[From King Orry to Queen Victoria, 1899]
To coin and issue a currency for the country was doubtless a prerogative of the Sovereign; but his money, notwithstanding, had to receive the sanction of the Tynwald Court of supreme jurisdiction.
In modern times, since the final revestment of the island in the Crown of Great Britain by sale from the Duke of Athol in 1825 A.D., the small currency has consisted of gold, silver and copper coins, issued from the Royal Mint at London; and the great bulk of the circulating medium consists of £1 notes issued by private bankers.
Prior to 1825 A.D. paper cards or tickets, stamped for is., 2s. 6d., and 5s. British, were legal currency, and were extensively circulated in place of silver coins of those values.
Copper pence and tokens were also issued; those of the Stanleys bore the Three Legs on one side, and on the reverse the Eagle and Child with the Stanley motto Sans changer. The Duke of Athol stamped his copper coinage with the letter A, and a crown on the reverse.
Shortly after the accession of Queen Victoria there was a large issue of copper pence and half-pence with the Queens head on one side and the Three Legs on the reverse. These, together with the issues of the Stanleys and Murrays, have long since disappeared, having been taken by English visitors and kept as mnementoes and curios.
All these special issues of copper coins passed current in the island at the rate of thirteen pence or twenty-six halfpence to the English shilling.
A little prior to the time of Her Majestys accession a mania took possession of the Manx people to plunge heavily into speculation by investing in the new Joint Stock Banks, two companies of which started in the island, and after a series of disasters and mismanagement they collapsed, spreading ruin throughout the island to all who unfortunately held shares; for there was no limitation to the individual liability of every shareholder for the whole debts of the company. Now, however, banking business is altered in toto; it is a fairly profitable investment of capital, and has for several years been well managed and carried on. The issue of local £1 notes by the banks is conducted in a very safe and peculiar way.
Any person or association of persons may start a bank; but without a license, which costs £20 a year, they cannot issue their own banknotes.
On obtaining such a license from the Governor and Council, they are allowed to issue notes, of not a less sum than £1 each, on depositing in the hands of trustees, appointed by the Governor and Council, security to the amount of issue, which may consist of real or personal estate, or other security which can be conveyed, assigned or transferred by way of mortgage, as Consols or any other British Government securities, to the satisfaction of the said trustees.
An Act of Tynwald was promulgated on July 31, 1817, entitled An Act to Prevent the Negotiation of Promissory Notes and Inland Bills of Exchange within the said Isle under a Limited Sum; and on October 25, 1836 A.D., after the final sale of the island in 1825 A.D., certain modifications were made in this Act by another Act of Tynwald, one of which is: That any Banker or Bankers who may be licensed as aforesaid shall be bound to take up all Notes or other negotiable Paper or Instruments whatever, made or issued by him or them within the same Isle by paying the full value in gold or silver coin of the legal currency of Great Britain or Promissory Notes of the Bank of England [banknotes], or by direct Bills of Exchange payable in London at a date not exceeding twenty-one days.
The Acts of Tynwald very stringently protect the note-holders interests by regulations as to the numbering of the notes, and providing that in the case of new notes being required to be issued to replace old notes worn out, due caution be taken that the old notes are delivered up and destroyed or cancelled in presence of the trustees approved by the Governor and Council.
To meet the requirements of these stipulations all Manx notes bear upon their face the name of a London banker, who, on presentation of the notes, will pay the amount within a certain specified number of days, generally three, thus constituting them bills at sight drawn by the Manx banker upon the London bank.
It may be well here to mention that, with the exception of postage stamps for letters and payment for telegrams, no stamps are used, or necessary, either for receipts, bills or cheques. In the case of bills drawn in the island on England, they are treated as foreign drafts, and if negotiated in Great Britain or Ireland adhesive stamps are attached at the same rate and in like manner as if they were drawn from Paris, Timbuctoo or elsewhere.
This system of safeguarding the interests of the note-holders not only works well for them, but enables the banker to profitably carry on his business and to oblige his customers by advancing to them on mortgage or otherwise, assigning either their real estate or other security at a fair but good rate of interest; and by depositing the security received from his client with the Government, and obtaining authority to issue certain pieces of paper in the shape of £1 notes, the banker is enabled to recoup himself the major portion, if not the whole, of what he has advanced. It is quite possible his advance may have been made in his own notes; thus he receives interest on money that he has actually manufactured himself, or his printer for him, and all this is done with perfect security to the public who take these bits of paper, these ~i notes, as there is good security against their issue, safe in the hands of the trustees of the Local Government authorities.
These Manx £1 notes, which are much more used by the public than golden sovereigns or half-sovereigns, wear a long time, some years in factunlike Bank of England notes, which are never issued a second time, but are cancelled on being paid in to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, and new notes issued in their place as required.
Manx notes last for years, and by the time they have passed through a number of hands of people of all sorts and conditionsLaxey miners, whose wages are paid in them, Peel fishermen, who receive them in payment for their herringsand they have travelled for a few years through a vast number of hands of these people and a vast number of times, they are far from being as clean or as legible as when they were born at the printers, and christened, on being numbered and receiving the signature of the bank cashier; far otherwise, for after many trips to Peel and Laxey, they have, in all probability, like Caliban, an ancient and a fish-like smell.
It is an amusing sight to see a lady, with her delicate hand très bien galentée, fishing out a Manx banknote from her porte-monnaie. Ah, fair lady! that glove is needed, for if the statement in the Lancet be true that there is a fearsome danger of catching infectious bacilli and microbes in the mere handling of copper coins and unwashed silver ones, or the Book that is handed to a witness in a court of justice, what must be the danger hanging about a Manx banknote of mature age, which without doubt is inhabited by whole colonies of those undesirable and newly-discovered creatures!