[From Ellan Vannin, 1895]
O place me in some Heaven-protected Isle,
Where Peace and Equity and Freedom smile,
Where no volcano pours its fiery flood,
No crested warrior dips his plume in blood;
Where Power secures what Industry has won,
Where to succeed is not to be undone;
A land with sea and mountain, rock and/l plain,
In Mona's Isle beneath Victoria's reign.
(Adapted from Couper.)
A BRIEF summary and review may be a useful close of the foregoing chapters in relation to Manx progress, past and future.
Until 1703, Manx civilisation had made but little progress in all the centuries. The transition from Popery threw off Papal supremacy, and made the Manx Church a separate organisation. But it did not bring material social advance; the same Bishop remained, the same priesthood, the same intolerance in religion, the same political despotism. The term Protestant, as descriptive, meant only a protest against Papal supremacy. The immediate doctrinal change was slight; canon law was still supreme. The essential elements of civilised progress were wanting; no general education worthy of the name, no moral life to mark Manx history, no advance in agriculture and commerce. On the question of agriculture, the land had been falling out of cultivation ever since the usurpation of the ownership by the Earl of Derby in 1643. As to insular revenue, it was trifling. As to freedom, there was no political enfranchisement. The Act of Settlement itself, for a time, bore but little fruit beyond public contentment with the restitution. In the Revestment of the Island in the British Crown, in 1765, there was much provisional power of progress The two acts were the chief points around which a true policy might be successful; but the civilisation thus far was only humble in its order, both as to the people and as to their outward condition. Of Christian civilisation at the time little can be said. The distinctive doctrine of the English and European Reformation was in abeyance; socially, there was the blight of smuggling on a scale which visibly injured the Imperial Exchequer: the dishonest resources of English bankrupts, sheltered from their creditors by Manx law, brought a temporary but demoralising prosperity until the repeal of the law in 1814. Throughout the Island mobs were ready to assail serious people on their way to worship. There was no adequate guarantee against social violence. It was thus towards the end of last century.
T he seeds of a better condition had been sown in the religious
revival of the last quarter of that century, amid the ministrations
of Protestant truths and a great moral improvement among multitudes
of whom many were gathered into Christian fellowship. In this great
movement lay the promise of the future in social elevation.
The great opportunity for commercial development has been the rank of the Island as a chief watering-place in the United Kingdom, with the disadvantages and the advantages of the sea around it for storm as well as calm. From this comes the material progress of this century, hence the noble fleet of steamships belonging to the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, the steamer between Peel and Ireland (the whole yielding a passenger tax yearly of £2,695; arrivals and departures, 581,294), the piers and promenades, the hotels and lodging-houses, the market for the farm produce in garden and farmyard, the increased value of land, the new impulse given to water and gas companies, the opening for new and prosperous banks, and much more that adds to the enterprise of business life . Its special feature and success will be found in this supreme characteristic. The social state was thus created from which the political and municipal franchise could no longer be withheld. The Island could not be a place for great manufactures or great commerce; its mine of wealth is the modern passion for a yearly visit to the seaside, with its rest and recreation.
It is obvious that the conditions of successful competition with other great watering-places must be observed. In all such places moral respectability and good public order are essential; of such conditions the authorities of the Island are carefully observant, and Manx public opinion will not fail to sustain them in action. The "rowdy " element is fatal to the highest order of prosperity in such spheres. The respectable middle class, with their young people, are repelled by any approach to public disorder on week nights, and yet more on the Sabbath, by the open oyster and tobacco shops, by boating on the sea and such practices, and by the so-called sacred concert. The people of these tastes are not the class to be a source of wealth in the " season." It would not be commercial wisdom to adapt public arrangements to these, rather than to a standard which will do justice to all, whatever their individual preferences. The great watering places show a sagacious vigilance on these lines. From the first, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has been an example in refusing to sail its steamers on the Sabbath. The principles of good moral order are worth money in these public interests, to say nothing of what is higher: attractions to the best customers are increased.
The local improvements increase this successful competition. In this view, much has been done, and the same enterprise continues. Provision is in course for easy access to the beauties of Manx scenery not so near at hand. The electric tram gives ready access to the grand scenes and summit of Snaefell, while it has also opened out the beauties of Groudle and other recesses. The marine drive does similar service round Douglas Head. There are similar improvements elsewhere. Were it possible to attract, as in some places, visitors to spend their winter in the Island, a great addition would be made to Manx prosperity. One thing helpful to insular advantage is much needed, namely, a Nonconformist College with its provision of the higher education of Manx youth and others who are of non-established churches, just as King William's College meets the wants of the Established Church. Such a provision would possibly draw many to reside in Man.
In the spirited local improvements projected, there maybe some fear of too high a charge for rates, and such increase would of course, by increasing the cost of living , be a disadvantage, especially if the result were to make Manx residences as costly as English. The principle includes much more, and successful competition will require all care in giving it practical effect. To such considerations, the people of the Island will not be insensible, from common business prudence, while reputation for kindness of manner and firmness in dealing stands deservedly high.
This review of the whole subject of the preceding chapters would be incomplete, if the religious history of the Island within the last century were not duly combined with the other parts of the subject. The commercial considerations named have their place, but what gives to the Island its special and distinctive social character arises from the prevalence of religious and moral principles among the population.