[from History of IoM, 1900]

Chapter I


 § 1. From 1405—1765

IN our first Book we have endeavoured to indicate the changes through which the Manx Constitution passed before the fifteenth century. There was, first, the Celtic system, according to which the king consulted his chiefs and then declared his decisions to the whole assembly of the freemen, whose assent thereto seems to have been merely a matter of form. Then came the freer system of the Norsemen, under which a selected body from among the freemen was also consulted, and no judgment was valid without, not only their consent, but that of the whole body of freemen. And, finally, after 1265, came the degradation of the freemen councillors or Keys, into tenants at will, who were only summoned when the king, or his officers, desired an opinion on points of law. Beyond this they seem to have had but little share in deciding the questions at issue. Such, then, appears to have been the constitutional position when the Stanleys succeeded to what was practically despotic power. They were represented by a governor, with a few officials, for administrative purposes. There was, as yet, no legislation in the modern sense, and no written law.1

Position of the Lords of the Isle.

Let us first consider the position of the Lords of the Isle. 2 They obtained their authority by a grant from King Henry IV., in the seventh year of his reign, to Sir John de Stanley, his heirs and assigns, under which they held the Isle of Man by homage and the service of rendering two falcons to the Kings of England at their coronation. 3 They possessed the prerogatives, and, till 1460, 4 assumed the title of royalty, the Isle of Man being a fief, separate from the English Kingdom, but dependent on the English Crown. 5 The Lords of the Isle were, in fact, feudatory princes with sovereign powers, and, as such, they established laws, they appointed the principal officers ; they had the patronage of the bishopric, and, originally, of all the ecclesiastical benefices.

Their powers and privileges.

They had the right to summon and adjourn or dismiss the Tynwald Court, Council and Keys, to hold courts, to exercise appellate jurisdiction over all civil causes, to pronounce the sentence of death and to pardon those so sentenced. They were absolute lords of the soil, and immediate landlords of every man’s estate, except in the case of a few barons.6 They had the first claim to the services of every stranger coming to the country, the first choice of any imported merchandize, and the right, subject to the consent of Tynwald, 7 to impose customs and other imposts on imports and exports. All treasures found, all wrecks, waifs and strays, cattle and horses over two years old belonging to felons, 8 and their sheep over one year old, all porpoises, sturgeons and whales, caught on the coasts of the island were their property, and they had the sole right of sport in the royal forest or waste.9

Powers of the lieutenant, captain or governor.

But the lords were rarely on the island, and therefore had to provide a substitute, who was, till 1639, usually styled either " Lieutenant " or " Captain," and, after that date, " Governor." 10 He was the lord’s representative, and it was ordained that whosoever " offendeth to him " should " be punished as they that offend to the lord." 11 He exercised most of the prerogatives of the lord, 12 and his office was not superseded or suspended by the presence of the lord in the island. To guard against any partiality or misgovernment on his part, it was provided that he should be guided by the advice of the Council and the deemsters. 13 He had the right of convoking and presiding over the Tynwald Court, as well as of the Legislative and Executive Council, and of summoning the Keys, and it is probable that, during the earlier part of this period at least, he alone could adjourn the sittings of the Keys, as well as those of the Tynwald Court and Council. He also had the right of presiding in all the principal courts of judicature, which could only be held by his warrant. Whenever a vacancy happened in any of the superior offices, the governor nominated a person to fill the place until a successor was appointed by the lord ; all inferior offices were entirely at his disposal, and he occasionally appointed a deputy-governor, who, in his absence, was invested with all his powers and privileges. 14 He had also the command of all the military forces of the island, and, as such, was responsible for the preservation of order. 15 The governor was assisted by the household officers, whose designations and functions are as follows : There was, first, the comptroller, who had the superintendence of the lord’s revenues and household.

The comptroller.

He audited the receipts and disbursements of the receiver and water-bailiff and rendered accounts of them to the lord. In his judicial character he took cognizance of all offences committed within the household and garrisons, and, seemingly as a military officer, he had to call the soldiers to muster. 16

The clerk of the rolls.

As clerk of the rolls, which office was, prior to the Revestment, generally united with that of comptroller, he kept the Records, 17 entered the minutes of the pleas and proceedings in the civil and criminal courts, both of the lord and of the barons, and issued copies thereof, which were to be received as evidence. He also made extracts annually from the Records of the preceding year of the fines due, and delivered them to the coroners, to be levied and paid according to the governor’s order. He and the receiver, or receivers, had the management of the lord’s household and the victualling of both the households and the garrisons.

The receiver.

The receiver had, with the advice of the governor and other officers, to attend to the repairs of the castles. He also, through the water-bailiff and the coroners and moars, received, and, in the presence of the governor and comptroller, deposited in the treasury chest all the lord’s revenues, out of which he paid the salaries and all other disbursements, subject to the check of the comptroller and the audit court.

The water-bailiff

The water-bailiff, or collector, 18 had the charge of collecting whatever accrued to the lord by customs duties, or by any means whatever below full sea-mark. To enable him to do this, he had a deputy in each port. He held a court, called the " Admiralty Court," which had full jurisdiction in all maritime affairs between high-water mark and three leagues from the shore. 19

The attorney-general.

The remaining household officer was the attorney-general, whose duty was to conduct all suits and prosecutions on behalf of the lord, to guard against any infringement of his rights and prerogatives, and to undertake the causes of widows and orphans. He also advised the governor on all matters of law which were not under his judicial cognizance. For all these officers a table was, till 1730, kept at the castles of Rushen and Peel. 20 The primary duty, then, of the comptroller, receiver and water-bailiff 21 was to collect and account for the lord’s revenue and to manage his property to the best advantage, and, in addition to this, they, or some of them, under the presidency of the governor, with, occasionally, the spiritual officers, 22 formed the lord’s Executive Council. When they acted in this capacity, the governor had a right to summon as many of them as he thought fit, provided that there were two at least. The spiritual officers, however, and, at first, the deemsters, were seldom summoned, so that the whole executive business of the country was conducted by the governor and the household officers. 23

The deemsters.

The deemsters, whose office has been already referred to, were in quite a different position from the household officers, they being the people’s officials, and, as late as 1577, according to Bishop and Governor Meryck, they were elected by the people " from amongst themselves."24 They were looked upon as being, with the twenty-four Keys, the repositories of the customs and traditions which constituted the common law, 25 and their opinions upon them were considered as authoritative. They sat as judges in the superior courts, and they also determined " all controversies without writings and expense ; " 26 " for," says Meryck, " every magistrate takes up a stone 27 and, having signed it, gives it over to the plaintiff, by which act he cites before him the defendant and the witnesses."28 They were members of the Council in its judicial and legislative capacities, but not, as a rule, in its executive capacity till the seventeenth century,though there is an instance of their being summoned for executive business in 1561. 29 Tokens that their position was distinct from that of the other officers remain in the facts that their oath on taking office contains no allusion to their duties as members of the Council, 30 and that, to this day, they sign Acts of Tynwald, &c., in a different part of the sheet for signatures from that in which the rest of the Council sign, and that their assent to each statute is separately stated in the preamble. 31

The captains of towns.

The towns were governed by captains, who not only commanded the garrisons, but were also civil governors, exercising executive, and, in small matters, judicial authority. Subordinate to these officials, who were commissioned by the lord, were the coroners, lockmen and moars, who derived their authority from the governor.

The coroner.

There is a coroner in every sheading, who served summonses and other processes, returned juries, and levied fines and executions, as directed by any of the courts or judges. He took inquests of deaths,32 and attended most of the juries and inquests impanelled by direction of the deemsters or the superior courts.

The lockman.

A lockman is appointed for each parish, and acts as deputy or assistant to the coroner.

The moar.

There is also a moar in each parish. This office is obligatory on the proprietors of land, and falls in rotation on each quarterland and on the intacks within each parish. In addition to collecting the lords’ rents and alienation fines, these officers were, till 1765, servants of some of the courts, each of them having a deputy, called a runner. 33 The coroners, lockmen, moars and runners 34 held their offices for one year only.

The Manx Judicature 

Having thus stated what the Manx Executive consisted of, let us now describe the Judicature. It was part of the duty of the household officers 35 to preserve peace and order among the people by determining differences and punishing outrages and crimes.

The "Staff of Government".

For these purposes they, or some of them, sat as the governor’s assessors, he being the sole judge, forming a court, probably known by the name, which still survives, of " The Staff of Government." 35

The Tynwald Court.

When, however, " greate matters and high points " were " in doubt,"36 they called in the deemsters, spiritual officers, and Keys, or elders of the land, to assist them with their advice, and the court thus formed was called the Tynwald Court, which, in accordance with ancient custom, met twice in the year. 37 But, generally speaking, except on such occasions, and in such comparatively trifling matters as came before the deemsters and water-bailiff, the household officers seem to have had a universal jurisdiction. After a time, it became convenient to establish several courts, instead of one only, but these courts were really only different names for the same court acting in different situations and upon different subjects.

The Court of General Gaol Delivery.

In its capacity as the superior court of criminal judicature it is called the "Court of General Gaol Delivery." In it sat the governor,38 with the household officers, and the deemsters, and, occasionally, the spiritual officers 38 and the Keys. After 1601, however, the Keys became regular members of it, and so it was practically the Tynwald Court under another name. The duties of the Keys in this court were " to assist the Deemsters in doubtful points of law, and to pass upon and try the jury of life and death if they be found to degress from their evidence and bring in a erroneous verdict." 39 They had, in fact, to give authoritative information on any legal question which might arise, and also to animadvert on any default or misconduct of the jury. 40

The Proceedings.

The proceedings of this court were sometimes by indictments, 41 but were more usually commenced by presentments on the verdict of a jury in writing. For making these presentments there were various inquests, some of them being under the direction of the supreme courts, or the deemsters, others being impanelled and attended by the coroners only. When felony was suspected, a jury of six was summoned by the coroner.42 This jury was under the direction of the deemster, and returned its verdict to him. If it acquitted the accused, there was an end of the case. If the offence was found to be a misdemeanour, 43 it presented the offender to suffer such punishment as the governor in Council might adjudge. If it presented him for felony, a further trial before a jury of twelve 44 took place in the presence of the court. The prosecution was conducted by the attorney-general, and, when the jury had considered their verdict, one of the deemsters asked their foreman : " Vod y fer carree soie ? " (May the chancel-man sit ?) If he answered, " Cha vod " (He cannot), the spiritual officers retired, and a verdict of guilty was given; but, if the answer was " Fod " (He may), they remained, and a verdict of not guilty was given. In the former event, one of the deemsters pronounced sentence, but it was not carried out till the lord had seen the evidence. This court was held in the gateway of Castle Rushen, twice in the year, in the months of May and October.45

The Chancery Court.

The Courts of Civil Jurisdiction were the Chancery, the Exchequer, the Common Law, and the Manorial or Sheading. The Chancery Court, which was first established, as a distinct court, in 1580,46 had a mixed jurisdiction in both law and equity, though it was more frequently resorted to in the latter than in the former capacity. In it, as in the other courts referred to, the governor presided, assisted by the deemsters and such members of the Council as he thought fit to summon. The questions before it were usually decided without a jury, but, if the governor thought a jury was required, he ordered one to be impanelled which conducted the enquiry out of court and returned its verdict to him. This court sat once every month, except January, May, September and October, and, occasionally, at other times.

The Court of Exchequer.

The Court of Exchequer took cognizance of all disputes and offences relating to the lord’s revenue, rights or prerogatives. It also exercised a criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanours and all actions which subjected the offender to the payment of a fine to the lord. Like the Chancery Court, it called in the aid of a jury only in exceptional cases.

The Common Law Courts.

The Common Law Courts were held in the different sheadings in the months of May and October.47 In them were tried all kinds of actions between subject and subject, whether real or personal. They, in fact, correspond with the Court of Common Pleas in England. The trials were by jury, which, in the case of real actions, consisted of six men of the sheading in which the lands in dispute lay, and, in personal actions, of four men belonging to the parish where the defendant lived. The verdicts of these juries were accompanied by an account of the evidence, in writing, which was recorded by the court, and, if the parties thereto acquiesced, an order was given for carrying the verdict into execution. But, if either party felt aggrieved by the verdict, he might, on application to the clerk of the rolls within a limited time, and on entering into a recognizance, traverse it and obtain a new trial of the case by another jury, consisting of 12 in real and of 6 in personal actions, which had to determine the question in accordance with the evidence previously taken. If the second verdict was not satisfactory, another traverse was allowed to the Keys, who 48 might either affirm, reverse, or alter the verdict before them, and, if they found sufficient reason, might condemn the former jurors to be fined. 49

These courts are also said to have taken cognizance of assaults, called " blood-wipes." 50

The Manorial Courts.

When the business of the Common Law Courts was finished, its judges sat as a Manorial court, which was held for the same districts as the Common Law Courts. In the Manorial court there was kept a registry of the names and titles of the lord’s tenants, and, upon every change of tenant, whether by death or alienation, the name of the new one was entered and that of the other withdrawn, upon the presentment of a jury, called the Setting Quest,51 which consists of four of the lord’s tenants. One of these juries is appointed for each parish.

The Great Enquest.

Another jury connected with the Manorial court was the " Great Enquest," which was composed of twelve men returned by the coroner from each of the six sheadings.

Its duties.

These men attended at the courts for the sheadings to which they belong, where one of the deemsters administers the oath to them and delivers the charge specifying their duty, which was to make enquiry if there be any outlaws, if the petty officers executed their duty, if the craftsmen did their work properly, if any cattle were exported without licence, if any take hawks or herons or their Eggs, if any Pedlars or Chapmen are in the country without cause shewn, if any hunt in the Lord’s Forest, if any set fire to the ling, gorse, or turf, if any leave their fell ditch or lidgate open, if any take the Lord’s wreck, if any harbour a felon, if the Coroners neglect their duty in casting scabbed horses or mares down the nearest "hough" (or cliff by the sea), if any trespasses are done, and to present or summon the wrong-doers to the court.51

The Second Great Enquest.

The Great Enquest, subject to the approval of a Second Great Enquest, which was, seemingly, selected in the same way, and was of similar composition, had also by custom the power of deciding disputes concerning ways, water-courses, boundaries,52 &c., and this was confirmed by statute in 1737, when an appeal to a " Long," or Grand, Jury of twenty-four was also provided. 53

The "Long Jury".

In 1753, the reference to the second Great Enquest was abolished, and, besides the appeal to the " Long Jury," there was provided a further traverse to the Keys, who were to present the " Long Jury," if they acted partially. 54 These Great Enquests were on duty for six months, and returned their verdicts and presentments to the deemsters as often as required, or to the Court of General Gaol Delivery at the end of their term of office. 55

The courts of the baronies.

Similar to the Common Law and Manorial courts were the courts of the baronies of the Bishop, of Rushen Abbey, of Bangor and Sabhal, and of St. Trinian’s, but their jurisdiction, except as regards manorial matters, seems to have become obsolete long before the expiration of this period. They were conducted either by their proprietors or their stewards, with the assistance of one of the deemsters and the comptroller and clerk of the rolls, the attorney-general being there to guard the interests of the lord. " These courts seem," say the commissioners of 1791, " to have exercized an authority in their several districts, equal to the whole of that possessed by the Common Law and Sheading Courts " 56 in all actions where the defendants lived in the baronies, unless they were also tenants of the Lord of the Isle. They had also their Courts of Criminal Judicature, where all felonies committed by the baronial tenants were tried by a jury of twelve selected from their fellows, in the same way as felonies were tried in the Court of General Gaol Delivery. In the case of the bishop’s barony, and, before the Reformation, in that of the Abbot of Rushen, the steward might claim that a tenant should be tried in the baronial court, even though he had been already indicted and arraigned by the Court of General Gaol Delivery.57

The Deemsters' Courts.

Besides the courts already referred to, there were the two Deemsters’ Courts which had a general jurisdiction, one in the southern and the other in the northern district.58 They had power to decide all causes summarily, without the intervention of a jury, in accordance with the traditional unwritten laws of the island. In civil cases they possessed a concurrent jurisdiction with the Common Law Courts in all actions where a trial by jury or before a higher authority was not desired by the parties nor ordered by the Governor. The deemsters might also, in the same way, take cognizance of criminal cases in which any specific fine or penalty is directed by statute ; further, in both civil and criminal matters where juries were required, but prompt redress was necessary, they could impanel juries, receive their verdicts, and, if the damage or penalty was thereby precisely ascertained, order the payment of the one, or inflict the other. In the event of non-compliance with such order, the disobedient party was either fined by the governor in Council or tried in the Court of General Gaol Delivery.59 In civil cases an appeal lay from the decision of these courts to the governor in Council, provided that it was presented within twenty-one days and accepted by the deemster, and there was a further appeal from them to the lord. The Deemsters’ Courts were held on one day in each week, or oftener if required. 60

Water bailiff's Court.

The Court of the Water-Bailiff, who was also styled Admiral, dealt with all causes of action, less than capital, which happened between high-water mark on the one hand and the distance of three leagues from the shore on the other. The water-bailiff had the assistance of a jury of six men. 61 He had also jurisdiction over maritime affairs generally, which were tried before him by a special jury of merchants or seafaring men.

In all these courts, other than the Court of Chancery, 62 civil suits were generally commenced by complaint presented, either by word of mouth or in writing, to the judge or judges presiding in them.

Procedure for summons, decrees, judgements &c in the courts.

The process for appearance was merely a summons from the judge, which, till nearly the end of this period (1763), when a written warrant was substituted,63 was by a slate or stone inscribed with his initials. If this summons was not attended to, an order was obtained from the governor directing one or more soldiers to bring the defendant before the court. Decrees and judgments were, at one time, given orally, at another, put into writing. The execution of them was committed to the moars by the Court of Common Law, to the coroners by the other superior courts, and to the serjeants by the Manorial courts. In criminal cases, offenders were arrested by the coroners and handed over to the gaolers, either by their own authority or by warrant from the governor, one of the deemsters, or some other civil officer. 64 With regard to appeals, we have seen that in all suits, whether criminal or civil, they might be made to the lord, but there was an ultimate appeal to the King in Council, though this was rarely made use of.

The House of Keys exercised judicial functions as the court of appeal from the verdicts of juries in civil cases. They were, in this respect, described as the ultimum refugium 65 in the island with respect to jury findings, but there was an appeal to the lord. Under an Act of Tynwald, passed in 1737, issues as to fraud or deceit in titles to land were triable before a Committee of the House.

Legislative Government

We now come to the government of the island in its legislative capacity. There are but few instances of any new laws 66 being made before the beginning of the seventeenth century, the deemsters and elders of the land being, as a rule, summoned to Tynwald merely to give advice to the governor and officers in judicial questions and to interpret old laws. When fulfilling these functions they formed part of the court thus assembled, which was called the Tynwald Court, and it was, therefore, only natural that the same court should frame new laws when they became necessary, and that it should become the supreme legislative as well as the supreme judicial body.

Vested in the lord, the governor and Council and the Keys.

From the beginning of the seventeenth century the legislative authority was, except on a few occasions when the lord issued ordinances on his own account, vested in the governor and Council and twenty-four Keys, sitting as the Tynwald Court, as well as the lord.

Procedure of the Tynwald Court.

Until the passage of the Act of Settlement in 1704, it seems to have been usually the practice of this court to discuss the Bills before it as one body, though, doubtless, they could only be passed by a majority of votes in its two branches (i.e., the Council and Keys) voting separately. After 1704, Bills were dealt with in the following manner : If a Bill originated in the Council, it was first debated there and then sent on to the Keys, who could either reject it altogether or amend it. In the latter case the two branches met and settled the proposed amendments. If the Bill originated in the Keys and was approved by a majority of the members, it was sent to the Council, whose powers with regard to it were the same as those of the Keys. When the Bill was thus passed, the Keys were summoned to the Council Chamber to sign it, thirteen of their signatures being required to render it valid. It was then sent to the lord, who could either reject or give a general or qualified assent to it. Finally it was promulgated in full, both in the Manx and English languages, from Tynwald Hill, and then, after being signed by the members of the Council and Keys 67 who were present, it became law. 68

The Council

Let us now trace the development of the Legislative Council and of the Keys separately :— The designation Council has existed from the earliest period of which there is any record. Thus, in 1422, we have " Lord’s Council " and " King’s Council," though not infrequently, as late as 1757, the Council are, in statutes and other records, described ‘as " the officers," and sometimes " Principal Officers," " Chief Officers," " the Officers Spiritual and Temporal," " the Lord’s Officers of his Council," " Officers of the Lord’s Council," &c.69

Legislative Council.

Up to the year 1582, when it passed certain ordinances, without the concurrence of the Keys, the Council 70 appears in the Statute Book as an executive, not as a legislative body ; and that it did not at that time exercise legislative functions is also clear from the statement of Governor and Bishop Meryck in 1580, that " whatever is agreed upon by the Lord of the Island, the two Deemsters and the Keys obtained the force of law. 71 It is in 1609 that we find the Council, for the first time, associated with the Keys in legislation, and this was usually the case after that date, though it, in 1692, again acted arbitrarily in revising the customs duties without consulting the Keys. This was, as we shall see, resented by the Keys, and, as a result of their protests, we find that, by 1737, the position of the Council as a distinct part of the legislature, having co-ordinate authority with the Keys, was fully settled. The selection of the officers who were to sit in it, except the deemsters, who were invariably members of it, appears formerly to have been left to the caprice of the governor, who chose those, and those only,72 whom he might wish to consult on any particular subject or subjects. A body thus constituted is better calculated to strengthen the hands of the governor than to be any check upon his actions. As regards its rights and privileges, even its official 73 members cannot be required by the governor to vote with him, but it has no power to fix its own meetings, being summoned by the governor who presides over it, and his assent is practically necessary to all resolutions passed by it. 74 Its official members were deemed an essential part of it, but the unofficial members 75 seem not to have been, though, unlike those of the Executive Council, all its members claim a right to sit, whether summoned or not. 76

The quorum necessary to constitute a meeting is the governor and two councillors.

The Keys.

At the beginning of this period, the Keys, as a rule, only exercised purely judicial functions, and their office, in accordance with the statement of the deemsters to Sir John Stanley, was not " in certainty," 77 and could not exist without the lord’s will. But there were tokens that they were acquiring a more stable position. Thus, in 1418, if any of them committed a capital crime, he was not tried in the ordinary way, but by a jury of the rest of the 24 ; 78 and further evidence of development may be seen in the title of the second court held in 1422, i.e., a " Court of all the Tennants and Commons of Man," and in the fact that the laws declared by it were confirmed by the " best of the Commons " 79 In 1430, an important advance was made in the establishment of a representative body, duly elected by the people.80 This took place at a " Court of all the Commons of Mann, holden at the Castle of Rushen betwixt the gates," when " 6 men of every Shedding of Mann were chosen by the whole Commons of Mann." 81 Out of this body of 36 representatives, 24 were chosen to act as an enquest, and were sworn in accordingly. On this proceeding Sacheverell, who was governor of the island at the end of the seventeenth century, comments as follows : " Sir John Stanley, being duly informed of the general neglect of his affairs, and the disorder caused by his own absence, sent over Henry Byron, his lieutenant, a man of great prudence and severity. . . . Whether he [Byron] had observed some discontents in the manner of electing their representatives, or whether he thought it for the real honour and interest of his master to have the ancient legislative power restored, he calls another assembly the year following, 1430, and ordered six men out of every sheading or hundred, to be chosen by the whole body of the Commons, out of whom he elected four . . . and by their entreaty all former laws were confirmed." 82

" This," he continues, " was the last finishing stroke of the settlement of this little state," by which he prays, the people are to be governed, " under the honourable House of Derby." 83 It is, however, doubtful whether the practical advantages which resulted from this change were so great as Sacheverell supposed. For it appears from the history of the next 150 years, that the representatives of the people were very seldom called together, and that when called it was invariably for the settlement of judicial questions. From the instances, too, which will be given below, it will be seen that, though the word " chosen " is used of " the 24," it is never again stated by whom they were chosen, which lends a colour to the assumption of several who have written upon the Manx history of this period, that the lords or their governors had again taken the right of naming the Keys upon themselves. In 1499,84 " 24 of the land " 85 were sworn, and, in conjunction with the deemsters, gave the law on various points ; and, at a Court of General Gaol Delivery, held in 1502, " it was appointed that 24 of the country should be chosen, and they to choose them four merchants, who should be sworn to deal indifferently among the country people, and to agree on their behalf with the merchant stranger."86 These 24 consisted of four out of every sheading. At an enquest taken at Castle Rushen in 1504, we find the same 24 present.87 At a similar court, in 1516, held to try a case of manslaughter, the two deemsters asked the " Capten in Court " to have " 24 of the most aged and wisest in the land, according to the Lord’s statutes, sworn to them that by their advice they might answer in this case." 86 The " Capten " consented, and four men from each sheading were sworn. In 1532, an indenture was entered into between the bishop and clergy on the one part, and two men of each sheading on the other ; and, on this occasion, there is no mention of the 24, the 12 88 seeming to represent the whole country In 1570, on account of a complaint from the people " to the Capten of Mann and other the Lord’s Head officers and two Deemsters that the fforesters did clip sheep unlawfully within the ffells," the captain "demanded the law of the Deemsters," who " requested to have the advice of the 24 ancientest men in the Isle, which the Capten and other officers granted them." 89 In 1580 the governor and Council, the deemsters, the bishop and clergy, and 24 Keys, there being one or more from " every parish in the Isle," were summoned, by virtue of a commission from the Earl of Derby, not only to try a criminal but to pass a law, the nature of which is not recorded.

Important decision about the election of the keys.

Against this the bishop 90, archdeacon,91 W. Christian," 92 and the Keys protested, saying that, if they were called together " for the establishing of a new law, the country ought to give their consent for the choosing of the 24."95 The commission was thereupon "stayd by consent of the Court till my Lord’s pleasure be known." 95 It is not recorded what the earl did in this matter, but, from the following quotation from the chancery book in 1581, it seems probable that he gave way to the popular demand : " But now the 24 Keys are called the representatives of the country because, when any new law is made, they doe represent the Body of the country and were by the ancient Constitution chosen by the Country out of the Sheadings of this Isle, and noe Law is binding on the people (one part of the Legislative power being in them) without their consents." 93 Thus a clear distinction was made between the Keys as a judicial body, when they might be selected by the governor, and as a legislative body when they had to be elected by the people. 94 The real explanation of what had occurred is probably that, since no new laws are recorded as having been passed between 1429 and 1580, and since, therefore, the Keys had only been summoned to act as a jury, or to declare the customary law, the people, regarding these functions as being of secondary importance, had, at first, allowed the old right of election, which, in 1430, was in operation on an occasion when the Keys were summoned as an enquest only, to lapse, and, finally, had forgotten that it had ever existed, except when the Keys were to act as legislators. However this may have been, we find that many years were to elapse before the people were again permitted to exercise their right of election. In the meantime the Keys were " chosen by the Lord himself out of the natives," 95 and, notwithstanding Meryck’s statement, that, although they " hold their offices but durante bene placito, yet are they seldom turned out during their lives," 96 they were assembled in 1585 " to enact and give for law in this present cause only ; " 96 and, at the same time, one of them being " sick," and another in England, two were put in their place, which looks very much as if their real status was still that of a jury which could not proceed with its business till the whole number was filled up.

By the 17th century their whole position had become more assured.

But, by 1601, they had attained a more assured position, or, at least, one of greater dignity; for, in that year, in consequence of an individual having declared that the Keys " never did good to the Isle," 96 a law was passed which enacted that those who slandered the Keys should suffer the punishment of a fine, besides having their ears cut off.96 In 1605, they were exempted " from all common services and duties of the country," 97 and from serving on common juries, except by express command of the governor. More important still was their seemingly improved position as regards the control of the customs duties. In 1577, these seem to have been imposed by the authority of the governor and officers without the Keys, and " allowed and confirmed " 98 by the lord. But, in 1608, it was declared by the Keys and four men from each parish that the earl " with the consent of the 24 Keys, the representatives of the Comons there, have alwaies and may raise or diminish these impositions at their pleasure." 99 This statement, which does not seem to have been contradicted, is, considering the then practice in England, 100 a very remarkable one. Their tenure of office, however, still continued uncertain, for, in 1610, Bishop Phillips complained that the governor, John Ireland, had placed and displaced the Keys at his pleasure. As regards the " displacing " of the Keys, the power of doing so was exercised by the lords and their governors as late as 1731.101 As regards the " placing " of them, however, the reply of the Council and Keys to the bishop’s allegations would seem to show that the mode of election was more liberal than that mentioned by Meryck. For they declared that the governor had " used no other course and manner in choseing of the 24 Keys than as ever in former times to our remembrance hathe been accustomed, which is with the consent of all the officers and the rest of the 24 Keys. 102 moreover, it is clear, from the reappearance of the same names among the Keys in the Statute Book at different dates and from the way in which they were mentioned in the preambles of the Acts, 103 that, at the beginning of the seventeenth century,103 they had become a usual, though not an invariable, part of the legislative authority, and that they had begun to take their place as such.

But it receives a check from the seventh earl

This process, however, received a check under the autocratic seventh earl, who seems to have been determined to prevent the exercise of legislative powers by the Keys from becoming a matter of right, since he continued to obtrude his commands upon the people, consulting sometimes the Council, sometimes the Keys, and, at other times, the Keys, together with four men from each parish. 104 Thus, in 1643, the Keys shared the humble office of endorsing the earl’s " order, doome and decree," 105 with " four men of every Parish," who acted " in the name of themselves and of the whole Commons of the Isle, by whom they were chosen for that purpose." 106 Here the principle of popular election was recognized, though it must be observed that it did not apply to the Keys, but to the four men from each parish. 107 Indeed it seems clear that any great constitutional question required the presence of these elected members to give advice, though they had " no power to settle or enact anything," 107 as well as of the Keys. The four from the parishes appear for the last time in 1643,108 when 12 of the Keys and 12 selected from the four men of the parishes were chosen as " a select Jury and Grand Inquest . . . to find out and present all such wrongs and abuses as have been committed or acted against his Lordship’s Prerogative, the Lawes of the Island, or the good of the Comonaltie." 108

Their right to share in fixing the customs duties recognised.

On questions relating to customs duties, however, the Keys only, not the four men from each parish, seem to have been consulted, and their right, as a component part of the Tynwald Court, to have a share in fixing them was distinctly recognized,109 both in 1637 and 1645. At the time of Earl James’s death, in 1651, the position of the Keys was, on the whole, less secure than in 1627, but, during the time of Lord Fairfax, it became more assured.

Statements of 17th century writers about the Keys.

Let us see what contemporary writers have to say about it at this period. One of them, Chaloner, states that their assistance was only called for by the governor and officers " in cases of doubt and considerations . . about the ordering of the affairs of the country, for the defence and safety thereof ; and propositions of good and wholesome Lawes and Orders, for the Peace and Welfare of the People, in matters of Right betwixt the Lord and the People, and betwixt party and party " ; 110 while the other, Blundell, speaks of them as " the Representative body of the whole Island " 111 and declares that " their assent is soe necessary as that without them no new law can be made nor any custome be introduced or altered." He also states that they were " elected and chosen by the lord himselfe out of the natives of the Isle," 111 and that, though they only continued durante bene placito, yet they usually held their office for life; and, further, that it was " required also that they should bee landed men, such as our freeholders in England, having 40 or 50 or more pounds of their owne." 112

Of the two accounts, that of Chaloner is probably the more accurate. It was during his governorship that the following judgment, on which the Keys afterwards founded their claim to nominate their own members,113 subject to the approval of the lord or governor, was given by the deemsters : " When any of the 24 Keys dye, or are removed, the rest of the number shall recommend some fit persons to supply their places, and shall give their names either to the Lord or Governor ; " 114 and, consequently, in the same year (1659) the governor ordered that:

" Whereas there are three of the 24 Keys awanting to make up the full body, and forasmuch as the rest of the 24 Keys did nominate and recommend in Court . . . the said three . . . I have in the Lord’s behalf according to the Statute (1422) accepted of the said three persons and do give my approbation thereto." 115

After 1660 the position of the Keys again degraded.

But, with the Restoration, despotism resumed its sway, since we find that, in 1662, seven of the Keys were " removed by the Lord’s order in that behalf, 116 and others admitted and sworn in their places," because they were considered to be favourable to William Christian (Illiam Dhone), then on his trial. In 1668, Charles, Earl of Derby, because a majority of the Keys did not agree with his views about the tenure of the land 117 and had endeavoured " to establish a right to their ffarmes," 116 referred to their behaviour as " unquiet and factious," and ordered that, unless they conformed, they " shall be put out of all places of office and command in the Island." 116 The recalcitrants, thirteen in number, consequently submitted to the earl’s terms.

In 1669, a question with regard to customs was referred to them, in conjunction with the deemsters,118 but, in 1677, " the Book of Rates of the year 1648 " 119 was " revised, rectified, and inlarged " 120 by the governor and officers and ratified by Lord Derby, without the Keys being consulted, and the same course was taken in 1692.121

But it improved by the end of the century.

Notwithstanding all this, however, they seem, by the end of the century, to have recovered some of their lost ground, seeing that they were then referred to as " the representatives of the country," 122 who, " in conjunction with the Governor and officers, make the legislative power of the nation," 122 and we are told that " no new law can be made, or custom introduced or abolished " without their consent and that of the Deemsters. 123 Some reflex, perhaps, of the Revolution of 1688 had reached Man.

They complain of arbitrary actions.

In 1697, the Keys protested against the " arbitrary actions of the governor and officers " in a petition to Lord Derby, in which they set forth a number of other grievances, the chief of which were the prohibition of the exportation of goods without their consent, the seizure of estates for the nonpayment of rent, the charging the people with the cost of re-stocking and repairing their firearms, and the charging the Keys with duties and services from which they were exempted by the customary law, the order compelling the inhabitants to erect chimneys, and the heavy fines for non-compliance with it, and, finally, the refusal of the officers to place these complaints on record and their committal of two of their number to prison for insisting that this should be done.124

Lord Derby's reply and the result.

In reply to this petition, Lord Derby ordered that the question of the prohibition of exportation should be considered by the Keys and Council together, and that the Keys were to " inquire into and examine the irregularitys committed by any of the officers against the laws and customs of the Isle." 125 He, at the same time, promised that, when he came to the island, he would examine and redress the question of the Book of Rates, if he saw cause. It may be imagined with what joy the Keys took up the Commission granted to them. They promptly presented a report amplifying their former statement of grievances. Nothing, however, seems to have been done to remedy these grievances. Probably the land question stood in the way.

A further petition.

When it was settled in 1704, the Keys at once presented a petition to Earl William’s successor, Earl James, to the effect that " it may be enacted as a Law, that no orders of public concern touching either the Government of the Island or the punishing and fining of your people which are not warranted by the Laws already made, or to be made, may be of any force, or be put in execution, but be declared void and of no effect, till the same receive the concurrence and allowance of your people’s representatives, the 24 Keys ; that so all umbrage of arbitrary Government may be removed, and your people have knowledge of the rule of their obedience,"126 and they asked him to order " that no Officer or Officers . . . shall hereafter award, impose, or inflict any paine, penalty, fine or imprisonment, or other corporall punishment upon any of the inhabitants . . . untill such offender be thereof convicted by the verdict of six lawful men returned by the Coroner of the Sheading where such offence was committed, and then such only as by the known Laws and Customes of the said Isle are already or shall hereafter by Act of Tynwald be ordained or ascertained." 126

They again referred to the customs question, stating that the arbitrary method of fixing the duties would " inevitably and too apparently ruin the Island, " 125 and asking that they should, in future, be settled with the "concurrence and assent " of the 24 Keys, as well as of the Council. " This," they pleaded, " is agreeable to the constitution of all well governed commonwealths, and will secure your people and their possessions from any arbitrary government and oppression. "127 They quoted instances when " the advice of the 24 Keys was required and obtained as necessary and lawfull " ; and summed up the petition by asking " that all orders, precepts, and comands contrary to or not warranted by the known laws . . before be ever hereafter adjudged holden and taken to be void and of none effect," 127 concluding with the following words " Great and Good Lord, these are at present the chiefest matters we have under consideration to make our settlement lasting and happy. . . . We do not seek to diminish your Lordship’s customs, encroach on your prerogative, or disrespect the orders of the civil power ; but to prevent the ill consequences of arbitrary government." 127

Its only result.

How this petition was received by the lord does not appear; all we know is that it led to no result, except that the right of the Keys to take part in legislation concerning the customs was recognized by the Acts of 1711 and 1714.128

Dispute between the governor and Keys in 1715

On all the other questions in dispute the struggle between the Keys and the governor and officers continued. In 1715, the Keys having objected to being treated like an ordinary jury, the governor (Home) addressed them an imperious letter 129 in which he required them to give a verdict in writing on the acquittal of a felon by the grand jury and threatened that, if they did not do so, he would imprison them. The Keys declined and " returned their opinion viva voce accordingly as they had ever in such cases done." 130 Finally, however, they, "upon hopes and assurances given them by the Bishop and Deempster that the same would not again be required in such cases," 131 gave way and delivered a written verdict. But, as the form in which they had done so did not please the governor, he imprisoned them in Castle Rushen, a proceeding " which was never known before," 131 and fined them 20 shillings each. They, at first, refused to pay this fine, 132 but ultimately did so under protest. Such collisions were not calculated to diminish the state of tension between the governor and the Keys, and it was aggravated, as we have seen, by the difference in their views on ecclesiastical matters. 133

In 1719, "John Stevenson, one of the 24 Keys, . . . in behalf of himself, the rest of his brethren, and the people," 131 brought a petition to Knowsley to the earl, with whom, at the time, were several members of his Manx Council. In this petition they reminded him that he had not fulfilled his promise, which he had made in 1704, that the people should have laws to secure their "Libertys and Propertys" ; 131 they renewed the complaint against the officers for illegal punishments by "fines and imprisonments," 131 especially of "the Keys and common Jurys after being agreed, and have delivered their Judgments and verdicts ; "131 and the officers were also accused of taking excessive fees and of extorting from the people " more money for the custome of goods imported and exported than by the Antient Book of Rates or any Law since are due and pay-able." 134

Stevenson suggested that the earl, with his assistance and that of the members of his Council then at Knowsley, might frame laws for redressing the people’s grievance and have them confirmed by Act of Tynwald, and he concluded with a threat that, if their requests were not granted, the Keys would "seek such reliefe . . . either before his Majesty in Councell, or in the Parliament as they shall be advised." 134

The earl promises concessions but they were not granted.

The earl declined to make any immediate reply to this petition, but he afterwards caused a letter 135 to be written, in which he ordered the governor, Council, officers, deemsters, and 24 Keys to meet and consider the questions referred to in it. In this letter he admitted that, as regards some of them at least, he saw " just cause of complaint"; he consented to the book of rates remaining as in 1692, and he stated that " if at any time hereafter there shall be occasion to revise, or make any further additions or alterations " in this book it should" be done by the consent and agreement of the Governor, Council, officers, Deemsters, and 24 Keys," 134 he reserving his "prerogative of confirming and allowing or disallowing the same." He also ordained that the markets should be free to every one "to buy all manner of goods without any lett, stopp or molestation." 134

And the meetings of the Keys with the Council produced no effect.

But none of these promises were kept. In consequence of the earl’s order the Tynwald Court met at Castle Rushen, when the governor made certain proposals which the Keys declined to consider "unless severall other proposalls drawn up by themselves were at the same time taken into consideration and passed into Lawes," 136 but this the governor and Council refused to do. In December, however, there was another meeting, when the following proposals, among others, were agreed to : (1) " All orders, precepts or comands contrary to, or not warranted by the known laws and customs of the Isle . . . to be illegal and of none effect." (2) " For the better preventing of all injustice . . . if any of the officers, Deemsters, or 24 Keys . . . shall at any time take or receive . . . a bribe or corruption to hinder or delay justice," they are to be fined and " to be for ever thereafter disabled and uncapable to have or hold any office whatsoever." 136 But, though the Council had agreed to these reforms, they refused, for some unknown reason, to sign the Bill 137 embodying them. The quarrel between the governor and Council, on one side, and the Keys, on the other, consequently became more bitter than ever.

It would appear that John Stevenson, acting in accordance with the instructions of the rest of the Keys, had again written to the earl " to acquaint him with several matters of high importance." 138 We are not informed what these were, but they probably related to arbitrary acts on the part of the governor and Council. In consequence of this letter, Stevenson was " called to a public account and tried as a criminal," presumably by the governor and Council only, since the majority of the Keys tried him on their own account and "publickly acquitted him." 139 So the question seems to have rested till the spring of 1723, when the Keys discovered that the governor and Council had " taken upon them, after a private and unheard-of manner, to arraign and censure not only the said gentleman (Stevenson) but us, the legal judges, who acquitted him." 139

The Summary of Grivances of 1723.

In the interval between 1720 and 1723 differences on ecclesiastical questions had increased the feeling of the bitterness between the contending parties, and so the Keys, despairing of any redress from the earl, drew up " a Summary of Grievances . . . in Church and State," which they empowered a committee 140 to lay before " his Majesty in Council or elsewhere, as they shall be advised." 139 From a constitutional point of view the most important of the charges thus made against the governor and officers is that of illegal imprisonment ; and against the governor, that he had arbitrarily excluded some of the Keys from giving their votes 141 before they were convicted of any crime, or dismissed by the consent of the body, without which they cannot be legally excluded or expelled," 142 and that he had neglected to call them in with the deemsters, "to explain the law in high and doubtful points." The petition ended with the following words : "All which and many other gross and daring invasions on our laws, liberties and properties, so deeply affect us, as the same do apparently tend to the ruin and subversion of the whole constitution." 142

Failure of the appeal.

This appeal, which the committee, exercising their discretion, thought it wise to lay in the first place before the earl, was unsuccessful, and another appeal presented to him three months later was likewise disregarded. 143

A final appeal to Lord Derby in 1726 also fails.

A short time after this, there seems to have been an appeal to the Crown, concerning which, in December 1725, Edward Stanley wrote to Lord Derby : " The affair of the Island has been mentioned to Sir Robert Walpoole and next Tuesday they meet to fix on the heads of what concession your ‘ Lordshipp is to make." 144 Notwithstanding this, nothing was done, for we find that, in 1726, " The Governor and officers having set up a new authority of their own, without any law or practice to countenance it, and having in a manner taken away the jurisdiction of the 24, by trying men for crimes which affect their lives," 145 certain members of the Keys and others subscribed £150 so that they might "obtain redress from his Majesty or otherways." 145 Before doing this, however, they decided to make a last appeal to the earl, in which they repeated the complaints of 1719 and 1723 and prayed that he would take into consideration their "most miserable state and condition" and grant them " such relief as may hereafter effectually discourage the officers of this isle in these and all other such arbitrary practices and oppressions, and secure" to the people " for the future the peaceable enjoyment of their religion, lives, laws, liberties and properties." 146 No answer was vouchsafed 147 to this. The Keys then forwarded their petition 148 to the king, by whom it was referred to the earl, who asked the governor, officers, and deemsters to report upon it. In doing so they dwelt upon the benefits which the island had received by the Act of Settlement, and remarked that, instead of the people being duly grateful, they, encouraged by the clergy, considered themselves " independent of the said Earl as to their estates." 149 They ridiculed the claim of the Keys to be called the " Representatives of the people," since they had " been called together and dismissed, placed and displaced by the Lord of the Isle or his Lieutenant as they saw cause."149

This report, however, does not appear to have been presented to the Privy Council, and nothing more was heard of the Key’s petition. We only know that the governor summarily removed eleven of them and placed his own nominees in their places, with the result that, till the advent of the new régime in 1736, they were completely under his control. Some years before the Keys were thus " purged " we have the views of two contemporary writers as to their position.

Bishop Wilson and George Waldron on the position of the Keys.

Let us first quote Bishop Wilson, who states that they represented the Commons of the land, and that they joined with the Council " in making all new laws, and with the deemsters in settling and determining the meaning of the ancient laws and customs in all difficult cases " ; 150 and, as regards their judicial functions, that they determined cases of common law by a majority of votes, " also causes touching titles of inheritance, where inferior juries have given their verdicts before." 151 The other, Waldron, 151 whose knowledge of their position was evidently superficial, seems to have been chiefly struck by the fact that they were more like English juries than a parliament because their business was to adjust differences between the people, and because they were locked in till they gave their verdict. 152

Improvements in the position of the Keys after 1736.

With the change of rulers in 1736, the Keys at once regained their lost constitutional rights, and, indeed, between that date and 1765, attained a more authoritative and independent position than they possessed either before or after that time. They were no longer imprisoned before delivering their verdict, nor arbitrarily dismissed, nor excluded from voting, and the practically despotic rule of the governor and officers at once came to an end. 153 Moreover, the right of the Keys to a share in the control of taxation, and of exports and imports, was expressly recognized by legislation, it being ordained, in 1737, that " no order, precept, or comand prohibitting the importation or exportation of any foreign goods, or any other goods of the growth, product, or manufacture of this Isle, shall be granted or made without the consent of the Governour, Council, Deemsters and Keyes." 154 Upon this, the Book of Rates was consented to by them.

Only one cause of variance between the governor and the Keys from 1736 to 1765.

Between 1736 and 1765, the Keys were at variance with the governor on one point only, i.e., as to whether he had the power of compelling them to continue their meetings till they had concluded the business before them. On his persisting in doing so, they appealed 155 to the duke, who decided against them, and so they had to give way, though they continued to maintain their view of the question. 156

Method of electing the Keys.

Let us now briefly consider the method of election to the Keys, the qualifications of members and their powers and privileges as they existed just before the Revestment.

When a vacancy occurred, the Keys elected two persons to be presented to the governor by their speaker. The governor chose one of them, but, seeing that he almost invariably nominated the candidate who had received the greater number of votes, the Keys practically filled the post as they wished. 157

Their qualifications and privileges.

The Keys had to be twenty-one years of age and to hold landed property of the value of £3 per annum. They are summoned for legislative purposes whenever the governor thinks proper, but there were questions connected with his authority over the continuance of their sessions which remained unsettled during this period. 158 Their privileges are to elect their speaker, subject to the approval of the governor, to regulate their own sittings when once assembled, 159 to reject any Bill and to be exempt from all services to the lord. 160 They can refuse to sign any or pass any law or order which they have not an opportunity of debating apart from the Council ; and, when any resolution is passed in the Tynwald Court, it is competent for any member of the Keys to require that it should be debated by them in their own House before they came to any decision upon it. They have no exclusive privilege with regard to money Bills. 161 Each " Key " held office for life, unless he chose to resign and the governor accepted such resignation, or unless he was expelled or accepted an office which entitled him to a seat in the Council.


There had undoubtedly been some improvement in the condition of Manx law between 1266 and 1405. Trial by ordeal, for instance, had been abolished, as we see from the fact that, when Hawley M’Issacke was arraigned for rising against the governor in 1422, the accused " put him to the Country," 162 i.e., he expressed himself ready to submit to a verdict. 163 Further, the decision given by Tynwald in 1429 shows that trial by combat had become obsolete. 164

Changes between 1266 and 1405

At the beginning of this period, too, we find the system of " enquests " or " inquests "in full operation. The members of these " enquests" were summoned to give evidence, not to hear it. They were supposed to know all about the facts to which they had to testify, whether they referred to the ancient customary laws, to the crimes committed by their neighbours, or to the properties held by them.

Development of the "enquests".

It was not till the beginning of the seventeenth century that they developed, under the influence of English methods, into juries who listened to witnesses and gave a verdict according to the evidence, and that the grand jury that indicts and the petty jury that tries came into existence. Nor was it till 1610 that an effort was made to abolish the practice of swearing away a charge with compurgators. 164 Between 1405 and the beginning of the seventeenth century the Manx customary laws were committed to writing, but scarcely any attempt was made to introduce new laws, the main object of the insular Government being, apparently, to place the " Constitution of Old Time " 165 on record. These Records are said to have been begun by Michael Blundell, 166 the Stanleys’ first governor of Man, but, if this were so, no trace of his labours remained, even as early as 1418. It was ordered, in 1422, that all things were to be written " plaine with full letters," 167 that every plea was to be written out of the " Court Rolls " and put on record, and that " all doubtful points " should be " registred upp," 168 but we do not know whether these orders were faithfully carried out or not, because, unfortunately, till 1580, all the laws and proceedings of the various courts were inscribed in miscellaneous rolls — Libri Rotulorum the greater number of which have been lost, and it was not till after that date that they were entered in separate books, now generally known as " The Records." 170 The more important of these books are as follows :—

(1) Insular Statutes. 171

(2) Libri Cancellarii, containing actions, decrees, &c., of the Chancery Court.

(3) Libri Placitorum, or Books of Common Pleas, containing actions in that court, and the names of its officers, juries, inquests, &c.

(4) Libri Scaccarii, or Exchequer Books, containing judgments on breaches of penal statutes, appeals from the Spiritual Court, &c.

(5) Libri Juramentorum, or Books of Oaths taken by the various officials on receiving their appointments, also of the Keys. 172 173

(6) Libri Irrotulamentorum, containing the commissions of these officials.

After the beginning of the seventeenth century, legislation, in the modern sense of the word, gradually began. 174

No new legislation till 17th century.

But neither the written laws, nor the various judgments on legal points which had been recorded, did away with the " breast " laws, which, notwithstanding orders to commit them to writing in 1636 and 1667, still remained oral till about 1690. At that period there appeared an " Abstract of the Laws, Customs, and Ordinances of the Isle of Man,"175 which its author, the learned and able Deemster Parr, also described as " an abridgment of the established and practical Laws." By means of its embodiment in this book Manx common law became more stable and reliable, being less dependent on the caprices or memories of the deemsters. There was, however, still room for improvement, and therefore, in 1722, Lord Derby directed the governor to have " the laws and presidents (sic) well-digested and put into good form and order," 176 but, up to the very end of this period, and even after it, the deemsters are accused of deciding cases by " breast " laws.

The customary criminal code was very severe.

The Manx customary criminal code 177 was a very severe one. Thus, thefts of the value of sixpence or more were accounted felony, and were punished by death. The result of this was that juries were wont to find that the value of the goods stolen did not amount to that sum. With a view to putting a stop to this practice, it was enacted, in 1629, that all sheep-stealing and "stealing and cutting of bee. hives in gardens," whatever the value of the goods stolen, was felony, and that various other thefts of the same kind, but apparently considered as being of a less serious nature, were also felony, if above the value of sixpence, while for thefts below that value the offenders were to be whipped " or set upon a wooden horse." 178 To ensure convictions on such charges " the most sufficient men in the Parishes,"178 i.e., the men of most substance, were to be chosen as jurors. Such sanguinary legislation would naturally become almost a dead letter, and that it was so is shown by the paucity of the death sentences recorded.

The Bill of Rights of 1737.

An important change in Manx law was brought about by the statutes of 1737, which have been called the Manx "Bill of Rights." By them accused persons were assured of the right of trial by jury in all cases. Traverses were ordered to be heard within six months after the verdict. All questions of title to land were directed to be tried by Common Law and by sheading juries, not in Chancery as before, and no sequestration could be laid upon land, &c., except in extraordinary cases, and, even then, not without the consent of the Tynwald Court. 179

The prompt administration of the law commended

As regards the administration of the laws, so high an authority as Coke commended it in the highest terms for its promptitude and cheapness,180 and his opinion was supported by that of Sacheverell, who writes that " the ease of the Government, and every man’s interest, draws all suits to as speedy a conclusion as possible."181 A little later, the state of things in this respect seems not to have been so satisfactory, for we find the Keys, between 1704 and 1730, accusing the governor and officers of administering the laws in an arbitrary manner. About 1720, advocates first appeared in Manx law courts, they becoming necessary chiefly on account of the large influx of strangers, who were unacquainted with the laws and language. 182 Lawsuits, however, still continued to be determined " without much charges." 182


 1 And as to the writeing of laws there was never any written since King Orryes Days, but in the time of Michael Blundell [? 1406] that we have knowledge of " (statement of deemsters and others in 1422. Statutes, vol. i. p. 11).

2 Owing to the meagre information available at the beginning of this period, the account of the constitutional system, which we will endeavour to trace in the following pages, belongs rather to the later than the earlier part of it.

3 " Rot. Litt. Pat. 7 Henry IV." (1406) (Manx Soc., vol. vii. pp. 235-246). This was confirmed by letters patent of 7 James I. (See Ibid., pp. 99-113).

4 I.e., when Thomas II., the first earl, succeeded and took the title of " lord," instead of " king." The seventh earl says that he did not know whether this was " of modesty or policy" (Derby, Manx Soc., vol. iii. p. 6).

5 The question of whether or not the English Parliament had the right to legislate for the Isle of Man was decided in 1523, when it arose on the claim of Ann, widow of Thomas III, second Earl of Derby, for dower in the island. The claim was referred to the English judges, who pronounced against the duchess, deciding that a general Act of Parliament does not extend to the Isle of Man, which is no part of the realm of England, but that if the island is specially named in the Act, it does extend to it. (Coke’s Institutes, c. 69. For a full discussion of this question see Gell, Manx Soc., vol. xii. pp. 34 and 154-5). Parliament has on a few occasions, apart from the brief period under Elizabeth and James I., when the direct rule of the Crown was resumed, availed itself of this power, by passing laws which affected the island.

6 See pp. 871-2.

7 Till the seventeenth century at least they seem to have invariably exercised this right without consulting Tynwald (see pp. 768-9 and after it they occasionally did so).

8 Their goats were the property of the Queen of Man. The cattle and horses under two years old and the sheep under one year old went to the coroner (Statutes, vol. i. p. 25).

9 For full details see Statutes, vol. i. pp. 8, 9, 13, 22, 25, 27, 54, 57, 58, 60.

10 For list of governors see Supplement. The deputy-governor, when there was one, was styled " Deputy," or " Deputy-Lieutenant." The title " Governor " was first used in 1596, but did not become usual till 1639, after which year it, with occasionally special additional titles (see appointments in 1702, 1713, 1718, and between 1736 and 1793), is almost always used till it ceased with the death of the Duke of Atholl in 1830. Sir James Gell states (see " The Titles and Powers of Governors of the Island," a pamphlet printed in 1885, for full information on this question) that the special titles do not give any powers beyond those of governor, which in itself confers full powers, civil and military. Between 1639 and 1773 a deputy-governor, whether permanently or temporarily appointed, was so styled ; but, after 1773, a temporary governor only was so styled, the permanently appointed governor, whether subordinate to another governor, as till 1830, or not, as after that date, being called " Lieutenant-Governor."

11 Statutes, vol. i. p. 5.

12 Among these was that of granting customary estates out of the wastes and demesnes of the island (see oh. vii.)

13 Statutes, vol. i. p. 13.

14 " Constitution " (Manx Soc., vol. xxxi. p. 53 ; and Parr’s MS.)

15 For his oath of office and that of the other chief officers see Appendix A.

16 Statutes, vol. i. p. 19. For his duties in connexion with trade see Book II., ch. iv. § 2.

17 These Records were " to be enrolled in parchment every year once, and the same so enrolled, to be sent over to the Lord his auditt, and the auditors hand to be putt to the same, and then to be conveyed over again, and laid amongst other of the Records " (Ibid., p. 37).

18 Called at first the " Customer " (see p. 307).

19 For his duties in connexion with the fisheries see Book VIII., oh. ii. p. 943 ; see also Book II., ch. iv. § 2.

20 For their allowances see Statutes, vol. i. p. 32, and for full particulars concerning them Ibid., pp. 12-19, 37, 75-6, and Manx Soc., vol. xxxi. pp. 35, 41, 44, 54, 55.

21 It is curious that, prior to the Revestment, the water-bailiff’s oath did not contain any words referring expressly to his position as councillor, since he was undoubtedly a member of the executive (see Appendix A).

22 See Book VI., ch. ii. pp. 844-5.

23 The following order, in 1561, shows that the Council were expected to perform executive duties : " The Captain, Receivers, Cleark of the Rolls, and Water Bayliffe, once in a month at least, to be in the Exchequer, att the Castle of Rushen, in Mann, or so many of them as shall be within the Isle ; and there to consult of my Lord his causes and affairs of the said Isle, for the Commonwealth’s well Governance, and well keeping of the said Isle and Houses " (Statutes, vol. i. p. 37). There are also numerous cases to be found in the Statutes where individual members of the Council are expressly named to carry out specific duties.

24 Cott. MS. (Manx Soc., vol. iv. pp. 95.6). They also received a commission from the lord.

25 See p. 747.

26 Cott. MS. (Manx Soc., vol. iv. p. 95).

27 This was called their " token." According to customary law, " the Deemsters have been antiently accustomed to receive the fee of 2d. from any person that they grant their Token unto for any manner of cause. . . . And in lieu thereof the Deemsters were then to send out a number of people called a (sic) Bonnack to receive a certain custom from the Tenants such as they pleased to give in respect of the said fees at hallowtide and thereupon the tenants to receive their tokens gratis for that and if any refused to pay such custom to the Bonnack they were to cut three ropes of his house over the door whereby he might be known to have refused the Deemsters’ custom, and the Bonnack presenting this to the Deemsters respectively with the person’s name, they were not to grant their tokens to such without the fee for the year, which customs now of late {i.e., at the end of the seventeenth century] have been taken up by the Lockman of every parish within the precincts of each Deemster’s liberties" (Parr’s MS.).

28 Cott. MS. Translation (Manx Soc., vol. iv. p. 96).

29 See Lib. Scacc.

30 See App. A.

31 Thus : " The Governor, Council, Deemsters, and Keys."

The deemsters are said to have claimed that no Act of Tynwald is valid unless signed by one of them, but the claim is manifestly an absurd one, because it would give one individual, in a subordinate capacity, the power of veto.

32 This duty has since been undertaken by the high-bailiffs.

33 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 4, 5, 7, 14, 15, 26, 49-51, for full information about these officers.

34 They were done away with after 1765.

35 Except the attorney-general.

36 At a later date it became the appellate court from inferior Courts, and exercised jurisdiction similar to that of the Superior courts in England in matters of prohibition, mandamus, habeas corpus, quo warranto, &c.

37 Statutes, vol. i. p. 11.

38 The governor still sits in it. (For its composition at the present day see pp. 801-2.)

39 Lib. Placit., 1601. If the Keys found the jury guilty, the court had " to fine and punish them, and enter a record thereupon to declare them incapable to pass on any jury for ever afterwards."

40 This power bears some analogy to the proceedings under a writ of attaint, and, as we shall see, it was sometimes abused in Man, as in England. See " Constitution " (Manx Soc., vol. xxxi. p. 101). There was also an appeal to them in cases concerning land (Parr’s MS., quoting Lib. Scacc., 1621, and Lib. Placit., 1639).

41 Our account of the Insular Civil Courts is an abstract from that in the " Constitution of the Isle of Man " (Manx Soc., vol. xxxi.), which is a copy of the summary made by the Commissioners, in 1791. This summary was founded on the evidence then given before them by the insular legal officers.

42 They were summoned either upon what was called a hand-suit, a species of bond or recognizance from a prosecutor, or by precept from one of the Deemsters or the Governor.

43 As in thefts under the value of 6½d. The jury, as a rule, took care to assess the value of the stolen article under this amount.

44 To supply this jury 68 men were impanelled by a return by the coroners of four men from each of the seventeen parishes ; out of this number the prisoner might select twelve.

45 Before 1580 , the proceedings in all the courts were recorded in loose rolls called Rotuli. For a description of the different Records see p. 791.

46 This court " is said to have had its origin in the power of granting arrests of the person and effects, which, in civil cases, belonged to the governor alone." " Constitution " (Manx Soc., vol. xxxi. p. 34).

47 The form of " fencing " these Courts was as follows:" I doe fence the king of Man and his officers, that noe manner of man do brawle or quarrell, nor mollest the Audience, lying, leaning, or sitting, and to show their accord, and answer when they are called, by lycense of the king of Man and his officers. I doe draw witness to the whole audience that the court is fenced." This fencing was done by the moar of the parish wherein the court sat. In the words of the Statute.

" It is the king of Man his pleasure and his officers to keep court twice in the year, that all men, both rich and poor, deafe and dumbe, halt, lame and blind, to come thither upon horse-back, or on foot, to be drawne thither upon horse or carr, that they may know the king of Man his pleasure and his officers, and the law of his Country" (Statutes, vol. i. pp. 52-3).

48 Prior to 1690 there seems to have been a still further traverse before it came to the Keys. See note 49.

49 Various points connected with the judicial position of the Keys will be referred to when we discuss them more particularly. According to Deemster Parr (MS.), " It was antiently accustomed that, when any case was traversed unto the 24 Keys, it should be first tried by six of them, and from 6 to 12, and from 12 to the full body. . . But now [circa 1690] when such matters are moved from a traverse jury, they are brought to the whole body of the 24 Keys immediately, the judgment of whose major part or of all jointly doth ultimate the same." For, he says, they are " the ultimum refugium of the common law," excepting only in cases when " the Lord or the Governor grant a re-hearing by special commission or reference."

50 Correctly " blood-wites," or compensation for blood shed. Deemster Parr’s description of the procedure in such cases is as follows : " If any man happen to draw blood in any way or manner upon another man or woman the party so offended is forthwith to repair to the Moar of the Parish and shew him the blood so drawn upon him, which the Moar is, after due summons given the Sunday before the Court day at the Church cross for all persons presented unto him to be and appear at the said Court to answer for themselves, to declare the same unto the Court, whereupon a jury is impannelled who are to call the defenders before them either to clear themselves from the drawing of the blood, or else to stand guilty which if they be found to be, they are amerced, if it be a man 12d. if a woman 6d. to the Lord, besides an accustomed fee to the Coroner of 6d. more, also 6d. to the Moar, and 4d. to the porter of the Garison of that part of the Island that such presentments are made. But if the party that is presented for such blood-wipes come and pay the Lord’s due upon the Court table, before any jury be sworn, he is to be freed from the said accustomed fees thereby, as is sometimes practised " (MS.).

50 For a full description of the duties of this jury, the Manorial court and its Records, see Book VII.

51 Statutes, vol. i. p. 53.

52 In 1665, the Great Enquest had the duty of presenting those who neglected to make up their fences both in winter and summer imposed upon it (Ibid., p. 126).

53 Statutes, vol. i. p. 217.

54 Ibid., pp. 268-9.

55 The following juries also exist in the island : The Trespass Jury (Statutes, vol. i. pp. 57, 127-8, 134, 177), which was summoned by one of the deemsters out of the parish in which the trespass was committed. They viewed the damages and took evidence, and then handed in their verdict to the deemster in open court. This verdict was traversable to a jury of six, which tried the case under the direction of the deemster. Of the same nature were the Juries of Enquiry, which, when anything was lost, endeavoured to discover it and the person who had taken it. Fodder Juries (Statutes, vol. i. pp. 138, 146, 252, 279) were impanelled by the coroners yearly in each parish to present those who kept more live stock than they had pasturage for in the summer and fodder in the winter, while Yarding or Servants’ Juries (ibid., pp. 109, 120, 122-3) put vagrant servants to work.

56 " Constitution " (Manx Soc., vol. xxxi. p. 41). The traverses from the Baron’s courts were the same as from these courts.

57 In case of conviction his lands were forfeited to the baron, but his goods and person were at the lord’s disposal (Wilson, Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 107).

58 The jurisdiction of the two deemsters is identical, and they may, in case of necessity, act in each other’s districts. Till 1796, the southern district consisted of the parishes of German and Patrick (Glenfaba Sheading), Braddan, Santon, Marown (Middle Sheading), Malew, Rushen and Arbory (Rushen Sheading) ; and the northern district, of Conchan, Lonan and Maughold (Garff Sheading), Ballaugh, Michael and Jurby (Michael Sheading), and Lezayre, Andreas and Bride (Ayre Sheading). After that date Conchan was added to the southern district and Middle Sheading, Marown being placed in Glenfaba Sheading.

59 The method pursued by the deemsters in taking enquests has already been referred to.

60 " The jurisdiction exercised by the deemster," says Sherwood, " is so extensive that it is difficult exactly to define its limits " (" Constitution," Manx Soc., vol. xxxi. p. 42, note 24).

61 The appeals from this court were the same as from the Deemsters’ Courts.

62 For procedure in this court see p. 750.

63 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 295-6.

64 According to the commissioners (of 1791) many of the civil officers, as well as the governor and deemsters, might " commit upon suspicion, in such cases at least as amounted to a breach of the peace."

65 See note 49, p. 752. A comparison of pp. 800-3 in the second part of this chapter and of Appendix D, where an account of the present Manx judicial system is given, will enable our readers to discover what is obsolete and what is still in existence as regards the courts and their pleadings which we have just described.

66 An instance of a new law is the abolition of prowess in 1429, and there are also some illegal ordinances passed without the consent of the Keys which had the effect of new laws.

67 The signatures of thirteen members of the Keys was necessary here also.

68 The position of the Tynwald Court as regards customs duties is discussed under the heading of " Keys," since it affected them more particularly.

69 The governor and Council are frequently, as one body, designated the Council, and in one sense, according to ancient usage, the designation is accurate. In another sense the officers other than the governor, are the Governor’s Council. Thus, for instance, in 1422, " my Lieutenant, his Council." For various designations of the governor’s Council see Statutes, vol. i. In discussing it in its executive capacity we have already given the names of its members.

70 Statutes, vol. i. p. 56.

71 Lib. Scacc.

72 The ecclesiastical officers only very occasionally sat in it.

73 The comptroller, clerk of the rolls, receiver, attorney-general, water-bailiff, and deemsters.

74 This is the rule of the present day, and, no doubt, in the past also. " I say ‘ practically,’ " writes Sir James Gell, " for during the progress of a Bill in ‘ Committee,’ he does not expressly declare his assent or dissent on every question which is put to the vote " (Letter to the writer).

75 I.e., Before the Revestment. The whole question is obscure. See p. 815 for the temporary exclusion of the ecclesiastical members of the Council.

76 The dual existence of the Council should be fully recognized, their duty to advise the governor, being quite distinct from their duty as a branch of the Legislature.

77 Statutes, vol. i. p. 11.

78 Rotul.

79 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 20-1.

80 In England, between the death of Richard II. and the accession of Henry VII., there was a period during which Parliament had more authority than either before it or for more than two hundred years after it. On the other hand, it is possible that the degradation of the Keys may have been consummated at the accession of the Stanleys, and that the statement of the deemsters, perhaps under coercion, that they were " not in certainty " and could not exist " without the lord’s will " had caused the riot which took place at the first Tynwald Court held in 1422. For it will be observed (see p. 764) that Sacheverell speaks of the ‘ ‘ ancient legislative power."

81 Statutes, vol. i. p. 23.

82 Manx Soc., vol. i. pp. 75-6.

83 Ibid., pp. 76-7.

84 Date wrongly given in Statute Book as 1419.

85 Statutes, vol. i. p. 6.

86 Lib. Scacc.

87 Statutes, vol i. p. 25.

88 I.e., two from each Sheading.

89 Lib. Scacc.

90 Meryck. He was also governor.

91 Hugh Holland.

92 Perhaps one of the deemsters.

93 Parr MS. quoting from Lib. Cancell., 1581. The portion in brackets is Parr’s interpolation. It is remarkable that the leader in this agitation, Governor-Bishop Meryck, should have been the lord’s nominee. He writes in his account as follows:

" In former times the voice of the whole people was necessary to the making of a new law ; but now this custom is abrogated, and whatever is agreed upon by the Lord of the Island, the Governor, the two Deemsters, and the twenty-four Keys, obtains the force of a law " (Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 22). (Published by Camden in the first edition of the Britannia’.)

94 See p. 768.

95 Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 28.

96 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 69-70.

97 Lib. Scacc.

98 Statutes, vol. i. p. 37.

99 This was in reply to the following question, asked by the Commission of which Richard Hoper was chairman : ‘ ‘ Whether it is understood . . . that the Earle of Derby hath a power to lay new customes " (Knowsley Muniments,1718/1)

100 In 1606, King James obtained a decision (in the case of Bates) to the effect that he could raise or vary existing taxes by his prerogative alone, and even the " Petition of Right " in 1628 does not seem to have touched the king’s right to levy customs duties.

101 Lib. Scacc., 1610, 1611, 1620, 1627.

102 Hence probably originated the claim of the Keys to elect their own members, first exercised in 1659 (see pp. 773-4 ; also statement of Chaloner, p. 772). For a full account of the " articles objected by John, now Bishop of the Isle, against John Ireland, Livetennant and Captain," see Episcopal Records. (They are partially published in the Introduction to Philip’s prayer-book, Manx Soc, vol. xxxii. pp X-xV)

103 In 1609, an assembly was held " of the Lieutenant and other the Officers, with the 24 called the Keyes of the Land" (Statutes, vol i. p. 70) ; and, in 1628, laws were " ordered and enacted with generall consent of the Captain, Deemsters, officers and 24 keyes of the isle " (Ibid-, p 81).

104 Earl James himself wrote : " There are four and twenty called Keys, who, in all great matters concerning the country, are advised withal. Sometimes there be four of every parish joined with them, by order of the Lord, when any great matter concerning the land is in hand " (Derby, Manx Soc., vol. iii. p.7).

105 Statutes, vol. i. p. 92.

106 They were merely advisers chosen for a special purpose.

107 The idea of summoning them survived this period, for, in 1667, when the revision of the spiritual laws took place, Lord Derby ordered that as these laws " have relation to the Liberty and Property of my people . . . four judicious men should be chosen by the people out of each parish . . . to give their best advice and assistance and to join with the Legislative power." He, however, revoked this order before it could be put into execution, because, as the four from each parish had " no power to settle or enact anything," they would " only make more confusion " (Knowsley Muniments, 1715/21)

108 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 92-3.

109 Gell (Manx Soc., vol. xii. pp. 190-1).

110 Chaloner (Manx Soc., vol. x. p. 29).

111 Blundell (Ibid., vol. xxvii. pp. 76-7). Since 1645 they were usually designated " the Representative Body " in the Acts passed.

112 Blundell (Manx Soc., vol. xxvii. p. 77). He also speaks of them as " adjuvants to ye deemsters . . . in cases of judicature," and as being " impanelled upon juryes " (Ibid., p. 76).

113 In the course of the dispute between the officers and Keys during the period 1715-1736 the former referred to this change as follows : " And the said Earl’s noble ancestors and his family, being reduced, by . . . . loyalty and adherence to the Crown, to great difficulties and distress in the time of the said rebellion, the said Keys, taking advantage thereof, first began to assume the title of representatives of the people, but have always, notwithstanding, from time to time ever since been called together and dismissed, placed and displaced, by the Lord of the Isle or his Lieutenant, as they saw cause. And none of the said Keys have since the said rebellion been chosen by the inhabitants, but have been chosen or appointed by one another, without any power or foundation of law . . . . And, therefore it is impossible the said 24 Keys should be the representatives of the people, and that it is an absurdity to call themselves so, neither have they, till the time of the said rebellion, ever presumed to look upon themselves as afforesaid " (Ecclesiastical Records).

114 Lib. Scacc.

115 Lib. Scacc.

116 See pp. 378-9.

117 See p. 885.

118 Statutes, vol. i. p. 39.

119 This book has not been preserved.

120 Knowsley Muniments, 1715/18

121 Statutes, vol i. p. 225.

122 Sacheverell (Manx Soc., vol. i. p. 73). He also speaks of them as " the Grand Inquest of the nation " and " the last traverse in all cases of common law, being present at all trials for life " (Ibid.).

123 Bishop Gibson in Camden’s Britannia (Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 28).

123 Knowsley Muniments, 1719/8

124 Ibid 1719/57

125 Lib. Scacc.

126 They also asked that any officer who had acted as stated should be dismissed from his office.

127 Lib. Scacc.

128 Though, till 1737, it was practically ignored (see Statutes, vol. i. pp. 187-9 and 196-7).

129 Appendix B.

130 Lib. Scacc. (Petition to earl, in 1719.) The governor produced precedents showing that, if the Keys found the Jury not to have proceeded according to evidence, their verdict was given in writing, but, when the Keys and Jury agreed, the verdict was always viva voce.

131 Lib. Scacc.

132 It was remitted in 1719.

133 See pp. 492-503.

134 Lib. Scacc.

135 From a comparison of handwriting this seems to have been written by Daniel McYlrea, Junior, Atorney-general.

136 Lib. Scacc.

137 This Bill may be seen in the Rolls Office.

138 Lib. Scacc., or Keble, p. 595.

139 Rotul.

140 John Stevenson, Thomas Corlett, and Thomas Christian, three of their own members, and "John Christian of Unerigg."

141 They also renewed their complaints about being confined like an ordinary jury, and about the illegal customs charges. The complaints were, in effect, the same as in 1719.

142 Lib. Scacc A copy of it is to be found in Keble, pp. 695-599

143 Loose Papers. Knowsley. The first portion was presented on the 20th of August, 1725, and the second by " John Stevenson, John Murrey, and Anthony Halsall, and authorised by the 24 Keys.2

144 Ibid.

145 Rotul., 1726.

146 Ibid., 1727.

147 In April, 1727, the earl received a remonstrance from the governor and officers accusing the Keys of subverting the constitution and setting aside the execution of their laws. It is interesting to note that they admitted that " the Commons of the Island had by the ancient Laws and Constitution a right to choose their own representatives at the making of any new laws." After stating this, they went on to show the unconstitutional character of the self-election of the Keys. (Lib. Cancell., April 13, 1727 ; Keble, pp. 697-702.) At the same time they forwarded an address of " the principall inhabitants of the Isle of Man " against the petition of the Keys which the address described as " a libel . . . called the grievances of your people, who with hearts full of joy thank heaven they are only devised by them (the Keys), and are not yet felt nor can be feared by us whilst you employ our present excellent Governor Horton " (Knowsley Muniments, 1723). There is, however, good reason for supposing that the Keys really represented the feelings of the people and that the petition just quoted was only signed by those who were compelled to do so.

148 Its preamble ran as follows : " Your petitioners are the representatives . . . of at least 20,000 of your Majesty’s loyal subjects many of whom have for several years past been grievously, arbitrarily, and illegally deprived of their liberties, fined, punished, and imprisoned, and otherwise vexed, harassed, and oppressed in their persons, and in their estates, rights, and properties by the late and present governors and officers of the said isle, appointed by the Right Honourable James, Earl of Derby, Lord of Mann.’ ‘ Then, after enumerating their grievances, which were chiefly with reference to ecclesiastical matters, they proceeded, " Your petitioners with great duty and patience waited near four years, expecting his Lordship would find leisure to think of and relieve their crying oppressions. But the Governor and officers of the said island, seeing the disappointments which your petitioners had met with, and not being called to account for their malpractices . . . began to proceed in a more arbitrary manner (if possible) than hitherto " (Rotul., 1728).

149 Lib. Scacc.

150 Wilson (Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 116).

151 He wrote in 1726.

152 Manx Soc., vol. xi. p. 4.

153 For redress of some of the other grievances see p. 422.

154 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 223-4. It was also enacted, in 1737, that any one who insulted the Keys when sitting should be fined or imprisoned.

155 In their appeal, in 1752, they charged the governor and officers with " divers illegal incroachments and invasions as well upon the Rights, Prerogatives, and Jurisdictions of your Grace as upon the Rights, Libertys and Priviledges of the People of this Island," but they did not specify what these were (Loose Papers. Knowsley).

156 See p. 824.

157 No provision was made in the event on the governor declining to accept either candidate. This, however, does not seem to have ever happened. See Wilson (Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 116).

158 See pp. 824-5.

159 This, as we have seen, was disputed.

160 This last is not the case now. They had also formerly a right to shoot game without a licence.

161 In his examination before the commissioners in 1791, John Quayle, clerk of the rolls, said that he had heard that the Keys claimed it as their privilege to originate money Bills. But this was contradicted by other witnesses and there seems to be no proof of it. " Constitution " (Manx Soc., vol. xxxi. p. 145).

162 Statutes, vol. i. p. 21.

163 In 1215, the Lateran Council forbade its clergy to join in the rite of ordeal, and soon after that it disappeared in England as a legal process. In the Isle of Man ordeal by water was applied to witches till well into the seventeenth century.

164 Statutes, vol. i. p. 22. It was not abolished in England till 1819, though the assizes of Henry II. had substituted something like trial by jury for it.

165 Statutes, vol. i. p. 72. This practice continued in the Isle of Man till towards the middle of the seventeenth century, and in England it was not legally abolished till 1833.

166 Ibid., p. 3.

167 Ibid., p. 11.

168 Ibid., vol. i. p. 18.

169 Ibid., p. 12.

170 For a description of the Manorial Records see pp. 901-2.

171 These do not appear in a distinct book till a comparatively late date. The earliest are found in (2) and then in (5).

172 In loose sheets.

173 For copy of this oath see Appendix C.

174 The commissioners in 1791, remarked that the laws and ordinances before this time appear " to have been prescribed by such different powers, or combinations of power, that, as precedents of the exercise of Legislative authority, they can have but little weight." (Report, p. 67).

175 It has, unfortunately, never been published. There is a copy of it in the Law Library in Douglas, and some of the Manx advocates have taken copies from this for their own use. In it are to be found all the more important customary laws, the various legal decisions given from time to time, and a number of " breast " laws as well as of the Statutes.

176 This was never done (Knowsley Papers).

177 See Parr’s MS.

178 Statutes, vol. i. p. 82.

179 Ibid., vol. i. p. 220.

180 " But now let us come to their laws and jurisdiction . . . the like whereof we find not in any place . . . all controversies they determine without process, pleading, writing, or any charge or expense at all" Gell (Manx Soc., vol. xii. p. 155). (From " Coke’s Institutes of the Laws of England," cap. 69.)

181 Ibid., vol. i. p. 7.

182 Wilson (Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 117).


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001