[From Haining's Guide, 1822]
The Character and Customs of the Inhabitants, and the Advantages. which. Strangers derive from residing in this Island.
VERY unfair and unjust representations have been given by tourists and strangers, respecting the national character of Manksmen. Those who have ascended the censorial chair have been incompetent for the office, being guided by prejudice in their decision, and not regulated by the strict rules of evidence. They have been accused of indolence, not capable of forming any great plan, nor possessed of energy sufficient for carrying any design into execution. They have been challenged to name an individual distinguished for the fire of his genius, the profundity of his learning, rendered eminent by his attainment in science, and immortalized by any useful discovery. Nay, as if Mona could produce no real excellency, they have described the inhabitants of a gloomy disposition, of a morose countenance, of a credulous mind, and addicted to superstition, crediting all the idle tales which have been related of apparitions, fairies, and witches. To complete. this picture, they have been drawn possessed of the unamiable features low cunning, selfishness, and being very litigious.
It is undeniable that this is a caricature, drawn by those who are blinded by national prejudices, warped in their judgment by preconceived opinions, and the base misrepresentations of those who are censorious, glorying in detraction, who have become splenetic from disappointment, and who find a pleasure in condemning, instead of attempting to reform and benefit. The occupation of the fishermen is certainly unfriendly to habits of persevering industry, and in truth, it may be admitted, that an improvement in this is devoutly to be desired, but in other respects they will lose nothing , by comparison with the inhabitants of any other country, similarly situated. The insulated situation, and wild romantic scenery of their country with which they are accustomed, from childhood, are suited for nourishing a gloomy imagination, but solitude to a contemplative mind, affords sublime delights; retirement is eagerly desired by the truly pious man, that he may trace with delight the wonderful works of his Creator, and enjoy sweet communion with him, when separated from all his race.
Notwithstanding the unfavourable representations of the national character of Manksmen, given by tourists, and which are copied into almost every history of the Island, the inhabitants are hospitable and friendly; among them are to be found some of polished manners, liberal principles, and possessed of intelligent, enlightened minds, who are not haughty in their deportment, and who do not attach an undue degree of importance to themselves from the wealth which they have amassed. The middle classes of them are intelligent and hospitable, equally free from the boorishness of the rustic, and the grimaces of the man of fashion. It is very reasonable to expect a visible difference between those who, from their earliest years, have been accustomed to the quiet of their lonely glens and mountain recesses, from those who are daily mingling with the giddy multitude in our towns, and the numerous strangers who visit our shores. Society begets cheerfulness, and banishes a gloomy disposition, produces activity, and by increasing our useful knowledge, enlarges the capacity of the mind for receiving intellectual pleasure. Men, however, may be polished hi their manners, and be rendered eminent for their acquaintance with men and things, but if destitute of moral and religious principles, they will be of no real benefit to the community, nor prove a blessing to those with whom they are connected by the ties of blood.
The lower classes of the people experience but little of the enjoyments of life, and many incapable of reading, and not having regular employment, pass the greater part of the year in listless stupidity. Their habitations are miserable clay built huts, their raiment tattered, and their food scanty; but being of an athletic frame, they can endure great privations, and from the salubrity of the air, many of them die at an advanced age. The condition of the poorer class has been improving for some years; and if enterprising, patriotic men would unite to give employment to the half famished poor in the cultivation of their lands, or in the prosecution of the fishery, their situation would be meliorated, and the advantages felt by all ranks.
The liberal arts have but few votaries in this Island. Scientific knowledge is undervalued, polite literature is scarcely cultivated, and in their seminaries, they only obtain a smattering of classical learning. Mona was once distinguished as the residence of the learned, and even the sons of the Kings of Scotland were sent here to finish their education, but now the scene is changed, and for a man to become an accomplished scholar, must attend one of the universities of the neigh bouring kingdoms. It is a melancholy fact, that the desire for mental cultivation is so limited, that an attempt to establish a Literary and Philosophical Society, in Douglas, a few years ago, actually failed ; and although more than thirty became. members of this society, yet the intellectual pleasure arising from the acquisition of useful knowledge, was not powerful enough to induce a sufficient number to attend to render the meetings profitable. Many interesting and well executed essays, the productions of the members, were read; and the critical remarks, made in the friendly discussion which took place after the reading of the essay, proved useful to the writer, and instructive to the members. The strenuous exertions of a few zealous friends to preserve it in existence, were unsuccessful, and after pining twelve months, expired, thereby vailing the literary prospects of Mona, and disappointing our fond expectation, like the meteor, dazzling for a moment, and then disappearing for ever.
The inhabitants of mountainous countries are generally warmly attached to their native vales and hills. The Swiss and Highlanders are proverbially so; the Manks are fond of their native Isle, tenacious of their ancient customs, and jealous of their birthright privileges. They are proud of the ancient Celtic rites, which are still retained in their government, and probably their improvement, as a people, is retarded, by their strong predilection far ancient usages. Their intercourse with strangers, and their witnessing the advantages arising to Britons, from adapting such practical modes of improvement as have been found beneficial, will weaken their early attachments, and their customs will resemble those of their more prosperous neighbours.
The Isle of Man has, for a considerable time, been, the resort of strangers. It was formerly a. place privileged by law, so that no prosecution could be carried on for debts contracted by strangers before they came to the Island. It. was a sanctuary for the unfortunate and the profligate, and such numbers flocked to it. that the Manks Legislature judged it proper to enact the following law, which will not allow them to evade the claims of the English creditor:
An Act for the more easy Recovery of Debts, contracted out of the Limits of the Isle of Man. Whereas, by an Act of Tynwald, promulgated in the said Isle, in the year of our Lord one thousand, seven hundred and thirty-seven, it is amongst other things enacted and provided, "'That any Person prosecuted in this Island ford Foreign Debt, by any Action of Arrest in the Court of Chancery, shall, for the future, be held to Bail only for his personal appearance to such Action, and for the forthcoming of what Effects he hath within this Island, to answer the Judgment upon the same." And whereas it is expedient that Foreign Debts shall be recoverable in the said Isle, in such and the like manner as Debts contracted within the same; We, therefore, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lieutenant-Governor, Council, Deemsters, and Keys of the said Isle, do humbly beseech your Majesty, that it may be enacted, and be it enacted, by the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of they Lieutenant-Governor, Council, Deemsters, and Keys of the said Isle, in Tynwald assembled, and by the Authority of the same, that from and after the promulgation of this Act, all Debts contracted out of the limits of the Isle of Man, shall be recoverable in the said Isle, in such and the like manner, to all intents and purposes, as if such Debts had been contracted between the same parties, within the limits of the said Isle. Provided always, that nothing hereinbefore contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to affect any person, who, at the time of the. promulgation of this Act, shall have been usually resident. within the said Isle, for and (luring the space of six months immediately preceding the day of the promulgation thereof, or who hath been usually resident within the said Isle for one year before the commencement of the said six months, and who hath departed the said Isle in the service of Government, Civil or military, with an intention to return to the said Isle, as the place of his abode ; save and except as to all Cases of Debts or Penalties due to the Crown, and as to all cases of persons who have fed from their Bail, in any part of Great Britain or Ireland, leaving such Bail charged or chargeable there ; and also, save and except as to all cases of persons who have committed offence against the Bankrupt Laws of Great Britain, or Ireland.
And whereas it would tend still further to facilitate the recovery of Foreign Debts, if the Orders, Judgments, and Decrees of the Courts of Great Britain and Ireland were to be recognized in the Courts of the Isle of Man. Be it therefore further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, that in all cases where any Order, Judgment, or Decree, shall have been pronounced against any person or persons, in any Action or Suit, in any of the Courts of Great Britain or Ireland, for the payment of any Debt, Damage, Costs, Sum or Sums of Money, it shall and may be lawful for the Court of Chancery of the Isle of Man, upon the production of an Office Copy of such Order, Judgment, or Decree, and upon such Affidavit or Affidavits being made as required by the Law of the said Isle, in order to obtain an Action or Process of Arrest, to issue and grant the usual Action or Process of Arrest against such person or persons, as aforesaid ; and that such Office Copy of such Order, Judgment, or Decree, as aforesaid, shall be deemed prima facie evidence of the Debt or Damage therein mentioned, upon the Trial and final Hearing of such Action.
The protection afforded to strangers being removed by this law, the stigma was wiped away from its being an asylum for the unprincipled, and will most likely become the residence of persons of a very different description. The inhabitants were greatly agitated by the sale of this Island to the British government, and prognosticated the utter ruin of the place. Similar fears haunted multitudes when the insular law was enacted, withdrawing the protection formerly afforded to those who had ruined the industrious tradesman by their extravagance and folly; but all the imaginary evils which they had conjured up, have vanished, the reputation of the country has risen, and respectable strangers, retiring from business with a limited income, and wanting to enjoy the comforts of life with which they have been accustomed, at a moderate price, will give this place the preference. Many are the advantages to induce them to become residents. An exemption from taxation, which is so severely felt in England, and freedom from the poor rates, which threaten the mother country with destruction.
All the articles of life, may be purchased, at a very reasonable price ; Poultry, Eggs, and Butter, are cheap ; Port Wine, one guinea per dozen ; Brandy, nine shillings per gallon ; Geneva, the same; and the best Jamaica Rum, seven shillings and sixpence; Tea, from four to six shillings per lb. according to the quality; refined Sugar, eight-pence per lb; and Salt, at three shillings per cwt.
The rents in Douglas are high, owing to the continual influx of visitors during the summer months, but in the other towns, are very low, and comfortable country residences may be procured on moderate terms. The pecuniary advantages are undeniably great, and the powerful attractions of the Island are sufficient to increase the number of respectable residents. Although the mere support of animal life would not be a sufficient inducement for a man of a cultivated mind, who had tasted the pleasures of refined society to relinquish them for it; yet the former may be enjoyed without sacrificing the latter, for many of the inhabitants are well informed, and distinguished for their hospitality. The advantages might be rendered reciprocal, the residents would be benefited by our insular privileges, would create a demand for the different articles, the produce of the country, and from the encouragement thus given to the cultivation of it, would soon assume a more luxuriant appearance ; the young might be instructed in useful learning, a tone might be given to morals, and the spiritual welfare of the inhabitants promoted; then might the intelligent and the pious find a delightful residence in Mona.
G. JEFFERSON PRINTER