[From Ellan Vannin, 1895]
FROM the descent of the ages, towards the loss of freedom, let us turn to consider the sources of the liberties now enjoyed.
From and after the earlier years of the sixteenth century the spirit of the time favoured progress in freedom. The nations of Europe had become weary of oppression, and the energies of the Lutheran age were aroused. The tendency was strong towards political change, for the advantage of the people. The influences of the great movement could not but reach Man.
The early abolition of Popish Institutions in the Island (1422) had been of unlooked-for advantage to the later reformation. Papal supremacy and popular liberty cannot exist together. The suppression of the ecclesiastical Baronies, with their separate jurisdictions, had been a large contribution towards Manx freedom. Only the Bishop remained, with the semblance of a Baron, but bound to bold the stirrup of the Stanley as he mounted into the saddle at the close of the annual meeting of Tynwald. 'The question of priestly supremacy was finally settled in relation to the civil power. It was part of the Derby policy, and had much to do with Manx liberty. At times, indeed, it seemed uncertain. In 1505, the earl consolidated and confirmed to the Papacy various gifts and grants, following the course of his predecessor. There were close Romanist relations, for to the Earl's father, Cardinal Wolsey had been guardian and trustee. The Abbot of Rushen had been made Governor. The early Stanleys were Papists. The first Earl, he of Bosworth field, left £20 yearly to the convent near Lathom, for masses for his soul and for the souls of his relatives. One of the Stanleys became Bishop of Ely in Papal times, and died in 1525. He left directions that his tomb must bear the request for prayers for his soul. Still, the Stanley rulers would allow no priestly dictation in civil affairs: they were kings in Man. On August 22nd, 1422, when Sir John Stanley ended the independent jurisdiction of the Church Barons, and the right of asylum from the general law, he held his Court within the Bishop's ground, at Kk. Michael, thus visibly setting aside the ancient episcopal jurisdiction in civil affairs. There was rebellion ending in a riot in the churchyard, in resistance to the action of the lord of the Isle, but the riot was put down with a strong hand, and the rioters adjudged liable to death. In the time of Wycliff, there were signs of sympathy with the Reformer, of political restraint on the system of Manx Popery, and Canon law was suppressed. The Barony of St. Trinion's which had belonged to the Prior of Whithorne, was forfeited to the lord of the Isle; the church of St. Trinion's, begun when Scotland ruled, was never finished; and the Derby power was the real "phynnodderee" which prevented the completion of the roof of the "Keill brish," now the interesting ruin which has a Sergeant appointed to its Barony from year to year.
In addition to the direct policy of the house of Derby, Canon law also lost its power, though in the energetic hands of Bishop Wilson, at a much later date than that just implied: it failed as a moral restraint, or social help to goodness, and in the end left him in disappointment and depression after an episcopate of fifty-eight years, extending from 1692 to 1750. Its failure as an obsolete weapon of the Papacy was the removal of another hindrance to the march of freedom.
There were, at the same time, special causes which made for freedom.
One was the general ownership of the land by the Manx people under the Act of 1703. The Island was a region of freeholds. There was no Squire of overshadowing owner ship to control the popular liberties. There were forces in high places, when Manx Nonconformity, under the name of Methodism, began its course in 1775, which sought to destroy the new movement; but a site for a Methodist Chapel could always be secured from friends living on their own acres, and who were ready with cart and horses and money to help in building the house which bigotry hated. Among these freeholders were the Manx Methodists and Nonconformists, sheltered by their freeholds from oppression. Largely, these formed the constituencies of the Sheadings, to whom in 1866 came the rights of election, but who, in the time now referred to, had considerable social influence. The Institution of Tynwald was full of great possibilities, only needing development for freedom. The civil constitution had its House of Keys, Coroners for each Sheading, and their Deputies the Lockmen, the Moar to collect the lord's rent, the Sumner General with his subordinates; and only the spirit of freedom was needed to transform the whole into what was worthy of Christian civilisation over a free people. Yet more complete were the methods adopted when, in 1777, high bailiffs were appointed to the towns, and who are now supplemented by Justices of the Peace. Measures of improved law were gradually adopted, long before modern developments. In 1429 was enacted a law for the better protection of life and property, and for the prevention of trial by combat; and, in the year following, for the restoration of the House of Keys. Measures were takcn for relief from ecclesiastical exactions, and the strange law excluding Scotchmen from the Island was repealed. These steps led up to the Act of Settlement in 1703. An Act in 1736 abolished the powers of the spiritual Courts, which had been so full of terror. A better administration followed; public officials were dismissed for misconduct in the affairs committed to them, and even a Bishop reprimanded for misappropriation of funds. One of the greatest benefits was the Revestment of 1765, which transferred the sovereignty of the Island to the British Crown. It ended a personal, and sometimes unjust rule: smuggling could now be dealt with, and the Imperial Exchequer protected. Laws of Bankruptcy, which the administration of the House of Athol was somehow slow to repeal, were now easily dealt with on their merits. With the change came also the fuller shelter of British power, as by Elliot and his ships of war in the sea fight off Jurhy, seen, it is said, at once from the roof of Bishop's Court and the opposite shores of Galloway, when the French Thurot attempted invasion. It allowed the better influences of the Commonwealth to pervade the island, for Fairfax naturally favoured freedom, was tolerant of the English Church, though the Bishopric was suppressed, and gave the funds thus available partly to the poorer clergy, and partly to the free education of the four towns.
I am indebted to the recent volume of Governor Walpole for the summary I now record of the constitutional present in Man, as given in The Land of Home Rule. There is, indeed, nothing in the Manx Constitution that would meet the wishes of the Home Rulers of Ireland, as will be seen from the facts: the Imperial power limits the insular power of legislation, has supreme authority without local concurrence, imposes the customs duties, controls the normal expenditure, leaving to Tynwald only the disposal of any surplus revenue. There is no insular power to withhold supplies for the redress of grievances ; the expenditure of the government can be increased without local consent the Governor has a veto on all expenditure. The Governor has no Cabinet and no Premier; he is Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, President of the Local Government Board, has command of the Police, and has the sole executive authority. The relations to the British Government are through the Home Secretary. Since1866, the House of Keys has heen on the basis of popular election. The system of Manx government generally works without friction, and with a loyalty to the throne unsurpassed. The Council, which is the second legislative chamber, and co-ordinate in legislation, is composed of eight members, chiefly legal functionaries and paid officials, all ex officio in their place in the Council, three of the eight - the Bishop, the Archdeacon, and the Vicar-General - representing the interests of the Established Church. In the review of the course of freedom, we see the Island released from the violence of the early ages, invested with the privileges of civil and religious freedom, and under a government worthily administered. There is a healthy public opinion, pervaded by sound moral and religious principles, and sustained by the influence of prosperous Christian churches, with their Sunday-schools and other organisations, and, beyond this, influential temperance societies. The moral attitude of the Manx people is true to good order socially, and worthily guards the highest interests of Christian civilisation, from Port Erin to the Point of Ayre.
On each July 5th, the annual day of Tynwald, at St. John's Hill, there is an instructive summary of Manx rule. There are forms more ancient than those of the British House of Commons, in the proceedings of the day. The Scandinavian feature, found in Shetland also, remains - the open air parliament and the Court of Justice. On the historic Hill, seated in state, is the Governor, as represen tative of the British monarch, with the sword of State before him, as tradition speaks of King Orry in the days of old; on the rising circular steps of earth are scattered the traditional rushes. The procession of the insular authorities has come to that central mound from the adjacent Church of St. John's - the Keys, the Council, the officials of the seventeen parishes, the Coroners, the Bishop, significantly alone, and, in the position of supremacy, the Governor. In attendance, gracing the procession, are the clergy of the Established Church; in the outer circle are the police, and beyond are the crowd, residents and visitors. Within a short distance is the rail way for north and south, and near rises Slieu Whallyn, opposite the main mountain range. All being in order, there is next the formal promulgation of the laws of the past year, by the Coroner of Glenfaba, in both Manx and English, after which the procession reforms and returns to the church, where the Tynwald Court completes the legal business of the day; and soon the Governor takes his departure, and the crowds disperse to their homes. The whole scene is half judicial, half poetic; but it shows the relations in Ellan Vannin of governor and governed. However designated, by the title of Home Rule or any other phrase, and however ample the space for further adaptations, it is a system in which Manx energy and moderation are at the oars, and English skill and tact at the helm, with a fair promise for the future course.