[from History of IoM, 1900]




§ 4. Revenue and Expenditure.


By the Act of 1767 1 any surplus revenue, remaining after the payment of the expenses of Government and of the encouraging, improving, and regulating the trade, manufactures, and fisheries of the island, was reserved for the disposition of Parliament. This surplus was, however, ordered to be paid into the exchequer " distinctly and apart from all other branches of the public revenue," 1 and there was, therefore, a reasonable assumption that it was reserved for insular purposes. We shall see, however, that the Imperial Government did not view the matter in that light, but, since there was no surplus before 1796, no question arose till after that date. Before that year, indeed, the revenue, which at one time almost disappeared, 2 was actually less than the expenditure, though this was very small, scarcely anything being spent on the insular harbours and public buildings, which, in consequence, rapidly fell into a state of decay.

Reasons for its small amount.

Smuggling was the main cause of this, but it was also due to gross malversation and corruption, as well as inefficient management, on the part of the insular customs officials. Such being the case, the commissioners, who were appointed in 1791, received instructions to investigate all questions 3 connected with the revenue.

Report of the Commissioners in 1791.

They expressed themselves as being thoroughly dissatisfied with "the system of managing the customs," 4 remarking that it was, " in many of the fundamental and most essential parts and requisites, ill digested, incomplete, and unfit," 4 that most of the officers 5 were ignorant of their duties, lax, and disorderly, and that " nothing short of a radical change " could " reach the evil, and communicate order, regularity, and energy." 6 They further expressed their opinion that the best method of producing this change was "to place the revenue under the management of the Commissioners of the customs for England or Scotland." 6 And there can be no doubt that they were correct in their conclusions, since the reform of the customs establishment on the lines indicated by them, together with the passage of Acts reforming and altering the customs duties, eventuated in producing a large and steadily increasing revenue.

Results of the reforms recommended by them.

The first year in which revenue exceeded expenditure was 1796, and, between that date and 1805, the surplus revenue, after paying all expenses, amounted to £23,000. From this period the gross revenue rapidly increased, but, owing to the expenditure on the island not expanding in an equal ratio, the net revenue increased still more rapidly.7 Can it be wondered at, then, that the Manx people, whose harbours were neglected, and whose public buildings were falling into decay owing to the penurious policy of the Government, were profoundly dissatisfied, and that they protested that the surpluses justly belonged to them ? We have already referred, in Chapter I. of this Book, to their first effort, in 1781, to obtain these surpluses.

The accumulated surplus fund question.

Their next was in 1802, when the attorney and solicitor-general, to whom their petition had been referred, stated in Parliament that the only object in imposing new duties on the island was the protection of British trade, and not the acquisition of revenue ; and the third was in 1805, 8 when the declaration of John Christian Curwen in the House of Commons that the surplus revenue had been set apart for the use of the Manx people was not contradicted. In the latter year a committee of the House of Commons was appointed to enquire into the question. By its report, which was in similar terms to that of the Law Officers of the Crown in 1802, the reasonableness of the protests of the Manx people was amply confirmed. The committee stated that the amount of the surplus to the credit of the Isle of Man was then over £23,000 ; also that, in addition to this, a material portion of revenue, which must fairly be considered as arising from the Isle of Man, was carried to the account of the British revenue, and so did not appear in the account of the produce of the duties of the island ;9 but, while recommending, as we have seen, that the duke’s claim should be granted, they did not refer to the claim of the Manx people to the surplus, and the Bill, which carried their recommendation as regards the duke into effect, provided that the Manx surplus revenue should be paid into and form part of the Consolidated Fund, instead of into a separate and distinct fund as before. 10 In consequence of this the English Government maintained that the absorption of the Manx surplus in the Consolidated Fund gave them the right to the absolute disposal of it, so that the Manx people were actually placed in a worse position than in 1767. Year after year the surplus exceeded the amount payable to the duke, and the excess went to swell the revenues of the United Kingdom. No steps towards putting a stop to this were taken till 1837, when, in consequence of a report that the Government intended to raise the customs duties, the agitation was renewed. A deputation 11 was sent to London to interview Lord John Russell about the proposed changes, but, owing to the death of King William IV., they were unable to see him. They therefore wrote to him and informed him that the Isle of Man claimed to be treated in accordance with the principle recognized by the Act of 1778, 12 by which the revenues of the North American Colonies were declared to be at the disposal of the colonists. They urged that their case was far stronger than that of the colonists, because the Isle of Man, as being an ancient and independent kingdom, stood on a higher footing ; 13 that by the Manx Constitution no tax, duty or custom, could be imposed upon them without the consent of the Tynwald Court; that the duties and customs imposed by the Imperial Parliament on the island were in the nature of penalties for the protection of the revenue of the United Kingdom, and that they should not be increased beyond the amount necessary for doing this.14 They then presented him with a statement showing that, even after deducting the sums paid to the Dukes of Atholl for the insular customs, there still remained a surplus to the credit of the island. 15

The answer of the English Government.

We are not informed what Lord John Russell said in reply to these contentions, but it is probable that his answer was much the same as the following, which was received when the question again arose in 1844 : " The revenues of the Isle of Man belong to the public, on whose behalf they were purchased of the Duke of Atholl, and, after the current expenditure of the Island is defrayed, under sanction of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury, the surplus is available for the general purposes of the country." 16 Notwithstanding this, there is no doubt that the action of the Government with regard to the harbour dues 17 was equivalent to a declaration that it did not intend to press its claim for any additional surplus from the island, and that such additional surplus, if any, should be spent there. After 1844, no further question was raised till 1853, when the Keys, on a letter from the secretary of the Treasury to the governor, with a proposal to increase the customs duties, being laid before them, stated that " all observations they make upon the subject of the revenue derived from the Isle of Man are so made under a conviction that the Legislature of this island have a clear and undoubted right to the use and application of the surplus of such revenue beyond the amount paid for the Government of the Isle of Man." 18 They passed certain resolutions, among which was one that " the whole of the surplus revenue arising from the customs duties " should be " annually paid over to a separate account, and applied by the Tynwald Court for public improvements in the Isle of Man," 19 and they appointed delegates 20 to go to London to fully represent their views to the Government. These delegates made the following proposals, as a condition of the assent of the Keys to the increased tariff : That the island should be required to contribute a sum of £20,000 annually to the Imperial revenue, out of which the Treasury should pay all the expenses of the insular Government, including the £2,300 in lieu of harbour dues, and that all the surplus above that amount should be dealt with as directed by the governor and Tynwald. The Treasury replied that it was " expressly enacted that all the surplus revenue should be paid into the public exchequer," but that, since " their object in the arrangement connected with an increase in the duties " was " not to increase the revenue derived from the Isle of Man," they would " be prepared to add to the sum of £2,300 . . . such further sum as, upon computation, it shall appear as likely to be received under the changes of tariff now proposed."21

This sum, which was estimated at one-ninth of the revenue, 22 was to be handed to the Harbour Commissioners, but the decision as to what public works it was to be applied to was to be entrusted to the governor and Legislature, instead of to the Harbour Commissioners, 23 who were not then responsible to the Tynwald Court, on the understanding that it was to be expended on harbours preferentially and subject to the approval of the Treasury.24 At the same time " it was conceded in principle . . . that the Government would not impose new taxes, or increase existing ones, without the consent of the people of the island," and it was stated that there was " no intention to interfere with the peculiar privileges of the Isle of Man."25 Although the question of accumulated surplus, as well as of the whole surplus of each year, was reserved, there is no doubt that the position of the Manx people was greatly improved by the new arrangement. In the following year, however, they were forcibly reminded that their control over their revenue was still strictly limited by a curt communication from the Treasury to the effect that they were " unable to recognize the proportion of the public revenue derived from the Isle of Man in any other light than that in which they regard the revenue from any locality of the United Kingdom." 26 This communication was in reply to a protest, both from the Tynwald Court and the inhabitants of the island, against the passage of an Act 27 which ordained that the gross customs revenue of the island should be paid into the Exchequer before, instead of after, the deduction of expenses attending the government of the Isle of Man and the maintenance of its harbours and other public works were paid." This was contrary to all previous legislation.

Result of the concessions of 1853.

But the change was more apparent than real, and the solid gain resulting from the concessions of 1853 was shown by the sudden rise in the expenditure from an average of £9,884 annually, in the decade 1836-45, to £14,168, in 1846-55, and to £16,580, in the 11 years 1856-66, and by a check in the expansion of the average annual surplus, it being £13,612, in the first period, £12,651, in the second, and £13,167, in the third.

Negotiations resumed in 1865.

Nevertheless, the Manx people were not yet satisfied with their treatment, and the negotiations were therefore resumed in March, 1865, when Governor Loch, after consultation with the Council, wrote to the Treasury submitting certain proposals for changes in the tariff, " rendered desirable from circumstances which have arisen necessitating a larger expenditure on public works in the Island than the ninth of the revenue can supply."28 These proposals were, for the most part, accepted by the Treasury, but they stated that the Government had lost by the arrangement made in 1853,29 and declared that the basis of any new arrangement must be that " the effect upon the revenue should be at the risk of the Island, . . . and that, instead of a proportionate amount of the gross receipt being paid to the former, the sum going to the Exchequer should be fixed by law "30 If the island was willing to undertake this risk, the Government would agree to the Tynwald Court having the control of the surplus revenue, subject to certain conditions and charges. The most important question which arose was the amount to go to the Exchequer annually. This, after a much larger sum had been asked, was ultimately fixed at £10,000 a year or 4½ per cent. on the sum (£220,000) 31 alleged to have been paid to the Duke of Atholl for the customs, which the Government considered " a very moderate return to ask from the Island," seeing that its " military and naval defence is entirely at the expense of the United Kingdom,"32 and its inhabitants enjoy the privileges of British citizenship without its burdens." 32

Conditions on which Tynwald gained control of surplus revenues.

These preliminaries having been settled, it was decided that the Tynwald Court should have the control of the surplus revenue, subject to the supervision of the Treasury and the veto of the governor, after the payment of the following charges : (1) The cost of government, including customs pensions ; (2) the charges for the civil government, including the harbour fund of £2,300 ; (3) the expenses incurred by the Imperial Government for the island, and paid from votes of Parliament (but not including military charges except for the coastguard) ; 33 (4) one-ninth of the gross customs duties to be set aside for harbour and other public works, subject to the control of Tynwald ; (5) two-ninths of the gross customs duties to be mortgaged by the Harbour Commissioners 34 for harbour improvements ; 35 (6) a fixed contribution of £10,000 to the Imperial Exchequer ; 36 and (7), after payment of the fore-going, the surplus for general public purposes in the island. Thus did the insular Legislature obtain a substantial share in the control over the revenue, and the expansion of Manx enterprise was no longer prevented by the impossibility of adequately carrying out much-needed public improvements. But the Manx people, as we point out elsewhere, 37 gained much less than they expected, and, in after years, when it dawned upon them that the question of the accumulated surplus had not been raised during the negotiations, a fact which, curiously enough, seems to have been lost sight of by them at the time, a feeling of irritation arose which time has not yet removed. Few dispute the fairness of paying the annual sum of £10,000 to the Government for naval and military protection, and, if it had demanded this sum on these grounds before, as well as after, 1866, and, in this way, much more than absorbed the surplus revenue, it is probable that very little objection would have been made. But the irritation referred to arose rather from the fact of the claim for the £10,000 being treated by the Government as interest on the capital sum paid to the Duke of Atholl, which (if regarded as a liability on the island at all) might, it was thought, be well deemed to be extinguished by the annual surpluses received up to 1866, which amounted to a much larger sum. We are not, unfortunately, in a position to state what the exact total amount of this accumulated surplus is, because (except between 1766 and 1805 38 and some of the years from 1846 to 1866) we have not been able to obtain access to the original accounts—indeed we are informed that most of these accounts have disappeared. We have had, therefore, to content ourselves with the summaries of revenue and expenditure, purporting to have been copied from the original statements, which have been published in Manx newspapers from time to time. There is, however, no reasonable doubt that the surplus due by the Imperial Government to the Isle of Man in 1866, after payment of all the claims of the Atholl family, was a very large one. It would seem, however, that the governor and Tynwald Court committee engaged in the negotiations were so impresséd with the belief that the Government’s proposals were very advantageous, that they did not venture to raise the accumulated surplus question for fear of their being withdrawn. In 1891, however, a committee of the Keys endeavoured to get some information from the Treasury with regard to it, but they only succeeded in eliciting the unsatisfactory reply that " My Lords " were not " able to ascertain whether any net revenue between 1805 and 1825 can be specifically attributed to the Act of 1767, but as the annuity to the Lord was commuted for £150,000 it evidently exceeded in value the whole net revenue." 39

Post Office

We should not omit to notice that during this period the revenue for the first time received some addition by the establishment of an insular Post Office in 1767.40 It would appear that letters had previously been conveyed to and from the island by private enterprize, but, in and after that year, the Government chartered a packet 41 for the conveyance of the mails between Douglas and Whitehaven, which sailed once weekly. In 1822, the mail service was transferred from Whitehaven to Liverpool, but, though there had been steamers running to the island since 1819, the letters continued to be taken by sailing vessels till 1825, when they were entrusted to a Liverpool line of steamers, calling at Douglas on their way to and from the Clyde. The mail was still, in accordance with the contract, once a week only, though in the summer letters were actually taken more frequently. In 1833, a contract was made by the Postmaster-General with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company for the conveyance of the mail twice weekly between Douglas and Liverpool and vice versá.42 In 1839, the rate of postage to and from the island was made uniform with that throughout the United Kingdom, and, in 1840, this rate was fixed at a minimum of a penny, and a money order department was established. Till 1842, people had to call at the office in each town for their letters, but, after that date, letters were taken round the towns only by postmen. 43 In 1851, the postage on letters from the island amounted to £3,595 annually, and the expenditure was £1,495, including the mail contract ; and yet, in 1853, the Lords Commissioner of the Admiralty, who, in 1837, 44 had taken over the administration of the insular post, would only renew the contract on the same terms as in 1833, and they declined to accede to a memorial from the island praying for at least three mails a week.


In discussing the revenue we have already mcidentally referred to expenditure, a summary of which has been given in Appendix C. Of the items of which the total amounts stated were composed very little information is obtainable. We know that between 1805 and 1826, £3,000 annually was paid to the Duke of Atholl, that £24,000 was spent on the Red Pier, £10,000 on fortifications, £2,000 (in 1841) on the Tithe Valuation, £1,050 (in 1845) on public works, and £4,350 on public buildings, including Douglas Court House (between 1847 and 1850) ; also that, after 1844, £2,300 was set aside for harbours, and that, after 1853, one-ninth of the gross customs revenue, fixed at £3,141 annually, was applied in the same way. The chief regular items were (1) Civil List, which was £1,474 in 1790, it having averaged about £1,300 between 1771 and that year ; in 1799, it was £2,114; in 1803, £2,204 ; in 1830, £4,705 ; in 1843, £4,757; and,between 1847 and 1853,on an average, £6,400.45

(2) Cost of collection, which was £1,803 in 1790, £2,700 in 1792, £1,910 in 1830, £2,988 in 1843, and, on an average, between 1847 and 1853, £3,300.46

( 3) The salaries to the Revenue officers, which averaged about £800 between 1767 and 1791, being £919 in the latter year. They were £961 in 1800, and £1,246 in 1802, about £4,100 in 1826, and about £5,500 in 1866.


By the Mischief Act of 1765, 47 the British Parliament obtained the control of the insular customs establishment. It then became necessary to make further provision for the expenses of its government, and so Parliament, in 1767, assumed, for the first time, 48 the power to impose taxes on the Manx people, by enacting new customs’ duties, and by, at the same time, repealing the duties levied by the Tynwald Court. 49

Effect of the Act of 1767

By the Act of 1767, the Commissioners of Customs were empowered to grant licences for the importation of a limited quantity of British spirits (including rum 50 from the British plantations), tea, coffee, &c., at low duties, while the importation of foreign spirits was prohibited. 51

Changes made by subsequent Acts.

In 1780, some slight changes 52 were made in the duties ; and, in 1798, 52 further changes were made, the importation of foreign spirits being allowed and that of British spirits prohibited. In 1805, the duties granted under previous Acts were consolidated, and they were ordered to be raised under the authority and direction of the Commissioners of Customs in England. Customs Acts were also passed in 1810, 1811, 1821, 1825, and 1833. That of 1821 increased the duties on spirits and tobacco, and that of 1833 increased the duty on wine and took off the duty on coal. Till 1837, the Manx people bore these various changes almost without protest, though there was a growing sense of the injustice of depriving them, not only of any control over the revenue 53 arising from the duties, but of any share in fixing what these duties were to be. The chief specific grievances were caused by a proposal to impose a duty on the import of British, as well as foreign timber, 54 by the ad valorem duties, and by the continuance of the licence system. Nothing was, however, done at this time, probably owing to the change of Ministry, either to increase taxation or to redress grievances. It was, therefore, reserved for Dr., afterwards Sir John, Bowring, M.P., who took a warm interest in Manx affairs, to point out, when the question again arose in 1844, the injustice inflicted by the ad valorem duties and the licence system. When it is remembered that the ad valorem duties, which were 15 per cent. on some articles 55 and 5 and 2½ per cent. on others, 56 were charged over and above the duties that had been already paid on them, if they came, as they generally did, from or through the United Kingdom, it will be seen how unfair they were to the Manx people ; the 15 per cent. duties, in particular, bearing heavily on the fishing and agricultural interests.

Reforms in 1844.

It was largely due to Dr. Bowring’s able arguments in the House of Commons, in 1844, that the 5 per cent. and 2½ per cent. duties were done awaywith and the 15 per cent. duties suspended,57 while the greater part of the licence system was got rid of. Large reforms were at this time being made by Sir Robert Peel in reducing the duties on articles of necessary consumption, by which the Isle of Man benefited. Thus, in addition to the reductions already referred to, the duty on iron was abolished,58 also that on coffee, but, unfortunately, that on tea was increased from 6d. to 1s. per lb. and those on spirits were reduced.

And in 1853.

In 1853, the question of re-adjustment of Manx duties was again brought forward by the Treasury. The main provisions of the Bill 59 embodying its views were that the Isle of Man was to be included in a general Consolidation Bill 60 for regulating the customs duties of the United Kingdom, that the licence system and the 15 per cent. duties were to be abolished, and that the duties on spirits were to be increased, though still remaining considerably less than in England. Other changes were the reduction of the duty on sugar, and the repeal of the duty on timber. Objections were made by the insular Legislature to the effect that the island should have been placed in a distinct Act and that the rates of the duties were greater than was necessary to prevent smuggling. The Treasury replied that its object in placing Man in a general Act was merely one of convenience, that it had no intention of interfering with the peculiar privileges of the Manx, and that, as to the rates of duties, it had been guided by the customs authorities and the governor. It pointed out that the only articles on which the duties had been increased were foreign spirits, manufactured tobacco, cigars, and rum, while there were, on the other hand, several reductions together with numerous advantages gained by the Manx traders,61 and it declared that its only motive for proposing any changes was to release the trade of the island from the restrictions imposed by the licence system. The Manx delegates 62 were, however, not satisfied with these proposals, and they succeeded in obtaining some slight reductions of the duties.

Practically ensured the freedom of Manx trade.

The new Act 63 was a great step in advance, because it practically ensured the freedom of Manx trade, the only restrictions under it being that the quantity of spirits allowed to be exported from the island was limited, and that power was retained by the Treasury to limit the importation of foreign goods. The chief changes, as regards customs duties, made by it were the increase of duties on spirits, the legalization of the importation of whisky, 64 which had been prohibited since 1798, and the abolition of the duty on timber. As regards the changes in duties in 1866, a reference to the tariff will show the considerable advance of those on spirits and tobacco. 65

Description of the system of taxation and its results.

Such was the system of taxation imposed on the Isle of Man by the British Government. Up till 1844, it may be succinctly described as an ingenious means of injuring the Manx consumer, by establishing monopolies and of worrying the Manx trader by enforcing a number of absurd and complicated regulations. But its worst feature was that, by the comparatively small duties it placed upon spirits imported into the island, as compared with those imported into England, it not only encouraged smuggling to the adjacent coasts, but promoted drunkenness. Most of the evils and discontents which beset the island between 1765 and 1844 are traceable to these two causes. If a larger revenue had been raised from intoxicating liquors, and if that revenue had been expended on the island, reserving a reasonable sum, as after 1866, in payment for Imperial protection, the condition of Manxland would have been very different from what it actually was.66

After 1844, however, the Government began to see the error of its ways. The duties on spirits were gradually increased, and the duties on articles of beneficial and universal consumption, such as tea, especially after 1853, were reduced, with the result to which we have already referred.

Local taxation.

As regards local taxation, apart from a fee of ninepence payable for a pass which, till 1853, every one had to get before leaving the island,67 there continued, till 1860, to be no direct money imposts, except the small sums from public-house licences and dog licences 68 which were applied to the main-tenance of the highways, 69 and so, as of course many did not require these licences, a large part of the population was entirely exempt from direct taxation. 70 But, in that year, the Lunatic Asylum Act 71 provided for the valuation of real estate and for levying a rate upon it, on the basis of this valuation, and, in lieu of highway labour, a rate of three shillings was imposed on every house in Douglas ; 72 the other towns contributing in the same way as the country.


One of the most serious blows to the independence of the insular Legislature and to the prosperity of the island resulting from the Revestment was the loss of all local control over the harbours, which were then placed in charge of the English Treasury, as represented by its officer, the receiver-general, and a body 73 composed, either directly or indirectly, of the nominees of the Crown, and there-fore, not responsible to the Tynwald Court. In 1771, some slight effort was made to supply the want of local knowledge by introducing four " creditable merchants," 74 one representing each of the principal ports, as members of the new Harbour Board, but, since they only formed a minority of it, they were not able to exercise much influence.

Their maladministration and its result.

The consequence of this administration of the harbours by officials who had no interest in the welfare of the island was, as we learn from the evidence given before the commissioners in 1791, that they had gradually fallen into decay. 75 The commissioners urged that the making of harbours " capable of offering space and convenience to carry on the operations of trade . . . and of yielding shelter and refuge to vessels navigating the perilous and narrow seas which surround the Isle of Man . . . must be deemed objects worthy of the utmost public regard." 76 They also urged the necessity of lighthouses, of which there were none, there being only harbour lights. One result of this report was an effort on the part of the British Government to fulfil a portion of its obligations by causing £24,000 to be voted by Parliament in 1793,77 which was entirely expended in erecting a pier, now known as the Red Pier, 78 in Douglas.

Condition of Douglas harbour.

The harbour of this town had, indeed, been in a lamentable state. In 1786, eighty-four yards of the end of the old pier were destroyed by an easterly gale, and the pier was still further damaged by the severe gale of the 21st of September, 1787, when part of the herring fleet was lost. This resulted in the harbour being so choked with stones that only vessels not exceeding 250 tons could enter where formerly there was ingress for vessels of 500 tons. 79 The erection of the new pier was a great improvement, but, unfortunately, between 1808 and 1829 much valuable harbour space came into the possession of private individuals owing to the greed or carelessness of those in authority, and was thus lost to the public.

In 1808, this fate befell the beach between the Red Pier and the Pollock rocks, where the herring boats used to lie; 80 and, about 1820, the " lake," which at that time afforded a valuable shelter for small craft, was enclosed and filled up. 81

The other harbours.

All that was done for the harbours of the other ports was the building, about 1796, of a wall between Peel Island and the mainland, which gave the harbour some protection, and, in 1810, the repairing and lengthening of the pier, which had been carried away in 1809. 82 A pier and a lighthouse were built at Port St. Mary in 1815 ; and, in 1816, lighthouses were constructed by the Commissioners of Northern Lights at the Point of Ayre and the Calf of Man. 83 Between 1830 and 1860, many ambitious schemes for the improvement of the insular harbours, especially that of Douglas, 84 were propounded, but very little was done to carry them out, because the means available for such a purpose were quite insufficient.

Some good work was, however, done by the building of the Tower of Refuge on Conister, in Douglas Bay, in 1832, 85 by the completion of the Douglas Head lighthouse in the same year, and of the south jetty of Douglas harbour in 1838.

Harbour Commissioners obtain borrowing powers

In the latter year, the Harbour Commissioners petitioned the Treasury to grant them a larger sum for the administration of the harbours and to permit them to borrow money for the construction of works. In consequence of this, an Act was passed in 1840 86 which gave them the desired powers. They thus obtained £8,000, which helped them to build a breakwater at Derbyhaven, and part of the North pier at Bamsey, to improve the pier at Peel, and to form a basin at Castletown.

And a fixed income.

In 1844, harbour dues were abolished, 87 and £2,300 was ordered to be paid to the Harbour Commissioners out of the customs revenue in lieu thereof. 88 In 1847, the commissioners complained to the Treasury that this sum was altogether too small for the maintenance of the harbours, and they referred particularly to the exposed condition of Douglas harbour. Captain Washington, R.N., was sent over in consequence of this complaint, and, in 1850, he reported that the constitution of the Harbour Board was altogether unsatisfactory, that the commissioners had no practical knowledge of their work, and that they audited their own accounts, which were very badly kept. He also made a number of valuable suggestions with regard to the improvements required.

Further changes in 1853.

Notwithstanding these strictures, no change was made in the Harbour Board, but, in 1853, one-ninth of the gross customs revenue, estimated at £3,141 annually, was granted 89 for effecting improvements in the harbours and other public works, harbours having the priority. The power to determine what these works were to be was placed in the hands of the Tynwald Court, subject to the approval of the governor, not in that of the Harbour Commissioners, who, however, though not responsible to the court, still retained the power of carrying out all new harbour works as they thought proper, as well as of superintending the maintenance and repair of existing works.89

Reports of James Walker and the Royal Commissioners.

In 1855, James Walker, one of the Admiralty engineers, recommended that a break water should be constructed from the two-gun battery on Douglas Head in a north-easterly direction, for about 200 yards, at a cost of £23,000, and that the Red Pier should be extended for 100 yards in a south-easterly direction. The first of these recommendations was endorsed by the Tynwald Court in 1857, and it also decided on completing the north pier at Ramsey for £7,000, and a breakwater at Peel for £6,000. In 1858, the Royal Commissioners of Harbours visited the island, and reported that it had strong claims to consideration from its central position, its rugged shores, its extensive herring fishery, and the total absence of deep water harbours. They said that, as " Douglas is the place of the greatest trade importance, and as between this port and Liverpool lies the line of communication for passengers and mails," they had " no hesitation in recommending the construction of a refuge harbour in the small bay outside the existing port." 90 They estimated the cost of this at £100,000. They also recommended a pier from the " Horse-rock " at Castletown, at a cost of £15,000, and a pier from the south shore at Port Erin, at a cost of £25,000.

No improvement work begun till 1862

Between 1853 and 1862 very little advance was made in improving the insular harbours, the idea being to let the surplus, of about £3,000 yearly, accumulate till a sufficient amount should be obtained to enable really important works to be carried out. 91 It was decided that there was to be a pier at Ramsey, and breakwaters at Peel and Douglas, plans for which were decided in 1860. The work at Ramsey 92 was merely a continuation of an existing pier, and was not to be extended below low-water mark. The breakwater at Peel 93 was designed to give shelter to the fishing boats in the harbour, and that at Douglas to afford a safe anchorage in deep water at all states of the tide; but, in this last case, the area enclosed was quite inadequate for the shipping which resorted to the port. The Douglas breakwater was commenced in June, 1862, on the plan of Abernethy,94 which was that of a creosoted wooden superstructure upon a sloping foundation of loose rubble.95 Its cost was to be £48,000.

When money was borrowed for that purpose.

To enable these works to be undertaken a loan of £45,000 was obtained from the Public Works Loan Commissioners on the security of one-ninth of the gross customs revenue, which was to " be applied to such improvements only as the Court of Tynwald shall have determined to be undertaken." 96 When Governor Loch arrived in the island in 1863, 97 he found that £8,000 of this loan, as well as the whole accumulated " one-ninth " since 1853 had been spent.

The Port Erin breakwater

His first efforts were directed towards the commencement of the work at Port Erin,98 in favour of which petitions had been sent to the Crown by the Manx fishermen, 99 Liverpool shipowners, and others.100 As a preliminary step he obtained the introduction of a Bill into the House of Commons, which became law under the title of "Isle of Man Harbours Act." 101 By this the taking of harbour dues at Port Erin was authorized, and power was given to the insular Harbour Commissioners, with the approval of the Board of Trade, to borrow on the security of these dues, supplemented to the extent of £1,600 a year by the surplus customs revenue of the island 102 A sum of £58,200 was thus obtained,103 and the work was begun in October, 1864.

Destruction of the Douglas breakwater

In January and February, 1865, the breakwater in Douglas Bay, popularly called "Abernethy’s bird-cage," about 500 feet of which had been completed, was destroyed by storms, it having been injured by the same cause in the previous year. The position as regards harbours then became a very unfortunate one, for more than two-thirds of the resources at the disposal of the Tynwald Court had been pledged, and most of the money thus obtained had been spent, with but little result to show for it.


The highways, fortunately, remained under local control, their management, in fact, being the only question 104 which the Tynwald Court, in its administrative capacity had to deal with. In 1765, a committee of the court 105 was appointed to consider the whole question of their maintenance and improvement . One of their first steps was to appoint as "supervisor-general," a Scotsman, James Hamilton,106 who had, some two years before, been brought to the island by the Duke of Atholl, in order to make roads, 107 and they ordered that the highways should " be widened where requisite to eighteen feet in breadth in every part and place." 107

The Act of 1776.

But it was soon found that the means at the disposal of the court were quite insufficient to carry out these alterations, and so, in 1776, an Act of Tynwald was passed by which the whole of the sum 108 imposed on public-houses, and not merely a part as heretofore, was to be expended on the highways, and the taxes laid on dogs for the same purpose in 1763 were increased.108 It was also ordained that the proprietors of quarter-lands were to send four men each, the proprietors of lesser holdings in proportion, and the occupiers of houses one man each, to repair the highways when required.109 The new highways were to be eight yards broad from ditch to ditch, and a committee of five persons was appointed by the Tynwald Court to administer the Act. 110

State of the roads early in 19th century.

The amount of money thus obtained was, even with the labour exacted, insufficient to keep the roads in proper repair, their state being described, at the beginning of the nineteeth century, as " in general but indifferent," 111 though it was admitted that this was mainly due to neglect on the part of the parochial surveyors ; and, according to another contemporary authority, it was a great improvement on that of forty years earlier, when " they were dangerous for horsemen in winter, and for carriages even in summer." 112

It should be observed that at this time, owing to the change in the value of money, it had become a very general practice to escape the obligation of supplying labour by the payment of the penalties imposed by the Act of 1776 for neglect.

It was, therefore, necessary both to increase the funds at the disposal of the Highway Committee, and to impose heavier fines on those who did not perform their highway labour.

Highroad funds increased after 1813.

But only the first need was attended to by the Act of 1813, which largely increased the duties levied both on public-houses and on dogs.113 In 1817 a further Act was passed, whereby a duty of £20 on bankers’ licences 114 was made payable to the highway fund ; as were, in 1826, sums of £25 from each advocate admitted to the Bar ; 115 and, in 1827, duties of £5 116 on brewers’ licences. In 1819, the fines for non-performance of highway labour were made heavier, the amounts payable for public-house licences and dogs were again increased, 117 while a licence was imposed on pedlars. About £1,000 per annum was thus obtained, and seeing that the condition of the main roads between the four towns was much improved, though that of the other roads left much to be desired,118 it seems to have been judiciously expended.

In 1830, an effort was made for the better main-tenance of the highways by imposing some additional taxation ; and since the mode of punishment for non-performance of highway labour provided by the Act of 1776 had not been found effective, it was ordained that any one not doing his prescribed amount of labour was to be fined,119 and that such fines were not to exempt from the obligation to perform the labour. The Highway Committee were given powers to borrow and to take contracts for highway work, subject to the control of the Tynwald Court. In 1843, the income of the highways from taxes was £2,074, and from labour £1,980.120 In 1860, the inhabitants of Douglas were exempted from per-forming highway labour, but in lieu thereof they were taxed in money as already stated.121


1 7 Geo. III. C. 45.

2 In 1766, it was £704 ; in 1767, £574 ; and, in 1768, which was the lowest, £530, see Appendix C.

3 For allegations of the duke, see pp. 534-5.

4 Commissioners’ Report, p. 33.

5 They condemned the office of receiver-general, which had become one of revenue purely, because it was a mere sinecure (he acting by deputy), and because it " intercepts and delays the passage into the Exchequer of whatever sums may be remitted from the Island on account of Revenue." (Ibid., p. 34.) This officer was responsible to the English Government only.

6 Commissioners’ Report, p. 35.

7 Appendix C.

8 Their immediate object in this and the other petitions was to prevent the duke from getting further compensation.

9 Report of Keys committee in 1891.

10 An amendment, which was accepted by the Government and passed, to the effect that, if at any time the surplus, after the herring bounties were paid, should be insufficient to pay the amount due to the duke, the balance should be made good out of the Consolidated Fund, instead of remaining a charge on the insular revenue, never came into operation, since the balances were always more than sufficient for the purpose.

11 John Moore and Philip Garrett (members of the House of Keys), Thomas A. Corlett (vicar-general), John James Moore, and J. C. Bluett.

12 18 Geo. III. c. 12.

13 In 1853 the Keys stated that the island had " all the essence of an independent state " (Parl. Papers, p. 47).

14 These arguments were repeated in 1853 and 1866.

15 We have not been able to obtain a copy of the original ~ statement, the following being merely an estimate :—

Surplus revenue, 1796-1835 £383,349
To the Atholls, in 1765, for customs £24,000
Annuity to Duchess, 1765-1804 69,600
,, Duke, 1805-1825 60,000
Paid to Duke in 1826 (for annuity under the Act of 1805) 150,000
Deficit to 1796 31,000
Red Pier and fortifications 34,000

Surplus.. .£14,749

The £100,000 for the patronage of the bishopric and fourteen advowsons was not included, since the Government could not expect to get paid for this, nor was the £167,144 for the rents, demesne lands, mines, &c., because it derived an income from them. This income has been nearly £8,000 per annum between 1830 and 1899, which gives about 4~ per cent. on the capital. Full particulars as to the items of this income are given in Appendix D.

16 Manx Sun.

17 See p. 628.

18 Parl. Papers (1853), p. 13.

19 Ibid., p. 14.

20 Messrs. Callister and Dumbell. Governor Hope and the Council co-operated with the Keys in the effort to secure a favourable settlement.

21 Parl. Papers (1866), p. 2. These papers give a summary of the much more lengthy " Papers " of 1853.

22 This was fixed at £3,141 annually.

23 See Parl. Papers (1853), p. 63. But, when this decision had been come to, the commissioners had the spending of the money as before.

24 By 16 and 17 Vic. c. 107.

25 Parl. Papers (1866), p. 2.

26 Parl. Papers (1864), p. 13. The protests referred to, as well as one in 1856, asking, but in vain, that all the customs dues collected in the island might be devoted to local purposes will be found in these papers.

27 18 and 19 Vic, c. 94.

28 Manx Blue Book.

29 They can only have had the amounts of the gross receipts up to 1860 before them. Up to that year their payment to the island of £3,141 annually averaged somewhat more than the one-ninth, but for the whole period 1853-1866 it appears to have averaged somewhat less.

30 Parl. Papers (1866), p. 19.

31 We have already seen (p. 606) that this is not the correct amount.

32 Parl. Papers (1866), p. 19.

33 At that time there were certain expenses connected with the island paid in London, but this is not the case now, since it now discharges all its liabilities direct.

34 These conditions were laid down in the " Isle of Man Customs, Harbours, and Public Purposes Act, 1866 " (29 Vic. c. 23). The borrowing powers were entrusted to the commissioners, but the determination of the works upon which the money was to be expended was left to Tynwald, as it had been since 1853.

35 By Treasury Minute of the 5th of July, 1866, which explained the various conditions laid down by the Act, it was ordered that the interest obtained on that security was to have priority to the payment of £10,000.

36 Subject also to a charge for Port Erin harbour which has since then been disposed of.

37 Book VI. ch. i. § 2, where we deal with the effect of these changes on the Constitution.

38 For period 1766 to 1791 see Commissioners’ Report, Appendix (B) No 9. We have also the statement made in the House of Commons in 1805 that the surplus for the period 1796-1805 was above £23,000.

39 That this statement is incorrect will be shown by reference to Appendix C, where full particulars of revenue and expenditure between 1766 and 1866 are given.

40 The only account there is of this, till 1851, is for the decade 1782-91, when the receipts were £347 and the expenditure £179. These receipts were increased by the Act of 1805, by which additional rates were imposed on letters to and from the island.

41 By Act 7 Geo. III. cap. 50. A single letter paid 2d., a double 4d., and treble 5d. from Whitehaven to Douglas, or vice versa. The inland postages were to be at the same rate in the Isle of Man as in England. By the 1st of Victoria, c. 34, the rates within the island were, not exceeding fifteen miles 4d. per oz. ; exceeding fifteen and not exceeding twenty, 5d.; exceeding twenty and not exceeding thirty, 6d.

42 The Company was paid £850 per annum for this.

43 In 1845, there were only two letter-carriers in Douglas. The post office was then in Thomas Street.

44 This was restored to the Post Office in 1860.

45 No further statistics either of Civil List or of cost of collection are procurable till after 1866.

46 See Appendix E for Salaries.

47 It may be mentioned that in this year the Commissioners of the Customs in the island presented a memorial to the Treasury, praying for annexation to Cumberland. This memorial was shown to George Moore, Speaker of the House of Keys, then in London, who represented that "the British duties on coals and salt, with taxes and excises on the interior commodities were burthens quite disproportionate to the abilities of the people." His representations were successful in preventing the proposed change, and so he congratulated himself on having "contributed to avert the total ruin of the Isle " (MS. letter to Bishop Hildesley from George Moore, afterwards Sir George).

48 Except for a small fee exacted from Manx seamen in 1745 for the support of Greenwich Hospital.

49 7 Geo. III. c. 45. " In the previous year," says Sir James Gell, " the Parliament had asserted their right to tax the American colonists against their consent . . . no greater, and probably a lesser, right existed in the Parliament to tax the people of the Isle of Man " (Manx Soc. vol. xii. p. 142).

50 This spirit produced much more revenue than any other item, the duty on it amounting to £3,458 in 1790. Tobacco in the same year gave £2,556, it having risen from £807 in the previous year. The duties on other British spirits averaged about £400 yearly between 1770-2 and 1780-4.

51 This prohibition was a most fertile source of smuggling.

52 Appendix A.

53 We have already seen what the deputation, which then went to London, urged about the revenue

54 This proposal was not renewed.

55 E.g., clover seeds, guano, tanner’s bark, tar and pitch.

56 Every article of foreign food, and on all goods, with very few exceptions, of British manufacture.

57 They were afterwards dropped and not renewed.

58 The duty on English corn was put on a sliding scale of from 1s. to 24s. 8d. per quarter according to price, instead of 10 per cent. In 1846, the scale was altered to from 4s. to 10s., and, in 1849, a fixed duty of 1s. was established.

59 16 and 17 Vic. c. 106.

60 Contrary to the provision in previous Acts that the Manx Revenue should be paid into the Exchequer " distinctly and apart from all other branches of the publick revenue " (5 Geo. III. C. 45).

61 They summarized these as follows :—

1. The abolition of the licence system.

2. The admission of British spirits which were previously prohibited.

3. A reduction on refined sugar from 9s. to 6s. and " a removal of the existing restrictions on the use of British refined duty-paid sugar under drawback."

4. A reduction of the duty on tea from 1s. to 6d.

5. The entire repeal of the duties on timber.

6. Full participation in the advantages of trade possessed by the United Kingdom. Under this last head they explained, that, under existing law, Manx traders were unable to export any foreign goods to United Kingdom, except corn, and that they " will now be able to do so, unless they are subject to a higher duty in the United Kingdom than in the Isle ; that other foreign goods as well as corn and flour can now be warehoused in the Isle." Certain foreign goods can now be imported from any place and not from Great Britain only ; that instead of the most important of the foreign goods being only allowed to be imported in British ships, and to the Port of Douglas only, all restrictions would cease, and, instead of the trade of the island with United Kingdom being on the footing of a coasting trade only in respect to certain articles, it will be admitted to this privilege on all articles. They remarked also that the existing Act of 1845 contained numerous prohibitions and a list of rules peculiar to Isle of Man. These were now swept away, and the same code and regulations as in United Kingdom were extended to Isle of Man. In fact, the insular ports were placed in the same position as the ports of the United Kingdom (see Parl. Papers (1853), pp. 15-22. Treasury Minute of 8th July).

62 Dumbell and Callister (see under Revenue).

63 Or rather Acts, i.e., " The Customs Tariff Act " and " The Customs Consolidation Act," 16 and 17 Vic. c. 100, and c. 107.

64 This resulted in a greatly decreased consumption of brandy and gin, especially the latter, and it was found that, notwithstanding the increased duties, the retail price of spirits was not higher, since the abolition of licences allowed full competition between the dealers.

65 Appendix A.

66 It must be remembered that a similar mistake, as regards spirit duties, though not to such a large extent, was made in England.

67 Feltham (Manx Soc., vol. vi. p. 115). Though we do not hear of this fee before 1798, it was probahly imposed before.

68 Excepting also church cess (see p. 851) and certain fees (see p. 635).

69 See p. 635.

70 The lord’s rent and mining royalties cannot be called taxes. The sums of 2s. per quarterland and 6d. per intack, payable to the Duke of Atholl in lieu of carriage services ceased to be paid soon after the Revestment (Comrs.’ Report, pp. 16-19). The only service of this kind, which was demanded till well on into the present century, was certain days of labour, called " boon" days, from the tenants of the Abbey-lands.

71 Statutes, vol. iii. p. 46. This rate was to rank next in priority after lord’s rent and tithe.

72 Statutes, vol. iii. pp. 97-8.

73 They consisted of the receiver-general and his deputy, the water-bailiff or collector, the comptroller and searcher of the port of Douglas and the deputy water-bailiffs of the ports of Derbyhaven, Peel and Ramsey.

74 They were not paid.

75 The Duke of Atholl stated that Douglas harbour was in a ruinous condition, that the pier built at Peel before 1765 had been entirely carried away, and that Ramsey harbour and pier were in a state of " extreme decay," the mouth of the harbour being choked by a sandbank (Comrs.’ Report, App. (D), No. 31).

76 Comrs.’ Report, p. 91. In accordance with this report a plan was prepared showing one breakwater from Conister and another from Douglas Head which enclosed an area of 80 acres at low water.

77 Previously to this date the only record of expenditure was in 1790 when, of the sum of £415, received from harbour dues, herring customs and bay fisheries, £368 was laid out on harbours (see Comrs.’ Report, p. 26). The total revenue from harbours from 1771-1780 was £3,480, of which herring customs and the bay fishery amounted to £1,451 (Ibid., App. (B) No. 9).

78 A report from the committee on the " Isle of Man Port Petition " (Parl. Papers, 1804) proves this. Train’s statement (vol. ii. p. 364) about the way in which this money was provided is therefore incorrect.

79 Comrs.’ Report, App. (D) No. 17.

80 A. useful shelter was thus lost. It was afterwards occupied by Aitken’s building yard, and then by baths, part of it being known as " Bath Place." A petition against this was sent to Lord Sidmouth as late as 1821, but it had no result.

81 In this case, however, the Duke of Atholl, who had sold it in 1769, was alone to blame.

82 The pier which was washed away in 1809 had only been in existence a short time, it having been constructed since 1793. Its predecessor had been destroyed in 1764.

83 Under Act 55 Geo. III. cap. 67.

84 The first actually made public was one by Sir John Rennie in 1835 (he produced three different plans) ; the second by Captain Denham in the same year, and the third by James Walker in 1838.

85 Entirely through the exertions of Sir William Hilary, oneof the founders of the Royal Lifeboat Institution, who lived in the island. The first lifeboat in the island was presented by the Duke of Atholl in 1803. It was kept in Douglas.

86 3 and 4 Vic. c. 63.

87 By Act 7 and 8 Vic. c. 43.

88 The dues in 1844 amounted to £2,348.

89 By 16 and 17 Vic. c. 107, sec. 355.

90 Imperial Blue Book.

91 An Act (23 & 24 Vic. c. 56) was passed by Parliament in 1860 to enable the Tynwald Court to borrow money for such purposes.

92 To cost £6,000.

93 To cost £10,000.

94 This scheme was practically forced on the Tynwald Court, which desired the solid work designed by James Walker, the estimated cost of which had been increased to £50,000 by the Admiralty, " but the Imperial Government stepped in and left the insular legislature scarcely any option between an indefinite postponement of the work and the acceptance of the plan proposed by Mr. Abernethy . . . and approved by the Admiralty " (Manx Sun).

95 The Ramsey and Peel works were of the same character. After the disaster to the Douglas breakwater, the latter was cased with concrete blocks.

96 Permission was granted by the Act 23 and 24 Vic. c. 56, for this loan, the annual payment for which absorbed about £2,362.

97 He laid the foundation of the Peel breakwater in June of that year.

98 It had been recommended in 1791, and again in 1835 and 1859.

99 The fishermen who, in 1847, had sent a delegate to London to ask the Government to provide harbour accommodation at Port Erin, agreed to pay a toll of £2 annually per boat, and they said in their petition " give us a place of safety at Port Erin, and we can take twice or three times as many herrings in the season."

100 Mr. Milner, of " safe " notoriety, was one of the prime leaders in this movement.

101 26 and 27 Vic. c. 16.

102 By 27 and 28 Vic. c. 62, it was provided that, if the dues were insufficient to pay the interest on the loan, " the amount deficient to an extent not exceeding £1,600 in any one year, shall be charged and paid out of any surplus customs revenue of the island."

103 At 3¼ per cent.

104 Except the Lunatic Asylum at the very end of this period.

105 This was only a temporary committee, the highways, till 1776, being managed as ordained bythe Act of 1713 (see p. 447).

106 He appears to have been very successful in improving the Manx roads which were previously mere bridle tracks, and not designed for wheeled vehicles. The gratitude felt for this was embodied in the following distich engraved on a gold medal which was presented to him :—" Slane booise as imraa dys Hamilton dy braa, son raadjyn mooar jeant trooid yn Ellan veg sheeant." (" Heartiest thanks and remembrance to Hamilton for ever, for high roads made through the little holy Isle.")

107 Lib. Scacc.

108 Statutes, vol. it pp. 297-303.

109 A cart with two horses and a driver was considered as equivalent to four men, and a " wheel-car " with one horse and a driver as equivalent to two men.

110 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 297-303. Between 1776 and 1885 this committee was taken from the Keys only ; after 1835 the Council was also represented upon it.

111 Quayle, p. 131.

112 Wood, p. 39. Jefferys, however (Guide, p. 79) writes, in 1809, " the public roads which are kept in as high a state of order as the finest turnpike road in England." On the other hand, the Manks Advertiser in 1812 declared the roads near Douglas to be " impassable." This evidence, in conjunction with that given above, certainly outweighs that of Jefferys who was merely a visitor, and had probably merely a glimpse at ther oads.

113 Quayle, pp. 134-7.

114 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 866-9.

115 Ibid., p. 394.

116 Ibid., vol. ii. p. 3.

117 Ibid., pp. 10-11.

118 Ibid., vol. i. pp. 404-13.

119 Manks Advertiser.

120 1s. 6d. for each labourer, 4s. for a single cart horse and driver, and 7s. for double ditto. (Statutes, vol. ii. pp. 14 and 22.)

121 The labour was reckoned at 1s. 4d. per man per day.

122 See p. 567.


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