[From T.Quayle Agriculture of IoM, 1812]
THE subdivision of property amongst the ancient inhabitants appears to have been, in general, minute, as if effected by an agrarian law. Care seems to have been taken in many instances that each farm should possess a portion of the turbary, of mountain pasture of the arable, and of meadow. Several of these original partitions still subsist, forming farms, long, narrow, and inconvenient for the modern systems of tillage. In this distribution, however, they do not seem in eve ry instance to have aimed at complete equality. Several of these holdings (at least estates bearing the same name, and going back as far as record and tradition reach, in possession of one family), are of extent test and twenty fold greater than others contiguous. But even at this day fees of the Manks gentry, perhaps not more than six or seven, possess five hundred acres of land within a ring-fence. Some ancient estates of that extent, or greater, have perhaps been cut up and divided, and the families extinguished ; but there are on the other hand, estates at present exceeding that quantity, in consequence of having received additions by contiguous purchases. There are indeed several persons who we awaess of a greater number of acres, but not in immediate contiguity. There is but one gentleman whose Manks rent-roll exceeds three thousand pounds; and not more than three or four others, the rent of whose landed estates, in their present state of culture, exceeds one thousand pounds per annum.
In the management of their estates there are no peculiar circumstances. The profession of a Land Surveyor is unknown. No objection is made to granting leases : provided the sum offered as rent be sufficiently great, the covenants appear to be little attended to. This subject will be resumed under another head.
THE general tenure, under which the lands are held, is customary freehold, descendible from ancestor to heir, according to the insular laws, which differ but in a few subordinate particulars from those of England. The right by primogeniture extends to females as well as males : lands are nct deviseable except by the first acquirer : the interest of a widow or widower, being the first wife or husband of a person deceased, is a life estate in one half of the lands which have descended hereditarily to that person, and is forfeited by a second marriage. A second husband or second wife is entitled but to a life-interest in one quarter, unless there be no children by the former marriage, in which case they have half. But of the lands purchased by the husband, the wife surviving him is entitled to an absolute moiety. The insular laws do not seem to authorize leases extending beyond 21 years. Previous to the years 1777, leases expired with the life of the granter. By a statute of that year, proprietors of lands are empowered "to grant leases for any term not exceeding 21 years in possession, at the highest and most improved rent which can be obtained." In fact, leases for longer terms are sometimes granted ; and have not yet been questioned.
The Norwegian Conquerors of this island and of the Hebrides, in the ninth and tenth centuries, evidently found a people less advanced in civilization than them-selves. Of these islands they formed a little maritime monarchy : the Northern system of jurisprudence, in particular the trial by jury (which does not seem to have been a Celtic institution), was of their introduction ; and during their sway the Manks terntres were probably fixed.* After the acquisition to the Crown of England of this island, its seignory was granted successively to several families, but rested longest with that of Stanley. The Earl of Derby, who was beheaded during the civil commotions in the 17th century, attempted to in-novate on these tenures, and convert them into tenancies for life, or at his will. In this attempt one or two of his successors followed his example. In consequence, as tradition says, of the treachery of several leading families of the islanders, the heads of which, from, private inducements, led the way in surrendering their ancient "Tenure by the Straw," and accepting leases, these attempts were not wholly unsuccessful. Still the islanders resisted: after sixty years' struggle, in 1704, a compromise was effected. The islanders agreed to double the annual quit-rents formerly paid to the Lord, and to give a fixed fine on their land changing hands in consequence of death or alienation. This fine was of novel introduction. Beyond the confirmation of their ancient tenures the Lord conceded nothing. To him therefore the compromise seems to have been most beneficial. Doubts, however, appear to have been raised at a period much more recent, of the validity of this compromise, and of the laws by which it was repeatedly confirmed. The islanders were at the time thrown into great alarm, which at present appears to have completely subsided. They remark that not one of the families which formerly assisted the Lord in his attempts to violate their tenures, has endured, or retains an acre of land in the island. This, it seems, happened to have been predicted in one of their songs circulating at the time. It is remarked too, that the same song predicts that a particular estate, which was the property of a gentleman put to death in the island, after the Restoration, on account of his political conduct, shall return into his name and family. This prediction also has been recently and literally fulfilled.
Church-lands, properly so called, do not exist in the island. Some land held of the Bishop of Man's Barony, rendering a heriot of an ox, (by custom, commuted for forty shillings,) to each new bishop, and annual rents, but no fine. The Crown is also entitled to a small Barony, which is understood to be on lease. As there are no lands attached to this Barony, and as it did not participate in the fines and double rents imposed in 1704, its profit is inconsiderable.
* In Iceland (which was also a Norwegian conquest or colony), there are three different kinds of tenure, 1st, King's-Land. 2nd, Church-Land. 3rd, Freehold. King's-Land is given by the Land fogued (or Treasurer) to whomsoever he pleases. The family who occupy it, possess it as long as they have an heir, and can pay the rent, which is very small, and a tax of one rixdollar per annum. Church-Land is given away by the Bishop and Amptman, and held in the same manner. Freehold is as in all ofher countries, each estate paying one rixdollar per annum to the king, in lien of land-tax."--Sir, Joseph Banks's MS. Journal quoted in Hooper's Tour in Iceland. London, 1811.