He died in 1594, leaving two sons, Ferdinand and William, who in succession became Lords of Mann. Ferdinand died by poison. The title of William was disputed, but he obtained a new grant from James the First. He, however, resigned his dignities to his son in 1637. That son was
James, commonly called the great Earl of Derby. He became deeply implicated in the civil war in England, of the part of the Crown, in which also the Island in a great measure participated. During the whole of the Parliamentary war the Island remained steadily attached to the interests of the king, and was one of the last places that yielded to the usurped authority of Cromwell. General Ireton, on behalf of the Parliament, offered to the Earl the full re-possession of all his estates in England, upon condition of his surrendering the lsle of Mann; but the Earl, in a most spirited reply, rejected the offer with indignation, and declared his determination to hang any future messenger who should he sent with similar proposals. After the relief of Latham House and the battle of Bolton, ,the Earl returned to the Isle of Mann, where he resided till 1651, taking care of the interest of his cause. In that year he again raised a force, and proceeded to England, where he was defeated at Worcester, was taken prisoner by Colonel Edgar, and beheaded at Bolton-le- Moors, October 16, 1651
After the death of the Earl, the Heroine Countess of Derby, who was then in Castle Rushen, defended the Island for the king with as much pertinacity as she had done Latham House. But Wm. Christian, Esq. deputy-governor and receiver - general at the castle. notwithstanding the considerable force he had at his command, and contrary to the express orders of the Countess, delivered it up to the forces of the Parliament, and she was obliged to fly with her family and submit to great privations. For this cowardly and treacherous act of Christian, the endless reproaches of the royalists have been heaped upon him. It was cowardly in him to surrender, and he justly merited the sentence that was subsequently passed upon him.
During the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, the Parliament bestowed the Island on Lord Fairfax, who held it by his Governors till 1661, in which year, after the restoration of King Charles II, Charles Lord Derby, son of Lord James, was re-instated in his rights. The principal event of his sovereignty, was the trial of Christian for treason committed against his family, for,delivering up the Island without resistance. He was found guilty and shot at Hango Hill in January, 1662. He is said to have died penitently, but very coolly and courageously. At the place of execution, the soldiers wished to bind him to the spot on which he stood, to which he objected, saying, "Trouble not yourselves nor me, for I that have faced death in whatever form it has come, will not start at your fire and bullets;" and with the utmost composure, pinned to his breast a sheet of white paper, adding, "Hit this, and you do your own and my work." The following day he was buried in the chancel of Kirk Malew. Manxmen, to this day consider him to have been a martyr, who was arbitrarily condemned. There are several Manx ballads still popular on this subject, in all of which "Illiam Dhone," or " Brown William" has ascribed to him all that is amiable, patriotic, and good.
Soon after this period, Bishop Barrow founded several charitable institutions in the Island, the first of the kind that occur on record, excepting grants to the Church. Earl Charles died in 1672, and was succeeded by his son William, who was no courtier, and took little interest in his Manx domains, and dying without issue in 1703, he was succeeded by his brother James, at which time the Lordship of Mann was in a state rapidly approaching to destruction, the leases, which had been granted for three lives, having nearly expired, and no provision having been made relative to the removal; the neglect of Agriculture, therefore, had become so general, that seasons of scarcity, almost approaching to famine, had occurred; the people being wholly given to fishing, or engaged in a contraband trade. The learned and pious Bishop Wilson, who had been promoted to the See in the year 1696, pointed out the injurious system that had been pursued, and then prevailed, and his strenuous efforts being seconded by a firm and powerful remonstrance from the Manx Legislature, it produced conviction in the mind of His Lordship, who granted in 1703, that act of Settlement which is very properly called the Manx Magna Charta, and which may be very justly considered one of the most important occurrences in the Civil History of the Island, as by it the Lessees of estates were finally established in possession of them, and their descent assigned in perpetuity on the payment of certain lines, rents, and duties to the Lords. For, before this act, although they had been in possession of their lands from time immemorial, they were considered little better that tenants at will, holding under a species of vassalage, there being no statutes declaratory of the settled mode of descent. Of the two prelates mentioned above, a short, but faint sketch of their pious lives, and the benefits they conferred upon the Island, will be found in our account of the Ecclesiastical History. Earl William died childless in 1736, when the Lordship of Mann devolved, by the female line, on James Murray, first Duke of Athol, in right of his mother, Amelia Sophia, daughter of James, the great Earl of Derby, in whose line it continued until sold to the British Crown.
Soon after his accession, the Duke visited his new sovereignty, attended by a numerous suite of gentlemen, an c and his successors exerted themselves in enacting new laws, to keep pace with the growing improvements and increased wants of the people.
Though the Island had been so long under the protection of the Kings of England as Lords Paramount, they had never interfered with the administration of its internal government. The sovereign rights of the Kings and Lords of Mann bad been exercised in their own little country, without control ; they levied customs, coined money, raised soldiers, regulated the executive, and were entitled to all the ensigns of royalty, as if they had been entirely independent. In consequence of these privileges of an independent state, the Island had become an extensive depôt for foreign goods, which, at convenient seasons, were smuggled into England, to the great detriment of the revenue of Great Britain. In order to put an end to that contraband trade, an act of parliarnent was passed in 1726, authorising the Duke to sell the royalties and revenues of the Island, but the offers made by the government were always evaded by the Duke.
On the decease of the Duke, without male issue, his only daughter Charlotte, Baroness Strange, who was married to her cousin James, the heir to the Dukedom of Athol, conveyed the Lordship to him, when proposals from government were renewed, and in the year 1765, the sovereignty of the Island, togeether with all civil patronage, and the two fortresses of Peel and Rushen, were disposed of for £70,000, which was paid, and the sale ratified by an act of parliament. This deed of the Duke caused much alarm, and occasioned prognostications of ruin amongst all classes on the Island.
The Duke reserved his title of Lord of Mann, all his manorial rights, the patronage of the bishopric, and the parochial livings, and also all mines, minerals, and other privileges which were considered as not interfering with the object government had in view, namely, putting a check to the contraband trade. - Commissioners were sent over to examine and report upon the actual state of the Island, and enactments were passed to regulate its trade and revenue.
After this act, which has been called the Act of Revestment the Island became more closely allied to the parent country, and notwithstanding the alarm and dissatisfaction which the sale occasioned amongst the Manx people, the prosperity of the country has progressively advanced; the form of government has experienced no material change, and the legislature has gone on, uninterruptedly, in providing enactments to protect the peace, and improve the laws and institutions of the Island.
In consequence of the British government claiming more than the Duke intended by the treaty to grant, a misunderstanding arose, when a further sum of £2000 per anum was settled upon him during his life, and that of the Duchess.
On the ground of inadequate compensation, their son John presented petitions to parliament for a further grant, and obtained, after repeated refusals, one-fourth of the net revenue of the Island, and was appointed Governor-General in 1798, at which time he was a member of his Majesty's Privy Council, and possessed considerable interest at court. In endeavouring to arrange the dilapidated interests of his in the Island, his Grace experienced considerable opposition from the natives, who strenuously and effectually resisted his measures upon several occasions, as calculated to interfere with their interests, and he became exceedingly unpopular.
In 1825, an act was passed authorising the Lords of the Treasury to treat with the Duke for the purchase of his remaining interests in the royalty and revenue of the Island, and, after several years of negociation, the valuation was left to arbitrators appointed by both parties, who in the year 1829 awarded to him the sum of £430,000, and her most gracious Majesty is now the sole guardian of our ancient laws and constitution ; and this once little barren spot has, through the regard its rulers have had to law and justice, and through the people's observance of true religion and primitive integrity, become a fertile and flourishing Island, with the most cheering prospects of a still more rapid increase of prosperity; so that we may hope that that happy state of things which has combined to promote the welfare of the inhabitants in so marked a manner, may be continued, not only untouched, but doubly and trebly secured to us. After having been Governor of this Island 56 years, the Duke died at Dunkeld in 1830, in the 76th year of his age.